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Spain, The Dice Are Cast, Another Parliamentary Coup Instigated from Outside

Understanding Transversality: Spain’s Podemos

Spanish Left Falls Short in Poll Amid New Deadlock

Spain: Podemos – United Left Electoral Agreement Makes the Right Wing Tremble

Podemos, United Left form alliance for June elections

Podemos pleads with Socialist Party to form a government in Spain

The Spanish revolution without Brussels

‘Provocation’: Israel outraged over Spain’s Netanyahu Arrest Warrant

Spanish Court Issues Arrest Warrants for Netanyahu and Senior Israeli Officials

Spain’s Orwellian “Citizens Security Law” Gag

Spain: New National Security Law to come into force before Catalan elections

Podemos party takes its place in Spain’s government machinery

Former Spanish defence minister admits “pre-coup situation” in 2006

Spanish regional elections mark further break-up of two main parties

Spanish elections: Support for Podemos declines amid predicted losses for main parties

Spain lines up behind US-led destabilization campaign against Venezuela

Podemos and the ‘Democratic Revolution’ in Spain

Spain: Rebound in employment based on wage cuts and increased job insecurity

Documents confirm fascists murdered Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca

Early Andalucía elections mark growing political volatility in Spain

Spanish government prepares new National Security Law

Podemos leader promotes patriotism at mass rally in Madrid

Spanish government uses Paris terror attack to clamp down on democratic rights

Spain passes police state measures

Spain’s Podemos presents its pro-capitalist economic programme

By Alejandro López

9 December 2014

Podemos is a Spanish pseudo-left party created in January for the European elections by the Pabloite Anti-Capitalist Left (Izquierda Anticapitalista, IA). Its purpose is to fill the vacuum left by the collapse of the major parties.

Podemos has presented its economic programme for next year’s parliamentary elections. In the 60 pages written by economists Juan Torres and Vicenç Navarro and presented by Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias and sociologist Carolina Bescansa last Thursday, the party has officially abandoned the anti-capitalist pretensions of its programme for the European elections held last May.

The programme declares that the main aim of Podemos in government—some polls suggest it is currently the leading political force in Spain—should be to “guarantee political stability generating the maximum security and confidence in the management that will be undertaken.”

It warns that Podemos could receive a negative reaction from the financial markets and a rise in the interest rates on Spanish bonds, “even though the reality is that [Podemos] is the insurance policy that will resolve Spain’s problems, like corruption and the distrust in the institutions, that all the economists know are some of the main negative factors for the development of economic activity.”

These lines are a pledge to the financial elite that any government in which Podemos plays a part will not mount a genuine challenge to its interests. Iglesias was even more blunt than the document, declaring that Podemos will not “sell smoke” like the populist promises of the ruling Popular Party (PP) or its predecessor the Socialist Party (PSOE), but will aim to be seen “with good eyes” by the business community.

The economic crisis in Spain is not rooted in corruption or misguided “neo-liberal” policies, which Navarro and Torres have, for years, in common with the pseudo-left as a whole, blamed for all economic problems. These are merely symptoms of a deeper systemic crisis of world capitalism.

These same objective conditions have undermined the so-called Scandinavian Social Democratic model, which the two economists uphold and Iglesias maintains is at the heart of Podemos’s economic programme. Since the 2008 economic crisis, Norway, Sweden and Finland have all imposed austerity measures. In Finland and Sweden there are now open discussions underway to end their official neutrality and join NATO in its campaign of military encirclement of Russia.

In October, Podemos all but abandoned its demand for a “citizens’ audit” of Spain’s public debt with the declaration that “the goal is not to not pay the debt … We can try to promote an orderly debt restructuring process in Europe and especially in the peripheral countries…”

Navarro and Torres are now advising Podemos not to use the word “restructuring.” Instead they talk about “negotiating with the markets flexible payments of debt,” “grace periods” and “partial ‘haircuts’.”

With regards to pensions, Podemos has abandoned its previous demand to reduce the age of retirement to 60. They are now calling for it to remain at 65 and not increase to 67 by 2027 as negotiated between the PP government, the unions and big business in 2013.

Podemos calls for a 35-hour workweek and the strengthening of the unions so they can increase salaries and pensions. But, again, the transformation of the unions into arms of management and the primary means through which the ruling class has imposed wage cuts, redundancies and suppressed any resistance to its austerity measures is a universal phenomenon.

With regard to the universal basic income that was another main proposal in the European elections, the draft now vaguely speaks of “aid” for “any person who has no income.”

The economic programme also omits previous proposals with respect to nationalisation. In January, the party’s manifesto promised nationalisation of the banks and energy companies. By the time of the May elections, this had changed to the “recovery of public control in strategic sectors … through public acquisition of a part thereof, which guarantees a majority stake …”

The abolition of private employment agencies has also disappeared from Podemos’s new programme.

Any polemic against Podemos is like shooting a moving target. As soon as an article on Podemos has been published, it becomes obsolete due to the rapidity of its right-wing trajectory. The actions of Iglesias have followed a similar course.

Iglesias recently applauded the speech of “brave” Pope Francis in the European parliament, who had departed from the rhetoric of his predecessors and condemned “the scandal of the financial powers who are kidnapping our democracy.” Afterwards, Iglesias called a press conference in Strasbourg to praise the speech and to state that he “would like to meet with the pope, in the Vatican or in [the Madrid neighbourhood of] Vallecas, wherever possible. … We would agree on a lot of things.”

This is the Pope who has been accused by priests and lay workers of handing them over to the torturers as part of the “cleansing” of the Church of “leftists” during the “Dirty War” waged by the Argentine military junta between 1976 and 1983.

Days before, Iglesias met with the president of the United Spanish Military Association (Asociación Unificada de Militares Españoles), Jorge Bravo, with the objective of “constructing a political programme that includes the inalienable rights of the military as citizens and offers a modern vision of the armed forces to the citizens.”

At the conclusion of the meeting, Iglesias declared, “Podemos assumes as legitimate the demands of the military associations and promises to defend them. For this reason, the Coordination Council of Podemos will maintain a strong collaboration with the representatives of the associations of the armed forces …”

The bloody role of both the army and the Catholic Church in 20th century Spain has been well documented, most brutally during the crushing of the Spanish Revolution in the 1930s and the imposition of a decades-long dictatorship under General Francisco Franco. For someone like Iglesias who claims to be on the left to glorify the Pope and meet with the military reveals the true character of this organisation.

The pro-capitalist economic programme now presented by Podemos exposes the criminal role played by IA. In a recent statement, after expressing reservations about the bureaucratic structure that was imposed at the founding congress and the way it was marginalised by the Iglesias faction, IA conceded it would “adapt to the new framework” and “continue to work as loyally as we have until now, doing everything in our power to ensure that we can win the elections … to transform society and not disappoint the hopes that millions of people are placing in us.”

It is inevitable that those hopes will be betrayed by Podemos, whose purpose is to mobilise a section of the middle class on a patriotic pro-capitalist programme.

Spain wracked by corruption scandal

By Carlos Hernández

3 December 2014

The Popular Party (PP) government used its majority in Spain’s Congress last week to force through two anti-corruption laws.

The laws had been delayed for months by the refusal of opposition parties to agree to a cross-party pact on corruption proposed by PP Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy last year.

The passing of the laws is a desperate attempt by Rajoy to salvage some support for his party, which has suffered a precipitous decline in the opinion polls, before next year’s elections. “I can understand the irritation and distrust of our citizens but suspicion should not be levelled at everyone,” he pleaded in Congress. “Most politicians are decent people. Spain is not corrupt.”

However, the day before the vote, PP Health Minister Ana Mato, became the third minister to resign this year after comments by the judge investigating the long-running Gürtel kickbacks-for-contracts case, which erupted in 2008 and involves the bribery of politicians and officials by businessmen in return for profitable public contracts in PP-ruled regions. Mato was accused of having “enjoyed the use of or benefited from” the corrupt activities of her ex-husband Jesús Sepúlveda, a former Popular Party mayor and senator.

Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) leader Pedro Sánchez said his deputies had refused to vote for the laws because the PP had been “irrevocably tarnished” by a series of corruption scandals. He told Rajoy, “You are in no position to regenerate Spain against corruption…You are not able or legitimate to lead.”

Joan Coscubiela of the pseudo-left Green-ICV, the sister party in Catalonia of the Communist Party-led United Left (IU) declared, “You have spent years at the epicentre of the biggest corruption case ever… You, Mr Rajoy, are the Mister X of corruption… You are in no position to carry on.”

However, in the five years since the Gürtel scandal broke, a whole swathe of corruption cases has come to light in which not just the PP but also the PSOE and the IU have been implicated—making a mockery of the indignation shown towards Rajoy by Sánchez and Coscubiela last week.

A probe is ongoing in connection with the Bárcenas affair, involving former PP treasurer and senator, Luis Bárcenas, who is now in jail. He kept a parallel bookkeeping system for years, recording undeclared cash donations which were used to pay bonuses to senior party members, including Rajoy and current secretary general María Dolores de Cospedal.

Last month, police arrested 30 people in 13 Spanish provinces on allegations of rigging public contracts for the maintenance of public parks and gardens. Two companies, Fitonovo and Fiverde, politicians belonging to the PP, the IU and regionalist Canary Islands Coalition and public employees are implicated. Among the charges the suspects face are money laundering, price fixing in a public tender, commercial document fraud and tax offences.

At the end of October, 35 arrests were made, including six mayors from the Madrid region and the chief of the provincial authority of León for involvement in a bid-rigging scheme worth as much as €250 million. Francisco Granados, the second most important PP official in the Madrid regional government, was among those arrested on charges of money laundering, criminal association, influence peddling, bribery, misappropriation of funds, abuse of power and fraud.

At the beginning of October, the PP was forced to expel Rodrigo Rato, former president of Bankia, Economy Minister and Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, after the High Court found him responsible for credit card abuse.

Rato and 85 other managers of the savings bank Caja Madrid (later part of Bankia and bailed out in 2012 at a cost of €22 billion) funnelled millions for their own use, using “opaque” credit cards. The PP appointed 28 of the managers, 15 were appointed by the PSOE and 14 by the IU, the Communist Party-dominated Workers Commissions (CCOO) and the PSOE-aligned General Workers Union (UGT).

While the IU has been implementing austerity measures to the tune of billions in regions such as Andalucía and the unions have overseen labour reforms, pension cuts and wage restraints, its appointees at Caja Madrid went on a spending spree. The IU’s José Antonio Moral Santín grabbed €456,500, Rubén Cruz, €233,700, Juan Gómez Castañeda, €128,100, and Ángel Rizaldos, €20,100. For the CCOO, Francisco Baquero treated himself to €266,400, Antonio Rey de Viñas, €191,500, Rodolfo Benito, €140,600, Juan José Azcona, €99,300, Pedro Bedia, €78,200, and Gabriel Moreno, €20,400. UGT officials Gonzalo Martín Pascual, €129,700, Miguel Ángel Abejón, €109,300, Rafael Eduardo Torres, €82,300, and José Ricardo Martínez, €44,200.

Investigations are also continuing into the fraud scandal, known as EREgate, involving the PSOE, CCOO and UGT in Andalucía. Some 227 people are accused in a scheme to siphon off public money—as much as €152 million—set aside for state-sponsored redundancy schemes (EREs).

The corruption scandals have also hit Catalonia where nationalists have been campaigning for separation on the basis that the region subsidises the poorer parts of Spain. Jordi Pujol, who served as the region’s president for 23 years for the Convergence and Union party (CiU) and revelled in the accolade of “figurehead” of Catalan independence, faces allegations that, for decades, he took a 3 percent slice on dozens of public contracts in the region, enabling him and his family to salt away hundreds of millions of euros in secret bank accounts abroad.

The corruption scandals are another indication that the whole post-Franco bourgeois order is falling apart. They have revealed the outright criminality that lay at the heart of the country’s now-shipwrecked economic boom. Spain’s ruling elite benefited from the boom and accrued massive profits and then imposed harsh austerity measures in the name of “collective sacrifice” after the global economic crisis erupted. Meanwhile Spain’s working population has found itself falling deeper into debt as it struggles to keep up with the cost of living, job losses and public service cuts.

Last week, it was revealed that one-third of Spanish workers are living on the minimum wage of €9,034 ($11,200), with almost all youth under 25 included. The average salary in Spain in 2013 was 1.4 percent lower than a year earlier and the International Monetary Fund is pushing for Spain to lower wages even further.

Under these conditions, the non-stop corruption scandals have had an incendiary impact among millions. Polls find that corruption is the second-highest concern in Spain, after unemployment. Anger at the revelations has been a major factor in the rapid decline in support for the PP and the PSOE and the meteoric rise of the pseudo-left party Podemos. The latest opinion polls suggest Podemos has become the leading political force in Spain—less than a year after its creation—during which time its leader, Pablo Iglesias, has specialised in populist denunciations of the political “caste” (the establishment parties).

However, this is not just the case of a few rotten apples, but the capitalist system itself. This is something Podemos bitterly opposes. In its short life, Podemos has modified or abandoned most of its left-sounding “anti-capitalist” demands. Last week, the launch of Podemos’s new 60-page economic programme excised two measures: one concerning non-payment of public debt and the other, the creation of a minimum wage for all citizens. Iglesias declared that it would not have been out of place in any Social Democratic party in the 1980s.

Spanish military prepares for domestic repression

By Vicky Short

20 November 2014

In response to the socially explosive conditions resulting from high unemployment, attacks on living standards and rising inequality, Spanish military units are being prepared for use in internal repression.

The Spanish digital daily, Público, recently revealed that around 200 soldiers from the Light Armoured Cavalry Regiment Lusitania No.8, based in Valencia, have been receiving special crowd control training, including the use of anti-riot equipment, by the military police.

One of the participants said that “they never explained what mission we needed this training for”. Another said, “People think that a lot of tension can be seen in the streets every day, that there is a lot of unrest … they tell us in the barracks that the National Police are overwhelmed, that it doesn’t have the means or the personnel.”

Sources at the barracks described the training as “strange and absolutely unprecedented,” but added, “We have to be prepared for everything, especially in these current times.”

“We do not remember the PM (military police) training soldiers before from other units to act as ‘anti-riot military police’ against civilians. … We believe that the military police are also doing this type of training in other barracks,” another said.

The sources reported that the training exercise became so violent and out of control, with several casualties, that it had to be stopped.

The Ministry of Defence sought to downplay the revelations, stating that training of the army in riot control was routine and had been going on for years. However, this attempt at reassuring the public was belied by further reports that about 50 soldiers had been interrogated for hours by officers demanding that they reveal the names of those who had made the revelations. At least one of the soldiers is facing expulsion from the army.

The training of army units in crowd control is based on the assumption that insurrectionary struggles are inevitable, because of the intolerable level of suffering the Spanish ruling class has imposed on the working class. The latest developments add to the series of counterinsurgency measures already adopted by the Popular Party (PP) government, including the purchase of new anti-riot equipment.

The new Citizens Security Law going through parliament and expected to be in force early next year will severely restrict the right to protest. Judges will be able to impose huge fines on protesters, particularly those outside Congress and other state institutions, and to fine anyone who distributes photographs of police brutality. The police will receive extra powers to enter and search property, demand identification papers and restrain those who refuse to produce them. The names and details of those penalised can be made public and if they are foreigners they can be deported.

Politicians from the main opposition Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) have been virtually silent about the Público reports, limiting themselves to putting down a question to the government asking for clarification. PSOE defence spokesman, Eduardo González, would not be drawn into any further comments other than stating, “What we need is to know more details and have some clear explanations”.

The PSOE is no stranger to using the army against the working class. In December 2010, the PSOE government invoked a “state of alarm” to use the army to force striking air traffic controllers, who were fighting against wage cuts and an increase in their hours of work, back to work. In 2005, former PSOE Prime Minister José Luis Zapatero created the Military Emergency Unit, whose declared role was “collaborating with the Civil Protection System and contributing to preserving the safety and welfare of citizens in disasters.” It is now one of the units undergoing crowd control training.

The historic role of the army in Spain, which in the 1936-1939 Spanish Civil War killed hundreds of thousands in a counterrevolutionary uprising led by General Francisco Franco, is well documented. The Spanish establishment is riddled with the heirs of the fascist regime that followed the Civil War. A few old surviving fascists even continued to hold the same positions in the armed bodies of the state.

The 1978 constitution drafted and approved, following Franco’s death, after the peaceful transition from fascism to bourgeois democracy by the Stalinist Communist Party of Spain, the PSOE and former Francoites, allows the deployment of the Spanish army under article 116. A state of alarm, exception or siege can be put in place “when extraordinary circumstances would make it impossible for the competent authorities using ordinary powers to maintain normality.”

It will be under these powers that the Spanish military will be deployed against any strikes and demonstrations that threaten the ruling class. The latest anti-riot training exercises testify to the advanced state of decay of Spanish democracy. The PP government, the PSOE, and the trade unions are deeply discredited due to their attacks on workers’ living standards. The Spanish ruling class has nothing to offer except violent crackdowns and mass arrests.

Madrid is not alone. Throughout Europe the ruling class is once again preparing dictatorial forms of rule. In Greece, for example, the New Democracy/PASOK coalition government of Antonis Samaras, on three separate occasions, has placed striking workers under martial law and has repeatedly used police against strikers and has banned demonstrations.

In France, the unpopular Socialist Party government under President François Hollande launched a savage crackdown on protests sparked by the police murder of Rémi Fraisse, a 21-year-old environmental activist. This summer, Hollande banned protests against Israel’s brutal assault on Gaza that killed more than 2,000 Palestinians.

Spain boosts military spending

By Alfie Cook and Alejandro López

17 November 2014

After six years of budget cuts that have destroyed tens of thousands of public sector jobs, impoverished the population, and crippled what remains of the welfare state, Spain’s Popular Party (PP) government is preparing to boost military spending by billions of euros.

The latest draft 2015 budget includes a 1.1 percent increase for the Ministry of Defence (MoD), although the increase is closer to 2 percent when the government’s “extraordinary credits” for military expenditure—including Special Programs of Armament (PEA) and foreign military deployments—are added in. The latest report by the peace foundation Centre Delàs states that military expenditure in 2015 will reach €17 billion.

The increased spending follows the September NATO summit in Wales, which was dominated by scheming against Russia, preparations for military action in Iraq and Syria, and demands that all NATO members boost defence spending to at least 2 percent of GDP. Only four—the United States, UK, Greece and Estonia—do so at present.

The new military programme includes the purchase of five Frigate F-110 anti-submarine warships designed for high intensity combat missions, up to 400 armoured 8×8 vehicles, three A330-MRTT tanker aircrafts and four drones, capable of carrying up to 3,000 pounds of armaments, and two ground control centres. Four S-80 Spanish-made submarines, which use the latest technology for silent cruising and travel at high speeds, will also be bought.

Citing the risk of Islamist terrorism, Defence Minister Pedro Morenés of the Popular Party declared that “there is no possibility in guaranteeing security in an integral way if we do not guarantee the necessary supplies.”

However, former PP defence minister and current president of the Spanish Atlantic Association, Eduardo Serra, pointed to deeper concerns in Spain’s ruling elite, insisting that Spain must increase its defence budget “if it wants to have a voice in the world,” even though it might be “unpopular” or even “not necessary.”

The problem facing Spanish imperialism is that it long ago lost its global status. Over a century ago, in 1898, its remaining colonial territories including Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines were lost in a humiliating ten-week war with the US.

Apart from engagements in Morocco and the use of the fascist Blue Division to fight against the Soviet Union during World War Two, the Spanish army has been overwhelmingly used for internal repression against the population—most brutally, in the civil war sparked by the July 1936 coup under General Francisco Franco.

During the Cold War, the US entered into a trade and military alliance with Francoite Spain, because of its important geostrategic location spanning some of the world’s major sea, land and air routes. Construction began of vital military facilities that are still operational today.

The experience of the Civil War and the dictatorship that followed, US support for Franco, socialistic sentiments and popular sympathy for the Soviet Union left a deep anti-imperialist, anti-military outlook within the Spanish working class. In the early 1980s, demonstrations against Spain’s entry in NATO were so large that the promise to hold a referendum on withdrawal became a major feature of the Socialist Party (PSOE) election manifesto in 1982. The referendum was constantly delayed after the PSOE came to power in a landslide victory; when it was eventually held in 1986, the PSOE campaigned vigorously for continued membership. Even so, only 52.6 percent voted in support.

After Spain joined NATO, successive governments participated in US-led wars in Iraq, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Libya, despite public opposition. A 2003 survey by the publicly-funded Centre for Sociological Investigations suggested that 91 percent of Spaniards oppose Spain’s involvement in the military action launched against Iraq.

The following year, Prime Minister José Maria Aznar’s PP government was voted out after Aznar tried to blame Al Qaeda’s March 2004 terror bombings in Madrid on the Basque separatist group ETA. Voters were incensed that Aznar tried to conceal that the bombings were Islamist retaliation for Spain’s unpopular role in the Iraq war. The PSOE was the undeserving beneficiary of this sentiment, however; once elected, it brought back Spanish troops from Iraq only to increase them in Afghanistan.

Today, 10 years later, the PSOE has lined up behind the PP’s active support for Washington’s renewed aggression in Iraq and Syria to assert US hegemony over the strategically vital and oil-rich Middle East.

Madrid will deploy 300 instructors to train the Iraqi Army at a base in Tallil, just south of Diwaniya, where Spanish soldiers were stationed during the occupation of Iraq in 2003. Spain has also allowed its allies to use its military bases, as well as airspace and territorial waters, is supplying weapons and equipment to the Iraqi Army and the Kurdish Peshmerga forces and deployed a squadron of Patriot surface-to-air (SAM) systems and 130 soldiers at the Turkish border.

Félix Arteaga, a defence analyst at the prestigious Real Instituto Elcano, wrote that Spain’s military presence “is not there to put an end to a conflict which, in all certainty, has no solution, or at least a quick one” but “because other jihadist groups, now obedient to ISIS, are roaming throughout North Africa and the Sahel, endangering the stability of the countries of the area, a risk that directly affects Spain. And when those countries seek assistance as did Iraq, Spain knows that it will have to accept the call, and seek help of those who now are now in the Coalition. Today for you, tomorrow for me.”

Beneath the pretext of terrorism lies Spain’s attempt to regain influence in Africa, where it still retains two enclaves, at Ceuta and Melilla, in Morocco. Arteaga’s “tomorrow for me” can be best understood in the words of the recent report, “Towards a Strategic Renewal of Spanish Foreign Policy,” also published by the Real Instituto Elcano, that insists that Spain “has to elaborate an integral strategy of action in the area of Sahel, from the Gulf of Guinea to the Red Sea and the Horn of Africa… Considering that the business ties between Sub-Saharan Africa and Spain are intensifying rapidly.”

The area was a major source of discussion at the Crans Montana Forum’s Homeland and Global Security Forum, held in mid-October in Switzerland, where Stephen O’Brien, UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s Special Representative to the Sahel, explained that the region was part of a “global band of instability,” that spanned from Afghanistan in the East to Mali in the West and that the international community must intervene to prevent the five countries in the Sahel from becoming another Afghanistan.

The global crisis of 2008 has accelerated the ambitions of all the rival imperialist powers for a new division and re-division of the world. Moreover, with the second highest level of inequality in the European Union, according to Oxfam, Spain’s increasing militarism also expresses the attempt to project rising social tensions outward.

Who is responsible for the Ebola virus case in Spain?

By Kelly Taylor

16 October 2014

Last week, Spanish nurse Teresa Romero became the first person to contract the deadly Ebola virus outside of West Africa.

Romero had been treating Spanish missionary Manuel Garcia Viejo, 75, who was repatriated after contracting the disease in Sierra Leone. He died on September 25. Romero, whose condition is now described as “stable but critical” after suffering multiple organ failure, began receiving the experimental drug ZMapp last Friday.

Almost immediately after the case hit the headlines, Madrid’s Popular Party (PP)-appointed regional health chief, Javier Rodríguez, sought to blame Romero for contracting the disease. Accusing her of concealing information from doctors and not taking safety precautions seriously enough, he said, “You don’t need a master’s degree to explain to someone how to put on a [protective] suit. But some people learn faster than others.”

After an announcement that two hair stylists were in isolation after coming into contact with Romero, he spouted, “She can’t be that bad if she went to the beauty salon.”

Romero’s husband, Javier Limón, has called for Rodríguez to “show some personal honour and resign.”

“I beg you, speaking with the ignorance of a welder, to explain to me how to put on a protective suit, since unfortunately my wife did not get a master’s degree in such matters. Teresa had a half-hour or so to learn it from a colleague, but she also has a willingness to serve others and a humility that you yourself lack,” Limón said.

Limón condemned the authorities’ tardy response, pointing out that Romero had said an infected glove may have touched her face when she was removing her suit. She alerted the monitoring teams to her high temperature. By the time the authorities responded six days later and placed her in an isolation unit, she had been in contact with numerous others who are all now in isolation units. Limón said that had the correct training and precautions been taken, his wife would not be fighting for her life and he would not be in an isolation unit.

The World Health Organisation released a statement on October 9 saying Romero “had treated the patient on two occasions on 24th and 25th September 2014. On both occasions she is reported to have worn appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE).”

Rodríguez has now said that his statements were “unfortunate” and that Romero was “an accredited professional with more than 15 years’ experience and a woman with an unparalleled commitment to service. She, like many other excellent professionals, volunteered to treat the missionaries suffering from the Ebola virus, and she deserves all my respect for that.”

He has not resigned.

There is huge anger among health care workers at the dangers they face due to massive cutbacks. Last Friday, nurses protested by throwing surgical gloves at PP prime minister Mariano Rajoy, who was visiting the Ebola isolation unit. Doctors and nurses have called for an investigation into hospital protocols and procedures, with a view to pursuing negligence claims against the state for failing to provide adequate protection.

Dr. Juan Manuel Parra, who treated Romero before her illness was made public and who is also in isolation, condemned the government and medical officials for the lack of training and concern for health workers. He said he only discovered he had treated an Ebola patient after hearing news reports, and that his protective gear was virtually useless, describing how “my sleeves were short at all times.”

Another doctor, Santiago Yus, with more than 30 years’ experience in intensive care, told El Mundo he had only received a 10-minute briefing and been told to study some photos on a wall before treating the Ebola patient: “Tomorrow or the day after tomorrow I will be expected to treat the Ebola patient and nobody has even taught me to put on the protective suit…. I am not ready, I am not trained. And it’s the same with my colleagues.”

Both the current PP and the previous PSOE (Socialist Workers Party) governments in Spain have implemented draconian austerity measures over the last five years that have seen deep cuts in health care. Last year, this included the closure of the infectious disease ward at Carlos III hospital, where Romero worked and is now being treated. It had to be reopened urgently to accommodate patients being brought back to Spain for treatment.

In 2012, the government excluded undocumented migrant workers from accessing free health care services. The European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) in its October 10 report pointed out that a possible source of infection “is a chain of transmission along the routes used by undocumented migrants who end up on the southern shore of the Mediterranean and attempt to reach Europe by sea. Although the probability of this event is very small, the consequences of an outbreak in a detention centre or on board ship at sea could be dramatic.”

Faced with persecution, exorbitant health care bills and deportation, what motivation would migrants travelling illegally have to present themselves to the authorities for treatment?

The ECDC report provides a damning indictment of the profit system and its inability to manage such outbreaks. “With nearly 8,300 cases and more than 4,000 deaths reported from West Africa by early October 2014, it is clear that the control measures implemented so far have failed to control the outbreak,” it states. “All evidence and predictions indicate that the outbreak will continue to grow and spread geographically in affected countries if control efforts remain unchanged.”

The October 9 WHO report states that the number of infected health care workers (HCWs) “continues to be an alarming feature of this outbreak.

“As of 8 October, 416 HCWs are known to have developed EVD [Ebola Viral Disease] (74 in Guinea, 201 in Liberia, 11 in Nigeria and 129 in Sierra Leone, and one in Spain). 233 HCWs have died as a result of EVD infection (38 in Guinea, 95 in Liberia, five in Nigeria, 95 in Sierra Leone).”

The WHO confirmed the current outbreak on March 22, with cases being reported from December 2013. However, it elicited very little concern from the Western powers, as the disease had never left poverty-stricken Africa. Despite the nominal independence of the countries at the centre of the epidemic—Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia—they are all dominated by giant corporations and banks based in the imperialist centres, which extract vast profits from their mineral wealth and other natural resources. None of the countries are able to provide even the most basic health care for the masses.

Tensions rise in Spain over Catalan independence referendum

By Alejandro Lopez

6 October 2014

Tensions between the central government in Madrid and Catalan separatist forces and the regional government in Barcelona are escalating, one week after Spain’s Constitutional Court suspended the Catalan independence referendum planned for November 9. The conflict has triggered Spain’s biggest constitutional crisis since the transition from Francoism to bourgeois democracy, after the death of Spain’s fascist dictator in 1975.

On September 25, Artur Mas, regional president and leader of the ruling party in Catalonia, Convergence and Union (CiU), signed the decree approved by the Catalan parliament enabling the region to hold a non-binding referendum on independence. The next day, Spain’s right-wing Popular Party (PP) government called the State Council advisory body to present an appeal to the Constitutional Court (CC). The body unanimously passed two resolutions supporting the government’s appeal. Last Monday, the CC decided in less than two hours to suspend the referendum and prohibit all activities connected with its preparation, until it reaches a decision.

Director of Public Prosecutions Eduardo Torres Dulce warned that anyone who persists faces criminal charges of contempt and sedition. After the court decision, Mas criticised the “supersonic speed” with which the court had acted and warned that blocking the referendum could lead to “extremism” and violence. He declared, “I will not change course… I will not back down from our determination to allow the Catalan people to decide their future.”

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said, “The law and dialogue, these are the ways out of the situation in Catalonia … no one is above the law … I want us to stay together.”

The Interior Ministry dispatched between 400 and 450 riot police from Spain’s National Police to Catalonia to “strengthen the security of state buildings in case there are incidents” due to the “social and political climate,” the United Police Trade Union (SUP) reported.

Last week, both regional and national police collaborated in dispersing pro-independence protesters who tried to camp outside the delegation of the Spanish government in Barcelona. However, any attempt by Madrid to unilaterally deploy units without Barcelona’s consent would be illegal.

Barcelona went one step further on its collision course with Madrid when it initiated an unofficial disobedience campaign against the CC’s decision. On Thursday, the Catalan parliament elected a seven-member electoral body to organize the referendum in Catalonia. However, the Control Commission is authorized by the law that was suspended by the CC. The Catalan parliament ignored this, arguing that its members could be elected as it did not challenge the court’s suspension.

Alicia Sanchez-Camacho, the leader of the PP in Catalonia, announced that Madrid would appeal the creation of the commission. “Mas has lost his sense of responsibility, his sense of state and his common sense,” she said.

On the same day, the Mas government came under furious criticism by the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), which is in a parliamentary alliance with the CiU, and from the fake-left Popular Unity Candidates (CUP), for cancelling the referendum campaign. They demanded that the regional government restore direct preparations and the institutional campaign for November’s vote.

On Friday, Mas met with the representatives of the pro-referendum parties including ERC, CUP, and the Catalan Green Initiative-United Alternative Left (ICV-EUiA). After seven hours, the representatives agreed to maintain the referendum call, though they did not publicly explain how they would guarantee that the referendum would proceed.

ICV-EUiA leader Joan Herrera admitted to that there were “tensions,” but emphasised that there was also “unity” and they had agreed to “formulas to circumvent the obstacles”—that is, the CC’s decision. It remains unclear what these methods are.

One of the meeting’s first results was that advertising for the referendum, suspended on Wednesday after the CC’s decision, was resumed.

On Saturday, around 800 mayors throughout Catalonia gave support to the referendum in Barcelona, in an event prior to the official reception by Mas. Since 2010, 920 of the 947 municipalities have passed resolutions defending a referendum on independence.

A political crisis is unfolding, where a miscalculation by any of the bourgeois factions can lead to conflict between Madrid and Barcelona with unknown consequences. While powerful forces in Madrid oppose Catalan independence, the Catalan regional government cannot simply back down after setting in motion the independence process.

In September, according to pro-independence sources, over 1.8 million people marched demanding independence. The Catalan National Assembly (ANC) has mobilized 8,000 volunteers to travel around Catalonia to carry out a mass door-to-door survey to ask about the “citizens’ priorities in case of secession.” Support for the referendum is nearly 70.8 percent amongst Catalans, while 22.9 percent would oppose it, according to a Centre of Opinion Studies (CEO) poll.

This takes place amid deepening poverty and unemployment caused by austerity policies worked out and imposed by authorities in Madrid, Barcelona, and the European Union (EU). Spain currently has 27 percent unemployment, 20 percent of the population lives below the poverty line and wages have been cut by an average of 7 percent.

The repeated attempts by the working class to resist austerity measures from local, regional and the central governments have been channelled behind empty, one-day protests by the unions. Mass disillusionment with such events has provided fertile ground for the growth of nationalism in Catalonia, in an attempt to provide a reactionary outlet for deep social and political discontent.

In Catalonia, the ruling CiU party has been a fixture of the post-Franco era, making agreements with both PP and PSOE governments. In 2010, it started promoting separatism to distract from its austerity measures, while seeking concessions from Madrid that have not come.

In Madrid, the PP and the main opposition Socialist Party (PSOE) agreed that the referendum will not take place. While the PSOE has long issued pro-forma proposals for a federal reform of the constitution, the PP has made clear that it will not make any concessions. Rajoy attacked the PSOE’s call for a constitutional reform as “fuel for separatists … this is not the time to create slogans or pull a rabbit out of a hat. It is the time to act with great caution.”

Officials in Madrid and Catalan parties hostile to the referendum, including the regional Catalan sections of the PP and the PSOE, have expressed concern that Mas will call snap elections in the region and make them a plebiscite on separation.

Matias Alonso, general secretary of the Citizens Party, declared that the Plan B of the separatists is to “call plebiscitary elections, in which the victory of the secessionists would mean a unilateral declaration of independence… I am worried of the persistence to take us on the Kosovo road.”

Spain’s government denounces Catalan referendum

By Alejandro López

29 September 2014

Artur Mas, regional president and leader of the ruling party in Catalonia, Convergència i Unió (Convergence and Union-CiU), has signed a decree allowing a referendum on independence on November 9. This comes after the “No” vote in the Scottish referendum and the mass demonstration in Barcelona on September 11, the Spanish region’s national day.

Mas signed the document using a Catalan-made fountain pen in room of Verge de Montserrat, reserved for “great occasions”, in the building of the Catalan government. He was surrounded by all the parties that support the referendum. Afterwards he left the building to greet hundreds of people in one of Barcelona’s main squares, the Plaça de Sant Jaume. Only the Catalan public television TV3 was allowed to follow the whole ceremony and broadcast it live.

The decree includes the two questions that will be asked in the referendum: “Do you want Catalonia to be a state?” If the answer is affirmative, the next question is, “Do you want that state to be independent?”

The reaction of the Spanish government was immediate. Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saénz de Santamaría held a press conference in which she reiterated that the government would not allow the referendum to take place “because it is not constitutional … it is the government’s job to ensure that the law is not broken.”

Catalan separatist forces know the government will appeal the decree to the Constitutional Court (CC), which could paralyse the process until its final decision. On Sunday, the government called the State Council advisory body with the aim of presenting an appeal against the decree this week. In less than two hours the State Council passed two resolutions giving support to the government’s appeal. Saénz de Santamaría declared that “no actions toward executing it [the referendum]” will be allowed once the CC suspends the decree.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, in an official visit to China, told journalists that Mas “has got himself in a mess over this all on his own. We told him what was going to happen, it’s what we have always said. I suppose he thought we were going to back down, but we are going to do what we said we would do.”

Basque nationalists have also been quick to react. Regional president Iñigo Urkullo of the ruling Basque Nationalist Party called for a new status of the Basque region within Spain. Earlier this year, the Basque parliament passed a resolution declaring self-determination, and in June, 100,000 people formed a 123 kilometre-long human chain demanding a referendum.

There are now several possible outcomes. The first is that Mas suspends the referendum once it is declared illegal. Mas has already said in that case he would call snap elections in the region and make them a plebiscite on separation.

This would create tensions with the Republican Left of Catalonia (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, ERC) and the Popular Unity Candidates (Candidatura d’Unitat Popular, CUP). Both parties have stated that Catalans should carry out a civil disobedience campaign if the central government denies them the referendum. The Stalinist and Green alliance, Initiative for Catalonia Greens (Iniciativa per Catalunya Verds, ICV), have called for maintaining unity among pro-referendum forces.

The other outcome is pushing forward with an illegal referendum, which would risk suspension of Catalonia’s autonomy. The government could also deploy armed forces, arrest Mas and put civil servants who attempt to use public buildings and resources under military discipline.

Last April, retired Colonel Leopoldo Muñoz, president of the Spanish Military Association, the largest organisation of military and Civil Guard personnel, called for separatists to be prosecuted by a military court for “crimes of high treason.” The Union Progress and Democracy (Unión Progreso y DemocraciaUPyD), a party that calls for the rollback of most powers given to the regions, has called for the suspension of the Catalan government.

Workers in Catalonia and throughout Spain have nothing to gain from this escalating conflict. This is a struggle between two factions of the bourgeoisie. What unites both camps is their hostility to the working class. All are implicated in imposing mass austerity. The PSOE government (2008-2011) and the current Popular Party (PP) government have imposed one austerity measure after another, including spending cuts of around 63.393 billion euros since 2011, three labour and two pensions “reforms”.

In Catalonia, the PP and the PSOE have supported the separatist forces’ cuts, with Catalonia at the top of the 17 regions in imposing austerity measures.

The ERC and ICV have also imposed austerity. In 2010 they formed the “Coalition of Progress” that included the PSC (the Catalan sister party of the PSOE), which passed an austerity plan that included cuts totalling €1.6 billion. The following year the ERC declared it would work with the new CiU government, which approved unprecedented cuts, including €3.4 billion in health care, €2.5 billion in education, €758 million in social welfare, and €433 million in other services. ICV’s sister party in the south of Spain has over the last two years slashed the regional budget by €2.6 billion.

This has created a social catastrophe. There is now 27 percent unemployment, 20 percent of the population lives below the poverty line and wages have been cut by an average of 7 percent.

The mass opposition amongst the working class to austerity and pauperization has been repeatedly diverted by the unions into token protests and one-day general strikes. This paralysis has been aided by the pseudo-left, which has intervened to tie workers to the union bureaucracy. Now they are promoting Catalan nationalism, parochialism and the referendum, as a way of breaking the unity of the Spanish working class.

The Morenoite party, Corriente Roja and En Lucha, sister party of the Socialist Workers Party, have signed a manifesto, “Left Forces for Yes-Yes” [to both questions of the referendum], with the CUP, ERC, the Stalinists of IC and EuiA and other pro-separatist forces and personalities.

One of the reasons cited is to “support and strengthen the social mobilization against the cuts by the Catalan and Spanish governments”. This is deeply cynical, given that the ICV-EUiA and the ERC have imposed austerity measures. The aim of En Lucha and Corriente Roja is to provide a left-cover for the ERC and ICV-EUiA, while promoting their own careers.

Another stated reason in the manifesto is that the referendum provides “an opportunity to build a country … which guarantees basic education and quality public healthcare, the right to housing, to public pensions and a dignified job. A country that can protect the territory and promote the culture and where there is no space for discrimination of gender, sexual orientation, origin or any other.”

This is a fraud. In country after country the ruling classes are pursuing a social counter-revolution. Wealth is being redistributed from the bottom to the very top, while attacks on democratic rights, cuts in essential social services like health care and education, have become the norm. An independent Catalonia would be no exception.

An article by the Morenoites, “Catalonia must hold the N-9 referendum”, declared that Mas would not defy the Constitutional Court’s prohibition, because this “would open a huge and uncontrolled institutional crisis and would lead to the emergence of a mass movement that not only will overwhelm him and his party, but could jeopardize the status quo”.

This argument is repeated by the Pabloite Izquierda Anticapitalista, Clase contra Clase and others. Pressurising the bourgeois faction represented by the separatist forces into conflict with the Spanish state is portrayed as a means of sparking a revolution. To refute such lies, one needs only look at Yugoslavia, where NATO, ex-Stalinist bureaucrats and communalist movements encouraged a fratricidal war that led to seven ethnically divided mini-states, subject to imperialist domination and increasing social misery. The answer to the dictatorship of the Spanish and Catalan ruling class and its parties is not the creation of new states in the Iberian peninsula, but the struggle for a workers’ government in Spain, as part of the United Socialist States of Europe.

Spain’s most powerful banker warned of “radicalisation”

By Vicky Short

22 September 2014

Emilio Botín, executive chairman of the euro zone’s biggest bank, Spain’s Grupo Santander, died of a heart attack on September 10. He was 79. Four days earlier, he had invited a select group of Spanish journalists to a dinner in Milan at which he revealed his fears about the “radicalisation” of Spain.

The meeting is said to have been “off the record” and its contents were published only after Botín had died and Santander had given permission. It was clear that Botín had called the meeting in order to steer editorial policy.

Botín told the journalists that more support should be given to the right-wing Convergence and Union Party (CiU) that rules Catalonia. The party is in crisis over the issue of the region’s independence, which it began to support three years ago after decades of opposition. Last week, the Catalan parliament, including the CiU, voted overwhelmingly to approve a referendum on independence on November 9.

The Popular Party (PP) central government in Madrid is vehemently opposed to Catalan independence and has referred the issue to the Constitutional Court, which is expected to declare it illegal. If it does, CiU leader Artur Mas has said he will comply out of concern that holding an illegal referendum couldsplit his party. However, the Catalan Republican Left (ERC), on which the CiU relies to stay in power, says it will withdraw its support if he does not go ahead with the referendum.

Botín said some kind of common ground had to be found. It was necessary to prevent the disintegration of CiU and stop other more radical options such as the ERC benefiting. He thought an agreement could be reached because “it’s all about money.”

Botín also expressed concerns over the rapid rise of the new pseudo-left party Podemos (We Can), and how it might hasten the disintegration of the social democratic Socialist Workers Party (PSOE), which, like the PP, has seen its support sink to an historic low.

He told the journalists that it was important for there to be a strong PSOE acting as a loyal opposition. Podemos’s surprise result in the European election earlier this year and the surge in its popular support would lead to division and fragmentation of the “leftist” vote and make Spain ungovernable, Botín warned.

Botín had good reason to be fearful of the radicalisation of the working class, but not of Podemos, which offers no alternative for the working class to the establishment parties. Podemos aims to occupy the vacuum left by the collapse of the establishment parties so as to prevent growing social opposition from developing into a conscious political movement threatening capitalism.

Since its founding last January by the Pabloite Anti-capitalist Left (IA) and dozens of academics, the party has junked its initial reformist demands in favour of a programme more acceptable to the ruling class. It is now espousing a programme for “national salvation,” with leader Pablo Iglesias describing himself as a “patriot” and accusing the “caste” (the PSOE and PP) of having “sold our country” and relegated Spain to “a position on the periphery, as an indebted country that provides cheap labour to the north of Europe.”

Botín’s Milan meeting is a clear example of the overwhelming political power exerted by the financial and business oligarchy. He transformed his regional, family-controlled bank, based in his home town of Santander, into a major bank by buying up failing banks for knock-down prices and then selling them at a profit after slashing labour costs and updating technology.

Santander’s assets rose under Botín’s chairmanship from €20 billion in 1998 to €1.1 trillion last year, roughly equal to Spain’s gross domestic product. Over three-quarters of the bank’s activities now take place outside Spain—in Latin America, the UK and the US. It has 102 million customers and more than 186,000 employees.

Santander, like all other banks, was hit by the 2008 global financial crisis and the collapse of the housing bubble in Spain, which left it with a massive volume of worthless real estate and unrecoverable loans to property developers. Unlike other Spanish banks, however, its overseas assets—about 80 percent of its total—cushioned the shock.

Santander also took advantage of the European Central Bank’s offer of cheap loans, which, according to Chief Executive Alfredo Saenz, were used as a “buffer” against its bad debts rather than a pool for lending.

Santander shares surged after July 2013, when European Central Bank President Mario Draghi pledged to defend the euro and buy Spanish government bonds if the government agreed a bailout package for its distressed banks. While Santander and its shareholders benefited from the bailout, the working class paid for it in the form of austerity measures and mushrooming unemployment.

The international media has lavished praise on Botín, describing him as “the Spanish conquistador,” a titan, the patron, the great innovator, the revolutionary of banking, the action man, godfather, etc., etc.

Few of the rhapsodies to Botín dwell on the darker areas of his career. In 2011, he and 11 relatives, including five of his six children, were investigated for alleged tax evasion. Only after the family paid €200 million in back taxes was the investigation dropped.

Botín helped launch the career of José Maria Aznar, the PP prime minister from 1996 until 2004, when he was ignominiously ousted by a massive anti-war movement. Botín was the first to congratulate his successor, PSOE leader José Luis Zapatero, on his win. His pronouncement that the Spanish economy was on the mend was regarded as a crucial vote of confidence in support of Zapatero’s reelection bid in 2008.

Spain’s economy minister, Luis de Guindos, has revealed that Botín’s support was important in the PP government’s decision not to negotiate a full government sovereign debt bailout with international creditors in 2012, shortly after Spain was forced to seek the bank bailout. De Guindos wrote that, while under intense pressure, he received a phone call from Botín telling him to resist. “You know what you have to do and I will back you,” Botín told him.

Following Botín’s death, the board of Banco Santander unanimously appointed his daughter, Ana Patricia, who has been in charge of the bank’s British operations, as its next executive chairwoman.

Demonstration of two million organised by Catalan National Assembly

By Paul Mitchell

15 September 2014

Nearly two million Catalans, dressed in lines of red and yellow took part in a demonstration in central Barcelona on September 11, the Spanish region’s national day. They formed a big V symbolizing “Vote” in an attempt to put pressure on the regional Convergence and Union (Convèrgencia I Unió—CiU) government to go ahead with a referendum on independence from Spain promised for November 9.

The demonstration was organised by the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and took place a week before Scotland’s independence referendum, which, if successful, the Catalan separatists explain, will set a precedent in the European Union and bolster their own claims.

The central Popular Party (PP) government insists that it will not allow the Catalan vote to go ahead, declaring that the country’s constitution does not allow regional self-determination. It has referred the matter to the Constitutional Court, which is expected to rule on the referendum soon and declare it illegal.

Catalan first minister and CiU leader, Artur Mas, told reporters, “If the Catalan population wants to vote on its future, it’s practically impossible to stop that forever,” adding, “I think it’s absurd to pretend that could be so and I think the Spanish government will have to realize that.”

Mas insists the referendum involves a “non-legally binding vote” and is allowed under Catalan law. However, he made it clear that if the Constitutional Court rules against the referendum he may call it off and seek other avenues, one of which is to bring forward regional elections and make them a plebiscite on separation. A new government could then make a unilateral declaration of independence.

Mas said that he would agree to a “third option” involving a more federalist structure with greater powers and a new economic relationship, provided the Catalan people voted on it.

Mas is acutely aware that holding an illegal referendum could split his party, which only declared for independence three years ago after decades of pursuing a policy of greater autonomy within Spain. There could also be a lower turnout for an illegal referendum and a reduced yes vote in a situation where the numbers for and against independence are at present evenly balanced. According to the latest Metroscopia poll, 43 percent of Catalans are for independence and 42 percent against, with the remainder being undecided. If more powers were given to Catalonia, the support for independence would fall to 23 percent.

Another problem for Mas is the attitude of the strongly pro-independence Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC—the Catalan Republican Left) whose support he needs to remain in power. ERC leader Oriol Junqueras is demanding the vote go ahead or the political alliance with the CiU will collapse. Junqueras insisted, “There is one fundamental demand in Catalonia, and that is to vote.”

The ERC is also likely to emerge as the biggest party in the Catalan parliament in fresh elections. One reason is the corruption scandal around CiU national “hero” Jordi Pujol, who served as Catalan president for 23 years. Pujol is due to appear before the Catalan parliament on September 22 to explain his involvement in tax fraud, stashing away millions in secret bank accounts in neighbouring Andorra.

Money is at the heart of the moves by sections of the Catalan ruling elite to split from Spain. Catalonia only has 16 percent of Spain’s population but almost a quarter of the economy. It is home to many of Spain’s largest corporations, leading banks and top research institutions. ERC deputy Alfred Bosch recently declared, “We think that we could administer our own resources. We could do it better with much more proximity to the people and also we would have a better chance of meeting our needs.”

The ANC complains that Catalonia is confronting a deep economic crisis, while it has “to contribute around 8 percent of its annual GDP, well above any solidarity obligations, to sustain an inefficient Spanish state.”

“Only by becoming an independent country can we hope to overcome this kind of fiscal discrimination,” it adds.

Despite its conflict with the PP government in Madrid over the control of resources, the Catalan government is in total agreement that the working class must pay for the economic crisis. It has imposed unprecedented cuts in education, health care and public-sector wages in addition to other social cuts. In the central parliament, CiU has repeatedly voted for the PP’s cuts, labour reforms and tax increases. The ERC has propped up CiU throughout this period.

This makes clear that neither side of this so-called debate represents the interests of the working class. It involves a struggle between competing layers of the ruling elite over how best to gain access to global markets and step up exploitation.

The growth of Catalan nationalist sentiment is the result of the betrayals by the trade unions of repeated attempts by the working class to oppose austerity. They have diverted opposition into token protests and ineffective one-day general strikes before agreeing to wage cuts and labour and pension counter-reforms. In the absence of a revolutionary socialist alternative and leadership, opposition has been channelled behind a separatist agenda whose function is to split the working class.

Among the most aggressive promoters of separatism are the pseudo-left parties. They work deliberately to tie the working class to bourgeois and petty-bourgeois forces by claiming that national separatism will provide a new basis for socialism by breaking the foundations of the Spanish state.

The opposition of genuine socialism to Catalan nationalism does not imply any diminution of its complete opposition to the Spanish capitalist state and the “unity of the Spanish nation.” Marxists seek to unite the working class throughout Spain and throughout the world, irrespective of skin colour, language, nationality or creed, in the struggle to overthrow capitalism and the nation state system.

The demand for a Catalan referendum has also triggered similar calls in the Basque country, traditionally the centre of separatist tensions in Spain. Earlier this year, the Basque parliament passed a resolution declaring self-determination, and in June, 100,000 people formed a 123 kilometre-long human chain demanding a referendum.

Spain: Catalan separatist leader declares Scottish vote “an example for us”

By Alejandro López

12 September 2014

Carme Forcadell, president of the Catalan National Assembly (Assemblea Nacional Catalana-ANC), has declared support for a “yes” vote in the Scottish independence referendum being held on September 18, seven weeks before an unofficial vote in Catalonia November 9.

The ANC was founded in March 2012 following the holding of a “National Conference for Our Own State” in April 2011, which selected a permanent council that included writers, academics, historians, lawyers and others drawn from the upper-middle class. In 2012, accompanied by mass publicity by the Catalan media, the ANC organised a mass rally of 1.5 million on September 11, the national day of Catalonia, under the slogan, “Catalonia, new state in Europe.”

Last year, a similar number took part in a 480-kilometre human chain in support of Catalan independence. Yesterday, there was a huge turnout for the ANC’s “V for Victory” demonstration on Barcelona’s two main streets—Avinguda Diagonal and Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes de Barcelona.

In an interview with Público, Forcadell stated, “Whatever happens, the Scottish people have already won, they will have exercised their sovereignty and their right to self-determination. If the Yes [vote] wins, it will be beneficial for us because it will put the European Union on alert. But the fact that they are voting is an example for us.”

Wary that a “No” vote in Scotland would affect the referendum in Catalonia, Forcadell said, “Because the people know they are two different processes. We have long worked towards this path. We have civil society and the parliamentary majority. In Scotland the [referendum] process has come only from the government [side]. But the unity and social force in Catalonia does not exist in Scotland.” Forcadell said this before the latest Scottish referendum poll showed the “Yes” vote had reached 51 percent.

Both separatist movements have more in common than Forcadell would like to admit. They are bourgeois movements that represent the interests of big business and the most privileged sections of the middle class, not working people. Their aim is to establish more direct relations with the banks, corporations and speculators by offering to drive up exploitation, smash wages and working conditions, destroy or privatise social services and slash taxes on corporate wealth.

Business for Scotland (BfS), a coalition of mainly small businesses reliant on government contracts and subsidies, is in favour of independence. BfS argues, “Scotland has paid more tax than the UK average for every one of the past 33 years. This means that Scotland’s finances are strong and can support all public services after independence.”

In the same manner, the ANC complains that Catalonia is confronting a deep economic crisis, while it has “to contribute around 8 percent of its annual GDP, well above any solidarity obligations, to sustain an inefficient Spanish state.”

“Only by becoming an independent country can we hope to overcome this kind of fiscal discrimination,” it adds.

An independent Scotland would, according to the BfS, invest “in manufacturing and create new jobs,” “utilise expanding Arctic trade” and “boost exports of food and drink sales globally.”

The ANC says, “Catalonia aspires to be the Netherlands or Denmark of southern Europe, a small country but with strong commercial links to the rest of the world.”

Both claim that independence would drastically reduce poverty in their regions, leading to a fairer society. This is a fraud. Around the world, the ruling class has pursued a social counterrevolution seeking to redistribute wealth from the bottom to the very top. Attacks on democratic rights, cuts in essential social services like health care and education, have become the norm. Why would an independent Catalonia or Scotland be any different?

The Scottish National Party and Convergència i Unió (Convergence and Unity Party) and Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (Catalan Republican Left of Catalonia-ERC) both seek membership in the European Union, which is demanding austerity across the continent, and in NATO, which is presently expanding its military mobilization against Russia.

An independent Scotland or Catalonia would not promote “peace” within these imperialist organisations, but would participate in their militaristic adventures and demand a share of the spoils.

Scottish nationalists complain about Scots being outnumbered ten to one and subject to “Westminster.” But Scotland has been an integral part of one of the most powerful imperialist states since the Act of Union in 1707 and its ruling class has shared in the crimes and brutal exploitation of millions around the world ever since.

The separatists in both Catalonia and Scotland invoke a false historical narrative that casts these regions as oppressed nations. The ANC talks about the Spanish “colonialist mentality” ruling over Catalonia “as one rules untrustworthy or inferior subjects.” It attempts to root Spanish oppression of Catalonia back to September 11, 1714, when the troops of Philip V of Spain defeated the army of the Crown of Aragon (Aragon, Valencia and Catalonia). In fact, that year marked the end of a war between European powers over who had the right to succeed Charles II as King of Spain. The Crown of Aragon was not fighting for an independent Catalonia, but for the Hapsburg claimant to the Spanish throne, Archduke Charles of Austria.

Catalan nationalism has its real origins at the end of the 19th century. Its objective was not a separate state, but an attempt to modernise Spanish capitalism against the domination of the land-owning aristocracy and the state bureaucracy in Madrid. However, threatened with the growing power of the working class, especially in the industrialised region of Catalonia and the Basque Country, the regional bourgeoisie saw its own working class as a bigger threat than Madrid and aligned itself with the latter.

The Catalan ruling elite suppressed the working class repeatedly. In the “Tragic Week” of 1909, in the coup of General Primo de Rivera in 1923, and General Franco’s coup in 1936 that sparked the Spanish Civil War, the bourgeoisie sided with the army against the working class even when these regimes suppressed Catalan institutions, persecuted separatists and banned the Catalan language. Catalan workers, like their brothers and sisters in Scotland, are not oppressed because of their nationality, but because of their class position within capitalist society.

The recent growth of Catalan and Scottish separatism has nothing progressive about it. Its emergence is due to the betrayals of social democracy, Stalinism, the trade unions and their pseudo-left apologists. Mass discontent has been channelled by separatist forces and their foot-soldiers, the pseudo-left, who have actively promoted narrowness and parochialism under conditions where the unity of the working class is indispensable in the fight against capitalism.

The championing of separatism in the name of self-determination ignores the experiences of the international working class with bourgeois nationalist movements. The tragic experience of Yugoslavia should serve as a lesson to workers throughout the world. There, NATO, ex-Stalinist bureaucrats and communalist movements encouraged a fratricidal war. Today, the working class lives in ethnically divided states, subject to imperialist domination and increasing social misery, which serve, in turn, as a lever to drive down the living standards of workers in the rest of Europe.

The ANC’s leader Forcadell is very conscious that the main difference between Catalonia and Scotland is that Spain will not allow a referendum to be legally held, which explains why SNP leader Alex Salmond has not openly supported the Catalan referendum. Doing so would jeopardize the future entry of an independent Scotland in the EU, which Spain would likely veto. Madrid continues to reject the independence of Kosovo, while most of its imperialist allies have recognised it, because of internal tensions with Basque and Catalan separatists.

Whatever the outcome, the referendum in Scotland will have consequences. The break-up of the oldest capitalist state would strengthen separatist movements in the rest of Europe.

Mass graves from Spain’s civil war uncovered

By Alejandro López

18 August 2014

The Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory has found mass graves in the Estépar Mountains on the outskirts of the Spanish northern city of Burgos.

A team consisting of 50 Spanish archaeologists, anthropologists and forensic scientists estimates that four mass graves could include between 300 to 400 corpses.

Archaeologist Juan Montero told El Diario, “We have managed to contact sixty families. Everyone is well aware that given the large number of mass graves and the lack of economic resources, due to there being zero government involvement, the tasks of identifying the victims are going to be tremendously complex.”

Among those who are said to be buried there are the composer Antonio José Burgos and his brother Julio, and the father of the writer Francisco Ayala, the last representative of the poets and writers of the Generation of 1927. Also rumoured to be interred there is the father of writer Sanchez Drago.

Sanchez Drago, once a member of the Stalinist Communist Party of Spain (PCE), was jailed under Franco in the late 1960s. He later moved to the far right, once calling José Antonio Primo de Rivera “the Spanish guy with most appeal in the 20th century.” Rivera founded the fascist La Falange, which became one of the key parties in General Francisco Franco’s coup of 1936.

According to local historian José Ignacio Casado, most victims come from those who were arrested and then released. Waiting for them were Falangists, soldiers and members of the Guardia Civil, who would execute them in what were known as “sacas” or “paseos” (“strolls”). Many of these prisoners were released from jails and concentration camps, driven to isolated places at dawn and shot.

The number of bodies in each grave matched the number of released prisoners who stayed in Burgos prison. Ignacio explained to El Diario, “I can tell you that it is those who left prison on September 29 and 30, 1936. Some cases may vary, but we can know who they were by identifying them and their ages with the documentation on those released from the prisons.”

Witnesses described to the Internet daily Público how the victims were executed. After being arrested, and to prevent them from cheering liberty and republic, they were gagged with straps, which were then washed in vomit and saved for the next execution. The executioners forced them to dig their own graves. They were shot at close range, and finished off with rifle butts.

Burgos witnessed one of the most notorious repressions during the Civil War. It is estimated that 2,500 people were executed, mainly consisting of members of the trade unions UGT and CNT, local politicians and mayors of Izquierda Repúblicana, and members of the Socialist Party (PSOE), and in some cases peasants and workers whose crime had been to claim unpaid wages.

According to Paul Preston’s The Spanish Holocaust, 200,000 people were executed between 1936 to 1945 by the fascists.

The regime of General Franco and post-Franco revisionist historiography have justified the repression as a response to the “red terror”. In fact, the fascist repression was planned well in advance, targeting the organised working class and any whom they deemed oppositionists.

In May 1936, two months ahead of the coup, General Mola, in charge of the northern sector, passed instructions to the military bases: “The action must be extremely violent as soon as possible to reduce the enemy, which is strong and well-organised. Of course, we will arrest all the leaders of the political parties, associations or unions that are not affiliated with the [National] movement, applying exemplary punishment to those individuals in order to strangle rebel movements or strikes.”

On July 19, two days after the coup, Mola sent another order: “It is necessary to spread terror, eliminating without scruples or hesitation all those who do not think as we do…. All those who oppose the victory of the movement to save Spain will be shot.”

Since the death of Franco and the end of the fascist dictatorship in 1978, successive governments have attempted to cover up the crimes of fascist regime.

After its election in the 2011, the Popular Party (PP) government of Mariano Rajoy reduced by 60 percent the budgets dedicated to the Law of Historical Memory (LHM), passed by the previous Socialist Party government, and abolished the Office of Victims of the Civil War and the Dictatorship, which coordinated the exhumation of the remains of those that disappeared. For 2013-2014, the budget for LHM ceased to exist, forcing the associations dedicated to recovering the remains to rely on donations.

Last September, the Popular Party government refused to extradite four fascists indicted by Argentinean judge María Romilda Servini, who declared that under universal jurisdiction they could be charged under international law if the Spanish judiciary did not carry out prosecution.

This came four years after judge Baltasar Garzón, who began an investigation into Franco-era crimes, was subjected to an intense campaign of vilification that led to his prosecution and being barred from practising as a judge for 11 years.

Against Servini, the PP and the opposition PSOE closed ranks in defence of the 1977 Amnesty Law, passed during the transition from fascism to bourgeois democracy following Franco’s death in 1975, which prevents any reckoning and investigation into the crimes committed during the Spanish Civil War and the dictatorship. In response, the former leader of the Stalinist-led United Left, Gaspar Llamazares, called for a mere modification of the law.

The government has remained completely silent on the latest list of recommendations sent in July by the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, which call for a “schedule indicating the measures that will be taken.”

While the recommendations are not binding, Madrid has an obligation to reply.

Seventy-five years after the civil war, the continued campaign to open the mass graves exposes the arrangements reached by the Stalinists, the Social Democrats and the Francoist apparatus in 1977, granting the fascists an amnesty and a tacit “pact of forgetting” about their crimes.

The ruling class remains determined to obliterate from the consciousness of workers the role their forebears played in the struggle against capitalism. Their aim is to deprive workers of the historical lessons they require in order to mount an effective and revolutionary struggle against the capitalist system.

The efforts to conceal the past crimes are not motivated only by historic concerns. Under conditions where the economic crisis and austerity have caused 21 percent of the population to be classified as poor, where 2.3 million children—27.5 percent of the total—live under the poverty line, and where 25 percent of workers are unemployed, the same conditions that led to the revolutionary explosions of the 1930s and the ruling class’s pre-emptive counter-revolution, are being created.

The ruling class sees the need to justify past dictatorships in order to set up a new one and to smash any opposition to austerity and imperialist war.

Spanish State: After the Abdication of the King, it’s Time to Checkmate the Regime

Hundreds of thousands evicted in Spain since 2008 crash

By Carlos Hernández and Alejandro López 

19 February 2014

The brutal consequences of evictions being carried in Spain by the banks in collaboration with the courts and police was evidenced once again recently when Antonio Argobia, a chronically ill and disabled 54-year-old, was thrown out of his home in the working class neighbourhood of Lavapiés in Madrid.

Two weeks ago, in the early morning, police cordoned off the street where Argobia rented an apartment and refused entrance to anyone who could not prove they lived or worked there, attempting to pre-empt an anti-eviction demonstration of the type that has become so common in Spain.

Soon after, a group of riot police broke down the door of Argobia’s apartment with a battering ram without any prior negotiation and with minimal warning. In the apartment were a mediator from a local Stop the Evictions (Stop Desahucios) campaign and two photographers from international news agencies, all of whom were arrested and charged with disobedience for refusing to leave the apartment. Argobia was carried out wearing just his pyjamas and put in a police van.

Throughout the morning, several hundred local people and protesters gathered outside the police cordon. When a group of them sat down on the street in an attempt to prevent the armoured police vans leaving, officers in riot gear dragged them away and began wielding their batons, causing several injuries.

Undeterred, the protesters chased the police, throwing everything from shoes to stones, trashcans and potted plants while shouting “Murderers!” and “Police out of the neighbourhoods of Madrid!”

Last Wednesday night, Francisco Valdés and Josefina Aranda, both in their 80s, and two sons who lived with them were evicted from the home in which they had lived since 1942. Josefina is disabled and unable to move from her bed.

Over 20 Civil Guards, officials from a judicial commission and two bulldozers were sent to evict and demolish their house. The elderly Valdés was involved in 11 years of litigation after paying a substantial sum in rent in good faith to someone who was not the real owner. Father and son explained that they did not have time to remove their belongings from the house before it was demolished and that the cost of renting somewhere else would leave them with no money for food, as their income is so low.

The terrible distress suffered by Argobia and the Valdés family is a daily occurrence in Spain. Typical are recent media reports highlighting a demonstration outside the BBVA bank in Zamora, protesting the eviction of a family with two young children and another family evicted from their small farm by the regional Castilla y León government after it slashed the subsidy on which they depended.

The outrage of the anti-eviction protesters is not hard to understand. They have become a major political issue in Spain, with widespread disgust at the police response and massive sympathy for those unable to pay their rents or caught in the mortgage trap at the same time as the banks have been bailed out with tens of billions of euros on low interest.

Since the financial crisis hit Spain in 2008, through the end of 2012, there have been hundreds of thousands of forced evictions. According to a document published last May by the country’s top legal body, the General Council of Judicial Power (CGPJ), there were 252,621 foreclosures, with an additional 198,116 pending review. It is clear that most foreclosures result in evictions.

Stories of people taking their own lives on receiving eviction notices continue to shock the country, although they have now become commonplace in the Spanish press. During the last two years, 16 such cases have been reported. Horrifying stories of people throwing themselves off balconies, or hanging or burning themselves alive in their homes, often as bailiffs approach seeking repossession, appear with shocking frequency.

The social catastrophe can be seen in a study by the National Statistics Institution in January this year, which show the number of suicides in Spain in 2012 grew 11.3 percent over the previous year, the largest recorded increase and now the leading cause of violent death ahead of traffic accidents.

The main organised opposition to the evictions is the Movement of Mortgage Victims (Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca, PAH), which was formed in 2009 on the basis that sufficient pressure would force the Popular Party (PP) government to change the eviction laws.

To this end, the PAH launched an anti-evictions petition with three main demands: a backdated halt to evictions, the creation of a pool of social housing, and a new law to allow those who have had their homes foreclosed to write off their debts by handing the property over to the bank.

The petition received 1.5 million signatures, but none of the demands were included in the PP’s new Law to Protect Debtors, Debt Restructuring and Social Renting. The law was so narrow that only a very small proportion of those facing eviction were covered, and it did not apply to existing eviction orders. Regional and local authorities were given powers to provide low-rent housing to evicted families, but only a fraction of those affected were covered. Most regions were so highly indebted and subject to deficit targets that they were unable to provide the accommodation or, where they did, cut expenditure on other services.

After the petition failed, the PAH sowed illusions in a judgment by the European Court of Justice, whose only criticism was that the speed of evictions violated European Union consumer protection laws.

The support the petition received is proof of the huge resentment within the Spanish population to the endless austerity measures and social cuts, and the betrayals carried out by the unions and parties like United Left (Izquierda Unida, IU), which is imposing cuts in collaboration with the Socialist Party (PSOE) in the regional government of Andalusia. But workers must break with the bankrupt perspective of pressure politics pursued by organisations like the PAH and their hangers-on in the pseudo-left. The struggle must be aimed at the expropriation of the ill-gotten wealth of the financial elite and the nationalization of the banks and major corporations, under the democratic control of the working class.

Popular support for Spain’s monarchy plummets

By Alejandro López 

30 January 2014

According to recent polls, nearly two thirds of the Spanish population are in favour of King Juan Carlos abdicating. One poll in the daily El Mundo shows that, for the first time, fewer than half of the Spanish people (49.9 percent) want Spain to remain a constitutional monarchy—a drop of 4 percent since last year. Close to 70 percent said they thought the king was unable to restore the monarchy’s prestige.

The record-low support for Juan Carlos and the monarchy as an institution signifies the fact that the legitimacy of one of the key pillars in the post-Franco capitalist order is crumbling. Revolutionary changes are on the horizon.

Juan Carlos owes his position as head of state to the fascist dictator General Francisco Franco. His grandfather, King Alfonso XIII, was forced into exile following the start of the Spanish Revolution and the overthrow of the 1923-1930 dictatorship of General Miguel Primo de Rivera, with which Alfonso was closely associated.

The Second Republic, proclaimed in 1931, introduced modest democratic measures, but even these threatened the existence of capitalist private property. The Spanish ruling class reacted by conspiring to overthrow it, culminating in the July 18, 1936, coup d’état by Franco. The victorious fascist regime re-established the monarchy in Spain in 1947, and Franco appointed Juan Carlos as his heir apparent in 1969, closely supervising his training.

When Franco died in 1975, the Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) and Communist Party (PCE) connived with sections of the fascist National Movement to ensure Juan Carlos remained on the throne. They worked together to resuscitate the discredited monarchy and prevent a revolutionary reckoning with fascism during the transition to democracy.

The PCE and its trade union organisation, the Workers Commissions (Comisiones Obreras, CCOO), which had widespread influence in the working class, worked to demobilise the revolutionary sentiments of the working class in return for limited concessions laid out in the 1978 Moncloa Accords and Worker’s Statute. The newly installed monarch, Juan Carlos, was deemed “inviolable” and “not subject to any responsibility”—provisions enshrined in articles 56 and 64 of the current constitution.

Within a few years of the transition, on February 23, 1981, sections of the military attempted a coup d’état, during which Congress and the cabinet were held hostage for 18 hours. It failed, but a myth was propagated that Juan Carlos had personally intervened to prevent it. For more than 30 years, all the main political parties, the trade unions, the media, school textbooks and a number of historians have insisted that Juan Carlos “brought democracy” to Spain and “saved it.”

In February 2012, the German magazine Der Spiegel published communiqué 524, sent by the then German ambassador to Spain, revealing the “understanding if not even sympathy” of Juan Carlos for the coup organisers. The historian Julián Casanova described these revelations as “extraordinarily important” because “it is the only written proof to date that Juan Carlos might have secretly been nostalgic for the kind of military rule that Franco had taught him to appreciate.”

In April 2012, a couple of months after these revelations, the king was photographed in hunting gear beside an elephant he had shot on an €8,000-a-day safari trip in Botswana—refuting the official story that he had fallen and broken his hip while working hard in his office. The episode exposed the lies that everyone was “pulling together” as a result of the austerity measures imposed following the 2008 economic crisis.

The king has also been affected by the Nóos corruption case involving his daughter, Princess Cristina Federica de Borbón. Her husband, Iñaki Urdangarin, is accused along with his former business partner, Diego Torres, of tax fraud and siphoning money into offshore bank accounts and family companies, including the real estate agency Aizoon, co-owned by his wife.

Defence lawyers led by Miquel Roca—one of the architects of the 1978 Constitution—are claiming that Cristina had no knowledge of the goings-on and that Urdangarin is solely responsible.

Last week, the princess was named as a formal suspect in the case. Judge José Castro noted that she spent nearly €700,000 of Aizoon money on items such as dinnerware, trips, private dance lessons and the redecoration of a mansion in Barcelona.

The case is damaging the monarchy so much that every state institution has intervened in an attempt to protect the princess.

Last April, the Provincial Court of Palma de Mallorca blocked Castro’s attempts to summon the princess, arguing that there was no legal basis to call a daughter of the Spanish king into court. In November, the Treasury sent the judge a report on Aizoon arguing that the amount owed was only €281,109 in four years and below the threshold for prosecution. In December, the anti-corruption attorney Pedro Horrach published a written document stating that “he did not see any elements to implicate Cristina de Borbón.” The Royal Household has also put pressure on Castro, demanding he bring proceedings “to a timely conclusion.”

Such is the importance of the monarchy’s role as political “cement” holding together the Spanish state that the publicly funded Centre of Sociological Research (CIS) ended questions related to the king’s popularity in its regular surveys once the monarchy’s popularity fell below 5 out of 10 in 2011. After much pressure, the CIS reinstated the question in the May 2013 survey, only to find his popularity had plummeted to 3.7 out of 10. Since then, the question has, once again, been omitted.

Spanish government strengthens anti-migrant border fence

By Vicky Short 

29 November 2013

The right wing Popular Party (PP) government of Spain has taken the decision to strengthen the border fence separating its enclave port city of Melilla from the rest of Morocco in North Africa. It will be covered with an anti-climbing mesh and topped with a new concertina razor-wire, designed to rip and grab onto clothing and flesh.

The original border fence was erected around Melilla and Ceuta—the other Spanish enclave in Morocco—in 2005 by the Socialist Party (PSOE) government. It consisted of 11 kilometres (6.8 miles) of parallel three-meter (10 feet) high fences with razor-wire, regular watch posts, CCTV, spotlights, noise and movement sensors, and a road running between them for police patrols. Over the years it has been heightened to six meters and satellites and unmanned drones introduced.

A year after its construction PSOE Prime Minister José Luis Zapatero promised to remove the razor-wire after scores of people suffered horrific injuries trying to climb over the fence. It was finally removed in 2007.

The PP government has decided to reinstate the razor-wire, regardless of the consequences. The stated intention is only to install it in vulnerable areas, but the government delegate in Melilla, Abdelmalik El Barkani, has made clear that if the police decide it is necessary, it will be installed along the whole 11 kilometres. El Barkani cynically stated, “I do not like that the concertina is there, I do not like that the fence is there, I do not like to have problems with illegal immigration, but what is clear is that there is a mandate that must be met by the Forces of State Security, and that is that the SSA [Sub-Saharan Africans] must fail to get in.”

Further horrific methods are being prepared. As the fence gets more dangerous to climb, migrant workers are attempting to reach Ceuta and Melilla by swimming along the coast. In order to prevent this, the Spanish government is planning to build a floating dock and fence that extends 200 meters into the sea with an underwater net to catch anyone attempting to dive under.

The reinstatement of the razor wire is being justified by the government on the basis that the number of people attempting to cross the border has doubled to 3,000 between January and mid-September this year, compared to 1,610 during the same period last year. A Moroccan NGO, the Rif Association of Human Rights, reports that about 40 migrants have been killed over the past two years.

The rise in migrant workers attempting the deadly crossing into Ceuta and Melilla is the result of the terrible conditions being created by the imperialist countries through intensification of predatory wars, repression, ethnic cleansing, civil wars, hunger and poverty. There has been a marked increase in the number of migrants from Syria, Egypt, Tunisia and Mali.

More and more people are forced to risk their lives in a struggle to survive. Hundreds have died of thirst in the desert that surrounds the enclaves, drowning in the sea after their overcrowded, rickety boats capsize and being shot at by border guards. Most of those who successfully cross the borders are then apprehended, put in overcrowded detention centres and eventually deported back to their places of origin where they are often detained again and tortured.

Melilla and Ceuta are the European Union’s only land borders with Africa. It relies on the Spanish government to ensure it patrols effectively to prevent people from immigrating to the rest of Europe. For this purpose Spain works in close collaboration with the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union (Frontex), which was established in 2004.

Frontex held a conference this October in Warsaw that gathered 200 people and speakers from all over the world. In addition to the EU member nations, speakers came from countries as diverse as Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Canada, United States, United Kingdom, Georgia and Rwanda. The conference also included a Biometric Examiner from the Police Forensics of Interpol.

The Frontex conference is just one example of how immigration controls and the search for ever-more sophisticated and repressive measures to enforce them have become a global business, as well as a global operation. The main purpose is to divide the working class at a time when the internationalisation of their struggles becomes an essential question. It is used to blame workers from other countries for the crisis of capitalism as it is expressed in each country.

The response by the PSOE and the Stalinist Communist Party-aligned Izquierda Unida (IU) to the PP government restoration of the razor-wire has been to say that what is needed are more patrol agents instead.

Workers protest closure of Spanish cooperative Fagor

By Alejandro López and Carlos Hernández 

26 November 2013

Last week, 1,300 workers and their families marched from the factory of Spanish electrical appliances manufacturer Fagor Electrodomésticos in Basauri in the Basque region of Spain to the town centre, protesting against its closure. At Edesa the workers have occupied the factory.

Fagor produces brands including Brandt and De Dietrich. It has filed for bankruptcy, threatening the jobs of 5,600 workers.

The end of Fagor, a subsidiary of the Mondragón corporation, regarded as the jewel in the cooperative movement crown, shows that such organisations are not an alternative to capitalism, as their promoters proclaim. Fagor’s CEO Sergio Treviño warns that its fall “will have an uncontrollable domino effect on the rest of the group with major social implications.”

Mondragón is the world’s largest federation of worker cooperatives, composed of 289 companies, 110 cooperatives and 147 subsidiaries. Based in the Basque Country, it is the leading business group in the region–contributing 7 percent of the GDP–has the seventh-highest turnover of Spanish companies and employs 60,000 workers in Spain, 35,000 in the Basque region itself. With the development of globalisation it has established itself overseas and compromised many of its cooperative principles.

Fagor, Mondragón’s flagship enterprise, employs 5,642 workers in 13 manufacturing plants in five countries (France, Poland, Morocco, Italy and China), but only 2,000 of its members belong to the cooperative.

The company was hard hit in recent years by the eruption of the global economic crisis in 2008, with revenues falling by €600 million (US$810 million), or 37 percent, in the last five years. This decline was a combination of a sharp drop in demand for domestic appliances due to the impoverishment of workers and the appearance of new low-cost competitors based on cheap labour in China, Turkey and South Korea.

The company was unable to get the full €170 million it required to stave off bankruptcy from other Mondragón cooperatives or the corporation’s own banking arm, Caja Laboral. Approaches to US hedge funds and private equity companies appear to have fallen through, as did appeals to the Spanish government and the Basque regional government.

As a result, Mondragón’s general council decided unanimously that Fagor had to be shut down, adding that even if more support were forthcoming it would not guarantee the company’s future viability and that it did not represent the needs of the market. “Solidarity has reached its limit,” the corporation acknowledged.

The cooperative is left with its formal obligation to find work for its redundant members. “The problem is the dimensions,” it admitted. “When other cooperatives have gone out of business this was not the case. It’s not the same to relocate 15 or 30 members as it is to do so with 1,800, although we still don’t know how many this will affect.”

Mondragón representatives said they will seek early retirement or job relocation for 1,000 to 1,200 workers who are members of the cooperative, but non-member workers are not included and the total job losses in the Basque region are expected to amount to around 4,000.

Fagor’s demise is proof of the warning made nearly 150 years ago by Karl Marx. In his 1864 Inaugural Address to the Working Men’s International Association, Marx insisted, “The experience of the period from 1848 to 1864 has proved beyond doubt that, however excellent in principle and however useful in practice, cooperative labour, if kept within the narrow circle of the casual efforts of private workmen, will never be able to arrest the growth in geometrical progression of monopoly, to free the masses, nor even to perceptibly lighten the burden of their miseries… To save the industrious masses, cooperative labour ought to be developed to national dimensions, and, consequently, to be fostered by national means… To conquer political power has, therefore, become the great duty of the working classes.”

Fagor was created precisely to prevent the conquest of political power by the working class. It was founded in 1956 during the Franco dictatorship by a young Catholic priest, José María Arizmendiarrieta, a delegate of the fascist Falange Youth Front. He was acutely aware of the social polarisation in Spain and saw in the cooperative movement an opportunity to put into practice the principles of Franco’s corporate state and deflect revolutionary sentiment in the working class.

Arizmendiarrieta declared, “We live within a community and a nation of men and not of proletarians” and that “Building the cooperative does not go against capitalism, but when the capitalist system is not useful, the cooperative must overcome and for this purpose must assimilate its methods and dynamism.”

Many cooperatives were established in the years to follow in Franco’s autarkic Spain.

The collapse of Fagor has also exposed the pseudo-left’s rejection of Marx’s warnings. Carl Davidson, a member of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, a group which split from the Communist Party USA more than 20 years ago, is a typical example. Following a visit in 2010 he enthused in his “Mondragón Diaries”, in an entry entitled “Why Humanity Comes First at Work: Learning About Bridges to 21st Century Socialism,” how “All the employees in the Basque areas are worker-owners; those elsewhere are in varying stages of becoming so.”

He glorified Fagor, claiming, “They compete by selling very high quality goods at reasonable prices and good service.”

Even then he was forced to admit, “Before the crisis hit two years ago, 15 percent of Fagor’s workers were temporary ‘trial period’ new hires, meaning they couldn’t become worker-owners for six months to a year. All these were laid off due to the fall in demand, but all the regular worker-owners remained on the job or were shifted to other related coops.”

Mondragón president Txema Gisasola had the measure of Davidson and the pseudo-left when he stated, “We receive visitors from many companies and many countries, and some come here with a magical idea of what Mondragón is.”

“This is not magic. We are in this market, competing in the capitalist world, and the only difference is how we do things and why we do things. We have to be competitive, we have to be efficient, we have to have quality in our products and give satisfaction to our clients, and we have to be profitable. In that sense we are no different from anyone else.”

Madrid garbage collectors strike against lay-offs and wage cuts

By Alejandro López 

14 November 2013

Thousands of garbage collectors and gardeners employed by cleaning companies FCC, OHL, Sacyr, and Ferrovial grouped in the Association of Public Cleaning Companies (ASELIP) have been on indefinite strike in Spain’s capital Madrid since November 5.

The 6,000 workers are opposing mass redundancies and pay cuts. Last month, the companies announced there would be 1,400 workers laid off out of the total of 6,500 (28 percent), and wage cuts of up to 43 percent. The average monthly salary is between €1,000 and €1,300 ($1,350-$1,750), with younger workers earning €900.

On the same day the strike started, 8,000 people marched in Madrid under the banner “Cleaners and gardeners of Madrid in struggle. Against cuts and redundancies! For the defence of our working conditions!”

FCC, OHL, Sacyr and Ferrovial are giant corporations originating in the construction industry. After the collapse of the real estate bubble in 2008, they diversified their activities and entered the public cleaning and maintenance sector. However, revenues have suffered as a result of successive austerity policies imposed by the Socialist Party (PSOE) government and the Popular Party (PP) led to the slashing of funding to local governments. In August 2012, Madrid town council decided to reduce cleaning and maintenance spending by 30 percent.

From the beginning the role of the trade unions has been to wear down workers’ resistance and openly sabotage the struggle.

On October 4, after ASELIP’s announcement, the PSOE-aligned General Workers Union (UGT), with eight of the 15 representatives on the collective agreement committee, called an indefinite strike for the end of the month without naming a day. The two other unions involved, the Communist Party-aligned Workers Commissions (CCOO) with four committee members and the anarcho-syndicalist General Workers Confederation (CGT) with three members, called the UGT strike decision “precipitate.” CCOO spokesman Félix Carrión declared, “We have still not seen anything, no specific proposals [from ASELIP] and we think that there are alternatives to layoffs.”

On October 16, two UGT mass meetings took place in which the 3,000 workers present unanimously voted for strike action to begin on October 26. The CCOO also held two assemblies, but the 1,300 workers voted to postpone the strike until November 15 after union officials insisted there was still room for negotiations with the employers.

A CCOO statement published November 8 stated that “the unions have formulated alternative and reasonable proposals to redundancies: freezing wages, not covering vacancies, an early retirement plan, a programme of incentivised redundancies and cuts in spending such as clothing. Not one of these have been accepted.”

When the companies repeated their decision to lay off 1,134 workers, the unions declared they would postpone the strike from October 26 to November 4 and then took part in meetings with the companies four times in a desperate attempt to prevent that strike from taking place.

Since the strike began, the unions have refused to mobilise other workers facing similar attacks. Instead they have limited the campaign to attempts to pressure the Madrid city government ruled by the PP to force the companies to negotiate and impose sanctions for not adhering to their cleaning contracts.

The city government has been totally complicit in the attack.

Last August, Madrid agreed to change the control system overseeing the new privatized services contracts. The companies no longer have to provide minimum human or material resources to these activities. The unions did not oppose this, opening the way to layoffs.

In August, 350 workers did not have their contracts renewed. They were abandoned by the unions. Most did not have unemployment benefits because they had not been formally sacked.

The Madrid city council has also decreed that 40 percent of the cleaning services have to be maintained, which it is allowed to impose under Spain’s draconian minimum services legislation. The unions have agreed to abide by the ruling and called on workers who are randomly selected to carry out these functions. Workers have attempted to prevent the minimum services being carried out by picketing workplace entrances and sabotaging tyres of some work vehicles. Madrid City Hall has sent 60 police vans and four anti-riot vehicles to escort minimum service workers.

The unions are continuing to negotiate to reach an agreement with the companies that will inevitably entail redundancies and wage cuts, as they have done in other sectors.

The pseudo-left groups are playing a pernicious role in supporting the union bureaucracy’s role as labour police dedicated to containing the strike. They insist the strike is proof there is still life left in the rotten union apparatuses and condemn anyone who dares to question this.

En Lucha (In Struggle), the Spanish affiliate of the British Socialist Workers Party wrote, “as we see, CCOO and UGT … have launched a call to an indefinite strike, which contrasts with the fact that it has been one year since the last general strike at national level; this shows that, despite their sometimes embarrassing performance in certain circumstances, they can call decisive actions. It is therefore important to avoid sectarianism against these organizations, even though we have to criticize them many times.”

This statement ignores the strategic experiences made by the Spanish and international working class over the past decades with the trade unions. In every country, to preserve its privileged existence, the union bureaucracy has actively colluded in the systematic lowering of wages and the destruction of jobs and working conditions.

En Lucha never states precisely who is supposedly advancing “sectarian” positions, although we can guess that they are workers themselves. Only 16 of every 100 workers are in unions and over half of respondents in the latest polls on union satisfaction rated them as either “bad” (19 percent) or “very bad” (34 percent).

El Militante (The Militant), the former Spanish section of the International Marxist Tendency, the Pabloite Izquierda Anticapitalista (Anti-capitalist Left) and the former Morenite tendency Clase contra Clase (Class against Class) all published for the record statements praising the “solidarity”, “unity” and “coordination” between workers. Not once do they mention the role of the unions as the main instrument of the ruling class in dividing workers. By doing so they are giving a blank check to the unions to carry out their betrayal.

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