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Europe fightback: Spain

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Like Greece, Spain faces a major budget crisis, with a deficit of almost 12 per cent of GDP. Its economy has not yet emerged from recession and there is a 20 per cent unemployment rate, the highest in the Eurozone.

In January Socialist Party prime minister Zapatero announced cuts of 50 billion euros (£43.8bn) plus a recruitment freeze in public services. He plans to slash pensions and raise the retirement age from 65 to 67.
Faced with complaints from his European partners that Spain’s labour markets are “too inflexible”, Zapatero is planning to erode workers’ job protection rights.

On 22 February, there were protest rallies against these austerity measures in Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia. These were the first major protests called by the CCOO and UGT union federations over the six years of Zapatero’s government. The previous day, some tens of thousands of workers took strike action.
The anger against the austerity measures is considerable. A recent poll in El Pais newspaper found 84 per cent opposed to the labour law “reforms”. Another in Publico showed 49 per cent would support a general strike against pension cuts.

But what is lacking is leadership. The initiative will have to come from below – from rank and file trade unionists but drawing in the huge numbers of unemployed youth. As in Britain, a new anticapitalist party is needed to break the paralysing effects of the Socialist government and their loyal union bureaucrats.