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Madrid: 150,000 greet Miners' March

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Huge crowds of supporters greeted the "black march" of striking miners form Asturias, León, Palencia and Teruel on the streets of the Spanish capital. There were repeated chants of "Long live the struggle of the working class!" and singing of the Internationale. The crowds also chanted, " Miners, stick it out, Spain is rising up!"

The march continued into the night, lit by the miners’ lamps and flares and ended with police using rubber bullets against the demonstrators

Coalminers from both main union federations, the UGT and the CCOO, have been on strike for five weeks in protest against the decision of right-wing Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his Partido Popular government to slash the subsidy to the coalmining industry by two thirds. This will mean pit closures and the devastation of the mining communities.

Over 200 miners had marched across northern Spain in the blazing sun, supported by local labour movements and left wing activists as the march passed through towns and villages. Other miners, their families and people from the mining communities reached Madrid in 500 buses. The march has galvanised and inspired resistance to the savage austerity being carried out by the Rajoy government since its victory in.

Spain has been hard hit by the recession - on a scale equalled only by Greece. The economy, which grew by an average 3.7 per cent a year from 1999 to 2007, has shrunk at an annual rate of 1 per cent since then. The immediate cause of the Spanish crisis is the immense borrowing by Spanish banks to fuel the real estate speculation of the boom years. The sale of the "toxic debts" of the Spanish banks is unknown - thanks to the curse of business secrecy.
Of course "everyone" (i.e. Socialist as well as Partido Popular politicians) agree that these banks are "too big to fail" and that therefore the jobs and social services of working people must be sacrificed to pay for the speculators and the billionaire “European investors” who lent them the money at generous rates of interest. This gang of parasites is now to be bailed out at the expense of Spain's workers, small farmers, youth, and the regions like Asturias, devastated by the closure of basic industries.

The IMF estimates the banking sector needs an injection of at least 40bn euros but audits commissioned by the Spanish government put that figure at up to 62bn euros. It has been announced that the European Financial Stability Facility and/or the European Stability Mechanism will give the country's banks 30 billion euros (£23.6bn) and be ready to extend this to 100bn euros (£78.8bn) if need be. This has been promised by euro zone finance ministers, terrified that a collapse of the Spanish banks could bring down much of the European banking system and contribute to the collapse of the Euro.

But even these eye watering sums failed to calm the markets, whose vultures have moved on from Greece and are now circling over a stricken Spanish state. The interest rate on 10-year government bonds hardly changed with the announcement of the "rescue" and remains stuck near the 7 per cent level generally considered "unsustainable."

And stricken the ordinary people of Spain certainly are. The jobless rate is now nearly 25 percent and rising. The forecast is for the economy to shrink 1.7 percent this year. Economists project the Spanish recession will continue to deepen for the rest of 2012 and well into 2013.

Rajoy, in an attempt to turn one sector of the working class against the other, claimed that while nearly 3 million private-sector jobs had been lost since 2007, public sector employment numbers had increased by 289,000.

Spain's budget for this year already includes tax rises and spending cuts worth 27bn euros.
But, just as the miners' march arrived in Madrid, and as though to greet them in style, Rajoy announced another massive package of cuts. VAT will rise from 18 per cent to 21 per cent, and local authorities will have their budgets slashed. A tax scheme for the energy sector will drive up bills for consumers. Christmas bonuses are to be suspended for public sector workers, benefit cut from the sixth month out of work. Rajoy claims this will save 65bn euros (£51bn; $80bn).

This package is clearly the quid pro quo for the euro zone’s rescue of Spain's banks despite Rajoy’s brazen claim when the latter was announced that there were no conditions attached. Just who do these bastards think they are fooling?

The miners' march; its reception en route and in Madrid, as well as the repeated huge demonstrations and square occupations on days of action over the past year, amply indicates the willingness of Spain “to rise up”. So what is holding back the masses of workers and youth from a decisive confrontation with Rajoy? In one word, leadership – or, rather, the lack of it.

First and foremost there is the rotten cowardly leadership of the reformist left (the Socialist Party, PSOE) who until recently were themselves carrying out the first stages of the cuts, and the trade union leaders of the UGT and the CCOO who, like their comrade bureaucrats across Europe, limit strike action to single days.

But, as well as bad leadership, Spain is afflicted by the “no leadership” prejudices of anarchism and libertarianism, which were seen all too clearly in the Indignados movement of 2011. Its stubborn refusal to create a revolutionary leadership condemned it to impotence and utopian daydreaming – to missing chance after chance to launch a decisive struggle to stop the austerity

The only way to stop Rajoy (as it was with Zapatero before him) is to throw him out of power. This is inseparably linked to a willingness to take power into the hands of the working class itself. To do this will need an all out general strike and mass popular uprising.

For sure, overcoming bureaucratic and reformist sabotage will require mass assemblies in the squares and the workplaces but it will also need the election of workers' councils to mobilise it. Then it will be possible to smash the power of the capitalist state with its guardia civil who have been terrorising the mining communities, and lay the basis for a workers' state and a workers' government.

In short, Spain needs a revolution and without one its workers will suffer a historic defeat at the hands of Rajoy and, behind him Merkel, Hollande and Cameron.