National Sections of the L5I:

Spanish workers - watch your leaders!

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The problem Spanish workers face is not a lack of militancy or even in some sectors, strong organisation at the base. It is rather that they have a leadership pressured into action from below but willing to see the rank and file’s energy and imagination frittered away in a series of fatal compromises with the government and the bosses that will divide and weaken the labour movement.

In the language of trade union bureaucrats the whole world over the General Secretary of the CO, Antonio Gutiérrez, said of the joint UGT/CO protests planned for this summer:

“The mobilisation must be great in scope and very overwhelming so that the government sits down and negotiates as soon as possible.”

Gutiérrez and the UGT leaders recognise that such is the scale of the planned changes for Spanish capitalism in the next few years that they must hang together or hang separately; a substantially reduced state sector and union membership means a reduced basis for their own power and privileges. This is especially true as the government has announced this year that by the end of the year it aims to have in place a new piece of anti-trade union legislation that will restrict the legal framework for industrial action.

The recent rift between the UGT and the PSOE, as a result of the government’s attacks, must not deceive the base of the unions into thinking that these leaders have broken politically with the logic of the government’s policies. They accept that Spain’s transition from the second to the first division of EC countries is necessary. They want to soften the harsh effects of this transition on their members’ jobs, pay and services, the better to protect their own bureaucratic interests. The union leaders want to keep control of the action and direct it towards a compromise with the government.

The recent conflicts have been defensive ones that have forced certain concessions from the employers or the government. It is possible that during the summer’s key international events, more compromises can be exacted from the state. But the bills for all these events will have to be presented in due course and postponement of the day of reckoning will make the eventual conflicts all the more bitter.

Spanish workers must develop a class conscious vanguard across all the threatened sectors of industry and agriculture and build a revolutionary party that can weld that consciousness into a fight for an action programme.

The logic of Maastricht runs counter to the logic of workers’ needs. An action programme for the Spanish working class will start by defending the workers’ immediate needs against this logic—on pay, jobs and public spending—and direct this defensive struggle towards a fight against Spanish capitalism, and its PSOE minders, as a whole.