Spain follows Greece with mass strikes against austerity

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SPANISH Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s Socialist Party government scraped through Parliament its 15bn euro (£13bn) austerity package, by 169 votes to 168, on Thursday. Finance Minister Elena Salgado told the Parliament that the measures were ‘painful but inevitable’.

Zapatero is following in the footsteps of Greece’s PASOK premier George Papandreou, imposing a 5% pay cut on civil servants, scrapping pensions linked to inflation and abolishing the welfare payment to new parents, the 2,500 euro ‘baby cheque’.

The Spanish government is taking an axe to public spending in order to cut the country’s 11.2% budget deficit (2009) to 9.3% this year and 6% in 2011, amid fears of state bankruptcy, a collapse of the euro and disintegration of the European Union (EU).

The country is one of the so-called PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain) in Europe where the indebtedness of the state is such that there are fears they will go bust.

Zapatero’s package was imposed by the EU as part of the deal agreed two weeks ago to set up the 750bn euros ‘shield’ for eurozone debtors and in response to demands from the International Monetary Fund.

Spain already has a jobless rate of 20% and the draconian cuts mean thousands of public sector workers joining the ranks of the unemployed.

The angry response of the Spanish working class to this onslaught on jobs and living standards by Zapatero’s ‘Socialist’ government has been immediate. All the public sector trade unions are coming out on strike on June 8, and the largest union federation, the Comisiones Obreras (CCOO), which includes the industrial unions, is threatening a general strike.

CCOO leader Ignacio Fernandez Toxo had said: ‘The CCOO is working as if this country is going to experience a general strike. Probably we will have one. It depends on the government whether it happens or not.’ Zapatero’s moves in Parliament are his response!

Alongside mass action by Spanish workers, in Greece a wave of mass general strikes is continuing. Strikes and demonstrations have also been called by trade unions and left-wing political parties in Portugal against austerity measures there. Soon workers in Ireland will defy their union leaders and take on the government that is imposing pay cuts on public sector workers greater than even those in Spain.

By portraying the PIGS countries as special cases, the leading imperialist powers in the EU, Germany, France, Italy and Britain, are attempting to hide the fact that they are all essentially in the same boat as Greece and Spain.

In Italy, the main CGIL trade union federation is organising two sets of strikes in June against ‘unjust and unsustainable’ cuts announced by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s government on Tuesday.

In France, on Thursday, tens of thousands of workers took part in strikes, demonstrations and rallies across the country, organised by the trade unions. More than 90,000 took to the streets of Paris, against President Nicolas Sarkozy’s plans to raise the pension age.

In Britain too, the working class is on the move in a fight against the £6.25bn of cuts, announced by the Tory-Liberal Democrat regime on Tuesday. Workers know that an even bigger onslaught on jobs, pay and essential services is coming when the government’s Spending Review results are published.

As a result of the impact of the world capitalist crisis on the EU, not only are huge cuts ‘inevitable’, according to the Spanish Finance Minister, but so is the revolutionary response of the European working class, which will not allow its living standards to be destroyed to pay for this crisis.

What is erupting on the scene in every European country is the working class as a revolutionary force that will topple capitalist governments, like those of Papandreou, Zapatero, Berlusconi, Sarkozy and Cameron, and establish workers’ governments to carry out a socialist programme.

The most urgent task facing workers and youth in Europe today is the building of revolutionary parties, sections of the International Committee of the Fourth International, to organise this struggle to smash up the bankers’ and monopolists’ EU and go forward to a Socialist United States of Europe.