Spain's new civil war
Police are shooting miners again in Madrid. Yesterday, rubber bullets were fired at a 150,000 strong anti-austerity protest in support of the coal miners fighting for their jobs.
As part of the Eurozone drive for austerity and connected to a bailout of Spain's banks the right-wing Government is seeking '£50 billion of “savings”—including a VAT hike, cuts to unemployment benefit and public sector wages, and privatisation of ports, airports and rail assets'.
There are also deep cuts to education, health and housing.
The extraordinary scenes of coal miners in the Asturia's region using rockets and barricades to defend their jobs and communities from the bankers recalls the Spanish civil war (1936-39) which saw the fascist General Franco lead a coup against the Spanish Republic. Franco, aided by Hitler and Mussolini defeated the left-wing Spanish Republicans. The war and the workers' revolution which accompanied it are often remembered for the 40,000 international volunteers who went to fight against the fascists and for the Spanish Republic.
Just like in 1936, what happens in this new civil war in Spain now, affects us all.
If the Spanish crisis resolves itself in favour of the 'doom loop' where weak banks pull a weak government further into financial crisis the Eurozone crisis will spread. As the crisis in the Eurozone spreads so does the global economic crisis. The analysis of The Economist is that the whole global economy from Asia to the US is slowing as a result of this crisis.
John Key is on record as saying, 'The European debt crisis remains the biggest threat to the New Zealand economy by some margin.' What Key means is that a Eurozone crisis and continuing implosion in the global economy will mean lower commodity prices for the agricultural, forestry and mining sectors, less possible foreign investment, less tourism, less export education, less interest in oil drilling, housing construction and speculation, and less buyers for privatised assets. In turn higher unemployment and lower tax revenue for the Government. The crisis deepens.
During Spain's first civil war 13 New Zealanders went to fight for the Republic and against fascism. 2 doctors and 4 nurses also went across the world to join the International Brigades. Their stories are fascinating, comical, tragic and remembered in Mark Derby's excellent Kiwi Companeros: New Zealand and the Spanish Civil War.
Those volunteers Derby's collection of tributes pays homage to include,
• A fighter pilot from Wellington who landed his plane with a shattered shoulder, then left for Hollywood to make movies with the action hero Errol Flynn.• A tough young wharfie from Napier who buried 80 of his fellow fighters in a single grave, and later became a union leader and thorn in the side of PM Robert Muldoon.• A no-nonsense nurse from Akaroa who worked in operating theatres where anaesthetic was a luxury, and married one of her patients at the height of the war.• A Cromwell surgeon who operated as close as possible to the firing line, and was describes as ‘the most important volunteer to come from the British Commonwealth• An elegant young Englishwoman who fought with anarchist militia units and, under the guidance of Frank Sargeson, turned that experience into a writing career.'No Pasaran!', the slogan of those who fought in Spain against fascism means 'They shall not pass'. One Auckland-born and Auckland and Cambridge University educated socialist was Griff Maclaurin. 'Mac' went to fight in the Spanish civil war and died in Madrid in November 1936 using a machine gun to cover the retreat of his companeros as the fascists overran the Philosophy department where they were stationed. Alongside Mac died Steve Yates, a New Zealand born communist electrician who was a leader of the 1935-6 protests to stop British fascist Oswald Mosely marching in London.
Over 75 years after the Spanish civil war against fascism, the streets and valleys of the country ring with the sound of gunfire and class war. If Spain's ruling class wins this new civil war and makes the working class pay for the banking crisis the deepening global crisis lurches again towards paralysis amidst whispers of war in the South China Sea.
UK-based Spanish Miners Solidarity Committee reminds us, 'The Spanish miners are giving a lead to the rest of the Spanish trade union movement and this strike could ignite the whole Iberian Peninsula in opposition to attempts to make workers pay for the crisis'.
The grip of the bankers, the logic of austerity, the attacks on the planet's working class could all be stopped in the mining valleys of Spain. If Spain's miners lose the global ruling class will continue its attacks. As one slightly unorthodox Marxist reading of the future foresees a planet where the ruling class cleaves into two (a global one tied to the global economy and 'territorial' ones tied to nation-states, land ownership and crony capitalism)
'The danger is that the territorial ruling class may use its overwhelming control of the powers of physical coercion to reassert national dominance over the global economy—producing domestic authoritarianism with economic stagnation (with possible perpetual warfare on the borderlands to enforce social discipline (a combination so brilliantly described in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four).'This would see the Fijian situation or perhaps the Christchurch prescription magnified to a global scale. In the end however the economic crisis must be resolved either through more misery for the toiling workers or in the victory of a socialist revolution.
The ruling class have no solution to the crisis and The Economist warns of austerity measures as 'bad medicine' for the Spanish crisis. There are socialist solutions to the crisis of course. Taxing the super rich and the speculators is the obvious one. The ruling class are determined not to attempt these. But as the crisis worsens the political situation polarizes. The second coming of the radical left in Europe, says Alex Callinicos, 'Situations are developing where the anti-capitalist left can have a real influence on events. The choices they make matter, which is why it is important to be clear about what they involve.'
The victory of the miners in Spain's new civil war terrifies the ruling class. They need a win in the mining valleys, they need to totally demoralise the anti-austerity resistance or else they face another Greek-style situation where working class confidence poses a very real threat to the power of the bankers and the survival of the European Union. Margaret Thatcher needed to defeat the British miners in 1984 to discipline and demoralise the wider working class and the union movement. If the miners had won the Thatchers austerity solution of poll tax, pit closures, privatisations and attacks on trade union rights would have been stopped. Today the ruling class sees the battle with the Spanish miners in similar terms. It's a pivotal battle for all of us.
We need to rally around the Spanish miners just as the International Brigaders did two generations earlier. The bankers and the technocrats shall not pass. No pasaran!