Source: Socialist Fight, vol. 4 no. 5 (June 1962)
Transcription: Francesco 2009
Proofread: Fred 2009
Markup: Manuel 2009
The heroic miners of Asturias have been on strike since Easter Monday. Close on 60,000 to 100,000 miners of North Spain have been out during this time. Following the miners’ strike have come sympathy strikes in different parts of Spain: 3,000 copper miners in Rio Tinto, and in the industrial and mining zone of the Basque province at Bilbao and Beasin 60,000 miners, engineers and shipyard workers are out on strike. The strike has spread to factories in Valencia and Galicia. In Barcelona engineering plants of Pirelli, Siemens and ENASA lorry manufacturers have joined the strike.
In Bilbao steel and chemical workers have joined the miners and engineers in striking and demanding higher pay. Workers in Madrid are now joining in the struggle. At Vallecas, a Madrid suburb, the railway repair shop workers have begun a sit-down strike. At Villarverde the workers are preparing to strike in new factories established by the Franco regime. In some small plants the employers have avoided strike action by conceding the claims of the workers.
Thus the strike is beginning to assume national scope. This in the teeth of the laws of the fascist dictatorship under which strikes are illegal. Franco has declared a “state of emergency” in the Northern Provinces. This is equivalent to a declaration of martial law.
The conditions and standards of living of the Spanish workers are among the worst in Europe. For an 11 and a half hour working day, including piece work and overtime for 6 days a week the coal face workers earn from £6 to £7 per week. The miners basic rate is 4/10d [4 shillings and ten pence, or 24p in decimal currency] per day. This in a country where prices of basic necessities are the same as in Britain! During the last 3 years wages have remained the same while the cost of living has more than doubled. Such staple items as olive oil, used by the Spanish for cooking, fish and meat, have increased more than twice in price.
Three hundred of the miners’ leaders have been arrested. And one of the demands of the miners is the release of all those imprisoned and no victimisation before they return to work. Similar demands are being made by the workers in industry who are on strike. More than 300,000 of the Spanish workers have been on strike at one time or another since the end of April. Thus the ferment is spreading all over Spain. It has been encouraged by the reports from the 120,000 Spanish workers who have emigrated to France, West Germany, Switzerland and Belgium who have contrasted conditions there with the bad pay and miserable conditions in Spain.
This is the beginning of the end for the fascist regime in Spain. The middle class and the intellectuals have demonstrated their sympathy with the heroic struggle of the workers. Students at Barcelona and Madrid universities have demonstrated in the streets in favour of the striking workers. Fifty have been arrested. In a demonstration of “silent sympathy” in Madrid women intellectuals, ex-university students, working women and wives of political prisoners participated in a “silent march”. Seventy have been arrested and heavily fined. As a significant indication of the changing mood, the Catholic authorities have changed their position and even Ecclesia, the organ of Catholic Action, has come out in defence of the right to strike.
One of the leaders of the students, who staged sympathy strikes with the workers at Barcelona and Madrid universities, declared: “We have shown the workers that other sections of society are with them.”
“The strikes have frightened Franco and they are just the beginning.” Additional point is given to this statement when it is known that the same student leader had already served six months for distributing Socialist Party propaganda.
The “Union of Democratic Forces” which comprises the Socialists, the UGT, the former Socialist trade union federation of Spain, the Republican Action Party, the Democratic Christian left and the Basque nationalists, have issued a manifesto calling for “peaceful action” to end the Franco dictatorship. They called for the Spanish people to “carry out collective acts of civil resistance” and appealed to the Spanish capitalists, the Church and the armed forces to “live up to their responsibilities”.
The Spanish Communist Party has called for anti-Franco demonstrations leading to a general strike and for a “democratic” alternative to the Franco regime. Thus the very forces which were responsible for the setting up of the fascist dictatorship in Spain are being called upon to take action against the dictatorship! The capitalists, the Roman Catholic hierarchy, the landlords and the officer caste were the instigators of the fascist insurrection in Spain.
However, these strikes mark the beginning of the end for the Franco regime. In the same way the mass strikes of the workers of Milan, Turin and other industrial cities in Italy, a year before Mussolini’s fall marked the beginning of the end of the fascist regime in Italy. It was then that the ruling class began to search for some other means to prevent an uprising of the workers. Cracks always appear within the ranks of the ruling class when they feel the threat of revolution from below. Thus the attitude of the Spanish Catholic hierarchy, and of the capitalists searching for some way out will increase the ferment among the workers. For the time being the peasants are passive. But their conditions are even worse than that of the working class and they will undoubtedly respond to any movement in the towns.
Meanwhile, even according to the reports in the capitalist press, illegal leaflets are circulating in all the main towns of Spain, calling for action to end the dictatorship. For many years it has been impossible for the Franco regime to apply its terror laws against all those who speak openly against the regime in conversations in the streets. 95 percent of the population is against Franco and therefore it would have been hopeless to arrest everyone who spoke out against the corrupt regime and the terrible conditions of the people. But action was systematically taken against all those who attempted to organise resistance. There are still thousands of political prisoners in Spain, nearly a quarter century after Franco’s victory. But what kept the regime in power despite the hatred of the people was the passivity and inertia of the masses, betrayed by their organisations in the civil war which led to Franco’s victory.
Now a new generation has grown up. Passivity is at an end. The masses are beginning to move. This strike action will be followed by even more bold activity on the part of the workers, with the sympathy of the middle class and peasants.
A new period is opening up for the Spanish people. The fall of Franco can be the starting point for the struggle for a Spanish socialist republic. The demand for democratic rights and liberties, for freedom of speech, the right to organise and strike should go hand in hand with an irreconcilable struggle against those responsible for the fascist dictatorship. The Spanish people can only solve their problems by ending landlordism and capitalism which were responsible for the crime of fascism. The Socialist Party and the Communist Party are repeating the mistakes which led to defeat in the civil war and which destroyed the Spanish revolution. The workers must stand for an independent class policy, drawing behind them the middle class and the peasants by catering for their needs and interests.
The Danish Metal Workers’ Union has donated £1,250 to help the Spanish strikers. The Labour Party’s Spanish Democrats Defence Committee has sent £250 to the Spanish Socialist Party. More and bigger gestures of solidarity to the fighting Spanish workers are needed. But direct sympathetic aid is even more important than money. The trade union movement in Britain and internationally must establish an embargo on goods coming to and from Spain at all ports and transit centres. A campaign among the dockers, transport workers and seamen on these lines would be bound to gain a sympathetic response if the labour movement were to give the lead. The Finnish Seamen’s Union decided on May 23rd to refuse tug or other port assistance to Spanish ships in solidarity with the striking Spanish workers. Action to help the Spanish workers in their mighty fight to overthrow the Franco regime! Black all Spanish goods and services. Follow the lead of the Finnish seamen.