Peter Gelderloos provides an anarchist account of Spain’s general strike
4.3.2012 3 Comments
A choice passage:
The Spanish state had every reason to fear that this next general strike would further intensify ongoing social struggles. Given that more people were even angrier in March 2012 than they had been in September 2010, the strike could easily transform into rioting in at least a couple cities and could even spark unrest of a more insurrectionary character. The major unions also feared another general strike, because it likely meant losing control as they had in September 2010; nonetheless, they were obliged to take at least the resemblance of a stand if only to save face. As much as the governing institutions might have wanted to suppress it, the next general strike was an inevitability, given the aggressiveness of the latest Labor Reform introduced by the conservative Popular Party.
Whereas dictatorship dissuades protest by attacking it, democracy controls protest by managing it. Institutions from the Left to the pinnacle of power colluded to organize a strike without hope of succeeding. To start with, CCOO and UGT called the strike with just three weeks advance notice, signing on to a call-out made by two minor unions in Galicia and the Basque country and turning it into the countrywide general strike that everyone knew was coming. CCOO and UGT are largely recognized as bureaucratic, opportunistic unions that tame rebellion in exchange for government funding. They were clearly surpassed by the events of the 2010 general strike, when they made the mistake of convening months in advance, giving anarchosyndicalist unions like the CNT and CGT, or new organizational spaces like the neighborhood assemblies of Barcelona, time to make their own plans.
This time, the strike preparations by CCOO and UGT were minimal to the point of invisibility. Not only did these two major unions leave scant time to organize, they hardly put up any propaganda in favor of the strike until the day before, leaving the field open for the media to color public opinion. And the media went into overdrive, raising fears of violent picketers trashing any shop that remained open, emphasizing the inconveniences a strike would cause to commuters, consumers, and tourists, and championing the right to work. The very concept of an economic shutdown was presented as a totalitarian coercion and a violation of individual rights. In the view spread by the media, a legitimate strike could go no further than a peaceful protest. Several media outlets openly denounced the strike or published surveys showing that very few people would actually participate.
But when March 29 arrived, Spain slowed down almost to a halt.