Spanish Miners Struggle
The «Black March»: Class Struggle as the Theatre of Parody
(«Proletarian»;Nr. 9; Winter 2012-2013)
On Tuesday July 11, two hundred miners from different parts of Spain, where coal mining still exists, albeit in a most straightened fashion, arrived in Madrid after marching for several weeks. They were welcomed in the capital by tens of thousands of people who literally paralyzed the entire west end of the city. On the following day, the event which was to crown the so-called “Black March” ended in clashes outside the Ministry of Industry and in the area of the Santiago Bernabéu stadium after a series of police charges and ripostes from demonstrators. In the afternoon a demonstration of solidarity with the miners in central Madrid also ended in clashes and arrests.
For months the mining regions of Spain, and particularly in the Asturias, have been experiencing conflict provoked by the Rajoy government’s refusal to respect the mining agreement and to maintain the subsidies to coal mining that are essential for the mining enterprises to continue to operate; indeed, given its near-zero profitability, this activity survives only thanks to state subsidies, granted, on an ever more limited basis since the 80’s specifically to prevent their complete termination from leading to social conflict.
The miners, on an unlimited strike since the spring, have resorted to continual acts of sabotage on roads in the affected zones, have resolutely confronted the police and the Guardia Civil and even mobilized entire villages of the mining regions in solidarity. For their part, the coal mining companies tacitly support a struggle that, if victorious, would continue to enable them to benefit from the fat subsidies that they live off. While the proletarians, not just those directly employed in the mines, struggle to defend their livelihoods and employ methods that do not respect the framework of bourgeois legality, the bourgeois seem to be encouraging a united front to obtain a common objective.
The conflict in the Spanish mines is a situation encysted by the decades. Coal mining is subsidized to maintain social peace in historically rebellious areas, where the proletarian struggle has seen some of his most brilliant episodes in the twentieth century. These State aids actually did not guarantee the permanence of coal mining, but only its “non traumatic” disappearance over time as other activities would develop in these regions (this never took place: in the Asturias the only activities that appeared in the moribund mining area were hotels and ... cocaine trafficking); however they created a sort of oasis in the middle of the progressive precarization of the Spanish social panorama through institutional strengthening of yellow unionism and political opportunism (mainly through the Spanish Communist Party, the PCE, and its social-democratic counterpart, the Socialist Party, the PSOE...) which are responsible for managing the “gifts” of the state in exchange for control of rising social tension as the black future of the disappearance of the mines approached.
The capitalist crisis that has hit Spain has accelerated the end of mining activities dependent on subsidies: there is not enough money in the public coffers and there is no alternative but to remove these subsidies.
But the price to be paid is the outbreak of social conflict in these zones: the proletarians have taken to the streets with considerable force, leading other groups in their train (part-time teachers, transport workers, etc..), directly attacking the profits of the capitalists by blocking roads and mineheads. On many occasions the Security Forces which have recently been more accustomed to bludgeoning students than to real clashes, have been trounced trying to stop the mobilizations of the miners.
But to take on that price, the bourgeoisie can count on very powerful allies who they find in the ranks of the proletariat in struggle. The major (and lesser) yellow unions that control the mining regions (the Asturias which are one of the Spanish regions with higher rates of unionization, are the bastion of the UGT – the trade union linked to the “Socialist” Party – and its local subsidiaries, SOMA and FIA, and similarly the CC.OO – the union formerly associated with the Stalinist PCE) work to bind the demands of the mine workers to a species of regional or national “common good” that would include in the first place the capitalists proprietors of the mines and the local bourgeoisie. According to this orientation proletarians should fight, not for their wages or even for their jobs, but for the defence of the mining industry, for the defence of State subsidies to these industries and for the industrial future of the region. In short, they should fight for their exploitation, for this exploitation which yesterday forced them to die deep underground and which today throws them into unemployment and poverty. The forces of political and trade union opportunism, particularly strong in these areas of high industrial concentration, always seek solidarity between the classes, submission of the proletarian interests to the so-called superior interests of the country, to the necessities of the economy...
The “Black March” is a great example of how to combine, within the framework of the tough struggle waged by the miners of Asturias, Leon and Castile, this policy of interclassist conciliation with the effort to break the real strength of proletariat which is its use of class means and methods. The strength of the miners during the conflict (and in previous conflicts, mainly in the 80s) has resided in their ability to attack capitalist interests directly, through strikes and sabotage; it is why they were able garner the solidarity of numerous other proletarian sectors in the affected areas, and it is why this solidarity based on class unity that appears in the struggle when it is conducted with classist means, has really strengthened their struggle.
When the agents of yellow unionism organized a media-oriented march on Madrid to protest outside the Ministry, they cut the struggle from its foundations in order to reduce it to a sad and dramatic democratic demonstration of confidence in the goodwill of a bourgeoisie that would not allow the ruin of a local economy (and with that the subsidies to these unions!).
The Black March, led by those who have for decades sacrificed the proletarians of these regions on the altar of capitalist profitability, was an attempt to turn the struggle into a scene in a theatre enacting a parody of the class struggle. Miners as celebrities who are no longer proletarians but “heroes” supported by leftist or rightist city councils and whose praises are sung by the whole intellectual slagheap... just the opposite of the lessons that the proletariat must draw from the conflict being conducted in the mining areas and which in turn these specimens are attempting to liquidate.
In the near future the proletarians of the coalfields, just as those who took to the streets of Madrid and other cities to embrace them, will be faced with the choice of fighting to defend their living conditions or suffer down to their marrow all the harsh consequences of the capitalist crisis. The “reforms” and “adjustments” of recent months demonstrate this in black and white.
But to fight, the workers must break with the nauseating democratic tradition which infests their class today. They must free themselves of the illusions which cause them to dream of an interclassist solution to the crisis through an “agreement” between the workers and the bosses, they must reject the ideas of social conciliation ... but above all they must rediscover the means and methods of classist struggle, those that actually attack capitalist profits and that enable them to triumph, even temporarily.
The unlimited strike without notice or guarantee of minimum service, the pickets to enforce it, the constitution of proletarian organs of struggle that do not disappear but which are maintained over time, etc.., these are the lessons all the workers must draw so that the generosity and the determination with which they have led the fight in the mines and with which they took to the streets of Madrid are not lost.
For the uncompromising defence of the living and working conditions of the proletariat!
For the proletarian struggle with class means and methods!
Break with the agents of the bourgeoisie within the proletariat!
For the resumption of the class struggle!
July 13th 2012
International Communist Party