Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or email [email protected]
revoltingeurope has written 371 posts for Revolting Europe

French elections – more bad news than good?

First the good news. The Right is not only out of the Elysee Palace but it is on course to have lost control of parliament too. And in its place is probably the most progressive of social democrat parties in Europe today. The Socialists’ programme includes boosting industrial investment, youth employment and teacher numbers, hiking taxes on the rich, and partially reversing former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s regressive pension reforms. Francois Hollande’s election as President has already shifted the tone in Europe away from austerity and towards growth, although, with a commitment to balance the budget, it is very difficult to see how  this left turn can result into any sustained change of direction.

Which takes us to the first bit of bad news. The socialists, and their close allies, the PRG and Greens are heading for an outright parliamentary majority. And this means they won’t have to rely on the Left Front to pass laws. It was competition in the Presidential election with this alliance of communists and other radical left-wingers that radicalised the Socialists’ programme and requiring Left Front support in parliament would have helped push the Socialists to carry through their more progressive promises and go further – in particular curtailing the power banks and corporations, confronting the privileges and distributing the wealth of 1%, and tackling the anti-democratic slide and austerity policies of today’s Europe.

At one point credited with an 18% score in opinion polls, putting him in third place behind Hollande and incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy of the right wing UMP party, the Left Front’s Jean Luc Melenchon ended the Presidential race with a disappointing, although nevertheless impressive 11%. On Sunday, the Front de Gauche achieved just 6.9%, and Melenchon himself was knocked out of a race in the former left-wing heartlands of Pas de Calais in the north of the country by extreme right leader Marine Le Pen. She will now be pitted in next Sunday’s second round run off against a socialist candidate who beat Melenchon to  place.

To be sure, the Left Front made progress on 2007, if you compare its vote with the alliance’s component parts. And if the vote had been under proportional system this would have secured the party 40 MPs. Under the first past the post system, though, the distribution of the vote means the party risks being left with just 9-11 MPs. (A reverse compared to the French Communist Party’s 15 MPs in the last parliament, despite garnering 700,000 additional votes bringing the total to 1.8 million).

The reasons for the poor result will be chewed over in the coming days and weeks, but here are some of the possible factors:

  • at a local level Melenchon had hoped to turn his battle with far right leader into the focus of a national Front-Front contest over the working class vote, but was instead successfully portrayed as an outsider parachuted into Le Pen’s home town, as well as possibly falling foul of dirty campaign tactics by the extreme right leader;
  • the decision to lighten the punches the Left Front had laid on the Socialists in the Presidential election (note that the other radical left parties, Workers’ Struggle and Revolutionary Communist League which together garnered 880,000 votes in 2007 saw their support fall to 255,000 on Sunday);
  • Hollande’s campaign commitment to tax top earners, and, after his election, moves to return to retirement at 60 for millions of people and the hint at possible penalties for companies that fire workers or relocate production abroad, policies that borrowed heavily from the Left Front’s manifesto, but which may well have take the wind out of the latter’s sails;
  • and finally, the logic of the first past the post system that favours the two biggest opposing parties.

Now to the other big piece of bad news:  the results of the far right Front National, which not only scored a symbolic win over the radical left’s charismatic leader Melenchon but scored highly in about 60 other constituencies across the country. At 13%, it garnered less support than leader Marine Le Pen achieved in the Presidential election – an historic high of 18% -  but nevertheless this result confirms the rise of  the Front National as the country’s third party.

The Front National, which fused its campaign of hate with a strong anti-European message and appeal to the working class vote, hopes to win its first parliamentary seat for nearly 26 years, although is expected to win fewer than three constituencies. Damage limitation could have been achieved by a deal, sought by the Socialists whereby the main two parties pledged co-operate in backing any candidate that would defeat the Front National in next Sunday’s run-offs. This was the case in the 2002 election in which the mainstream right’s Jacques Chirac faced Marine’s father Jean Marie Le Pen in the second round Presidential poll. But the UMP, which has swung sharply to the right under Sarkozy, is rejecting this, and is openly appealing for Front National votes.

Finally, to the last bit of bad news. Turnout at the election reached a new low – 39.5% compared to 42.7% in 2007. This indicates a real disaffection with the democratic system at a time when unemployment is soaring (22.5% for the youth) and incomes severely squeezed. In the 1980s the socialist-led Left government  was elected on a radical programme only to abandon it for austerity, and the result was a lurch forward of the Front National. If the Left, with already a much less ambitious plan than in 1981, fails people’s hopes again, the risk is that Le Pen could be in sight of national power.

‘Lying’ Rajoy must explain why Spaniards ‘paying ransom’ of bank bail out, say radical left.

United Left has called on Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy to ‘stop lying’ and demanded an explanation as to why the citizens are to ‘pay the ransom for a giant property scam’.

The party’s federal coordinator Cayo Lara stated Sunday that the Spanish people would end up paying a debt that ‘wasn’t theirs’ and be forced to sacrifice the welfare state to fund it, despite assurances from the goverment.

Lara’s calls follow a decision Sunday of the 17-nation euro currency area to lend Madrid up to €100bn for its banks that speculated wildly on property in the country and are now bust. Despite assertions by premier Rajoy that there are no strings attached, the deal adds up to €100 billion more onto Spain’s government debt, increasing it by up to 10%, pushing it to over 90% of gross domestic product.

The bail out comes after the right-wing administration in Madrid moved to give its third biggest bank, Bankia, €23.5 billion and agreed to take ownership of the financial institution that has vast ‘toxic’ property portfolios.

As late as 28 May, premier Rajoy was insisting: ‘There will not be any rescue of Spanish banks’.

Spanish banks at the trough, again

Spanish banks were also among the biggest recipients of a trillion euros in dirt cheap loans that the European Central Bank offered in November 2011 and February this year. Despite this – and thanks to a punishing austerity budget hitting essential services like health and education and sending unemployment sky-rocketing – the economy is in free fall.

The leader of the communist-led party said the Spanish state had absorbed the debts of troubled financial institutions and has now also become their guarantor. He argued that despite the Government’s spin around the deal, the state would increase its debts and deficit and, on average, every Spaniards will have an additional debt of more than 2,000 euros to be paid back through subsequent budget cuts.

Lara also dismissed as a ‘fallacy’ the prime minister’s claim that the €100 billion would help get credit through to households and small and medium sized companies.

‘The banks have been getting loans at 1% interest [from the European Central Bank] and these have not found their way into the productive economy, rather they have been used to speculate,’ he said.

Paying off the French and German banks

The bank ‘recapitalization’ process is a means to ‘pay the debts of the Spanish banks with France, Germany and other countries, but does not benefit the citizens,’ he said.

United Left is demanding a Truth Commission to get to the bottom of Spain’s banking scandal because ‘people want to know what happened, not only so it isn’t repeated, but also to establish the responsibilities of governments, past and present, and the management of financial institutions, Bank of Spain and regulatory bodies such as the [stock market regulator] National Securities Market (CNMV).’

‘Rajoy promised to tell the truth to the Spanish people but he isn’t. He must urgently explain in Parliament why the state is absorbing the debts of the banks, under what conditions and at what cost to citizens,’ he said.

Street protests against the bank bail out kicked off around the country on Sunday and have continued today.

United Left website

Le Pen senior pays hommage to dictator Pinochet

France’s godfather of the far right Jean Marie Le Pen paid hommage to the dictator Augusto Pinochet in a ‘private visit’ to Chile this weekend. The former President and now honorary chairman of the Front National was among a number of fascist and extreme right-wingers from the US, Spain, Argentina and France who were invited to the showing of new documentary that seeks to rehabilitate the General who ruled the south American country with an iron fist between 1973 and 1981 after overthrowing the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende.  Jean Marie apparently stood in for his daughter, Marine Le Pen who has taken over from him as head of the Front National and is standing in parliamentary elections Sunday in a the Pas-de-Calais constituency in the north of the country. Anti-fascists protested Saturday in Paris against Le Pen. Sources http://noticias.terra.cl: Pensee Libre

Lessons for Europe from China

To get out of its economic crisis Europe needs to learn from China. By John Ross. Socialist Economic Bulletin

Tens of thousands march in Portugal against austerity

30,000 portuguese marched Saturday in Portugal’s second biggest city of Oporto demanding a change in the right-wing government’s austerity policies. The demonstration was organised by the CGTP union, which has 600,000 members. General Secretary Armenio Carlos slammed the government for ignoring the ‘the dramatic conditions millions faced’ in Portugal and described the policies promoted in Europe by German leader Chancellor Merkel and in Portugual by Prime Minister Passos Coelho a ‘failure’ . Unemployment continues to rise but ‘the government doesn’t change its austerity policies by a comma,’ he added. The union leader also criticised wage cuts and policies that promoted the casualisation of labour.  Further protests are planned 16 June.

Photo: General Secretary Armenio Carlos at the protest Saturday in Oporto

France: Women’s rights and the return of the Left

Socialist Prime Minister Ayrault’s government marks the return of the Ministry for Women’s Rights in France. Will this improve gender equality? Marie-Pierre Martinet, secretary general of the French Movement for Family Planning, a “very demanding partner”, will be keeping an eye on the situation. Read more in Humanite 

Prison Labour in France: No-Rights Zone, Laboratory for Flexibility

The affair began last December. It started with a violation of the rules. A prisoner, held while awaiting trial in the Versailles jail since 2010, took advantage of her status as a call center employee to make some personal calls. When the MKT Sociétal company learned of this, it decided to declass her – in prison, you don’t hire and fire, you “class” and “declass.” More in Humanite in English

Italian workers, students block trains over labour reforms

Piaggio workers blocked trains Thursday morning in protest at regressive labour reforms being proposed by the government of Mario Monti. A sit-in, organised by the local branch of metalworker union FIOM took place between 9.10 and 9.30 at Pontedra station, near the northern town of Pisa, blocking Florence-Pisa services. University and secondary students joined the metalworkers in the protest. It follows dozens of localised strikes and other actions by workers across the country since March. The proposed changes to the labour code, to make it cheaper for companies to fire workers, are moving slowly through parliament. Corriere Fiorentino

Portugal strike over wage, holiday cuts paralyses trains

Portugal: a strike by train drivers and ticket guards paralyzed all passenger and freight trains Thursday. The strike, called over cuts to wages, rest days and holidays to be introduced under the right-wing government’s austerity plan, will also cause some disruption to services on Friday. According to unions, further strikes are planned in June in the Lisbon and Oporto areas. EFE/La Verdad

Spain needs rescuing, but by who and how?

Spain needs to rescue herself from those who have led to disaster

Juan Lopez Torres 

Since the crisis began, its true culprits have managed to evade their responsibilities and make those who are suffering from it also feel as they are the guilty ones and pay without question for the plates that others have smashed.

Spanish banks were primarily responsible for what happened in our economy, for  financing an irrational housing bubble and a business class (if you can call it that) that has done nothing but deliver blow after blow in debt, administrative favours, precarious employment and tax fraud.

Banks have been the mechanism used to evade taxes and to hide billions of euros in tax havens, obtaining the highest profits in the world, based on deception and a thousand different scams that have ruined thousands of families who now shout themselves hoarse in court to help ease their grief, without the government doing anything to support them. Spanish banks artificially indebted households and companies to make a quick buck and got in debt themselves at the same time, thus leading to a genuine private debt problem facing Spain right now. Spanish banks used their control over the media to have us believe that their situation was healthy and that they had no solvency problems.

And thanks to their political power originating from the Franco years, and now translated into political parties that have been slaves to the billionaire loans granted to the banks without any obligation to pay them back, the banks had measures adopted to get them out of the pit in which they left the financial system via their entry into the [property] market occupied by the savings banks (Cajas). But at the cost of a continuing failure to fund businesses and consumers and plunging the Spanish economy into a real depression.

Banks have obtained the highest profit of any sector in our economy but they have done this by ruining thousands of companies, destroying millions of jobs and facilitating tax evasion and political corruption. Now, their situation is unsustainable and they are trying to make others pay.

The top officials at the Bank of Spain have been complicit in this disaster. Pontificating about the need to lower wages and break down the already weak welfare structures, they turned a blind eye to increased indebtedness and the progressive loss of bank solvency, not just in the savings banks. They didn’t listen even to their own inspectors when they reported what was happening before the crisis broke, when they had started to see what was coming.

The leaders of the major political parties are also responsible for what has happened – although in varying degrees, for even the more radical of them left until the last moment in Bankia and other Cajas their representatives who were allied to those who have caused the disaster, or who were under investigation. They all fuelled a growth and management model, especially in the municipalities and autonomous regions, that was linked to obtaining real estate capital gains, or who had millions in debts with the banks that they never finished paying back. And yet the Court of Auditors and other judicial bodies have not taken any decisive action to avoid the corruption that surrounds them.

True, there are honest politicians and parties are always needed, but that does not stop us denouncing their leaders for a policy of widespread waste in government, and widespread corruption, while demanding reduced investments needed for essential public services without which their is not even the minimum quality of life or even democracy.

And to these culprits should be added some large employers, and other authorities, magistrates or the Head of State, who have failed to rise to the occasion and act with integrity when huge sacrifices are asked of the population.

Now, what if all these problems have been caused by multiplication of reprehensible personal behaviour? No. This has happened to such a disastrous degree because what has failed is our institutional armour, our political system and, specifically, our own Constitution, which is not functioning to ensure that we citizens enjoy our rights, or to prevent the outrages that embarrass the vast majority of us. We have rights that  we cannot exercise in practice, obligations that we are not fulfilling, courts that do not investigate nor judge, criminals who are not prosecuted, even guilty people who do not serve their sentences.

For months, Spain has been attacked by speculators, and is under the greatest threat that it has suffered in recent decades, but the commitment of the government is bailing out the banks; it refuses to investigate who caused the breakage for which the Spanish have to pay, and it is dedicated to divide and discredit the Spaniards themselves and their own institutions. Millions of Spanish look with amazement at the unlimited money for banks that is not available for public services they need, and the King is going to make the fortunes of the heads of companies that are most responsible for defrauding the money from the national coffers, destroyed the most jobs and are the most guilty for having triggered such a singularly acute crisis  that we are living through against a backdrop of international financial turmoil.

And while all this happens, the most powerful media groups dedicate themselves to spreading garbage, silencing the voices and critical debates, criminalising the anger and allowing political parties in government to do the opposite they tell citizens they will do when they stand for election.

Of course, Spain needs a bailout! But not in the form of loans that go directly to the banks and which are paid for by the citizens, as they are currently negotiating. No. What Spain needs is to rescue herself from those who have led to disaster: creating a Truth Commission to identify responsibilities, and promoting a new social and political majority capable of securing in elections the departure from parliament of the ‘yes men’ and compromised politicians who have caused today’s situation. And from this, we can really open up a democratic debate about our institutions, on how best to organize our state, our economy and our society to avoid a recurrence of the excesses and atrocities which have placed us on the brink and which are rightly filling decent people with rage and indignation, regardless of their ideology or beliefs.

Hay que salvar a España, pero de quién y cómo (El Publico)

Juan Lopez Torres is a writer, member of Attac Espana and Professor of Applied Economics at the University of Seville

Revolting Europe Translation

Nine million Italians deprived of healthcare as austerity and privatisation bites

‘The right to heath is guaranteed only to those who can afford it’, say pensioners

Nine million Italians are being deprived of healthcare because they can’t afford it. That’s the conclusion of a new report report by RBM-Salute Censis that also shows that spending on the public health system has halved since the onset of the financial crisis.

New and rising healthcare charges, long waiting lists and diagnostic appointments that are in practice near impossible to get in the public sector have prevented poorer Italians from obtaining medical treatment. The vulnerable are the hardest hit by the cuts and a creeping privatisation process: four million in the south, 2.4 million pensioners and 2.5 million with families and children, the study shows.

Those will deep pockets have increased expenditure on private healthcare by 25.5% in the past 10 years. But funding for the public health system has fallen from an average growth rate of 6% in 2000-2007 to 2.3% in 2008-2010. 77% of those who coughed up from their own purses said it was because of waiting lists. Now 31.7% are unhappy with the public health system, up from 21.7% three years ago.

‘Cuts to public health lower the quality of services and create inequality. For these reasons it must be a priority to find additional funding to stop less public spending leading to greater private expenditure and worse health for those who can’t pay,’ stated the report.

Commenting on the study, Carla Cantone, general secretary the SPI CGIL union of pensioners said:

‘The number of elderly that are forced to renounce healthcare will soon increase dramatically because of the deepening of the crisis, the government’s failure to respond and the dramatic situation in the public health system.

‘We have got to unsustainable situation in which the right to heath is guaranteed only to those who can afford it and those who go private. We call on the govermment to act with urgency, boosting public health and guaranteeing access to health to those who need it.’

Censis ; Agi ; Il Manifesto

More on health

More on Italy

Die Linke’s Congress of Fire


Choosing a new leadership, internal clashes, Lafontaine imposes his own man, Bernd Riexinger, who will flank 34-year old Katja Kipping from the East. Gysi: ‘If we hate each other so much, better to split.’

It was a high tension and passionate Congress for Die Linke, which yesterday had to choose a new pair of co-Presidents. The first round of elections, reserved for women candidates, was won by 34 year old Katja Kipping. The second, late at night, went to Lafontainite Bernd Riexinger. He beat the ‘realpolitic’  Dietmar Bartsch, who is very popular with delegates from the Eastern regions, as is Katharina Schwabedissen, who aimed to form an inclusive ‘tandem’ with Kipping and who has kept her distance from the party’s internal factionalism.

In a climate of intense competition, not even Gregor Gysi and Oskar Lafontaine seem to understand each other any more. It was they who agreed a joint list in 2005 between the PDS (Party of Democratic Socialism) in the east, and the WASG (Labour and Social Justice – The Electoral Alternative), that was formed [in 2005] the west. They both led, as a team, the parliamentary group in the Bundestag. In 2007 this led to political fusion in Die Linke (The Left). They led the election campaign together in 2009 that yielded 11% of the vote.

On several occasions Gysi, with great generosity, has stood a little aside in order not to overshadow his colleague. In the poster that portrayed them as twin heads of the electoral list, Gregor looked out over the shoulder of buddy Oskar. But now even Gysi appears tired. When the Saarlander said he would not tolerate other candidates beside his, Gysi vainly tried to convince Lafontaine to reach a political agreement with the reformist wing, which is well-rooted in eastern Germany, at least offering Bartsch the post of organizing secretary.

There was no convincing him. Instead, Lafontaine preferred not to stand, insisting that the tandem of President would still have to be a trusty soldier – the Stuttgart trade unionist Bernd Riexinger – perhaps next to a woman like Katja Kipping East, but for certain no representative of the reformists of the east. A solution that Gysi viewed as fatal, because unbalanced. According to Gysi, either the opposing sides - Lafontaine’s intransigent critics of the social democrats and Bartscht’s pragmatists seeking Left coalitions – reach a deal and a solution of this type could be the tandem of two ‘inclusive’ women such as the Ossi Kipping e la Wessi Schwabedissen – or both sides would have to be represented, not only that of Lafontaine with Riexinger.

Yesterday at the Congress in Göttingen, Lafontaine and Gysi spoke one after the other, and there was the impression of a large distance, a mutual misunderstanding. Gysi sees an imminent risk of a split. He believes that the merger of the east, Ossi, and west, the Wessi, has not been accomplished. He warned fellow Westerners to stop lecturing with lessons of revolutionary intransigence those who in the east are engaged in the routine of local government. He had words of fire for the ‘arrogance’ of party federations in the west which reminded him how the Federal Republic behaved after the annexation of East Germany. If Congress does choose a leadership incapable or cooperating, it ‘would be better to separate without rancor.’ Better than dragging on a ‘completely failed marriage with petty deceptions, kicks in the shins, defamatory allegations.’

In the parliamentary group its not a question of normal disagreements, but ‘rather a climate of mutual hatred reigns’. For years, Gysi concluded, ‘I have tried to moderate the conflict, now I’m tired.’ Lafontaine didn’t even attempt to address these desperate remarks. And he sought to minimise the problems. ‘There is no reason even to evoke the word ‘division’.’ It is divided only if there are serious political disagreements, but this is not the case for Linke, which last year at the Congress of Erfurt approved by a majority of 95% its new program: a very ‘Lafontainite’ text which puts the party in an oppositional position with tight conditions placed on participation in government. So, Lafontaine argued, we already have a political line. The difficulties are only ‘personal animosity’ that can and must be overcome. How does the absurd misunderstanding that in the west there are only maximalist radicals be overcome? ‘How can you suggest someone like me, who has governed the Saar region with majorities of 60% (when he was in the Social Democratic Party, ed), is a sectarian extremist?’.

As for ‘personal animosity’ Lafontaine did not display any self-criticism. Without ever naming Bartsch, nor explicitly referring to the proposed agreement advanced by Gysi, he made it clear that if collaboration is not possible the fault is purely that of Bartsch: ‘Between the president and organizing secretary there must be complete confidence ‘. Delegates were in no doubt that Lafontaine was referring to an episode in September 2009. Spiegel published for the first time an allusion to a love relationship, and not only political, between Lafontaine and Sahra Wagengknecht, leader of the ‘anti-capitalist’ and ‘anti-reformist’ wing of the party. For some time the two have been presented in public as a couple. Lafontaine has always suspected that the origin of the indiscretion to the press was the then Secretary Bartsch. This ‘treachery’, real or perceived, has not been forgiven.

Guido Ambrosino

Revolting Europe translation

Big majority for new programme (Die Linke website October 2011)

Indignados in noisy protest over Bankia bailout

Dozens of Indignados staged a noisy protest outside the headquarters of Bankia in Madrid Saturday.

The protestors were denouncing the multibillion euros rescue of the country’s third largest bank, a move they consider to be a raid on citizens’ pockets.

They strongly criticised the right wing government of Mariano Rajoy for injecting public money into banks without securing any greater accountability while at the same time implementing swinging cuts to education and health.

Among the protesters were small investors negatively affected by the deal to save the bank.

Ahead of the action, one of the organisers, the group Democracia Real Ya, described the €23 billion bailout plan as ‘shameful’ and slammed the ‘impunity’ of the bankers who had brought the bank to its knees.

It contrasted the generosity with the banks with the merciless treatment of one million Spaniards who had  lost their homes due to foreclosures and the ‘many million’ who were poor as well as the millions of citizens relying on public services going under the knife.

Bankia is asking the Spanish state for €19 billion, in addition to €4.5 billion already injected, the biggest rescue in Spanish banking history.

Bankia speculated big on the housing market and lost its bets when the property bubbled burst in 2008. Now ordinary citizens are picking up the tab.

Video of Protest

Greece: Syriza’s anti-austerity programme – at a glance

Radical left party Syriza, which is currently leading in the polls, announced its new programme Friday. Here’s the main points:

  • Cancel the ‘memorandum‘ between Greece and the EU-IMF and repudiate its ‘odious’ terms
  • Ask for the renegotiation of the loan agreement
  • Push for a new restructuring of the debt with the aim of reducing it
  • Or a moratorium and suspension of interest payments ‘until the economy stabilizes and shows sign of recovery’
  • Debt servicing must be linked to the Greek economy’s growth rate
  • Immediately repeal a 22 percent reduction the minimum wage
  • Extend unemployment benefit to two years from one year
  • Repeal recent labour market reforms allowing employers impose individual contracts when collective contracts expire.
  • Scrap all emergency taxes, starting with low income earners and those living close in poverty.
  • Set public spending  at between 43 and 46 percent of GDP, rather than under 36 percent as agreed in the memorandum.
  • Raise government revenues from 41 percent of GDP to the eurozone average of 45.
  • Extra revenues to be raised from taxing wealth and high incomes
  • Suspend cuts to social spending, pensions and public sector salaries
  • Creation of a register for assets for Greeks living in the country and abroad with anyone submitting false details having their assets seized
  • Change tax brackets to ease pressure on low incomes.
  • Value Added Tax to be reduced, particularly on basic goods such as milk and bread, which would boost consumption
  • Boost efforts to tackle tax evasion
  • Seek agreement shipowners to end the 58 tax exemptions that apply to their sector
  • Nationalization of all banks currently being recapitalized as part of the EU-IMF bailout.


Spain’s coal miners battle for their jobs, communities

Spain’s miners are fighting for their jobs and the future of their communities

Their campaign kicked off last week and has seen strikes, road blockades, and mine sit-ins involving up to 8,000 mineworkers from 40 coal mines in northern Spain.

Backed by mining unions within both of Spain’s major labour federations — Confederación Sindical de Comisiones Obreras (CCOO) and Unión General de Trabajadores (UGT) – the action by the workers is over government action to cut coal subsidies.  The grants are the life-blood of some small mining communities.

Talks with employers and the government were held on 29 May but led nowhere. The unions had hoped those negotiations would at least partially rescind the 64% subsidy cuts contained in the government’s budget. But after six hours of futile negotiations that lasted into the evening of May 29, mineworkers’ unions of both federations announced the resumption of strikes in and around the cities of Aragon, Asturias, and Castilla y León, and a major demonstration planed in Madrid.

Before talks took place industrial action that started 23-24 May saw 100% participation among the miners. The miners also blocked major road arteries linking northern cities, and ten miners began sit-ins late Monday evening after their shifts ended at the Candín mine in Oviedo. This action was spontaneous and not authorised by the unions, but the protests showed the deep frustration felt by Spanish miners to the proposed subsidy cuts.

On Thursday miners took to the streets of Madrid. The UGT and Comisiones Obreras  said 10,000 mainly from northern Spain travelled by bus to the Spanish capital.

Carlos Verdiell, told NTD TV: ‘The cuts will paralyze business in all of Spain. This means the closure of the mining sector. We are talking about some seven or eight thousand direct jobs. If we add the indirect jobs, we are talking about 30,000 people joining the strike.’

Many of the protesting miners, friends and families said people would be driven out of mining communities.

Adrian Marmeleiro, said: ‘If we don’t get what is being asked for, we will all end up on the street. If we all end up on the street, there will be no one left (living) in mining communities. Because everyone will leave to look for work elsewhere. It will be a disaster for the region.’

Later Thursday clashes broke out between protesters and police. Police fired rubber bullets and protesting miners threw firecrackers.  There were two arrests and twelve wounded, including two journalists and eight policemen.

The Socialists have called for the head of the national police Ignacio Cosidó to explain to parliament the ‘brutal police charge’ against the protesting miners and United Left and its allies in the Plural Left parliamentary group have demanded that the interior minister, Jorge Fernandez Diaz, explain the police actions to MPs.

The rightwing government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has cut coal subsidies this year to €111 million, down from €301 million last year. Spanish coal communities receive aid nationally and from the EU in order to compete with coal from abroad and to re-train people when mines are closed.

Encouraged by the EU, the Spanish government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy says it is adamant to enforce the 64% subsidy reduction in order to reduce the public deficit, even as it is planning to increase it by billions with a new mega bailout of Spanish banks.

For their part, miners and their unions feel such a drastic cutback will be the death knell to coal-mining in Spain, a country that has shed 40,000 jobs in the sector over the past 20 years due to pit closures.

Sources include ICEM ; El Publico ; NDTV

Twitter Updates

  • #Spain: Spending #cuts that can kill: Lower investment in highways sees risk of fatal traffic accidents rise. El Pais elpais.com/elpais/2012/06… 6 hours ago
  • Italian retail sales hit by biggest drop since 2001: Year-on-year fall of 6.8% in April bit.ly/QaUZil #italy #austerityfail 12 hours ago
  • RT @ekathimerini Crisis takes a toll on rehab stats dlvr.it/1mN7X8 #greece #health #austerity 16 hours ago
  • #Greece: port workers challenge #privatisation through the courts. RT @ekathimerini dlvr.it/1mWC2j 16 hours ago
  • RT @ekathimerini Revenues and exports decline dlvr.it/1mNH6Z #greece #austerityfail 16 hours ago
  • RT @ekathimerini Rate, violence of hate attacks rises ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_artic… #Greece #racism 1 day ago
  • #Eurozone austerity hits world's poor as #Europe's aid falls by €700m gu.com/p/38h6b/tw via @guardian #austerityfail 1 day ago
  • #Germany's #banks profited from #Spain's housing boom and are profiting from the bust. Revolting #Europe wp.me/p1bMfw-ZJ #eurozone 1 day ago
  • RT @ekathimerini Rate, violence of hate attacks rises dlvr.it/1m7SqR #Greece #racism 1 day ago
  • RT @ekathimerini Fire service caught short by tough budget cuts dlvr.it/1m6vrp #Greece #austerity 1 day ago
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Filthy Rich

France's Bernard Arnault of the Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH) empire is worth $41 billion. Check out Europe's rich list


Arménio Carlos of CGTP led a general strike in Portugal on March 22


Workers are on a go-slow over privatisation

Massive Spanish protest

Half a million take to the streets over labour market deregulation


Hundreds of workers occupied the factory of ArcelorMittal in Florange in the north of France

International Workers Day 2012

International Workers Day 2012


Anti-social Europe in numbers

RSS Watching Corporate Europe

  • Agribusiness CAPturing EU research money?
  • Conflicts of interest still evident on new ESFA expert panels
  • Lobbyists register failing to improve transparency, new report shows

RSS Hate Crimes in Europe

  • Slovakia: Off-duty cop says he murdered to establish 'order'

RSS Fight discrimination in Europe – Amnesty Int’l

  • Listen to Roma Rights
  • Moldova: European Court of Human Rights re-affirms LGBT people’s right to freedom of assembly

RSS Discrimination: legal news

  • Greece - Publication of a book dealing with the phenomenon of discrimination in Greece and the mechanisms established to address it (PDF 62 kB)
  • Czech Republic - Czech republic ratified the Additional Protocol to the European Social Charter providing for a system of collective complaints (PDF 51 kB)
  • Slovenia - Closing down of the Government Office for Equal Opportunities (PDF 50 kB)

Workers down tools over PM Monti's attack on labour rights