A solidarity group for striking Spanish miners has been launched by former miners and their supporters, including female activists from Women Against Pit Closures. Those involved have drawn parallels with the 1984-85 strike here against pit closures; particularly the Spanish Conservative government’s use of the Guarda Civil to quell protests by firing tear gas and rubber bullets at miners and their supporters.
In protest against drastic subsidy cuts of €190 million, 8,000 miners from the Asturias and Leon provinces, fearing for their own jobs and that of around 30,000 connected to the industry, went on indefinite strike on 31 May. With an unemployment rate of 25% in Spain, the highest in the European Union, there would be little prospect of finding alternative employment if job cuts are forced through by Mariano Rajoy’s government, who earlier this week secured an £80 billion bailout for Spain’s banks. Especially, as like the government here, Rajoy is intent on further austerity measures.
Miners have mounted roadblocks and shut down railway lines. 10,000 miners’ supporters marched last week in Madrid. Some miners have occupied a mineshaft in a fight to reverse the cuts that will affect 40 mines.
Asturias has a history of opposition to right-wing governments. In 1934 the fascist General Franco ruthlessly suppressed an uprising that was led by striking miners in the region, located between Galicia and the Basque Country. Over 1700 miners and civilians were killed, along with 280 Spanish troops and police.
In announcing its support the Spanish Miners’ Solidarity Committee has declared its ‘admiration at the determination by strikers not to pay for the crisis of capitalism caused by the financiers and the bankers.
The road ahead will be long and hard but we will do everything possible to support you because a victory for the Spanish miners will be a victory for us and for all workers of Europe.’
Two members of the Solidarity Committee, whose honorary chairman are former NUM president Ian Lavery and Justice for Mineworkers national convenor Rick Sumner, are visiting Spain to meet, and build links with, striking miners this weekend. They will take with them the following message from Ken Loach: “Not for the first time, it is miners who fight on behalf of all working people. This crisis causes such misery through mass unemployment and attacks on working conditions and the social wage. The responsibility lies with the ruling class and those who defend an intolerable, unjust system. Good wishes and solidarity.”