The epic struggle waged by the miners of Asturias to defend their jobs and communities has clearly struck a chord amongst many Spaniards, as the magnificent reception given by Madrileños to the 400 km marchers clearly demonstrates.
The miners have also generated considerable support outside Spain. Yesterday’s Channel 4 News had a special report from a reporter who accompanied the marchers from beginning to end. Even the Telegraph had a reasonably sympathetic article on the clashes in Madrid yesterday, in which a trade unionist marching in solidarity with the miners declared ‘ This is a struggle for the working class. The people need to be here on the street to say ‘enough is enough.”
This sympathy is not hard to fathom. At a time when the Spanish government, with the approval of the EU and the IMF, is willing to wreck the lives of millions in order to bailout its corrupt and discredited banking system, it refuses to continue the subsidies on which the Asturian mines and their communities depend.
It’s not necessary to have a degree in political science or economics to understand the very clear message behind this discrepancy; that the powerful financial institutions that have brought Spain to the brink of ruin can be rescued and even rewarded for their efforts, while the mining communities of the mountains and valleys of Asturias are essentially disposable and not worth preserving.
The miners have fought – as Asturian miners always will – to defend their jobs and communities, and their struggle is beginning to have a galvanizing effect on the Spanish working class. Its appearance on the streets of Madrid has clearly rattled the government.
On the same day that Mariano Rajoy announced yet another swathe of austerity measures that he described as ‘not pleasant…but imperative’ in order to please Spain’s foreign creditors, riot police fired volleys of rubber bullets at the miners and their supporters.
All of which constitutes a disgrace, to be sure, but we can expect to see such behaviour repeated and intensified in the months and years to come. Because in the end police truncheons and rubber bullets – and worse – are the logical and inevitable instruments of the gross injustice that is being perpetrated in Spain and across the continent.
The financial and political elites overseeing Europe’s age of austerity, as they gaze down on the anthill world from their boardrooms and offices, though one suspects that they probably do and are simply not too bothered about it.
The miners of Asturias have pricked this bubble of complacency, and forced Spain – and the world – to acknowledge them. In a dark and corrupt era, when white collar larceny on a truly monumental scale is compounded and facilitated by governments across the continent under the mantra of ‘there-is-no-alternative-to-austerity’, their militancy, determination and commitment to their communities should be an inspiration to all of us, and a reminder that resistance is still possible – and in fact essential.