General Strike in Spain

November 14th 2012

There is an unwritten agreement that election campaigns are a ceasefire period when general strikes or demonstration weren't called so that nobody could get any party political benefits from the demands.

The strike calls and trades union protest of Wednesday November 14th 2012 were all throughout Spain so couldn't be avoided and therefore it was the Catalan political parties who were expected to agree to halt their campaigns for a day.

However, in the end only Convergència i Unió and Ciutadans suspended their election meetings "out of respect" for the strike.

Partido Popular wanted to presume of maintaining its agenda, although Alicia Sánchez-Camacho limited herself a discreet event at a children's nursery.

The left-wing parties took advantage of the protest to promote their electoral campaign.

For the parties who were against Catalan independence, particularly the PSC, the strike served to change the focus from sovereignty to social issues as if the two were mutually exclusive.

In fact, the pro-independence parties are planning the electoral campaign around the argument that the right to decide has a social objective because an independent Catalonia will be better equipped to distribute benefits so it will be better for underprivileged sections of society.

On the even of the strike, Artur Mas pointed out that "one thing is that austerity is a value that is convenient to maintain, another is turning it into a sacred idea, because then we'll find ourselves in European dynamics that lead to poverty" in clear reference to the measures imposed on Spain by Angela Merkel.

He added that "it is the current fiscal deficit that we are suffering that forces us to make the cuts" and that with half of what Catalonia pays to the Spanish state and isn't returned, the Generalitat wouldn't have had to make cuts.

Mas's obsession with explaining that sovereignty has a social objective comes out in almost all his speeches.

The CiU candidate believes that the increase in pro-independence sentiment is not so much because of patriotism but rather "because the crisis has made people open their eyes and they have realised how much they are affected by the unfair treatment of the Spanish state to the citizens of Catalonia".

Trying to get political mileage out of the strike, PSC organised an event at the party headquarters in Les Corts, in which voters were invited to tell politicians the reasons for the strike. However, only five people turned up to talk about the cuts in health and education.

PSC first secretary and candidate, Pere Navarro, was more direct when he said "the Catalans are sick of cuts of Catalan President, Artur Mas, and Spanish President, Mariano Rajoy, so we are asking on November 25th that this massive following for the strike is reflected in the ballot boxes, that they show their massive rejection of the right-wing policies of CiU and PP and this protest mobilisation is the first sign of a move towards the left in Catalonia".

What mainly interested Navarro was to contrast the independence and social issues, and added that "the national flags are just a smokescreen to hide bad government".

Navarro is keen on a left-wing government but it is unlikely that Esquerra Republicana will be willing to form part of a new Tripartit in the current climate.

As a clear reply to Navarra, Oriol Junqueras said "the obligation of the parties is to stand by the citizens when the make their demands, be they national or social".

It was a poison arrow because the socialist leader hadn't attended the Diada and hadn't participated in the strike when PSOE leader Zapatero made the biggest cuts in history.

Junqueras also had a message when suggested "taxing the banks" in order to "save us from many of the cuts that CiU and PP have made in Catalonia".

The party that took most advantage of the strike was Iniciativa per Catalunya, who took part in the strike en masse carrying a placard that put CiU and PP in the same category and read "Let's stop Mas and Rajoy's cuts".

Regarding the "political respect" evoked by CiU for the strike in order to gain political advantage, Joan Herrera said "the best respect is to listen well and radically reorientate the policies that are put in practice, because the vast majority have had enough of austerity policies".

PP candidate, Alicia Sánchez-Camacho found the demonstration and the acts of the pickets deplorable. "It is a lost day" she said, "a strike whose only aim is to tire Mariano Rajoy's government" and added that PSOE and Tripartit governments had caused the deficit in Spain and Catalonia respectively.

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