The acute crisis of the political regime that emerged in 1978 has focused general attention once more on the so-called “Democratic Transition”, a process that spanned the period from the death of the dictator, Franco, in November 1975 through to the historic victory of PSOE (the Socialist Workers’ Party of Spain) in the elections of October 1982. The current regime, the monarchy and the ruling class, conscious of their crumbling prestige, are now attempting to regain their lost credibility and authority by means of the most scandalous historical distortion
In this text we have undertaken to give a Marxist analysis of those events in which we try to restore the true history as seen from the point of view of the its protagonists; those who made it possible to bring down the dictatorship and conquer the democratic freedoms that, at great pains, we continue to maintain today, namely: the working class and the labour movement; the community movement in the neighbourhoods and villages; and the youth and women workers.
Nearly forty years have passed since the beginning of the so-called "transition to democracy" in the Spanish State. "The Transition", as the period stretching from the death of the dictator Franco to the historic victory of PSOE in the elections of October 1982 has come to be known, has been a recurring theme for all kinds of celebrations, publications, and radio and television programmes.
After so many years providing a Marxist analysis of a historic process of such magnitude (that is to say an analysis from the point of view of the general interests of the working class) becomes an urgent necessity as an entirely new generation of millions of young people has today been incorporated into the active life of society without ever having had a direct experience of those events.
Lenin once wrote, in reference to Karl Marx, that it often happens throughout history that in the lifetimes of great revolutionaries their ideas are subject to persecution and the most furious and merciless attacks by the ruling class; but that, after their death, they are converted into mere harmless icons, sanitised and castrated of the revolutionary content of their ideas so as to fool and console the oppressed classes.
We could also say that the same fate is suffered by the great historical events carried out by the working class in its struggle against capitalist exploitation. This is particularly true of the "Spanish transition".
The official history of the Transition that we are offered is the version of official, bourgeois public opinion as recounted in books, at school and in the mainstream media; and that which, lamentably, the reformist leaders of the traditional organisations of the working class have given their approval to.
But this official version has as its only purpose to mask and hide the true feelings and authentic hopes and passions that are rooted in the consciousness of the millions of working class men and women, and other oppressed layers of society, who in those times fought the dictatorship and all attempts to artificially maintain it by Franco’s successors. This struggle opened a pre-revolutionary situation in the Spanish State, which threatened the very foundations of the capitalist system in Spain.
To analyse the entire period of the Transition and to extract the most important lessons from it, we must first understand the character of the Franco dictatorship and the historical and social forces that made its subsequent collapse possible.
The long night of the dictatorship
The Franco regime began its existence as a classic fascist state. The workers’ organisations were smashed and extremely hierarchical fascist organisations were created in their place. The repression which followed the Civil War rose to a fever pitch of cruelty, sadism and cowardice; with the number of those either shot or incarcerated running into the tens of thousands.
The flower of the working class, tens of thousands of men and women who constituted its most dynamic and bravest elements; the intelligentsia, the most prestigious scientists and the most loved artists who were cherished by the masses, either died fighting during the war, were killed in the subsequent repression or were forced to flee into exile. The Franco dictatorship, as with all epochs of black reaction, extirpated the most creative and advanced elements of society, and pushed back by decades all the social advances and cultural achievements that were jealously treasured until that point.
Although the Franco regime lacked such unanimous support among the mass of the petty bourgeoisie (the traditional base of fascism and reaction) as that enjoyed in their early years by Mussolini and Hitler, it was able to count on mass support among the middle peasants and numerous sectors of both the rural and urban petty bourgeoisie, as well as that of the capitalists and landlords. As has occurred with every regime of a fascist nature however, this certain level of support disappeared over the course of years as a results of the brutality of the Falangist bureaucracy and the ruling military caste; its failure to satisfy the numerous social needs of the population; and due to the changing social composition of Spanish society in subsequent years. We could say that by the late 1950s the Franco regime maintained its existence exclusively through fear and repression, by the routine and inertia of society, and on account of the painful and bloody defeat that the working class had suffered and the decades that were required for all its wounds to heal. As such the Franco regime evolved into a classic bourgeois, Bonapartist regime, a dictatorship sustained by pure repression that lacked any significant social support among the population; save, of course, for that of the Spanish bourgeoisie.
The huge boom in the development of the productive forces in the advanced capitalist countries that lasted almost three decades following the Second World War, along with the growth of the world market, were the key factors that pushed forward a major spurt of industrial development in the Spanish State and which allowed the weak Spanish bourgeoisie to temporarily prosper in the new situation.
Spain became a paradise for investors. Without workers’ organisations to hinder the exploitation of the working class and with a regime that brutally suppressed all forms of dissent, the profits of the capitalists rose to unheard of levels.
The situation on the land, despite the fact that tens of thousands of agricultural labourers continued to live in distress, had temporarily been ameliorated by mass migration to the cities and abroad. In Andalusia alone it is estimated that by the 1970s two million people had emigrated.
Wages were fixed from above by employers and officials of the fascist union (the CNS, or the “Vertical Union” as it was referred to by the workers). All workers were compelled to affiliate to these unions, which were organisations that brought together both workers and bosses. The "workers' representatives" in the companies were referred to as "liaisons and juries" and were handpicked by the bureaucrats of the vertical union, in connivance with the bosses, who would usually put forward informers and the most reactionary and politically backward elements among the workers.
For its part, the Spanish bourgeoisie continually demonstrated the weak, parasitic and rapacious nature that has always characterised it by its constant demands for financial assistance from the state, which was always willing to take charge of any loss-making businesses. The protection of the internal market, an indispensible lever for a less advanced economy when facing foreign competition, undoubtedly played a positive role in the development of Spanish capitalism. However the Spanish bourgeoisie, rather than invest its fabulous profits in improving productivity to achieve an average European standard, instead dedicated a significant part of its profits in speculation, the purchase of latifundia and the accumulation of vast hoards in banks from which they accrued tremendous sums of interest.
The most significant aspect of this major development of the productive forces were the qualitative changes that resulted in the composition of society, bringing with it an impressive strengthening of the numerical and social weight of the working class, with an offsetting and weakening within the middle classes. In 1975, out of a total active workforce of 13.4 million people, the number of salaried workers had increased to over 9.5 million (70% of the workforce), of which 3.6 million were industrial workers. It must be borne in mind that at the end of the Civil War, the peasantry represented 63% of the active workforce. In this way the social basis of the Franco regime had been definitively undermined.
So it was that a completely rejuvenated working class, once it had fully recovered from the injuries of the past, was preparing once more to be heard and to reclaim the revolutionary traditions of their parents and grandparents, with the mission of once again retying the thread of history that the bloody axe of fascism had thought to have severed forever.
The awakening of the workers’ movement
After the dismantling of the workers' organisations, the ebb and paralysis that took root within the labour movement was absolute. It wasn’t until the end of the '40s that the first strikes began to take place. Outstanding among those early strikes were those in the mines of Asturias and the strike in Vizcaya in 1947. In 1951 a general strike was declared in Barcelona and in the mid-1950s a whole number of strikes in the Asturian mining region gave birth to the first Workers' Commissions. This type of organisation developed, in the beginning, as a movement that brought workers together on a class basis principally around the struggle for economic demands. It was only at the beginning of the 1960s that the Communist Party (PCE) began to penetrate these organisations and the strikes extended across the entire country, bringing with it a new approach.
From the beginning of the 1960s, the struggle of the Spanish workers took a qualitative leap, beginning a strike movement that was without precedent in history under conditions of a dictatorial regime. Neither in Germany under Hitler, nor in Italy under Mussolini nor even in Russia before the Revolution (during which time there were indeed significant strikes) have we seen a phenomenon of such dimensions. In the ascendant curve of the strike movement we can trace the process of awakening consciousness among the working class: in the three years from 1964 to 1966 a total of 171,000 working days were lost in industrial disputes; in 1967 to 1969: 345,000; in 1970 to 1972: 846,000 and in 1973 to 1975: 1,548,000. Later following the death of Franco, the strike movement acquired extraordinary dimensions: from 1976 to mid-1978 no less than 13,240,000 working days were lost in strike action.
The organisations which played the role of the main driving force behind these actions were the “Workers Commissions” (CCOO by its Spanish acronym), which were forced underground where they were subject to harsh persecution and came to be regarded as the biggest threat to the regime during the 1960s. The tactic of the CCOO, under the initiative of the PCE, was to use the structures of the CNS to gain a wider echo in the labour movement, and thus to increase its points of support in the factories. In the union elections of 1975 the CCOO achieved a majority of workers’ representatives within the Vertical Union in the major enterprises. This entrism in the CNS enabled the CCOO to sustain significant growth, converting it into the most important trade union organisation after the death of the dictator, counting 200,000 militants by the end of 1976.
The UGT by contrast played a very limited role until the early '70s. However, the burning hatred among broad layers of workers towards the Vertical Union and its overt participation in a whole series of struggles during those years, together with the enormous historical tradition that the socialist organisations had among the Spanish proletariat, allowed its prestige to develop among the working class, surpassing 150,000 militants by early 1977 shortly after emerging from illegality.
However it should be noted that the total number of workers affiliated to the unions barely reached 5% of all wage workers by the end of 1976, a situation that abruptly changed upon their legalisation during the period in which the pressure of the working class peaked in 1977 and early 1978.
At the start of the 1970s a series of workers’ mobilisations took place that revealed the high level of regroupment. In 1971, the CCOO managed to capture a very significant segment of the "liaison" and "jury" positions up for election in the union that year. In 1973 a general strike was declared in Pamplona, which elected a strike committee consisting of representatives of all the most important enterprises.
The workers’ movement could not be tamed by means of repression. Nevertheless many workers fell under the bullets of the police in those days, and hundreds more were detained or fired from their jobs for participating in demonstrations, strikes or illegal meetings.
In 1972 the entire of the national leadership of the CCOO, with Marcelino Camacho at their head, were arrested. The proceedings against them have gone down in history as "the 1,001 Court Process", after the number of their legal case. During the weeks prior to the trial, which was expected to start on the 20th December 1973 (the day that ETA killed the sitting president of the Franco government, Carrero Blanco), an major international mobilisation was held across a whole number of countries demanding their release and an end to the dictatorship.
However, it was the movement of the working class that proved to be the completely unstoppable force which constituted the backbone of the opposition to the dictatorship, and around which other oppressed layers of society gathered: amongst them students and intellectuals, the oppressed nationalities, the middle layers of both city and countryside, women and the youth.
The army and the church
The army and the church represented the spinal column on which the entire social superstructure of the dictatorship rested.
The officer caste of the army constituted the most irreconcilable nucleus against any attempt to relax repression. The Catholic Church, which christened the fascist uprising of Franco "the Holy, National Crusade", for its part acted as the spiritual crutch of the dictatorship over the course of decades.
However, both elements, like all social superstructures in a society divided into classes, could not remain immune to what was happening in the country at large, exposed as they were to the pressures of the different classes in struggle. Sooner or later, the contradictions that were shaking the foundations of society had to express themselves at the heart of these organisations as well.
One of the events that best revealed this situation was the clandestine formation of the UMD (Democratic Military Union) in the army in August 1974 by a group of young officers and NCOs opposed to the Franco dictatorship and influenced by the Portuguese Revolution of April 1974 (which was led by left-wing officers in the Portuguese army). At the time it was disbanded in July 1975 it counted on the support of some 200 army officers and NCOs, even having branches in the Guardia Civil. The leaders of the UMD were expelled from the army and thrown in prison.
We can well imagine the mood that existed within the lower ranks of the troops if this was the situation which existed among layers of the officer corp. The most astute sections of the bourgeoisie realised that they could not use the army against the people without provoking a split in the army itself. The same crisis made itself felt in October 1975 when Morocco invaded the then Spanish Sahara and the Spanish bourgeoisie found itself completely powerless to use the army against Hassan II.
Members of the other armed, repressive bodies, such as the police and the Guardia Civil, were also in the process of organising the embryos of what would become the SUP and the SUGC (the police and civil guard unions).
Thus, the hackneyed argument employed by the Social Democrats of the time that an openly revolutionary movement in Spain would have been bloodily suppressed by the army and the FOP (Forces of Public Order; i.e. the police and the Guardia Civil) simply did not hold water.
In working class communities on the other hand many priests, who were deeply moved by social questions and the demands of the workers, allowed their churches and parishes to be used for the purposes of meetings held by workers and left wing parties.
Organisations such as the HOAC (Catholic Action Workers’ Brotherhood) and the JOC (Catholic Workers Youth), which were formed by the Church in the 1950s to assist the penetration of religious ideas among workers and youth, shifted to the left, and adopted the idea that socialism represented the true Christian ideal. By this route many brave fighters of the working class emerged from the JOC and HOAC during the 1970s.
The Church hierarchy for its part began to distance itself from the regime in the early 1970s. Sensing that a change of political regime was inevitable and, sensing the hatred which was directed towards itself, the Spanish Church rapidly prepared to give itself a makeover.
One of the clearest examples of this rupture was demonstrated by the “Añoveros case”.
Antonio Añoveros was the bishop of Bilbao in 1974, when he published a homily demanding the recognition of the national identity of the Basque people. The government reacted with fury and tried to expel Añoveros from the country following house arrest. The church hierarchy in Spain and the Vatican responded by threats to excommunicate the government if it went ahead with the expulsion. In the end the government was forced to back down.
One of the key individuals that lead this rupture was cardinal Enrique Tarancón, whose every action demonstrated the clear perfidy and hypocrisy that so well characterises the Church. As noted by the priest Francisco García Salve, an outstanding working class fighter and militant of the PCE: "I visited cardinal Tarancón in his palace to ask him two specific things: to allow us to use the churches and parish halls for workers’ meetings and to ask him for money to help the families of those imprisoned in the construction of Madrid. We left the meeting terrified that such an intelligent man, a cardinal of the Church, was capable of such cynicism. He more or less denied that the dictatorship would prevent the universal right of assembly and even doubted that they would imprison anyone for exercising their right to strike. He had just married a granddaughter of the dictator. I left that palace terrified" (History of the Transition, Vol 16, p 43). Nevertheless, Tarancón has been proclaimed by the “official” history as being one of the apostles of the Transition, alongside the king, Suárez and Carrillo.
The question of the historical nationalities: The emergence of ETA
Franco completely crushed the national aspirations of the Catalan, Galician and Basque peoples. The national culture of these peoples was completely suppressed. The people were forbidden from using their mother tongue and its teaching in school was outlawed. Even the Basque inscriptions on tombstones were chiselled away in the graveyards of the Basque Country. In this manner political and social oppression were compounded by national oppression in these regions.
As is always the case in a truly profound social movement, the struggle of the working class which reached its highest level in the most highly industrialised regions of the State such as the Basque Country and Catalonia, awakened all the other oppressed layers of society to conscious life, and these layers launched themselves against all forms of oppression. This manifested itself particularly in a national awakening in these regions of the Spanish State. The struggle for the democratic rights of the historic nationalities therefore played an important role in the fight against the dictatorship. As a matter of fact, both the PCE and PSOE inscribed the right of self -determination for the Basque Country, Catalonia and Galicia on their programmes.
It was in this context of the struggle against Franco that ETA was born. Like all movements of this nature, the first militants of ETA were drawn from petty bourgeois elements, principally university students. Over the course of the years immediately prior to the fall of the dictator the organisation suffered a number of splits of a Marxist character, which questioned individual terrorism, reflecting the influence of the struggle of the Basque workers. This was also reflected in the fact that ETA itself set its goals as an independent and "socialist" Euskadi.
Unfortunately, the abandonment of a Marxist position on the national question on the part of PSOE and PCE – and their abandonment a of revolutionary socialist programme in general –alongside the fierce repression that the Franco regime subjected the entire Basque people to, due to the radical and combative character of the struggle in this region, created fertile terrain for ETA activists who succeeded in creating social and political room for themselves. Furthermore, the death and torture of many of its activists by the repressive forces of the regime gave it the aura of martyrdom that served to increase its social support.
Thus, during the famous Burgos trial against various ETA activists in 1970, the response of the Basque labour movement was unanimous, and a general strike convoked in the Basque Country alongside the international outcry forced the death sentence to be commuted. When two members of ETA and three members of the armed organisation FRAP were executed by Franco’s judiciary in September 1975, the already bitter hatred that working class activists felt towards the Franco regime intensified even further, generating a wave of revulsion on an international level that left the regime diplomatically isolated.
For many working class activists, and especially youth, the militants of ETA at that time appeared to be staunch anti-Franco fighters. The repression, torture, systematic elimination of dissent, and the suffocating atmosphere that stifled society, were hated by thousands of young people in the Basque Country. This state of affairs was further aggravated by with the contempt with which Basque culture and the national democratic rights of the Basque people were held in by the regime. Many young people took the path of individual terror believing that this was the most effective way to fight the dictator.
For Marxists however, individual terrorism is a method which is alien to the working class. Capitalism as a social system does not base itself on individuals, but on the domination of the bourgeoisie over the rest of society. The ruling class use the state apparatus (the army, police, judges, and laws etc.) to secure their power and to channel the resistance of the working class within the existing order.
The terrorist method of eliminating individuals, however much they are identified with this repressive order, does not serve to end the domination of the capitalists nor national oppression. Individuals can be easily replaced. Concretely, the assassination of Franco’s Prime Minister, Carrero Blanco, for instance, on the 20th December 1973 – despite its spectacular nature – added nothing to the struggle against Franco. On the contrary, it forced the calling off of the popular mobilisations that were being prepared against the so-called “1,001 Court Process”, in which the leadership of the CCOO were to be tried, and numerous activists were forced to go underground. Terrorist actions in actual fact only serve to give a pretext for the state to augment its repressive capacity by justifying its actions before the rest of the population. Furthermore, the methods of terrorism attempt to substitute the revolutionary methods of the working class – namely; mass struggle, the strike and the insurrection – with the pistol and machine gun. Such methods downplay the importance of the organisations of the working class and actually act as an obstacle in the development of class consciousness. If we can end oppression through force of arms alone, then why do we need political parties? Why do we need trade unions? For that matter, why do we even need a socialist revolution?
The workers' parties
The Communist Party (PCE) emerged from the period of the dictatorship as the strongest and most influential party within the labour movement, organising within its ranks the most fighting and militant elements of the working class.
The PCE’s leading role in the CCOO union, as well as ensuring its control of the heavy battalions of the working class organised in the largest and most important factories, also enabled it to win over an increasing number of militants and to develop its influence. In addition, the outstanding role that it played in the struggles to improve conditions in working class neighbourhoods, through the creation of Neighbourhood Associations, also endowed the organisation with tremendous authority.
Through the efforts of its courageous and seasoned cadres, the PCE carried out systematic clandestine work during the dictatorship years. Many of its cadres had years of experience in the Civil War, imprisonment and torture behind them. These were completely self-sacrificing militants for whom "the Party" represented their very raison d’être. Through its struggle, the PCE contributed numerous martyrs to the cause of struggle against the dictatorship and, justifiably, its elimination became an obsession for the Franco regime.
Politically, the leaders of the PCE had for decades been under the influence of Stalinism, having abandoned the programme of Marxism in practice. The positions that they adopted were openly reformist, although this was by no means self-evident to the majority of its activists, over whom the party leadership exercised tremendous authority.
The Socialist Party (PSOE), by contrast, was a far smaller party with just 10,000 militants at the time of the death of the dictator. Despite this, it remained an important traditional organisation of the class in the minds of millions of workers, and this fact would make itself felt a few years later. Moreover, it became a pole of attraction for thousands of sincerely revolutionary workers and youth who were repelled by the bureaucratic centralism of the PCE.
In 1972 a split took place amongst the socialists in exile (the so-called “historical” socialists), which caused the party to shift to the left. At the Suresnes Congress in France in 1974, the new PSOE received the formal support of the Socialist International. This organisation, which was controlled by the German Social Democracy, realised the major authority that PSOE had within Spain and sought to directly influence the leadership of the party, diverting it from the "revolutionary road".
The Young Socialists, for their part meanwhile, had adopted a genuinely revolutionary, Marxist programme at their congress held in Lisbon in 1974, at which they declared themselves in favour of class independence and of a revolutionary road to the seizure of power.
Paradoxically, the PSOE was to the left of the PCE in this period. Its political programme could be described as centrist, that is to say that they oscillated between Marxism and reformism; which in the last analysis reflected the convulsion taking place within the mass of the working class.
The political resolution adopted at the 27th Congress of the PSOE in December 1976 includes, among other things, "the supplanting of the capitalist mode of production by means of the seizure of political and economic power and the socialisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange by the working class". It also recognised the right of self-determination for the historical nationalities within its programme as well as a number of other measures of a Marxist character.
On the margins of these mass parties, the pre-revolutionary atmosphere that reigned in society created the conditions for many small ultra-left groups, without any tradition, to experience an astonishing growth of support among many workers and youth seeking revolutionary ideas. Parties such as the PTE, the ORT, the MC or the LCR grew to the size of several thousand strong each, and succeeded in conquering several important trade union positions, particularly in the CCOO. However, such groupings never achieved a prominent role during the Transition. Their ultra-sectarian policies towards the traditional organisations only succeeded in isolating these parties from the rest of the working class, with their members finishing up frustrated and burnt out. The leadership of these organisations never understood that the process of awakening within the working class necessarily passes through the traditional organisations (in this case the PSOE and PCE); and instead of orienting their forces towards the ranks of these organisations to assist the tens of thousands of workers and youth in drawing the necessary revolutionary conclusions, they separated themselves from the broad working masses that formed the basis of the PSOE and the PCE.
The economic crisis
A long period of economic boom, which began in the developed capitalist countries in 1948, ended in 1973-74 with the deepest recession since the end of World War II. The recession plunged the world into a prolonged period of organic crisis of the capitalist system that has continued to deepen down to the present day.
Mass unemployment, inflation and economic stagnation made their first appearance since the 1930s. These events left their imprint on the consciousness of millions of European workers as the political pendulum in society began to swing sharply to the left. The period of the 1970s witnessed enormous, convulsive movements of the working class, capable of shaking the very foundations of capitalism itself in France, Italy, Greece and Portugal. There is no doubt that in Spain the economic downturn helped to greatly accelerate the collapse of the Franco dictatorship.
The recession reached the Spanish State somewhat later than the rest of Europe, beginning in late 1974 and deepening into 1975. The traditional weakness of Spanish capitalism became ever more evident as the recession set in. Between 1973 and 1974 Spain’s trade deficit doubled, reaching 340 billion pesetas in 1976 (the biggest trade deficit in the world at that time). In February 1976 the government devalued the peseta by 10% against the dollar in an effort to cheapen Spanish exports. This measure proved wholly insufficient however. Spain was only able to export commodities worth 45% of the value of the commodities imported in this period. The lower competitiveness of the Spanish economy, which was reflected in the tremendous growth of the trade deficit, was the result of the parasitism of the capitalist class who, during the good times, would rather put their hand to speculation than to investing in improving the productivity of their factories. In the time of crisis opening up before them they began a strike of investment and a flight of capital to their Swiss accounts, which further served to deepen the collapse of the productive forces. While in 1973 new capital invested increased at a rate of 12.5%, it subsequently collapsed, contracting by -4% in 1975. The absolute decline in investment was reflected in the fact that in 1976 the state itself, through the INI, represented no less than a third of the gross investment nationally (115 billion pesetas).
Capital flight continued unabated as the government stood idly by. Between January and May 1976 alone, no less than 76.6 billion pesetas left the country. Even as late as July 1977, after the first general election in more than 40 years, capital flight stood at a level of 8 billion pesetas a day! It was the capitalist class, and they alone, who were responsible for the collapse of the economy. These figures demonstrate exactly how little confidence the capitalist class had in the survival of their system when faced with the might of the working class!
Inflation, which was already at 12% in 1973, continued to gather pace and stood at 14.2% in 1974 and 17% by 1975. In 1976 inflation reached a peak of 20%, with the price of bread alone having risen 35-40% in the first quarter of the year. This acted to spur on the working class to struggle for wage increases that kept step with inflation to prevent any loss of purchasing power. Only 2.5% of the population were unemployed in 1974 (standing at barely 300,000) yet this more than double to 5.4% of the economically active population by the end of 1975 (representing roughly 724,000). By the end of 1976 the unemployment figure exceeded one million.
Nevertheless, the full significance of the situation that was developing in Spain is revealed by the fact that while workers in the rest of Europe during the years from 1974 to 1976 experienced wage freezes and harsh policies of austerity, the wages of Spanish workers were actually increasing. Such concessions were wrought in the face of mortal panic on the part of the Spanish bourgeoisie when faced with the prospect of an open confrontation with the labour movement.
Although the main demands of the workers in this period were essentially economic in nature (such as a sliding scale of wages to counter inflation, the lowering of the retirement age, the shortening of the working day and improved health and safety at work etc.) others demands began appearing that went far beyond day to day, bread and butter issues. Common demands included:
· the resignation of the “liaisons” and “juries”;
· the dissolution of the fascist Vertical Union;
· that the bosses recognise and only negotiate with the workers’ assemblies and the Representative Commissions that these assemblies elect;
· the right to strike;
· the reinstatement of all workers fired and full liberty for all workers imprisoned for participating in labour disputes.
Finally, many other demands of a sharply political nature began to gain an echo such as for amnesty for political prisoners, an end to the dictatorship, the dissolution of the FOP (Forces of Public Order), full democratic rights, etc. It would frequently be the case that the greatest radicalisation of the movement would occur and the struggle would reach its peak in the face of police repression. At these moments it was not uncommon to hear openly revolutionary and socialist political slogans coming to the fore: down with capitalism, for a Revolutionary Constituent Assembly, down the fascist monarchy, workers' control, etc.
The struggles at factory or sector level almost always broke through the “agreements” that had been imposed from above by the bosses and the Vertical Union. This led to the practical recognition of the representative nature of the workers assemblies and the Representative Commissions on the part of the bosses, although this by no means had official legal status. The more honest "liaisons and juries" of the Vertical Union would inevitably resign their positions at the request of their colleagues; with those who refused being treated as little more than informers and scabs.
The problem for the Spanish bourgeoisie was that repression in a period of upturn in the class struggle tended to have the opposite effect to that which was intended. Repression would push the workers forward in their struggles, with the majority passing from economic to political demands overnight; learning not from the pages of some Marxist “manual” but from the book of life and the living example of the class struggle.
The other difficulty in containing the burgeoning labour movement was that the workers’ organisations had not yet experienced the complete crystallisation of a consolidated bureaucracy at the leadership level. In other countries the bourgeoisie were able to rest on this layer as it rose above the rest of the working class and began to play the role of paralysing and safely channelling the workers’ struggles.
The death of the dictator. Democracy or socialism?
The death of the hated dictator came on the 20th November 1975. In 1969 Franco had named his successor as Juan Carlos, the Prince of Spain. The direct line of descent from the fascist uprising to the monarchy can clearly be traced. Before Franco’s death Juan Carlos had already taken on his role in government on a whole number of occasions whilst Franco was too ill to play the part; such as at the 1973 commemoration of the National Uprising of 18th July 1936; and again for a few weeks in 1974; and finally over the course of the dictator’s final illness. Up to that point one would seek in vain for a single criticism or muted protest by the king against the lack of democratic freedom in Spain.
On the 22nd November Juan Carlos was proclaimed King by swearing an oath before Franco’s Cortes (the “parliament” of the dictatorship, which was handpicked by Franco himself) that he would follow the Principles of the National Movement; i.e. the fascist declaration of principles on which the uprising of 18th July 1936 was based.
Nowadays the official history attempts to pass the king off, as with so many others, as a lifelong democrat who, even during the Franco era, was pulling strings behind the scenes to bring democracy to the country.
The reality was very different. The bourgeoisie were divided and confused regarding which path to follow and what lay in the future. Prior to the death of Franco, and to an even greater degree immediately following his death, a major section of the bourgeoisie drew the conclusion that maintaining the dictatorship much longer (as the most cowardly, ham-fisted and stupid sections of the ruling class and fascist state bureaucracy insisted) could lead to a genuine revolutionary explosion of the masses, which would threaten the very existence of the capitalist system itself (as had happened in Portugal a year and a half earlier). This group attempted to offer a series of reforms from above in order to prevent revolution from below, with the aim of deceiving the masses and obscuring the organic link that existed between the Franco dictatorship, as a particular form of capitalist domination, and the bourgeois system itself.
The difficulty of this task lay in the fact that the bourgeoisie faced a growing mobilisation of the masses that threatened to precipitate a revolutionary crisis in society. If these democratic reforms went too far in their reach, or were conducted too rapidly, this could be seen as a sign of the utter weakness on the part of the representatives of the regime, and a recognition of the strength of the workers’ movement, which would give impetus to the masses to escalate their action to a higher level.
The only hope of success for this operation lay down one of two routes. The first of these involved extending the process of transition for as long as possible, combining repression with limited democratic reforms, through the action of the monarchy of Juan Carlos. For this to occur the monarchy would have to appear to be renovated before the eyes of the masses such that it would be seen to be above class interests and disposed to “unite the whole nation,” leaving behind the “old animosities”.
The second method involved controlling the masses themselves, who were the decisive factor in the situation, which required the participation and cooperation of the authoritative leaders of the workers’ organisations; in the first instance the leaders of the PCE and to a lesser degree, on account of their lesser influence in those days, the leaders of the PSOE.
Unfortunately it soon became clear that neither the leaders of the PCE or PSOE were working towards the socialist transformation of society. They instead favoured the consolidation of a bourgeois democratic regime, in which the workers would have formal democratic freedom without touching the exploitative base of the capitalist system: private property in the means of production. Socialism would be confined to a hazy and distant future, with coexistence between the working class and the bosses being achieved by gradual reforms that favour the working class, rendering a revolution completely unnecessary.
To this end these leaders proposed establishing alliances with the progressive sections of the bourgeoisie, with the aim of “uniting all democratic forces to put an end to the dictatorship.”
In 1974, continuing with this anti-Marxist policy of class collaboration, the PCE joined hands with the monarchist Calvo Serer, García Trevijano and others to form the “Democratic Junta” and proposed D. Juan, the father of Juan Carlos, as its president! Carrillo, the leader of the PCE, rejected such a proposal with disgust. Such groups as Tierno Galvá’s Popular Socialist Party (PSP) and Maoist groups such as the PTE (the Workers’ Party of Spain) rallied around this “pact for freedom”. The PSOE, meanwhile, organised its own “Platform for Democratic Convergence” in 1975, which also included reinvented Francoists such as Ruiz-Giménez, Dionisio Ridruejo and others.
This policy was shown to be false from beginning to end. In reality the only force able to conquer democratic freedoms was the working class which, by its heroism and the continuous blows it dealt to the regime, was reducing the entire structure of the dictatorship to rubble. The so-called “progressive bourgeois” (such as Calvo Serer, Gil Robles, Ruiz-Giménez, Garrigues Walker, Fernández Ordóñez, etc.) had without exception occupied senior positions in the darkest periods of reaction under the dictator. In that period it was impossible to find a single section of the bourgeoisie in the whole of Spain that was willing to back democratic liberties. If these elements now favoured democracy and were prepared to denounce the regime in words, it was because they clearly saw that the continuation of the dictatorship could only provoke a revolutionary explosion that would threaten the entire bourgeois order. For this reason a coalition with the PCE and the PSOE was useful to these gentlemen as it garnered them a certain amount of respectability and prestige before the masses and, above all, because it forced the workers’ leaders to keep a lid on the struggle of the workers to prevent them going further than limits that could be tolerably maintained under the capitalist system. The labour movement was thus tied hand and foot to the interests of this sector of the bourgeoisie.
In the end, in March 1976, the “Democratic Junta” and the “Platform” came together and formed what came to be known as the “Platajunta”, and were joined by the CCOO and the UGT trade union confederations.
Juan Carlos played a key role in this process as a willing tool of the bourgeoisie in its efforts to avoid being completely overcome by the revolutionary wave, whilst at the same as defending his own subjective, dynastic privileges (which materially were extremely substantial).
To elevate before the thousands of anonymous workers and students who had had played such a heroic role in the dictatorship era – who had faced years of clandestine activity, prison, torture and exile – such a venal simpleton as Juan Carlos – who hadn’t given a single encouraging word nor a single act of defiance or courage in the face of the Franco regime, and who furthermore supported and assumed full responsibility for the crimes and oppression of the dictatorship in its final years – as a “figurehead” in the struggle for “democracy”, was an absolute outrage.
It was precisely these question of how the revolutionary tasks that faced the movement following the dictator's death should be carried out and the path that lay ahead, which aroused the most intense debates among the activists of the workers’ movement.
The leadership of the Young Socialists (JJSS) were forced to resign in late 1975 after the youth section found itself in a minority at the part congress in December of that year, at which they defended their opposition document, “From the Franco Dictatorship to the Socialist Revolution” (published in January 1976) that set forth the key issues outlined above. Unlike the leaders of the parent party, the youth leaders maintained a Marxist position regarding the tasks of the Spanish revolution, having won broad support for these positions among the base of the youth organisation.
The leaders of the JJSS then began the task of grouping together the best activists to win the ranks of the party to the ideas of Marxism. For years they published the workers' paper, Nuevo Claridad, as the voice of the Marxist left within the JJSS, PSOE and the UGT. When the social democratic leadership proceeded to systematically expel the Marxists of the Young Socialists from PSOE and the UGT, which in practice amounted to its dissolution, the Marxist tendency continued its task of regrouping socialist and communist militants in defence of a revolutionary programme. The followers of Nuevo Claridad aligned themselves internationally with the leadership of the Young Socialists of the British Labour Party, at that time linked to the Marxist tendency, Militant, which was in the process of organising an international tendency, the predecessor of today’s International Marxist Tendency, of which our own organisation in the Spanish State, Lucha de Clases, continues to form a part.
In early December the king decreed an extremely limited amnesty. Barely one hundred political prisoners were liberated, the leaders of the CCOO imprisoned during the “1,001 Court Process” among them, whilst over 2,000 political prisoners continued to languish in the regime’s prisons. Throughout the month of December a wave of mobilisations broke out demanding full amnesty for those incarcerated by “los grises” (literally “the greys”, the name given to the police on account of the colour of their uniform).
The first monarchist government was headed by the very same man who had headed the last Franco government, Arias Navarro, nick-named “the Little Butcher of Málaga” on account of the role he played in the wave of repression in Málaga following the Civil War. In this government were to be found, along with Suárez, a host of personalities who had been completely loyal to the dictatorship and who nowadays are key figures in the PP: Fraga, MartínVilla, Calvo-Sotelo, etc. Both wings of the regime represented in the government, referred to as the “hards” and the “softs”, were constantly divided and arguing among themselves over the content and method of carrying out reform, which gave a faithful reflection of the atmosphere which prevailed among the ruling class. Between them they developed various projects for political reform, each more reactionary than the last, which fundamentally safeguarded the essence of the old regime.
A pre-revolutionary situation opens up
In the first months of 1976, with the dictator recently deceased, the struggles of the workers took on an irresistible momentum. Madrid took the lead in the workers’ mobilisations throughout the month of January, with the rest of the country quickly following suit, and with the struggle reaching a climax across the Basque Country during the month of March.
By the beginning of December 1975, 25,000 metal workers had already declared a strike in Madrid and the mines of Asturias were at a standstill. In early January the Madrid Metro workers went on strike. They were followed by strikes of workers in the Postal and Telecommunications sectors. Strikes then spread to the rail network (Renfe), taxi drivers and hundreds of other companies in Madrid’s industrial belt, forcing the government to call in the military to keep the metro and postal services running. In the month of January along, 21 million working hours were lost in strike action.
Some of the most important companies in the country, such as Ensidesa, Hunosa, Standard Eléctrica and Motor Ibérica among others, were on strike for months.
The struggle reached its high point in Vitoria at the beginning of the month of March. Given the tremendous importance that this heroic struggle acquired across the entire country, having an impact in the very heart of the government itself, it is worth making a brief detour to trace those events.
The strike began in early January in several factories. A list of demands had already been approved by the workers’ assemblies. The main thrust of these demands were: a linear wage increase of 5,000 pesetas to break the salary cap imposed by the government; a 40 hour working week and retirement at the age of 60 with a pension of 100% of final salary. Representative Committees were then elected in each factory, composed of the most militant workers, to coordinate the struggles and to negotiate with the bosses. These Representative Committees were at all times responsible to and revocable by the assemblies themselves, delegates being recallable at any moment.
The strike spread across the major factories of Vitoria until the stoppage was absolute. Daily assemblies were held in every factory to evaluate the progress of the struggle. A Central Strike Committee was formed covering the whole of Vitoria, which was composed of workers’ representatives from every factory engaged in the struggle. The strike committee issued a daily newsletter with which to update the entire working class and the population at large as to the progress of the struggle. Resistance Funds were established to cover the expenses of the mobilisation as well as to assist comrades in economic difficulty.
To avoid the struggles becoming isolated from the rest of the population, further assemblies were organised in the workers’ neighbourhoods and in the educational institutions, and committees of solidarity with the struggle were set up, which were also integrated into the Central Strike Committee of Vitoria. On the 3rd of March, following 54 days of uninterrupted strike action, a call went out for a general strike across the whole of Vitoria. The strike was observed by the entirety of the working class, with more than 5,000 people attending the general assembly convoked at the Church of St Francis. The police attacked the crowd in attendance, firing live rounds upon the strikers. Three workers were killed, more than a hundred fell injured and two workers died later in hospital. When word of the killings spread a wave of fury was unleashed by the workers, who threw up barricades and rioted well into the night. The atmosphere was such that the soldiers sent by the government to strangle the movement, as well as even many police officers, refused to even take down the barricades that they encountered. On 5th of March, the day of the funerals, 100,000 workers and their families accompanied the bodies of those killed in the streets of Vitoria. The executioners of these workers have names, which are to this day etched into the minds of thousands Vitoria’s workers, namely: Manuel Fraga, Minister of the Interior, and Adolfo Suárez, his stand-in when out of the country. The strike ended on the 16th, when the employers accepts almost every demand raised by the workers. The workers had scored an obvious victory, but such a victory left a bitter taste in the mouth.
The events in Vitoria had an electrifying effect on the consciousness of hundreds of thousands of workers across the entire Spanish State. Strikes and spontaneous demonstrations broke out in various parts of the country. On the 5th a worker of the Duro Felguera plant in Tarragona was killed by the police. Another worker was killed in Elda, Alicante. Everywhere the expectation existed that a general strike would be called. However, the leaders of CCOO instead called for calm and remained in a state of passivity. Only in the Basque Country was a general strike convoked, on 8th of March, to which working class respond as one man, when 500,000 strikers responded to the called for solidarity with the workers of Vitoria. In Basauri (Vizcaya), a young worker of 18 years of age died of a gunshot wound to the head at the hands of the police.
The time had come to intensify the struggle. A clear pre-revolutionary situation had opened up in Spain. All of the classical objective conditions for socialist revolution were present. The heroism displayed by the workers in every strike and every demonstration indicated that they were willing to fight to the end. The petty bourgeoisie, small peasants, small businesspeople, university students, contractors etc. were looking daily with greater sympathy towards the struggles of the working class and, in many cases, actively joined them in struggle. The bourgeoisie was in a state of utter panic, was demoralised and divided, and was completely isolated from the majority in society.
The workers knew very well what they were against: the repression, lack of democratic freedoms, the abuses of the bosses, impoverishment etc. On the other hand they aspired to live a dignified life in a free and equal society based on solidarity. The vast majority however lacked a programme and a clearly defined vision of how to achieve these goals and construct such a society. For such a task the existence of a party with a revolutionary leadership able to orient the working class as a whole was necessary, what Marxists refer to as the "subjective factor". Such a leadership was needed to lead the struggle and link the most urgent and immediate demands of a democratic character, or emerging from labour disputes, with the necessity to fight for socialism through the expropriation of the bankers, landlords and giant monopolies; and to create organisations of workers’ power parallel to the official power of the state.
It is a complete fallacy to imagine that every single worker can, independently and simultaneously, achieve a sufficient level of political maturity as to arrive at perfectly defined and polished revolutionary conclusions; or that it would be possible for them to spontaneously improvise the necessary slogans, tactics and concrete programme to begin the transition from capitalism to socialism; and furthermore, that this would could occur in each and every area of the country, and in each section of the working class. Such a point of view completely lacks even the simplest awareness of how workers’ class consciousness develops. As Trotsky said a thousand times, there is not, nor can there ever exist, such a degree of maturity of the working class under capitalism. It is precisely this fact that necessitates the existence of the revolutionary party. The task of the revolutionary party is to help the majority of workers to draw the necessary conclusions from their revolutionary experiences; offering a programme, a strategy and the correct tactics, which the whole working class are able to adopt and understand. It is precisely for this reason that the PSOE and the PCE were created in the Spanish State. An unequivocally revolutionary situation is differentiated from a pre-revolutionary situation when workers take the next step in the struggle and begin to organise their own organs of workers’ power, opposed to the power of the bourgeoisie. Soviets or Workers' Councils, although they start out as organs for the coordination and leadership of the workers’ struggles, invariably end up taking on tasks which bring in to question the very essence of the bourgeoisie’s power: workers’ control in the factories, maintenance of public order, the distribution of food, transport etc.; and via this route the workers begin to draw the conclusion that it is necessary to substitute the nominal power of the bourgeoisie with the growing power of the workers until the former is eliminated entirely, so as to finally expropriate the capitalist class.
The slogan of the Revolutionary Constituent Assembly
When faced with the proposal of the bourgeoisie for a Constituent Cortes, which would give the old regime a “democratic” facelift, the workers’ parties should have opposed it with their own call for a Revolutionary Constituent Assembly aimed at bringing down the former. How else could full democratic rights for the population and the right of self-determination for the historical nationalities, the proclamation of the Republic, the dissolution of the putrefied state apparatus of Franco, and the prosecution of those responsible for the crimes of the dictatorship be achieved? The establishment of an authentically democratic regime implies the expropriation of the economic oligarchy of 200 families who represent the real power behind the Franco regime and who controlled the key levers of the economy within society.
But such a Constituent Assembly could only be called by a power which represents the interests of the majority in society. The elements of this new power capable of organising the people for such an aim were already present: the Representative Commissions within the factories and Neighbourhood Associations in the communities, which grouped together tens of thousands of people across the whole country in genuine embryonic organs of power in working class neighbourhoods and towns.
What was needed was the development and extension of these organs of power across the entire Spanish State; for these organs to coordinate on a local, provincial, regional and state level; and for a statewide Congress of worker and community delegates to be held that would declare itself in favour of the seizure of power and finally call such a Revolutionary Constituent Assembly.
A well-prepared, all-out general strike, alongside the mobilisation of millions in the streets, would have brought the old regime to its knees and transferred the formal power of the ruling class to the working class.
Consummated by the expropriation of the big capitalists and the dissolution of the old repressive apparatus, such a Congress of worker and community delegates would form the basis of a democratic, workers’ state, with the election and recallability of delegates at all times ensuring a regime of direct workers’ democracy able to complete the socialist transformation of society.
Despite the outpouring of propaganda, the army had decomposed from within, as noted earlier. The soldiers, who were sons of workers and peasants, had refused to fire on their parents and siblings as happened in Vitoria. The police would have been powerless to suppress millions of united workers’ moving into a coordinated struggle and would have been disarmed by the workers themselves.
The tragedy for the working class was that the leaders of the political parties and trade unions, who at that time held the responsibility, confidence and sufficient authority among the working class, were not able to raise themselves to the challenge. Having renounced Marxism in practice decades ago, they had no confidence in the revolution nor in the revolutionary capacity of the masses to transform society. Particular responsibility for this tragedy falls to the leadership of the Communist Party (PCE) as the organisation with the greatest influence in the workers’ movement at that time.
An example of the utter despair that large sections of the Spanish bourgeoisie had fallen into with regard to the possibility of maintaining Spanish capitalism intact is evidenced by Areilza himself, the Minister of the Interior at the time, who wrote in his diary: “Either we will end up with a coup d’état from the right. Or the revolutionary tide will finish everything.” (Memories of the Transition, El País, p 81)
This pre-revolutionary situation continued until 1977, during which time there were no shortage of opportunities for the working class to seize power in the Spanish State.
On May Day, the international day of struggle of the working class, the government forbade any demonstrations whatsoever. Despite police repression and the poor manner in which the demonstrations were called, there were demonstrations of thousands upon thousands of workers in every city and town of any significance.
Earlier, in the month of April, the UGT was able to hold its first congress since the 1930s. Despite the fact that the UGT was an illegal organisation, the government had to tolerate its existence. One of the resolutions adopted appealed to the CCOO and USO to assist in forming a joint “Workers’ Coordinator” to plan actions to unite the struggles. Such a coordinating committee had already been formed by these three organisations in Vizcaya, under the name, Coordinadora de Organizaciones Sindicales (COS), and the formation of such an organisation would soon follow across the whole country under the same name.
Strike after strike followed one another without interruption, affecting virtually every sector of the Spanish working class: from the metal works to construction, transport, the agricultural labourers of Andalucía, teachers and professors, healthcare workers, the fishermen of Almería and so on. During the month of June, the entire industrial belt of Madrid once more entered the struggle.
Police repression, on many occasions assisted by fascist gangs organised by the state apparatus itself, also continued.
In the month of May the Mount Jurra (Navarra) events took place. On May the 9th, the Carlists of Carlos Hugo (a leftist split away from the old Requetés, a fascist militia) organised their annual gathering on this Navarran mountain, with various left wing groups attending. That day, fascist gangs dispersed the meeting of 3,000 people with live ammunition, killing two attendees, one of whom was a worker from Estella. The murderers were never tried and it later came out that they were financed directly by members of the Government, with Fraga occupying the post of Minister of Interior at the time. Tremendous outrage was generated across the entire country at these events.
The bourgeoisie was perfectly aware that the use of the whip to contain the movement (in Vitoria, Mount Jurra, etc.) was like throwing more fuel on the fire raging in society, and as such they finally decided to throw the stupidest and most reactionary elements, such as Arias Navarro and others, out of the government and to placed their bets exclusively on a government of reform. It was in this way the “superman”, Suárez, appeared on the scene for the first time as Prime Minister in July 1976.
The first Suárez Government and Political Reform
The new government led by Suárez decided to throw itself fully into negotiations with the opposition to secure the support of the workers’ leaders for the designs of the bourgeoisie.
Meanwhile however the demand for democratic rights for the historic nationalities was leading to major demonstrations in which the workers' organisations were playing an important role. In Catalonia, on the 11th September (the National Day of Catalonia), close to a million people took to the streets of Barcelona. Similar demonstrations took place in the Basque Country and elsewhere.
In the closing months of the year demonstrations demanding full amnesty for political prisoners continued without cessation. In September the police and the fascists killed three people at demonstrations in Hondarribia, Madrid and Tenerife. The last-named city was paralysed by a complete general strike. In the Basque Country assemblies, demonstrations and strikes were held in protest against the killings, demanding amnesty for everyone imprisoned for political reasons. In Vizcaya and Guipúzcoa alone more than 250,000 workers walked out. In the Basque Country, which stood at the head of the workers' struggles across the state, two general strikes were called in September. In late 1976 the monarchy of Juan Carlos celebrated its first anniversary with more than thirty workers and youth having been killed by the police, Guardia Civil and fascist gangs; hundreds more having been wounded (some gravely so) and with thousands more arrested.
On November 12 the COS called a general strike across Spain in protest at the government’s economic policies, which imposed salary caps and made it easier for bosses to sack employees. Despite the lack of preparation and organisation of the demonstration (it was called on a Friday with the grassroots being made aware only a few days prior or even, in some cases, on the same day) more than two million workers walked out, representing the biggest workers’ mobilisation since the days of the Republic. Some weeks earlier, the bus drivers of the EMT in Madrid had been on strike for eight days and at the end of November education workers declared a strike.
In the month of December Suárez’s government called a Referendum for Political Reform, wherein they proposed a series of extremely limited reforms, which the workers’ organisations boycotted. With this referendum, which was held without any democratic guarantees regarding the legalisation of the workers’ organisations, who were neither allowed to hold public meetings nor had any access to the media, the government sought to gain the legitimacy that it completely lacked in the street. Members of the búnker (the most recalcitrant Francoists) called for a “No” vote to avoid any kind of opening, whereas the government sought a “Yes” vote under the slogan: "If you want democracy, VOTE". Under these conditions it was natural that the referendum passed. Nevertheless, several million workers, principally in the main industrial centres of the country, abstained; and supporters of the búnker together scraped barely 2.6% of the vote.
As previously mentioned, in December of that year the PSOE held its 27th Congress under conditions of semi-toleration. However, despite the radical nature of the resolutions that were passed, the leadership of the party had in practice already demonstrated that it was about to begin a shift to the right, reflecting their fear that the stance of genuine Marxism would achieve a wide influence in the base of the party once the PSOE was legalised.
It was at this stage that the leadership of the party, under the pressure of international Social Democracy, decided to initiate a witch-hunt within the party to snuff out its Marxist wing. Thus, in January 1977, the PSOE and the Young Socialist branches in Álava, where the stance of Marxism had obtained its greatest strength, were dissolved. In the following months the Young Socialists were dissolved in Navarra, Sevilla, Cartagena, Madrid, Málaga and other areas, in the majority of which Marxists, identifying with the ideas of the newspaper Nuevo Claridad, were in the leadership. Throughout the year 1977 through to 1979 without interruption, hundreds of militants were bureaucratically expelled from the party, a large section of these identifying themselves with Nuevo Claridad, whose sale was banned at party meetings.
The consequence of these bureaucratic attacks was the practical dismantling and destruction of the Young Socialists organisation, as well as dozens of party branches across the country.
The Atocha massacre
The state apparatus had acquired a certain independence of action with respect to the bourgeoisie during the Franco period, demonstrating the inherent weakness of the latter. This led to the openly fascist elements often carrying out actions that did not always correspond to the needs, interests and necessary level of prudence that the Spanish bourgeoisie required at each moment. Once the bourgeoisie had reached an agreement with the workers’ leaders, a bloody fascist coup could not but provoke the anger of the masses, and such a scenario could ruin everything. The problem for the bourgeoisie was that it couldn’t do without this apparatus because it needed it intact to hold off the working class when faced with any eventuality. Only a government of the workers' parties themselves could clear out the fascists and reactionaries from the police, the Guardia Civil and the army.
At the beginning of January 1977, a sector of the state apparatus; in complicity with fascist bands and organisations, the Fuerza Nueva and the Soldiers of Christ the Lord; decided to take organised action in to create a climate of terror within the working class via a campaign of killings, to thus justify a coup by the military.
On January the 23rd, the Argentinean fascist, Jorge Cesarski, shot and killed a student from Madrid, Arturo Ruiz, at a pro-amnesty rally. That same day, the GRAPO (an armed leftist group, heavily infiltrated by the police) kidnapped Lieutenant General Emilio Villaescusa and the industrialist, Antonio María de Oriol. The next day another demonstration was held in protest at the murder of Arturo Ruiz, at which another young student, María Luz Nájera, was murdered by the police. Meanwhile, fascist gangs roamed the streets of Madrid provoking and terrorising the people.
On the night of that very same day, several fascist gunmen murdered five CCOO labour lawyers in cold blood at their Atocha Street offices in Madrid. The tension among the masses, which was already building upon news of the first two murders being disseminated, threatened to spill out into the open upon news of these latest crimes. The bourgeoisie and the government were stricken by panic at the prospect of the possible reaction of the masses.
Everyone was awaiting the call for a general strike while indignation and anger threatened to erupt at any moment. The only ones who could stop the masses were the leaders of the PCE and, to a lesser degree, the less influential PSOE. Instead of calling a general strike, these leaders put out the call for calm. Carrillo told the press that "we must support the government" and that "we must not respond to this provocation." These leaders did their utmost to defuse any protest whatsoever, and in this they succeeded. Nevertheless, more than 300,000 workers went on strike in Madrid on the 26th, the day of the burial of the victims. Major strikes and demonstrations also erupted in the Basque Country.
The PCE deployed a formidable number of stewards consisting of several thousand militants to avoid any incidents taking place at the massive demonstration of tens of thousands of workers and youth attending the funeral.
The conditions to launch a general strike and plan demonstrations to topple the bourgeois government and to prepare the transition to the socialist organisation of society, based on the tremendous strength of the working class, were even more favourable than in March to April 1976, and the working class would have acted as one man on the instruction of their leaders.
This incident finally convinced even the most apprehensive bourgeois of the need to legalise the PCE, despite the protests of the military caste, so that they might control the workers’ movement "from a position of legality".
The workers’ unions were finally legalised in February, along with the PSOE, and the PCE was legalised in April. Tens of thousands of workers and youth joined these organisations en masse, which grew from just over half a million members between them at the beginning of 1977, to nearly six million members by 1978.
The brutality of the police was evidenced once more in the Basque Country. In the month of May a week of action demanding full amnesty was called, which left six people dead. The leaders of the PSOE and the PCE, far from demanding the dissolution of the forces of repression, called for the people to trust in the police and refrain from carrying out any mobilisations. However, the Basque workers once again demonstrated their combative nature by holding mass assemblies and declaring a general strike, which received solid support.
We must emphasise again and again that the fundamental reason that the pre-revolutionary situation in Spain at the time did not lead to a successful socialist revolution was due to nothing less that the role played by the workers’ leaders and the policy pursued by the PCE in particular. This assessment is not one shared by Marxists alone. The official newspaper of British finance capital, the Financial Times, declared in an article in December 1978 that: "The support of the PCE, both for the first as the second administration of Suárez has been open and sincere. Mr. Carrillo was the first leader to give his support to the Moncloa agreement and inevitably the PCE has backed the government in parliament.
"But being the party which controls the majority trade union confederation CCOO and the best organized political party in Spain, its help has been crucial in some of the most tense moments of the transition. The active moderation showed by the communists before and after the massacre of workers in Vitoria in March 1976, [after] the shooting down of five communist lawyers in January 1977 and during the Basque general strike of May 1977 – just to name three examples – was decisive in order to avoid that Spain fall into an abysm of civil conflict and to allow the continuation of reforms. "
The general elections of 1977
In April 1977 the Suárez government called general elections, the first since February 1936.
These elections were held under conditions which were clearly disadvantageous for the workers' parties.
Firstly the Parliament was represented by two chambers: the Congress and the Senate, which was a device aimed at limiting genuine popular representation. However, unlike the elections to the Congress, the same number of senators was elected to the Senate for each of the provinces, without distinction. The manoeuvre was clear: to give greater representation to the less populated regions where the vote of the working class – concentrated in the large industrial centres of the big cities – was lower, and thus torpedo any initiative that was not to the liking of the bourgeoisie by Congress, where the workers’ parties had a greater possibility of obtaining a majority.
Secondly, only over 21’s were able to vote, thus marginalising some 2 million youths aged 18 to 21, who would have voted overwhelmingly for the workers' parties. One million emigrants were also excluded from voting, as they again would have overwhelmingly leaned to the left.
The electoral offering of the bourgeoisie was Suárez’s Union of the Democratic Centre (UCD), which brought together the “new democrats”. The Francoist old guard were grouped around the Popular Alliance (AP), led by Fraga. Both groups received billions of pesetas from businessmen and bankers for their campaigns. Furthermore, from its position within the government, the UCD held control of all public media outlets.
The UCD got 34.7% of the votes and the AP 8.2%. The PSOE obtained 30% of the vote, the Popular Socialist Party of Tierno Galván (which later merged with the PSOE) took another 4.5% and the PCE got 9.2%. We can see therefore, that despite everything, the PSOE, PCE and PSP took more votes combined than the UCD and AP and swept the board in the big cities and industrial centres. If these results had been combined with the votes of the youths and emigrants who were excluded from the elections, their victory would have been overwhelming.
It is not difficult to comprehend why the UCD emerged victorious. After many months the strike movement had not reached a decisive result due to the refusal of its leaders, particularly those of the PCE, to generalise the struggle. This meant that a large section of the masses began to turn their gaze to other options. The confused and ambiguous democratic aspirations of a section of the population, which was newly awakened to political life – the millions of small traders, peasants, housewives, pensioners, civil servants, teachers, middle class layers and the most politically backward layers of the working class – were easy prey to the demagoguery of the UCD, which apparently represented "the path of least resistance" and the easiest route to democracy. It was a vote of fear, indecision and uncertainty for the future, which was reinforced on account of the fact that nobody had pointed the way forward to a clear alternative. The fact that both before and during the electoral campaign, the leaders of the PSOE and the PCE themselves had sung all manner of eulogies to Suárez, claiming that he and the King had brought democracy to Spain, also served as a decisive factor. Instead of exposing these bourgeois “democrats” before the masses; instead of educating the working class to trust only in its own strength, organisation and consciousness, and to teach distrust in all of the promises and “democratic” demagoguery of the UCD; they offered only class collaboration and assisted in giving the non-existent “progressive bourgeoisie” a makeover.
The electoral defeat of the PCE has an entirely political explanation. The entire policy of Carrillo before the election consisted in making one concession after another (accepting the monarchy, accepting the exhibition of the fascist national flag at public events, support for Suárez, etc).
Furthermore the links between the party and Stalinism also prevented the PCE from connecting with layers of the working class who completely rejected the bureaucratic regimes existent in the USSR and Eastern Europe.
In the left-wing camp there existed two major options: either the PCE, which had hundreds of thousands of dedicated activists, or the PSOE, which despite its lower membership nevertheless connected with the historical memory of a very important layer of workers and youth. At bottom the political differences which existed between the leaders of the PSOE and the PCE were insignificant. The support that the PSOE received from the Socialist International; the fact that it was not tied down with the dead weight of Stalinism; and that it appeared to be able to come to power via the ballot box without provoking the forces of reaction, along with its historical legacy, enabled the PSOE to obtain far higher levels of electoral support than the PCE.
In any case, for Marxists, elections under conditions of bourgeois democracy have a relative value and this is true to an even greater degree in Spain of 1977. The results did not reflect the real balance of forces, which were extremely favourable for the working class and the liquidation of capitalism.
The Socialist Party emerged as the largest workers' party of the working class, clearly winning in Asturias, Andalucía, Barcelona, ??Vizcaya, Valencia, Zaragoza, Alicante, Guipúzcoa etc. In Madrid, the votes of the workers' parties combined represented 53% compared to 47% of the UCD and AP.
The Catalan bourgeois nationalists and the PNV (Basque Nationalist Party) took a significant percentage of the votes on account of the abandonment of the struggle for national rights in Catalonia and the Basque Country by the PSOE and PCE. Nevertheless, the PSOE emerged as the largest party in both communities.
At any rate, the UCD did not manage to achieve an absolute majority in parliament and they were forced to rely on the parliamentary crutch the PSOE and the PCE would soon offer them.
The Moncloa Pacts
In the context of the international crisis, the economic crisis that gripped the Spanish State in mid-1977 reflected the limits to which capitalism could further develop the productive forces. The closure of thousands of businesses, which left an additional one million workers unemployed at the end of the year, was on the one hand a reflection of the weakness of Spanish capitalism and on the other reflected the strike of investment by the employers and the robbery of the nation’s wealth through the flight of billions of pesetas worth of capital to Switzerland and other countries.
For decades Spanish capitalism had developed on the basis of protecting its domestic market, the provision of cheap credit by the state, and by keeping the working class under the heel of the military jackboot – all of this in the context of a major boom in the world economy. In the new situation of profound crisis however, in which world markets had shrunk significantly and in which there was ferocious competition between different bourgeoisies for markets, the less competitive economies such as that of Spain came off worse. The Spanish capitalists demonstrated to be totally powerless in the face of this situation.
Inflation reached 30% by the end of the year, and in the months of June and July reached an annualised figure of 47%.
Following the elections, in June Suárez devalued the peseta by 20% to stimulate exports but such a measure, in the context of stagnant production, only served to increase the price of imports, further spurring inflation. The devaluation only made sense when accompanied by an austerity plan to freeze wages and to increase the rate of profit for the capitalists, such that investment might increase. But the underlying problem was the lack of competitiveness of the Spanish economy due to the lack of investment in technological modernisation. To the extent that the bourgeoisie were unwilling to take this step, the only alternative left was to attack the wages and living standards of the working class.
For this reason, the bourgeoisie tirelessly sought after a “social pact” favourable to its interests. The problem lay in the strength of the workers’ movement. A frontal assault on the living standards of workers, at the time, would have increased social tension to levels that would be intolerable for the system; making it essential for the bourgeoisie to secure the support and collaboration of the workers’ leaders for their plans.
Throughout the months of August and September the government undertook all kinds of meetings with political parties and trade unions. The proposals of the social pact, referred to as the “Moncloa Pact” after the location of its signature at the seat of government, were as follows: wages must grow at levels below the government’s official inflation figures (which were far below the real inflation figures); freezing of public spending and the reduction of the public deficit; the reform of labour laws to increase flexibility, which took the form of companies being allowed to fire up to 5% of their workforce if wage increases exceeded the agreed maximum (which in practice meant freedom to dismiss workers); and a timid reform of taxation. The leaders of the PSOE, the PCE and the CCOO fully supported this pact. The UGT initially opposed them however, reflecting the pressure from below.
The opposition of the working class was overwhelming. Throughout the month of November demonstrations were called by the UGT and other unions in the major cities against the Moncloa Pact, for the defence of living standards and against rising employment. Even many sections of the CCOO union joined the opposition against the Moncloa Pacts.
The workers’ leaders did their best to demobilise and disillusion the workers. The arguments put forward were along the lines of: "Now that we have democracy, we have to pitch in to take the country forward; we must work together if we don’t want to provoke the military", and so on. The plans that the bourgeoisie were impotent to apply in the final years of the dictatorship were now being achieved under the aegis of “democracy”. And in this work they relied entirely on the collaboration of the left leaders.
Carrillo claimed that "with these measures, in 18 months we will emerge from the crisis." The reality was that, after 18 months unemployment had reached more than a million and a half and the purchasing power of workers continued to fall.
In the end the leadership of the UGT also put their signatures to the pact and the impact on workers’ living standards soon made itself felt. By the end of 1977 workers’ wages had lost 10% of their purchasing power.
This would be the first of a series of social pacts which, far from reducing unemployment, only served to maintain the rate of profit for the capitalists, to reduce the standard of living of the masses and to demoralise the working class – who having witnessed an opportunity to radically transform society within their grasp, saw the same opportunity irretrievably lost thanks to the policy of class collaboration of their leaders.
The question of the autonomous communities
The atmosphere of malaise present in the whole of society expressed itself among the masses through demands for autonomy for the various regions and nationalities of the State. This movement acquired formidable strength in the autumn of 1977, and would persist until the end of the UCD governments.
Unprecedented mass demonstrations took place. In the Basque Country there were innumerable demonstrations involving hundreds of thousands of people. In Barcelona, ??the Diada (the “National Day”) of 11th September 1977 attracted one and a half million demonstrators.
It is noteworthy that even in those areas where the phenomenon of nationalism or “autonomism” had barely existed historically, this phenomenon now developed with an unheard of vigour. Hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated in Valencia, Andalucía, Galicia, Castile, León etc. On 4th December, at a demonstration of 200,000 people demanding autonomy for Andalucía in Malaga, the police killed a young CCOO worker, García Caparrós. Clashes between workers and police reached such a pitch that the government declared a "state of emergency" for three days in Malaga.
Lenin explained that the phenomenon of nationalism is “a question of bread". This expression corresponded precisely to the situation in Andalucía. The main demands that were put forward at each pro-autonomy demonstration were for land reform, the return of emigrants, the eradication of illiteracy and the development of culture, and an end to unemployment.
The labour leaders failed to explain that the root of these problems lay in the very existence of capitalism itself and that only socialism could put an end to poverty and misery, by linking the struggle for greater autonomy for the regions and nationalities to the socialist transformation of the society.
The decentralisation of state powers (the “State of autonomous communities” as it is referred to in Spain) ended up going much further than the Spanish bourgeoisie had ever intended not only in the scope of the powers devolved to the regions, but also by its extension to all the regions of the State, and not only to the historical nationalities of Catalonia, the Basque Country and Galicia. The only explanation for this is the fear that the bourgeoisie felt before a mass movement of such size that threatened to completely slip out of their control at each turn.
But there was another political reason involved. By opting for a “one size fits all” approach and granting a regime of, albeit limited, autonomy to other regions of the state, the Spanish bourgeoisie hoped to dilute and weaken the pressure welling up from Catalan and Basque nationalism.
The labour movement gets organised
In early 1978 the first union elections were held in which workers were able to choose their own representatives for the Workplace Committees. The victory for the class-based unions, the UGT and the CCOO, which together took over 70% of trade union delegates, was resounding. Despite the salary caps accepted by the union leaders, the workers' struggles continued raging with every new agreement, with particularly noteworthy general strikes in the metal and construction industries. Strikes and demonstrations against the rising cost of living, which continually eroded the purchasing power of workers’ wages (between 4 and 6% in 1978), were also numerous.
Although, overall, the number of strikes and working days lost due to labour disputes decreased in 1978 when compared to 1977 and 1976, the number of workers involved, at 3.8 million or 32% of all wage workers, was much higher than in previous years and reflected the continually racing pulse of society. Unlike in previous years however, the demands now were almost entirely economic in nature.
Around this time the UGT and the CCOO reached their historic peak of organisation, reaching 5 million affiliated workers between the two organisations or almost 50% of the entire working class, a level of union organisation altogether unknown in Spain up to that point and which, even today, has not been surpassed.
Throughout 1978 Spanish politics centred on two questions: the demand of the workers' parties for the calling of municipal elections and the drafting of the Constitution.
Cities and towns across the country were still governed by the same Francoist mayors that were in place under the dictatorship. Municipal governments, which were intensely hated by the masses, constituted a tremendous lever of power in the hands of the local bosses.
Corruption, waste, the degradation and marginalisation of working class communities, the lack of any basic infrastructure, lack of cultural and sports centres, kindergartens and retirement homes etc. had forged a significant popular movement in the hundreds of Neighbourhood Associations (AAVV) established by leftist organisations and which organised thousands of workers, housewives and young people in their ranks. The AAVV’s constituted genuine organs of popular representation and working class women in particular played a major role in their initiation and organisation. Thousands of women, which until the transition had been forgotten and crushed by family routine and "housework", were re-forged as true popular leaders in the towns and communities in those years.
Despite the continued pressure of the PSOE, the PCE and the Neighbourhood Associations, the UCD government resisted calls for municipal elections, knowing full well that they would be overwhelmed in the big cities and that the artificial nature of their apparent strength would be revealed. Such a scenario would give new impetus to the struggle of the masses, encouraged by the victory of the workers' parties, and would make a victory for the PSOE and PCE, following the approval of the Constitution, more likely in the legislative elections planned for early 1979. For this reason there was no attempt to convoke municipal elections until the spring of that year, after the legislative elections were safely out of the way.
The drafting of the Constitution, aimed at regulating bourgeois democracy in the Spanish State, focused the attention of thousands of workers in 1978. Even as late as 1977 the PSOE were continuing to agitate for a republic as against the monarchy. But this last trace of “radicalism” would soon be diluted until it too finally disappeared – in early 1978 the party fully accepted the principle of a “constitutional” monarchy headed by Juan Carlos.
The leaders of the PSOE and the PCE harped on continually that the only guarantee for “democratic stability” was the approval of the Constitution. They were quick to forget that these democratic liberties were not gifted by anyone but were conquests achieved through the sacrifice and blood of the working class following forty years of dictatorship. The workers’ leaders, unable to understand the class character of the state and totally imbued with what Marx called "parliamentary cretinism", believed that a written constitution, which in writing conceded specific, more or less formal, democratic liberties, would be a guarantee, against which any threat of a military coup would be scuppered. They furthermore insisted that the Constitution would guarantee "the right to work, to adequate housing, to freedom of speech and free elections" etc. The bourgeois were more than happy to guarantee and promise anything, as long as their rule over society was not threatened or undermined. At any rate, they installed numerous “safeguarding clauses” of a Bonapartist character into the text of the constitution, just in case the workers’ leaders proved incapable of containing the working class at any given moment. These included:
· The maintenance of the Senate, which permanently threatened to veto any progressive decisions of the Congress;
· Entrusting important emergency powers to the King, which at any given moment could serve as a point of reference for all the forces of reaction;
· Denial of the right of self-determination for the nationalities;
· The power for judges to suspend the rights and liberties of individuals and parties considered a threat to the capitalist system;
· The recognition of the power to declare a state of emergency or of siege if bourgeois “national security” were ever threatened, which would see all democratic rights immediately annulled.
As we can see these are not mere trifles and their real significance is to be able to hold back and repress the struggles of the working class in case of a real threat to the domination of the capitalist class, by “constitutional and democratic means”.
The referendum was approved on the 6th December 1978, although abstention reached 35% of the population. The affirmative vote of the workers was a reflection of their rejection of the dictatorship of the past, and their trust that, as their leaders had explained, the Constitution would serve to better secure their recently won democratic freedoms.
The legislative and municipal elections of 1979
The first six months of 1979 witnessed the last great movement of the Spanish working class in the period of the transition. The impetus for the upturn in the strike wave was the continual rise in the cost of living and the attempts of the bosses to move onto the offensive at the first symptom that the struggle of the working class had begun to stagnate. From early January, virtually every sector was swept into the struggle with irresistible momentum. The number of workers involved in these strikes numbered 5.7 million, almost 60% of wage workers in the entire Spanish state, with some 171 working hours lost for every striker. The workers’ leaders, instead of taking the opportunity to re-launch the struggles against the government and the employers, accepted the government imposed salary caps when the latter refused to negotiate, and formed pacts behind the backs of the workers, shipwrecking most of the struggles.
It is in this context that the general elections of 1st March 1979 were held. Against all the odds the UCD was returned to power as the party of government, despite having lost its absolute majority. The explanation for the PSOE’s failure, having only taken a similar percentage to that in the previous election, lies principally in their lack of clear opposition to the UCD government. Sections of the population (mainly from the middle classes) could see no fundamental difference between one and the other. Important layers of the working class, and especially the youth, having seen their expectations bitterly betrayed now opted for abstention, which also favoured the UCD. With no class alternative to the problems facing the autonomous communities, a whole plethora of small nationalist groups, of both a left and right wing character, won sufficient votes to gain seats in Parliament. Nevertheless, the total number of votes obtained by the PSOE and the PCE was greater than the combined vote of the UCD and the CD (previously the AP), but the trickery of the electoral setup allowed the latter to walk away with more deputies.
In the municipal elections of 3rd April however the victory of the workers’ parties in the big cities (Madrid, Barcelona, ??Valencia, Seville, Zaragoza, Málaga and others ) was crushing. The combined votes of the PSOE and PCE gave victory to left wing mayors in the most important municipalities across the country, a result which represented the first clear electoral victory over the UCD.
The internal crisis in the PSOE - The abandonment of Marxism
In 1979 an open struggle broke out in the PSOE over whether or not the party defended the ideas of Marxism.
From the beginning of 1977, the leadership of PSOE had unleashed a genuine witch hunt inside the party against those militants who had consistently defended the ideas of Marxism within the party and who had opposed the consensus and political pacts that they formed with the bourgeoisie. This led to the virtual destruction of the Young Socialists and in many areas the dissolution of dozens of party branches; several hundred members being expelled and denied the democratic right to appeal to the party congress.
Persecution against left-wing elements even extended to the UGT. In late 1978 the UGT dissolved its branches in Navarra and Bandajoz on account of their being lead by Marxists opposed to the social pacts.
In May of that year Felipe González announced to the press that he was "no longer a Marxist" and that he felt that the label ought to be removed from the party’s statutes as well. The grassroots immediately protested however as hundreds of branches inundated the PSOE headquarters with resolutions reaffirming the Marxist and revolutionary character of the party.
The 28th Congress was scheduled for late May 1979, and was due to settle this point and elect a new leadership.
The fight around a single word –"for or against Marxism" – was no mere semantic debate. What was really at stake was an attempt to abandon the revolutionary and class character of the party on the part of the leadership.
In practice, the leadership had long since abandoned Marxism and had slipped into a policy of opportunism and reformism (the theory and practice of conciliation and collaboration between the classes), which contributed to the demoralisation of a large number of workers and youth who had placed such hopes in PSOE leading a profound social change. It was precisely this atmosphere of general apathy and frustration that had eroded the party’s membership and weakened the pressure of the rank and file on the leadership. As such the leaders of the party became more and more detached from the ranks, leaving them completely exposed to the influence of the bourgeoisie and bourgeois “public opinion”, which pushed them still further to the right.
The tragedy was that the party lacked any genuinely Marxist tendency, at this juncture in its history with sufficient influence in the party’s ranks to pose an alternative to the official leadership.
Opposition to the leadership as such fell to those sincere elements (such as Gómez Llorente and others) who stood not so much on the position of Marxism as between Marxism and reformism. These elements however lacked sufficient willpower and decision to take the reins of the party when the opportunity presented itself.
It has to be said that the 28th Congress was one of the most democratic in the history of the PSOE. Some one thousand delegates, elected directly by local groups, were in attendance. Although the Executive’s management received the approval of 68% of the delegates, the official position of the leadership was rejected in the commission on the ideological stance of the party, and the position of their critics adopted: "The Socialist Party reaffirms its character as a mass, democratic, federal , class-based and Marxist party". The ideological position of these critical voices was later voted on by the full membership and obtained 61% of the votes of the delegates. Faced with a defeat of such magnitude, Felipe González announced his decision not to stand for re-election to the Executive. The opposition then met to weigh the possibility of putting forward an alternative list (Tierno Galván, Bustelo, Pablo Castellanos and Gómez Llorente). The majority of conference delegates took it for granted that the critics would put forward their own list as they appeared to have every guarantee of walking away with an electoral majority. But precisely at this moment of decision, one of the most tragic events in the recent history of the party took place. The opposition didn’t dare take the next step and announced instead the need to create a “Management Committee” to convoke an Extraordinary Congress, which would choose a new leadership to “salvage the unity of the party”. Thus a historic opportunity to redirect the PSOE towards a Marxist path was lost, with the all the tremendous consequences that were entailed.
The Extraordinary Congress was held in early October. The party officials managed to introduce a change, which passed by unnoticed, into the statutes of the party altering the way in which delegates were elected. No longer would they represent the local groups but were elected instead from the provincial and regional federations, with the head of delegation voting for the entire province. In this way rank and file representation was radically narrowed. On the other hand, the officialdom resorted to all kinds of subterfuges: assemblies that were deliberately poorly convened, placing limits on debate, etc. but above all the result was owed to the fact that the critics failed to fully prepare for a serious battle. This allowed the Executive headed by Felipe to win without any difficulty, and in the resolution on Marxism a compromise was reached although with the “Marxist” appellation disappearing from the statutes of the PSOE. The most significant effect of the Congress however was the extraordinary strengthening of the bureaucratic apparatus of the party, which obtained far greater independence from the grassroots; besides an exceptional opportunity to sharply shift the PSOE to the left being lost.
The Workers' Statute and the AMI
During the autumn of 1979 Spain witnessed the last great struggles of the movement of the workers and youth under the UCD government, the defeat of which would deepen the retreat of the labour movement until the electoral victory of the Socialist Party.
In September, the UCD government submitted its draft “Workers’ Statute” to parliament. This law was widely contested by the ranks of the unions, as it represented a clear backward step – in many cases even with respect to the labour laws that the workers had fought for and won under the Franco regime – on issues such as casualisation, termination of employment, holidays, trade union rights, retirement, etc., whilst certain sectors of the labour market remained entirely unregulated (civil service, domestic work, etc.) On October 14th, 400,000 workers gathered in Madrid in response to the call of the CCOO. There were general strikes in Granada, the Basque Country and Asturias as well as stoppages in many workplaces; resolutions flooded in from hundreds of workplace union branches across the country against the Statute. The union leaders never posed the question of generalising and taking the struggle to its end however and instead, like the leaders of the workers' parties in parliament, limited their attempts to applying pressure aimed at improving the law as, in their own words, they had “no intention of overthrowing the Suárez government.”
The frustration and anxiety that existed in every corner of society also broke out among the youth. Hundreds of thousands of students in secondary education, and to a lesser extent in the Universities, took to the streets in the most significant student protests in the history of Spain up to that point against the Teaching Institutes Statute and the University Autonomy Law (LAU), which the UCD had drafted. These reactionary laws gave a tremendous impetus to privatisation of public education and the cutting of budgets, whilst they failed to advance the democratic rights of students by so much as an inch.
The centre of the struggle was Madrid but the provinces also bore witness to significant mobilisations during the struggle. “Student Coordinators”, charged with organising the struggle, were formed by representatives elected in assemblies. These bodies organised strikes and demonstrations across the entire country on the 5th, 6th and 7th of December. Police repression was brutal with dozens of students injured in the custody of the police. The police themselves were assisted by fascist bands in attacking the demonstrations. On the 6th of December a rally of students in Madrid attracted 25,000 participants.
The height of the struggle was reached on the 13th of December. The strike was solid across the schools and faculties. By the morning more than 100,000 students had gathered at the demonstration in Madrid.
The same afternoon, the CCOO had convoked its own demonstration against the UCD’s “Workers’ Statute” and in solidarity with the struggle of the Chrysler workers (now Peugeot Talbot) following the sacking of eight workers.
300,000 workers and thousands of students attended the union demonstration. At the moment at which the parallel student demonstration attempted to merge with the union march, which was beginning to dissolve, the police launched a brutal attack firing live ammunition upon the protesters and killing two young students and injuring others. The police detailed dozens of students across the entire state.
The Communist leaders were presented with an opportunity to call a general strike against the “Workers’ Statute”, the “Teaching Institute Statute” and the “Autonomy Law” after the enormous display of power and indignation by the workers’ and students’ unleashed by these cowardly killings, but they once again failed to take the initiative. With a broad mobilisation, a general strike being the obvious form to take, the leaders of the left could have brought down the Suárez government and forced new elections which the workers’ parties would have almost certainly won.
Despite this impasses, more student demonstrations were called the next day across the entire Spanish State in protest at the murders and detentions, and workers went on strike in many workplaces.
The student protests didn’t end at Christmas but continued through to the new year with mobilisations in January and February 1980. At the same time that the struggle drew to an end, a young student and leader of the movement, Yolanda González, was kidnapped and murdered by two fascist gunmen of the Fuerza Nueva. Again, the workers leaders failed to respond to the stupor that gripped millions of workers and youths in the face of the latest crime of the fascists. Finally, isolated from the workers’ movement, each student mobilisation was exhausted bit by bit.
Scarcely had the Workers’ Statute been approved when the UGT signed another social pact with the government and the bosses, the “Inter-Sectoral Agreement Framework” (the AMI), which revolved around salary caps and a driving down of living standards along the same lines as the Moncloa Pacts. In 1979 alone workers’ salaries lost on average 4% of their purchasing power. Although the CCOO did not, on account of the opposition from below, initially sign the AMI, neither did they pose working class struggle against a new accord as an alternative.
The workers’ movement begins to ebb
1979 marked a point of inflexion in the social and political activity of the masses. All the energies of the bourgeoisie had, since the fall of the dictator, been focussed on utilising the workers’ leaders to save Spanish capitalism and restore their control over society little by little. The effectiveness of this policy with respect to the workers’ leaders would have dramatic consequences.
And yet, what struggles these years had seen! How much hope had they been filled with! For the first time in their lives, millions of workers, women and youth had seen themselves as the protagonists of their own history; taking their destiny into their own hands. They had smashed the inertia and routine in society that condemned them to an existence of little more than a cog in the social machine. Forgotten and exploited, brutalised and humiliated by the capitalist system, they had felt that, finally, all that could be changed.
Millions of people joined parties, unions, AAVV’s, APA’s and youth clubs, marched on demonstrations and stood up and fought. It was precisely when they engaged in mass action that each feel their greatest individuality and the distinct quality of their own personality. The greatest qualities of the human personality bust forth, announcing the arrival of a new society: solidarity and unity, sacrifice and bravery, dignity and pride as workers, a new respect for women comrades, the struggle for an authentically human world. These were the feelings and qualities felt in the hearts of millions of men and women of our class between 1976 and 1979. And with this foundation, with this raw material, nothing and nobody could have stopped the socialist transformation of society that lay within reach, had the leaders of the PSOE and the PCE only taken a conscious lead in directing all these energies to such an end.
From the fall of the dictator, the broad mass of workers, women and youth had entrusted everything in their leaders. Reluctantly, they took as good coin the policies of "consensus, tightening your belts, take sacrifices to save democracy", etc. with the hope that all these efforts might serve some purpose, that they might guarantee a dignified life, and with the hope of a better future to come. But in the course of a few short months the workers, peasants and housewives came to understand that, despite the calming and demagogic phrases, the change that had taken place had not gone far enough.
Living conditions did not improve. The same people were occupied their old posts: the same bureaucrats, the same speculators; the same police, military and torturers; the same bankers, bosses and landlords. The workers were confused, disorientated and demoralised.
The new economic crisis looming large over the capitalist nations that year caused the situation to deteriorate even further. The phenomenon of mass unemployment, barely known a couple of years previously, took workers by surprise and stood as a constant threat hanging ominously over them. Inflation (at 16% in 1979) devoured wages, and in the majority of cases workers’ struggles went down to defeat.
All these experiences had the most dramatic effect on workers and youth. Even the most fighting and self-sacrificing elements returned to their homes burnt out and frustrated. “They have fooled us, politics is bullshit, they are all the same”. This was the fruit of the so-called “democratic consensus”. As they had entered the struggle hundreds of thousands of workers, women and youth now departed from the field of political and industrial struggle, tired and disoriented. Membership of political parties and trade unions fell in tatters. It was in this period that “apathy” and “getting by” became the fashion. The years of 1979-1982 were years of profound ebb in political and trade union activity of the masses. It was a period of semi-reaction at all levels of society.
The second UCD Government
After the March elections, the government of the UCD was left once more without an absolute majority. The dire economic situation demanded drastic measures, but Suárez knew full well that any attempt to launch a frontal attack against the conditions of the masses could have unpredictable consequences; in fact, as we have already seen, 1979 witnessed impressive demonstrations. For this reason Suárez had to base his entire policy on a permanent pact with the workers’ parties and the unions. He was constantly forced to recur to a policy of patching things up, which of course failed to satisfy anyone – neither the working class on the one hand nor the bourgeoisie on the other could be satisfied with such a policy.
His economic policy involved a constant yo-yoing between an inflationary policy (stimulating the issue and circulation of money to encourage economic activity) and a deflationary policy (cuts in spending and limitation of the amount of cash in circulation so as to lower inflation).
The impotence of the Suárez government in the economic field provoked a growing unease among the ruling class. The only solution lay in deepening the cuts in workers’ living standards to increase profit margins. But such a task was impossible without the consent of the workers’ leaders, who were at the same time compelled to demand concessions so as not to completely lose control over the working class. As such the requirements of the bourgeoisie were never satisfied to the degree that they demanded.
This situation was at the root of the permanent crisis of the UCD and the Suárez government throughout these years. The UCD government was weak and ridden with crisis from the very beginning.
To the extent that the pressure of the masses decreased, as explained previously, the impatience and irritation of the bourgeoisie with Suárez became daily more evident.
The economy grew by a mere 1.5%, followed by a figure of just 0.5%. Unemployment grew by 20% and with the growth in unemployment so too grew the discontent of the bourgeoisie for their “superman”. As such the bourgeois press began accusing Suárez of incompetence and posed the need for a reshuffle within the ranks of the UCD, where division and criticism against Suárez were also multiplying.
In 1979 the autonomy statutes for the Basque Country and Catalonia were approved by the government and put to referendum. Despite the fact that these statutes did not recognise the right to self-determination, they were nevertheless approved. However, in the Basque Country 40% of the population abstained. In the Basque regional elections in 1980, the PSOE paid a high price for the policy that it had pursued with regard to the national question. From being the largest party in 1977 it fell to third place, behind the PNV and the HB, which came in second. In the Catalan elections of the same year they also sharply declined, coming behind the bourgeois nationalist CiU.
The question of the autonomy statute for Andalucía also polarised opinion across the country. In this instance the PSOE and the PCE demanded that the Andalusian statute should be governed by Article 151 of the Constitution – i.e. on the same footing as the Basque, Catalan and Galician regions – rather than Article 143, as was planned for the other regions and which fewer less regional powers. A campaign of mass mobilisations unfolded across the whole of Andalucía against the aims of the UCD. Their weakness forced them to hold a referendum in February 1980 in which the Andalusians themselves could decide the question of whether or not to opt for Article 151. The popular response was impressive, despite the millions spent on campaigning by the UCD for the population to abstain. The UCD government found itself hugely discredited and the discontent within its own ranks and in the bourgeois press was only reinforced.
Amid this atmosphere the PSOE put forward a motion of censure against the UCD government in parliament. Suárez responded by incorporating many of the leading dissidents in the UCD into his government. This served no purpose other than to further increase the tensions in the government and prepare the complete wreckage of the “centre”, which would end in the resignation of Suárez in February 1981.
ETA’s offensive and the extreme right
It is a social law that the petty bourgeoisie takes to the centre stage of events when the mass of the working class takes a step back from the front line of the class struggle. This law was given a very clear expression in the years 1979 to 1982 with on the one hand the growth of ETA and on the other the savage terrorism of the fascist gangs.
In the years 1976 to 1977 a lively debate was taking place in the ranks of ETA around whether or not to lay down their arms. The fact that ETA had continued to carry out acts of individual terrorism up to that date, and with a certain level of support within some sections of Basque society, owes itself to three factors: the brutal and indiscriminate repression conducted by the armed bodies of the state, which was redoubled in those years and which nurtured a deep hatred towards those bodies among the population; the abandonment of the defence of the national democratic rights of the Basque people on the part of the workers’ parties, particularly of the right of self-determination, the implementation of which would have eliminated at one stroke the political arguments of the Basque nationalists; and finally the tumultuous social and economic situation which was the fruit of the economic crisis of capitalism. Thus while the period 1974 to 1977 saw ETA attacks leave 63 people dead, the period 1978 to 1981 saw 265 people killed.
Alongside the activity of ETA we also witnessed in those years the poisonous irruption of terrorism by fascist bands, fuelled by sectors of the state apparatus and the most abject and desperate sections of the bourgeoisie. Dozens of workers, youth and members of the Basque nationalist left fell into the hands of these hyenas of big capital. There were numerous instances of beatings and attacks carried out by these thugs, composed for the most part of the sons of the military and of the fascists, the police, the civil guards and lumpen elements. Dozens of local workers were attacked and burned.
The workers’ leaders, far from calling for mobilisations of the masses to crush these fascist gangs, a relatively simple task in the circumstances, made “appeals for calm”, “don’t allow yourselves to be provoked” etc. – which only further emboldened these gangs and encouraged police repression.
The coup plots: 23-F
This situation of deadlock in which the workers’ struggle failed to reach a definitive outcome or was semi-paralyzed, while the bourgeoisie was unable to establish order in society; constantly showing its weakness and relying on the support of the workers' parties. A situation of disorder and instability was created that intensified during 1980 and especially at the start of 1981.
This situation was best expressed by the caste of commanding officers o
f the army and the Civil Guard as well as the top police officials. These were mostly composed of clearly reactionary and fascist elements who hated the working class and its organisations to death. The army, and through it the officer caste, represents the armed wing of the bourgeoisie. But when the bourgeoisie shows signs of inability to secure the stability of the system, the officers feel called upon "to bring order and save the country, given the inability of politicians". The entire transition was a hotbed of conspiracies and putchist rumours. Already in 1978, two senior officers of the Civil Guard and the army, Tejero and Saenz de Ynestrillas, known reactionaries at the time because of their openly fascist ideas, were discovered while planning a coup d’état, which they called Operation Galaxy. The most important aspect of this operation was the large number of officers who knew all about the conspiracy and said nothing to the authorities. The scandalous release of these two conspirators months later did nothing but encourage them to continue along the same route.
In reality, the bourgeoisie was the least interested in a coup d’état during those first years after the fall of the dictatorship, knowing full well that it could provoke a revolutionary explosion among the masses.
Paradoxically, the leaders of the workers’ parties, particularly those of the PCE, did nothing but try continuously to frighten the masses with "the danger of regression and a coup" if the workers went too far in their struggles. All this to justify their disastrous policy of class collaboration with the bourgeoisie.
However, the situation became increasingly tense in early 1981. The exhaustion and the unpopularity of the centre was increasing every day. The isolation of Suárez within the UCD and the contempt which rose among the decisive sectors of the bourgeoisie and the state apparatus led him to resign in early February. In a survey conducted by the magazine Cambio 16 at that time, 59% of respondents agreed with the resignation and 26% thought he should have resigned earlier. No less than 85% of the population was against the leader of UCD at the time of his resignation. It is therefore grotesque and shameful that right now there is an attempt to rewrite history praising Suárez and UCD, particularly by Felipe and Carrillo, when Suárez and subsequently the UCD left the scene of history hated and despised by millions of workers and youth.
It was in this context that the most serious of any coup attempt planned during the transition took place: the coup of February 23, 1981, or 23-F, as it has been recorded in popular memory.
During the election of Calvo Sotelo as the new president of the UCD government, replacing Suárez, dozens of civil guards occupied the Congress of Deputies at gunpoint. Meanwhile, General Milans del Bosch brought tanks out onto the streets of Valencia, taking control of the city, and prohibiting workers’ parties and trade unions.
There is no doubt that the main military leaders were aware of the preparations for the coup, including the inner circle of the King, in the person of General Armada, one of the planners of the coup, Head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, staunch monarchist and mentor of Juan Carlos in his youth.
In fact, the ambiguous attitude of the King in the early hours of the coup gave the appearance of royal support for the coup among a section of the army that did not know whether to join. It is still surprising that, while Tejero entered Congress at 6:20 pm, Juan Carlos did not come out publicly on television speaking out against the coup until after 12:00 midnight! Some try to justify the behaviour of the King saying that the television stations were occupied by the military until late that evening, but they conveniently forget that the Zarzuela Palace, the residence of Juan Carlos, has its own autonomous infrastructure capable of emitting television broadcasts.
Therefore, if the coup failed, it was not due to the democratic convictions of Juan Carlos, but because the decisive sectors of the bourgeoisie understood that it was premature, and that the risk of provoking a confrontation with the working class would be very dangerous to the bourgeoisie, and for that reason mobilized all their forces to end the adventure.
Grouped around such grotesque figures as Tejero and others, there was a consensus among the organizers of the coup to organize a Bonapartist government, similar to the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera in 1923, with the inclusion of both military and civilian participation. Most scandalous was the subsequent leaked interview, held days before the coup, between Armada and Enrique Mugica (then leader of the PSOE) where, apparently, the latter did not object to the need for a strong government with the participation of the military and of members of UCD and PSOE in order to "save the country". This showed how far the degeneration had gone for certain members of the party leadership, their loss of political perspectives and their identification with the bourgeois state, to give in to this kind of scandal which could have had serious consequences for the working class and its organizations.
Although the working class was caught by surprise by the coup, some circles, guided by sure class instincts, came to the conclusion that very day of the need for arms to defend against the coup. This happened in some working class villages of Andalusia, such as Badolatosa (where defence committees were organised at the entrances of the town, while neighbours exchanged shotguns and cartridges), as well as among the Asturian miners. Despite the confusion and the fact that the top union leaders do not put forward a single slogan, that evening and the following day there were strikes and assemblies in dozens of companies (Hunosa, Gijon, Aviles, Santander, Alava, Seville, Navarra Barcelona and Madrid), and in Catalonia the CCOO had planned to call a general strike the day after the coup.
The demonstrations that swept across the country on February 26, formally called by all parties but whose main contingent was made up of workers and their families, were the most massive in all history. More than three million people participated in them. Madrid, with a million and a half and Barcelona, with half a million, were the most numerous.
The agony of the UCD - The government of Calvo Sotelo
The replacement of Suárez with Calvo Sotelo did nothing to save the UCD; the latter lost credibility even faster than Suárez. The failure of the UCD in the Galician elections of October 1981 led to its internal collapse. However, these contradictions in the government and its party reflected the deep divisions within the ruling class on strategic and tactical issues. The most representative sector (the Bank and its monopolies) had by this time come to the conclusion of the inevitable split of the “centre” and it had opted in favour of a right-wing government formed around Fraga's People's Alliance.
The businessmen became increasingly impatient with Calvo Sotelo, whose politics did not diverge very far from Suárez's policy of patching things up. Even the signing of a new agreement with the trade unions, (the National Employment Agreement, ANE), near the end of 1981, which deepened the reduction of living standards, seemed insufficient.
At the time, inflation reached 15% and continued to escalate. In a period of 18 months, real wages were continuously reduced. For the first time, unemployment rose above two million unemployed.
In May 1981, the cooking oil scandal broke out, the poisoning of thousands of working class families, primarily in Madrid, due to the consumption of adulterated oil. As a result of the oil business owners' actions in collaboration with the administration of the UCD government, which did not try to control the scam of these unscrupulous capitalists, more than 2,000 died and 12,000 were afflicted.
The government of Calvo Sotelo was, despite its brevity, tremendously reactionary in regards to democratic rights. In the beginning of 1982, a law was adopted which limited the powers of the autonomous regions, the LOAPA (the Organic Law on the Harmonization of the Autonomy Process).
Calvo Sotelo's last political decision before the end of 1981 was to impose Spain's entry into NATO, turning a deaf ear to the protests of the majority of the population, which in turn earned him even more hatred from the majority of the youth and workers.
Political repression and reactionary and fascist plos, far from decreasing during these last months of agony, were accentuated even more.
The ETA prisoner Joseba Arregui died after the savage torture he was subjected to by the police. In May 1981, three young people were viciously murdered by the Civil Guard in Almería. The Almería Case filled the population with outrage, and the assassins served a few years in prison. In March 1982, the hated Civil Guard once again spilled the blood of the workers throughout the Andalusian countryside. Two young day labourers of Lebrija (Seville) were killed Civil Guard gunshots in Trebujena (Cádiz). All of the people of the region immediately declared a general strike, and the funeral was attended by more than 8,000 labourers of the whole region.
The trial of 23-F, which lasted months, made it clear that military justice, with the complicity of the government, never intended to study the matter in depth. The only ones convicted with significant sentences were the ringleaders: Armada, Milans and Tejero, who 10 years later were already free or only going to prison to sleep. The dozens involved, of the military and civilians, were either sentenced to symbolic sentences or acquitted.
The reassuring attitude of the leaders, refusing to mobilize the working class and the youth with each torture and assassination by the repressive bodies and the fascists, did nothing but encourage the latter and the clearly reactionary elements of the military caste.
A few months later, 100 army officials and the Civil Guard published a manifesto expressing their “understanding” of the coup members and came out against the democratization of the army and in favor of the "autonomy in regard to political power." Calvo Sotelo's only response was to give a few of those involved 14 days of house arrest.
As another example of the continuous provocations of the extreme right and the military caste, on May 23rd a group of fascists, consisting of civil guards and lumpen, stormed the headquarters of the Central Bank in Barcelona taking more than a hundred hostages and demanding the release of detainees in relation to 23-F. The true identity of the assailants, who were set free after a majority were detained by the GEO (Special Group of Operations), was never revealed.
The coup plots did not end on 23-F. During the political campaign, in October 1982, it was discovered that there was another plot to bring about a coup d'état before the elections, on October 27th. Obviously, all of this plotting was aborted by the bourgeoisie for the same reasons they abandoned the 23-F: the fear of a revolutionary response by the working class which despite the noticeable ebbing of the labour movement, the 40-year dictatorship under Franco had not been forgotten.
The electoral disaster in the Andalusian elections in May 1982, where the PSOE won a landslide victory, eventually accelerated the decomposition of the “centre”. A series of splits to the right and left in the UCD forced Calvo Sotelo to call early elections. Thus, the UCD, the main party of the Spanish bourgeoisie, ended up disintegrating altogether.
The general elections of October 1982 - Historic victory of the PSOE
After six years of “centre” rule , the working class masses, and above all, the middle class layers had enough time to understand through experience the false character of the centre. The collapse of the UCD reflected a new process of polarization to the right and to the left within Spanish society. The working class and various sections of the middle class had high hopes in the PSOE as an alternative to this situation. Everyone recognised the inevitable victory of the PSOE. After years of deep economic crisis, where the workers suffered defeat after defeat on the economic front, made them turn to the political front – in the electoral field –, to finally place their leaders in government.
Meanwhile, the PCE found itself in one crisis after the other. With a shift to the right caused by the course taken after the fall of the dictatorship, it seemed impossible for anyone to comprehend the programmatic differences between the PCE and the PSOE. This meant that when it came time for the working class masses to vote, they chose the largest party because they did not see any significant differences between the two. The situation of permanent crisis within the PCE led to resignations and splits, arriving at the elections of October 28th completely debilitated. It was a sad fate for a party that had been in the best conditions to lead the socialist revolutionary process in the Spanish state.
The elections of October 28, 1982 were a landslide victory for the PSOE. The more than ten million votes it received have remained unparallelled in any election in Spain’s history. Controlling 202 seats out of 350, the PSOE leadership was in the most exceptional conditions to begin the process of profound transformation of society craved by millions of workers and other oppressed layers of society.
The hopes and dreams of the early years of transition were rekindled among millions of men and women, among the workers and the youth.
A new era began in the Spanish state, and the “transition to democracy in Spain” was considered to have officially come to an end.
The revenge of history
Faced with the idyllic story of the Spanish transition that is provided to us, we must say that the reality was completely different.
The socialist transformation of society could have been carried out (and relatively peacefully), not only once but dozens of times, if in the front lines of the traditional working class organizations (PSOE, PCE, CCOO, and UGT) there had been truly revolutionary Marxist leadership.
In spite of the demobilization and depoliticization of the working masses caused by the effects of the Transition, and the relative economic stability of the 26 years that followed, which continued up until 2008, patch up but did not truly resolve the structural problems of Spanish society; today, the unprecedented economic crisis has torn apart these stitches, openly exposing to society the insoluble contradictions of Spanish capitalism.
The old demons of our contemporary history have been unearthed once again. The crisis has exposed the historical backwardness of the Spanish economy, the particularly reactionary nature of the bourgeoisie, the political and intellectual mediocrity of its political representatives. In addition to the rising polarization between the classes, the monarchy lost its credibility thus making way for the overwhelming advance of the republican tendencies in society. Last, but not least, we see the crisis of the State of autonomous communities develop
and the exacerbating of the national question with the strengthening of divergent tendencies in the historical nationalities, namely in Catalonia.
However the differences between the current situation with that of 40 years ago are notorious and make much more favorable the development of a more profound and successful revolutionary process against the capitalist system, upon reflection. The old mole of history has not been burrowing in vain.
In the 1970s, the official leadership of the left, which had just come out from the underground, abused their political and moral authority – grounded in years of clandestine activity, prison, torture, and exile – to impose their views of class collaboration on a young and politically inexperienced working class.
Today, the leaders of these organisations (especially the PSOE and the CCOO and UGT unions) are too widely discredited to play the same pernicious role they did in the past. The organization which now occupies the political space previously held by the PCE – United Left (IU) – has shifted to the left, in its base and a large portion of its cadres have imposed a critical review of the role played at the time by the leaders of the PCE. Currently, the IU leadership emphatically rejects the Constitution of 1978 and the monarchy, and participates in the frontline against the adjustment policies promoted by politicians of the PP-PSOE-CiU-PNV system.
Furthermore, the extraordinary political ferment and the revolutionary mood which led to the current crisis, has spurred the emergence of new political movements (PODEMOS, Marches for Dignity, "Let's Win back Barcelona"/ “Guanyem Barcelona”, etc.) of a radical left character, of hatred against the rich and the establishment which, despite their confused and incomplete political ideology, expresses the thirst of hundreds of thousands of people for a radical change in society.
On the other hand, the monarchy which had been reluctantly accepted by the majority of the population under the exhortations of the treacherous leadership of the left, is widely discredited nowadays and steeped in corruption scandals. The new king, Philip VI, will not enjoy the goodwill of the population as his decrepit father did 37 years ago.
Another favorable factor is the disappearance of the armed activity of ETA and the phenomenon of individual terrorism, which for decades played a pernicious role in damaging the extraordinary struggles of the Basque people and diverting attention from labour and grassroots struggles in the rest of the state, providing an excuse for the reaction to strengthen repression and attack democratic rights.
In fact, the disappearance of ETA and its armed activity, and its substitution with mass movements, was the the basic prerequisite for the defense of national-democratic rights of the Basque Country, Catalonia and Galicia – such as the right of self-determination – could find a increasingly favorable echo among the working class and the youth throughout the Spanish State, as is happening now.
Towards a republican, socialist, and federal constitutional process
The abdication of Juan Carlos and the enthronement of Felipe is an attempt to contain the crisis of the regime of 1978, which has now become widely unpopular.
It is no coincidence that the abdication of Juan Carlos took place a week after the European elections of May 25, which have revealed the extreme weakness of the guarantor parties of the regime and strengthening leftist trends in society, with a strong anti-capitalist and anti-monarchist character. This has set off the alarms of the old regime.
The economic oligarchy composed by the banks and large corporations and the upper echelons of the state, have completely failed to offer a future to millions of workers and citizens. Quite the opposite, the only thing they have in stock is unemployment, growing poverty, low wages, precariousness, emigration, the dismantling of social services, impunity and enrichment for the powerful, and increased judicial and police repression against struggling workers and youth. It is time for the people to raise their voice and take their destiny into their own hands. The extraordinary mobilisations of the last three years have given us a clear lesson: through mass movements anything is possible.
The tendency Lucha de Clases supports the opening of a new constituent process to overturn the current monarchical state, based on a bureaucratic apparatus that has remained virtually unchanged since the days of the Franco regime. We defend a republic based on the most advanced social conquests and democratic rights, including the right to self-determination for the national minorities, since the only union that interests us is the voluntary union of the peoples that make up the Spanish state.
However, we consider it impossible to move towards this type of state without simultaneously transforming the economic structures of the capitalist system, on the basis of which rest the reactionary and repressive forces opposed to development, to progress, and to the welfare of the majority of society.
Popular sovereignty cannot merely consist of a series of political rights listed on paper, but must be complemented with the collective ownership under workers’ management of the commanding heights of the economy (the large industrial, financial, private, and commercial property) and the natural resources of our lands, to plan them democratically in order to ensure everyone’s welfare and to meet the pressing social needs that the current system has generated.
Therefore, we must link the struggle for the Republic with the expropriation of these commanding heights of the economy, wresting them out of the hands of the 200 families that own them.
In short, we link the struggle for a democratic and modern Iberian federal republic, where the different peoples of these lands are united on an equal footing, with the struggle for the socialist transformation of society. Our alternative is summarized in the slogan of the Socialist Federal Republic.
"Life teaches", as Lenin liked to repeat. The depth of the organic crisis of the capitalist system will, on an international level, make it increasingly more evident to the working class that under capitalism there is no way out, and the need to expropriate the capitalists to organise a new society based on the interests of the vast majority of the population, the working class.
Once the mist of social apathy dissipates in the new period of struggle that has begun, the Spanish workers will recover their revolutionary traditions, and the labour movement in our country, and internationally, will bring to fruition the task that history has entrusted them with: the creation of a socialist society.