Metalworkers' strike in Cadiz: our strength is to fight as a class

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While the pandemic and the ecological disaster rage, the economic crisis is hitting us with skyrocketing prices, rising unemployment and precariousness, and in this context, the capitalists are squeezing us even more fiercely. We see it in Cadiz, where in the metal workers' agreement they intend to eliminate two extra payments, a loss of 200 euros per month.

The Bay of Cadiz is a horrifying portrait of the capitalist crisis: more than 40% unemployment, numerous companies closed down, the closure of AIRBUS Puerto Real, the closure of Delphi[1] .., young people forced to emigrate to Norway and other, supposedly “better-off” countries.

Against this threat to the life and future of all workers, the metalworkers are fighting with a firmness and combativity that has not been seen for a long time.

This is not the only struggle. The public employees of Catalonia demonstrated massively against the intolerable abuse of interim employment (more than 300,000 state workers are precarious); there are struggles in the railways of Mallorca, in Vestas (in the province Coruña) against 115 dismissals; Unicaja against more than 600 dismissals; the metal workers of Alicante; the protests in different hospitals against the dismissal of the workers contracted by COVID.

These struggles coincide with struggles in other countries: in the USA, Iran, Italy, Korea etc[2].

We want to express our solidarity with the workers in Cadiz. Their struggle contributes to breaking passivity and resignation, it expresses indignation at the outrages of this system, all of which can encourage the first steps of a proletarian response to the crisis and the barbarism of capitalism.

Extend the fight against the trap of isolation

In the collective agreement negotiations the employers proposed “freezing wages in 2020 and 2021, eliminating two extra payments, increasing working hours, creating a new category below the level of workers’ qualifications and not negotiating the wage rate for dangerous and toxic jobs” [3] . This is a brutal attack against which the unions tried to lower the tension with two sterile days of struggle; however, in the face of the unrest and combativity, they have ended up calling an indefinite strike since 16 November, which has been followed massively and has spread to the Bay of Gibraltar.

On the 17th and 18th, radical trade unionism trapped the workers in traffic blockades which led to clashes with the police in a sterile “urban guerrilla warfare” which gives ammunition for the press, TV and social networks, slandering them as “terrorists”, etc. Thus El Mundo launched a hateful accusation against the workers: “Cancellation of surgeries, a birth in an ambulance... The metal workers’ strike prevents access to the hospital of La Línea for the carers and the sick” (17-11-21).

As demonstrated in Euzkalduna 1984, in Gijón 1985 and in previous struggles in Cadiz, such confrontations only serve to isolate those in the struggle, prevent other workers from joining and alienate the possible sympathies of the population. They reinforce capital and its state, and give it the means to unleash ferocious repression.

But the workers are looking for other means to be strong. On the 19th, a picket of more than 300 workers was formed to ask for the solidarity of the Navantia workers in San Fernando. On the 19th itself, demonstrations were organised in the working class neighbourhoods of Cadiz, Puerto Real and San Fernando. After a rally in front of the bosses’ headquarters, the workers went around the city, following an improvised route, explaining their demands to passers-by. On the 20th, there was a massive demonstration in the centre of Cadiz and rallies in the neighbourhoods to support the comrades.

We can only be strong if we extend the struggle to the other workers, if with demonstrations, pickets and assemblies, we organise THE EXTENSION OF THE STRUGGLE. The struggle is strong if it can break the barriers of the company, the sector, the city, if it can by forge the united struggle of the whole working class in the streets.

The struggle must be organised in assemblies.

From the beginning, the unions have monopolised the negotiations with the employers, through the mediation of the Consejo Andaluz de Relaciones Laborales (Andalusian Council of Labour Relations). We already know what these “negotiations” are: a parody where in the end they sign what capital wants. This has happened many times in Cadiz: in Delphi, the unions made the workers swallow the dismissals; the same happened in the different struggles in the shipyards or more recently in AIRBUS. Remembering these stabs in the back, on the 20th, a concentration of workers in front of the headquarters of the unions shouted “Where are they? The Comisiones and UGT [the two main national trade unions in Spain]. They are not to be seen.”

To be strong, the second necessity is that the struggle is led by the General Assembly of all the workers and that it organises elected and revocable committees to defend the demands, to promote actions of struggle etc.

Since the experiences of 1905 and 1917-23, the struggles where the working class has strength are organised by the workers themselves in General Assemblies open to the rest of the working class: unemployed, pensioners, precarious workers, etc. That was the experience of the Vigo metal workers in 2006[4] and of the Indignados movement in 2011[5].

Workers cannot leave the struggle in the hands of the unions. A statement from a Coordinadora de Trabajadores del Metal de Cádiz (Metalworkers' Coordinating Committee) said “the unions must advise us and represent us, NOT take decisions for us and in secret”. That’s not correct! What is their “advice”? To accept what the bosses ask for. And as for fighting back, their "mobilisation" consists of isolated acts of pressure without any force, or minority clashes with the police. They do not represent us, they represent capital and its state. “Making decisions for us and in secret” is exactly their function as an apparatus of capital!

The localist trap of “Save Cadiz”.

They want to enclose the struggle in a “citizens' movement” to “Save Cádiz”. It is true that industries are closing down, that one out of three young people has to emigrate. But this is what we see in all countries. Detroit, once the centre of the US car industry, is today a desert of iron and cement ruins. The same is happening in the Asturian mining industry. There are thousands of examples. It is not Cadiz that is sinking, it is world capitalism that is sinking in a process of economic crisis, ecological destruction, pandemics, wars, generalised barbarism.

“Save Cadiz” diverts the workers' struggle into a totally impotent localist terrain. For 40 years they have made us fight for “cargo for the Cadiz shipyards”, investments in the Bay etc. We can see the results! More and more unemployment, more precariousness, more need to emigrate.

The great danger for the struggle is that the solidarity that is beginning to manifest itself will be channelled into “Save Cadiz”. This locks us up in the bourgeois prison of localism and regionalism, which is the worst poison for workers' struggle. It divert us towards the capitalist objective of “economic development”, supposedly to “create jobs”, towards “unity” with the small businessmen who exploit us, the cops who beat us, the politicians who sell us out, the egotistical petty bourgeoisie.

They put the struggle in Cádiz in the same bag as the protests of transport entrepreneurs. Thus, Kichi, the “radical” mayor of Cadiz says: “We had to set fires so that Madrid would listen to us”. This is adulterating and falsifying the workers' struggle by turning it into a “movement of angry citizens" who “set fire” so that the “democratic authorities” listen to them.

No! The workers' struggle is not a selfish struggle for particular interests. As the Communist Manifesto says All previous historical movements were movements of minorities, or in the interest of minorities.
The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority”. The struggle for demands is part of the historical movement of the working class to build a society dedicated to the full satisfaction of human needs.

For the struggle to go forward we must not look towards the “Bay of Cadiz”. We must look to the whole of the working class which is suffering the same as their brothers in Cadiz: inflation, precariousness, cuts in collective agreements, cuts in social benefits, chaos in the hospitals, the threat of the continuation of the Covid pandemic. But, reciprocally, the workers of the other regions must see in their comrades in Cadiz, THEIR FIGHT and join in solidarity with them by putting forward their own demands.

Contrary to democratic lies, today’s society is not a sum of citizens “equal before the law”. It is divided into classes: an exploiting minority that has everything and produces nothing and, facing it, the working class, the exploited majority that produces everything and has less and less. Only the struggle as a class can make the demands of the workers of Cadiz achievable, only the struggle as a class can open a future in the face of the crisis and the barbarism of capitalism.

International Communist Current, 21-11-21


Class struggle