Hundreds of Thousands Protest EU Meeting in Barcelona

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Hundreds of thousands marched in Barcelona last month protesting the conference of the European Union (EU) summit. Some highlights of the week of activities were:

  • Sunday, March 10, 400,000 people demonstrated against Spain’s National Hydrological Plan.
  • Thursday, March 14, 100,000 trade unionists answered the call of the European TUC, demonstrating for “More Europe with full employment.”
  • Saturday, March 16, a crowd estimated at from 300,000 to over 500,000 people marched under the banners of the Campaign against Capital and War.

The large number of people participating in the Saturday march was especially significant given the fact that baton-wielding police charged into the smaller decentralized rallies that took place on Friday, March 15, at times firing rubber bullets. In addition, dozens of buses carrying demonstrators were prevented from crossing into Spain from France.

Priorities for the capitalist heads of state who gathered at the summit, according to the EU web site, included plans to “open up” [privatize and deregulate] trans-European transportation networks and electricity and gas markets. The politicians also discussed “integrating the financial markets, to make Europe a real financial power” and “developing a more flexible labor market” [i.e., by eroding wages, benefits, and working conditions].

Veronica Fagan, writing in the March 2002 British Fourth Internationalist paper, Socialist Outlook, points out, “Despite the fact that all the European governments agree wholeheartedly with these objectives, there are tensions between them. This is both because of their own individual national interests and because some of them feel more constrained about the pace at which they can impose change because of relatively strong trade unions or social movements opposing their neo-liberal policies.”

The first huge protest demonstration of the week countered the Spanish government’s environmentally destructive national water plan, which was adopted in June 2001. The plan calls for the building of 120 new dams and would redirect the flow of the Ebro River. These projects would lead to the destruction of many designated conservation areas, including the Ebro Delta.

Opponents argue that the plan encourages wasteful uses of water, rather than addressing water shortages in a sustainable manner. They point out that industry and public services could conserve much more by using methods that clean and reuse waste water.

The March 14 protest, sponsored by the European Trade Union Council, focused on the call for full employment within the EU. Jose Maria Fidalgo, secretary general of the Workers’ Commission (one of Spain’s two largest trade-union federations), expressed the general viewpoint of reformist labor bureaucrats throughout Europe:

“They have the moral obligation to build a Europe on the European social model. That is-as was said in the Lisbon strategy-to reach, in the year 2010, a Europe of full employment with rights, and not a deregulated Europe without any rights. If they take the latter path, the EU will lack any legitimacy. They must therefore take decisions tomorrow in relation to full employment, to the social Europe.”

Veronica Fagan comments, “Yet again, therefore, the leaders of the European unions demonstrated their continuing refusal to see that this European Union is a Europe of Capital, of deregulation, of unemployment, and of war. The whole point about the Lisbon summit in the summer of 2000 was that it promised to create 20 million jobs-by carrying through greater liberalization. Full employment and job security can never be delivered by this Europe.

“At the same time, workers across Europe demonstrated their real anger at the iniquities of the same system-an anger to which the anti-capitalist movement is increasingly trying to relate since the inspirational sight of the metal workers’ banners on the the streets of Genoa last summer.”

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