Madrid atrocities

"the wars are yours the deaths are ours"

In the three days between the Madrid bombings which left 200 dead and 1,500 injured and the general election, Spanish Prime Minister Aznar attempted to use the atrocity to ensure his ruling Popular Party was re-elected. The Popular Party immediately blamed ETA and chose to ignore the increasing evidence that the bombings may have been carried out by a group linked to Al Qaeda.

By Stephen Boyd

Aznar failed. The Popular Party received 38% of the vote and was beaten by PSOE (Spanish Socialist Party) which got 43%. Aznar has paid the price for his slavish backing of Bush and Blair's war on Iraq. Aznar cynically tried to use the slaughter in Madrid to con the Spanish people into believing that ETA was the culprit. Tens of thousands of demonstrators protested outside the Popular Party's Headquarters the night before the election until 3.00 am enraged by the Government's lies.

The mood of anger that has swept across Spanish society was captured by the reception Aznar got when he turned up to vote. Aznar was booed and "jostled" and when he tried to address some of his supporters he was drowned out by shouts of "manipulators", "liars" and "peace". Rajoy who was to have succeeded Aznar had to be taken away to cover as young people verbally abused him.

Jose Maria Aznar and the right wing Popular Party have been kicked out of office for supporting Bush and Blair's war. 90% of Spaniards opposed the war on Iraq. Millions protested, yet Aznar ignored them and even sent Spanish troops to be part of Bush's so-called "coalition of the willing". Aznar was willing to support war; the election result shows that the Spanish people weren't.

15 February 2003 was the day that up to 30 million protested against the war all over the world. When the war went ahead many felt despondent and questioned if all of the protests had been for nothing. Two million marched in London, in Dublin 150,000, in Belfast over 20,000. These marches did have an effect on the governments in London, Dublin, Paris and Berlin. But as we said at the time, the demonstrations, and the anti-war consciousness would come back to haunt those governments that ignored the wishes of their people. Aznar is the first of the warmongers to fall.

No to terrorism

The horrific bomb attacks on Madrid must be unreservedly condemned. 200, mainly working class and young Spaniards have been murdered by right wing reactionary Islamic fundamentalists. The Socialist Party and the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI) stands shoulder to shoulder with the Spanish working class in opposing these acts of terror and in opposition to US, British and Spanish imperialism occupation of Iraq.

The actions of Al Qaeda on 11 September, in Bali and now Madrid have done nothing to further the cause of the Muslim and Arab people's of the world. Al Qaeda have given US imperialism the excuse it needed to invade and occupy Afghanistan and Iraq, two wars which have left up to 60,000 people dead.

The Socialist Party and the CWI opposes Al Qaeda, which aims to impose reactionary Islamic dictatorships in the Arab world similar to that of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda are enemies of the working class and the fight for socialism. They are also enemies of the struggle for national liberation and are through their actions assisting the cause of imperialism. The working class and the poor masses of the Arab world will only achieve democracy, an end to poverty, freedom from the domination of their local despots and dictators and from imperialism through the struggle for socialism.

On 12 March, 11 million Spaniards protested against the Madrid bombings. A 15-minute general strike was organised by the CCOO and UGT trade unions. School students also went on strike. The largest of the protests against the bombings was in Madrid.

Former Prime Minister Aznar, posing as a great statesman, led this protest behind a banner which read "With the Victims, with the Constitution, for the defeat of terrorism". The reference to the constitution is an attempt by the Popular Party to defend the 1978 constitution, which denies the right of self-determination to the Basques. In an attempt to whip up anti-Basque feeling for his party's electoral aims Anzar said: "We will defeat them [ETA] we will succeed in finishing off the terrorist band, with the strength of the rule of law and with the unity of all Spaniards." Aznar was hoping to create an atmosphere of hysteria that would sweep the Popular Party back into power and which could have been used to bring in reactionary legislation.

Initially the leaders of PSOE and the United Left supported Anzar. They were playing the theme of national unity in face of the terrorist threat from ETA. Jose Luis Zapatero, PSOE general secretary, called for the unity of all political forces against terrorism and stated: "I hope these bastards, these criminals, fall into the hands of the police as soon as possible". The co-ordinator of the United Left, Gaspar Llamazares, said that ETA "has shown its real face in attacking students and workers in Madrid, sowing death in the streets and train stations of Madrid". He called for "an image of national unity between all parties", and "the unity of all democrats in the face of the fascist barbarism against the people of Madrid that has caused dozens of deaths and wounded today".

However, as the evidence mounted that Al Qaeda had been responsible for the bombings, the mood of the working class forced PSOE and the United Left to break from their bi-partisan approach.

PSOE ceased to be a working class party long ago. They are Spain's version of Blair's New Labour, so their support for the government was not surprising. However, the approach taken by the United Left exposes the leadership of this party also. These events clearly show the need to build a new mass party of the working class, which would stand independent of the ruling class and would mobilise the majority of the Spanish working class against Spain's involvement in US imperialism's so-called war on terror.

Voters punish Aznar

There was a 55% turnout in the 2000 general election, but the events of 11 March spurred millions of Spaniards to come out and vote. The turn out in this election was 63%. People who had never voted before used the polls to kick the warmonger Aznar out.

PSOE's victory in the general election should not be seen as an endorsement of its right wing leadership, who are committed to the ideas of neo-liberalism. The Spanish working class has elected PSOE simply to remove Aznar's Popular Party. The Popular Party was 4% ahead of PSOE in the opinion polls prior to the Madrid bombings. Voter turn out was again expected to be low, reflecting a disillusionment in both the ruling Popular Party and the corruption tainted PSOE.

The election result is a reflection of the anti-war and anti-occupation mood that exists in Spain, and the revulsion felt against Aznar for bringing the war on terror onto the streets of Madrid. It is a message of warning to Bush and Blair and their fellow travellers in the "coalition of the willing" that their colonialist adventures in Iraq will eventually be their downfall.

Aznar's lies, his attempt to scapegoat ETA, resulted in his party being kicked out of office 48 hours later. Blair and his government have been exposed as liars, just like Aznar. They lied about Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), in order to go to war. Blair must be a very worried man contemplating what his fate will be at the polls in May 2005.

The 11 March bombings will be used by capitalist governments to introduce repressive legislation under the cover of the fight against terror. Blunkett and the British government have already spoken of the need to make Britain more secure against the threat of terrorist attacks. The Greek government has invited NATO to organise the security for the Olympic games. The CIA has requested that the Irish government give Bush's security team immunity from prosecution if they "accidentally" kill someone during his visit to Ireland in June!

The war against Iraq was planned by Bush and his neo-conservative advisors even before his election. Al Qaeda's 11 September attacks gave Bush and Blair their excuse to launch the "war on terror" and to invade Afghanistan. Under the cover of lies imperialism invaded Iraq, claiming to fight for liberation and regime change. But all of their lies have been exposed. The war on Iraq was a war for oil. The occupation of Iraq is not about building democracy in that country; for imperialism words like liberation and democracy are flags of convenience for the plunder of Iraq's oil reserves. The "war on terror" is a cover they use to further the economic and strategic interests of capital wherever they feel threatened.

Bush and Blair are fighting a war against an enemy they cannot defeat and it is workers and the poor masses in Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Madrid that are suffering. George W. Bush, Tony Blair and Jose Maria Anzar bear heavy responsibility for the carnage because their policies have created the conditions that have bred groups like Al Qaeda.

The Socialist Party and the CWI will continue to argue within the anti-war movement that the only way we can stop imperialism's wars of colonial occupation is to fight to remove the likes of Bush and Blair from office.

But it is not enough just to replace these governments with other pro-capitalist parties. The election of PSOE will not solve the problems facing the Spanish working class. In Spain, PSOE will continue Aznar's neo-liberal agenda, and when the anger over the Madrid bombings subsides they will back imperialism's continued oppression of the Iraqi people. We need to build new mass parties of the working class around the world, committed to the struggle for socialism, committed to overthrowing the cause of war - the capitalist system.

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This article is from the Spring 2004 edition of Socialist View (it was printed in late March '04).

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