By Ryan McNally
Students in Spain went on strike on 26 October following a call from Sindicato de Estudiantes, the Spanish student union. Almost two million students, mostly school pupils, took part in the action in an impressive display of resistance against reforms and cuts imposed by the right wing PP government. Over 200,000 people joined over 60 demonstrations in cities across Spain.
One of the key demands of students was the abolishment of a series of exams known as ‘revalidas’ or ‘re-validations.’ These exams were commonplace in Franco’s era. If a student were to fail these exams, it would mean they’d be excluded from any further education. In reality these exams would mean that many working class young people would be excluded from secondary and post-secondary education. It’s no surprise that students in Spain find the idea of these ‘re-validations’ unacceptable, and that such strong action was taken against them.
However, the strike action on 26 October was not based on one issue. It was a direct response to years of cuts to public education and rising tuition fees by pro-capitalist governments. Conditions in schools and universities have deteriorated and staff shortages are a day to day reality. Financial assistance to students has been cut, preventing many working class students from continuing education and condemning many to a life of unemployment. According to Sindicato de Estudiantes, tuition fees have risen up to 66% in some cases over the past few years. The strike was a display of resistance against the policies of Spain’s successive pro-capitalist governments, policies which have resulted in a staggering 45% youth unemployment rate.
The ruling People’s Party has long been the party of cuts and austerity. However the strike on 26 October suggests that these policies are rejected by the majority of young people. At demonstrations across the country, students chanted ‘yes we can’, a phrase used by the anti-eviction movement in Spain. In the minds of many young people it’s clear that these struggles against austerity are linked.
PSOE, the social democratic party in Spain, has failed the people it’s supposed to represent. In allowing the PP into power by abstaining PSOE have sentenced millions of working class people to more deprivation and alienation. It’s clear that working class people will resist through mass action like the strike on 26 October. Mass social movements are the only way the capitalist parties’ devotion to austerity can truly be challenged.