Extraordinary scenes in Madrid, as 150,000 people turned out to greet the striking miners who had marched across large parts of Spain.
The "black march", lasting three weeks, culminated in the miners' arrival in the Spanish capital, with their headlamps lighting the way. The miners were welcomed by cheering crowds of supporters in Madrid's Puerta del Sol. Another large solidarity demonstration was expected today (Wednesday).
The miners are striking and demonstrating to save their jobs. The government's massive cut in subsidies to the industry - a whopping 63% - means up to 30,000 jobs will be scrapped. This is at a time of record levels of unemployment across the country: one in four is out of work.
The mining industry has already declined drastically over the last 20 years. Miners in Spain are not well paid either: they earn an average of £950 a month.
The dispute has escalated to include major clashes with the Spanish state, sometimes involving wider popular mobilisations supporting the miners. Miners and their supporters have built barricades and occupied roads to counteract vicious repression by the police and defend their collieries and communities.
The miners' long march has been the occasion for numerous (and often large) local rallies expressing support. Their struggle is widely viewed as being the most prominent element in a broader front of resistance to austerity and unemployment. Mariano Rajoy's government has just announced fresh austerity measures and a hike in VAT from 18% to 21%.
Trade union UGT spokeswoman Conchi Alonso said that marching through Spain had been "utterly unique - to see how people help each other, it's been moving."
"We didn't expect such a big welcome," said Roberto Quintas, a miner of 22 years' experience. "The fact that people are coming into the street and mobilising is a good sign."
This Saturday, a delegation of striking Spanish miners will be at the Durham Miners' Gala. Assemble from 10am in Durham City's market square.
Alex Snowdon is a Counterfire activist in Newcastle. He is active in the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Stop the War Coalition and the National Education Union. He is the author of A Short Guide to Israeli Apartheid (2022).
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