In a move not seen in Spain since the Franco dictatorship, the Spanish government has declared a state of alert, sending in the military to crush the air traffic controllers’ strike that paralyzed the country for several days last week. 2,200 Air Traffic Controllers were forced back to work at gunpoint, while armed soldiers remain posted at airports, threatening to arrest anyone who stopped working. Under the government’s orders, air traffic controllers are now considered military personal, subject to military law and punishment if they fail to obey orders.
Arrested controllers face up to eight years in prison, with over 400 already facing prosecution. Some have been sequestered in hotel rooms under the watch of the Guardia Civil (military police), while they await prosecution or being forced back to work.The military control of the airports is supposed to continue for fifteen days, though Prime Minister Zapatero has said that it could continue as long as necessary to keep commerce flowing.
In the increasingly Orwellian language of our times, Deputy Prime Minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba accused the workers of holding the country ransom in order to protect their “unacceptable privileges.“ This refrain has been echoed by the trade union bureaucrats and members of the communist party, with many also calling the strike illegal. In reality, it is the ruling classes that are holding the rest of us ransom by demanding bailouts and tax cuts funded through the imposition of wage and pension cuts, job reductions, tax taxes and deteriorating working conditions for the majority of workers.