Miners strikes in Asturies (Spain)

1890 to 1998


This is a summary of the most important events regarding the Asturian miners' struggles. Obviously not all the strikes are described here, only the most important ones.

1890
The first general strike by asturian miners. It begins on May 6 at Molinucu and Lla'scares mines,property of Mieres Factory, spreading a few days later to the Nalo'n and Caudal Valleys,accompanied by demonstrations harshly repressed by the civil guard and an army batallion from Leo'n. The miners demanded: freedom of work, fourteen reales per day (a raise of two reales) and a reduction of the workday to 8 hours, down from 12. After 15 days the workers go back to work after winning some of their demands.

1906
"Big Strike" in Mieres. Miners from several companies ask for raises of 10%. The companies refuse and fire 700 workers. Anarchists and socialists had presented a united front, but give up faced with staunch opposition from the bosses. Almost four years of "social peace" follow this first struggle of the century.

1910
The CNT is founded, as well as the Miner's Union where metal workers from the mining valleys are also admitted. One of its principal objectives is the creation of a resistance fund to keep strikes going.

1911
The miner's union declares and wins two strikes. The first one for the rehiring of 34 fired workers (from Baltasara and Mariana mines), terminated for taking part in May Day events. The second due to the firing of a worker accused of making socialist propaganda in the Aller Valley. The civil governor intervenes in the first strike and in the second he sends the civil guard and an army regiment, but the miners hold fast and the bosses are forced to give in to the miner's demands.

1912
Anarchosyndicalists from La Felguera call a strike in June demanding salary increases. A short time later the Miner's Union joins in solidarity. The workers have to compromise since they are economically weak.

1916
In the midst of the First World War and as a consequence of the general malaise felt throughout the country, the anarchosyndicalists from Xixo'n call a strike, followed by similar movements in other points of the peninsula. The government answers by declaring a state of war and then the miner's union joins the strike in solidarity. The state of war lasts longer than in other places and the miner's union confronts the government leading massive miner's and metal worker's movements.

1917
That year's summer is the stage for the first strictly political general strike, called by all unios together at the national level. The government reacts with a state of war, which again lasts a month longer in Asturies than in the rest of the country. The Miner's Union doesn't give up until the beginning of October. Violence breaks out and armed encounters between workers and civil guards and soldiers take place in Asturies, mainly during the last month of the conflict. Repression is extremely harsh and many miners flee to the mountails. They are the first "escapees".

1934
In a bourgeois Republic ruled by a right wing coalition and frustrated by the expectations of social change motivated by the fall of the monarchy, the asturian proletariat joins the Alianza Obrera (Worker's Alliance) formed by all workers' organizations.
On October 5th a general strike is unleashed throughout the nation, which fails due to divisions among the different organizations. Only in Asturies the Workers' Alliance comprises all the organizations. On the 5th the revolutionary socialist newspaper financed by the Miners' Union prints the slogan "Balls and Dynamite". All civil guard barracks in the mining valleys are taken in a few hours. While the workers advance to take Uvieu in the valleys several revolutionary experiments begin (libertarian communism in the anarchosyndicalist areas and war communism in the socialist and communist areas). A true red army is formed which defeats government troops in the first encounters. With the failure of the strike in the rest of the nation, the first revolutionary committee is disolved, however the workers gather in assembly at Plaza del Fonta'n in Uvieu and decide to elect a new committe and continue the struggle. The government send shock troops (moors and legionnaires) under Franco. The republican forces advance by placing prisoners in front of the columns. Nevertheless the miners stage a fierce resistance, in spite of the lack of weapons, made up in part by the use of dynamite and their revolutionary convictions. The third revolutionary committe faced with a desperate situation begins negotiations with the army, agreeing to surrender in exchange for not having the moors and legionnaires occupy the valleys, since their massacres of innocent civilians in the Uvieu working class neighborhoods were already known. The army agrees (although later it doesn't keep its word). Movement leaders announce "the loss of a battle, but not the war" in a meeting in front of Sama City Hall. Many miners refuse to surrender and escape to the mountains with their weapons. Much armament is hidden away waiting for the next assault. The government's repression is brutal: indiscriminate deaths, thousands of prisoners are tortured, disappeared ... The October revolution is an unforgettable landmark in the political consciousness of Asturian miners and workers.

1936-1937
Civil war and revolution in Asturies. The collapse in October 1937, after being the last region in the north to resist fascism ushered a repression that will never be quantified. In Uvieu alone there are 3,000 bodies in the cemetery's common grave. Many fighters take to the mountains from where they harass Franco's forces for many years. The mines are militarized, with miners as soldiers, foremen as sargeants, etc.

1958
After the firing of some workers at the begining of March, miners from Maria Luisa strike in solidarity, followed shortly by those from El Fondo'n and Santa Eulalia mines, the number of strikers quickly reaches 15,000 in the main valleys. The government suspends three articles of the Fuero the los Espan~oles (sort of fascist constitution T.N.) for 4 months in the region affected by the strike. Franco's reply is in the form of arrests, firings, fines, beatings, banishments. The first Workers Commission is spontaneously created at La Camocha mine, a form of worker's self-organization that would spread throughout the country in the following years.

1962
On April 7 miners from Nicolasa mine declare a strike. The following day those from Baltasara do too, next those of Polio and so on until a week later the whole Caudal Valley is on strike. On monday the 16th the strike spreads to Turo'n and later to the Nalo'n Valley, with 60,000 workers striking. The slogan is "General salary raises and solidarity with our comrades". The ruler's answer is again detentions, beatings of workers and their women and other outrages. Other regions of the country, such as the mining and iron areas of Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa solidarize. On May 4 the government declares the state of siege in the provinces. But nothing can stop the miners and on May 24 the Official State Bulletin agrees to the strikers' demands. For the first time under franquism a mass workers movement wins. The struggle has international implications. Intellectuals publish a manifest denouncing the torture of miners' women. In the following years conflicts continue intermittantly in Asturies mining. In 1965 a miners' demonstration in Mieres demanding freedom for some prisoners ends with the assault of a local police station, an event unherad of under franquism. Faced with serious losses in the mining enterprises, the Franco government decides to nationalize most of the mines, creating the mega enterprise Hunosa, which harbors the majority of asturian mining operations.

1976
The struggle begins in November 1975 at Tres Amigos mine with a demand for salary raises by wagon drivers and continues in mid-December with 48 hours of struggle for which Hunosa disciplines 4,500 workers. On December 30 mine helpers lock themselves up in well number 32,they are suspended without pay for a month. Miners at that well stop work in solidarity and are likewise punished. On January 10 the strike spreads to Caudal and later to Nalo'n. The demands are: Lifting of sanctions, readmission of workers fired for political reasons, unfreezing of salaries, discussion of the agreement with the participation of a workers commission elected by the workers and later freedom for those arrested during the strike would be included in the demands. The company refuses to discuss these points. Assemblies and demonstrations multiply, mine and area commissions are elected. In Mieres 6 workers are arrested and jailed in Uvieu prison, where they start a hunger strike. 52 union delegates lock themselves up in Sama union offices and are evicted by the police at 15 hrs. Miners from La Camocha ask for a legal strike, which is denied giving rise to a wildcat strike. Minas de Figaredo fires 895 workers. 200 miner's wives lock themselves in the archbishop's palace in Uvieu. The police arrests 11 miners in Figaredo. 300 retired miners lock themselves in a church in Sama for 48 hours. Around mid-February the struggle reaches its peak: large assemblies (3,000 people at El Entregu on the 27th) multiply. Lock-ups in the mines of Carrio, Cerezal and Candi'n and in the curches in Sama, L'Entregu and Barredos. On the 25th the police cause several injuries in L'Entregu while breaking up a demonstration. The company closes the mines and laboral normalcy is not re-established until mid-March. This process of strikes is characterized by self-organization, generalization of the assemblies, the election of delegates by the base and the spreading of the struggle to women and retirees. The vertical union ends up rotting away thanks to this struggle in the mining valleys.

1987
Unions are legal and for a long time since have opted for a policy of demobilization and appeasement that empowers the political weight of the union structures but does not offer a solution to the industrial downsizing in Asturies promoted by the structural reform started by the spanish capitalists.With the future plans for public mining there are several days of strikes in Hunosa as well as general strikes in the mining valleys (up to 3 per month). There are confrontations with the police in many ocassions. The newspaper "La Nueva Espan~a" opines that these mobilizations started the exercises in "urban guerrilla" on the part of the miners during their mobilizations. Three great demonstrations in Uvieu end in confrontations with the police. The last one was part of a general strike in Asturies organized by CCOO that ends in the center of Uvieu with large damages in the official establishments, banks and commerce (not a window was left intact in Uri'a Street) and confrontations with the police (several anti-riot units brought in from other parts of the country).

1991-92
The negotiations for a new future plan at Hunosa provoke a lock-up at Barredo well by the top levels of UGT and CCOO unions. Outside, uncontrolled miners and unemployed confront the police and the civil guard for two weeks, creating a veritable battlefront near Barredo mine, in Mieres' Vega de Arriba neighborhood. True combats take place, which are in many ocassions silenced by the press, such as the ambush in the old Uvieu-Mieres road of a civil guard convoy returning from Barredo mine with molotov cocktails thrown from the hills. Finally the union leaders, having lost their prominence abandon the lock-up and sign a pact that in 5 years cuts Hunosa's payroll in half.

DATA ABOUT THE 1998 CRISIS

Asturies lost 8,300 jobs in 1997, according to INEM (?). The employed population went from 334,542 people in 1996 to 326,208 in 1997, being Asturies the only autonomous community that has lost jobs. According to INEM there are 70,000 unemployed workers in Asturies (17.65%) first place in the state, a number that the more trustworthy EPA (Encuesta de Poblacio'n Activa - Survey of the Active Population) puts at 85,000.

According to a European Union report Asturies and Northen Ireland are the regions of Europe with the most somber perspectives. There they have a war. Here there will be one.


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