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									"Super-Exploitation of Immigrant Labour in
Europe: the Case of Intense Agriculture in Spain."
by Andy Higginbottom

Paper to the CSE conference Global Capital and Global Struggles; Strategies, Alliances,
Alternatives in London, 1-2 July 2000.


Contents

  1      Summary.................................................................................................................................. 2

  2      La Reconquista - Spain Rediscovers Imperialism ................................................................... 3

      2.1 Spain's 'New Economy'........................................................................................................ 3
      2.2 Military Interventionism...................................................................................................... 4
      2.3 Spain and the Big Powers .................................................................................................... 5

  3      'We are here because you destroy our countries' .................................................................... 6

      3.1   The Gulf between Europe and Africa.................................................................................. 6
      3.2   Fortress Europe – Harmonising Repression ........................................................................ 6
      3.3   The Crossing........................................................................................................................ 9
      3.4   Spain’s Plans for Morocco................................................................................................. 10
      3.5   The Foreigners Law........................................................................................................... 12

  4      The Role of Immigrant Labour in Andalucían Agriculture................................................... 15

      4.1   A Modern Solution to the Agrarian Question .................................................................. 15
      4.2   The Economics of Super-exploitation ............................................................................... 16
      4.3   El Ejido: One Town, Two Worlds..................................................................................... 18
      4.4   Racist Violence Reinforcing Extreme Social Exclusion ................................................... 19
      4.5   After El Ejido – Racism, Violence and the Family ........................................................... 22

  5      Political Strategies ................................................................................................................. 25

      5.1 Containment and Division … ............................................................................................ 25
      5.2 Versus Resistance and Solidarity....................................................................................... 26
1      Summary

The case of intense agriculture in Almería, south east Spain is of not simply exploitation but super-
exploitation of the immigrant workforce. Under the invernadero plastic hothouses, a system of
intensive farming technology has been wedded to intense labour exploitation and oppressive
conditions. The mobilisation of racist violence that was targeted against Moroccan and other
African immigrants in El Ejido reinforces their social exclusion and temporary status. The pogrom’s
perpetrators have enjoyed de facto legal immunity, and the racists find political expression from
within the ruling Partido Popular.

The exceptionally high profits obtained from immigrant labour in the invernaderos fuel the
booming Spanish economy and they have created a local lumpen bourgoisie. The agri-business
sector is one of the principal pillars of the re-emergence of Spanish imperialism. The other major
characteristics of the ‘new economy’ in Spain are the dominance of the banks and the active role of
Spanish multinationals in Latin America. Militarily and diplomatically, Spain is an active pro-US
power within Europe. These recent developments determine how the Spanish state interprets its
appointed role as guardian of the southern frontier of Fortress Europe.

The fundamental driver of the migration remains the gulf in living standards and life opportunities
between Western Europe and the poor migrant producing countries. The death of thousands of
would-be immigrants in the Gibraltar Straits and around the Canary Islands is a human rights
tragedy. Working with its partners in the Schengen programme, Spain has turned the Mediterranean
into a militarised barrier. This deterrence policy has been unable to stem the influx of illegal
immigrants. Spain blames the Moroccan ruling elite for its failure to crackdown on criminal
networks. And, building on the Schengen notion of stemming immigration at source, Spain has
ambitious plans for an economic zone in Northern Morocco. Spain is seeking a new colonial
solution to its immigration problem.

Extreme social exclusion is the other side of super-exploitation. The current regularisation
programme for immigrants in Spain will not end their sub-human living conditions, rather it will be
a lever for the concentration of capital and a means to divide the legal from illegal immigrants.
Although formally recognised in the new Foreigners Law, the immigrants right to family life is not
respected. There has been an upsurge of racist violence. Women immigrants are subject to specific
humiliations. The employers are trying other tactics of division, especially between Eastern
European and African immigrants.

This rapidly changing context connects racism with imperialism, concretely and in a new way.
Political forces of resistance are coming from the immigrant communities Andalucía. The main
institutions of the Spanish left parties, NGOs and trade unions have failed to side with the
immigrants, apart from in the most general and rhetorical manner. But there is a significant minority
that has given solidarity and is linking up with the immigrant resistance on the principled basis that
no human being is illegal.
2      La Reconquista - Spain Rediscovers Imperialism

2.1     Spain's 'New Economy'
The racist upsurge in Spain is an element in the country’s reemergence as a modern imperialist
nation. The super-profits of imperialism come from oppressed nations in Latin America, and from
oppressed nationalities working in Spain. Super-exploitation is at the root of both the external and
internal moments of this ‘new economy’.

Stimulated by the low interest rate policy of the European Central Bank, the Spanish GDP grew by
3.7% in 1999. The net average rate of profit is high and has been increasing, up from 8.4% of net
assets in 1998 to 9.2% in the first three quarters of 1999.1 Industrial production increased by 5.9%.
Average incomes increased by 26% between 1995 and 1999. Over the same period the gap between
the average disposable income in Spain and the average for the rest of European Union (EU) closed,
rising from 79% in 1995 to 83% by 1999. Spaniards are still poorer than their northern neighbours,
but much less so than before. There has been a consumer boom (1999 was a record year for new car
sales). But not everyone has shared in the new wealth. Spain's rate of unemployment, although
falling slowly, is at over 15% still the highest in the EU. Moreover, behind the average lie enormous
variations: by age, about 50% of young people are unemployed; by sex, the unemployment rate for
women is double that for men; and by region, Andalucía's unemployment rate is 26%.

What are the characteristics of this 'new economy' ? First and foremost is the dominance of the
banks. The banking sector constitutes one third of all capital values quoted on the Madrid stock
exchange. There has been a dramatic centralisat on of banking capital which is now merged into
just two major entities: the Banco Santander Central Hispano (BSCH) was formed in January 1999;
with the Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA) following in October. This highly centralised
banking sector exerts control over the other branches of the economy. BBVA especially has a
massive portfolio of industrial investments and forms part of the executive team within the
telecommunications giant Telefónica. The two major bank groups are actively seeking participation
in international alliances. Indeed the principal objective of the recent mergers was to ensure an
effective presence in the Latin American and southern European markets as well as dominance over
the domestic investment markets.

Total direct foreign investment in Latin America and the Caribbean has leapt from US $18.2bn for
the five years from 1990-94 to $76.7bn in 1998 alone. The burst of incoming investment has been
spectacular in Brazil, Argentina and Chile where foreign capital has taken full advantage of the
openings on offer. In this process Spanish multinationals have stepped out from anonymity and
emerged as international predators targeted on finance, telecommunications and energy. In fact,
53% of all new foreign investment has been into privatised concerns, an area in which Spian has
excelled:

       'One has to highlight the motor of this process within the Brazilian economy in the
       privatization of state activities that was carried out and the progressive de-regulation of
       some key sectors such as services. As far as Argentina is concerned, the explosive increase

1
 These and following figures were quoted in Anuario Economía y Finanzas 2000, published by
El País in collaboration with Analistas Financieros Internacionales.
          in foreign investment is due in grand measure to the acquisition of Yacimentos Petrolíferos
          Fiscales [Oil Deposits Financial] - the biggest employer in the country - by the Spanish
          company Repsol. Similarly, in Chile the purchase of the electricity sector's major
          conglomerate and the principal generater (Enersis and Endesa-Chile) by Endesa explains
          80% of the increase in 1999.' 2

What the above quoted report does not add, naturally, is the dispossession and impoverishment of
the people that is the necessary condition and result of the neo-liberal economic model, and which
has led to social explosions in Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina and Brazil.

In sum, Spanish multinational expansion into Latin America is the second major characteristic of
the 'new economy'. The phenomenon has become so striking that it has been dubbed the reconquest
- 'La Reconquista'. This phrase carries great resonance referring as it does to the 800 years of
intermittent fighting to drive out the Moors and regain Spain for Christianity. 1992 saw the 500th
anniversary of Cristobal Colón's famous expedition to the Americas, as well as the defeat of
Boabdil, the last Moslem king in Granada. These historical references are more than symbolic
allusion. The celebrations of past victories have a deeper resonance than may appear at first sight,
for they serve to reinvent Spain's European-ness as something defined by expansion and conquest.

Twenty five years on from Franco's death, Spain has transformed itself into a democratic, modern,
European and, pushed on by the interests of a core group of banks and multinationals, an imperialist
state.


2.2    Military Interventionism
After an initial phase as a Mediterranean base for US forces (this year saw the fifteenth annual
demonstration protesting against the US naval base at Rota near Cádiz), the Spanish state then
became an active and now a leading element in the NATO military alliance.

Spain's airforce plays an important part in supplying UN forces in the Balkans. It claims to have
airlifted 900,000 items since 1992. From this logistical support role Spain is now moving into the
centre as director of operations. In June 2000 Spain will lead Eolo-2000, a combined exercise with
15,000 troops drawn from France, Italy and Portugal. The purpose is to train a multinational rapid
reaction 'peace-keeping force', with the capacity to intervene immediately in a conflict up to 2,000
km away.

Eolo-2000 is not a one off. The EU is planning for the creation in 2003 of an immediate
intervention force consisting of some 60,000 personnel. Javier Solana, who has gone from being
Spain's Socialist Party (PSOE) education minister to NATO spokesman and now the EU's
representative for Security and Foreign Policy, explains that the objective is to unite the EU's
capacity "for crisis situations such as are being produced in various African countries at the
moment".3


2
    Op cit p66
3
    Quoted in El Pais, 17 May 2000
2.3    Spain and the Big Powers
Wherever goes the military, the weapons industry follows. But there are commercial tensions within
the European and trans-Atlantic international military alliance that the Spanish state is part of.
These came to a head earlier this year. The trigger was the privatisation of the state’s arms supply
operation at Santa Barbara. The government had to choose between a joint bid from two German
firms and a bid from the US company General Dynamics. Despite strong pressure from German
chancellor Gerhard Schroder, the deal went to the US competitor. Santa Barbara assembles the 108
Leopard tanks that Germany has hired to Spain since 1995, at a fraction of their real cost. The
Germans responded angrily to losing the privatisation contract, and are now threatening to charge
Spain the full economic cost of the Leopard tank fleet, which would put up the hire charge some
twenty times. Spain will have either bite this bullet, or make a strategic switch to US tanks for its
armed forces.

The Santa Barbara example illustrates that Spain’s relationship with the big powers is in flux. It is
an active issue for the ruling class. Is Spain following the American model or the German model of
society? Questions along these lines are frequently asked amongst political commentators. And it
not a bad rule of thumb to differentiate between the two main political parties – the pro-US Partido
Popular and the pro-European PSOE tend to take up positions on either side of the US/Germany
line.

Aznar’s pro-US free market positions within a EU context make him a natural ally of New Labour.
Indeed Blair and Aznar worked so effectively together at the Lisbon EU summit in April
propounding the modernisation mantra of the digital economy, privatisation and freedom for the
employer that they outshone and outargued the EU's traditional Franco-German axis. Jospin’s
limited opposition to wholesale neo-liberalism left him isolated. Paris and Berlin have since
responded to reclaim ground as the EU’s ‘centre of gravity’. 4

Spain is not yet strong enough to call the shots on its own. But it is becoming an important potential
ally to be courted by the truly big powers. Like Britain, Spain is highly useful to the USA in gaining
wider acceptance for US strategic initiatives, especially in Spain’s case with regard to Latin
America. Nowhere is this clearer than with the misnamed ‘Plan Colombia’, which sees Blair and
Aznar working in tandem as fundraisers in Europe for the US intervention plan, another rapid
reaction force.

It is said that appetite comes with eating. Certainly Spain is already showing that it wants to move
up from the second rank, to be more than a good facilitator. It hovers at the fringes of the Group of
Seven and is eager to lead its own initiatives within the New World Order. Spain’s new found
boldness has far reaching consequences for the immigration issue.




4
    The Economist magazine remains unconvinced. See The Void in Europe, 20 May 2000 issue
3         'We are here because you destroy our countries' 5

3.1    The Gulf between Europe and Africa
Physically Europe and Africa are just 14 kilometres apart, and yet the continents are separated by an
abyss.

The ever-widening gulf between average incomes in 'First World' Europe and 'Third World' Africa,
Latin America and Asia is the underlying cause driving immigration. Compare average annual GDP
per capita for a selection of typical countries. While Spain may be the poorest of the rich Europeans,
and while Moroccans have a higher standard of living than most of their fellow Africans, the
average is Spain is still nearly five times greater than in Morocco.

                          Average GDP per capita in 1997 by country (US $) 6

           Western European Countries                                African Countries
    Germany    France    UK        Spain                 Morocco    Nigeria    Mali             Senegal
    21,260     22,030    20,730    15,930                3,310      920        740              1,730

The countries of the Maghreb, Africa north of the Sahara, have their own specific histories of
subjection to French colonialism and imposed indebtedness, processes which have bled them for
centuries. In the meantime sub-Saharan West Africa's mineral wealth has attracted the twin curse of
multinational plunder and civil war, generating a new exodus. In both these regions there are tens of
millions of young being driven into emigration people in search of a better life.


3.2    Fortress Europe – Harmonising Repression
Spaniards are on the whole proud to be European and are pleased to share in the privileges of the
EU but, as we shall see, it is not they who bear the cost of Spain's membership of the European
club.

Spain joined the EU in 1986. In 1985 Germany, France and the Benelux countries made the
Schengen Agreement through which they inaugurated a programme of harmonising their
immigration policies. The idea was to be able to lift border controls within the Schengen area. The
agreement did not formally come into force until 1995. The intervening decade saw the signatories
reshaping their policies and the administration of their controls to fit in with Schengen. The
complex process got a fresh impulse in 1990/91 with the collapse of the Soviet bloc and then the
Maastricht Treaty 7.

5
 This slogan was first adopted by the Caravan movement of refugees in Germany, during its hunger strike
opposition to the EU and G7 summits in Koln,1999. The Caravan has since held an international congress in
Jena and, after the Sans Papieres movement in France, has become a strongpoint of resistance to deportation
and social exclusion (see website www.humanrights.de).
6
    Source: UN Human Development Report 1999
7
    See The Age of Migration by Castles and Miles, p10
Katrin McGauran of Statewatch rightly points out that:

          ‘contrary to common belief, Schengen is not about free movement, it is about the control of
          movement and more importantly about the militarisation of the EU’s external borders…It is
          responsible for the increase of police checks at train stations, in trains, on the streets along
          the external borders, within the country. These stop and search operations are necessarily
          racist as colour, it seems, is the only way the police can define origin. On the other hand, the
          militarisation of external border controls has led to the death of thousands of refugees and
          migrants at Europe’s shores and borders’.8

While the Fortress Europe militarisation programme was driven by the northern EU states, a special
onus was placed on Spain, Portugal and Italy to implement it9. This has engendered a progressive
response in Italy, where mass civil disobedience succeeded in closing down Via Corelli deportation
camp earlier this year. In contrast there has been remarkably little opposition from within Spanish
society to becoming Europe’s border guard. The Spanish are dutifully earning their right to be full
members of the European club. But after the Schengen and Maastricht agreements it is no longer
possible to be both a good European and a decent human being. The late 1980s and especially early
1990s saw the Spanish state turning the Gibraltar Straits into an armoured zone to repel illegal
immigrants. Tens of millions were invested in detection systems, boats and aircraft. An electronic
mesh has been stretched over the sea. This heightened the dangers for so-called ‘clandestine’
immigrants, as their carriers began to take ever more risky evasive action. The bodies of those who
did not make it first appeared on the beaches of Tarifa on 2 November 1989 10. Their deaths were a
direct result of implementing the Schengen Agreement.

Patterns of migration into the southern and northern European countries are different. Throughout
the sixties and seventies Germany, France and Britain actively sought an immigrant workforce.
Immigrants settled and now form significant minorities, 6.6% of the population in Germany. The
northern countries have since moved to close off new entrants, as they are able to draw cheap labour
from the internal racially oppressed resident groups, and their attention has shifted to controlling the
entry of the refugee and asylum seeker. The northern countries still seek particular low wage groups
of new immigrants, e.g. women domestic workers, or bearers of specific skills, e.g. software
programmers. Even on this limited basis Germany took 192,000 immigrants in 1999, some 70% of
all immigrants into the EU.

Spain’s history of migration has its own distinct evolution, reflecting its historical position as a poor
neighbour to the economies of northern Europe. Until the last ten years Spain was a migrant
producing country (two and half million Spanish citizens live abroad). Spain's 720,000 legal

8
 The restrictive harmonisation of Europe’s immigration and asylum politics by Katrin McGauran, paper to
Caravan Congress, Jena, Germany
9
    See The Uninvited by Jeremy Harding
10
 See Manifiesto de Las Dos Orillas by the Moroccan Association of Human Rights and the Association of
Andalucía for Human Rights
immigrants form just 1.3% of it’s population, and this includes European pensioners and the like.
The number of legal immigrants from poor nations has shot up tenfold in the last ten years, and now
totals 350,000 people. There are very few refugees in Spain. Probably at least half of the immigrants
from Africa, Asia and Latin America are illegal. Concentrated in domestic work, construction and
agriculture immigrant labour has been used to fuel the late 1990s boom. The number of women
immigrants is growing. Women from Latin America end up working as domestics or sex workers.
The rapid expansion of immigrant labour is another fundamental characteristic of Spain’s
resurgence as an imperialist nation.

One concern that unites both the northern and southern EU states is that new immigrants must be
confined as temporary, contract workers. Their stay in Europe must be tightly controlled and
matched to economic demand. They must not be allowed to become permanent residents. If the
immigrants were to acquire the same rights as the indigenous workforce, then they would lose their
special attraction as cheap and expendable labour units. So while the immigrants may have limited
social provisions sufficient to keep them functioning as a value-producing collective mechanism,
their rights are defined narrowly. In a world of declared universal human rights they have to be
treated as less than human. Social exclusion, not social integration, is the inevitable outcome of this
state policy. Deportations and social exclusion are two complementary aspects of the same strategy
of sustained state pressure on the immigrants. One or the other element comes to the fore according
to circumstances.

The further development that is worrying planners is the ageing population in the EU. Last year the
EU’s population only grew by 226,000 people, the smallest increase since the Second World War.
Current projections are that the EU labour force aged between 20 and 30 years old will have
contracted by 17% (9 million people) between 1995 and 2025.11 So Europe will continue to need
the cheap labour of young immigrants if it is to maintain living standards and welfare provision -
somebody has to do the dirty work. With its rising living standards and falling birth rates, this issue
is as acute in Spain as anywhere in Europe.

          ‘The immigrants have filled a gap. A gap which will get bigger because Spain, with only
          1.07 children per fertile woman, the lowest rate of birth in the world, is ageing apace and
          will need in the coming decades millions of foreign hands to maintain the production
          apparatus. And the system of social protection.’12

One thing is for sure, the ruling class has realised that the immigration issue will not go away, and
that they must actively control it in their interests. The Schengen process has gathered momentum,
and there have been follow up implementation agreements at Amsterdam and Tampere. In then
1990s the EU states began to hit common problems in managing the policy. They realised that the
best way to stem illegal immigration was to stop it at source, to dissuade potential migrants. They
began to demand of poorer neighbouring states that they prevent their own nationals entering into
the Schengen zone, as well as the transit of other would be immigrants. And the EU states found
that for their deportation programme to work they have to secure the co-operation of the states from
which the refugees or immigrants come. The state of origin has to agree to receive back each
identified individual. These strands were brought together and addressed in so-called Action Plans,

11
     Europa necesita a los inmigrantes si quiere mantener su estado de bienestar in ABC, 19 April 2000
12
     Inmigrantes hoy, padres de espanoles manana in El Pais, 14 February 2000
drawn up to focus on solving the problems region by region; first Iraqi Kurds and then Albania, Sri
Lanka, Afghanistan, Somalia and Morocco were targeted for attention. If states do not co-operate,
then withdrawal of development aid, credit or trade is threatened. 13 And so the scope of Europe’s
immigration control has extended to overseas intervention. McGauran points to the implications of
the Action Plans:

          ‘All of these are now being used to force these countries into accepting EU readmission
          agreements. Morocco for example, which has so far refused to take back its own
          undocumented nationals as well as other Africans who are said to have passed through the
          country before entering Europe, will in future not only have to take back those refugees and
          migrants, Morocco will have to impose visa requirements on West Africans, particularly
          Nigerians, Senegalese, Malians and nationals of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Due to
          Morocco’s position in the Euro-Mediterranean partnership and the Association Agreement
          signed in 1996 as well as its heavy dependence on EU trade, it is in absolutely no position to
          say no to EU imperialism’.

If not the corrupt Moroccan state then surely the Moroccan people and their fellow immigrants will
indeed say no to imperialism. For it is they who bear the human cost of Fortress Europe.

3.3    The Crossing
Algeciras is the town closest to the southern tip of Spain. Its council has just demanded more money
from central government, because its budget is insufficient to pay for all the burials of immigrants
washed onto its beaches. The refrigerator in the town’s morgue has packed up, it cannot cope with
the unprecedented volume of corpses. 14

A horrifying story, even more so because it is not exceptional. Every day the Spanish press carries
reports of deaths in the Gibraltar Straits and in the Canary Islands: ‘Three dead and 11 disappeared
in a shipwreck off Tarifa’, ‘Guardia Civil detains 36 immigrants while continuing the search for
bodies from recent shipwrecks’, '23 sin papeles detained on arrival in a boat at Barbate military
beach’, '25 sub-Saharans including a pregnant woman and three minors detained in Fuerteventura’,
‘Avalanche of illegal immigrants to the Canary Islands overcomes authorities’, and so on.15

Human rights organisations variously estimate that in the first four months of year 2000 anywhere
between 120 and 300 people have died in attempting to cross the straits. The Moroccan newspaper
Liberation estimates that in the last decade 3,450 people have perished, and a Spanish official
believes that 1,000 lives have been lost in the last two years alone.16 Putting these estimates together
we can see that about ten people, would be immigrants, are dying every week in the straits.
13
  Interestingly, this internationalisation of organisation reflects the modus operandi of multinational
companies that move to take direct control of their supply chains. The EU wants move its control over the
immigrant labour-power commodity to an earlier point in the supply chain, to help it overcome problems in
matching supply with demand.
14
     El Pais, 19 May 2000
15
     All quotes are headlines from El Pais
16
     El Pais, 6 May 2000
Whatever the real figure, what it is certain that this is an ongoing human rights tragedy on a truly
inter-continental scale.

The problem has become sufficiently serious to reach the attention of the Times newspaper in
London. It could even discourage British tourists from going the Canaries, ‘Hoteliers are worried
that news of the influx and of the corpses of drowned migrants that have washed up on beaches, will
frighten them off.’ warns Giles Tremlett in Lanzarote 17

Last year customs stopped 900,000 people trying to enter Spain. Seven out of every ten of these
refusals were at Ceuta and Melilla, the Spainsh enclaves in Morocco. There were 50,000 detentions
of illegal immigrants last year. In the first four months of this year the rate of deportation has
escalated by 30%, and the rate of detention is up by 60%. While such coercion is a deterrent, it is an
ineffective one against the enormous pressures that drive the emigration. The Spanish government
estimates that there are 25,000 Africans, 15,000 of them Moroccans and the rest from sub-Saharan
countries, who are congregated in North Morocco seeking a chance to “jump to Spain”. Similarly,
the International Red Cross estimates that 35,000 sub-Saharan Africans are waiting to risk the 1,000
mile journey from Africa to the Canary Islands.

Most crossings of the straits are undertaken in small motorised boats, the pateras. The going rate for
such a trip is reported to be about £700. The longer voyage to the Canaries apparently involves
passage in bigger vessels before using smaller boats or rafts to make the landing. Small boats and
rafts are also employed in attempts to get into Ceuta, although the more normal route appears to be
across land and over the razor wire fences.18


3.4    Spain’s Plans for Morocco
The broader picture of Fortress Europe’s intention to build a protective armed moat around itself is
manifest in Spain’s plans for Morocco. The relationship between the two countries is on the verge
of a new period.

The biggest part of Morocco was a French colony from 1912 to 1956. Apart from the spirited
resistance of the Moroccans, the country’s relatively late colonisation was due to its geo-political
location. The British already had Gibraltar to police the Mediterranean seaway, and for several
decades British policy backed an independent Morocco in order to avoid any other colonial power
challenging their absolute control of the straits from the south bank. At the same time Algeria was
the jewel in the French North Africa empire, and France’s main interest in taking control of
Morocco was to secure Algeria's Western flank. As the rush for Africa erupted in the last two
decades of the nineteenth century the pressures increased until finally Britain agreed, against fierce
opposition from Germany, that France could take over Morocco.19

This particular tale has two twists of relevance. The first twist concerns the nature of the colonial
occupation. As a make-weight to French power, it was agreed that Spain occupy Morocco’s

17
     The Times, 11 May 2000
18
     Harding, p108.
19
     See French Military Rule in Morocco: Colonialism and Its Consequences by Moshe Gershovich
northern coastline, apart from Tangiers. This meant that Britain still had no serious rival in the
western Mediterranean. And so for forty four years Spain held a coastal strip varying in width
between 50 and 100 kilometres, Spanish Morocco. This was in addition to Spain’s colony lying to
Morocco’s south-west, Spanish Western Sahara. Famously Franco used Spanish Morocco as the
springboard for his military offensive against the Republic, but by 1956 the claudillo was prepared
to give up the colony, as did the French theirs, ‘without too much fuss’.

The second twist was the peaceful nature of the decolonisation process, which occurred without a
protracted national liberation struggle. State power was handed over to the absolute rule of the
Moroccan royal family, which has exerted uninterrupted dictatorship ever since. The legacy is a
corrupt, pro-French ruling elite with an apparatus well versed in repression to keep itself in power.

On Franco’s death in 1975 Spain passed over control of Western Sahara, not to its people but to the
king of Morocco. Hasan II died last year, and the accession of young Mohamed VI has brought
promises of reform. Former socialist Abderramán Yusufi has been appointed Prime Minister, not
through election but by the new king. Democratic forces have tried to push open the limited
openings. In September 1999 there were disturbances in El Aaiún, and two thousand Saharawis
were detained. A demonstration in March this year was likewise repressed. Eye-witness journalists
reported that Moroccan soldiers were posted on every street.

Meanwhile the new king’s promise of reform is being tested inside the country, especially over the
issue of women. Existing law discriminates against women, who have few rights whether in or out
of marriage. 60% of Moroccan women are illiterate. On 12 March over 100,000 people, led by
women’s organisations and human rights groups marched in the nation’s capital Rabat demanding
changes in the law. These demonstrators also carried pictures of victims of the regime, people who
have suffered torture or who have been 'disappeared'. On the same day an even bigger
demonstration, estimated at over 300,000, took place in Casablanca. It was led by Islamic
organisations, who oppose reform to women’s legal status and warn against models of society being
imposed from the West. In April two Moroccan newspapers tried to publish an interview with
Mohamed Abdelaziz, the leader of Polisario, the Saharawi liberation movement. They were
prohibited under an article of the constitution citing national defence.

The royal family may have been stirred but it is not yet shaken from power. The ruling group is
eager to use its links with France to bring Morocco into the EU, but Spain has other intentions.

Spain is trying to push its southern neighbour into a new subordination. Aznar’s first official visit as
re-elected Prime Minister was to Mohamed VI. They had a lot to talk about. Apart from the
immigration issue, there are four points of conflict between the two governments. The first is
Morocco's outstanding demand that the Spanish colonial enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla be returned
to it. Secondly, the EU agreed that Morocco be allowed to export 146 thousand tonnes of tomatoes
into its customs area, a concession that was strongly opposed by the Andalucían tomato business,
which complains that Morocco illicitly exports more than its quota. Producers in the two countries
are often in direct competition. Spain is also watchful that Moroccan strawberry exporters keep to
their agreed EU quotas. The third point is competition over dwindling fish stocks: the EU and
Morocco have, since last November, been unable to agree a quota which has led to the idleness of
Spain’s big Galician fleets. And fourthly, there is the Western Sahara question. Kenneth Baker,
billionaire and former US Secretary of State, has been the UN’s special representative charged with
finding a ‘third way’ solution to the Western Sahara problem. The latest Baker plan does not
include self-determination of the Saharawi people. Baker proposes a degree of autonomy within
Morocco, and the territory is to be policed by a UN force led by Spanish and French troops.

This interventionist trend was further underlined when Aznar presented the Moroccan leaders with
an agenda of what they should do to brake the influx of illegal immigrants. Aznar’s ambitions take
the EU’s Action Plan approach a step further. The ‘Programme of Integrated Action for the
Development and Order of the Mediterranean Region of Morocco’ proposes to make Spanish funds
available for the co-development of Morocco’s northern coastal strip. While wrapped in
development-speak, the programme’s objective is to create a buffer zone in Africa that is under
Spanish influence and, in the course of events, Spanish supervision. Finance is the lever. In fact
since 1996 Spain has been offering £220 million in Aid and Development funding, of which only
1% has been taken up by the Moroccans because of their concern not to become even more
indebted.20 The latest version of the plan has suddenly raised the stakes tenfold, it envisages annual
investments of £2 billion for each of the next five years.

The other limb of Spain’s approach is to involve Morocco in a crackdown on the ‘criminal
networks’ and ‘mafia groups’ who house and transport illegal immigrants. The Spanish authorities
are especially concerned with the ‘call effect’, by which they mean that traffickers are spreading the
rumour that any immigrant who can get into Spain by this July will have a chance of obtaining legal
status through the regularisation procedure. Spain’s latest move has been in Brussels. It wants the
EU to impose on its behalf a new agreement that would commit Morocco to accepting not only its
own repatriated nationals, but any sub-Saharan African who had passed through its territory on their
way to Spain.

Northern Morocco, the region immediately adjacent the great North-South divide, has become too
important to Spain be left in the charge of Morocco’s rulers. The need to stem the flow of illegal
migration is being used as a pretext, it is applied as a further pressure on the Moroccan government.
It is being asked to accept the ‘co-operative development’ of the richest part of its territory, in
which 25% of the country’s population live. Here again comes the rekindling of Spain’s colonial
pretensions.


3.5     The Foreigners Law
Before examining the specifics of labour exploitation in Almería, there is one more vital piece of
the jigsaw to put in place, and that is how Spain proposes to manage its demand for immigrant
labourers. This is a live issue that requires active co-ordination by government in order to reconcile
the interests of distinct sections of the ruling class. Regional differences are important in this regard.
Unemployment in Cataluña and Aragon is down to levels of 6% to 7%. Employers in these northern
communes are concerned that economic growth is being held back by labour shortages. According
to the regional government 23,000 posts are unfilled in Cataluña alone.21

Spain operates a work quota system. In 1999 there were just 30,000 places for the whole country.
The work contingents are broken down by sector, with farming (8,986) and private households

20
     El Pais, 8 May 2000
21
     El Pais, 2 June 2000
(18,406), constituting the bulk of quota places22. Over 60,000 immigrants applied, the unsuccessful
applicants becoming illegal immigrants. Spain only accepted 35,000 legal immigrants in total last
year. Far more immigrants live and work in Spain than are officially sanctioned through the quotas.
They are concentrated in Madrid, Barcelona and Andalucía. The state realised that to regain control
it had to bring a large number of the illegals back into its administrative system. This objective is
shared by the PP and the PSOE, but they differ in the tactics for achieving it.

The PSOE and other opposition parties proposed a new law to the last parliament on the Rights and
Freedoms of Foreigners in Spain, the Foreigners Law, to supersede its own legislation passed in
1985. Although it was the governing party, before the 12 March general election the Partido Popular
did not have an absolute majority and was unable to stop the new law being passed.

According to its supporters the Foreigners Law was intended to improve the lot of migrant workers,
providing means through which any migrants in Spain before 1 June 1999 could regularise their
position. Following similar exercises in 1991 and 1996, this is Spain's third regularisation process.
The law apparently granted some restricted social and democratic rights to foreigners (but see
below). The PP opposed the Foreigners Law, not for the policing aspects which it supports, but
because of the concessions to immigrants with papers.

The quota system of work permits is the pivot of the mechanism. All sections of business, as well as
political parties, the unions and NGOs will be drawn into consultations to agree the quotas sector by
sector. Through this process the state intends to meld the different sectional requirements into an
overall demand-led plan.

The state’s bigger problem was to regain control over the supply side. The law was passed on 11
January and came into effect on 1 February, 2000. The immediate results were chaotic, with queues
of anxious immigrants waiting outside government offices for documents. In Alicante the police
baton charged a crowd of 2,000 immigrants, underlining the sort of welcome they at least had in
mind. The police action was backed by the government. Openly playing the race card, the PP made
repeal of the Foreigners Law a pledge in the election campaign that was about to start.

The law has the full title 'The Organic Law on the rights and freedoms of foreigners in Spain and
their social integration'. Its status as an 'organic law' means that it was fully debated in both the
Congress and the Senate and was signed by King Juan Carlos, and so constitutionally should be
applied throughout the country. This is necessary so that Spain can claim it has incorporated
international agreements into its domestic law, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
and conventions on the Rights of the Child.

What social integration is provided for by the Foreigners Law? As with any legislation, it is
important to check the small print. For example, Article 12 concerns the right to medical assistance.
'Foreigners in Spain who are enrolled on the municipal list where they habitually live, have the right
to health assistance on the same conditions as Spanish people'. Yet this article, as well as those
concerning the right to work and to social security, to housing assistance and to access to social
services, falls under an exemption written into the same legislation. The exemption means that the


22
  Spain: Fences Cannot Hold Back the Wind in the collection Without Papers in Europe published by the
‘No One is Illegal’ campaign.
social integration articles do not have an 'organic' character, i.e. they do not need to be applied by
regional or local administrations.

It was exactly this point that was tested when on 4 February near El Ejido just 3 days after the new
law came into force. Two friends took a young Moroccan to a health centre and asked that he be put
under psychiatric care as he was suffering from paranoia. The man had tried just two weeks earlier
to get taken in, but was refused. Would things be any better under the new law? Again the centre's
administrators said that they were unable to take him in because he was 'irregular', which is a
euphemism for 'illegal'. Quite apart from the arguments over whether the law recognises just the
right to emergency care, or access to services for the physical rather than the mental integrity of a
person; this incident shows that the rights and freedom of foreigners are in practice still denied. And
with tragic results: the next day the man denied treatment allegedly killed a Spanish woman, an
event that triggered the avalanche of racist violence.
4         The Role of Immigrant Labour in Andalucían Agriculture

4.1      A Modern Solution to the Agrarian Question
Close on sixty years ago the English author Gerald Brenan rightly identified the unresolved agrarian
question as the root cause of the Spanish Civil War. To be more precise, Brenan showed that there
were 'two main agrarian problems in Spain: that of the small holdings in the centre and the north'
and 'that of the large estates in the south, which are run on a factory system that keeps down wages
to starvation point by means of huge reserves of unemployed labour.' 23

Then, in the 1930s, there were more than 4 million agricultural producers, mostly peasants and
landless labourers, whereas by 1999 there were just 1 million workers in agriculture and fishing
combined. In the intervening decades millions had migrated from the impoverished south to join the
lower ranks of the working class in Madrid, in Spain's northern cities and further afield again in
Germany and France.24 The local pool of reserve labour had certainly not dried up completely,
unemployment rates in Andalucía often reached 30% though the 1980s, but the downward pressure
on the Spanish working class was no longer so great that they would accept starvation wages.

With great prescience Brenan wrote that 'Intensive dry farming is a scientific problem that must be
solved by Spain'.25 Intensive dry farming is exactly what the invernadero system has since
achieved on the hot and hitherto barren plain of Almería, the most eastern of the eight provinces in
Andalucía

An invernadero green house is constructed out of plastic sheeting and scaffolding. Topsoil is placed
in small patches for each plant. The water supply is piped in from the north. Chemical fertilisers and
pesticides are applied through the water supply, and recycled in temperatures of up to 45 degrees.
These intensive hot-house conditions render several crops a year of tomatoes, peppers, water
melons and cucumbers (the citrus fruits are not raised here). Using such methods tomato
production in Almería alone accounts for 25% of Andalucía’s agricultural output.

Hence the conditions that led to civil war have been superseded, but by a new equally intolerable
form of production, presided over by a similarly reactionary employing class. Only now the cheap
work hands upon which the agriculture industry depends are drawn from international reserves of
labour. The demand for cheap labour attracted an immigrant workforce.

Foreign labour is used to attenuate the domestic social contradiction, while at the same time
externalising it and carrying it to a new level. Spain’s modern solution to the agrarian question
requires racism and national oppression. Thus old demons are brought to life.



23
  The Spanish Labyrinth: The social and political background of the Spanish Civil War by Gerald Brenan,
pp91-92
24
     See The New Spaniards by John Hooper, p16
25
     Brenan, p116
4.2       The Economics of Super-exploitation

          "Labour is fundamentally immigrant, above all Moroccan, in the Almerían countryside. The
          boom in the horticultural sector at the beginning of the 1990s coincided with the massive
          arrival of immigrants."26

Some 30,000 immigrants live in the El Poniente district of western Almería. The regional
newspaper El Correo reports that the district has 17,000 hothouses covering an area 35,000
hectares; that an average invernadero generates 40 million pesetas (£149,000) annual income; and
that 20,000 immigrant workers are employed at any one time - 50% Moroccans and the rest mostly
Senegalese, Ukrainians and Russians. There is competition for work amongst the immigrant
communities. At an early morning labour market the bosses’ men come to select their workers for
the day, they feel the worker’s strength and check the price. The immigrants stand clustered in their
national groups. If they are not picked they have to come back the next day and wait again.

Since immigrant workers are 90% of the workforce, a typical work team might consist of one
Spanish foreman and 9 immigrants employed to run three invernaderos. The immigrant worker
receives 4,000 pesetas for working a basic 8 hour day. If the worker does an hour overtime, paid pro
rata, he will get 117,000 pesetas a month. This monthly wage is a theoretical maximum, much
higher than the real average of 50-60,000 pesetas reported by the immigrant associations. In any
event the immigrant worker is paid the equivalent of 500 pesetas (less than £2) for each hour
worked. According to the employers, the foreman earns just over half as much again. On average a
foreman’s pay is 200,000 pesetas a month. The combined annual wage of the work team works out
at 15 million pesetas; or 5 million pesetas for each of the three invernaderos.

According to employers' figures, the annual output of an invernadero sells for 40 million pesetas,
which is split into three parts: 20 million costs of production27; 5 million for labour costs and 15
million is profit. The patron with three invernaderos is thus making a profit of 45 million pesetas
while paying his workers just 15 million pesetas. What has his initial capital outlay been? For each
invernadero there is the 25 million pesetas spent annually on the costs of production (material costs
plus labour costs), from which an average profit of 15 million pesetas can be extracted; that is an
annual profit rate of 60%. In this example, the annual profit is 45 million pesetas (£167, 286) on an
outlay of 75 million pesetas (£278,810). Compare the patron’s income with the immigrant’s. Most
workers cannot work continually in the unhealthy conditions, and moreover they need to take
extended time off to visit their families. Suppose that the immigrant worker manages at best to work
8 months out of 12, then his annual income will be 936,000 pesetas (£3,480). On these figures, the
average income of a boss is 48 times greater than that of an immigrant worker. The workforce are
adding value worth 20 million pesetas every year, but they only get paid 5 million pesetas. In other
words, the rate of exploitation is 300%.

26
     Carlota Muñoz, El Correo de Andalucía, 27 February 2000.
27
  The categories are not well defined in the El Correo article. I assume that both elements of constant
capital, that is the depreciation of fixed capital (buildings, machinery) as well as circulating capital (materials
consumed in the production process), are included in the 20 million for material costs. This seems
reasonable, since once the land is obtained the initial construction costs of the invernaderos are especially
low - plastic sheeting and the metal structure to support it and there is a low level of mechanisation.
Most probably the above figures understate the real rate of exploitation. Not only have I used the
employer’s own figures for the immigrant’s wage, but the inclusion of Social Security payments
and taxes as labour costs is misleading. Firstly, regularised immigrant workers make their own
Social Security payments out of their wage - over 8,000 pesetas a month. Secondly, about half of
the immigrant workers are illegal and Social Security is not paid. Thirdly, the character and the
extent of the tax component is unclear. Taxes should be treated as an element deducted from the
surplus value, they are paid to the state for such things as policing. If we assume a transfer of 1
million, this leaves net annual wage costs of 4 million and gross pre-tax profits of 16 million per
invernadero, then we can see that the real rate of exploitation is even higher at 400% and the rate of
profit is 16/24 = 67%. No wonder that El Poniente is known as the land of gold!

Although there is high unemployment Spanish men do not expect, and are not expected, to work for
less than 8,000 pesetas a day. The de facto minimum wage for women, gitanos and other oppressed
sections is considerably less. The immigrant male worker can at best only hope to get paid half of
the Spanish male worker, who is himself exploited. The Spanish male is paid the minimum
necessary to reproduce his labour power and that of the next generation. But although his labour
adds the same value as a Spanish worker the immigrant is not expected to cost as much, he cannot
live in a home or have a family with him. He is paid only half the cost of what the reproduction of
his labour power would be under minimum socially acceptable conditions. Super-exploited and
forced into socially unacceptable conditions, the immigrant is treated as a sub-human by the system.

According to one recent study only 16% of all the immigrants in Almería live in conditions fit for
human habitation. The immigrants are denied access to rented accommodation. Most of them live in
chabolas, slum dwellings they have erected themselves out of waste material on derelict land. Most
immigrants live without furniture, electricity or running water. They truly are the Third World
within the First World.

The immigrant workers labouring in a sea of invernaderos generate an annual profit of several
hundred million pounds. The invernaderos are even more profitable than Telefónica. As with the
more established multinationals, surplus capital is beginning to be exported. The more successful of
the owners are now setting up production in the north of Morocco. In addition there are all the
agricultural suppliers; fruit packing, distribution and transport companies; and the plastic factories
all of which are sharing in the bonanza. Multinational seed companies are involved, eager to use the
conditions to push transgenic crops and other new varieties. El Ejido, the town in the centre of El
Poniente, has one of the highest incomes per head, and it has more bank branches per capita than
any other town in Spain.

Finance capital has already moved in, and the trend is likely to increase. Profits at an average rate of
over 60% are attracting bigger capitals into the sector. Expected future profits have pushed up land
prices. The individual patrons work together as producer 'co-operatives', and distribution of their
crops as branded El Ejido product is spread out to super-markets in northern Europe. The moves to
regularise the workforce will speed up the centralisation of agricultural capital into bigger, more
powerful units. Hence the underlying problem is not the 'regularisation' of the immigrant workers as
such, but overcoming their oppressive conditions, whether illegal or legal, whether regularised or
not. Legalised super-exploitation of the immigrant workforce will not solve their problems.
4.3    El Ejido: One Town, Two Worlds
El Ejido is one town, but within its borders exist two very different worlds, the world of the
immigrant and the world of the nuevo rico.

The nuevo rico world is one of bloated over consumption. There is a palatial modern civic hall,
international conferences are held there and the town welcomes visitors to its theatre season. Behind
this cultured façade lie ugliness and fear. The patrons come mostly from the nearby Alpujarras
mountains. Driven away by the poverty of the Franco years they went to work abroad as emigrants.
Those who saved a little came back bought some land cheap, at first worked by their own sweated
labour and that of their families, and then by immigrant labour which catapulted them into the role
of master.

Socially, the patrons do not form a conservative and skilled labour aristocracy built up through
gradualist change. They are a dangerous, just arrived, uneducated lumpen bourgeoisie. While they
have a place alongside other sectors of Spain’s nuevos ricos, and are affiliated with them through
the ranks of the governing Partido Popular (PP), the El Ejido new rich have some especially ugly
characteristics. The PP controls the town council. The commercial television stations for El
Poniente are owned by friends of the local political bosses and are notorious for their propaganda
linking immigration with delinquency. At the last municipal elections Juan Enciso, El Ejido's racist
mayor, had threatened to quit the PP and stand as a candidate for Group of Independent Liberals
(GIL), an ultra-right grouping headed by the corrupt mayor of Marbella. Enciso got his way and is
still with the PP.

Last year there were 91 reported cases of domestic violence in El Ejido. The surrounding area, El
Poniente, has the highest levels of violence towards women in the whole of Spain. The dual
syndrome of male violence towards women and racist violence towards immigrants is deeply
interwoven with a mushrooming drugs business and the arrival of mafia networks from Eastern
Europe. A local human rights campaigner told me,

          ‘There are a lot of clubs, brothels, discos. The patrons have a lot of money, they drive flash
          cars, they get drunk, they take drugs, they go to the clubs and then afterwards they go and
          fight the Moroccans.’

The worlds of wage slavery and sex slavery intersect in El Ejido. According to one recent rather
salacious investigation the sex industry around the town is thriving28. Organised crime is taking a
grip. More than half of the Russian women working as prostitutes are caught by the mafia from the
one city of Tambov. They are kept at work by violence. There are different brothels for the bosses
and the workers. The women too are segregated according to race. Latin American women are
recruited as sex workers for the immigrants.




28
     Compraventa de Chicas Rusas en El Ejido in Interviu 28 February 2000
The immigrants' world is one where they are continuously under attack. For years the Maghrebi
population has suffered systematic racist attacks in the places where they stay.29 The sons of the
local patrones have made caza de hombre (man hunting) their favourite weekend sport. The
violence usually starts on Saturday evening and goes on into the night, continuing all day Sunday.
There is an organised group of attackers in nearby Nijar. The men arrive at a dwelling in groups of
fifteen or more with their faces masked. On 15 November 1998 they burnt down a dwelling in
Matagorda killing a Moroccan in his home.

It is therefore not surprising that sooner or later the Moroccans and other African immigrants would
rebel against these inhuman conditions. Tension in the Maghrebi community started mounting at the
beginning of this year, fuelled by concerns over the new immigration law. Then a Moroccan worker
fought with his boss and killed him and another man as well. Enciso declared in the local press
“We’re going to make it so that its more and more difficult for these shameful people to come
here”. The racist attacks escalated with more people involved.

Then, on 5 February a Spanish woman was knifed to death in the market (allegedly by the
Moroccan man suffering paranoia referred to previuosly). That night and the following day there
was an orgy of attacks on the Moroccans. Crowds of local inhabitants, as well as out of town
fascists seizing their opportunity, descended upon the Moroccans' hovels armed with staves, iron
bars, and incendiary materials. Many chabolas were set alight with occupants inside, who ran out
only to be beaten. There were fifty-four immigrants living in two abandoned cottages when they
were attacked. The attackers threw butane gas canisters, an ignited motorbike and a car battery at
this dwelling to explode in the fire. The racist mobs overturned cars with their Moroccan drivers
still inside. They stoned and chased people. The attacks went to the Mosque where they tore up the
Koran and urinated on carpets, they wrecked Moroccan cafeterias and telephone shops. The offices
of two support organisations, Almería Acoge (‘Welcome’) and the Association of Progressive
Women were ransacked by organised groups.


4.4     Racist Violence Reinforcing Extreme Social Exclusion
The events in El Ejido over the weekend of 5 and 6 of February 2000 can only be described as a
racist pogrom. As one local man opposed to the attacks put it, 'This is the frontier between Europe
and Africa, between the rich world and the poor world. This is it. And the frontier is a very
dangerous place.’

Hundreds of immigrants fled for their safety to the nearby mountains. Most refused to return to
work on the next Monday. A leadership was elected from amongst the immigrants and this
Commission quickly declared a strike and sent out teams of pickets to spread the word and co-
ordinate the action. The police detained picket leaders and hunted after others. Despite this
repression, the strike was 100% amongst the Moroccans.30 Immediately the employers started
speaking of employing East European workers in their place. But whilst this remains part of the
employers’ thinking, their immediate dependence on Moroccan labour was so great they had to

29
  Reports of these are listed, with other important notes on the El Ejido situation, in the excellent report
Informe Sobre Los Sucesos Xenófobos Ocurridos En El Ejido Durante Los Días 5 y 6 de Febrero de 2.000
by Angeles Garzón Morales, a lawyer for SOS Racismo.
30
     See Novedades sobre El Ejido (9-17 de febrero 2000) available through www.nodo50.org
strike a deal quickly, or lose millions of pounds of production. The peppers and cucumbers were
ready to be picked. From apparent defeat the immigrant workers were able to use their economic
power to resist. So the two sides sat down to negotiate. The employers, backed by the provincial
and national government but not joined by Enciso, were on one side. The immigrants, backed by the
trade unions and NGOs, were on the other.

The Agreement that was reached on Saturday 12 February recognised the urgent need for
emergency accommodation for those who had lost their dwellings in the attack, just over five
hundred people, although this left aside the desperate housing needs of thousands more. It was also
agreed: that immediate compensation would be paid out to the victims of the violence; that the
central government’s and Andalucía’s planned social programmes would be implemented; that the
immigrants’ legal status would be regularised immediately; that there would be a programme of
integrated social housing; and that there would be a ‘deep investigation’ by the Ministries of Justice
and the Interior into the events of 5 and 6 February.

On this basis the immigrants were back at work the following Monday. The employers were
relieved to have bought a breathing space. And while the Agreement did not articulate the
immigrants’ main demands for security, dignity and social justice, they felt that least their needs had
been registered. Some of the Moroccans stressed that the Agreement was only a pre-accord, a
provisional document that needed improvement. In any case, the 12 February Agreement was to
become the axis of the dispute between the immigrant collective and the authorities. It was agreed
that a round table commission would meet on 25 February to verify progress in implementing the
Agreement.

Up to 1,000 of the Moroccans were victimised and lost their jobs for joining the strike. Meanwhile
the racist mobilisation had found new tactics. An open letter backing Enciso circulated. Street
posters went up calling for 'Spaniards First'. Enciso publicised a petition signed by 8,539 local
people against any provision of emergency accommodation for the immigrants, claiming that he
was concerned that this would lead to the creation of a ghetto. As with refugees in Germany and
Britain, the immigrants do not even have the right to live in a ghetto.

Faced with such open hostility, and the tardiness of the authorities in providing emergency relief,
the Moroccan immigrants were again discussing whether or not to restart strike action. Weeks after
the Agreement only 10% of the damages claims had been paid out, and that on an insurance basis
for property where the owner could show proof of purchase, not compensation for personal trauma
or injury. Deliberately adding insult to injury, Enciso refused to allow any emergency
accommodation within the town boundary, so the units had to be placed in remote spots next to the
invernaderos. The government did nothing to overrule the racist mayor. The emergency
‘Portakabin’ modules that finally arrived provided only 170 sleeping places, only 10 of the 42 units
had cooking facilities and the average floor space per worker turned out to be 2.5 square metres. It
was an insult. Very few places were taken up.

It had become clear to the Moroccan workers that the employers and the government had negotiated
in bad faith. The immigrants had been deceived. There were still hundreds of desperate,
traumatised, homeless victims. So when the round table commission convened on 25 February the
immigrants’ representatives denounced the lack of progress. They showed their disgust by walking
out of the meeting. The CC.OO trade union and the NGO Acoge however stayed at the table,
thereby publicly undermining the immigrants’ stand. In the days that followed these same two
organisations advised the workers against a militant course, as did those representatives close to the
Moroccan consulate. But feeling was very strong within the immigrant community and it took three
days of mass meetings to settle the issue. The Moroccan workers gave a new deadline by which the
agreement must be implemented. But they had been weakened and needed to regain the initiative.

The Partido Popular won 64% of the town’s votes in the elections on 12 March, up from 46% in the
previous election. The racist street mobilisation was reflected in the ballot box. People at Enciso’s
celebration party shouted 'We’re going to get rid of the Moors'.

The issues of policing and social control permeate all official attempts to solve the housing question
of the immigrants. One proposal came from Enciso, who dusted off his long standing £90 million
plan to renovate disused farm buildings and turn them into hostels, backed up by a new road
network linking the invernaderos to the town. The idea running through Enciso’s project, in truth
little more than a scam for augmenting the patrons’ property values and turning their immigrant
workers into unpaid night watchmen, is to avoid any social integration. But the naked self-interest
of the Enciso plan was too crude, it has been displaced by a government scheme of hostel building.
The latest proposal is to build four or five hostels, each with the capacity of 100 lodging single male
immigrants, which are to be located by consensus. The first hostel is expected in September, over
six months after the pogrom and so hardly emergency accommodation. When complete this
programme will satisfy no more than one fifth of the housing needs. Moreover the hostels, so
reminiscent of the labour barracks of the apartheid system, will do nothing to overcome social
exclusion, they will simply give it new walls.

Eduardo Lopez, head of the employers association CODG-UAGA, said that East Europeans are
ethnically preferable to Africans. It is now possible to see mixed teams at work. Yet the grand plan
of substituting the Moroccans with East Europeans is more dangerous for the local employers than
they might have imagined. Rumours abound that the mafia are coming in from Eastern Europe in a
big way, making life in El Ejido ever more lawless. There is a higher proportion of women amongst
the East European immigrants. They too have come in search of a better life. The mafia agents that
brought them keep control over them while they are working. They keep the workers’ passports and
demand a commission of the daily wage. The mafia's relationship with the agricultural workers is
along the same lines as their control of the sex workers. Thus it is that the employers and
government’s own policies are leading to the spread of organised crime.

The main call from the PSOE has been for more police. The police deployment of 600 extra officers
is costing £17,000 a day. This force stakes out strategic points in the area, targeting any immigrants
moving around. They conduct intensive stop and search operations. In the meantime there has been
no arrest of any of the hundreds of local people involved in attacking immigrants on 5 February,
and no published results of police investigation into the events. Racism has been granted legal
impunity as well as political support from the governing parties.
4.5     After El Ejido – Racism, Violence and the Family
After El Ejido, the regularisation of immigrants under the Foreigners Law has been taking
everyone’s attention. Before the process began on 21 March officials had predicted that 80,000
immigrants would apply for residency. Two months later, 22 May, the number of applications had
already reached 126,889. With two more months to go to the final deadline of 31 July there could
be nearly 250,000 applications. So far there has been little evidence of the state using the exercise to
make deportations, the current balance between the supply and demand for labour is against this. 31
But this could change according to the economic cycle. The employers want an 'agile' system. The
PP government has become pre-occupied in toughening up the law which it believes is too
permissive. The government intends to deepen the distinction between legal and illegal immigrants,
while at the same time altering the rules whereby legal immigrants can become permanent residents.
The proposed tightening includes better evaluation of deportation cases and restriction of the right
to appeal against visa denials.32

The immigrants’ right to live together as families is a vital issue. It indicates whether their human
rights are truly respected by the state and society. And it shows whether the immigrants will be
allowed to settle in Spain. A contradictory process has been set in motion with regard to the
immigrant’s right to family life. On the one hand the racist violence deters families settling in
Spain, on the other hand Spain’s international obligations have meant that the Foreigners Law
incorporates specific rights for immigrants who are minors and pregnant women. This highlights the
distinction between the state’s formal recognition of rights for immigrants and the social reality that
the immigrants face.

A study carried out in 1993 found that there were 5,633 Moroccan women living in Spain, 25% of
them in Andalucía and 23% in Madrid.33 There were single women, ‘The majority of women who
come on their own initiative are not married, and they are more exposed to all types of exploitation’.
The majority of married women who joined their male partners in Spain, partly as a result of the
regularisation process of 1991, were considered ‘passive immigrants’. The study discusses changes
taking place within immigrant families moving from a traditional patriarchal regime to one of
greater equality, and notes that married immigrant women always enter the very bottom section of
the labour market. It concludes:

          ‘Women play a very important role in the juncture between the two cultures. The outcome
          between identity and integration will depend, in part, on whether the host society wants to
          build bridges or set up obstacles.’

Bridges or obstacles? There can be little doubt which it is in the case in Almería. Although the vast
majority of Maghrebi immigrants are single men, the Union of Progressive Women (UPW) is in
contact with several hundred immigrant families who have managed to stay in the district. But after

31
 See Belgium: One Year After the Murder of Semira Adamu in Without Papers in Europe for a warning of
what can happen under the cloak of ‘regularisation’.
32
     El Pais, 20 May 2000
33
     La mujer inmigrante marroquí en España by Teresa Losada Campo, Bayt al-Taqafa
the 5 February pogrom, many of these families separated with the mothers accompanying their
children back to Morocco. The UPW reports another phenomenon, immigrant men looking after
their sons as single parents in Spain, while the female side of the family stays in Morocco.

How possible is it for these split families to come together? Formally speaking the new Foreigners
Law accepts that family unification is a right. Apart from the ever-present threat of violence the
state sets up two further obstacles. First the mother and any children in Morocco have to obtain
permission to enter, which is often denied with allegations of marriage of convenience. Second the
family has to have a home to live together, but there are very few such places available to the
immigrants. Without this social provision there cannot be even the beginning of social integration.

The threat of violence is real. Laziza B. is a Moroccan woman who worked for horticultural
company Nature Choice in El Ejido. When her employer found that she was two months pregnant
she was ordered onto other task, heavy work loading and unloading boxes of vegetables. She
refused to do it and ended up being beaten by the bosses (the doctor’s report notes contusions to her
neck, knees and forearm, and head wounds).34

Race tensions and racist attacks are common. A Moroccan news kiosk was burned out in Almería
city. On international day against racism, 21 March, an African immigrant in Murcia hid in a
supermarket to escape a group of local youths, until he was rescued by sympathetic neighbours. At
a disco in Lepe in Huelva province, 15 Moroccans working the strawberry harvest fought with
locals. A watching fourteen year old Spanish boy lost an eye when a broken glass flew into his face.
The next day gangs of Spanish youth roamed the area and, armed with stones, sticks and bike
chains, they attacked any immigrants they found. An Algerian commented that although he finds
racism in Lepe bad, it is still not as bad as in El Ejido where African immigrants would not even be
able to get into a disco.35

At the same time the prospect of protection for children under the law has had, within the context of
the mass immigration driven by North-South inequality, two unforeseen effects on family
relationships.

Firstly there has been more immigration of unaccompanied minors. In the last year the number of
illegal immigrants attending state institutions for minors in Andalucía has shot up fourfold to 1,864
young people. Three quarters of them had been separated from their families and were homeless
prior to their entry into Spain. Under the new law an illegal immigrant who is under 18 cannot be
deported by the Spanish authorities unless they have a guarantee that the young person’s family will
take them back.

Secondly there is the immigration of pregnant women. Jeremy Harding reports the case of a young
woman from West Africa who was seven months pregnant and caught on the perimeter road in
Ceuta. That night she committed suicide in a police cell. The case was all over the Spanish press.36

34
     Una inmigrante embarazada, agredida por sus patrones in El Mundo, 20 April 2000
35
     El Pais, 10 May 2000
36
     Harding, p120
That was towards the end of 1998. In recent months there have been cases of pregnant women
managing to arrive on Spanish territory as illegal immigrants. Of the 500 women that they have
detained since the Foreigners law came into practice, the police report that 20 of them are in
advanced stages of pregnancy.37 The Spanish press has not been overly sympathetic. ‘Carrying a
child in the womb is almost arriving with a safe conduct’ ran the headline of a news story in the
respectable, left of centre El Pais.38 The person concerned was Cinthya Uwagbou, a nineteen year
old mother. Despite articles in the Foreigners Law apparently affirming the right of families to stay
together in Spain, there is now a legal debate about whether Cinthya and her newborn child can be
deported.

One woman, Lilian Imatitkwa, a 30 year old Nigerian who was three months pregnant, did not make
it to Spanish territory. She drowned just off the Canary Islands. One more victim of the crackdown
on illegal immigration.




37
     El Pais, 15 May 2000
38
     El Pais, 17 April 2000
5         Political Strategies

5.1     Containment and Division …
The explosion of racist violence in El Ejido disturbed Spain’s complacency, at least for a time. The
biggest show of solidarity was 500 miles away in Barcelona, where 10,000 people joined a march
called by SOS Racismo. What El Ejido it will lead to in the longer term depends on the political
forces that are lining up for and against the immigrants’ human rights.

The government's strategy in response to the events has been one of containment of the immigrant
workers’ resistance in the short term, while sowing the seeds of division for the future. El Ejido
erupted on the eve of a general election campaign, but the official political process ignored the
human rights abuses. The limited state of public debate can be gauged from an article by Xavier
Visal-Folch 'Spitting on those who won't be able to vote this Sunday' published two days before the
election. It pointed out that since immigrants would not be able to vote, those with votes should use
them to block the PP's harsh plans on the immigrants' behalf, Visal-Folch offered Germany as the
liberal model to be emulated, writing that:

          "Models of society are differentiated above all by their treatment of the weakest. Here I
          direct myself to the electors who want to transform Spain into a society which is welcoming,
          tolerant and open such as Germany - whose recent Citizenship Law, which permits the
          naturalisation of four million people and raises to full citizenship the children of foreign
          parents who have been residing in the country for eight years is an example - or they will
          consent in a becoming a caricature replica of another hard and unsociable society as is North
          America in certain aspects, even though naturally without its degree of wealth or its capacity
          for technological innovation."39

Germany's hard state and unfriendly society, its modern concentration camps for illegal immigrants,
the deportation of minors who have lived there for years, the strict controls over refugees, the fascist
mobilisations to expel immigrants - none of these were mentioned.

Spain is indeed following the German model of immigration control, or rather it is falling into step
with the larger European model of combining limited integration with ever tighter and more
repressive controls. Despite its aversion to overt racism and xenophobia, the social democratic 'left'
as well as the right subscribes to the strategic policy of Fortress Europe, the rock upon which all the
discriminations are based.40

On 13 March, the day after the General Election, the PP government released a report to the UN’s
Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The report stated that there are only two
sources of racism in Spain: one which emanates from skinhead neo-fascists wherever they organise
consistently; and secondly racism occurs due to spontaneous outbursts by a local population over
some particular labour or social question. Presumably the events of El Ejido would, in the official

39
     El Pais 10 March 2000
40
 For more details on the PSOE and Izquierda Unida’s election campaigns see my article Spitting on Those
Who Couldn't Vote 12 March 2000
view, fit into this second category. In other words there is no recognition of state or any other form
of institutional racism. At the same time government spokesmen declare that “Immigration will be
the principal problem of coexistence in Spain”. It would seem that immigration is the problem, not
racism.

This official policy can only be changed by forces outside the governing party. But the PSOE, the
main political opposition, and the larger NGOs collude in a culture of denial. The state’s
regularisation programme has drawn the majority trend in the NGOs and unions closer to it. They
accept the framework of the quota system.

The NGOs distinguish between racism, that is discrimination and oppression on grounds of colour,
and xenophobia, that is discrimination and hostility directed to the outsider. Racism and xenophobia
are twin evils to be opposed. But this framework is inadequate to understand what is happening in
Spain, for it leaves aside the fundamental relationship of imperialism, the division of the world
between oppressor nations and oppressed nations, that is the cause of racial oppression, and the role
of the state in enforcing racism.

To illustrate, Spain received 58 million foreign tourists in 1999 (a significant number of them
ethnically non-European, e.g. Japanese or Afro-Americans). Hence the ratio between the number of
tourists and non-European immigrants is about seventy to one. Both groups are foreigners, yet it is
the immigrant and not the tourist who is the victim of persistent attacks. It is a mistake to attribute
the racist attacks to xenophobia per se, rather it is hostility directed towards an oppressed group of
foreigners, immigrants who come to Spain from oppressed nations. As has been argued in relation
to Britain, racism is not an inherent biological fear of the outsider, it is social and historically
determined. This racism is not to do with skin colour as such, rather it is the ‘specific form taken by
national oppression within the oppressor nations’41 .

The national-populist attacks in El Ejido have a definite purpose, that is shared by the government,
and that is why the attackers have enjoyed immunity. They are to prevent the immigrants from
settling in Spain, bringing over their families and positing their full range of needs as human beings.
The attacks are meant to keep the immigrant as a mere guest worker, both unsettled and excluded
from Spanish society.42 This is the government policy.


5.2    Versus Resistance and Solidarity
Organised resistance from immigrant organisations is the key to carrying forward the struggle.

The El Ejido workers were joined by the Association of Moroccan Emigrants in Spain (AEME),
other immigrant communities and sections of the socialist left in a demonstration in Madrid on 26
March. The lead banners demanded justice for El Ejido’s immigrants and declared the ‘No Human
Being is Illegal’. In 24 April 50 immigrants from the Council of Maghrebi Workers in El Ejido, the

41
  See Racism, imperialism and the working class in Revolutionary Communist No 9, also recently quoted in
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! No 155
42
 This point is further elaborated in El Ejido: Un Caso Extremo De Segregación Social by Susana López y
Antonio Gómez Movellán
Co-ordination of Immigrant Associations and the Living without Racism Platform started a sit-in in
the trade union building in Almería to once again demand implementation of the 12 February
Agreement. They had the support of the minority union federations CGT, CNT and USTEA.
Together these forces called a May Day demonstration in Almería which was attended by 3,500
people. The mainstream federations CC.OO and UGT attracted 500 to their event in the city.43

In March 90 Moroccan workers had been shipped out of El Ejido to Huelva, in the far west of
Andalucía, joining thousands of other temporary workers on the strawberry harvest. The group from
El Ejido carried with them the new spirit of struggle. Within six weeks they were on strike against
the employer Doñana 2000. The strikers demand three weeks unpaid back pay. They are supported
by the independent agricultural labourers union Sindicato de Obreros de Campo (SOC) which has a
history of active struggle in the region. The main federations CC.OO and UGT opposed the strike.
Their attitudes towards the immigrants have throughout been consistent with the position of a
Spanish labour aristocracy, another consequence of the new imperialism.

Elsewhere in Andalucía, the Immigrants Liberation Movement (ILM) announced its presence in
March this year when 65 sub-Saharan Africans went on hunger strike outside the Cathedral in
Malaga. Most of the ILM’s members come from former British and French colonies in West Africa.
They had been sleeping in abandoned cars on the beach. They decided to get together and fight. The
ILM’s statement, ‘NO HUMAN BEING IS ILLEGAL’, could not be clearer. It ends, bluntly ‘We
Have Nothing To Eat. We Have No Place To Sleep. We Have No Papers. We Have Nothing To Lose
And We Are Going To Fight Until We Get Our Right To Live As Human Beings’. The police forced
the hunger strikers away from the Cathedral. Within days the ILM had relocated their protest to the
parish church of El Salvador, a working class district in Malaga. They demanded to be included in
the regularisation process, and extracted a promise of ‘flexibility’ from the government’s
spokesman before ending the strike. Most of the members of the ILM are now staying temporarily
in a social centre where, with the support of the Movement Against Unemployment, Poverty and
Social Exclusion (MPPES), they are battling to overcome all the problems of survival.

We have seen that while their institutionalised parties and platforms have kept away or worse, there
also exist important minority trends within the unions, NGOs and social movements who have
rallied to the immigrant resistance. The other vital ingredient in taking the struggle forward must
now be to consolidate and integrate this solidarity into a movement. Some groups have been
helping the immigrants break out of their political isolation as well as social exclusion. The issue
that arises in these formative, local alliances is finding a way of working together that keeps the
immigrants' needs paramount. Insofar as the Spanish state succeeds in dividing legal and illegal
immigrants, this issue will crystallise around the plight of the illegal immigrants, the sin papeles.

As all the most advanced sections recognise, the point of unity is that no human being is illegal.
The challenge for all of us is to join the resistance and turn this slogan into reality.




43
     Encierro De Inmigrantes En Almería documents 3 May 2000

								
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