Automatically translated from Basque, translation may contain errors. More information here. Elhuyarren itzultzaile automatikoaren logoa

Once the industry has run out, what?

  • Beriáin (Navarra), February 1974. The workers of Potas de Navarra made a strike, among other reasons, for the strike of the staff of Motor Ibérica the previous year. It was not, therefore, the first strike by the Navarre industry, not even by Potas. But Potas was the largest company in Navarre, with over 2,000 workers and one of the strongest trade union movements in the territory. In addition, 50 years ago, they led a new form of protest: the closure of workers in mines. During that initial strike in 1974 187 workers remained closed inside the mine for 70 hours.
1975eko urtarrilean Potasas de Navarrako 47 langilek meategian 15 eguneko itxialdia egin zuten. Nafarroako enpresarik handienean egindako mobilizazioak oihartzun handia izan zuen.
1975eko urtarrilean Potasas de Navarrako 47 langilek meategian 15 eguneko itxialdia egin zuten. Nafarroako enpresarik handienean egindako mobilizazioak oihartzun handia izan zuen.

In that autumn more mobilizations took place and in early 1975, along with the participation in the general strike, the second, much longer, closure took place since 7 January, 15 days. The repression of the Civil Guard was very harsh, such as measures against the strikers: fines, 30 days in prison, unemployment… Only some workers were able to return to work after the 1977 amnesty. But the closure had a great impact outside Navarre and caused a flood of solidarity.

Depleted industry

But Potas de Navarra had an expiry date. Ten years later, the company closed at the end of 1985, depleting the potash source. Potaries de Subiza was opened, with 533 workers, but in a few years it was also closed. And besides the mine, in general, the industrial model prevailing since the 1950s was exhausted. The industrial reconversion launched at the beginning of the decade by various European governments, including Madrid, had a great influence on the main industrial centres of Hego Euskal Herria. Deindustrialization revolutionized the labor movement.

The last physical footprints of the production plant of Potas de Navarra were demolished in the decade of 2010 and it was not the only case, like the plant of Superser, a reference in the industry of the Comarca of Pamplona, which was demolished in 2019. “The demolition of old factories makes the history of deindustrialization, the social consequences, the footprint left on workers and their families, environments and communities invisible,” says Pérez Ibarrola

The last issue of the journal, edited by the Association of Historians of Navarra, Geronimo de Uztariz, refers to the industrialization process in Navarre, and gathers, through various examples, what this process influenced the labor movement. Mobilizations in the factories of Navarre in the early 1970s show that they were mainly carried out to demand wage increases and improved working conditions, that is to say, to advance rights. However, in the following decade, when unemployment, which until then was cyclical, became endemic, the mobilisations were aimed at minimizing setback, maintaining conditions or the job itself as far as possible. The labor movement had to start the defense, since it could not continue.

In the journal Geronimo de Uztariz, the historian of the UPNA, Nerea Pérez Ibarrola, states that deindustrialization has been analyzed from the economic perspective, but that it had an important social impact and that to work the working class from this perspective it is necessary to open new lines of research. And it also talks about the importance of protecting industrial physical heritage to drive memory.

The last physical footprints of the production plant of Potas de Navarra were demolished in the decade of 2010 and it was not the only case, like the plant of Superser, a reference in the industry of the Comarca of Pamplona, which was demolished in 2019. “The demolition of old factories makes the history of deindustrialization, the social consequences, the footprint left on workers and their families, environments and communities invisible,” says Pérez Ibarrola. “Abandoned factories retain the memory of the social antagonisms that lived and lived in our society. Maybe that's why they're so uncomfortable, because their negative impact is not just visual."


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