Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

Reclaiming the squares: an eviction notice for Spain’s political class

Cristina S Marchan reports on the uprising in Spain.

June 3, 2011
5 min read

Santiago is a peculiar city. It is a Catholic pilgrimage destination and a university town, with a relatively small and transient population of 94,000 inhabitants. When we put up the first tents here on 17 May in support of the camps in Madrid and many other cities we were about 30 or 40 people. Today around 300 sleep in this square every night and more than 1,000 attend the meetings we hold every evening.

What brings all these people here? The answer is quite simple: a new awareness, outrage, and a willingness to engage in struggle. Despite an unemployment rate of over 21 per cent in Spain, and youth unemployment running at a staggering 44 per cent, the government has approved a series of austerity measures that further undermine our already weak welfare state and public services.

This protest came to life in response to a call from the ‘Democracia Real Ya’ (Real Democracy Now) platform, which called for demonstrations on 15 May a week ahead of local and regional elections. Those demonstrations led to the indignados (‘outraged’) occupying the main squares of hundreds of cities and towns across the Spanish state. The camp in Santiago de Compostela, where I’m writing from, is one of them.

Democracia Real Ya! has some basic demands that are being discussed now in the squares, as are many new ideas and proposals. For example, we are asking for a new electoral law, because the way that the current system adds up our votes means that regionally dispersed minorities are not represented. Another demand is for mechanisms for real democracy, like binding referendums. Many of us feel that the politicians see ordinary people’s role in this democracy as little more than to vote every four years, shut up, and let the financial markets decide our government’s policies.

The movement is also demanding economic policies that do not place the burden of the crisis on the poorest people. These include some control on the movements of capital, a truly progressive tax system, and far stricter regulations to stop the banks from speculating recklessly with our meager wages, while exerting political power from the shadows (onto which our movement has shone a flashlight). The platform also defends public services and the welfare state.

On 28 May we woke to reports that the camp in Barcelona was surrounded by police, and saw images of terrible police brutality. The news spread like wildfire.  Those who ordered the ‘cleanup operation’ hoped for a fearful reaction but got quite the opposite. The square was re-occupied, with the support of ever-increasing numbers of people, and solidarity actions and demonstrations in other cities multiplied.

The social networks as communication channels are a key factor in the workings of this process, as was the case in the Arab Spring protests, one of the main reference points for this movement of the ‘outraged’. We can instantly communicate and call to each other for help, and that makes us strong. Through Facebook, Twitter and the humble old phone, we stay in touch, get constantly updated information and learn from each other’s mistakes and good ideas.

Whereas the mainstream media wants names, numbers, data, we use information to network and organise and talk to each other. This major difference is one of the reasons why even the mainstream media reporting that has not been intentionally misleading has mostly been wide of the mark. They don’t get that everyone is a media liaison, that there is no leader to talk to, that we manage the space ourselves, that there is no money involved, and that we don’t react to the statements of politicians and their blunt or subtle threats.

Here in Santiago the elected major has condemned us as a public health hazard, claimed that we are jeopardizing tourism, and suggested that we are squatters that have to be evicted. We have nothing to say to them about that. The politicians are the ones that have to react to our existence, not the other way around.

These last days have been tense. But although the threat of eviction is always in the air, and we get all sorts of contradictory information, the atmosphere is a hopeful one. We feel our own strength, and the solidarity, and we want to keep going.  We are making contact with associations and collectives and finding ways to keep working even if we have to leave the square.

The future of this movement is in a growing support base and in decentralisation. The camps are the first step in a march that will probably be long and tough, but also joyful. We now know what our voices can do when we use them together. It has been a long time since something like this happened here. Many people from different backgrounds, professions, ages and ideologies took to the streets and have stayed there.

This movement has also awakened the awareness of many people that want to be citizens, who believe in democracy and want to express their solidarity, and who are sending loud and clear eviction notices to our political class.

 

Cristina S Marchan is camped in Santiago (#acampadaobradoiro), http://acampadascq.blogspot.com, http://yfrog.com/user/acampadaSCQ/photos

 

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.
Share this article  
  share on facebook     share on twitter  

Contagion: How the Crisis Spread
Following on from his essay, How Empire Struck Back, Walden Bello speaks to TNI's Nick Buxton about how the financial crisis spread from the USA to Europe

How Empire Struck Back
Walden Bello dissects the failure of Barack Obama's 'technocratic Keynesianism' and explains why this led to Donald Trump winning the US presidency

Empire en Vogue
Nadine El-Enany examines the imperial pretensions of Britain's post-Brexit foreign affairs and trade strategy

Grenfell Tower residents evicted from hotel with just hours’ notice
An urgent call for support from the Radical Housing Network

Jeremy Corbyn is no longer the leader of the opposition – he has become the People’s Prime Minister
While Theresa May hides away, Corbyn stands with the people in our hours of need, writes Tom Walker

In the aftermath of this disaster, we must fight to restore respect and democracy for council tenants
Glyn Robbins says it's time to put residents, not private firms, back at the centre of decision-making over their housing

After Grenfell: ending the murderous war on our protections
Under cover of 'cutting red tape', the government has been slashing safety standards. It's time for it to stop, writes Christine Berry

Why the Grenfell Tower fire means everything must change
The fire was a man-made atrocity, says Faiza Shaheen – we must redesign our economic system so it can never happen again

Forcing MPs to take an oath of allegiance to the monarchy undermines democracy
As long as being an MP means pledging loyalty to an unelected head of state, our parliamentary system will remain undemocratic, writes Kate Flood

7 reasons why Labour can win the next election
From the rise of Grime for Corbyn to the reduced power of the tabloids, Will Murray looks at the reasons to be optimistic for Labour's chances next time

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 25 June
On June 25th, the fourth of Red Pepper Race Section's Open Editorial Meetings will celebrate the launch of our new black writers' issue - Empire Will Eat Itself.

After two years of attacks on Corbyn supporters, where are the apologies?
In the aftermath of this spectacular election result, some issues in the Labour Party need addressing, argues Seema Chandwani

If Corbyn’s Labour wins, it will be Attlee v Churchill all over again
Jack Witek argues that a Labour victory is no longer unthinkable – and it would mean the biggest shake-up since 1945

On the life of Robin Murray, visionary economist
Hilary Wainwright pays tribute to the life and legacy of Robin Murray, one of the key figures of the New Left whose vision of a modern socialism lies at the heart of the Labour manifesto.

Letter from the US: Dear rest of the world, I’m just as confused as you are
Kate Harveston apologises for the rise of Trump, but promises to make it up to us somehow

The myth of ‘stability’ with Theresa May
Settit Beyene looks at the truth behind the prime minister's favourite soundbite

Civic strike paralyses Colombia’s principle pacific port
An alliance of community organisations are fighting ’to live with dignity’ in the face of military repression. Patrick Kane and Seb Ordoñez report.

Greece’s heavy load
While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports

On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.

Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns

Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for a political organiser
Closing date for applications: postponed, see below

The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections

In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines

Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.

Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.

West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective

How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences

The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou

#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally


11