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  

The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics

Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.

Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making

Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show

The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services

With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas

Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world

A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle

Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune

Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali

To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi

Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun

Essay: After neoliberalism, what next?
There are economically-viable, socially-desirable alternatives to the failed neoliberal economic model, writes Jayati Ghosh

With the new nuclear ban treaty, it’s time to scrap Trident – and spend the money on our NHS
As a doctor, I want to see money spent on healthcare not warfare, writes David McCoy - Britain should join the growing international movement for disarmament

Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, by Shashi Tharoor, reviewed by Ian Sinclair

A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder, by Grace A Musila, reviewed by Allen Oarbrook

‘We remembered that convictions can inspire and motivate people’: interview with Lisa Nandy MP
The general election changed the rules, but there are still tricky issues for Labour to face, Lisa Nandy tells Ashish Ghadiali

Everything you know about Ebola is wrong
Vicky Crowcroft reviews Ebola: How a People’s Science Helped End an Epidemic, by Paul Richards

Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for an online editor
Closing date for applications: 1 September.

Theresa May’s new porn law is ridiculous – but dangerous
The law is almost impossible to enforce, argues Lily Sheehan, but it could still set a bad precedent

Interview: Queer British Art
James O'Nions talks to author Alex Pilcher about the Tate’s Queer British Art exhibition and her book A Queer Little History of Art

Cable the enabler: new Lib Dem leader shows a party in crisis
Vince Cable's stale politics and collusion with the Conservatives belong in the dustbin of history, writes Adam Peggs

Anti-Corbyn groupthink and the media: how pundits called the election so wrong
Reporting based on the current consensus will always vastly underestimate the possibility of change, argues James Fox

Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole

Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part

Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper

Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s

Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach

Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.

Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite


11