Wednesday, 18 May 2011

“We aren’t merchandise in the hands of politicians and bankers”

Thousands of Spaniards have occupied Puerta del Sol, Madrid's main square, in protest against unemployment, austerity, and government corruption. The sit-in is now in its fourth day, and continues to grow. Their slogan: “we aren’t merchandise in the hands of politicians and bankers.”

The attitude of the protesters appears to be one of angry defiance, with BBC News reporting that slogans include "violence is earning 600 euros", "if you don't let us dream we won't let you sleep" and "the guilty ones should pay for the crisis." The Washington Post quotes an unemployed man called Ines Bajo as saying "we the unemployed, the badly paid, the subcontracted in precarious jobs, the youth of Spain, want change and a future with dignity."

According to the CNT, "even with the contradictions that can be seen", the event shows the Spanish working class "follow[ing] the example of the popular classes in the Arab world." They also "call [people] out to the streets to denounce this irrational system and transform it radically" in favour of "solidarity, mutual aid, direct action and self-management."

Certainly, as in Egypt, those involved have not only taken over a square of land but "have set up citizens' committees to handle communications, food, cleaning, protest actions and legal matters," according to the BBC.

Despite the ruling from the election board that there is no justification for the gathering and that there may be grounds for the police to disperse it, it looks as though it will have staying power. There is certainly enough anger and desperation to see people resist any attempts at eviction. At the same time, speculation that these protests alongside the organised lawlessness in Greece may spell the collapse of the Euro provide an economic incentive to the authorities for their hasty destruction.

It is far too early to judge how effective the action in Spain will be as a tool of class struggle. But what is clear is that there is potential here. There are contradictions in the emerging movement, but that is to be expected. What is important is that we are seeing something genuinely radical, beyond the single-day set piece of the recent general strike. Let's hope it goes somewhere.

More reports can be found here and real-time updates can be seen on Twitter via #spanishrevolution.