|Translation: "We are not merchandise|
in the hands of the politicians & bankers"
The protests were originally organised by Democracia Real Ya (real democracy now) but grew in appeal to a broad spectrum of people across Spanish society who began to refer to themselves as "los indignados" (the indignant). Social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook played their roles. The Twitter account @Acampadasol gathered over 40,000 followers in a week and many of the local protests had their own dedicated Facebook pages.
Even after a week of protests across Spain the 15M movement had yet to set out any demands, claiming only to oppose the corrupt and unfair political system that allows over 100 politicians accused of corruption to stand in the upcoming elections, has allowed unemployment in Spain to rise to 21.2% (44.6% amongst the under 25s) while working hard to protect the interests of the bankers, businessemen and the economic elite. The 15M protesters are particularly unhappy that the current electoral system is rigged to offer the choice between only two parties; the nominally left-wing PSOE and the right-wing PP. As in Britain both parties have dropped many of their traditional policies in favour of pan-European neo-liberalism and the Spanish electorate recognise that a vote for either of the main parties represents a vote for the continuation of exactly the same corrupt, banker friendly, neo-liberal agenda.
Many media commentators have drawn comparisons with the popular uprisings across the middle east making outlandish claims like "the Arab spring has arrived in the west" however many protesters are keen to draw a distinction between the bravery of the protesters in the middle east who have risked their lives in order to protest and the largely peaceful demonstrations across Spain.
"We are not against the system, the system is against us" - 15M demonstrator
|Translation: "No house, no job, no future. No fear"|
Of the many issues that have been raised in these protests the most important seems to be anger at unfairness in both the Spanish electoral system and across the rest of Spanish society. The electoral system offers only the choice between two neo-liberal parties who have little real control over the Spanish economy having ceded most of their powers to the undemocratic shambles of the European Union and the European Central Bank and favour the interests of the rich above the needs of the young and the poor.
José Luis Sampedro's view of the situation.
Click CC at the bottom for English subtitles
|Coverage of the demonstrations across Spain is dominating television news.|
It is not that the British are entirely unaware of the issues after the credit crunch and the Parliametary expenses scandal bankers and politicians are pretty much universally despised in the UK, however people are so naive and politically conservative that they will vote against reform despite the fact the the biggest beneficiaries are the politicians and bankers that they despise. The biggest winners from the AV no-vote were the Tory party that take more than 50% of their donations from bankers in the city and have imposed harsh austerity measures on the young, the poor, the sick, the elederly, the diabled, the unemployed and anyone that uses public services whilst doing virtually nothing to reform the banking system that caused the economic crisis in the first place.
The media reaction to the protests is also very different to what would happen in the UK, with coverage of the demonstrations taking up the majority of the news on all channels, whether in the form of blanket condemnation and misinformation from the right-wing media to the less partisan coverage offered elsewhere the media are actrually talking about it unlike in Britain where huge demonstrations over the last decade have been talked down or written out of the news agenda entirely.
Another big difference is the relaxed attitude of the police in response to these now illegal demonstrations, who have not resorted to the kettling, containment, oppression and violence of the British police when faced with perfectly legal ones, allegedly preferring the underhand tactics of undercover police removing demonstrators under the cover of night. Perhaps the legacy of Franco's brutal oppression of dissent is working as a constraint as there would be fewer more politically harmful images than the Spanish police violently oppressing peaceful protests in clear daylight being broadcast across the country.
It is pretty much impossible to see a resolution to the crisis that will satisfy the demonstraters, given that any wavering from the government on their austerity drive would result in economic punishment from the global banking elite in the form of lowered credit ratings and externally imposed austerity measures. Spain could not escape the wrath of the bankers were they to decide to nationalise their banks, invest in "new deal" style employment and infrastructure schemes and reform their political system to allow alternative parties fairer representation. The problem is not just a Spanish one, the global banking elite have created themselves a vice-like grip on the global economy and it will take more than just a few reforms in a medium sized European country to prevent them from holding entire nations to ransom.