Spain: This is what democracy looks like!

Elections take place amid youth revolt

Members of the Spanish group of the CWI, Socialismo Revolucionario, have intervened in the Spanish youth movement in 8 different cities and produced a special leaflet for this movement calling for unity with the working class and a general strike, for elected democratic committees of workers and young people to prepare such a movement and for a revolutionary socialist policy. A fuller analysis of this movement and the recent elections will be published soon.

Here you can see the leaflet (in Spanish) we distributed /

Chants of “the revolution starts here” filled Barcelona’s Plaza de Catalunya early on Sunday morning, just hours before voting in elections to local councils all over Spain and a number of autonomous parliaments, began. One week ago, who would have predicted that these elections would have been so marginalised, confined to the middle pages of daily newspapers? Or that Spain’s town squares would be filled with tens of thousands of “indignados” (angry people), in protest at the anti-social consensus of both PSOE and the PP? But such has been the situation for the last week throughout the Spanish state, as an anti-capitalist generation explodes onto the scene. The new local and autonomous governments, be they PSOE, PP, CiU, PNV…, have no idea what the “indignados”, and the working class soon to follow, have in store for them!

PSOE hammered at ballot box and in plazas

The PSOE government of Zapatero and Rubacalba, whose blind subservience to the capitalist market and assault on the living standards of the majority has laid the basis for the current rebellion, saw itself bludgeoned in the polls. It received its worst vote in over 20 years. It is in this context that Zapatero decided some months ago to stand down as leader before the next general elections: this is a government most probably awaiting annihilation at the hands of workers and youth. It’s neo-liberal policies are responsible for the almost 5 million out of work and 45% youth unemployment. And its plans for the future will only worsen the situation.

While painted as the “big winners” of the election, the PP’s vote in reality grew by only 2%. Seen as the most “effective” anti-PSOE vote by many, they capitalised on the rage against Zapatero’s government, seen as having crashed the Spanish economy and mishandled the economic crisis. In the Basque country, the newly legalised Bildu nationalist party also made huge gains. All commentators seeing these results as a prelude to a PP victory in 2012. Should this be the case, workers and youth can expect an even more brutal axe-wielding government, although with policies not fundamentally different to the current government. Nonetheless, a PP government in the context of such anger and social turmoil, would in a way represent the “whip of counterrevolution”, which could see the class struggle develop to a new pitch. It would aggravate the national question with moves against the autonomy of the regions, and take a less scrupulous axe to trade union rights.

Clear programme to break with capitalism necessary

But what is needed in response to the brutality of PSOE’s austerity and the threat of a PP government is a fight for a political alternative to austerity and pro-banker and big business politics in general. The vote won by Izquierda Unida, which saw a small increase to 6.3% of the vote, shows how its response to the crisis, and failure to explain and fight for a viable alternative to austerity, have prevented it making a real breakthrough. To now pact in local or autonomous governments with PSOE, and make itself responsible for the years of austerity and cuts to come, would be a further blow to this party.

The slogans of the youth revolt, against the rule of the bankers and speculators and for decent lives with jobs and rights, for a “real democracy” can only be genuinely politically expressed through a programme which challenges capitalism fundamentally. Revolutionary socialist demands, for the non-payment of the speculators’ debts, the breaking of the markets’ dictatorship by nationalising the banks under democratic control, and public democratic ownership and control of society’s wealth to create jobs and secure a decent life, must be popularised and adopted by workers and youth in struggle. This must be linked to escalating and widening out the impressive struggle of the youth, with which wide layers of the older working class have shown their support. The need for a general strike to show who really holds the power in society and fight for an alternative is now clear.

The youth who have flooded the plazas of Spain have a deep hatred of the system, with broad layers identifying with a fight against capitalism as a system. But such moods and opinions must be given clarity and fought for as a political programme, for the revolutionary transformation of society. Socialismo Revolucionario (CWI in Spain) participates in the 15-M revolt, and argues for this perspective.

The democracy of the plazas gives a more accurate picture of what we can expect in the next period than these election results.

"General strike is necessary"

Interview with young workers in Madrid

"I am protesting because I am unhappy with politicians, they are wasting our money. There is an economic crisis, but not for them. A politician earns 20 times more than one worker," said José Antonio Fernandez.

"We need a change of policy, on the labour laws and people’s living standards," said Pedro San Cristobal.

Jose is a telemarketer, Pedro a bus driver. Neither is in a trade union, but both believe a general strike is necessary.

"The unions do nothing; they sit on the lap of politicians and companies. The general strike in September was playing to the gallery. More is a needed," they said.

"Wages are low and you may only get paid legally for a few hours; the rest is paid in the black economy [cash in hand] or not at all. I personally work 16 hours, but only get paid for eight. For the politicians it is the opposite! Everyone knows about it, but no one does anything. If you protest in the workplace, you end up on the streets," said Pedro.

In Sunday’s election, both Pedro and José voted for Izquierda Unida. "They are small, but they are fighting for the people," they said.

Pedro is concerned that the police will break up the tent city that M-15 (the movement which began the protests on 15 May) has built. On Piazza del Sol, there are no parties, unions or organisations.

"There are more people supporting us than are visible on the streets," said Jose. "I will fight to the end!”

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May 2011