Spain: The movement is not dead!

MPs forced to enter Catalan parliament in helicopters

The fantastic movement of the ‘indignidados’ on 15 May shook Spain to its core. All over the country, public plazas were occupied and mass demonstrations were held. On 15 June, the indignados attempted to organise a blockade of the Catalan parliament in Barcelona, which was going to vote on brutal cuts. Attempts set up a camp inside the Ciutadella Park, where the parliament is located, were prevented by police the day before. Nevertheless, thousands came to surround the park and to build barricades. The police used violence against the protesters to help regional MPs get in, but it was impossible for many to get in through gates of the park, due to the protests. Those MPs trying to enter the park were confronted and followed by protesters. They were shouted at and some of them even got a dose of spray paint on their clothes! Finally, many MPs, including the regional president Artur Mas, were forced to enter parliament by helicopter!

This situation was best described by a young woman carrying a sign saying, “A government should protect its people and not protect ITSELF from them”.

After the parliamentary session ended, the indignidados gathered for a march towards the town hall, which got bigger as it went along. On its way, the demonstration stopped at the CC.OO trade union HQ, shouting slogans for a general strike.

Whose "violence"?

After these events of ‘15-J’, the Spanish media tried to paint the movement as "violent". Most newspapers now say that the indignidados "have crossed the red line“. The conservative daily, El Mundo, even compared the indignidados with Mussolini’s black shirt fascists! This is a shameful insult that has nothing to do with what really happened. The real violence is that carried out by the Catalan and Spanish government, which enforce brutal cuts, and by the police, ‘los Mossos’, who were the perpetrators of violence both yesterday and in their attacks on the Plaza de Catalunya on 27 May.

Video footage exposed the conscious planting of agent provocateurs in the movement to provoke clashes with police. The capitalist establishment has been waiting with baited breath for the first opportunity to brand the 15-M movement as "violent". But the response of the movement to such provocations has cut across these attempts. At the mass assembly, which took place after the morning demo yesterday, the need for discipline in the face of provocations was stressed. One of the most common slogans was "Estas son nuestras armas“ (‘These are our weapons’), with hands lifted in the air. Yesterday´s episode also emphasises the need for the movement to organise self-defence on demonstrations, through democratically-established stewarding.

The movement continues

There were perhaps less protestors in Barcelona yesterday than expected. But it would be wrong to conclude from this that the movement is in decline. The fact that trade unions shamelessly did not engage in any mobilisation for this key anti-cuts demonstration (following the 200,000-strong union anti-cuts protest on 14 May) was undoubtedly a factor in the turnout. Even though most of the permanent camps were ended, the movement is continuing, now reaching out to broader layers of the working class. Protests against evictions are also growing. Yesterday, in Madrid, hundreds of protesters successfully stopped an eviction.

Cayo Lara, head of Izquierda Unida, to his credit, tried to join this protest but was confronted by the indignidados. This shows how for many, the IU is seen as just another one of the other parties. Such a reception for the IU leader is hardly surprising, given the years of pacts with capitalist parties and complicity in neo-liberal policies pursued by IU recently. Yesterday an the Barcelona protests, an ICV (IU in Catalunya) MP was a target of scorn as he tries to pass through the crowd of protestors Dolors Camats, ICV-EUiA (Catalan alliance of IU and Greens) followed this up by condemning the "violence" by protestors, without a word in condemnation of the police provocation and repression. What an awkward situation, in which "left“ Mps push their way into parliament, instead of joining protests on the streets outside, actively supporting the indignidados! What 15-M needs from the left is a fighting and revolutionary political programme which can satisfy the demands of the movement by breaking with capitalism.

The next day of action will be on 19 June. It will also be an international day of action, with solidarity protests all over Europe. Events in Greece, in particular, will be decisive for the further development of the movement, which has already had wide international influence. In Greece, people took up the forms of protest of the indignidados and combined them with the massive strength of the working class, which was shown impressively in the general strike on 15 June. This is also necessary in Spain. Socialismo Revolucionario (CWI in Spain) calls for the linking up of the struggles, with a fight for a new general strike. In many ‘barrios’ (neighbourhoods) regular assemblies exist. These must be also organised in workplaces, universities etc and democratised and linked together on a regional and state-wide level. They have to combine their forces and organise the struggles. Further, a European general strike is needed to unite the struggles on an international basis. An international break with the dictatorship of the banks and big business is necessary, to end the nightmare for millions which is life under crisis-ridden capitalism.

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June 2011