Spain saw an unprecedented turnout for a national demonstration coined “Real Democracia Ya” or ‘Real Democracy Now’. Initially aimed towards the municipal elections, this movement has developed from a statement against corrupt politicians and a decaying political system to something much more ambitious.
DRY, as it has conveniently been termed, has eight core proposals: an end to privileges for the political classes, solutions to the unemployment crisis, solutions to the housing crisis, quality public services, stringent control of the banking sector, reform of the tax system, reduction in military costs and above all a fair and participatory democracy.
Attempts to thwart the movement have only fuelled it further.
Organisers of the first march admitted to never having imagined such popularity, the peak seeing hundreds of camp sights being set up in squares all around the country. The first was in Plaza del Sol, Madrid, which saw over 2,500 protesters camp overnight when the local government threatened to uproot them. Attempts to thwart the movement have only fuelled it further.
Catalonian police were widely condemned for their use of violence…
In Catalunya, the main camp sight was forcefully cleared out on the eve of the Champions League Final, officials sighting hygiene issues in the result of a win for Barcelona FC. Catalonian police were widely condemned for their use of violence in this episode, which only resulted in a renewed injection of momentum and a hardening in the resolves of the campers and the wider community.
All across the Spanish state the prerogative is the spreading of the movement into the neighbourhoods and districts, linking the struggles of local areas to the more general targets of the movement itself. With Spanish rural and peripheral communities often going unnoticed and forgotten, one of the biggest achievements of 15-M (DRY) has been giving them a voice. Barcelona presents the clearest example of this success, as it has witnessed the greatest diffusion and progression in the barrios of the city. Within the first weeks of its initiation, the fire fighters union, teachers and students led strikes from camp Plaça Catalunya, one symbolic act of societal solidarity among many.
This election only served to strengthen opinions…
Even though the elections saw the leading conservative party win, their victory was hardly comprehensive. Some 76 per cent of the population did not vote, with record levels of abstentions and blank ballots, resulting in the Partido Popular (PP) having won with nothing more than 24 per cent of total votes counted. This election only served to strengthen opinions against an electoral system that protesters argue is rooted in bipartisanism. With general unemployment at 20 per cent and youth unemployment the highest in all Europe at 40 per cent, Spain is facing serious systemic problems.
As a rejection of all mainstream politics and even unions (principally UGT and CCOO), neither the left or right establishment can hope to benefit from this movement. Spearheaded by the youth but equally supported by all other generations, the Spanish Revolution as some call it, is drawing from global and historical experiences. Some believe this could be the beginning of Europe’s own revolutionary summer, with the immediate aftermath of Sol seeing solidarity camp sites all across the continent. This may yet be a far-fetched sentiment but in the short term, the message and demands from the Spanish squares for genuine reform continues to thrive and grow.
Image courtesy of Carlos Zamarriego