Read

Search form

¡Basta! Revolution Becomes Reality in Spain

¡Basta! Revolution Becomes Reality in Spain
Mon, 9/24/2012 - by Meritxell Mir

Photo: Spanish workers demonstrate against the government's austerity measures on September 15, 2012 in Madrid, Spain.

People are calling it the "Fall of Rage," pouring into the streets of Madrid and other Spanish cities to tell their leaders that budget cuts and austerity measures are not working — that with unemployment skyrocketing amid the second recession in four years, “enough is enough.”

On Saturday, thousands rallied in front of key buildings including the Madrid stock exchange, the Bank of Spain and several ministries. The protest, organized by the M-15 platform and composed of indignados and others under the slogan “Deconstructing Lies, Building Alternatives,” served as a preview for the rally to be held Tuesday, Sept. 25, when thousands are expected to surround the Spanish Congress during a plenary session and demand that the government, lawmakers and the king resign.

“We want to go a step beyond the other protests because after many marches, rallies, strikes and even campsites, nothing has changed,” said Mercedes Garcia, a spokesperson for the Occupy Congress action. “Our final goal is to show that democracy is outside Congress, not inside.”

The public's disgust with politics is at its peak since the Franco' dictatorship fell in 1975. In polls, Spaniards rate the political class as their third highest concern, only after unemployment and the economic crisis. Data released by the Center for Sociological Research showed that 79 percent of the country does not believe politicians will meet the current challenges.

“We feel our democracy has been stolen and we have no power anymore over the decisions that affect [us],” added Garcia. The Sept. 25 action is different from past ones, organizers say, because of its blunt demand for resignations -- an ambition that led politicians on both the right and the left to brand it a potential “coup d’Etat.”

Garcia stressed that Tuesday will be a “democratic and peaceful protest.” Nevertheless, government has assigned 1,350 anti-riot police to prevent the activities from hampering legislative business. A similar protest in Portugal on Sept. 16 forced the country's government to back out on some of its planned austerity cuts.

For Manuel Nolla, an M-15 spokesperson, the "government lies” when it presents cuts as the only way to overcome Spain’s double recession in four years, by falsely using “the current situation to cut rights and diminish the public sector.”

Spain has become the leading concern of the European Union; if the country collapses or exits the euro currency, as Greece has threatened to do, one-fifth of the EU’s GDP is forecast to disappear. Concerned by the fast and rising pace of the country’s debt, the EU has forced Spain to cut its public debt from 8.9 percent of GDP in 2011 to 6.3 percent this year; 4.5 percent in 2013, and 2.8 percent in 2014.

To eliminate at least $82 billion in debt by 2014, the conservative government led by President Mariano Rajoy is raising the country's sales taxes from 18 to 21 percent while making significant cuts to healthcare, education and other public services, as well as public sector salaries.

But such macroeconomic figures mean little to Spain's 5 million people who remain without jobs as unemployment tops 25 percent nationally and 50 percent for those under the age of 30.

When 30-year-old Veronica Navarrete was a teenager, she was told how crucial it was to go to university and study hard. So she earned a degree in business administration and completed postgraduate studies in human resources management, earning top grades.

“And what was that good for?” she wonders now in desperation, having been unemployed for most of the past three years. Navarrete worked for five years as a recruiter in Barcelona, but with the deepening of the crisis she lost her job in 2009. She’s been unemployed or working in low qualified jobs as a saleswoman, cashier or babysitter ever since.

None of the current measures taken by Spain's government will help Navarrete find a job, said economist Jose Moises Martin of the Madrid lobbying group Economists Against the Crisis, which presents alternatives to Rajoy’s policies.

“What we need is more time to cut the deficit so that the government can invest in reactivating the economy,” said Moises, who advocates refocusing the economy on research and development rather than the real state and services sectors, which plunged Spain into its current mess. Revamping investments in renewable energy, high-end tourism and the arts could be key, he added.

But for Rajoy and the many companies and investors influential in his government's decisions, Spain’s unemployment crisis is rooted in the country's rigid labor laws -- which is why in June, Madrid passed the nation's most significant labor market reform since 1980.

The new labor law makes layoffs easier and cheaper for companies. It also gives employers the power to unilaterally modify working conditions — including hours, shifts and salaries--without having to negotiate with employees.

However, Moises Martin claimed that the Spanish labor market is not as rigid as it is perceived to be by other countries. “If it was so difficult to fire people, there would not be more than 5 million people jobless,” he said.

For clarity, the M-15 spokesperson Nolla added: “With the old law, thousands of jobs were also created before the crisis.” Sure enough, with a highly regularized and unionized job market, Spain managed to almost reach full employment (considered between 7-8% in Europe) during the real estate boom years in the last decade. However, since the new labor market reform came into effect, no jobs have been created — quite the opposite.

Which is why, facing minimal future prospects, Spain's most educated generation is now leaving the country en masse to develop careers and fill their bank accounts elsewhere. According to the National Institute of Statistics, between January and June of this year more than 40,000 Spaniards moved abroad — 44 percent more than last year in the same period.

One of them is Xiker Leoz, 28, an architect from Pamplona who left in 2010 to work in Switzerland and later in the United Kingdom. “I’d like to go back eventually to Spain but that possibility seems more and more remote every day because there is no future there,” said Leoz, speaking from London.

But for those at home facing increased costs of living, diminishing salaries and slashed public services, the streets are anticipated to be full of angry Spaniards for months — most immediately this Tuesday, when citizens gather from across the capital, and the country, to demand that their legislators step down.

Add new comment

Sign Up

Article Tabs

carbon emissions, Pakistan coal plants, Pakistan coal generation, Pakistan energy policy

On its projected track, Pakistan will generate a total capacity of over 23,000 megawatts of electricity from coal in the next few years to overcome its steep energy requirements.

student loans, student debt, college debt, Student Loan Asset Backed Securities, subprime mortgage securities, collateralized debt, Federal Family Education Loan Program, Student Income Loans, Student Income Loans

A crucial difference between the subprime debt bubble and the student debt bubble is that the properties that comprised subprime mortgage securities served as collateral to the mortgage debt.

DiEM25, austerity policies, Brexit, Lexit, Democracy in Europe Movement, Grexit

Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis responds to his critics and lays out DiEM25’s plan for resisting within the European Union.

Five Star Movement, Beppe Grillo, anti-corruption movement, populist politics, Euro-skeptic party, Italian political corruption, Silvio Berlusconi, Virginia Raggi, Chiara Appendino

The transparency and political openness that helped the 5 Star Movement rise to power must now bring the party's current and future proposals to the forefront if it hopes to achieve any lasting change.

Occupy Wall Street, rising inequality, park occupations, financialization, debt, David Graeber, Occupy legacy, social protests, economic justice, Jeremy Corbyn

Five years after Occupy, organizer and anthropologist David Graeber speaks to ROAR about the power of finance, the history of inequality and the legacy of the movement.

Wells Fargo crimes, Wells Fargo accounts scam, Wells Fargo foreclosures, mortgage-backed securities, subprime loans, Wall Street crimes, John Stumpf

Despite all of the fines paid to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Wells Fargo continues to deny any allegations of wrongdoing. Now a former employee is disputing that claim.

Posted 4 days 2 hours ago
blockchain currencies, blockchain technologies, crypto currencies, Bitcoin, Federal Reserve, Bank of England, fractional reserve lending, Central Bank Digital Currency, bank bailouts, bail-ins

Central Bank Digital Currencies could supplant the money now created by private banks.

Posted 5 days 4 hours ago
occupy, activism, creative activism, alt-right, white supremacy, neo-nazi, bigotry, racism, sexism, white nationalism, white genocide, Milo Yiannopoulos, Richard Bertrand Spencer, Gabriella Coleman, hacktivism, Anonymous, hacker, whistleblower, digital ac

We're introducing a new segment for all those times you think to yourself, "Wow, that's fucked up." First topic: white supremacists.

Posted 3 days 8 hours ago
carbon emissions, Pakistan coal plants, Pakistan coal generation, Pakistan energy policy

On its projected track, Pakistan will generate a total capacity of over 23,000 megawatts of electricity from coal in the next few years to overcome its steep energy requirements.

Posted 1 day 8 hours ago
Five Star Movement, Beppe Grillo, anti-corruption movement, populist politics, Euro-skeptic party, Italian political corruption, Silvio Berlusconi, Virginia Raggi, Chiara Appendino

The transparency and political openness that helped the 5 Star Movement rise to power must now bring the party's current and future proposals to the forefront if it hopes to achieve any lasting change.

Posted 2 days 7 hours ago
DiEM25, austerity policies, Brexit, Lexit, Democracy in Europe Movement, Grexit

Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis responds to his critics and lays out DiEM25’s plan for resisting within the European Union.

National Health Service, NHS, NHS cuts, austerity cuts, U.K. austerity policies, Patients Association, Stepping Hill Hospital, Stockport NHS Watch

Stepping Hill Hospital is operating under intense financial pressure – but is still saving lives – as the U.K. government continues to make billions of pounds’ worth of cuts to Britain’s NHS.

AFL-CIO, union organizing, Keystone XL pipeline, jobs versus environment, Dakota Access Pipeline, Standing Rock Sioux tribe, Standing Rock protests, Communications Workers of America, National Nurses United

In sharp contrast to Richard Trumka and the AFL-CIO, some unions really want to restrain climate change and are now vocally opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline.

blockchain currencies, blockchain technologies, crypto currencies, Bitcoin, Federal Reserve, Bank of England, fractional reserve lending, Central Bank Digital Currency, bank bailouts, bail-ins

Central Bank Digital Currencies could supplant the money now created by private banks.

tax increment financing, TIF agreements, Michael Phelps, Sagamore Development Corporation, Port Covington plan, Baltimore gentrification, Baltimore development

In Baltimore, activists are urging city officials to move beyond "tax increment financing" that privileges billionaires at public expense.