Mass demonstrations and protest camps have mushroomed across Spain as the young and the unemployed say “enough”. As many as 40 percent of Spain’s 4.5 million unemployed are under 25.
The economic crisis has brought further austerity and attacks on workers and the poor. But now the people are fighting back. A huge demonstration marched through in the capital Madrid on Saturday. It ended in the central square Puerta del Sol.
Spontaneous calls went up to for people to stay and so a camp was set up. Protesters have renamed the square Solution Square.
When the police violently cleared the square in Madrid on Sunday night eighteen people were arrested. A call went out for solidarity—and the protests grew and spread.
Protests have taken place in over 20 cities across Spain, and big camps exist in Granada, Barcelona and beyond.
Protests are also being organised across Italy in Rome, Florence and Milan and one has been called in the centre of Athens for Sunday.
Sam Robson is a teacher living in Madrid. He has taken part in the protests and the organising assemblies.
Sam told Socialist Worker, “The state is now in a very difficult position. Do they show their strength and clear the square again—when there are up to 30,000 people involved in the night rallies, or do they back off.
“To clear the square tonight, ahead of the pre-election ‘day of reflection’ when no protests are allowed, would take more than batons.
“Just like with Egypt and Tunisia the mainstream press want to say this is all down to social networks like Twitter and Facebook. Of course they are used to organise and spread the word—but they are just part of the mix.
“One of the key organising factors is housing. A nationwide campaign organising many young people and the poor is calling for decent housing for all. It organised outside the trade unions and won some gains, like forcing the government to have a dedicated housing minister. In Madrid those people have been central to organising and coordinating the initial protests against the ruling parties and austerity.
“Other key social forces are people who live in social centres and communes. Many of these people are influenced by anarchism and autonomism. But there are also many young people here who have never been involved in anything before. Teenagers and people in their early 20s make up the majority of the crowd here.
“There is a real mistrust of the unions in the square. The two main union federations have signed an agreement with the government in January which will mean a huge attack on people’s pensions. They did this without a demo, without a protest, nothing. So people are angry that the unions aren’t fighting back.
“But workers are taking part in the protests. Groups of people go from my workplace most evenings. A friend of mine works in a small IT company and is taking ten people down this evening. Students and teachers with campaign T-shirts for free education have also joined.
“The unions sent a message to the camp, offering food and other supplies. The assembly voted to reject the offer of help, saying they didn’t want to be compromised. The links between the unions and the ruling Socialist party have meant the leadership are more reluctant to fight.”
The scene is different in Barcelona, where workers, who organise in independent unions, have used the camp as an organising base, and are united with the protesters there. Joel Sans, a student in the city told Socialist Worker, “We have a right wing Catalan government that is making huge cuts to the health service and education.
“In the past two months, there is a huge new movement of health workers and those in the education system. In the square they are coming together. Health workers and fire fighters and communications workers have all finished their demonstrations here over the past week.
“The demands of the camp are developing quite slowly—partly because of the huge size. But we voted in a mass assembly to raise the slogan that we are against capitalism after a debate. This is significant.
“The majority of people are young—students and unemployed. Daily assemblies are now taking place in the university faculties facing cuts that bring together students and teachers against the cuts to education. These people are also coming to the square.”
Joel went on, “The police have not touched the camp. There are thousands here. It is simply too big.”