Tens of thousands of protesters in towns and cities across Spain have flooded onto the streets.
The movement shows that resistance to the global economic crisis has taken a new, militant and imaginative turn.
People have camped for more than a week in tent cities to demand real democracy, jobs and an end to a system that favours the rich over the poor.
Protesters defied a government ban and stayed in squares and on the streets last Saturday, holding assemblies and discussing the way forward.
Joel Sans, a student in Barcelona, spoke to Socialist Worker about the developments. “Many camps will continue even now the elections have passed,” he said.
“The movement is growing and people want to stay organised.
“The Barcelona camp voted to support a health workers’ demonstration that will take place on Friday and to organise a mass protest in June.
“We also voted to take a position of solidarity with all workers who are fighting back. The idea of a general strike is now being discussed more and more.”
Independent unions for bus, health, communication and fire workers have all led demonstrations to the camp.
Joel said activists are sharply debating the way forward.
“There is a battle about whether we just stay in the square or go out into the city and the neighbourhoods,” he said.
“Many of us are arguing for the camp to be part of something wider. It is starting to happen.
“On Saturday we had meetings divided into the neighbourhoods and districts so that people could take the movement into their areas.”
Last week a discussion took place in Barcelona about whether to raise the slogan of anti-capitalism. This led to a thorough debate involving hundreds of people, which decided to take up the slogan.
The biggest camp in Spain is in the capital, Madrid, where 30,000 people take part in mass meetings and assemblies. They have turned Puerta del Sol Square into a tent city—and have renamed it Solution Square.
Handmade banners hang all around, covering adverts for cosmetics with political slogans. Central to the movement is the slogan “Democracia Real Ya”—real democracy now.
The young and the unemployed make up a big chunk of the protests. Some 4.5 million people are unemployed in Spain, many of them under 30.
This, along with huge austerity measures being pushed by the ruling Socialist Party and a retreat from struggle by the unions, has generated deep anger at the bottom of society.
People are debating what kind of society they want to live in.
Sam Robson is a teacher living in Madrid. He has taken part in the protests and the organising assemblies.
He told Socialist Worker, “As socialists we’re constantly trying to raise different slogans and generalise the debate.
“You test your politics through shouting slogans and chants—and see if the crowd takes them up.
“At the start it was harder to get people involved in chants against the banks and the system, or for revolution.
“But that has changed and some of those ideas are now widespread.”
Sam said that the protests have pulled a diverse range of people into political activity.
He said, “There are 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.”
He says there is “a real mistrust” of the unions.
“The two main union federations signed an agreement with the government in January, which will mean a huge attack on people’s pensions,” he said.
“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 state backed down from smashing up the camps last Saturday as they had threatened to do. And the movement shows no sign of going away.
It can intensify the political and economic crisis among Spain’s rulers—and push their system to breaking point.