Up to two million protesters filled the streets of the Spanish capital Madrid last Saturday. They demanded an end to cuts and a refusal to pay bankers’ debts.
Six “Marches for Dignity” converged on Madrid from across Spain calling for “bread, work and shelter for all”.
“It was amazing,” said Jesus Castillo, an education worker in the Andalucian Workers Union (SAT) in Seville. “Saturday was the biggest demonstration I’ve ever been on, even bigger than the ones against the war in Iraq.
“There were 600 buses from Andalucia, and more than 1,000 people came all the way on foot. All the social movements that have grown since the financial crisis came together.”
More than 200 organisations backed the protest. Alternative trade unions such as SAT in the south, ESK in the Basque Country and the anarcho-syndicalist CGT played a central role in building it.
So did the Frente Civico organisation linked to the Communist Party.
Rank and file members of the main UGT and CCOO unions took part, but union leaders were negotiating a new social pact with the government.
Cops tried to clear the streets, opening fire with rubber bullets. One protester was injured so badly he had to have a testicle removed. But more than 1,000 people came to an assembly in a city square to discuss the way forward.
The following days saw protests outside government ministries and in defence of those arrested. It took until Tuesday for cops to clear people from the new “Dignity Camp”.
There were calls for new protest camps around the Spanish state as Socialist Worker went to press. This recalls the protests of 15 May 2011 and the 15M movement—better known internationally as the Indignados.
“We are hoping that the Indignados movement will start again, but we are starting from a different place this time,” Jesus told Socialist Worker.
“We have come a long way since 2011. Debates saying no parties could take part, no political flags, are a long way behind us. People see workers’ struggle is essential, as is fighting together.”
There have been several general strikes since 2011, one called under pressure from social movements. There has been mass resistance to evictions, and militant sectional strikes.
The financial crisis and a series of corruption scandals sapped the legitimacy of the monarchy and the main political parties.
Support for Catalan and Basque independence has grown and new parties are developing. Jesus is running to be a candidate for Podemos, a party whose name means, “We can do it”. "I think a mass movement will return to the square but it will not be like before,” said Jesus.
“After two years of discussion about uniting against the cuts, the unity is becoming real.”