From Socialist Voice, June 2011

Spain’s ideology-free protest

That the youth of Spain are angry was indicated by the twenty thousand who camped in the Puerta del Sol—emblematic dead centre of Spain—day after day from 15 May onwards. The banners and placards of these protesters, referred to as “indignados,” called for adequately paid work, housing, and an end to the present government’s austerity measures and official corruption. Predictable anti-system slogans were also prominent.
     In Catalunya, scene of the most vigorous protests, which inspired brutal police action, the health cuts announced by the autonomous region’s new conservative nationalist government became the focus of discontent.
     This protest, which generated a festive, carnival-like ambience, spread to more than a hundred cities and towns in Spain. Young Spaniards protested in front of their embassies and consulates in London, Brussels, and other cities.
     The protest in the Puerta del Sol continued, albeit somewhat reduced, for one week following Spain’s general election on the 22nd. Protesters defied a ban on their assembly imposed by Spain’s Electoral Commission, to be effective on the 21st (called “the day of reflection”) and on the election date itself.
     The leaders of the protest advised prospective voters either not to vote at all or to return blank ballot papers. 2.8 per cent of voters did just that, amounting to slightly over half a million of the total vote cast.
     Spain’s youth have every reason to be angry. They see themselves, rightly, as having no future within the current neo-liberal socio-economic order. Whereas the country’s official unemployment rate, which tops 20 per cent, is the highest in Europe, 45 per cent of those in the 18–36 age group are, officially, unemployed. Indignados claim that the real figure is much higher than that.
     Given Spain’s notoriously low social-welfare support for the unemployed, parents are stuck with the upkeep of offspring who should be working and independent. Furthermore, it is a demonstrable fact that many of those who have jobs are ill-paid and have contratos de basura, literally “rubbish contracts,” which give employers the right to unilaterally take the decision to sack them.
     They are also angry at government austerity measures, which they see as a result of the kowtowing of Spain’s social-democratic PSOE party to Franco-German pressure.
     The organisers of the protest movement are hoping that this anger can be channelled into an organised and permanent expression, independent of the present hegemonic political forces in Spain.
     They attempted to organise the Puerta del Sol protesters into “commissions” to discuss their response to the crisis and a new way forward to solve the many economic and social problems now facing the youth here. The results of these deliberations have still to be assessed.
     However, surveys of the political opinions of participants in the protest indicate a lack of a clear political focus on the part of the majority of the indignados. Almost 90 per cent reject either the PSOE, the party of government, or the PP, main party of the opposition. However, when questioned about their ideological orientation about 15 per cent declared themselves to be “socialist” and a slightly lesser number to be “liberal.”
     In other words, the movement until now seems to lack the clear political vision that is needed if it is to become more that a minor irritant to the ruling class, and still less to gain the widespread popular support it needs to effectively challenge the hegemony of the current order.
     The prognosis for the future of ideology-free flower power in Spain (or elsewhere) is hardly encouraging.
[TMS]

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