• 15 May and the Spanish Revolution

  • By Armando Fernández Steinko | 16 Jun 11
  • The project of a modern Spanish welfare state (“finance-capitalist welfare state”) has exhausted itself historically. In March 2011 a small group of young people with an urban / metropolitan background organised a demonstration against the all-pervading corruption in the fields of economy and politics, but also against the two-party-system and the big coalition behind it. Many of them had given up trying to struggle from inside against the blockades of the (left) parties and their sterile quarrels. Yet, most of them were not politicized “over-qualified” people who do not see a future in spite of their partly remarkable academic achievements. The movements in Northern Africa, but also the big manifestation in Portugal, all of which were organised outside party structures, became their direct inspiration. And this is not due to the numbers who followed the calls, but due to the broad and persistent wave of sympathy these movements triggered a wave which reached even the smallest villages. Police repression at the Puerta de Sol in Madrid resulted in a further wave of solidarity which contributed to further extend the territorial scope of the movement. In more than 100 squares all over Spain well-organised camps of tents were erected which were actively supported by citizens most of whom had until then been not been politically active. Canteens, libraries but also discussion groups on different topics (the financial system, gender issues, corruption, the privatization of copyrights) attracted both younger and older people for weeks, people who were politically active for the first time or others who had not been active for years. The decision was made to call new, decentralised asembleas in order to politically and locally involve more citizens also in the residential quarters. The establishment, including the left establishment, simply was not prepared for or completely overwhelmed by the massive wave of sympathy – according to a survey carried out by the official Institute for Public Opinion Research it comprised 90 % of the population. Thus the demonstration of 15 May turned out to be the catalyst for deep, so far not clearly articulate or expressed discontent. The communal elections taking place one week later gave a clear voice to this discontent expressing itself in a high, partly conscious stance of abstention, an only very moderate increase of votes for left parties and a landslide election debacle for the PSOE. The occupation of bank branches (among others, Banco de Santander is directly responsible for the speculation with Spanish government stocks), demonstrations in front of local government office buildings into which corrupt politicians will move again after the elections; the successful squats of flats which are being evicted by the police due to failure of mortgage payments und many other factors do not come to a stop. For 19 June a big demonstration is called against the “Euro Pact” which will move the Spanish revolution into the sphere of influence of anti-neo-liberalism. The question now is: How to continue? What can be done to build a stable and capillary network of citizens organized by the principle of solidarity which will put the country into a condition of a permanent low-intensity revolt against the disastrous consequences of neo-liberalism and which is capable of keeping up the hegemony in streets and squares throughout the country? And another question is still open: What are the relations to established, institutionalised power, i.e. the left parties, elections? That the demands of the Movement of 15 May require an institutionalized articulation has meanwhile become obvious to many protagonists; even if the 15 M-Movement is a conscious political movement and feels as such and even if criticism is directed against the two-party system rather than against all parties, scepticism vis-à-vis the institutionalised forms of politics is higher than ever.

    (In Espagne: le capitalisme des propriétaires fonciers à la recherche d’un eménagement du néolibéralisme (in: Classes sociales: retour ou renouveau?. Syllepse, Paris 2003) we have identified the conflict-bearing potential of the “overqualified” who have played a major role already during the Iraq War.)