Spain - The "indignados" on the streets, for now lacking real proletarian anger

The movement of young Spaniards, the "indignados" (1), emerged suddenly, but not unexpectedly from the seemingly flat calm of European society. From the day it burst on the scene (15 May, hence the name "15-M"), its ranks have quickly swelled, attracting thousands and thousands of people onto the streets, and even going beyond national borders. (2) Despite the important and heavy presence of minority political forces of the institutional left, the mobilisation has been largely spontaneous and built through word of mouth and social networking pages rather than through party manifestos.

According to the manifesto of the movement "Real Democracy, Now!" the prime mover of these events, the young people in the streets seem, largely, to want greater democracy and social equality (3) . To many there is an obvious similarity between the Spanish 15-M movement and the Italian "grillini".(4) It is obvious even to its boss Beppe. He wasn’t slow to arrive in the square in Barcelona, pointing out the similarities of their demands - against the party oligarchies, for the exclusion of those accused of corruption from the electoral list and for a participatory democracy - with his. On this level it should also be noted that the main beneficiary of the movement may be the Izquierda Unida,(5) which is severely handicapped by the current electoral system.

But it is very doubtful that such a description of the movement explains everything. If amongst the various banners in the Puerta del Sol a large black one, stood out proclaiming "The crisis is capitalism", none of the various postings on the net spoke of it. And few people have correctly understood the social pressures that have led so many young people to take to the streets (or rather squares) across the country. Looking at the most recent figures, we find that in Spain the number of unemployed in March grew by 34,406 compared to February, reaching 4.3 million people (according to the sanitised figures of the Ministry of Labour). In the services sector alone nearly 15,000 jobs have been lost in a month, and in February, the Spanish unemployment rate was already 20.5%, the highest figure in the European Union. If you look at youth unemployment, this affects 44.6% of young people under 25 years. The Spanish government hopes to keep the state debt below 74.3% of the current figure in 2012, provided, however, they are able to drastically reduce government spending and the budget deficit, which is currently 11.4%. Whoever is elected in local elections these days, in particular, will have to deal with budgets already deep in the red. Municipalities and regions account for about half of total public expenditure. In all, there 5200 local and regional entities whose debt is around €26 billion, to which we should add about €4 billion advanced to drug companies supplying state hospitals.


The movement, in fact, appears a lot more varied than the descriptions usually given. It is marked by a deep social malaise with its roots in the particular characteristics of the Spanish production system and more generally in the rampant crisis of global capitalism, that has hit the Spanish economy so hard. The real growing evil is capitalism itself, as the young Spaniards in Madrid correctly wrote. This evil growth, parasitic on the overwhelmingly proletarian of the population, certainly cannot be cured through injections of democratic illusions and equal opportunities. The deeper social aspirations that young people are trying to bring to the streets are basically legitimate, and we must support them by participating actively in the demonstrations and encouraging the expansion of the protests. Communists, however, should make it clear that the hope for social equality and a real participation in "democracy" cannot be obtained "Ya!" ["Now!"], without a radical and complete overthrow of the current social system. It is obvious that the rich banker or industrialist will never really on be the same level as a worker or an unemployed youngster whilst the former control of the means of production and the latter can at most hope to find a job where they will be exploited according to "market" conditions.

In any case, we proletarians don’t care about the fate of the system that nourishes itself on our exploitation. Instead we want to throw acid on the roots of this evil growth, we want to strike at it in the very heart of its productive system, looking in every area for solidarity between the workers who work and the many that have lost jobs or have never found them. In Spain and elsewhere, the aim should be to expand and radicalise this social conflict on class lines, to revolutionise the whole of society from the bottom up and build a new one that meets human needs and not those of profit. In Spain and elsewhere, the aim should be to build a revolutionary vanguard, which can unify and give political guidance in this deep social malaise. Otherwise, the plaza (square) has served only as an outlet to contain "popular" indignation, without being able to put forward a class perspective, without leaving a new and more widespread awareness of the conflicting interests in play, without outlining any prospect of broader aims to finally get rid of this system of production which is behind all the current social instability.


(1) Indignados = “angry ones”

(2) At midnight on May 21, 25,000 people gathered in the Puerta del Sol square in Madrid, at the heart of the protest were young Spaniards, breaking the ban on demonstrations before the impending elections. At the same time, some 10,000 people demonstrated in Barcelona’s ​​Plaza de Catalunya, and thousands more crowded into the streets of all major cities in Spain.

(3) In short, there are many proposals for more democratic reforms: the abolition of several laws that are held to be unfair; including the electoral law, a referendum to confirm all the most important laws, abolition of the monarchy, complete separation between the State and the Church, removal of state funding for religious institutions, separation and no interference between politics and the judiciary; measures against corruption and the excessive power of the ruling "caste", which includes opening of the electoral rolls, exclusion of those accused of corruption from public office, reform of the financing of political parties, cutting pensions annuities, administrative decentralization, with more involvement of regions, provinces, and municipalities in the management of budgets, more direct democracy through the web and telecommunication networks. The other driving force is the struggle against social inequality: tax reform in favour of lower income, taxation of financial income, nationalisation of banks bailed out with state funding, the limits on job insecurity, the minimum wage. Finally, environmental and pacifist demands: immediate closure of all nuclear power plants and support for alternative energy, increased public transport and a decrease in private car use, cycle lanes and free tickets for the unemployed, and no reduction in military spending to intervene in any war scenario.

(4) Beppe Grillo is an Italian alternative comedian who, on the premise that the Italian political establishment was already beyond a joke has started up his one political movement known as “Five Stars” (Cinque Stelle). He is the patron (boss) referred to in the next sentence.

(5) The United Left (Izquierda Unida, IU) is a political coalition that was organized in 1986 as several political organisations opposed Spain joining NATO. It was formed by a number groups of leftists, greens, left-wing socialists and republicans, but was dominated by the Communist Party of Spain (PCE). It replaced the latter in the polls and got 9% at its height but has since declined.


Hi, I left the comment below on an ICC thread would anyone like to comment?

For what it's worth I agree with internasyonalista. However, this:

"The movement, in fact, appears a lot more varied than the descriptions usually given. It is marked by a deep social malaise with its roots in the particular characteristics of the Spanish production system..."

from the ICT artical stands out. I wonder if any ICT comrades could develop these bits in bold (I will leave a comment at the original article). Of course everyone else feel free to comment as well. As an aside, I think the ICC article is enthusiastic and dare I say exciting to read though I don't think it is over the top. Getting the balance right between what is happening, what could, optimism and reservation surely will always be difficult and a challenge.

Hi, RC. In quite recent years, Spain was often cited by bourgeois media as an example of a virtuous economy, which had to be followed by other countries. But, as later became evident, the growth was largely fictitious and fragile, mainly driven by a property bubble and speculation in general.

Spain's economy grew by a third between 1999 and 2007, and its net debt fell to just 26.5% of GDP in 2007. But this was bubble-driven growth: the stock market peaked at 125% of GDP in November 2007 and dropped to 54% of GDP a year later. A housing bubble increased construction from 7.5% to 10.8% of GDP (2000-2006), and housing starts dropped by 87% once the bubble burst.

In reality, the main problems lay in the production sphere, as the Spanish system was not able to compete with other economies (i.e. not able to extract enough profits) and in general suffered the decline of profit rates of global capitalism:

When Spain joined the euro in 1999, its level of productivity in manufacturing was about 63.6% of Germany's. Over the next 10 years, productivity grew at about the same rate in both countries...

The so-called cure is already being experienced by Spanish proletarians:

the European authorities have prescribed what is called an "internal devaluation" - shrink the economy and raise unemployment enough so that the country can become competitive, through lower prices and wages, without changing the exchange rate (that is, keeping the euro).