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Mass demonstrations in Spain spread across Europe

Published Jun 5, 2011 9:54 AM

Young demonstrators behind police barricades in Barcelona, May 27.
Photo: acampadabcn, Angel Garcia

May 30 — Demonstrations and occupations against the capitalist crisis, austerity and mass unemployment continued into their third week across Spain, sending ripples across the rest of the continent as other young people and workers organized protests and encampments in solidarity with the revolt that ignited on May 15. It’s now called 15-M.

Demonstrators occupied more than 70 city squares throughout the country, and similar actions were reported throughout France, Italy and Greece.

Every day thousands of mostly young people pack Puerta del Sol — Madrid’s most popular main square — for rallies, assemblies and other mass actions. On May 15, youths, workers and the unemployed gathered for large demonstrations across the Spanish state against the capitalist austerity measures advanced by the Spanish government. These measures include wage cuts for public workers, freezing pensions, raising the retirement age and more.

The conditions workers face are staggering unemployment that sits at 21.3 percent for the general population and around 45 percent for people age 18 to 25.

The demonstrators also demand democratic reforms, for example, in the election laws and an end to rampant corruption.

On May 27, police attacked the encampment at Plaza Catalunya in Barcelona, attempting to clear the square using batons and firing rubber bullets into the crowd. More than 100 demonstrators were injured, some of them requiring hospitalization. Cops tore down signs that had been hung around the square and hauled off computers and other materials that organizers were using to build the occupation.

The cops’ pretext was that the square in the country’s second-largest city needed to be cleared before a big soccer match between FC Barcelona and Manchester. Together, these teams have a combined worth of nearly $3 billion. Beyond serving the interests of the super-rich capitalists who own these teams, the police attack on the Plaza Catalunya occupation was meant as a warning to the masses of youth and workers who dare to rise up and fight back against the conditions of capitalism.

Hours after the police attack, demonstrators defiantly retook the square. Demonstrations and marches in solidarity with Barcelona’s youths took place throughout Spain, including one of 20,000 people in Seville, the country’s fourth largest city.

On May 28, peoples’ assemblies were held throughout different neighborhoods of Madrid. Demonstrators planned for these assemblies to discuss important questions about tactics, strategy and formulating more concrete political demands. Various documents and resolutions in which activists have attempted to develop a political program for the 15-M movement have been circulating, but nothing has yet been formally adopted.

Organizers had initially said that the occupations would conclude on May 29. But at a mass assembly held Sunday evening in Puerta del Sol, demonstrators decided by consensus to continue the occupations indefinitely. While participants were conscious of the difficult logistics of maintaining a living space together with a political meeting space, they also knew that the whole world was watching Puerta del Sol.

Another assembly has been set for Sunday, June 12.

The youth and workers of Spain are waging a bold struggle, one needed now more than ever. Profit-hungry bankers are looking to collect on their debts and are stealing more and more from the working class while imposing devastating austerity programs, not just in Spain but around the globe.

One, two, many Tahrir Squares

The mass uprisings that rocked Egypt, Tunisia and countries throughout North Africa and the Middle East starting in January and the tactics used there helped inspire the developments in Spain. These in turn have served as a clarion call to all those fighting the attacks on the public sector. Young people across Europe have answered this call and built demonstrations and encampments in many other cities on the continent.

In France and Italy thousands of young people rallied and began occupying city squares against the austerity measures being implemented by the governments there and in solidarity with the encampments in Spain. Police attacked demonstrators in Bastille Square in Paris.

In Greece nearly 40,000 young people and workers demonstrated in Athens’ Syntagma Square on May 29, the fifth consecutive day of protests there. Major cities throughout the country have seen similar protests over the last week.

The previous day, the All Workers Militant Front (PAME) organized demonstrations in major cities against the austerity measures there in coordination with other trade unions including the All Farmers Militant Coalition, the Federation of Women in Greece and the Students’ Militant Coalition.

These demonstrations in Greece come as the government there has been discussing a massive sell-off of state-owned industries to satisfy the terms of a bailout package the country was forced to accept last year from the International Monetary Fund. Greece faces a new round of austerity that the European Central Bank wants to impose to ensure collection of interest on loans to the Greek government.

With protests set to continue in Spain, and others growing across the continent and the world, these hopeful signs point to the emergence of a truly global fightback against austerity and the globalized capitalist crisis.