This is the final installment of our three-part report on May Day in Spain. Part I looked at the political context in Spain, where austerity has been met with the Indignados movement that has inspired people worldwide. Part II provided an account of the massive May Day protests in Spain, in which an estimated one million people took part.
May 1 may have come and gone in Spain but the echoes of the mobilizations still remain.
Walking past a large bank branch near Bilbao Metro station late the other night, I met a small group of people taping up posters for a little 15-M inspired ‘exchange’ event where all were invited to bring in items to trade with each other. No comfort for capitalism there. Ana, who speaks a little bit of English, invites us to attend if we are still around.
Across the city, there are other signs up for debates and discussion; popular assemblies are being planned and small but spirited protests are visible in Madrid’s many public spaces such as Plaza Mayor and outside their Congreso De Los Diputados (central parliament).
Students have taken to the streets of Catalonia to protest the raising of tuition fees. Public school teachers are planning demonstrations while random balconies are hung with signs against the cuts. My personal favourite is a simple Republican flag on a balcony in our square, Plaza Tirso de Molina.
Unemployment in Spain is at 25 per cent; it is well over 40 per cent for youth and in some provinces such as Granada. There is a feeling that the last elections that brought in the centre-right government of Mariano Rajoy was a mistake, a common electoral miscalculation that the right would be able to pull the country out of recession.
The truth has been the opposite: as in Greece, austerity measure after austerity measure has been imposed upon the people here and there is no improved economy to show for it. The consequences of unemployment are obvious: there are women begging for alms at church doors and men with signs about the children they are supporting without jobs on Gran Via.
It is a poverty that I have seen before in Spain, but not in Madrid. And everywhere, there are young people canoodling – it might just be spring but I think their inability to pay for housing has something to do with it too.
This isn’t just Spain: the hundreds of thousands who took to the streets here last week are emblematic of the popular anger in Europe over the fiscal discipline being demanded of them. The local elections in Britain saw Labour gain over 750 seats. The French elections have propelled Hollande and the Socialists to power. More interesting still were the Greek elections on Sunday.
Here in Spain, the 15-M Movement is calling for demonstrations on May 12 and 15. The mobilizations around them will be fascinating to watch, especially from Granada and Barcelona.
Archana Rampure works as a researcher for the Canadian Union of Public Employees.