Spain is experiencing an unprecedented uprising that emerged from all sectors of society: students, workers, the unemployed, families, and retirees. They believe society urgently needs to change. These indignados (outraged people) have been protesting in Spain’s principal squares since May 15, a week before the regional and autonomous elections. The movement was dubbed el movimiento 15M (the 15M movement) because of the date it began; one month later, protesters continue to voice their demands. Broadly speaking, these demands include creating a “real’’ democracy, reducing privileges of the political class, and ending poor treatment from the hands of the bankers.
As in the recent Arab revolutions, social media has played an active role in the movement. The individual cities’ protests are generally referred to in shorthand by their names on Twitter (#spanishrevolution, #acampadasol, #takethesquare, #15M). The original camp-out, spearheaded by the platform Democracia Real Ya (Real Democracy Now), took place in Madrid’s historic Puerta del Sol. From there, other major cities such as Barcelona, Valencia, Sevilla, Bilbao, and Granada began forming their own acampadas.
Carlos Barbudo, a 24-year-old political science student at the Universidad Complutense in Madrid, has been an active member of Madrid’s camp-out since its inception. He will help us understand this phenomenon.
Why is it so popular?
"There are two factors, one of which began much earlier and is one of the most characteristic traits of the Spanish political culture: The tendency to discredit political institutions and the negative assessment of the political class. The other factor is more recent and is directly related to the current global economic crisis, which left Spain with the highest youth unemployment rate in Europe. Also worth mentioning is the high level of corruption within the political system. Spain is possibly the country with the highest number of political candidates charged with corruption in Europe."
What are they demanding?
"The primary demand is for a truly democratic state. In Spanish democracy, there is a significant deficit: The institutions that should be developing this democracy are utterly corrupt. Citizens are treated like goods in the hands of politicians and bankers. As a result of this, a debate has sparked as to what constitutes a truly democratic state and what transformations should be realized in order to achieve one. Our specific demands have been constantly evolving over the course of the movement, and as a result, the media never knows precisely how to define what we represent. This, however, is the media’s problem, not ours."
How is it organized?
"Our organization is quite complex, and this makes for some unusual scheduling. In each camp-out, located in the main squares of numerous major Spanish cities, we have frequent general assemblies, open to anyone interested in participating. From there, we are further divided into a series of commissions that aid in the development of various aspects of the camp-outs and that organize debate groups. These groups create proposals that are later brought to the general meetings, where it is then decided by general consensus whether or not these proposals should be incorporated into the movement’s official demands."
Who is the leader?
"Everyone: That is the beauty of the movement, as well as its primary strength. Behind this plural movement, there are no political organizations, no unions. Of course there are people within the movement who also participate in such organizations, but here each person participates on his or her own behalf."
Translation Credit: Sonja Gandert
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons