Spain burns as strikes bring nation to its knees

Nine injured and scores are arrested as austerity protest descends into violence

by Alasdair Fotheringham, The Independent (UK)

Friday, 30 March 2012 — A nationwide general strike fuelled by a groundswell of anger against crippling unemployment levels and severe ongoing austerity cuts culminated in dozens of large-scale evening demonstrations across Spain yesterday.

Approximately a quarter of a million protesters took to the streets in Barcelona, with some fringe groups attacking police vans and smashing shop windows until late into the evening. In contrast Madrid’s almost equally large demonstration, where the crowds of chanting, whistling protestors filled the emblematic Puerto del Sol square and surrounding streets to bursting point, was reported as being totally peaceful.

“There’s lots of people here, but we need even more, this country is going through an awful situation and its going to get worse,” young protester Luis Ferrer, on the dole for three months, told The Independent in Madrid’s demonstration.

“If we don’t make ourselves heard now, we never will. I don’t think we’re going to end up like Greece, but they’re using this recession to take away our rights as workers.It’s just an excuse.”

“The labour reforms they want to bring in are terrible and our wages are awful,” Jose, a protestor in his twenties, added. “They want us to work more and more, put up taxes too and that’s just not on.” Continue reading

Crackdown in Spain

October 10, 2011
Wave of Arrests Sweeps Barcelona
by PETER GELDERLOOS, COUNTERPUNCH

The message went out to a thousand phones on Monday morning, the 3rd of October: the first of the arrests from the Parliament blockade had taken place. Four undercovers snatched him up as he left his house. A protest was called for the same day, at 7 o’clock in the evening, Plaça Catalunya. Two more arrests soon followed. The news quickly spread via telephone, internet, and word of mouth. Several meetings are called to share information and organize the response. By the time people started gathering in the hundreds for the protest, a fourth arrest had occurred.

Back in June, the popular rage that has been growing in Barcelona, in tandem with other parts of the world, coalesced once again as 200,000 people blockaded the Catalan Parliament in an attempt to prevent the passage of the latest austerity laws. These laws cannot accurately be called cutbacks, for in addition to slashing healthcare and education, they augment the ranks and arsenal of the police and continue the urbanization projects that tailor the city to the needs of tourism and social control.

This was not the first round of reforms to hit Catalunya, and in fact the Socialist Party was already voted out of power for inaugurating the crisis measures, so now it’s the conservatives’ turn to continue the same policies. Half of the people never voted for any of them, and an increasing number of these have been taking to the streets to win back control over their lives in an escalating series of strikes, protests, occupations, and popular assemblies that have spread across the Spanish state. The media and the academics have referred to this phenomenon as the movement of “indignados,” the “Real Democracy Now” movement, or the 15M movement, but in reality the feeling on the street is increasingly closer to rage than to simple indignation;  its politics are much more heterogeneous and in large part more anticapitalist than a narrow, naïve call for a “real” democracy, whatever that means; and the activity ascribed to it predates the 15M—or 15th of May—plaza occupations. Threads of the ongoing defiance run continuously back through the joyful Mayday riots in the wealthy neighborhood of Sarrià, the January 27 general strike that was called only by anarcho-syndicalist and far-left minority unions, in an unprecedented move demonstrating a new boldness, the September 29 general strike that reached massive proportions on a countrywide level and in Barcelona erupted in a daylong insurrection, which itself evoked references to and drew on experiences from an entire history of struggle against dictatorship and against the democracy that replaced it, a struggle that not everyone has forgotten.

On June 15, for the first time in much too long, politicians remembered the taste of fear as people blocked their path and harangued them, assailed them with insults, spat on them, threw trash, and in at least one case, attacked them with spraypaint. Many lawmakers had to be flown in by helicopter, and only in the face of undeniable public opposition and with the help of an army of riot police were they able to pass the reforms. For at least one day, the lies of democracy were put in their place, and the curtain masking the reality of social war was parted. Continue reading