The Spanish revolution is only just getting started

  • June 11, 2011

People & Protest

Indignados decide to dismantle tent camp, but are already planning a giant march on Madrid and a number of major demonstrations over the summer.

Earlier this week, Spanish protesters voted to break up the camp they had set up at Puerta del Sol. They made the right decision. Acampada del Sol served its purpose. It made the symbolic statement it was meant to convey, it created the strong ties that revolution requires. Now is the time to organize and move on.

And this is exactly what’s happening. To anyone who might be so deluded to think that the end of the occupations mark the end of the 15-M movement, time will tell how gravely mistaken they really are. Because underneath the surface of the calm, a genuinely revolutionary movement has been born that will continue to evolve and develop over months to come.

For one, the indignados have already announced a ‘giant march to reclaim democracy‘. Five protest caravans departing from Barcelona, Donostia, La Coruña, Cádiz, and Valencia on June 19 (a day that European-wide protests are scheduled) will converge upon Madrid a month later, on July 17, when protesters are scheduled to paralyze the capital entirely.

The initiative, proposed by representatives from Barcelona, was applauded by representatives from over 56 cities who united in Madrid for a national assembly last Sunday. It is just one of many initiatives popping up everywhere as the 15-M movement seeks to broaden its struggle and make it more dynamic than the static occupations allowed for.

At the same time, the idea is to disperse activities away from the city squares and into the neighborhoods and villages, to expand the reach of the movement and engage people who would not necessarily come out to camp on a square, but who still feel marginalized and disadvantaged by the present system of financial and political patronage and who support the aims of the movement.

In another sign that the protests are rapidly transforming and evolving into something new, several hundreds — if not thousands — of indignados who had long been camped out at Puerta del Sol spontaneously marched on Parliament this week. In a sense, the decision to dismantle the camps might actually have opened up new frontiers of protest by allowing greater freedom of movement.

All in all, the occupations served their purpose: they incubated a nascent movement that might have been stillborn online if it weren’t for the mass congregations that arose out of the initial mobilization on May 15th. Now, the trick is for them to evolve in a way that broadens the base, sharpens the aims and delivers the punches.

A lot of time and efforts will have to go into the preparations for the major protests that are scheduled for June 19 and July 17, as well as the worldwide protests that were announced for October 15. It will be good for the activists to be able to go home and rest. Camping for weeks on end can drain energy and motivation, which will be crucial assets in weeks and months ahead.

In the meantime, popular assemblies will continue, both in the main squares and in the neighborhoods, allowing the protesters to retain their crucial ‘locus’ of communication and organization that has turned out to be of such enormous value in building the movement and ensuring a degree of involvement and commitment on the part of its participants.

And of course there’s always the hard core who vow to stay until the end, determined that the symbolic value of a permanent occupation can serve the crucial function of a tiny candle in an otherwise dark universe. And they are right: Acampada del Sol has indeed been the source of light in our lives for the past month. But while a committed core perpetuates the occupation, it’s time for the majority to move on and develop the movement further.

Interestingly, while very little demands seems to have emerged from Puerta del Sol yet, the movement at large seems to have succeeded in one very important, if not crucial respect: thanks in part to the peaceful, non-ideological and jovial nature of the protests, the indignados can count on the sympathy of some 70 percent of the population.

This popular goodwill is essentially political capital that can prove to be of enormous value in the near future as the protesters seek to build up a base of popular support among a wider variety of citizens. Plus, being able to claim that you have the people on your side is obviously a crucial precondition for any legitimate revolutionary movement.

Either way, whatever shape the movement will take in the coming months, one thing is now abundantly clear: a revolutionary movement was born on the squares of Spain, it rapidly spread throughout Europe, gripped Greece, and will only grow stronger as time passes. What’s more exciting than the prospect of watching this movement mature?

As Ignacio Escolar, a blogger with the 15-M movement, told the Guardian, “young Spaniards have now learned that they can do something, that they have strength and can react to what is going on. This is not the end. I think they will use that strength again.”

In other words, for those who thought the flame of the indignados would died out with the last tents being removed from Puerta del Sol, we have one simple message: fasten your seat belts. The revolution is only just getting started.

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Magazine — Issue 11