Since May 15, tens of thousands of workers, students, families – the poor masses of Spain – have occupied Puerta Del Sol, a large plaza in Madrid, the capital city. The protestors are calling Puerta Del Sol, Spain’s Tahrir Square, after the protests in Egypt. They’ve built a small tent city and are chanting “we shall not be moved.” The protesters are calling themselves “les indignés” – “the indignant” or “the outraged.”
The anger of the population stems from increasing attacks on the working class and the poor and large sections of the middle class. Just like here in the U.S. and across Europe, the Spanish politicians, serving the big corporations and banks, are solving their crisis on the backs of workers.
In Spain, the government has imposed some of the worst attacks in all of Europe, amounting to over $21 billion in spending cuts. There have been ten percent cuts in healthcare and education. Unemployment compensation has been cut by $562 a year. These cuts include 5 to 15 percent cuts to salaries of public workers, an increase in the retirement age from 65 to 67, and new labor laws that make it easier for bosses to fire workers.
These attacks are happening on top of a general situation that is similar to the U.S. but even worse. Last year, 1.4 million people filed for foreclosure. The average price of homes has dropped as much as 20 percent in the last few years. And the situation is only getting worse.
Meanwhile, the unemployment rate is over 20 percent, and for workers under twenty-five it is almost 50 percent. More people have been unemployed for more than a year than those who’ve been unemployed for six months.
On May 15, tens of thousands of people decided that enough is enough and took over the Puerta Del Sol in Spain.
The politicians thought they could channel the anger of the population and the protests into elections. On Sunday, regional and municipal elections took place in Spain. The Socialist Workers Party (PSOE – most similar to the Democratic Party here), under Prime Minister Zapatero, tried to make promises of change and reform. But under the Zapatero administration, the Spanish population, especially workers, have only seen more attacks.
Next to the Socialist party is the Popular Party (PP – similar to the Republican Party), who also campaigned on false hopes, promising change from the failed policies of the Zapatero administration.
But this time the electoral promises fell on deaf ears. The protestors shouted back – the streets will decide, not the polling booth. The population recognized they had no real choice in this election – many people poured into the streets or avoided the polls altogether. The Socialist Party won less than 28 percent of the vote and the Popular Party received 38 percent.
Leading up to the election this past Sunday, the government passed a law forbidding protests, hoping they could disperse the thousands still gathered in Puerta Del Sol. But nothing changed – the plaza remained occupied in defiance of the elections and the new law, and protests have continued to spread to other cities.
The protests in Spain come after similar protests in the Middle East, in Egypt and Tunisia, and protests in Greece and Britain, and throughout Europe. The attacks in Europe are the same as those here in the U.S., where corporations and banks have made record profits as they slash employment, wages, and funds for social services.
These similarities are not a coincidence – these policies stem from the same economic system that dominates the world – capitalism, a system which represents the interests of a handful of banks and corporations against the interests of the vast majority of the population. And politicians continue to make false promises of change every election season.
In Spain, “the outraged” have begun to stand up and fight back. Facing the same attacks here, the question is when will U.S. workers do the same?