Indignad@s (enraged), Wall Street occupiers and many hundreds of thousands of other demonstrators from all around the globe, took to the streets last Saturday, 15 October. They challenged the power of the big banks and big business as part of an international day of protest (“15-O”). Below we report from Spain and Portugal, which saw some of the biggest protests.
Puerta del Sol in Madrid, the birthplace of the “indignad@s” movement, saw a powerful demonstration on “15-O.” Five hundred thousand people flooded the streets last Saturday. In Barcelona, organisers counted 400,000, in Sevilla 60,000. There were tens of thousands more in Valencia, Bilbao and towns and cities around the country. The “indignad@s” (“angry ones”) were back, and still with much to be angry about. The deepening economic crisis of Spanish capitalism and the avalanche of cuts and attacks on living standards continue to fan the flames of protest and radicalisation. Elections will take place on 20 November. Saturdays massive demonstrations were a reminder of the multitude of workers, young people and the unemployed who argue that they remain unrepresented by the establishment parties.
Puerta del Sol on 15 October
After the explosion of the movement following the “Democracia Real Ya” demonstrations on 15 May (the high point of the movement, with the square occupations and mass assemblies in cities and neighbourhoods), the 15-M movement, as it is known, has managed to sink roots in Spanish society. Although at a lower level, the assemblies, which the movement threw up in Spains major cities, continued to function throughout the summer. From the massive protests in May and June, the movement orientated towards local campaigns, for example organising the stoppage of hundreds of evictions, with mass blockades assisting those threatened with eviction. Last Saturday saw the movement prove that it can still mobilise hundreds of thousands, with a turnout rivaling that of 19 June, when over one million marched, only this time joined by hundreds of thousands more on 5 continents.
The powerful response by working people to the brutal cuts being implemented by PSOE and PP in federal and regional governments, over the last months, including the battle of the teachers against attacks on their jobs and conditions in Madrid and other regions, has also had an impact on the movement. Masses of youths were joined by many older workers and anti-cuts campaigners, with slogans emphasising the movements opposition to this savaging of public spending and demanding free and quality health and education services. Such demands will be key to the movement being capable of developing further, as a mass force capable of uniting the opposition in society into a mass struggle capable of fighting for an alternative to austerity and mass unemployment. Socialismo Revolucionario (CWI in Spain) participated in the demonstrations in cities around the country, arguing for the movement to move forward from 15-O to mobilise for even more effective action, building from below for a general strike, as the next step, The 15-M movement can be a powerful instrument for working people in helping to drag the union leaders into action in defence of the majority in society. The assemblies must now be filled up again, and extended into workplaces to begin to build for a paralysis of the economy to make the real power of the majority felt. Armed with an alternative political programme, calling for democratic public ownership of the banks and the main pillars of the economy, this movement could move to make history all over again, raising the possibility of a successful struggle to end this rotten system and to establish real democracy.
Portugal: 100,000 in Lisbon
An estimated 100,000 protesters marched through Lisbon, last Saturday, with another 20,000 in Porto and thousands more in various other Portuguese cities and towns. The campaign to mobilise people for “15-O,” in which activists from Socialismo Revolucionario (SR -CWI in Portugal) were deeply involved, had been underway for weeks. Tens of thousands stormed past riot police to occupy the steps leading up to parliament in Lisbon, in scenes not seen since the Portuguese Revolution in 1974.
The protest drew much inspiration from the movement of the indignad@s in Spain, who through mass protests, square occupations and assemblies, paralyzed city centres and attracted wide support among the population. Many of Portugals own “indignad@s” are determined to see a sustained movement develop in their country, as well. Over 10,000 attended a mass assembly after the march in Lisbon where decisions to camp overnight in the city centre, and organise a further mass protest on 26 November, were accepted. Rank and file trade unionists, including SR members, also addressed the assembly, where huge support was given for the call for a massive, democratically-organised general strike, as part of a mass movement to fight the government and Troikas austerity. Reflecting the pressure from youth in revolt, the CGTP union leaders announced, the day before the demonstration, that their plan of struggle would include a general strike. Even a declaration from the sergeants association informed the government that these military personnel took the side of the people in their struggle against austerity, and warned of a revolution.
Popular assembly in Lisbon
The mainly young demonstrators used their chants and placards to denounce the massacre of living standards being carried out by the government, in sickly obedience to the diktats of the Troika. As the day of protest approached, the government announced new and brutal measures, including an increase in the working day for the private sector and fresh attacks on wages. This movement, which must now go and build assemblies and mass occupations and draw the mass of working people into support and action, can be a key part of the fight against the destruction of the economy, living standards and futures of Portuguese workers and youth.