The Socialist 25 May 2011
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Eyewitness report: Mass youth protests in Spain
Since 15 May, central squares in towns and cities across Spain have been occupied. In the run up to the local and municipal elections which took place on 22 May, the mainly young protesters demanded real democracy and an end to the alternation between the two parties of big business. At the heart of the protests is Spain's 45% youth unemployment rate and the government's attempts to make young and working class people pay for the massive economic crisis in Spain. Here Sarah Wrack reports from the protests in Madrid.
When I left Madrid on the day of the elections, the protest camp in Puerta del Sol was continuing to grow with new people arriving all the time having travelled from the towns surrounding Madrid and further. Everyone I spoke to in the square was very clear - they're not going anywhere.
General assemblies during the day are attended by at least 2,000 people and in the evenings, more than 30,000 pack into the square. A movement that started with young people has gathered support from the majority. Thousands of families, pensioners and workers pack into the square to join the evening protests. Donations of money, food and blankets keep pouring in.
When I asked why they were there, most people responded "to defend our rights". The government ruled that the camp is illegal which made the protesters even more determined to stay. But they also talked about having no alternative but to protest. They call themselves the 'ni ni' generation because they have "ni empleo, ni casa" (no job, no house).
Alejandro, a university student, told me: "I still live with my parents. I'm only 19 but my brother is 27 and he still lives there too. We don't want to live in these conditions for our whole lives!"
There is a lot of hostility towards trade unions because of the role of the union leaders in holding back the struggle. There is also big mistrust of political parties.
While most seem to think that there is no way to have a party that represents the masses, a few protesters correctly pointed out that one step forward would be for the movement to stand its own candidates in the elections next time.
The camp is incredibly well organised. There is a kitchen, a crŤche, a quiet area and a library stocking all the daily press. Teams of volunteers are delegated to clean up, hand out water and sun cream to protect people from the heat, talk to the press and organise entertainment.
But unfortunately, in terms of a strategy to bring about the 'revolution' they are calling for, the movement is much less organised. Alejandro said "I don't know that we can win the democracy we want but what else can we do? We have no future because of the politicians and their cuts so we will stay here."
Events in Spain clearly demonstrate that as living conditions are driven down by governments around the world and young people see their futures disappearing, mass movements will be inevitable. It is clear to people in Spain that the system is broken, even if there is some confusion about what the alternative should be.
Thousands of banners around the square read "Revolution!" and show hatred towards the bankers, the IMF, the police, capitalism and especially the politicians. The main chant in the square is "They don't represent us!"
What is needed to achieve the change the protesters are calling for is a socialist programme of demands and struggle. Socialismo Revolucionario (CWI Spain) is calling for the non-payment of the debt and nationalisation of the banks and utilities under democratic working class control.
The workers' movement should give clear support to this movement of the youth and a general strike combined with the protest camps would have huge power.
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