Spanish state

Massive outrage

Notes on the day of 19J in Barcelona

Wednesday 22 June 2011, by Esther Vivas, Josep María Antentas

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The level of outrage has once again exceeded all expectations, taking to the streets en masse, and showing the gap that exists between those who are angry and political institutions. From the 19 May (15M) to the 19 June (19J), forces have come together and unity has been created, not just the local areas (protest camps and neighborhood groups), but broader segments of society who identify with our fierce condemnation of the political class and the financial and banking system which are responsible for this crisis. The slogan "we are not commodities in the hands of politicians and bankers" summarizes both demands.

The indignad@s (indignants) have unambiguously pointed the finger at those who have buckeld under the pressure of the "markets" and who in demanding that others tighten their belts, have not done so themselves. "We want to see politicians earning pitiful salaries of 1,000 euros a month" was one of the enthusiastically applauded slogans at the rally. This democracy has proved increasingly empty of content for a public prepared to take control over their own lives. One vote every four years is not enough for those who argue that politics must involve the daily exercise of their rights, from day to day and from the bottom up.

The attempt by the authorties to contain the movement, following the action at the Catalan Parliament on 15J, has not been able to cope with the collective social outrage that surpasses even that of the men and women who were in the protest camps. Anyone who believes that the movement is merely a passing phase of youthful activists was wrong. So are those who consider it to be simply a problem of public order. The usual suspects have turned into a multitude. Two years and nine months of crisis weighed heavily. The current movement expresses a deep social malaise that has finally emerged into the open and, as usual, without warning and in new ways. We are not part of a cyclical or passing phenomenon, but instead privy to the first stirrings of a new cycle of political activity, of which 15M and the protest camps acted as a springboard.

Over the last month we have regained confidence in collective action. It has gone from skepticism and resignation to "yes we can". The riots in the Arab world, mass demonstrations in Greece and "will not pay for your crisis" of the Icelandic people have weighed heavily on the collective imagination and have given impetus to a restoring of confidence in the "we", the colective political subject. The "globalization of resistance" of that anti-globalization movement, dating back more than ten years, has been revived again in a very different scenario, marked by the crisis.

After a day of 15J, where the movement was engaged in a battle for legitimacy, 19J was presented as a test for the movement to show its strength in the face of the attacks it has received. It needed to translate into action in the street the popular support that it has awakened. And that is exactly what it has achieved. The 19J has shown the expansion of the movement, its ability to mobilise en masse and its explosive expansion in a very short time. Its growth since the 15M is not only quantitative but also qualitative in terms of the diversification of its social base and its generational composition.

Now what? The challenges of moving to strengthen its roots involve strenthening the grassroots, establishing local assemblies and strengthening stable organisational mechanisms. The movement also needs to try to develop links with the working class, sectors in struggle and militant trade unionists, and to keep up the pressure on the main trade unions, who are puzzled by a change in the social and political landscape that they had not anticipated. It is necessary to achieve concrete victories. The prevention of several evictions, although they may be small and very defensive gains, point the way and bring new energy. More generally, the movement faces the challenge of combining its general character, its critique of the current global economic model and the political class, with the strengthening of concrete struggles against the cuts and policies that seek to transfer the cost of the crisis on to those who can least afford it.

The 19J has marked a turning point that ends the first phase which started with the 15M, and prepares the next phase of a movement that has only just begun.