Spain’s Marches for Dignity converge on Madrid

3 April 2014 by Jérôme Duval

In Spain, despite the government’s claims of growth and a revival in exportations, there’s no shortage of reasons for people to demonstrate. To pick one among others, according to a report by Cáritas, there are currently three million people who live on less than 307 Euros a month. That’s twice as many as there were at the beginning of the crisis in 2007. The policies pursued by the government are the cause of permanent social conflict, and with those in power sowing their seeds of misery, the anger of the people is growing.

Exasperated by so many social injustices, activists decided to start long march protests, departing from all over Spain to converge on Madrid. The “Marches for dignity” set off on the 28th of February, marching against the austere budget cuts implemented in order to pay off debt, resulting in the deterioration of essential social services. The Manifesto calls for mobilization against the “unfair system which ensures unequal production and distribution of wealth. Slogans such as”Government Troika Troika Troika: IMF, European Commission and European Central Bank, which together impose austerity measures through the conditions tied to loans to countries in difficulty.

liberates!, “Bread, a roof, work for everyone,” We should not work, if you do not pay“multiplied on the signs of the marchers. From villages to cities, these marchers found a response from the people they meet on their route, turning frustration into action: the famous slogan, born of victorious actions against housing evictions,”yes, it is possible" (¡sí se puede!) reappeared with force. Columns grew progressively and new marchers joined the procession. The energy was there, bubbling, but the mainstream media did not report the extent of the phenomenon and on the day of the arrival of the marches in Madrid, they preferred to open news bulletins with the death of Adolfo Suárez, the first president after the dictator Franco.

Mass mobilisation

Yet it has been one of the largest mobilisations of the year, which includes the 15M group; the multiple “tides”- white for the struggling health sector, green for education, blue for those defending rights to water,black for the defence of civil servants’ working conditions and against budget cuts, and purple for the rights of women; the Platform of people affected by mortgages, (la PAH, Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca); pensioners and combative “yayoflautas”; many unions including Andalusian Workers Union (SAT); political parties to the left of the liberal left; the workers of the Panrico company on indefinite strike since October 13th; those of the Coca-Cola company against the closing of factories and plans for layoffs; the firefighters of Madrid; the 25S Coordination, known for the call of “Rodea el Congreso” on September 25, 2012 ... in total, several hundred organizations, social movements and professional groups who have called for rallying.

Mariano Rajoy con el presidente de la Confederación Española de Organizaciones Empresariales (CEOE), Juan Rosell, la ministra de Empleo Fátima Báñez, el secretario general de UGT, Cándido Méndez, y el secretario general de Comisiones Obreras, Ignacio Fernández Toxo.

Mariano Rajoy with the President of the CEOE, Juan Rosell, the Employment Minister Fatima Báñez, the Secretary General of the UGT (General Union of Workers, affiliated to the Socialist party), Cándido Méndez and the Secretary General of CCOO (Workers’ Commissions, the largest trade union), Ignacio Fernández Toxo.

Note that the majority of CCOO and UGT trade union leaders are not present, probably too busy to negotiate with the employers and the government. The photo of the trade union leaders (Toxo and Méndez) around the negotiating table for a “social dialogue” with Rajoy and Juan Rosell of the CEOE (the equivalent of Confederation of British Industry or Irish Business and Employers Confederation) whilst the marches were entering Madrid is forceful, highly symbolic ... such mass mobilization, a cross-section of society, diversity, at the margin of the great union apparatus and the PSOE, consciously uniting those below, seems to mark a turning point towards a radicalization of the left social movement. The 22M mark the path to follow to unite the Spanish State, as the various territories unite for dignity and against austerity.

On the other hand, the Marches for Dignity have perturbed the People’s Party. The President of the Community of Madrid, Ignacio González, even dared to say that policies that stimulate the economy and put a brake on unemployment constitute “the best way to restore dignity to the Spaniards” and that the demands of the Marches can be found in the programme of the Greek neo-Nazi party, Golden Dawn. The actor Willi Toledo who participated in the Marches, aptly replied that if the President seeks fascists, he need only look within his own party, the PP, which is swarming with Francoists [1] .

On March 22, the columns came together to converge on Atocha, near the center of the capital: the northwest column from Asturias, Galicia, Cantabria, Castile and León; the North column from La Rioja, the Basque country and Burgos, the Northeast column made up of those from Aragon, Navarre and Catalonia; the Andalusian column from the south, and from the west, Estremadura and Castile-La Mancha. The crowd was huge. Thus began the mass demonstration, moving towards Colon Square, where there were hundreds of thousands of people.

According to the Communication Commission of the Marches, 754 buses, of which nearly a hundred would have been delayed by the police on the outskirts of the capital, and 4 trains were chartered for the final step to unify all the different marches. The legal commission of the 15M (“indignant” movement) of Madrid has established a team of 30 lawyers on the alert as the government deployed a record device with 1700 “riot” agents (Unidad de Intervención Policial, UIP )far more than in September 25, 2012 during the “Rodea el Congreso” mobilisation against the approval of the antisocial budget of the government.

Long before the legally authorised event was due to end, and while the choir was still singing Solfónica in Colon Square, the police intervened and violently stormed the square. The cleaning service kicked off and the makeshift camps of the marchers were also swept away by the police. The mainstream medias with their misinformation will do the rest of the work of discrediting a deeply peaceful mass movement, although clashes at the end of the event have resulted in hundreds of casualties, including 17 people hospitalized and 29 detentions for “assault of agents and vandalism”.

But we’re not talking about the umpteenth demonstration-procession without consequence; it is a process that is meant to be constructive and action-oriented. The next day, a popular assembly was attended by nearly a thousand people and decided to hold further assemblies in public squares wherever possible, in support of those arrested. One of the meetings turned into a manifestation the same evening, on the emblematic Plaza ’Puerta del Sol’, where the metro station had been renamed “Vodafone Sol” in May 2013. Again, highly symbolic...

Translated by Jenny Bright

Jérôme Duval

member of CADTM network and member of the Spanish Citizen’s Debt Audit Platform (PACD) in Spain ( He is the author, with Fátima Martín, of the book Construcción europea al servicio de los mercados financieros (Icaria editorial, Barcelona 2016) and he also co-authored La Dette ou la Vie (Aden-CADTM, 2011), which received the award for best political book in Liège (Belgium) in 2011.





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