Should Wealth Be Held by the Few or Everyone? -- That's the Central Focus of Protests from Spain to Greece
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While “Europe’s slow-motion financial collapse” – as Mother Jones magazine described it in a June 6 article – continues apace, Spain, like other European states continues to implement anti-social/neo-liberal policies in the face of strong opposition from the citizenry.
It has been one month since Spain’s “Indignados” (Indignant Ones) movement non-violently claimed 60 city-squares across the country, calling for economic democracy, political justice and peace.
Since then, much has happened within Spanish borders, and what is happening there is clearly spreading across Europe, where we have witnessed social movements making similar demands.
We have observed the rise of a parallel movement in Portugal where most city squares have also been camped on by “Indignados” and where only hours before the country’s general elections protesters in Lisbon were attacked and beaten by police.
We have witnessed how on that same night, in Athens, Greece, 80,000 protesters congregated in the city’s main square in opposition to the country’s “austerity measures,” waving banners in solidarity with the “Indignados” of Spain and of other European countries.
In Paris, we have seen the Bastille taken non-violently by French “Indignados” only to be quickly reclaimed by the country’s police force.
Wherever you look in Europe, you hear the same cries of indignation. In some countries with more intensity than others, but the cry is becoming louder everywhere, and what may seem like a slow-motion financial collapse is rapidly becoming an accelerated social catastrophe.
Specifically in Spain, despite the political elite depicting a country recovering from the financial collapse, everyday things are getting worse economically, politically and socially.
Protests, although nonviolent for the most part, could be on the verge of becoming violent unless the political and economic elites begin to make some concessions.
On the economic front, Spain began the month of June with comments from the European Commission about the potential that the country will miss its economic growth and budget-deficit targets for the year. The commission’s recommendation was more economic “reform.”
Then a report from the ratings agency Moody’s pointed out that the high Catalan deficit was affecting the solvency of the whole of Spain.
A few days later, in the region of Castilla-La Mancha, the incoming administration of the rightwing Popular Party (PP), before even taking office, proclaimed that the region was “totally bankrupt.”
Then, the National Statistics Institute revealed that Spain’s property sales in April had been the lowest since the institute began reporting in 2007.
Obviously, this stream of negative news, coupled with discussions taking place in Europe regarding a potential debt default by Greece, affected Spain’s bond sales and moved the country one step closer to a bailout, or a default followed by its subsequent debt restructuring.
On the political front, June has been equally intense. The government has approved by decree changes in collective bargaining agreements after failed negotiations with the two major trade unions in the country.
The government also approved the extension indefinitely of the Spanish military mission in Libya and announced the creation of a new NATO operations center to control Spanish airspace and help missions coordinated from Southern Europe.
On the social front, as of the first of June, the government warned that the “Indignados” could not remain camped on city squares much longer.
Spain’s Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, addressed the request from the “Indignados” for electoral reform by telling them the changes could only be possible through consensus from all political parties, a way to respond without complying.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair visited Spain with the advice that “demonstrators should be heard but not allowed to govern.”