Food tent, Plaza Catalunya
Carla and Ague
Pep, Juan and Olga
Here in the Plaza Catalunya in Barcelona, the atmosphere is happy with music (along with the smell of marijuana) drifting through the air, children are running around with their faces painted and people are huddled in circles intently discussing why they are here.
As opposed to the popular movements currently gracing the Arab world, no concrete set of demands nor any coherent ideological thread have yet emerged. Those across the Arab world where very clear in their demands; democracy. Likewise, their respective authorities where very clear in their opposition to this. Here in Spain, however, a democracy (of sorts) exists, no real far left alternative is being proposed and, although government ruled the protests illegal last week (by one vote), the authorities are taking it easy. All a seemingly far shout from Arab people risking their lives in the name of democracy.
Marc Olive (pictured below), however, disagrees. Asides from his day job at renewable energies company Marc is an organizer here with Sentades Populares, one of the many grassroots organizations involved in the Spanish Revolution. ‘We are simply here demanding our rights which, whetherhere or in the Arab world, are being systematically undermined by global capitalism’ claims Marc. We go on to discuss the regulations and legal norms that need to be established in order to create a more just system (a lack of which lie at the very root of this crisis).
Marc volunteers for the security apparatus here in Plaza Catalunya ’basically, we chuck out trouble makers’. A banner claiming ‘Revolution no es Botellon! (the revolution is not a piss up!) sums up their approach. This, along with the programme of activities, press tent, an ad hoc computer clinic, full time crèche and even a rudimentary veg patch / garden demonstrate an impressive level of organization and spontaneous grass-roots action similar to those revolutions of the Arab Spring.
The next people I meet are Carla and Ague (left), two students from one of the many universities here in Barcelona. echoing Marc, they tell me ‘we are here to demand the rights that our parents fought for during the transition from Fascism. People here [in Spain] have got too comfortable but we must fight to maintain them, and recover the ones we have lost!’. Rights seem to be a recurring theme throughout these protests, but opinions begin to dissipate when discussions move on to how to secure these rights.
After a salad, gespacho and pineapple (free from the food tent!) I get talking to Pep, Juan and Olga; an administrator, architect and ceramasist respectivly. “The mismanagement of public funds here in Spain is outrageous, people are sucked from the country to the cities in the ‘good times’ before being left high and dry when funds destined for public services are lost to waste and corruption” Olga tells me whilst wagging and indignant finger.
We continue to discuss examples of state corruption and repression untill Pep, quiet untill now, pipes up; ‘the parralels between the Arab Spring and what is happening here lie in our demands; just as the Arabs are demanding democracy, so are we. That is, real government of the people by the people which, despite appearances, we are very far from here in Spain’.
Herein lies the similarities between the Spanish Revolution and the Arab Spring; when people are systematically denied their rights, no matter in what way, they will naturally come together to try to do something about it. However, today we should not expect an all encompassing solution to be handed down to us by a charismatic leader; Our experience of communism has dispelled the hope that a group of enlightened intellectuals will lead us to a promised workers paradise. As one banner reads ‘the process is slow because our demands are big’ and, sitting here in the sun, I can’t help thinking that the seeds are being sown (and are taking root) of something quite different.
Maybe, finally, we are learning our lessons from history (it’s about bloody time!) and incorporating them into a movement that will change things from the bottom up. It is not just anarchists and communists here but people from all walks of life simply demanding to be treated as… people! Just like the revolutions across the Arab, this has not been organizaed from above by political parties, it is neither left nor right wing but something quite different. Potentially, something quite new, only recently made possible by 21st century communications technology.