Published: Thursday 15 November 2012
As the movement for that strong social safety net grows around the world, and locally here at home, the mandate is clear: Austerity is not the answer.

Amaia Engana didn’t wait to be evicted from her home. On Nov. 9, in the town of Barakaldo, a suburb of Bilbao in Spain’s Basque Country, officials from the local judiciary were on their way to serve her eviction papers. Amaia stood on a chair and threw herself out of her fifth-floor apartment window, dying instantly on impact on the sidewalk below. She was the second person in two weeks in Spain to commit suicide as a result of an impending foreclosure action. Her suicide has added gravity to this week’s general strike radiating from the streets of Madrid across all of Europe. As resistance to so-called austerity in Europe becomes increasingly transnational and coordinated, President Barack Obama and the House Republicans begin their debate to avert the “fiscal cliff.” The fight is over fair tax rates, budget priorities and whether we as a society will sustain the social safety net built during the past 80 years.

The general strike that swept across Europe Nov. 14 had its genesis in the deepening crisis in Spain, Portugal and Greece. As a result of the global economic collapse in 2008, Spain is in a deep financial crisis. Unemployment has surpassed 25 percent, and among young people is estimated at 50 percent. Large banks have enjoyed bailouts while they enforce mortgages that an increasing number of Spaniards are unable to meet, provoking increasing numbers of foreclosures and attempted evictions. “Attempted” because, in response to the epidemic of evictions in Spain, a direct-action movement has grown to prevent them. In city after city, individuals and groups have networked, creating rapid-response teams that flood the street outside a threatened apartment. When officials arrive to deliver the ...

Published: Saturday 29 September 2012
Published: Tuesday 25 September 2012
People are calling it the “Fall of Rage,” pouring into the streets of Madrid and other Spanish cities to tell their leaders that budget cuts and austerity measures are not working — that with unemployment skyrocketing amid the second recession in four years, “enough is enough.”

On Saturday, thousands rallied in front of key buildings including the Madrid stock exchange, the Bank of Spain and several ministries. The protest, organized by the M-15 platform and composed of indignados and others under the slogan “Deconstructing Lies, Building Alternatives,” served as a preview for the rally to be held Tuesday, Sept. 25, when thousands are expected to surround the Spanish Congress during a plenary session and demand that the government, lawmakers and the king resign.

“We want to go a step beyond the other protests because after many marches, rallies, strikes and even campsites, nothing has changed,” said Mercedes Garcia, a spokesperson for the Occupy Congress action. “Our final goal is to show that democracy is outside Congress, not inside.”

The public's disgust with politics is at its peak since the Franco' dictatorship fell in 1975. In polls, Spaniards rate the political class as their third highest concern, only after unemployment and the economic crisis. Data released by the Center for Sociological Research showed that 79 percent of the country does not believe politicians will meet the current challenges.

“We feel our democracy has been stolen and we have no power ...

Published: Sunday 16 September 2012
Published: Friday 14 September 2012
Today’s protest is the beginning of a series of over 65 different autonomous actions that officially start on September 17, a year since Occupy Wall Street movement began.

 

On Wednesday, September 12, activists calling themselves the Genetic Crimes Unit (GCU) shut down shipping and receiving access points at Monsanto’s Oxnard seed distribution facility located at 2700 Camino Del Sol. By peacefully blockading the exit and access points, the group effectively shut down the distribution of genetically engineered (GMO) seeds for a day.

Monsanto is the largest producer of GMO seeds and is being called out for their genetic crimes by a network called Occupy Monsanto. Today’s protest is the beginning of a series of over 65 different autonomous actions that officially start on September 17, the anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Actions are planned in countries throughout the world, including the US, Germany, Canada, India, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Argentina, Australia, Spain, Russia, and Japan. More info as well as video available for media use of today action can be found here.

After occupying all three shipping and receiving entrances to the Monsanto facility using flashy theatrics, including a car with a giant “fish-corn” on top of it and a 6-foot high jail cell complete with someone dressed up like the CEO Hugh Grant of Monsanto inside. Eventually after 5.5 hours the fire department was called in and 9 anti-GMO activists were arrested and charged with trespassing.

“The reason I am occupying Monsanto and willing to put myself at risk of arrest is because Monsanto has genetically engineered food crops to contain novel untested compounds that result in more weed killer sprayed on our food, without informing consumers. Unlike most industrialized countries including every country in Europe, Japan and even China, in America right now there are no labels on our food informing us whether we are eating GMOs or not. We have a right to opt out of this experiment: it’s not up ...

Published: Thursday 12 July 2012
“As Rajoy was making his announcement in parliament, the miners were in the streets, joined by thousands of regular citizens, all demanding that government cuts be halted. ”

As Spain’s prime minister announced deep austerity cuts Wednesday in order to secure funds from the European Union to bail out Spain’s failing banks, the people of Spain have taken to the streets once again for what they call “Real Democracy Now.” This comes a week after the government announced it was launching a criminal investigation into the former CEO of Spain’s fourth-largest bank, Bankia. Rodrigo Rato is no small fish: Before running Bankia he was head of the International Monetary Fund. What the U.S. media don’t tell you is that this official government investigation was initiated by grass-roots action.

The Occupy movement in Spain is called M-15, for the day it began, May 15, 2011. I met with one of the key organizers in Madrid last week on the day the Rato investigation was announced. He smiled, and said, “Something is starting to happen.” The organizer, Stephane Grueso, is an activist filmmaker who is making a documentary about the May 15 movement. He is a talented professional, but, like 25 percent of the Spanish population, he is unemployed: “We didn’t like what we were seeing, where we were going. We felt we were losing our democracy, we were losing our country, we were losing our way of life. ... We had one slogan: ‘Democracia real YA!’—we want a ‘real democracy, now!’ Fifty people stayed overnight in Puerta del Sol, this public square. And then the police tried to take us out, and so we came back. And then this thing began to multiply in other cities in Spain. In three, four days’ time, we were like tens of thousands of people in dozens of cities in Spain, camped in the middle of the city—a little bit like we ...

Published: Thursday 5 July 2012
When democracy is not determined by economic power, it is possible to imagine alternatives to “growth” and “austerity.”

 

“Growth” is, once again, the buzzword of the moment among Europe’s politicians, thanks to Francoise Hollande, the milquetoast Socialist recently elected to succeed Nicolas Sarkozy as President of France. “My mission now,” Hollande told supporters on the night of his electoral victory, “is to give European construction a growth dimension.” President Obama praised Holland at Camp David, telling reporters he would urge “other G8 leaders” to adopt a “strong growth agenda.” The previous buzzword, “austerity,” is meanwhile in decline.

Considering this shift a victory for the anti-austerity movements occupying Europe’s historic plazas over the course of the last two years mistakes both what the elites mean when they say “growth” and what the dissidents want instead of austerity. It is similar to the way liberal commentators in the United States reliably recite the official line that Occupy Wall Street “changed the conversation” on “income inequality” (which we grown-ups will take care of now from our D.C. office buildings, so please shut up now).

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Published: Tuesday 26 June 2012
Published: Sunday 10 June 2012
Published: Wednesday 16 May 2012
Tens of thousands celebrated the 15M movement’s birthday in cities across Spain.

Last June, after leaving the encampment in the center of Madrid, people in the 15M movement would say, “We moved from Sol square, but we know the way back.” The day of action on May 12 this year exceeded the expectations of many people who thought the 15M movement was dead, who didn’t recognize that it had only moved to neighborhood assemblies. The one-year anniversary of the movement brought hundreds of thousands people to the streets again in nearly 80 Spanish cities. There were 50,000 in Madrid, 44,000 in Barcelona, 11,000 in Vigo (a northern city with a population of less than 300,000) and many more.

As people from around the country converged on Madrid, various neighborhood assemblies gathered in squares to prepare banners for the demonstration and to share tips for avoiding police repression. At 7 p.m., there were five columns of demonstrators marching toward Sol square, where they planned to arrive at 9 o’clock. But by 8 p.m., the first column had already arrived, filling almost half of the square. Other groups of marchers arrived within minutes, but many people could not enter and had to stay in nearby streets. Sol square was completely full before the meeting time. There, thousands sang “Happy Birthday” to the 15M movement and released balloons.

As Sol square transformed into a party celebrating a year of protest and organizing, the question remained of ...

Published: Sunday 1 April 2012
Despite ongoing conflicts between the largest unions and 15M, several weeks ago the movement’s key organizations — including neighborhood assemblies, Democracies Real Ya, Yo No Pago and the Platform of People Affected by the Mortgage (PAH) — announced their support for the general strike and started working to make it a success.

Last Thursday, people across Spain made a show of force in a general strike, at a scale ranging from the government estimate of 800,000 to the 4 million claimed by the unions. It was timed to challenge new reforms that are expected to make it easier for employers to fire workers, dealing a blow to organized labor.

The 15M movement, which began with occupations in the central squares of cities around the country last year, played an important role in the strike’s success. Despite ongoing conflicts between the largest unions and 15M, several weeks ago the movement’s key organizations — including neighborhood assemblies, Democracies Real YaYo No Pago and the Platform of People Affected by the Mortgage (PAH) — announced their support for the general strike and started working to make it a success.

Early on, there appeared an anonymous blog called 29M sin Miedo (M29 without Fear). It invited workers to speak out against intimidation from their companies about the prospect of the strike, such as threats of dismissal or demands for signed statements about whether they intended to strike or not. The blog, which collected as many as 250 complaints, achieved a double objective: it made these abusive practices visible, and it provided a list of companies to picket on the day of the strike.

The 15M movement’s collectives followed suit with their own initiatives, including leafleting, public meetings about the overhaul of labor rules, caceroladas (the banging of ...

Published: Wednesday 23 November 2011
“As winter arrives and police crack down, how can occupiers keep their movement alive—and help it grow? Veteran activists share lessons from Spain's Indignados.”

We write this letter as participants in the movements, and as an invitation to a conversation. We hope to raise questions about how we continue to deepen and transform the new social relationships and processes we have begun … to open the discussion towards a common horizon.

The evictions and threats to the physical occupations in the United States have again raised the question of the future of the movement. The question isn’t whether the movement has a future, but what sort of future it will be. For example, should our energy be focused on finding new spaces to occupy and create encampments? Should we be focused more in our local neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces? Is there a way to occupy public space with horizontal assemblies, yet also focus locally and concretely?

A look at the recent history of a movement similar to Occupy—the Spanish indignados or May 15 movement—can shed some light on the opportunities and urgency of this new ...

Published: Friday 11 November 2011
“From Tunis to Tel Aviv, Madrid to Oakland, a new generation of youth activists is challenging the neoliberal state that has dominated the world ever since the Cold War ended.”

From Tunis to Tel Aviv, Madrid to Oakland, a new generation of youth activists is challenging the neoliberal state that has dominated the world ever since the Cold War ended.  The massive popular protests that shook the globe this year have much in common, though most of the reporting on them in the mainstream media has obscured the similarities.   

Whether in Egypt or the United States, young rebels are reacting to a single stunning worldwide development: the extreme concentration of wealth in a few hands thanks to neoliberal policies of deregulation and union busting.  They have taken to the streets, parks, plazas, and squares to protest against the resulting corruption, the way politicians can be bought and sold, and the impunity of the white-collar criminals who have run riot in societies everywhere.  They are objecting to high rates of unemployment, reduced social services, blighted futures, and above all the substitution of the market for all other values as the matrix of human ethics and life.

Pasha the Tiger

In the “glorious thirty years” after World War II, North America and Western Europe achieved remarkable rates of economic growth and relatively low levels of inequality for capitalist societies, while instituting a broad range of benefits for workers, students, and retirees.  From roughly 1980 on, however, the neoliberal movement, rooted in the laissez-faire ...

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