ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Les"indignados", les nouveaux dons Quichottes
by Marie-José Sirach
Translated Wednesday 1 June 2011, by Henry Crapoand reviewed by
Report. Madrid may be the centre of attention, but camps have been set up in other Spanish cities. Nor has Toledo escaped the popular uprising. Here too there are calls for judicial independence, defence of public service and an end to corruption.
When you enter Toledo from the heart of the Castilian plateau swept by wind and heat what is most striking are the dozens of development tracts that have sprung up out of nowhere. There are miles of highways, ramps, bridges, open-pits, where diggers and other machines weave their way slowly between motels and service stations, eerily empty. It’s a timeless Castilian Wild West. Arabic Toledo, Jewish Toledo, both periods have left their indelible mark. And just a few miles away, where the empty windmills turn, the spirit of a distant Don Quixote seems to watch over this amazing, and beautiful city, kept ship-shape by the daily stream of tourists who visit its narrow streets, its cut-throat alleys where at any turn a Ruffian might lurk brandishing his sword. But Toledo has changed over the years into a conservative city, a Catholic, Apostolic and Roman city that drove out Arabs and Jews, becoming a symbol of Francoist heroism where General Moscardo, from the top of his citadel, refused to surrender to the Republican army. It is also a city that, last Sunday, re-elected its PSOE (Partido Socialista Obrero Español) Mayor, although in other elections, it votes to the Right.
Zocodover Square in the centre of Toledo is where the M15 protest movement has set up camp. About 20 protesters relay each other day and night, while at the public meetings at 8pm every evening there are over two hundred. Far from the hustle and bustle of Madrid’s Puerta del Sol, in Toledo everything is quiet. Everyone speaks in his own name, I hear repeated in a loop. But what Raul, Ana, Gustavo and Sonia represent is an awareness that has come –like a bull in a china shop – to overthrow apathy, upset minds, and destabilize the political establishment.
At first it seems as though the movement has come out of nowhere. But if you look closely at protests in the country in recent years (demonstrations for housing, protests against insecurity, protests against xenophobe laws, against the Treaty of Bologna, against evictions of squats), it obvious that the discontent has been brewing for some time. And these young people are the first to make the connection between their struggles and the country’s very recent history; the history of the democratic transition, and the neoliberal excesses of the political parties in power. We thought this generation addicted to video games and hormone-gorged hamburgers, but now, in mid-conversation Raul mentions the historical memory laws, Roberto dreams of demolishing the Valley of the Fallen, Ana, an unemployed nurse, vociferously denounces the privatization of hospitals, and treating patients like customers; Alejandro won’t let the authorities off the hook while the once majestic Tagus looks like a cesspool. A little further on a group of beret-headed octogenarians are watching the unrest out of the corner of an eye. They understand the anger of these young folk "but unemployment is the Other Bloke’s fault." Which other bloke? "Felipe," says one of them. "Zapatero, you mean?" Of course. Brought up on Franco, the fear of anything Red, even very pale, and even very old, is still very much alive here.
It’s all about contrast. Light and dark. But the light has been winning out recently over obscurantism and resignation. Still, you can’t help noticing the distinction that is becoming more and more marked and even more troubling between the street and politics. On the one side, a street sure of itself, united, interconnected, that is learning about politics and direct democracy with every passing day. On the other an establishment that is flailing around.
In the PP (Partido Popular) the only talk is of early elections. At the PSOE it’s Gunfight at the OK Corral time and erstwhile comrades are tarring and feathering Zapatero. At Izquierda Unida they are faltering over whether to renew the alliance with the PSOE in Extremadura and other cities in the southern suburbs of Madrid. In the Basque country, conservatives (PP), PSE (Partido Socialista de Euskadi) and PNV (Partido Nacionalista Vasco) are ready to make a pact to prevent Bildu from governing regions of Vizcaya and Guipuzcoa, unashamedly perverting the poll results that gave the coalition (that includes ex-Batsasuna and some IU members) as the winners.
Under town hall windows, where los Indignados have pitched their tents, city officials remain resolutely deaf to the street. But the debate continues. In Toledo, there are calls for independence of the justiciary, a fairer tax reform, an end to corruption, the defence of public services, an independent press free from financial groups. Gustavo wins applause with "For fifteen years now they’ve been privatizing and outsourcing all the public services in Castilla la Mancha. Thanks to a government that calls itself socialist but is as corrupt as the others. They have promoted corruption and cronyism: I wholeheartedly approve the hustings." It is decided to extend the movement to four other districts on Saturday: Barrios Santa Maria, Santa Teresa, Santa Barbara, and Paloma. The idea of withdrawing 155 euros on 30 May (15 per day, 5 days, birthdate of the M15 movement) is endorsed. “You mean for those who can afford it!" comes a shout from the crowd reaping applause and laughter. Carlos takes the floor. "We need to think about where the movement is going. Will we break up the camp or will we stay put? We’ve taken Toledo: the street belongs to us. But if we do decide to go, let’s make it clear now: we’ll be back!"