A social movement unparalleled since the end of the dictator Franco was born in Spain on 15 May last year: ‘los Indignados’, the Indignant Ones.
The word spread through 58 cities in Spain, through Internet social networking sites, to protest against the country’s political response to the worsening economic crisis. ‘Real Democracy Now’ was the rallying call. Regional and municipal elections were just days away.
It caught the enfeebled Socialist government by surprise.
Many tens of thousands gathered, in central Madrid and in every large city in the country.
The movement declared itself non-violent, had no hierarchy, no attachment to political parties or unions.
It was civil disobedience.
On 12 June, the ‘Indignados’ struck camp. But the movement continued with hundreds of smaller neighbourhood sit-ins.
Similar public outrage was gathering steam in other countries as well, in France, in the US, with Occupy Wall street, in Germany. A call went out for an international day of mobilisation to take place on 19 June.
These movements today have affiliations in 70 countries.
The what and the who embodied in Spain’s movement are unemployment and young people who are more educated than ever before, half of whom are not finding jobs.
The collapse of their country’s housing market in 2008 defined their cause.
People who could no longer make their monthly payments to the banks that lent to ordinary home buyers saw the properties seized, while the law required them to keep paying the loan back.
The ‘Indignados’ tried to prevent evictions. In one year in Madrid, they stopped 70 repossessions.
The movement hurling accusations of shame at the banks could not keep the same energy going infinitely, but many feel it made its moral point.