The Spanish 15-M movement, called after the starting point on 15 May, is at present passing through a crucial stage. The continuing protests are uncomfortable for Spanish capitalism as it struggles to project an image of bourgeois respectability to the international markets.
But the “Genuine Democracy Now” movement is uncomfortable not only for them. In the offices of the UGT and CCOO (Spain’s largest trade union federations), the movement is also making some nervous.
Since the general strike of 29 September last year, when over 10 million workers downed tools, many on the left have increasingly come to view union bureaucracies as in collusion with those seeking to force austerity on the population.
During the previous general strike, some union officials helped demobilise and water down resistance to the government’s programme of attacks. Pacts were agreed upon on the labour reform package and the raising of the retirement age — with some in the union hierarchy even claiming the latter was “revolutionary”!
Like the trade unions, the Stalinist left, with its history of shady deals with capitalist parties, has also come to be seen, as one protester remarked, as “part of the furniture of capitalist society”.
The protesters themselves have faced accusations that they are apolitical.
In response they released a manifesto on the 18 May, declaring “we have lost respect for the main political parties, but we have not lost our ability to criticise. On the contrary we are not afraid of politics. To express an opinion is politics. To look for alternative ways to participate is politics”.
Encouragingly, the manifesto also identified those responsible for the capitalist crisis: “the IMF, the European Central Bank, the European Union, the credit rating agencies like Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s, the Popular Party and the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party [Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s ruling party].”
A start, but still a long way from any kind of clear political answers. Nonetheless, the movement deserves solidarity.