Spreading out from Tunisia and Egypt, through North Africa and across the Middle East, revolutionary protest movements are gaining steam in Greece and Spain. A general strike Tuesday against Greek austerity measures, required by the EU for a loan to prevent the country from defaulting on its debt, has forced prime minister Giorgos Papandreous to reshuffle his government. Papandreous is poised to topple, and a long term general strike in Greece would send shockwaves through the EU and the global economy. This is the revolutionary weakness built into globalization: it may keep the proletariat invisible by placing them in another country, but the governments where they live are less stable. Revolution in enough Eurozone countries could bring all of Europe to its knees.
Here in Barcelona, the air is electric. The May 15th movement, named after the day of protest that started it all, has been a strong force in almost every Spanish city and town for a month now. Los Indignados, a name many of the protestors have adopted for themselves, learned from the successes in Tunis and Tahrir Square. They combine fluid social media strategies on Twitter and Facebook with long term camp-outs in public spaces. They set up camp in public plazas all over Spain: I’ve seen four in Barcelona (with the main camp in Plaza Catalunya, in the center of city), and one in each of the small towns I’ve visited on day trips outside the city. The camps are always centrally located, in high visibility areas with lots of foot traffic. So far, Los Indignados have held their camps for a month, although in Madrid a strategic decision was made this week to break down the main camp in Plaza Del Sol.
These camps become centers of information, protest, and revolutionary life: Indignados set up kitchens distributing free food, council booths focused on individual issues (the environment, the military, women’s rights, etc.), and hold meetings, teach-ins, and public discussions. This is a different kind of democracy, in which work, resources, and decisions are all shared. They cover the camps with placards displaying revolutionary slogans, and everywhere they go they leave behind cloth banners, cardboard signs, and graffiti. On the day of major protests, local Indignados gathered at the camp in their neighborhood to march together, creating columns of protestors that converged from all corners of the city at a central point. The excitement and consciousness produced by this method is undeniable: everywhere you go, you find camps, slogans, or marchers.
Though the major action is in Madrid, Barcelona is heating up. Yesterday thousands of protestors attempted to keep the Catalonian Parliament from meeting and approving major cuts to social services by barring the entrances to La Parc De La Ciutadella: government ministers had to be helicopter in and out of the area. The protest failed to prevent the cuts, and the movement is a bit on the defensive after violence, probably incited by agents provacateurs, turned the protest into a minor riot. But May 15th is a pacifist movement, and by yesterday evening protestors had relocated to Plaza Sant Jaume (home of both the Palace of the Generalitat, the center of Catalan’s government and City Hall, it’s also a major tourist destination) where they filled the square and sat down in front of the palace, occupying, making speeches, chanting and singing.
Which all leads me to the question: what are you doing Sunday? Sunday, June 19th is a day of protest led by Los Indignados but intended globally: you can follow activity on twitter via #19J. I’m aware of marches planned in New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. The Spanish revolutionaries are leading the way towards a better whole world. When passing large groups of onlookers, marchers chant “No los mires, únite!” (The English equivalent would be: "Don’t just watch us, join us.") It’s time Americans followed their lead.