The March for Dignity


Last Saturday, hundreds of thousands of people converged on Madrid from the four corners of Spain in the so-called March of Dignity, something barely reported by the UK’s never failingly parochial mainstream media: a snippet on BBC World Service on Saturday night, and the briefest of articles on Sunday in The Guardian, courtesy of Associated Press, were almost the only echo.

The people who marched to the Spanish capital had been walking for weeks. Some had come from hundreds of miles away, from Santander in the north, from Malaga in the South, Valencia in the East; and in Madrid, they were met by tens of thousands of fellow protestors.

A rally was held in the Plaza de Colón, in the centre of Madrid, at five pm on Saturday, with the protestors occupying the 2.5 kilometres between the Atocha Train Station and the Plaza de Colón in what must be one of the biggest demonstrations against austerity ever seen in Europe.
The marchers came to protest against a number of different things, in a country with more than six million unemployed, including:

The dismantling of the Spanish welfare state in the name of EU imposed austerity – the in vogue term for the massive transfer of wealth from the poor of the south of Europe to the rich bankers in the north, in interest payments on debts, both private and public, which can never be repaid – and the privatization of a raft of basic services like education and health.

The tidal wave of corruption cases in the governments and administrations of the two main parties, the PP (Partido Popular) and the PSOE (Partido Socialista Obrera Española) at the national, local and municipal level, the length and breadth of the country, which has gone well beyond what is tolerable in a democratic State: with such endemic corruption, democracy itself is almost impossible.

A battery of anti-democratic laws passed by the current barbaric PP (Popular Party) government presided by Mariano Rajoy (the J is pronounced like the “ch” in loch) which restricts the rights of Spaniards to demonstrate and to express themselves – “insulting Spain”, whatever that means, is now a crime – undermining basic civil liberties. In keeping with that same spirit, the rally last night was broken up by Spanish riot police before the scheduled nine o’clock ending agreed beforehand with the authorities.

Perhaps the most draconian abortion law ever passed in Europe, something which even managed to win the condemnation of an editorial in The Times, no small feat for such a right-wing paper, and which has outraged women the length and breadth of Europe.

The eviction of thousands of Spaniards from their homes by the same banks the Spanish tax-payer only recently baled out; and in Spain, there is no “keys through the letter-box” option if you lose your job and then your home. Those who have their homes repossessed still have to pay any outstanding debt on the property after the bank sells it on at a knocked down price, which is tantamount to a modern form of slavery.

The biggest rise in social inequality in Europe, with spiralling poverty, hunger and the exile of hundreds of thousands of young Spaniards in search of work abroad.

The death of seventeen African immigrants, drowned after being shot with rubber bullets by Spanish border guards as they tried to swim into Spanish Melilla, where the deadly razor wire fences which line the border of the Spanish enclave in North Africa to prevent the entrance of desperate Africans into “fortress Europe”, have been condemned by human rights groups as inhumane and barbaric for the horrific injuries they can cause.

Spanish “democracy” is in a sorry state, run by a corrupt oligarchy which no longer even bothers to pretend to be governing for the general populace anymore.

The discontent runs much deeper than this particular government, though Rajoy and the PP would be more than enough to cause anybody to take to the streets – or indeed, run to the hills. The whole political system and the Spanish Transition to democracy is being challenged, and rightly so. Republican flags, somewhat a rarity ten years ago, are now seen all over Spain.

The protestors say they are in Madrid to stay; that the flame of 15M and the indignados has been reignited by these ordinary men, women and children who have marched for hundreds miles in the name of dignity, and for pan, techo y trabajo (bread, a roof over their head, and work); and against a corrupt and insatiable Spanish oligarchy and their financiers and backers in Berlin and Brussels, who have subverted and betrayed the same fundamental principles that any society which aspires to call itself modern, enlightened or even just democratic must always seek to uphold.

Can the 22-M (22nd of March) movement bring about real change and shatter the neo-liberal status quo in Europe? The fight will be a long one, but I would like to think that George Orwell was right, and not without cause, when he said, almost seventy years ago, that one must believe in the Spanish people; and that the 22-M and the March of Dignity can serve as an inspiration to all of those who live oppressed by neo-liberalism and never-ending austerity, in this Europe of government by the technocrats, for the bankers, against the people.

Comments (29)

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  1. Maggie Craig says:

    I find this very moving. You’re right. We get such a filtered version of what’s going on in the world.

    1. J.M. Roher says:

      Yes, you are in a right direction,

  2. Clearly I made a wise decision in getting rid of my TV and relying on the likes of Bella. I’m literally shocked at how bad things are in Spain. The government there makes Putin look quite reasonable by comparison. It does beg the question of how much more ordinary people in Spain are going to take before they turn?

    1. J.M. Roher says:

      RIGHT. That’s so sad!!!!!

  3. Les Wilson says:

    Of course it is also in the interests of the British State not to show what is going on, when it does not suit them. Welcome to the UK.
    It shows just how worried they are about the very thought of a democratic YES vote in Scotland. A country they have call subsidy junkies for hundreds of years. If that was the case, they would have given Scotland it’s marching orders long ago. Of course Scots and the English who want to listen, will know, the reverse is true.

  4. We NEED our independence,not just want but we must make it YES by a large majority although I would be happy with just one vote more.

  5. Douglas says:

    Thanks to all for posting.

    We seem to have a formatting problem which no doubt Bella will fix in due course.

    Either that or I’ve been drinking, I can see parts of it twice…; )

  6. florian albert says:

    It is surprizing that a commentary on Spain in 2014 can ignore the demand for independence from Catalunya. Protesters came to Madrid from Malaga, Santander and Valencia. Was there nobody from Barcelona ?
    It is correct that the austerity programme is being driven by the EU to protect the euro currency. So far, most Spaniards – like most Greeks – accept this as preferable to leaving the euro. Since the euro is unlikely to be reformed in a way that would work to Spain’s advantage, the present impasse will continue till a political movement in Spain (or elsewhere) emerges that will abandon the euro.
    The demonstration in Spain at the weekend is probably less significant than the electoral success of the National Front in France, another political story which was under-reported.

    1. Douglas says:

      No, Florian Albert, there was not a single person there from Barcelona. They did a poll. Just for you.

      And no, Barcelona is not in one of “the four corners of Spain” referred to in the opening paragraph of the article, which due to a formatting cock-up of some sort, continues to appear twice.

      Bella, can you please fix?

      The march was not about Catalan independence. It was about elderly couples throwing themselves out of their windows because their home is about to be repossessed by the bank, and the hundreds and thousands of young, highly qualified people forced to leave Spain to find a job.

      1. florian albert says:

        The reason I mentioned Barcelona is that, in a long article outlining the problems facing Spain today, there was no mention of Catalan nationalism, the big political winner since the economic crisis started.
        It can bring more people on the streets, a million plus in 2012, than the anti-austerity campaigners and it has the support of a large number (possibly a majority) of members of the Generalitat. The latter is particularly important since, in Western Europe, it counts for more than people in the street.
        Though, when you are in the eurozone, it may not count for as much as it should.
        The fact that there is a mass movement in the richest part of Spain for independence has huge implications for the rest of the country.
        Do you not agree that an independent Catalunya would increase the number of young Spaniards forced to look for work abroad and that the desire of so many in the richest area to break free indicates an alarming lack of national solidarity ?

  7. tartanfever says:

    That new Spanish law against any kind of protest ?

    We have it here too. It’s called the Anti- Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill and it received Royal Assent 11 days ago. It’s now a law passed by Westminster.

    You can read the full, unadulterated breakdown of it here, supplied courtesy of George Monbiot who has been following it for months and warning us of it’s perils:

    Here’s a taster:

    ‘The bill would permit injunctions against anyone of 10 or above who “has engaged or threatens to engage in conduct capable of causing nuisance or annoyance to any person.” It would replace Asbos with Ipnas (Injunctions to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance), which would not only forbid certain forms of behaviour, but also force the recipient to discharge positive obligations. In other words, they can impose a kind of community service on people who have committed no crime, which could, the law proposes, remain in force for the rest of their lives.’

    It’s deliberately vague, so that anyone can be arrested for anything.

    A bunch of OAP’s gather to go on a day trip. They are waiting for their friends to turn up in two cars to pick them up. 5 of them are waiting on the public pavement. If they are deemed to be blocking it, they can be arrested for ‘causing a nuisance’

    Want to meet your chums at the bus stop to go to the football match ? 5 of you wearing football scarves, you can be arrested. Football scarves can be ‘threatening’ and ‘anti-social’.

    A group of mum’s and their toddlers protest at the closing down of their play centre ? Can all be arrested just (not the toddlers) for just being there. Doesn’t matter that it’s a silent protest with no chants, no shouting, no placards or banners – if it’s deemed to cause a nuisance you’ve had it.

    Simply put, you can be arrested for anything, anywhere, anytime. You do not have to commit a crime, you don’t even have to look as though you might.

    This has not been reported on any major news channel in the UK. We have had months of reports of civil liberties abuses across the globe, in Russia, Ukraine, China and so on, but when it comes to fully reporting the dismantling of our basic human right to even meet in public our media has failed.

    1. bringiton says:

      Does this law apply in Scotland ?

      1. tartanfever says:

        Last time I checked we were only going to adopted certain parts – relating to firearms and dangerous dog control, but it’s been a couple of months since I looked. There are other provisions in the bill relating to terrorism and so on, but in general the silly stuff does not relate to Scotland.

        I should have made it clear that it applied in full to England and Wales only, didn’t want to scare the living daylights out of anyone up here.

        I mentioned it because I wanted to show that it’s not just Spain and other countries adopting anti-liberty laws, it’s happening right here on these islands.

        This bill is the brainchild of Theresa May.

  8. evan says:

    I agree “Florian”!!!! For a people to be independent and sovereign they require two things:

    1) A FLAG and everything else that goes with this….territory,language,its history and culture;

    2)ITS OWN NATIONAL CURRENCY!!!! Without this, a people can never be independent…every country around the world has its own needs, therefore it needs its own controlled currency to satisfy its own needs..

    Take note, its currency has to be owned by its people and some private organisation like the bank of england or federal reserve in us!!!!

  9. evan says:

    Take note, its currency has to be owned by its people and NOT BY some private organisation like the bank of england or federal reserve…

  10. oldbattle says:

    THE MARCH FOR DIGNITY said your headline bella. It is my determination that at the very heart of what YES ultimately signifies is a long march for dignity. To remain tithed to the sordid indignity of the British Unionist State with all history of hurt and shame is to continue to exist as a subordinate nation devoid of dignity. We should feel for our friends in Spain, achieving dignity is worth the struggle.

  11. manolobis says:

    Reblogged this on Manolobis's Blog.

  12. Douglas says:

    Here is some revealing footage which shows just how the demonstration was broken up by the Spanish riot police on Saturday before the agreed upon time.

    The Spanish government and the PP Madrid government and their allies in the Spanish media, and that includes El Pais newspaper, a shadow of its former self, are trying to portray the demonstrators as extremists and violent radicals. The authorities in Madrid have opened legal proceedings against the organizers of the protest who face fines of up to 600,000 Euros if they are found to be guilty.

    People can judge for themselves just who are the violent radicals in the video attached.

    1. Douglas says:

      By the way, there are a number of confirmed cases of the Spanish police using agent provocatuers infiltrated among the crowd, usually dressed in hoods and waving a big red flag or a big black anarchist flag so that the television cameras can capture the image easily, who tend to be involved in the clashes and thus justify the police coming down hard, as they never fail to do.

      There was a notorious incident at one of the demonstrations in Madrid a year or two ago when the same hooded “demonstrator” with a big red flag was photographed starting the violence and then later on the same night handcuffing and arresting somebody.

      I don´t know any anarchists, but I would be surprised if they run about waving big black flags, and the socialists I know don´t tend to run about waving big red flags – plain red flags on top if it.

      There are a couple of suspicious looking characters in the distance in the footage here with big red flags and big black flags….

      1. bellacaledonia says:

        This is standard practice in Italy. See G8 in Genoa.

      2. Douglas says:

        No doubt, Bella, they would do it here too, but we don´t tend to have many demonstrations these days.

        By the way, if anybody has any doubts about the fascistic tendencies of the Spanish police, just watch them go when they see some protesters with a banner which says “No Pasarán”…

        ….there is a serious, deep and very grave problem with Spanish democracy. It is certainly not liberal democracy, it is authoritarian democracy these days unfortunately.

        1. bellacaledonia says:

          They certainly do do it here, I’ll post examples of Italian and Brit infiltration

  13. Cristina says:

    Gracias, Douglas, por contar la realidad de España fuera de nuestras fronteras. Esto es un problema de todos y los medios de comunicación han silenciado la dignidad de los españoles que salimos a la calle el 22M

  14. Cristina says:

    Gracias, Douglas, por informar sobre la realidad de lo que pasa en España, fuera de nuestras fronteras. Este es un problema de todos, aunque los medios han silenciado la indignación de tantos españoles que salimos a la calle ese 22M. La lucha sigue!

  15. Douglas says:

    Cristina, muchas gracias a ti por dejar tu comentario, y mucho animo a todos los amigos en España que os estamos siguiendo desde Escocia.

    Florian Albert, thanks for the clarification. The article was really about the march, which was barely covered at all here, and what occasioned it. And I wanted to keep it short.

    There are dozens of other things which I could have mentioned, not least the decision of the Spanish authorities to withdraw any kind of free health care to illegal immigrants, or the fact that investigating magistrates, like judge Garzon, or judge Elpidio Silva, have been prosecuted and sidelined on trumped up charges for uncovering massive corruption scandals involving the Partido Popular, which currently governs Spain, the same party which still refuses today to condemn Franco´s coup of 1936 and whose former treasurer is currently languishing in jail following the discovery that he had 22 million Euros in a Swiss bank account.

    And yes, the Catalans bring out over a million people on the September 11 every year, but it is hard to convey the sheer scale of the discontent in Spain in general, Catalonia included. There have been thousands and thousands of political protests over the last few years. You don´t need to speak Spanish to get a general idea of the scale of it from this link:

  16. Douglas says:

    The Spanish Transition to Plutocracy…
    All civilized Europeans should support the 15M…the Spanish police state in the heart of Europe.

    “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win.” Gandi…

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