Unlock the Puerta

Photobucketby Brian Leubitz

You may have noticed that I’ve been pretty quiet around here.  I apologize for that, but I’ve had the opportunity to be in Spain as the nation emerges into its own, fighting the impending austerity coming from the “Socialist” government.  The irony is really thick, as the outgoing Socialist Prime Minister, Jose L.R. Zapatero, has said that if he were younger, he would be out protesting as well.

But these aren’t just protests.  When I was in Barcelona, over hundred thousand protesters came out to call out the nations leaders.  To be honest, they know how to throw a protest.  As I was walking around, the thousands of outraged Spainards made noise, every kind of noise, keys jangling, the beating of pots and pans, and just plain yelling.  With no amplification at all, you could hear the protests for blocks with a deafening roar that no politician could ignore.  It really was a spine tingling moment as I just strolled amongst them.  There were reports of unconfirmed police brutality, but for the most part, the Barcelona government helped the protest proceed.

And today I am in Madrid, where a tent city has grown up in Puerta del Sol.  It is a community in every sense of the word.  It has a kitchen serving up free food, a library, and a legal aid booth.  Madrid gets blisteringly hot in the summer, so how long they can last is in question, but they seem determined to stay as long as it takes them to wedge the government into fighting austerity.

In other words, the people are forcing the hands of the left.  They are demanding action from the nominal leaders of the left, or at least the ones that were elected.  And by action, I mean something besides enabling austerity.

The parallels to both California and the nation are easy to spot.  In California, it was a Democratic victory in 2010 that enabled massive cuts.  And we’ve been seeing small scale rallies demanding that our leaders stand up to austerity, but with over $14 bn. in cuts, that horse has left the barn, and Democratic leaders can only halfheartedly chase after them.  Just today, the Bay Citizen has a great report on another of the painful cuts, adult education.  It isn’t that the community college and school districts want to cut these services, but ultimately, they have to prioritize.  And yet, Democratic leaders can only shout after the horse.

On the other hand,  Spanish anger is actually spilling out on the streets.  The people are mad, the youth are in a desperate situation as unemployment is staggeringly high, and they are letting the world know.  But in California, our displays are limited to symbolic , hour long protests at the Capitol.  When do we occupy the Capitol lawn? When doe the streets ofSF or LA look like those of Barcelona or Madrid?  It will take a serious committed movement to pressure both the nominal left in the state, but also to make the Right fear for their own hardline positions.  The media acts as if austerity is simply a given.  It is not, nor should it be.

But we have to let them know.

22 thoughts on “Unlock the Puerta”

  1. As bad as unemployment is in California, it is much worse in Spain — over 20%.  I’d hope that if we ever reached that level of unemployment, we’d be on the streets, too.

  2. I took my wife and two daughters to Spain in 2010

    What a FABOLOUS Country !!

    It makes the US look like the 3rd world

    Madrid, Barcelona, the Alcazar, the Alhambra…..

    I think the Spanairds and the Eurpoeans have a better sense of community and solidarity that we can imagine.

    Nationism for Americans means bombing the hell out of some poor 3rd world nation (Shock and Awe) hand grabbing all you can get

    Everybody for himself seems to be the American credo

    That, and Mindless materialism

    Hamburgers and Cadilliacs

  3. Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain have made their beds…they can either remake them or lie in them.

    Spain has perhaps the strongest private sector unions in the world and over the last couple of generations they have enshrined protections in law that make it almost impossible to fire a worker and which guarantee annual raises in pay no matter how poorly the company is doing or what the economy looks like.  In recent years Spain’s wages have been rising and worker productivity dropping…thats the key reason they country is in the mess it is in….that and the fact that half of Spain bought second homes or investment properties with 100% financing and they are all now lying empty and unused.

    You can’t fix Spain’s economic problems without first fixing its labor problems.  Spain will never be competitive unless it remakes its bed.

  4. i assume we’ll be out there if the all-cut budget ever gets crammed down the near-supermajority dems’ throat by the GOP superminority. if they find a way to pass some budget, or the tax revenues give them enough buffer to kick the can to a nov. tax initiative, then we’ll keep muddling along silently.

    but if the GOP budget ever goes into effect for real, you’ll see protests. look at the UC regents protests last couple of years to get a taste.

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