Sunday, 22 May 2011


Is Spain a country about to explode with popular uprisings, and if that takes place, will Portugal, Greece, and Italy, perhaps other countries follow and put an end to the politics of austerity measures that plutocracy has imposed on society? Not just in Spain, but in all these Mediterranean countries the population under 35 years of age has a bleak future, it is what I call the lost generation that realizes it will be worse off than the previous one. Cynicism and nihilism prevail, confusion and conspiracy theories abound about what is at fault for this situation. What is certain, is that the status quo is working to the benefit of the small privileged plutocrats and to the detriment of the rest of society.

All these overly-educated - most with college degrees - urban middle class people know is that the future is not in their own countries, that their national institutions do not serve the welfare of the broader population, that political parties - right, center and center-left - serve the same plutocratic system. A small percentage of the lost generation, which was created by the latest recession and anti-labor-anti-middle class policies, will form the cell of the popular uprisings whose seeds have already been planted in Spain.

A country the size of Colorado and Wyoming combined, Spain like Portugal and Greece, has a history of authoritarianism under pro-Western dictator General Franco. From 1975 to present, the regime has been democratic with candidates from the Socialists and Popular Party-led coalitions changing the reigns of power. Not that either of the left or the right have made much difference in Spain any more than they have in Portugal and Greece where a similar political situation has existed also from the 1970s to the present era of austerity policies adopted formally or informally with about the same results for the majority of the people.

For decades, official unemployment has been about 20%, and for the youth between 30% and 45%. Many workers have temporary employment without any benefits or future prospects for permanent work, a situation that prevails in neighboring Portugal, Greece, Italy and Ireland. In the second week of May 2011, several hundred and then several tens of thousands unemployed Spaniards took a page out of the Arab uprisings and began permanent social protests. Some set up tent cities in public squares in Madrid's Puerta del Sol and in dozens of other cities now (22 May) on the seventh day.

The young protesters know that politicians - conservative, liberal and socialist - serve exclusive the financial elites to the detriment of the rest of the population. Are these young people protesting the lack of jobs, or is there more to this nascent movement that could explode into a revolt or die out? The entire institutional structure, they say, literally everything from predatory banks that survive on the basis of bailouts, the decadent two-party system that works for the banks, austerity measures in place, although Spain is not officially under austerity like Greece and Ireland, high unemployment without prospects of securing a career for which they were trained, a system that is constantly rescuing capital and destroying people.

Co-opted by political parties, bureaucratized trade unions have failed to protect labor from predatory capital that government is protecting. Corporations, backed by the IMF that stands guard of finance capital, demand what they euphemistically call 'work-place flexibility', that is, workers easily fired, working part time and various hours without protection by the state for benefits, overtime, weekend, or night work, etc. In short, the 'marketplace' will determine that labor as a commodity will be reduced to serfdom.

How does the Socialist government react to the lost generation? They are all 'in sympathy' with the struggle of young unemployed people, but they are also considering cracking down on what are now called 'the indignant'. Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba simply stated that the law will be enforced. Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero commented that the solution is the ballot box!

The Socialists will suffer significant losses in regional/local election on Sunday, 22 May 2011, (a prelude to national elections of March 2012), but 'the indignant' lost generation knows that absolutely nothing will change institutionally. The Socialist government fears that the peaceful protest could erupt into an Arab-style uprising, a fear that the Socialist regimes of Portugal and Greece share, given that their prospects are very grim for the next few years.

Billions of euros of public funds injected into the banks with the promise of stimulating economic growth and reducing unemployment in the past two years, but the result is higher unemployment and lower living standards for the middle class and workers. The radicalization process is brewing at the grass roots level. Online networks help pass on the message across the country and across Europe. From Madrid and Barcelona, the message has gone out to a number of European cities, at least ten in Italy where such social networks have formed.

Amid the embryonic social uprising in Southern Europe, Obama will be visiting UK, Ireland, France and Poland, but his agenda will not include economic issues. Instead, he will focus on the war on terror, Afghanistan, Iraq, and foreign policy matters. Why would foreign and defense policy issues matter to the lost generation of Spain, of Southern Europe? Because the political elites of the Western World have a record on the economy and social policy that speaks for itself, and all it says is failure on the promises made about trillions of dollars/euros in bailout as a means to helping society.

The political elites - from Obama to Zapatero -have delivered taxpayers' bailout money to the financial elites, and so the only issue on the agenda is the war on terror and foreign policy! Will the lost generation understand, or will it grow and become increasingly radical, with others to follow across many European countries?

Unlike Arab nations that have weak state structures under authoritarian rulers, European countries have much stronger state structures that cannot easily collapse. I do not expect that Spain will be another Tunisia or Egypt, but the grass roots movement will grow as the economy deteriorates. The most effective argument/PR campaign that Spain along with other Western countries propagate to prevent social unrest from evolving toward revolution is that those engaged in the unrest are fighting against a 'democratic system'.

After all, what is it that the 'indignant' protesters are proposing to replace the existing political, economic and social order? In short, the status quo has no alternative. This campaign propaganda notwithstanding, in the absence of reversing corporate welfare and focusing on job-creation policies, Spain's 'indignant' lost generation will provide the spark for a wider European social uprising in some form. 

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