Joseph Stiglitz gives a little surprise speech at one 15M movement assembly in Madrid
Marches from all over the country fill up the Spanish capital with assemblies, forums, demonstrations, and actions of protest and start an international march to Brussels

by Concha Mateos
July 25th , 2011

“It is not a crisis; it is that I don´t want you anymore.” That was the slogan for our demonstration yesterday (June 19th) in Madrid. “It is not a crisis; it is the system.” And life exists beyond capitalism. So…, we are driving the changes to get there.

We have plenty of energy. The government knows it, the police know it, the political parties know it — even if none of them reckoned it. But, Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize laureate in Economics in 2001, the most quoted economist in 2008 (1), and ex-chief economist at the World Bank, has visited our assembly on the economy.

Stiglitz talked to us for a while, recognized the power of our energy, and expressed his hopes that we use our power constructively. This is the moment, he said, to combine the science of economics with the social commitment to make possible new Economy, new ideas to replace the bad ideas that are governing our world.

Stiglitz and the 15M movement agree on some points: this economic way doesn´t work and a change is necessary; the social consequences of the government’s economic austerity measures must be taken into account, and the government must now play that regulatory role they have neglected for three decades.

This last long holiday weekend, ending on Monday, July 25th, a holiday in Madrid and other cities in Spain, the Indignados (‘the outraged’) from all over the country and activists from other countries met in Madrid to plan and coordinate strategies for the movement as a whole. Six hundred people arrived after marching for 34 days from distant European cities to the Spanish capital, and 40,000 people participated in the major demonstration on Sunday, July 24th. Four hundred people supported the 15M movement’s First Social Forum, from ten o’clock in the morning to nine o’clock in the evening on July 25th.

On Saturday, July 23rd, six marches arrived in and joined in Madrid after weeks of walking the roads from distant European cities, collecting people along the way even from villages and expanding the 15M movement.

The protesters took the Puerta del Sol once again, getting all in at the same time, nine o´clock in the evening, from the four main streets that approach the square.

The marchers have camped in the capital at Paseo del Prado, the main street of the Spanish capital, in front of the banks and the government main bureaus and offices and emblematic buildings like the Museo del Prado and the Stock Exchange of Madrid.

The protesters marked the walls of the building with their red-paint handprints and wrote: “GUILTY!”

El Retiro park was the operation center on Sunday and Monday. This park was founded in 1630 as a royal place for leisure for the monarchy. This weekend we, “the outraged,” worked jointly in the shade of the old trees exchanging appraisals about our actions and planning the strategies for acting jointly next autumn. This Monarchy property, El Retiro, was nationalized during the named historic “revolutionary period of six years,” 1868-1874.

We held our assemblies besides the Palacio de Cristal (the Crystal Palace), perhaps the most beautiful monument in the park, an antique majestic greenhouse created to host exotic plants from the Philippines Spanish colony in 1887.

Times are changing. The Philippines are not a colony anymore and most of us hope to live to see the end of the monarchy as a state regime type in Spain. A new constituent process is one of the proposals in the 15M’s future horizon. It could be or could be not. But the 15M movement is sowing and setting up the debate. And not only this debate.

Most of the problems we are facing have a global nature. A progressive tax system in all countries, for example, is necessary to ensure a fair redistribution of wealth in each of them. To end tax havens requires a global response as well.

It is not a crisis; it is the system. It is not a crisis; it is the fraud. And, it is not a local crisis.

“We are not going to pay for your crisis,” we shout. So, we have to connect our fights. And so we are doing: local fights against privatizations and evictions, and global fights against the market’s power to oppress or distort our democracy.

Next October 15th will be our first formal international engagement. The Committee for International Coordination is still working on that project. And just on our recent Spanish holiday, Monday, July 25th, protest march, a new group project bloomed: the Brussels march group. On Tuesday, July 26th, the group is setting off from Madrid to the political capital of the European Union, Brussels, in a new international march of protest.

We have the energy: people are taking the squares, and during the summer “taking the beaches” and “taking the mountains.” We have the methodology: lateral, open and peaceful assemblies are going on with their work.

We have the reasons: the president of Bankia (2) earns 10 million euros a year, while the basic wage is fixed at 641 euros a month. The president of Bankia earns 3,000 euros/hour! That means he earns 3,000 euros during the time he spends going just to work in his official car. One working day gives him the same amount that most people earn working a whole year. Most families in Europe will die without having earned in all their lives the money that man receive in only a year –for playing with our savings. That is a strong reason for the protest. And that is only one example.

These three days in Madrid we have touched each other. We have felt close to each other.

The 15M moment was brewed virtually. Yes, the internet is in the origin, in our genetic code. The internet and social networks have definitely touched us in three very decisive ways:

1. First of all, everyone has something to say, and it is very important he or she to say it. And it is possible.

2. Second, we Indignados, from whatever country, are all basically the same; that is, we have the same value and the same importance.

3. And third, we can act jointly with people we have never met before.

Every day more and more people are becoming aware of this. Both virtual connection and physical coexistence propel us. Union, action and self-management is the philosophy.

If we are going to carry this policy out, then we are the ones who have to decide it as well. Don’t let them do it for you. “They don´t represent us!” This is the main slogan shouted in Spain since the last 15th of May.

If you have read this, we have something in common. We can act together.

We will meet in the squares.

(2) Bankia is like a National Saving Bank. It is the result of the fusion of several little entities, half-public, with social purposes, and his president, Rodrigo Rato, was Spain´s Economy Minister and Vice President serving with the Conservative People´s Party (1996-2004) and them, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) from June 2004 to October 2007. The conservative state governments in Spain are promoting the privatization of this entities, after having invested huge sums of public funds in rescuing and getting them into shape. ____________________________________________________________________________________

(Concha Mateos has a PhD in Social Communication and is on the faculty at a public university in Madrid. She has been actively involved with Project Censored since 2009, and “la acampada” in the square Puerta del Sol in Madrid, and in the ongoing 15M movement.)