Spain in Transition?: Answers from the grassroots facing a collapsing country

July 1, 2015

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Some months ago, I had a conversation with a friend which seemed meaningful to me as an anthropologist. My friend –an old-school activist with a lot of experience in social struggle- said: “Curiously, during these years of crisis I sometimes feel it’s the worst time of my life, but other times I feel it’s the best”. Since 2007, the Spanish economic collapse has thrown thousands of people into a spiral of massive deprivation, lost political rights, reduced standard of living and increased social suffering. At the same time, these are also days of connection with other people, and with possibilities of collective actions; days of riot and rebellion, a vital state that excites the heart; days of dignity and small victories; bad days, but also days of hope.
This article aims to describe the current crisis in Spain and some of the popular reactions that have arisen in response, a sort of cartography of the socio-economical hits that this country has taken. Above all, it is about how people are responding to the crisis from the grassroots—the struggle not only for lost rights but also for the construction of self-organized social alternatives. The idea is to give readers outside Spain a panoramic view of what’s been happening here—with one eye on the general reality of the country and the other on the reality I’m participating in as an activist.[1] I’ve also aimed to not give my personal opinions about this beautiful but difficult and complex process, and instead be objective and give real facts.
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Spain against the wall: between economic cracking and social looting

“This isn’t a crisis, it’s a con!” This is one of the cries frequently heard in the massive demonstrations that have shaken Spain like an earthquake since 2011. There is an unquestionable truth in that rallying cry: crisis is not a natural disaster, but a reality influenced by political decisions serving specific interests. This is why there are many who understand what is happening to us in terms of a social “looting”: this crisis is seen as a kind of excuse, a fiction created so that the wealthiest can increase their benefits and their business margins at the expense of the working class. However, this analysis is incomplete. A Spanish saying goes: In troubled waters, fishermen profit. We could adapt this saying to the current moment saying: In a troubled economy, speculators, bankers and corrupt politicians profit. But this criminal, mafia-like concentration of wealth in a few hands has more to do with an important structural problem: the ruin of Spanish socio-economic model. This ruin is partly global, the materialization of the suicidal collapse of the capitalist system. But our local particularities are modelling it in a special way.
First of all, we have to understand that Spain is an extremely dependent country when it comes to energy. We import almost the 100% of the oil and gas we consume, and based on my most recent conversions we are also heading to absolute dependence on coal imported from South Africa and Australia. In 2012, the Spanish economy spent more in importing energy 62.5 billion euros) than what it earned coming from the 58 million tourists who visited the country during the same period (55.7 billion euros). In a world of declining fossil fuels, this sheer dependence translates to an inability to regain economic growth.
Second, as part of the perverse evolutionary tendencies that international capitalism has followed in the last few decades, Spain has positioned itself in the global game with a fragile and highly damaging model. After almost forty years of neoliberal economic measures, our national industrial base has been almost entirely dismantled, with a poor-quality services sector and an enormous economic and social impact in its place: we now have a model based in tourism and especially in construction. The winds of global finance propelled the sails of the housing sector, ultimately producing a disproportionate bubble. 
Third, due to its special political history, Spain has always stood last within Europe in terms of social equality and the welfare state. Low salaries and a regressive fiscal system facilitated a perverse growth model based on the exploitation of cheap labor: increasingly precarious, and employed in activities that in many cases took place in informal economy. This is why crisis in Spain always led to employment destruction levels that are higher than the European average.
This last issue—of social inequality and precariousness—is inexplicable if we don’t take into account a factor that makes Spain really different, as a tourism advertising slogan from the 1960s asserted. The current constitutional order in Spain, and the balance of social powers over which its economic structure rests, was imposed by the winners of a civil war that left everything “atado y bien atado”[2]—“tied up and very well tied up”—with a genocide. Two things are a direct heritage of this dictatorship. The first is the enormous de facto power that some very wealthy families possess; it explains our great social inequality and working class policy weakness when it comes to influencing the destiny of the country. The second is that the economic crisis is becoming a regime crisis: With an incomplete transition to democracy, economic collapse has opened old wounds and encouraged old conflicts.[3]
The figures describing the damage of the social and economic situation in Spain in the last seven years are catastrophic. The unemployment rate has reached 27%, almost 40% in some regions. One in two people under the age of 30 have no job, and almost one in three Spanish children are at risk of poverty. 700,000 people have emigrated looking for work in the last five years. Thirty percent of Spanish families are classified as energy poor, unable to pay gas and heating bills; by early 2013, 362,776 families had been evicted from their houses, and the number hasn’t stopped increasing.[4]
The Spanish economic cataclysm has also carried with itself projects that had tried to explore alternatives to capitalism. This is the case of the Basque cooperative complex Mondragón: one of its star companies, the electrical appliances maker Fagor, has gone bankrupt. Another of its noted companies, the distribution cooperative Eroski, is confronting an accumulated debt of 2.5 billion euros. Nevertheless, it shouldn’t be forgotten that Mondragón experienced a process of integration in global market dynamics well before the current crisis. For many, this had distorted the Mondragón dream, moving it away from the model of local and democratic economy that made the cooperative a global model. This is perhaps why the failure of Mondragón’s can’t be ascribed to a failure of cooperativism but rather on a failure of capitalism.[5]
As mentioned earlier, this drama of collapse has been amplified by a drama of looting. In 2007, the level of Spanish public debt was one of the lowest in Europe. However, the public rescue of bankrupted banks upended the financial viability of the State. It is important to mention that banks had devoted themselves to property speculation with procedures that sometimes appeared to be illegal. The State has taken on an enormous debt since then. In a neoliberal ideological context that prioritizes austerity policies, this has caused different governments in Madrid to enter a spiral of social spending cuts, forcing those that were weaker to assume the burden of the bank rescue. These cuts have been coordinated with privatizations that opened big private business expectations in basic sectors such as healthcare, education and water, until now in public hands and with universal access guaranteed. The script of the capitalist drama where benefits are privatized and losses are socialized has had a spectacular stage setting in Spain.
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Grassroots reaction: the birth of rebellious common sense

This stage setting has been questioned by an eruption of popular discontent. If we had to put a date on the start of this eruption it would be May 15th, 2011. On this day, a massive movement occupying public squares started all over the country. The movement settled in to tents and popular assemblies ready to radically discuss socio economic order and to reorganize under other principles.
This movement, 15M (also called movimiento de los indignados, the Indignants Movement), would be inexplicable without the previous work of many other social movements. At the same time, it had the character of a spontaneous miracle, of that magic touch with which revolutions break out. 15M managed to call and mobilize a big mass of unsatisfied people facing deterioration of the social situation. Its secret was the combination of the experience (albeit powerless) of small activist groups and the potency (albeit inexpert) of the fed-up common people. Thousands had their social struggle “baptism by fire” during those days. And no less important, they also discovered the passion of being protagonists—not victims—of history. In May 2011, many people broke their personal isolation and discovered the euphoria of taking part in collective awakening. Others of us—who were diligently looking for it—remember those weeks as a big surprise party that gave us some of the most beautiful moments of our lives.
15M was a rite of passage between a time of resignation and a time of action. What seemed impossible on May 14th came true on May 16th —things such as stopping an eviction or seeing antiriot police unable to evacuate such a touristic square as Puerta del Sol for weeks. 15M was, above all, an explosion that created new conditions for social transformation. It achieved this in a political sense, but also in a mythic and emotional sense. Its role was also essential in opening up spaces of confluence. The occupied squares became cauldrons for new political syntheses. Revolutionaries and reformists learned from each other. Spanish anarchists and communists started to make peace in a conflict that had been sealed off within the Left since the Civil War. What germinated in assemblies was a new spirit of social emancipation, unclassifiable in the schemes of the old ideologies. The 15M movement was “the scream” (using the image of John Holloway) that started a new cycle of social struggle in this country—a cycle that, due to the effects of peak oil, is destined to be long and important.
From the autumn of 2011 on, the 15M movement had to confront the challenge of constructing itself beyond its initial enthusiasm. This task was not very traumatic since definitively throwing down the gauntlet to the government was not in the movement’s nature. Rather, it seemed like the movement was launching itself into a long distance run to transform society.[6] This reinvention of the movement was explored in three ways: struggling through direct action, the use of institutional mechanisms, and attempts to build an alternative society with solutions at the local scale.  
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The ways of struggle and direct action

Revolutionary direct action, in search of a socio-political rupture that opens a new historic moment, has been practiced by different methods. One of them, at the moment still unsuccessful, has been the search for the great event. Unconsciously inspired by the myth of the Revolutionary Grand Soir, and more obviously by the fall of North African dictatorial governments and Latin American neo-liberal movements, the great event has been considered in different ways. One of them has been the successive calls to surround and take the Chamber of Deputies, the lower chamber of Spanish legislative power. Another has been the recent Marches for Dignity which brought citizens from all around the country to the capital in one of the most massive demonstrations in Spanish history.
These attempts have so far been met with a tactical defeat and a symbolic victory. Tactical defeat was inevitable, since popular explosions of anger are something that cannot be programmed: the genie of revolutionary spontaneity does not come from rubbing the lamp of public disruption. The symbolic victory has been to put a short-term political horizon for the movement on the table.
Direct action has had the best results when confronting the power structure—not in an abstract way, pointing at the whole, but rather in concrete cases relevant to people’s daily routine. Significant victories have been obtained in different levels, from labor struggles to the suspension of construction motivated by urban speculation. But where direct action has had its best fruit has been in the movement to stop evictions, led bythe Plataforma de afectados por la hipoteca (PAH)–the Mortgage Victims Platform. It’s important to point out that Spanish mortgage law is an especially abusive law; it’s another legacy of the dictatorship and the structural imbalance of social powers in favor of the banks. Unlike other nations, non-recourse debt doesn’t exist in Spain: breach of mortgage payment leads to house expropriation, making the bank the property owner—however, the debt is not cancelled, throwing many people into a kind of social exclusion.
In the face of these legal circumstances and the context of mortgage defaults caused by rising unemployment, following 15M people started organizing neighbor pickets to stop evictions, blocking building entrances through civil disobedience. This was combined with actions in front of the bank branches implicated in evictions. In this way, thousands of families all over the country have obtained either non-resource loans, eliminating their debt to the bank, or kept their properties with reduced payments. 
Stopping evictions, in addition to weaving people’s solidarity together, has obtained a difficult achievement: solving specific problems of specific people, and in doing so attacking one of the foundations of the dominant socioeconomic structure. If anything defines the center of power in Spain it is the alliance between banks, construction companies, and political parties. In a society such as ours, houses are to us what access to land was in mid-twentieth century Cuba or Nicaragua: an area where any trustworthy reform becomes revolutionary because it disrupts established power foundations. Following this, the next step seems clear. The movement for homes will mature when it turns from having a defensive to offensive attitude. This last is easy to foresee: the massive occupation of the three million empty houses being that are now the property of the banks that were rescued with public money. Expropriating houses and putting them into service of the people can inaugurate in Spain a social movement as important as Brazil’s Landless Worker’s Movement (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra) but in a sociologic urban context.
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Looking at Institutions

The Indignants Movement was born of a mistrust of traditional political methods.  After more than thirty years in which no party seemed able to defend the interests of the common people, the popular refusal to participate in these institutions is quite justified (and here we must add that Spain is a country with an important tradition in political anarchism, which has influenced the Movement). However, four years after 2011, more and more “indignants” are betting that some kind of institutional participation is the next necessary step.
The Spanish electoral map is going to shift soon, when the leftover traditional politicians become incapable of surmounting the entrenched socio-economic crisis. In this scenario we can expect the appearance of “outsider” political parties, as has already happened in Greece and Italy. The way events are developing inside various social movements, it’s clear that the spirit of 15M will feed some of these new parties. In fact, this has already happened in the recent European parliamentary elections. The Podemos platform received 1.2 million votes with a program that rejected established elites and their economic policies, and proposed opening a new constitutional process that included the demands of the social movements. This amount to 9% of the vote, and in some places Podemos became the third major party—a party that had been born only four months earlier. By the end of 2014, Podemos had become the first choice in the surveys of likely voters. This confirms that a break in the traditional political equilibrium has arrived. But the problem is that Podemos has chosen to follow a new-Keynesian path that will not be able to cope with the end of cheap oil because it depends on recovering economic growth. In addition, the case of Podemos has taught us a peculiar lesson: Its leaders are not ignoring the oil problem—and they even signed a degrowth manifesto recently—but their public declarations defend business as usual, only with fairer social policies. In their own words, “We will not win the elections talking about degrowth”.This is evidence of how difficult it will be in the future to coordinate transition with official policies. 
Apart from Podemos, there are many other political platforms looking to channel people’s dissatisfaction.  If we want to have more room to maneuver and greater democratic control from the grassroots, the popular candidacies with local political bases are more interesting. Partly inspired by Murray Bookchin’s ideas on Libertarian Municipalism, but also by some locally emergent experiences[7], these candidacies can be electoral tools for social movements to participate in local government. Even though each experience is special and has to do with own sociocultural process, what’s common to all of them is that institutional interventions are dependent on actions outside of institutions. The popular assembly sets the direction of the movement, not the party.  In the case of Móstoles, the city where I live, a neighborhood union assembly (Unión Vecinal Asamblearia) emerged from 15M activity. This is a popular candidacy project whose management and direction is developed through open assemblies with neighbors’ participation. In this program there are proposals like 100% participatory local budgeting, reduction of politicians’ salaries, and biannual public review of local government accounts in citizen-organized neighborhood assemblies. At the same time, the project compiles grievances from several social movements of the city, from declaring Móstoles a city free of eviction to promoting cooperativism and urban gardening (this last one is connected to the work of the local Transition Initiative).
This local candidature model is slowly developing in thousands of cities all over Spain, trying to break into municipal elections in 2015.
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Building an alternative society

One of the most surprising processes in 15M has been discovering how a part of its energy has been channeled towards an undervalued (at least in Spain) means of social transformation: the building of an alternative society here and now. Cooperatives, self-employment, solidarity and social economy, local currency, responsible consumption… these concepts reflect a change in the understanding of social struggles. I have the suspicion that underneath this change is a certain historical wisdom: the twenty-first century civilizational crisis inaugurates a time when viable alternatives from the grassroots can be more efficient than abstract ideological battle.
The first concrete work done by the social movements has been providing themselves with infrastructure. This has been especially important in two areas: working spaces and communication methods.  In both cases we have witnessed an explosion of initiatives. Popular ateneos, multifunctional meeting points hosting the activity of different collectives, are multiplying; some pay rent and some squat empty buildings. Most large and mid-sized cities where 15M has been active now have their own local newspaper; they are distributed for free, and are financed by a membership fee and by local shops’ advertising, facilitating the relocalization of consumption. Their impact goes beyond disseminating information not found in the corporate media: they are able to shape an alternative public opinion.
Infrastructure, being important, is no other than means to an end. Perhaps the most important practices are in the experimentation of different economic and democratic forms, and the revitalization of local production. An idea that seems to be emerging: in the same way that we have taken the public squares, now it is time to take production. This taking of production is assuming lots of different forms; let’s take a look at some of them.
Obviously, high unemployment rates have fostered an increase in self-employment as an individual solution, where people try to survive as freelancers. Most of the time this happens in the informal economy, which means they receive no social protection. What’s interesting is that in the wake of 15M, many individual initiatives have tried to create collective structures to avoid competing against each other. New pubs, bookshops, consultant’s offices, repair shops and other cooperative business at a local level are constantly being opened. There are also many collectives where lots of professional workers offer their services in association with others, from construction to bookkeeping. In the Móstoles aeteno Rompe el Circulo, for example, in less than a year a local craft and organic food distributor, a continuing education academy, a recording studio, a children’s play center and a T-shirt design project have been set up.
We are also assisting the rise of social and solidarity-based economy projects at a large scale, overflowing the limits of local economy and having an effect at the state level. These projects seem fundamental for building an authentic economic alternative, for example: the renewable energies company Som Energia was started in 2010 in Catalonia and spread all over the country; or, the credit and ethical finances cooperative Coop57, which gives credit for starting business ventures and economic cooperative projects.
The social- and solidarity-based economy is increasing in Spain not only because of the social movements’ tenacity but also because it has proven to be economically functional. Cooperatives can be competitive because they are flexible, because there is a strong working motivation to have direct participation in benefits and high savings, and because they reduce their own management costs in those places where there is class struggle. But these economic democratization initiatives are bumping up against the structural limits imposed by a national economy that’s in a state of collapse and has no capacity to integrate new economic agents.
This is why there are many cooperative initiatives trying to work with cooperative relationships, as opposed to the competitive relationships of the capitalist market. When using local currencies, for example, the logic of the market fails from many fronts.  First, since these are valid currencies in certain territories, they prioritize local consumption and economic relocalization. Second, because they are issued by public and democratic mechanisms, under criteria that are different from those of capitalist profitability, they allow the reintroduction of many people into the local economy who had been excluded. The role of money when reproducing power structures changes with these processes of reinventing money, serving the people from the grassroots. The local currency phenomenon in Spain has experienced a boom in the last five years; this is also true for Time Banks. Perhaps the project that has managed to build viable productive alternatives in the best way—creating a political project that is explicitly pro-degrowth and in transition—has been the Cooperativa Integral Catalana (CIC). Started in 2010 (but with work that started several years earlier), the CIC serves today as a reference all over the country due not only to its great success[8] but also its global approach, which tries to self-manage all the elements in economic life: production, consumption, financing, a cooperative public system (including food, education, shelter and health care) and a social currency.[9]  
Each step in the direction to economic self-management has to be accompanied by a step trying to strengthen ethical consumption patterns. Cooperative production and responsible consumption are the two feet that walk the path towards economic transition. In this sense, responsible consumption proposals in the different towns and cities in Spain are more and more frequent. One of the more interesting ones is the “friendly shops network”.  These networks bring together local shops that give a discount to unemployed residents, and in return the social movements promote and publicize the businesses. But what is most interesting of these initiatives is not only their orientation of ethics in consumption, but the radical transformation of day-to-day consumption into “collective ways of consumption”.
Small collectives have experimented with strategies of consumption for years, especially regarding food consumption: organic food consumer groups connect with local farmers, creating a symbiosis that ensures affordable organic food for the former (since there are no intermediaries) and a dedicated, fair market for the latter. But experimentation with collective consumption is going beyond such exchanges. In many ateneos and social centers, cosotecas are being established, rental systems for items that are commonly but only occasionally used, like tools or health care materials. They have also experienced enormous development of practices we could call an “economy of sharing,”, which previously was mostly the domain of young people with low spending power but now is used by impoverished people of all ages: for example, ridesharing or making a couch in one’s house available for tourists. In some neighborhoods in Madrid, community nodes of self-supply and production are at work:  self-organized collectives trying to become cooperative wholesale central purchasing organizations, making products cheaper for their members and reducing intermediaries. But they are also places to promote economic collectivization and self-production in various matters, such as manufacturing of bread and clothing.
And if collective consumption has had a notable increase, so too has self-production, or “DIY” (“do it yourself”). Clothing, soap, care products, medicines, beer, food, toys… workshops to cover basic needs through self-production are proliferating, as are skills and knowledge about how to produce them. Prompted by need but also by conviction, more and more people each day are recovering their production sovereignty from the market, in a process of decolonization and reverting the cultural genocide that professional hyper-specialization has led to.
In this sense, a sector that is attracting working and vital interests of many of those affected by the crisis is the primary sector: agriculture and farming. With the rural world underpopulated—violently emptied by the modernization process over the last 50 years—going back to your old house in the village is becoming an option for many people, especially for young people from middle and working class who are crashing against the unbreakable wall of job insecurity and unemployment. This urban exodus is small but already significant (although it is not comparable to the urban exodus in countries such as France, where more than a million people have moved). In this neo-rural push, agroecological initiatives are abundant, as are those of mere survival, because life in the village is cheaper than in the city and allows people to live on a meagre income. Many of those trying to go back to rural areas are trying to get income through ecological agriculture, in an attempt to complement the boom in responsible and local consumption in the cities. But this alliance is still immature, and tension and disagreement are frequent. Among other reasons, neo-rural people still have to learn how to grow food, an art that is almost lost. Moreover, consumers are still attached to typical cultural patterns of industrial consumption. And we cannot forget the frictions between the urban newcomers, participating from an urban subjectivity model and the traditional inhabitants.
If rural areas are getting urbanized with the arrival of new inhabitants bringing the values and practices of the cities, urban areas are getting ruralized with the emergence of new farming projects in hearts of the cities.[10] Before the crisis erupted, an important urban gardens network started to proliferate in Spanish cities (similar to in other parts of the world). Since the crisis this network has known an exponential growth, fundamentally due to three reasons: massive unemployment has generated a lot of free time that people have used to grow gardens; the bursting of housing bubble and the collapse of the building sector have left behind an urban landscape of empty plots that make it easy to access underused spaces not subjected to the pressure of economic interests; and third, local governments have seen them as a cheap investment in green marketing.
At the moment, and except for a few cases, urban gardens in Spain do not have a real productive function; their contribution to daily calorie consumption is symbolic. Instead they are, in essence, spaces for social re-articulation and community regeneration, something valuable in itself. Forecasts indicate the future of these gardens is limited and they will disappear when economic growth returns to make urban lands profitable. But for those of us knowing there will not be a return to economic growth, urban gardens are the torchbearer that has already won one symbolic victory: the possible uses of urban land are being discussed, turning in favor to agriculture. Considering that cities will only be viable if an important part of its active population works in a primary sector that contributes to food self-sufficiency, urban gardens are a pioneer experience that is already making the change easier—at least at a conceptual level since it is making city and agriculture compatible.
Inside this amalgam of initiatives willing to create a new society in the glimmer of the old one, the Movimiento de Ciudades y Pueblos en Transición (movement of cities and towns in transition), inspired by the Transition Towns movement driven by Rob Hopkins in Totnes (UK), is having a role. But there are many similar initiatives with other origins, such as the anarchism or ecology movements. The perception is one of an historical awakening, with a kind of melting or spring blossom. Although still in its early days, perhaps it is not an exaggeration to affirm that this self-managed effervescence announces the forming of an emancipation strategy that will be to the 21st century what syndicalism was to 20th century.  
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Moderating optimism

When such a complex and exciting reality is presented to somebody looking from a distance, a risk is taken: overestimate the truth and give in to optimism. May these last words serve to moderate everything said up to now and give a balanced picture of what is actually happening in Spain.
It is not a secret that a feeling of defeat was reigning among several 15M groups in 2014. Popular assemblies have lost part of their power, and protests and demonstrations crash against the hull of this ship that remains on a collision course. Proposals for groundbreaking institutional action have a long way to go if they want to really consider reaching a target that does guarantees deep social changes, as we can see in Latin America[11]. Economic cooperative projects and other moves towards an alternative society are barely embryos—tadpoles having to survive in a hostile environment, with a massive dose of heroism coming from its activists. The main response from the grassroots has been family solidarity. Today there are many who survive by living off their grandparent’s pension money; a monthly income of less than 700 euros is carefully distributed to maintain three generations in some cases.
In general, the dynamic of transformation that emerged from the Indignants Movement in 2011 is suffering the typical slowdown of an exhausted mobilization model. The limits of certain procedures are becoming clear: for example, the appropriateness of a continuous mass street demonstrations is being questioned. This mobilization frenzy has taken a lot of power from projects with a more constructive intentions, still very weak. Another issue to overcome is confusion between assembly horizontality—a power management tool the Movement can’t afford to lose—and informality. This confusion has blocked the Movement’s natural tendency towards structuration and organization while tasks are becoming more and more complex and abundant. Finally, we cannot forget the historical confusion: 15M Movement is handicapped due to an essentially wrong diagnosis of the current historical moment. For most participants of these bottom-up responses, the objective is to get back to the everyday economic bonanza situation we had before 2007, based on an ebullient consumer society and cheap energy. The socioecological crisis, with energy decline and climate change as its spearhead, is a reality that, with the exception of some minority groups, has not been understood with its real implications; people think there is an exit to crisis without any severe alteration of everyday life patterns.
Not even the false perspectives of economic recovery have helped consolidate alternative movements. During these last years, the Government has made an effort to reduce, even more, the price of labor. Before this crisis, Spain needed growth rates of 2% a year to generate employment. Today, after successive labor reforms and an orientation of the national economy to a zero-sum game of exportation, employment could be created with lower growth rates. These changes, in addition to the thrust given to global economy by fracking-enabled oil and gas production in the United States, are making our politicians talk about “the light at the end of the tunnel,” and selling us the idea of having overcome the worst part of the crisis.
In comparison to 2007, however, when Spanish conventional wisdom fully participated our own version of the American Dream that became the housing bubble, the progress is unquestionable. The proof of it is in the reaction of the powers that be, a testimony of popular self-organization real impact. Since 2011, the escalation in repressive politics has been unstoppable. The recent Law of Citizen Security, also called Gag Rule, imposes sentences up to 600 euros as a fine for participating in peaceful social protests, suggesting confirmation of a drift into fascism. When a State is obliged to make itself to be feared insuch a way it is because it is uncapable of generating consensus. In this climate of undermining legitimacy, the collapse of this political model is a matter of time. But it is also necessary to be faithful to the truth: our achievements are still very weak. 
There is no disagreement that Spain is a country in transition. Here we must apply to the word transition with as many meanings as possible: a transition that is political, socio-ecological, cultural, energy-based, and even territorial, taking into account there is a possible fragmentation of national territory into different sovereign countries in a relatively short period of time. What is still to be decided is the direction of this transition. Due to 21st century’s energy decline, the transition we are forced to accomplish could lean towards authoritarian regression, where socio-economic elites try to provide continuity to the structure of privileges derived from the current mode of capitalist accumulation that started 40 years ago. This business as usual scenario in a sort of favelization[12]  of the country, with big pockets of poverty and a repressive structure that will guarantee social apartheid.  But since 2011, we cannot exclude an anti-capitalist political rupture. Maybe this rupture could serve as the umbrella for a transition process towards a post-capitalist, post-fossil fuels, self-managed and decentralized social model. What is more important about the responses from the grassroots in Spanish society is its existence through action. And this is a promise for the future: facing a gradual collapse, the forces that can build an alternative have been found. Now, quoting an anarchist publication arisen from the heat of this last convulsive years, está “todo por hacer”—“everything is to be done.”


Last May the 24th municipal elections were celebrated.  Parties merged from 15M had an important victory in cities such as Madrid and Barcelona. In the case of Móstoles, the municipalist candidacy has arrived becoming the third political force and very close to the second one. It will be the key to forming a government. This candidacy has undertaken a Transition Initiative in his program. We may finally get the institutional support we need to make it true.

[1] Specifically, participating in a Post-Oil Transition Initiative (which is also a post-capitalism initiative) focused on Mostoles, a working class town in the outskirts of Madrid. 
[2] The expression “lo dejo todo atado y bien atado” was said by Franco in his deathbed. It was a sort of final precept in which the dictator evaluated his historical work: assuring continuity over time of the social structure of the country and its distribution of privilege, which during the first third of the century was threatened by the revolutionary energy of the deprived (peasants and workers).
[3] One of the most important faults is the objective failure of Spain as a national project able toaccommodate, with equality and respect, its enormous territorial, linguistic and cultural richness. This can be shown in the rising of the Catalonia movement for independence, able today—for the first time in history—to launch a believable challenge to central state. But Catalonia is only one front among many others —such as the questioning of monarchy or the bipartisanship crisis —in the crisis of this regime.
[5] However, it is vital for any Transition Movement to clear up if what led Mondragón to internalization was an accumulation of bad practices, or of wrong personal decisions inspired by wrong ideas, or if, on the contrary, there was structural pressure that forced cooperatives to turn into capitalists since they have to work in a capitalist environment.
[6] This may explain why the movement in Madrid, which was the visible head, soon decided to move to the neighbourhoods to work at the local level. An attack on power had had to take place necessarily in the Capital city centre.
[7] Such as the cases of Catalonian CUPs -Popular Unity candidacies- or Marinaleda in Andalucia.
[8] According to Enric Duran, one of the drivers of this Project, at the beginning of 2014 there were 300 production projects between individual and collective ones, 30 local cores and eco-nets, 15 community life projects, 1,700 individual and collective members and about 5,000 participants in whole
[9] For more information see
[10] The expression is imprecise because, throughout history, the city has had its own primary sector. Not until the arrival of cheap oil did it adopt a long-distance food  model that exiled agriculture to the city perimeter. 
[11] Abandoning the project Yasuní by Rafael Correa serves as a symbol of the scarce maneuvering room we have for a post-carbon transition of political power. 
[12]  Coming from the Brazilian term favela (slum), a neologism to refer to the urban impoverishment and deterioration process.   

Emilio Santiago Muiño

Social anthropologist and researcher from Autonomous University of Madrid. Member of GinTrans2 (Cross-disciplinary Research Group for Socio Environmental Transitions) and an activist of the Madrid’s Transition Initiative Instituto de Transición  Rompe el Círculo

Tags: indignados, Spain, Transition in Spain