Mehr Demokratie: In essence, what are the protests about?
Manuel Marín-Ramos: The movement M 15 (the name refers to the protests’ commencing date; May 15th) is shaped by the Spanish youth, yet it unites all other social classes. The people recognize injustice and hence, take their discontent/demands to the streets. The situation reminds me of the mass-protests in 2003, when people demonstrated against Spanish participation in the Iraq war. These protests were a turning point in Spain’s political culture. In 2003, people irrespectively from their social, economic and political background joined together to demonstrate against a matter, they perceived as unjust. Nonetheless, Spain participated in the Iraq war and subsequently, in 2004 the Madrid bombings happened, which cost many peoples’ life.
The 2003 demonstrations were a starting point, yet today’s protests has different contents and demands. Today, it is about inequity on the labour market, corruption, and heteronomy/external determination, against Clientalismo und Amigismo, as we say in Spanish. People demand equal opportunities, economic perspectives, and last, but not least reforms of the political system to increase political partaking and self-determination.
In your opinion, how can the situation be solved?
First of all, politics has to be monitored more decisively. Politicians’ earnings and capital has to be more transparent. Politics has to distance itself from corruption to be as clean and honest as possible. Politicians administrate the res-publica, the commonwealth/polity. In order to realize their obligations, they should implement an ethical code. A baker has to bake good bread, a mechanic has to repair broken cars and a politician has to represent the voters’ demands. It is their job.
In my personal opinion, I believe a politician should sacrifice him- or herself. We need politicians as representative instrument; the system will run more effective in this fashion. Politics arise from the people, from every single person. You and me, we can shape politics.
In the first days of the protests, I thought the movement has demanded the abolishment of any kind of representation. Then the movement has asked for a conditional representation. Now it is about a representation with increased participation. Crucial keywords are direct democracy, fight against corruption, monitoring of politics, and reform of the electoral law. The political landscape is paralysed due to its two-party system. It has been in place for 33 years and a fresh breeze is missing. It begins to smell/rot.
How is the M15 organized?
It is a considerable endeavour of a society, however no one is a leading expert. Yet, the protesters are not worried. The alternative to demonstration is to keep the current system; a prospect foreign to the protesters. In more specific terms, there are several discussion groups and plenums, in which the protesters discuss their ideas and demands. Of course, there are also demonstrations and the camps, built on public squares. Communication is most crucial though. People are engaging in discussions; they communicate with each other. It is very different to dictatorship, which forbids any kind of political communication. In the movement, people talk to each other, with more boldness and respect.
Would the people be disappointed, if concrete reforms are missing in the end?
Solutions can only arise out of communication. Living conditions have to be a central topic. First and foremost, it is decisive to create a horizontal communication network. Yet, advancing the circumstances is as well a matter of belief. It is important to keep hold of the now. The thought of the future, of the impossibility to realize change may damage the movement as it generates fatalism and the demise of ideas. I believe, that the discussions have one central demand: no future disappointments. That is a crucial sentiment for the people. It is important, that people recognize they are political beings. The first fight is always against oneself; abolishing the mindset, one has endured for such a long time. People cannot be afraid. It is crucial to note: Since the Franco years, much has changed and improved. Now, by the virtue of the M15, values and priorities are advancing. Spain had similar experiences in the past; an example is the environment. However, it is most important that protest are non-violent.
Keyword non-violence. How does the state react?
The eviction of the public square Catalunya in Barcelona is a good example. The police arrived and provoked, yet protesters did not reciprocate/respond violently. The protesters have endured beating, but did not resort to violence themselves. Afterwards, even more people assembled at the square. Furthermore, many conservative thinkers were shocked when faced with the violent behaviour by the police. A new paradigm is about to develop in the Spanish mindset. In the future, politicians cannot fall back on their old tricks.
Are politicians afraid of the movement?
Politicians are beginning to realize that the demonstrations get out of their hand; it defies their control. The governing socialists assure to understand the reasons, yet they deem the movement’s actions unacceptable. The conservative party disregards M15 as a anti-system movement. Yet, all parties have to accept the change and play/govern accordingly. It is about evolution, and not revolution.
How does the media react?
In the beginning, the media reacted unoriented, comparable to the politicians. They wanted to cover the demonstrations, but did not know in what fashion. First, they looked for the leader, the spoke person. Yet, such a position did not exist. Every day there are plenums, arriving at different results. There is no concrete agenda, no contact person. This style has confused the media. They were faced with a new phenomenon; the movement does not work according to media’s expectations. For instance, the language used by the media is an evidence. The label/term ‘the outraged’ is created by the media. And it sounds like a victim and not like a strong movement.
To what extent are the protests incorporated in the Spanish society?
A small minority is camping on public squares. A bigger minority is taking part at the plenums. An even bigger minority, or actually a majority, sympathizes with the movement.
Yet, the foundation of a societal transformation is education; its style, not so much its contents. For instance in schools: it is crucial to teach how to communicate on equal footing, how to arrive at collective solutions. That is the essence of education.
Interview: Lynn Gogolin, Translation: Vanessa Eggert, 07.06.2011
Interview in German language