Spain’s New Right-Wing Government Collides with the Indignados

We’re but a few months into the reign of the recently elected People’s Party government that is fully subscribed to European Union pact of austerity. This past weekend over a million came out to protest the worsening of labor conditions that the right-wing government trumpets as labor reform. While this outpouring of opposition from a country ravaged by the economic crisis attracted some international media attention, a showdown in Valencia has escalated and tapped into the energy and frustration of demonstrations led by youths last summer.

As reported in El Pais, what was originally a few dozen students protesting cuts at one school in Valencia has now turned into nation wide protests following indiscriminate assaults by police on students:

From this excessive force, a “Valencian Spring” has taken hold, a protest title dominating social media and increasingly Spanish print media. More significant however is the mobilization across Spain’s various autonomous communities. In Madrid, Barcelona, Grenada, CordobaSeville and cities in between, thousands have descended of headquarters of the conservative party to condemn the violence and education cuts. This wave of solidarity matches the resolve of students in Valencia who’ve carried out three straight days of large protests demanding the resignations of the guilty officials, insisting they’ll return each day to the streets until this small measure of justice is achieved.

Facing this austerity drive guarded by phalanxes of armored riot police, it is easy to forget this country has an unemployment rate higher than Greece. The austerity program is further surrendering a future that already last summer was acknowledged by youths as a concept auctioned off for the exclusive enjoyment of the wealthy. What youths in Spain have is a life suspended between adulthood and years of education meant to prep them for that adulthood.

There’s a sense dispossession to the outrage, a sense grounded in reality as college graduates find themselves living at home with no job or working for free while trying to place one foot through the door of paid employment. This is a potent sense of dispossession across Europe. It is all the more potent in Spain where a government is now telling youths that the solution to their unemployment is to better advantage employers. This won’t bring Spain’s political class anything but misery. Huge numbers of Spanish youths broke from the neoliberal consensus last summer and they won’t be lured back by its most hardline and right-wing elements. Instead, they’re calling for resignations. As the Valencian Spring plays out, they’ll also be looking for what will replace these politicians defending their education cuts with police batons.

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