Politics 15/05/2021

The 'indignados' manifesto does not show the passing of time

The main demands have not been answered despite having been adopted by parties and movements

5 min
Two demonstrators in a 15-M protest, May 2011, at the Plaça del Vino in Girona, in front of the city council.

BarcelonaTo put an end to bipartisanship and the power of banks and business corporations, to put an end to the cuts or to make the constitutional promise of decent housing come true. 15-M managed to place these issues and many others at the centre of public debate and transformed them into demands in the manifestos in Barcelona and Madrid. The movements and parties that emerged from that social outburst (or those that felt challenged) took them up and have defended them ever since, but most of the milestones are still in their infancy and, a decade later, are still valid.

Electoral law

The two-party system survives the rise of new politics

Open lists, single constituencies and seats proportional to votes are some of the proposals that were conceived to put an end to the hegemony of the PP and PSOE. The Spanish electoral system, however, has only undergone minor reforms, and it is only now that Parliament will consider changes to the Loreg to improve the system's proportionality, lower the voting age to 16 or establish zippered lists. Without any of the changes called for ten years ago - not even in Catalonia, the only community without its own electoral law - parties such as Podemos, with many of its leaders involved in 15-M, or Cs managed to shake up the dynamics of the majorities in the State, and the lilacs have reached the Spanish government. The two formations, however, have fallen into crisis and Pablo Iglesias and Albert Rivera have ended up leaving the institutions. The so-called new politics has had a better run in the municipalities, although it has had to accept resignations and contradictions.

Participatory democracy

Vetoed referendums and increased repression of dissent

The aspiration for more citizen participation in political decision-making has not been met. Referendums generate misgivings in the state, which has repressed or vetoed attempts to exercise Catalonia's self-determination, one of the rights demanded in the Barcelona manifesto. The main parties in the state refuse to push for a consultation that opens the door to changing its model, and with the Crown besieged by the scandals of Juan Carlos I and his flight from Spain, there has been a closing of ranks around Felipe VI. The repression of dissent was further compounded by the PP's gag law (2015), in force despite the change of government, and the persecution of artists and tweeters.

Separation of powers

The legacy of Franco's dictatorship remains in the state powers

One of the demands that continues to resonate is that of the effective separation of powers. The judicialisation of the Catalan independence bid has demonstrated the remoteness of this objective, with a patriotic police force, politically motivated sentences and the PP and PSOE vying for control of the Public Prosecutor's Office and the courts. The renewal of the General Council of the Judiciary, whose mandate has been expired since 2018, remains blocked, and the judges' governing body has broken with its impartiality by defending the monarchy, as have military groups - with apology for Francoism included. Calls to recover historical memory crystallised in 2020 with the PSOE's approval of a draft bill committing the Moncloa to take charge of the exhumations of Civil War victims. A year earlier (44 years after his death) came the exhumation of Franco from the Valley of the Fallen.


Convictions in court on both sides of the parliamentary aisle

The "no hay pan para tanto chorizo" (there is no bread for so many chorizos) that was shouted 10 years ago was still unaware of the Bárcenas papers, the ERE case in Andalusia, the Gürtel ruling against PP corruption (2018), and the Palau case, which in the same year condemned CDC for illegally financing itself through the institution. Throughout these ten years, the 3% case has also grown, and the former president of the Generalitat Jordi Pujol - for whom the Public Prosecutor's Office is now asking for 9 years in prison - has confessed to having hidden money in Andorra, a key point in the case that affects his entire family.

Banking system

No nationalisations or return of bailout money

Leaving aside maximum objectives such as the abolition of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank (ECB), the demands to nationalise the banks bailed out by the state - the cost of which amounts to 65.725 billion - and the creation of a public bank were not successful either, despite the reiterated political will to obtain the banking tab for the Institut Català de Finances (Catalan Finance Institute). Nor has it been possible to stop the process of converting the savings banks into banks (there are none left in Catalonia) and the audit of the public debt and the non-payment of what was considered illegitimate that was proposed at the time, included in the programmes of parties such as Podemos, has never arrived.

Cuts and employment

Ten years to recover social investment and new labour reform

The underfunding denounced by health workers during the pandemic still stems from the cuts made after the 2008 crisis. In Catalonia, the government of Artur Mas reduced the budget for health, education and social services by 26%. The state and Catalan accounts have been more expansive in recent years - with some progressive tax reforms - and the Generalitat's 2020 accounts recovered the absolute levels of social spending of 2010. The covid-19 crisis, for the time being, has forced a paradigm shift in which institutions are committed to fleeing from cuts. In the labour field, the fight to end the PSOE's reform (2010) clashed in 2012 with the PP's new reform, which made dismissals even cheaper. The Spanish government's promise to repeal it has yet to be fulfilled, as has the pension reform, which, contrary to the demands of 15-M, will seek a later retirement age. The minimum wage, by the way, is 950 euros, far from the 1,200 euros demanded in 2011.

Housing and environment

Rent bubble keeps evictions on the agenda

The growth of the Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca and the emergence of other movements in defence of decent housing is a success story of 15-M. Two years later, Parliament passed the ILP for dation in payment, but the final result distorted the initial objectives. Since then, the slogan "Not one more eviction" has coexisted with an average of almost 60,000 evictions per year in Spain. And despite the fact that since 2015 the Catalan law has obliged large landlords to offer social rent before evicting vulnerable families, last year there was an average of 15 evictions per day in the country. The increase in rents, the PSOE's misgivings about regulating the market - the Catalan decree to do so is being challenged in the Constitutional Court - and the lack of social housing have forced many families into squatting. More progress has been made in the environmental sphere, with the approval of Spain's first law against climate change and a greater commitment by the parties to green policies.

Defence and foreigners

Military spending soars and CIEs remain in place

The indignados demanded a reduction in military spending or the closure of arms factories, proposals that have had no traction and have clashed with a state that is increasingly involved in the war industry. Spain has been increasing military spending (by 9.4 per cent last year) and the drive of its governments has consolidated the country as the world's seventh largest arms exporter. The 15-M movements have also failed to put an end to the law on foreigners and the closure of detention centres for foreigners, where several NGOs denounce constant police abuse and aggression.