Each moment has its milestone, but it seems to form part of a more or less sinuous or diffuse dotted line, the beginning of which is no longer visible and the end of which cannot be glimpsed. “We slept, we woke up”, it was said in the 15M, 10 years ago now. “And what about those of us who have been fighting since the anti-Franco regime?” Some were stirring, “weren’t we awake?” “Are all politicians the same?” Argued others. But that “we slept, we woke up” was a cry of collective expression of discontent in Spain. Not so much Adamist, although it was a baptism for many; as well as a decantation as a result of the previous thing, which at the same time would become the epicenter of what would come later and opened a new time in the relationship between citizens and politics, in which society wove new networks and claimed itself as a subject political, and in which debates that until now seemed out of all conversation were addressed. Even if it was not immediately afterwards: in that same May 2011, in which people asked to be heard in the squares and expressed their dissatisfaction with the representation mechanisms – “real democracy now” -, Esperanza Aguirre revalidated her absolute majority and, seven months later, the person who got it was Mariano Rajoy.
The 15M was both an arrival and a starting point, in the sense that not only some of those who had been “awake” for a long time converged in its squares, but also other previous points of the same line: the movements that, almost a decade before, brought together citizens from different social, political and union activists, such as Never More (2002); the No to War (2003); or the V of Vivienda (2006), among others.
All these movements have something in common: the connection of diverse people in the challenge of political and economic powers for the management of universal problems, such as the crisis of democratic representation; unequal distribution of profits and losses; environment; peace; home; public services; social rights; or heteropatriarchy. 15M was a burst of all that, but it wasn’t just that, and around 15M other types of tides were born, drank and converged that, one way or another, go up and down: that of public education, that of public health, the climate, that of precariousness, that of public water, against evictions and the rescue of banks; for the desire to transform society.
As early as 2003, eight years before 15M, there was a cross-section of citizens who were challenging a government that, with lies, was leading their country to the war in Iraq. In other words, stanzas began to be written that would become the soundtrack of 15M: “They don’t represent us.” To that “they do not represent us” was added an ingredient that was surely fundamental to articulate the 15M: the economic crisis and its management – “It is not a crisis, it is a scam” -, with an eye on the banks, corruption and the electoral system, as a study by the University of Salamanca points out.
The punishment of the Popular Party for the war and the 11M led José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero to La Moncloa in 2004 shouting “don’t fail us.” But in May 2010, a year before the 15M, Zapatero approved the biggest cuts in the history of Spain so far; and in August 2011 he amended article 135 of the Constitution in the hands of the PP to prioritize the payment of the debt to any expense. However, 2011 ended with a government of Mariano Rajoy with an absolute majority after the elections of 20N, which applied in Spain even more cuts, an “aggressive” labor reform, as Luis de Guindos said, and the intervention of the EU for the rescue banking, including some savings banks that have ended up disappearing due to their management –tarjetas black included.
Thus, the 15M indicated the failures of the system – # 404 -; he demanded real democracy; denounced the consequences of austerity; He put a face and eyes on both those responsible for the crisis and the victims of it; and ended up concluding that the Spain of 2011 needed a different suit from the one made in 1978.
With the 15M, common sense began to change sides –And 10 years later there are elements that forged it still present and other new ones–, and with this, they began to look at the top of the system in a different way –King Juan Carlos and his scandals–; to those who embodied success in times of cuts –businessmen and bankers, signaled by evictions, bank bailouts, power cuts and supplies, millionaire retirements–; and the two large parties that had monopolized – and professionalized – institutional politics – due to their cases of corruption, which ended up evicting the PP from the Government in 2018, or the express reform of 135 -.
Some parties that also underwent their transformation, as seen with the return of Pedro Sánchez to the leadership of the PSOE outside the party apparatuses, a step prior to winning the first motion of no confidence in history without even being a deputy, after the coup of hand of Susana Díaz. Or in the rise of Pablo Casado to the presidency of the PP, ahead of those who were number two in the Government and the party, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría and María Dolores de Cospedal, respectively. Or that Alberto Garzón became an IU deputy for Malaga at the age of 26 in December 2011.
The 15M was a first shock –or perhaps the decantation of previous shocks like the white and green tides– of what came later: its first anniversary, massive; the mining march; the escraches of the PAH; the first surrounds Congress; the first marches for dignity; the emergence of Podemos; the abdication of Juan Carlos; the mayoralties of change –headed by Ada Colau and Kichi, in Barcelona and Cádiz–; the feminist overflows of 25N and 8M; or the independence days passing through the 1-O. Of course, according to the study from the University of Salamanca, most of the participants in the 15M leaned to the left.
Each of the outbursts signaled a failure in the system: corruption; the crisis of democratic and participatory processes; inequality; The effects of the crisis; evictions; the scandals of the monarchy; the detachment of the rulers with their governed and vice versa; the increasingly bitter territorial coffee for all; machismo and heteropatriarchy.
And then there are those who, taking advantage of the persistent dissatisfaction and the pandemic, ignite that Trumpist and far-right populism that is stirring in some places.
The 1978 system is based on a great pact between the elites of Francoism and those of anti-Francoism, pushed by a society that was no longer for dictatorships and a European environment in which the Spanish was the last. And in this context a great pact is reached, embodied in a Constitution with seven fathers –not mothers– that established some blocked democratic channels in the election of the head of State –monarchy–; that they prioritized the parties as the main agents of an eminently representative institutional policy; and that, although it divided Spain between regions and nationalities, it preferred to tend towards uniformity. And the 15M opens the debate, among other issues, on the Transition and the political culture that it gave birth to.
If in 2011 the Catalan, Galician and Basque nationalist parties added 8.67% of the votes; now they add up to 9%, but, except for the PNV, the rest are no longer nationalists, but sovereignists. Of course, if in 2011 the majority of the extreme right vote was largely channeled through the PP; In 2019 15% of the votes are from Vox and the far right has 52 seats in Congress.
And if in the 15M, in the abdication of Juan Carlos, or in the elections of 20D or 26J or on 1-O, the order of 78 did not finish dying and the new one did not finish being born; what has been taking place is an adaptation to change, fighting for everything to change so that everything remains the same versus everything changing so that nothing remains the same. An example of this tug of war is that the coalition government is sealed in November 2019 between Pedro Sánchez and Pablo Iglesias, although the numbers already gave from 20D 2015, three electoral appointments before.
In that struggle, pandemic through, a decade later, the seats were emptied, those who voted for the first time in the November 2019 elections, were barely ten years old in the 15M; The political movements that emerged as a result of the 15M and with people coming from those positions –We can in 2014 and the mayoralties of change in 2015, fundamentally–, have been losing electoral power since their peaks in 2015. And if you look at the composition of Congress of the Deputies, the differences are significant.
In 2011, PP and PSOE, after the elections of 20N, six months after 15M, added 73.39% of the votes (44.63% plus 28.76%), followed by IU (6.92%). Ten years later, Congress, after the November 2019 elections, paints a very different picture. PSOE and PP add together 48.81% (28% plus 20.81%); followed by Vox (15.08%), Unidas Podemos (12.84%) and Ciudadanos (6.8%).
But there are more changes: in 2011, UPyD, now defunct, got 4.7%; and CiU, also disappeared, 4.17%; and there were 13 groups in Congress. In 2019, there are 19, and some of them did not show up because they had not been born yet, like Podemos, the common, Más País, Teruel Existe, CUP or EH Bildu –although then Amaiur was there, although it did not group so many nationalist sectors–. And the most significant in the institutional: For the first time in 80 years, the center-left or center-right bipartisanship does not rule alone, but there is a coalition government. And, for the first time since the Republic, there are party ministers to the left of the PSOE.
Will there be another citizen overflow? Is society asleep waiting to wake up? The last large overflowing mobilizations have had different triggers, catalysts that have thrown millions of people into the streets with the illusion that everything was possible, as has happened with the feminist mobilizations of 8M; for or against 1-O in Catalonia, in which it seemed that each throat could be decisive.
¿What will be the next Gamonal, Alluding to the mobilizing outbreak of the Burgos neighborhood in 2014? Precariousness and cuts if from 2023 the EU cuts the spending tap? The climate crisis? The Republican horizon? The Catalan independence movement? Or will it come from the opposite side, in a sort of 18 Brumaire of the right riding the wave of recentralization, pandemic denialism, Spanish neo-Trumpism and a kind of mourinhismo from Madrid?
It can jump at any time, but, for now, nothing has proven to be as overwhelming, mobilizing and transversal as the feminist movement, a declared target of the extreme right.