“La crisis,” Madrid 14-N

November 16, 2012

Manifestations in Madrid on the day of the general strike, November 14, 2012. Photos Martin Minchom.

Mass demonstrations were held in Spain and other parts of Europe this week to protest against the austerity measures being imposed throughout the European Union. Depending on who you believe, the demonstration in Madrid on November 14 mobilized as many as one million people (according to its union organizers) or as few as 35,000 (according to the offical version). The latter figure, par for the course with this government, carries about as much conviction as Groucho Marx’s “Who are you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?” More plausibly, the newspaper El País estimated the number of protesters at about 175,000–not remotely like the organizers’ figure, but still huge.

There was a general strike, too, on Wednesday, the second since the conservative Partido Popular government took power a year ago. But since the 15-M movement of the indignados began, protesters have been quite impatient of the older institutional framework of unions and political parties. The strike was followed in unionized sectors like public transport, but shops or cafés nearly all stayed open. Strike and you lose a day’s pay, just a few weeks before Christmas, when things couldn’t be tighter. Do it when you’re working in the wrong job and you might even be the one for the chop a few months later. Almost certainly, some people worked during the day and joined the demonstration in the evening.

Here are one or two photos that I took in the center of Madrid on Wednesday evening. Republican flags are now quite popular among younger people, although I don’t know how “political” that is or whether it is simply a way of annoying their elders. (For a different reappearance of Republican flags, see Spain’s Republican Flag Reappears.) On my long walk home I passed the Lope de Vega Theater where the one show open in the center, the musical version of the Lion King, was being vigorously picketed.