In 2011, Time magazine chose 'the protestor' as their person of the year. The Arab world had witnessed a wave of protest, sweeping past borders and land. Nearer to home, we too saw protestors take to the square. 'Los Indignados' protests, under the new 'occupy' label, had spread across the west like a virus, spontaneously emerging from country to country, city to city. Over the last 3 years we all witnessed the tragically violent consequences of the Arab Spring. Yet, the protest movements across the west seemed to simply trickle out, leaving many to ask what has happened to all those who had sought change?
In Spain, the country from which this new 21st century protest movement emerged, we are seeing those protestors rise again only this time at the ballot box. Podemos was founded in January this year; after four months of existence it lay fourth in the European elections, gaining nearly 8% of the Spanish vote. This week, polls suggest that it has overtaken every other established party to top the Spanish list.
Podemos' rapid ascent through Spanish politics is a reflection of the unstable political and economic foundations on which Spain stands upon. Deep resentment against the political class has long been entrenched within the Spanish electorate. Since 2012, the two major Spanish parties (PP, PSOE) have rapidly the support of the electorate. Such lack of faith in the major parties should seem familiar to the British people. We are well aware of the growing resentment against the political establishment in the UK; people simply do not trust the mainstream political parties and why should they? The distant bland rhetoric of the parties is only interrupted when they lie to their voters.
It is well known that the economic crisis has cut Spain more deeply than the UK. Youth unemployment in Spain lies at 53% and has led to a generation that sees no future in its economic and political system. In the UK, youth unemployment is less high at just over 16% but these figures ignore the huge number of people doing part-time work, part-time apprenticeships and unpaid internships. Slowly young British people are beginning to feel outraged by governmental austerity that seems to be unfairly directed towards them
It almost appears as if the government has taken a calculated risk to direct disproportionate austerity policies against a disenfranchised group that consistently fails to turn out at elections whilst protecting those (pensioners) who vote the most. To accuse the government of paying off those who vote is perhaps a step too far, yet it cannot be denied that the youth in this country are suffering. This generation of young people are the first in post-war Britain who expect to be worse off than their parents. A university degree costs roughly £27,000 in tuition debt, £20,000 in living debt, and hundreds of lost hours at part-time minimum wage jobs. Upon graduation, young people who have monetary backing will fight for unpaid internships, whilst the rest will be forced back into the part-time jobs they occupied whilst studying. The future seems dim from a youthful perspective.
'Los Indignados' movement trickled away into the underground; those who were a part of it examined themselves and their future. They came to the conclusion that the old parties and the old system was one that could not continue. 'Los Indignados' chose to take their protest to the ballot box and let the electorate decide. In the UK, young people are still marching, still occupying and still fighting just as they were and still do in Spain. However, Podemos should serve as a warning to the British political class. If you kick us too hard, we could just kick you back.