The protests in Spain are turning into something of a revolution. Modeling themselves after the protesters of the ‘Arab Spring’, Spanish youth are taking to the streets in a rage against the austerity measures that are destroying the country’s economy.
One major problem, however, is that the movement is leaderless and doesn’t seem to offer a clear alternative. Some have lauded this as a step forward. In quasi-anarchist fashion they claim that such a new leaderless movement will bring some sort of ‘new democracy’ to Spain.
To be frank, we’ve heard all this before. This is exactly the rhetoric that the students in 1968 put forward in their protest movements. They claimed that revolutions didn’t need leaders — indeed, some went as far as to say that leadership would corrupt the movement itself.
Unsurprisingly, the revolutions of 1968 burnt out — leaving little real political change in their wake.
So, how do we prevent something similar happening to the protest movements in Spain? I propose that we use them as a springboard to try to get alternative ideas across to the population. The protest movement gives dissenters a chance to get an alternative message across to the people of Spain. The mainstream press will be searching for protesters with a coherent vision or alternative program beyond vague rhetoric.
So, how do you make sure that this message gets across? Well, first you need a message. So, here’s one that appears to me to fit rather well with the protesters otherwise vague rhetoric.
Okay, so the protesters have serious gripes with international financiers dictating government spending projects. So how should they counteract this? Simple, they should put forward a viable alternative.
The US economist Warren Mosler put forward such an alternative in an interview he gave recently. He said that the EU should give member-states a certain amount of money — he suggested 20% of their GDP per year — in order to fund government expenditure. This would allow the governments to spend money on providing employment and services without having to go to the bond markets.
This is an excellent suggestion. So how should the Spanish — or any of the other so-called PIIGS — push forward with this? Simple. They should push their politicians to force the EU to comply with this demand. If the EU refuses to comply the Spanish government should threaten to exit the single-currency. By doing this they could fund the spending programs themselves.
That’s the message. Keep it Simple:
(1) The Spanish government has to put pressure on the EU to give them and other periphery countries money to fund public expenditure (i.e. government spending on employment and services), so that these countries don’t have to be squeezed by the international financiers in the bond markets.
(2) If the EU refuse, the Spanish government should threaten to pull out of the Eurozone, reissue its own currency and fund these public projects themselves.
Protesters should then be clear that the only alternative to this program is perpetual unemployment, low wages and extremely low-growth. They should also be as clear and concise as possible when advocating this program. They don’t need to go into details of how it should work — hell, they don’t even have to know these details (if you do want details, email me at pilkingtonphil.at.gmail.com) — this should be seen as a purely political program.
Okay, so that’s the message sorted; now how do you get it out there? Well, you could just turn off your computer this minute and run into the street shouting loudly — but I don’t suggest it. Instead, seek out the key voices in the movement. The media is saying that there is no leadership — while this may be true in one sense, I’ll bet my socks that in another sense it isn’t.
There are always key voices in a movement — there was in May ’68 and I guarantee there are in May ’11. Look for the people that are publicly speaking and drawing crowds. Look for the popular websites, blogs and Facebook pages that the protesters are frequenting. Immerse yourself in the protest movement for a few hours, talk to some people, see from where and from whom they are drawing their inspiration.
When you figure this out, contact these people. Either approach them in person or email them. Explain that the gripes they have are extremely important, but in order to really change the political discourse they must have a coherent alternative. Tell them that the key is to push the government in the direction laid out above. Tell them that they should not give up their rhetoric — their rhetoric is one of their most important assets — but they must put an alternative solution front and center.
If they are clear about their alternative — especially if they are clear when asked about it by the mainstream press — you will soon see this alternative discourse turning up all over the place. The press will run it and then, if you’re lucky, they will confront mainstream politicians with it. Even if these politicians dismiss it — which they probably will if they are confronted with it — it still makes its way into the debate (“All press is good press” and all that).
Such a change in discourse may even spread further and begin to influence the political election. You really never know how far these things can go… at least, not until you try.
So Spaniards — and members of other countries where protest movements develop — stop being lazy. Stop commenting on internet articles and the like. Find a real outlet for your opinions — one that plugs into the population as a whole. Don’t let the debate be dominated by those that advocate cuts and those that advocate less cuts. Don’t let the protest movement burn out without leaving a trace. You have a chance to really make yourself heard, but you have to be clever about it — I strongly suggest that you take this opportunity.