postvirtual

Budget Night

In Madrid, Spain on 24 October 2012 at 02:17

October 24, 0140 hrs.

Dear people,

After a month of recess, 25S ‘Surround Congress’ has reconvened. Thousands of people were there, far too many to take part in either the assembly on the debt (on the left side of the barricades) or the assembly on the constituent assembly (on the right side of the barricades).

The call had been to paper the barriers with messages and proposals, and so people did. Lots of stuff. The idea behind it was to do something different from last month. In that respect, we also marched around congress through the alleys, singing and chanting. But they didn’t less us come far. At the end of Calle Lope de Vega, six police officers and one lechera blocked the way. Collective intelligence went in tilt. After a quarter of an hour, we turned around and headed back down to Neptuno in victorious retreat. There was a musical band to receive us.

That’s how the evening started to end. I greet many familiar faces, some of whom have come from outside of town. I meet an old friend, he has just arrived here from his night shift in the hospital. Lots of things have changed for the worse since the last time we spoke.

As far as he is personally concerned, his wage has been slashed by 30 percent, he puts in more hours, his taxes are raised, his job is at risk, and unemployment benefits are being cut. On top of that, he could be fined for taking part in this demonstration.

As far as his employer is concerned, it has seen better days. Private contractors are moving in to take over more and more branches of the hospital. Apparently, in Castilla la Mancha privatisation is almost complete, and now the corporations are eying for Madrid.

Not only medical personnel is having a hard time. Austerity has also struck the municipal cleaning department. The frequency of collection has been decreased. Workers can be laid off. Trash is piling in the streets.

In particular, the budget cuts of the government strike the latest generation of civil servants, the ones who were hired on temporary contracts that will not be renewed. The older generation will have to do more for less, but they are still safe. Private enterprises follow the government’s example and treat their workers accordingly, “or worse.”

As far as the country as a whole is concerned, my friend is still one of the lucky ones. The amount of evictions of people from their homes is rising fast. By now, (former) middle class families are being thrown out on the streets. Generally, these people bought their homes a few years ago when prices were crazy. Those who could afford it bought a second house as an investment, believing prices would never go down. Spain’s building frenzy was unmatched in Europe. Now there’s no-one who would buy those houses. They lay vacant.

Here in Madrid, very silently, but on a wide scale, individuals and collectives have started to open up homes for themselves and for those who have been evicted.

They live like Morlocks, underground; they are forever burdened by debt. Being forced to live out on the street is not enough. Your mortgage stands, until it’s paid off in full.

Not so long ago, Spanish ‘Bankia’ bank imploded and was resuscitated with public funds by the government. Since yesterday, about fifteen people are camping in front of Bankia headquarters. They demand, at the very least, that the mortgage debts of those evicted are extinguished. “If Bankia is ours”, one of the slogans says, “then give us back our homes.”

We’re at the barricades, it’s eleven PM. The parliamentarians come out. They have been discussing the proposed ‘budget of the debt’. People yell their slogans at them, then they go home, if they have a home to go to.

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