An impressive rally was held in Edinburgh on Monday only hours after King Juan Carlos announced his abdication thousands of miles away in Spain. The protest of upto 150 people was called to coincide with mass demonstrations in cities all across Spain and amongst Spanish communities abroad. Edinburgh has a very large community of young Spaniards and they now constitute one of the largest groups in the city. They have come in their thousands after being driven into economic exile by the failures of the capitalist economy in Spain to provide even a basic living and hope for the future.
Unemployment levels amongst the youth are astronomically high and wages and working conditions are under attack everywhere. The government of the PP acts with arrogant impunity as it systematically reduces the country to ruins in order to preserve the current corrupt system. The present regime is tied hand and foot to the discredited political settlement imposed during the ‘transition to democracy’ which King Juan Carlos was a key figure in securing – a fact the bourgeois press find honourable. However, this democracy has only proved to be a democracy for the wealthy oligarchy allowing them to oppress and rob the Spanish people. The present protests against the monarchy feed into the general rejection of the political and economic system as a whole. It forms the latest response to the crisis after a build-up of mass mobilisations, strikes and campaigns in recent years demanding an end to savage austerity and a future where the needs of the people are put first.
The present protests also reflect a natural continuation of the demands that Spanish people have made for 4 years now, summarised into the original slogan of May 2011 ‘Real Democracy Now!’. Significantly, the demands for a referendum have come solely from the left (i.e. United Left, the new formation Podemos, and Equo, and supported by trade unionists), which represents a general move to the offensive for a left wing traditionally used to being on the defence. Not surprisingly, the near-to extinct PSOE has continued supporting the monarchy, even though its Youth section has formally come out in support of a referendum.
In Edinburgh the protest was remarkably well attended given it relied on word of mouth and at a very short notice. The mood was jubilant and bold with chants like ‘The Borbons to the sharks’ and ‘Spain tomorrow will be republican’. It was clear that there is a real thirst for an alternative to the current status quo. Copies of the Lucha de Clases (The Spanish section of the IMT) statement on the abdication, which argues for a socialist republic, were enthusiastically received and protesters helped distribute them amongst the demonstration, provoking political discussions. This was probably no coincidence as the abdication of the King has been seized as an opportunity for breaking with the monarchy along with the hated political system and opening the road for radical change and real democracy.
Denying this referendum to the people further exposes the anti-democratic character of the Spanish state, which is now hoping that a new, younger face untouched (so far) by the political scandals of corruption and fraud surrounding the monarchy as well as the traditional parties, will bring some kind of stability and confidence in the regime. The PP government hope that somehow by ignoring the vast majority of the population, it will all go away. However this class struggle for power will not be disappearing and the events in Spain will be reminding the ruling classes throughout the world that their days are numbered.