Diverse flags, four demands on the march to Madrid

Map showing routes and start dates of the six columns marching to Madrid

25th of February. 5 people set out walking from Barcelona. A few days later on 28th February, another 500 start walking from Iruñea and 216 more are marching in Asturíes. They've been the first to start the journey that will converge in Madrid this Saturday the 22nd of March.

The Marches for Dignity started to be organised in September and since then around 150 groups have formed statewide, according to Susana, member of the Marches for Dignity's communications committee in Madrid. In total 6 columns with people from all regions represented will enter Madrid via the state highways and they will join 1000s of people arriving that morning by coach and car. "There have been many people on the walk but it's impossible to say how many people will arrive in Madrid that day," said Susana who points out that they have been permitted a demonstration from Atocha to Plaza Colón.

The Marches for Dignity have gathered together under four main demands: stable work and a basic income; non-payment of debt; quality public services; and against repression and the curtailment of civil liberties. Under these four declarations the Marches have made space to bring together many struggles, most of them related to work. Cándido González, of Gijón, set out on 28th February in the Northwest Column. He's one of the delegates from Asturías's Left Current Union, which played an important role in struggles in the region's shipbuilding and metallurgical industries and in that context was sentenced to three years in prison for sabotage. "We've been working on this convergence since September and now it's becoming a reality," says González. On their march are steelworkers but also other industries, pensioners and the early-retired.

Andrés Bódalo, of the Andalucian Workers Union (Sindicato Andaluz de Trabajadores, SAT) an organisation which was a forerunner of the Marches, cites the problem of unemployment, which in some Andalucian towns effects up to 80% of the population, but also the fight against evictions. Manuel Rodriguez, one of the originators of Camp Dignity in Plasencia, is motivated by the struggle for statewide basic income, on which the March prompted a popular law. Rodriguez denounces the flaws in the basic income model proposed in Extremadura: "We've been sold smoke," he says. For his part, José Manuel Muñoz, general secretary of the CGT says that the mobilization brings together all the unions' demands, from the right to work to repeal of Mordoza's law [restrictions on right to protest] and an end to mortgage evictions.

"The big unions say they're posing a challenge but they're part of the problem, supporting laws, not calling general strikes or not mobilising their members in workplaces at the agreed times," says Pedro Sema, CNT general secretary. That union has also decided to support the mobilisations while making it clear they have no shared interest in electoral calendars or the creation of new political parties. "We think that's the big problem around these mobilisations, their electoral and party-political character. This, the CNT does not support. But in defence of workers, we're all together," underlines Sema. They're not the only ones to criticise the electoral component of the Marches for Dignity convergence. The Assembly of 15M in Linares made clear its dissociation from the organisation for that reason, though they will be taking part in the demonstrations in Madrid on the 22nd. The local committee of SAT in Cadíz mentioned the organisational form as "imposed from above" as one of their reasons for the resignation en masse.

Joining the Struggles
Although cuts and work are the main theme of the Marches, the mobilisation has served as a focal point for other struggles. The mining towns of Aragón, León and Asturías have joined the convergence. In Murcia around 500 marchers departed on Sunday 9th from Santiago el Mayor, site of a struggle for the undergrounding of the AVE (high speed train) route through the city which drew in 1000s from across the region. The departure from Valencía brought more than 100 people to Astilleros Bridge, built at a cost of €2M for an urban Formula 1 race course and used for just those 3 days while severing the neighbourhoods of Grao and Moreras. Action took place against the fences blocking the bridge and it was reclaimed for citizens' use. Before they left the city the marches stopped at Ciutat de Cremona, a childrens' education centre, to support the three week-long sit in by parents opposed to its closure.

The struggle for dignity for prisoners is also present in the mobilisations, with a group making reference to Noelia Cotelo, a victim of tortures during her time in the prison at Ávila. The Mortgage Victims Platform (Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca, PAH), the White, Green and Blues Waves (Mareas Blanca, Verde and Azul), groups of workers from Coca-Cola, Panrico and Madrid transport (EMT) are there with tens of Assemblies from 15M and social organisations like Ecologistas en Acción and Medicins San Frontiers (Médicos del Mundo) have expressed their support for the convergence.

And after the 22nd?
Cándido Rodriguez of Gijón, like many participants in the Marches, sees the convergence in Madrid on the 22nd as a "first step that we think will carry on," a continuity that will emerge that same day at an Assembly to greet the arrival of the columns in Madrid.

The call for a General Strike is one of the initiatives that will be put to that Assembly. "This is our idea, a General Strike in Autumn," explains Muñoz Poliz, who indicates that the march isn't the only objective and that a further plan is necessary. Pedro Sema agrees with him: "It's a necessary step in workers' struggle and the workers are those who have to march and make demands, but they've been abandoned by the majority unions who have been acting as fireguards with a policy of mild responses, without opposing the big attacks on workers and rights." On what can be expected from the convergence, Sema shows optimism: "I've the hope that there'll be a Before and an After. Let's leave the pessimism for better times," he concludes.

A translation of this article in Periodico Diagonal

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hellfrozeover
Mar 20 2014 00:42

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  • I've the hope that there'll be a Before and an After. Let's leave the pessimism for better times.

    Pedro Sema, CNT secretary

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