News from the debt crisis in Spain and the rise of a global response


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20 de Nov 2012

By Raúl F. Millares / Translation: Susana Macías Pascua

‘I’ve been dismissed’. One of the last to speak these words was Anna Bosch, one of those faces and voices that give TV news its proverbial familiarity. Bosch has been foreign correspondent in London for TVE (Spanish abbreviation for Spanish TV) since August 2009, but as she admitted in her now famous tweet: “They can give orders at the point of a finger and fire you at the point of a finger.”

The list of renowned names and faces that are vanishing from TV screens has kept growing since the end of June, when Julio Samoano, from Telemadrid (regional TV channel, widely accused of patronizing the Government’s party), assumed the role of director of news with a promise launched also by Twitter: “I’ll work out of my skin for a TVE with plural, objective and top-quality news”. Soon after the ‘purge’ began and Samoano is still in full possession of his skin. This term, “purge”, quickly caught on and it is repeated very persistently when speaking with the staff. The exits of Ana Pastor (Los desayunos – breakfast news show) and Xabier Fortes (La noche en 24 horas – evening news show) drew a little too much attention, and the new director of the board, Leopoldo González-Echenique, had to appear before Parliament to refute the existence of a policy of ‘ethnic’ cleansing. The bloodbath on the radio also has left a trail of well-known names that will no longer be heard on RNE (Spanish abbreviation for National Radio of Spain). Cases like Juan Ramón Lucas (En días como hoy) or Javier Gallego (Carne Cruda) have captured the attention of the media, but the denied purge shows signs of spreading to the rest of the staff, who do not have familiar names or famous faces.

The alarm bells have been sounded by the union section of Worker’s Commissions (CCOO is the Spanish abbreviation) that claims to have reliable information about the board’s plans “for the dismissal of 1,800 workers”. The channel denies that there will be large scale redundancies, but union sources consulted by DIAGONAL have reaffirmed their predictions. What is certain is that RTVE faces further cost adjustments of more than 50 million euros for 2013, this in addition to the reduction of 204.8 million in costs in the current exercise. For next year, management hopes to obtain sponsorship deals and sales of 28.3 million Euros, leaving the definitive budget at 941 million Euros, 24.7 million less than in 2012.

Wage cuts


Many of the staff´s worries stem from these figures. The board will have admitted to the employee representatives its intention to reduce by 25% the wage bill of the corporation (this being the main budgetary expense of the entity, accounting for 40% of the total annual budget). How then to undertake a cutback, representing a quarter of a company’s the wage bill, whilst maintaining employee numbers? A strained atmosphere in the editorial departments has turned RTVE into a strange place where journalists do not feel they can speak out. “You´re not publishing that”; “Don´t use my name” or “I cannot tell you who that was” are undesirable phrases to the ear of any journalist; however it is now normal in RTVE to hear them from the mouth of its professionals. “The most concerned are the contractors”, maintains R., one of the employees of RTVE who prefers to remain anonymous. He is referring to the half thousand out of 6.400 workers who are not on permanent contracts and are therefore much easier to dispense with. “People who have two years of practice behind them are not having their contracts renewed”, he condemns.

“Some of them sense strange movements, like the merger of the website editorial with that of the TV: sold as an attempt to encourage multi-screen innovations, but the fear is that this will lead to lay-offs and transferrals of people from the web to the TV. There are even those who see it as a way of putting the web also under the command of Samoano”, explains V., another editor who prefers to omit his name. “We are all scared although there are only rumours and suppositions. We have even considered that conjectures about large scale redundancies may be intended only to soften the blow of intended salary reductions and make us feel that it has not been so bad after all”, he adds.

Along with these fears, a general sensation of anger is occurring. “We were doing a good job, and everything they are doing is so brazen...”, says M., another experienced journalist in the entity, one of these familiar faces not on our screens anymore. She does not even have strength enough to answer: “I am very upset and I’d rather not say anything else. I hope you understand”.

Editorials merge

At the beginning of October, the editorial of’ web (which had editorial independence up to then) without any notice given, fell under the command of Channel 24H of TVE. This integration provoked a harsh reaction from the Interactive Media News Board. As they point out, nobody informed them of the decision until “30 minutes before it was communicated to rest of the staff”, nor had they been consulted in advanced. The Board shares the same fears that the staff consulted by DIAGONAL do and hopes that this incorporation “not be used to cover the possible staff shortage in the Channel 24 H and that it should not be a way to assert publishing control over the information of It has been explained to us that in the short term there will not be big changes. Nevertheless, we know nothing of the long term: what exactly will be the role of the editors”.

[This article was originally published in Spanish on October 31th 2012]

02 de Jul 2012

By Francesco Maria Evangelisti (Communication, Politics & Social Change Studies Group, Compolíticas) / Translated by Robert Dyas.

The Euro 2012 advertisement from Coca-Cola praises the fantastical idea of a Spanish “wonderland” with a chin-up attitude to the markets. I would not usually dedicate my time to the analysis of Coca-Cola advertisements but in this particular case the marketing agency McCann seems to me to have entered the realm of propaganda and it is worth a second look.


The 48 second ad can be divided into 2 sections. The first has no narrating voice, the sound occupied instead by the famous “get behind them” (“a por ellos”) that has substituted the “no we can’t” and “es-pa-ná” in the popular tradition of Spanish football team chants. The video starts with a panoramic view of a stadium where a match is being played. Next the focus moves into the depths of the stadium and the first point worthy of analysis is offered up: there is someone flying a Union Jack. Given this is the Euros and not the Olympics, it is surprising that someone has turned up at the stadium with a flag of a country that isn’t competing (United Kingdom). A more critical eye, given the long history of events in the straits of Gibraltar, might think this more than an oversight.

The next image is of an angry looking german smearing war-paint on his face in colours of the german flag, something that in these times of disguised bailouts, does not require further comment. The next group are the irish, another of the PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Spain) that should have better things to do than give it large in a central square; the dutch are passed by, but soon, while one is still vaguely remembering that Iniesta’s goal in the last world cup came from a corner that was not given to Holland, a flash of blue throws up the crisis fetish word: the risk premium (“prima de riesgo” – variable rate paid by the government when issuing bonds, a popular current daily news topic in Spain), itself an invention of the elite as an explanation to the masses for why they should soon be returned to their original role of slaves, an invention invoked at every opportunity and in any context.

Less than a second later, with just enough time to grasp the concept while a few english pass by (evidently not represented by the Union Jack this time), they appear, Spain’s Nemesis, the Other that allows one to define oneself and feel, although its not clear why, a little better: the italians. From the defensive and provocotive italians (see the gesture of the fan, apparently a typical gesture with the fingers arched indicating violence) we turn to another image on a computer screen. The blog Reporteros Freepress Reporters, an invention of the marketing company using the style and language of citizen journalism, that reminds us that there are 5 million unemployed in Spain (including you who is watching the television). For the next picture the authors decide upon a false article entitled “Europe has no confidence in Spain”. To create this they use a text published in El Confidencial (national newspaper) and, on the falsified page (with a very similar design to El País) they use a photograph that is pure poetry, picturing two unknowns that could be any politician. One looks like Rajoy, a bit darker, apologies for the reference.

The next image to appear is a danish chap jumping around and the following frame is of one of these screens that dictate our lives in the stock exchanges across the world, that indicates the umpteenth demolition of the spanish markets. That is just the prologue to a series of images ever present in the contemporary western episteme: a few stock traders, a building site with no workers, a block of flats in the middle of nowhere, residues of a street battle etc. After this we hear the voice of an english newsreader that, no doubt, is not reading good news and other supposed web pages then appear.

The main title of the first page is “Corruption is suffocating Spain”, the subheadings are: “Financial innovation does not mean death” (in english), “Analysis of the bailout plans” and the emblematic “Saving trend hits laminate flooring sales”. Then, at a dizzy pace, the others arrive: “Stockmarkets flagging”, “Financial Chaos”, “Financial asphixiation” and “Free Fall”. We can only read these by pausing the video. In this climax, a second of silence, and the narration comes back to that famous match between Holland and Spain and the studs in the chest of Xabi Alonso. We see a player picking himself up in pain and this is the key moment in the advertisement because, in the face of such injustice, a spectator rips up the newspaper with the “Free Fall” headline. He tears it to pieces and throws is from the stand creating a ticker-tape effect that we view from the centre of the pitch.

Get behind them!

The chant returns, the game restarts and another series of images begins, heterogenous in form and content: “España, first country in the world in organ donorship”, another website announces; “Together we can” on a hand written sign, the first to imitate the language used in the 15M demonstrations. Next some fishermen (a sector with plenty of problems); a child writing (an act that will probably be reserved in a few years only for those that have an uncle in the church); one of the many trains unveiled in recent years that don’t go anywhere; images taken from the archives of the more prestigious times of some volunteers; a video from Youtube where a darling tells us that “spanish technology companies increase sales” (by relocating to China they should add); little ribbons in the colours of various charitable organisations; a poster for blood donations; a “We are all Lorca” (the town but maybe referring to the poet as well) written in the style of a well-known social network; and volunteers from the Red Cross that give way to the “disaster” that the debate has generated: the use in marketing of the the popular demonstration, what Carlos Taibo has dubbed: “Seudo 15M iconography”.

The 15M is never cited but, as Roland Barthes has noted, the polysemy charges the image with ambiguities and multi-purpose meanings that, to be avoided, require the intervention of a string of devices that steer the interpretation precisely and without contradiction. In this case these devices, the “anchors”, are represented by the already mentioned social network and another two: the united and organized crowd and the occupations (acampadas). The camera reveals the interior of a tent in the camp in an urban square (the Puerta del Sol – central square Madrid) and then returns to the football fans, painting an idealised path that unites all in one commodification. The rhetoric of Coca-Cola is confided by a voice that accompanies the last images with this phrase: “We’re going to show Europe just what we’re capable of when we’re united.” On the football pitch firstly and then, maybe, well we’ll see.

Positive identity

One could interpret that the intention was to create a dramatic narrative that, while still reminding us that according to some, we live in a valley of tears and destruction, surrounded by europeans that want to take everything from us (from the public companies to the European Cup), Spain still has a positive identity (reflected as much in the donation of organs as in the popular demonstrations). Therefore whatever is happening, it can’t be that bad: relax, have a soft drink and distract yourself with the football.

What reflexions are provoked by this ad? What can we do with these relexions? The first, that incorporates all the rest, is that Walter Benjamin and some others in Frankfurt were right after all: in the culture of industry, nothing escapes from commodification, as seen with numerous counter-cultures and suppposed alternatives in the past 50 years. Zizek in his, First as tragedy, then as farce, explains that Starbucks uses the language and imagery of “alternatives” to present itself as an ethical product to its audience. The second is that the new structure of the audiovisual languages, used by those producing videos for the recent social movements, has proven, in a quantitative sense, its potency. It is being co-opted by “power” and this itself steers us to another reflexion.

It confirms that the initial success of the 15M in spreading anti-capitalist material was due to, amongst many other things, the realization that the rites of the system could be used and exploited, in other words, commercial publicity, political language and communication channels. Some of the strategies propagated in the material on the social networks, and reflected in the traditional media, have been similar to those in recent years to launch new products through online marketing. This advertisement proves in this case that Power has also learnt, on a larger scale, the populist language and its uses for their own ends, the reification of what was at the start simply a spontaneous expression.

The conclusion that I reach from this analysis is that the channel is not itself the message. Grassroots strategies should take advantage of the fact that the culture of industry now needs to include the “new popular” in their marketing, in the sense of “from the people” and the “celebrated” to pursue its objectives. It could be interpreted as a provocation but I sincerely believe that the properly prepared “indignant”, that sneaks into the next Big Brother and uses their language and dynamics, would achieve a connection with an audience that does not usually use the internet to learn how they are being exploited. If “Power” speaks “your” language to sell more cans of soft drink, you should use theirs, down to the most base and visceral, to colour your ideas and social imaginations.


[This article was originally published in Spanish on June 26th 2012]

08 de Jun 2012

By Marta G. Franco (DIAGONAL editorial) / Translated by Robert Dyas

The 15th May 2011 was the start of the increase in activity within social movements that we have witnessed in recent months. The governing parties have yet to pick up on the atmosphere in the street. Contempt for them grows as initiatives of self-organisation abound.

A year on from the protests of 15th May 2011, it might appear as though none of the demands have been met. However, a closer look reveals real changes that the 15M movement has achieved in several areas.


Housing: Repossessions and Occupations

The most constant, visible and successful actions carried out by the 15M activists have been the repossession blockades. Although the Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (PAH)  (Platform For Those Affected by Mortgages) existed before, their activity has grown in the past 11 months and, with the assistance of the popular assemblies, they have been able to impede 230 repossession orders across the country. Using popular pressure and legal advice, the PAH lends effective support to those affected so they are able to renegotiate debt and find affordable rentals.

The platform concentrates specifically on mortgaged homes but other groups also act to prevent repossessions. The Associació 500x20 in Barcelona for example, "In the neighbourhood of Ciudad Meridiana, the indignants and neighbours have succeeded in preventing all repossessions in March", says Antoni from the association. His colleague Salva explains that the "15M has found in the home a more practical means (of struggle) than on other fronts. Prevention of repossessions are small triumphs that help ordinary people".

Some of those subject to repossession are choosing to squat homes. The 15M has facilitated this with initiatives such as Edifici 15O in Barcelona and the Hotel Madrid. Although the latter was evicted, in its time it contributed to the improvement of the public perception of squatting and generated a network that continues to make flats available. In addition, the assemblies founded in the plazas have been occupying empty buildings since autumn from where they operate. In Madrid there are 7 new social centres and at least 8 assemblies from other cities have done the same.

Support Networks: Neighbourhoods Out in the Street

Upon the lifting of the campsites, the 15M wanted to expand its assemblies into the neighbourhoods. Carmen Espinar, from the Madrid neighbours association La Flor (the Flower) and expert in neighbourhood participation, commented that in some areas the "life of the neighbourhood has been revitalised". From the packed assemblies of the first weeks, "that served as a reminder that the plazas are not simply places of transit", have evolved more operational meetings; "they are working in small affinity groups and there are more activists that a year ago although you may not notice them". For Espinar the associative fabric of the community was dormant and "the 15M was the injection that has led to different things now happening, more dynamic and beautiful things".

One of the collectives that felt that push was the Brigadas de Observación de Derechos Humanos (the Human Rights Observation Brigade). For 2 years they have been documenting racist police controls and are now seeing more interest in their work. "It would be unusual now to find someone in Madrid who doesn’t know about the racist raids", confirms Ana, a brigade member. They have given workshops at many neighbourhood assemblies and alerted them to the task of sending out warnings about raids.

The 15M has also turned its gaze upon the Centros de Internamiento de Extranjeros (CIE) (Foreign National Internment Centres). They have set up condemnation campaigns and, in Malaga, set up camp infront of one of the centres. In this way the expulsion of Sid Ahmed Bouziane was impeded; a young man from Algeria whose life was in danger following an attack by a violent gang in his native country.

Social Economy: It’s not the crisis, it’s the system.

Encouraged by the questioning of the economic model itself in assemblies, new alternatives of consumption are being sought and social economy projects are being formed. For example, the Cooperativa Integral Catalana that provides for all economic needs (products, services and social currency) in the form of self-management (autogestion). The cooperative had been going for a year when 15M began but has really picked up in recent months. Its model is being reproduced in Madrid, Andalucía, Valencia, Cabo de Gata, La Rioja, Valencia and Aragón.

Criticism of the financial system has resulted in a good year for ethical banking which, at least, meets the principal of transparency. Triodos has doubled its profits in 2011, increasing its client base by 24%. The network Fiare, that operates in Spain as the agent of Banca Pololare Etica (from Italy), and the cooperative of financial services Coop57, have also increased their deposits and credits substantially. The latter speaks of "an incessant demand for talks, workshops and seminars" from the 15M collectives.

On a smaller scale, the popular assemblies are recreating consumer forms: banks of time, barter markets, self-managed learning workshops and pastimes, etc. The assembly of Carabanchel for example takes leftover food from Mercamadrid [biggest food retail market in Madrid] and gives it out in the neighbourhood.

Party Politics: The limits of democracy.

The 15M has never massively supported any voting option. It has however had an influence in the 2 elections while it has been in existence. According to the CIS, 18.8% of voters took it into consideration on 22nd May and the minority parties saw increased support; in other words, the movement contributed to the reduction in the bipartisan vote. A study by Manuel Jiménez Sánchez, of the University Pablo de Olavide, identified that it resulted in the greatest number of spoiled and blank votes since 1987, with higher incidences in towns where there was an encampment set up.

In the general elections of November these votes continued to increase and the total votes for the PP and the PSOE [the two major parties in Spain] carried on falling. The 15M has not contributed to abstention, according to Carolina Galais of the University Autonoma Barcelona. On the contrary, their contribution has given a protest angle to the vote: "Democracia Real Ya, #nolesvotes, #aritmetica20N and other related camps have energised the vote with initiatives such as apartisanism, recommending a critical vote as an expression of non-accordance with the current system".

To try and stop the drain of support, the PSOE and PP have paid lip service to the demands of the 15M. In June, Rubalcaba announced the Transparency Law which, after years of silence, will reach Parliament. It was not until April that the project was published. Organisations such as have identified many deficiencies but at least the debate has been opened. Along similar lines, the subject of the debt swap (dación en pago – where a mortgaged property is surrendered in return for cancelation of the debt) has reached Parliament on several occasions (although the PP’s code of good practice has meant that few cases have actually been resolved). At least there has been a small legislative advance: the upper limit of a balance that could not be reclaimed due to unpayments on a mortgage was increased. It remains to be seen how successful will be the Popular Legislative Initiative (ILP) for retroactive debt swaps, the moratorium on repossessions and affordable rents, for which the process of collecting signatures has just begun.

The 15M has already had experience in this field: an ILP was registered in the Parliament of Andaluzia precisely to modify the process of these laws (ILPs) and help them to succeed. The government of the PSOE remixed the proposal and it was eventually approved with votes from all parties. The proposal was for a law reducing the number of signatures required for an ILP but it was "too light" in the end and, in the opinion of 15M, did not really promote participation as originally intended.

Meanwhile, the political class continue to be discredited and the response continues in the streets. The CIS has confirmed the perception of the political parties and the government as being one of the principal problems and specificies that there has been an increase of 4.7% in participation in protests since May. According to information published in 20 Minutos, 2012 is on its way to becoming a record breaker with 60 protests to date. In Valencia in January and February, 5 times more protests were recorded than in the same period the previous year.

Cultural Change: Disrepute and collaboration.

Disrepute is splashed across the means of communication. The use of social networking sites is often cited (as well as free networks: has increased user numbers from 3,600 to 40,500 since May) along with a proliferation in alternative mediums. Some media show the influence of 15M, such as Mas Público, a group of ex workers of Público [second-largest left-wing newspaper in Spain, recently folded its print edition because of financial losses] that want to recover the project as a workers’ co-operative.

Away from the internet, the periodical Madrid15M, edited by its own assemblies, is now onto its third edition, reaching 40,000 copies distributed, Rebelaos, a publication for self-management (autogestión) has printed 500,000 copies. Collaborative cultural projects are appearing that use the same structures as the 15M, such as the documentary, the musical project Fundación Robo or the online library Bookcamping.

Luis Moreno-Caballud, professor at the University de Penn and participator in Occupy Wall Street, describes 15M as a "a knowledge diffusion machine" and lauds its capacity for "collective and anonymous production of sense; usable discourse, inclusive and powerful due to being so difficult to pigeon-hole". The contribution of the 15M, in his opinion, relates to a cultural change: "the primary victory is precisely in having found a way of life in which the victories and defeats are not important. It has given new force to a means of existence based in collaboration and not in competition".

[This article was originally published in Spanish on May 12th 2012]


DIAGONAL is a grassroots communication project based in Madrid. We print a biweekly newspaper and run this website with daily updates. We only accept adds from social collectives (cooperatives, non-profit or kindred associations) and exist thanks to a large base of suscriptors that collaborate with us. If you would like to help with translations or editorial suggestions, please contact english [at]