It’s beginning to look like winter 2013 will be Madrid’s Winter of Discontent. When the street cleaners have been on strike for over a week and the bitter wind is whipping at the piles of rubbish and fallen leaves and every day it seems like someone else is going on strike or marching or picketing, you know you’re not living in a happy city. There are rumours the bus drivers will be out soon. The teachers pulled a one-day strike a couple of weeks ago as part of their on-going campaign against the government’s new education bill. More strikes are scheduled. Not to mention the doctors and nurses, who are taking continuous, low-grade industrial action for what seems like years. Scientists are marching against cut. Factories are closing down left, right and centre. And, on top of that, your own workplace is this very week entering into negotiations with the union to lay off almost 15% of the workforce and there’s talk of strikes among you and your workmates.
Unemployment in Spain is up at around 27%. We have 50% youth unemployment. Wages are being pushed down. People with jobs are just about hanging on in there. Those without are finding themselves ever more reliant on their parents or grandparents (God bless la familia española) or charity. There are people asking how much more of this crisis the Spanish can take. How much more austerity can be imposed on the people before something gives? The 15-M movement petered out a long time ago and it doesn’t look like any new grass-roots political movement is out there ready to spring into the void created by José Citizen’s complete disillusionment with the two scandal-ridden and corruption-tainted main political parties (the Partido Popular, in particular seems as pickled in corruption as a banderilla).
So where’s the hope, the good news? It will be a threadbare Christmas and flaccid New Year for many. If the streets are still fouled by rubbish by early 2014, the buses aren’t running and God knows what other services have been withdrawn, where will the people of Madrid draw encouragement from entering into the new year? This for me is a question the powers that be must examine and somehow address if Spain is to get back on its feet anytime soon. My own two cents is that the government must stimulate employment at all costs, embrace a culture of transparency that is severely lacking at all levels of administration at present and reach out to the citizenry by showing that the political elite of Spain are willing to impose the same suffering on themselves and their backers in the corporate and banking worlds as they have been on the man and woman on the street.