“But without a structure, it can’t survive. There’s lots of people, but without any visible leadership or agenda. Their biggest challenge is their self-imposed contradictions,” Dr. Bouza adds. “They need more coordination to survive, but they don’t want to coordinate further. The more they grow, the weaker they are because accountability is harder to manage.”
The movement is named after May 15, when police forcefully removed the first group of protesters who had set up more than a dozen tents in Puerta del Sol under the slogan “They don’t represent us.”
It started off as a youth initiative, but a year later is increasingly backed by older crowds, retirees, labor union members, and a myriad of disenfranchised movements. While the group refuses any political alliances, it mostly espouses left-leaning ideas, albeit ones supported by many in the center.
Spain is already immersed in a painful double-dip recession, one that will last at least for another couple of years, most analysts agree. Unemployment, already at 23 percent, keeps rising; severe austerity keeps crippling the welfare state; and the future is altogether uncertain.
The 15-M movement ultimately understood it could not influence short-term decisions, as it lacked the numbers or organization. It doesn’t even have visible leaders. Everyone has the same vote and voice, in a form of direct democracy that is nonetheless stymied in promoting direct change.
The movement wants more political and financial accountability, but members have failed to agree on any specific demands, other than rejecting banks bailouts while defending the welfare state and demanding more job creation, public housing, and better wages.
More than 35 percent of Spaniards say they feel represented by the 15-M, against almost 58 percent who don’t, although almost half agree the movement has had a positive effect by stirring up debate, according to a poll published this week by the newspaper La Razón.
Its future is entirely uncertain, its own members admit. José Luis Saiz, a 36-year old salesman, was deeply involved last year in publishing a newsletter of the 15-M. In interviews then, he was inspired and optimistic.