I have been to Spain before but an extended stay has really taught me a lot more about this country than one week as a tourist. I could wax lyrical about how friendly and welcoming the Spanish people are. I could point out that the stereotype of ¨mañana¨ is actually pretty true. However to a degree George Orwell pretty much summed up all of the relevant points in the first chapter of Homage to Catalonia, so I suggest you read that. Like that book the Spain I have seen is one of political divide. There is a definite left wing streak to this country and most of the people I have stayed with have clear associations with left wing politics. This ranges from anti-fascist stickers to libraries of anarchist literature. Yet clearly there is also a right wing side to Spain, it’s still an advanced capitalist society. Right wing and fascist grafitti can still be found. In fact when it comes to grafitti there appears to be in places an ongoing battle between Fascists and Anarchists/Communists with each side scrawling over the others symbols and slogans.
In terms of visual atmosphere Spain is more openly political and more openly anarchist in it’s views than the UK. There is far more anarchist grafitti than you see in any British city and the anarcho-syndicalist union the CNT in the industrial north at least has offices in most major towns and cities. This hasn’t necessarily translated for me into many political conversations due to the language barriers. However those I have had have been intesting with many people happy to talk general ideas but not really give much away in terms of their own views. One conversation did highlight that the government is outlining the usual capitalist formula for prosperity through a return to growth in the economy and yet there are some who are suggesting that maybe growth isn’t the answer. The anti-growth concept is not one that I have heard of being present in the British political arena. A largely fringe idea in the UK that perhaps is being practiced more than spoken about. I haven’t seen anything though that I would view as major political action. Although today students in Zaragoza are on strike to highlight the issue of rising university fees and I believe that there will be a demonstration tomorrow. People don’t seem to really inject their politics into their daily lives although I guess we perhaps don’t in the UK either.
So Spain is in effect despite it’s visible high level of left wing and anarchist thought ultimately politically not much different to the UK. In peoples day to day lives they are appear more focused on making ends meet and putting food on the table. The economic crisis has left people often in precarious situations with regard to job security. Perhaps the fact that the anarchist tradition in Spain is anarcho-synidcalist and related to trade unions (and therefore work) means that people although not happy with their lot in the capitalist system continue to ‘play the game’ in order to survive. My current thoughts are whether were more anarcho-primitive or individualistic ideas mixed into that pot people would be looking at more radical alternatives to the system that has so badly let them down. It confuses me but I don’t have the language skills to dig deeper and find out more.
Postscript: To follow on from the last post, my leg seems to be healing well so I am hopeful for getting back on the bike again early next week. Also in that post I used the name Lleida for the city I was in. Lleida is the catalan name as it is a town in Catalonia, the ‘Spanish’ name is Lérida. Regional languages, ambiguous signage, odd grammar and the same word to mean different things. It makes life interesting!