It came to me that a large group of Spaniards had gathered on the Dam square in Amsterdam. I always figured that it would be only a matter of time before this happened, since hordes of Dutch gather at Spanish beaches every summer. Finally it happened, off I went to check out this phenomenon. When queuing to get out the train at Amsterdam central station a group of people, students, armed with cardboard signs queuëd behind me. Would you mind if I ask a couple questions?
It appeared that they were Spanish Erasmus-students from the Wageningen university. Saturday was their first day they came to Amsterdam for the mobilisation on the Dam square. Why now? Well, they are students and so they had to study during the week. Why study in the Netherlands? Take a gues: no work in Spain. Do they expect to get a job when going back? Silence... Than I said adiós to my new friends and walked on to the gathering to meet them later again.
What a Spanish Revolution looks like in Amsterdam
From Central Station to the Dam square it's about a ten minute walk. As usual thru many tourists of which many are Spaniards. The difference now is that the Spaniards are very recognizable: carrying cardboard signs, as if they are hitchhiking, and not behaving like the stereotypical tourist. Approaching the square the sound of a sambaband starts to spread though the street. When I reach the Dam I see a large group, over 400, of Spanish speaking individuals gathered underneath the big fallus-shaped national monument. This square is traditionally the place to expres dissatisfaction on a wide range topics thru history, now the Spaniards have added theirs to this list. The crowd consists of mostly young people, some students, some with a job, and others have lived for many years, and started families, in the Netherlands. But all they agree on one thing, that the way the system revolves has got to end and be replaced with a new and improved one.
Looking for someone who can tell me more about this manifestation and how it is connected to the ones in Spain and in other countries I find a man who is passing out leaflets to the public. One of those I recognise as the manifest that can be found on the Democracia Real YA!-website. On my question if the flyer is international he answers in fluent Dutch: "Maybe, I don't know. This mobilisation is spontanious, there is no central organisation, it's based on a horizontal structure. So these are probably made by an individual initiative."
Eventually I find out that the Dutch are also represented, though in smaller numbers. These consist of a group of students, and a group of anarchists that wanted to show their solidarity and liked to experience, for once, how it is not to clash with the police. "I'm feeling a bit like a hippie now", one said a bit ashamed, but laughing. I gues he felt naked without a radical black block outfit. To avoid any political statements they even covered the logo of the Anarcho Synicalist Union on their banner. Later I spoke with Mirwais, a Dutch administration-student at the university in Leiden, who came from a lecture in Amsterdam. He and thirty of his classmates decided to attend to the manifestation because these are interesting developements and he hopes that this movement will pass over to the Netherlands. We agreed that this would is still wishfull thinking, mostly because the economy is not yet bad enough to provide a broad support from the Dutch population.
I met Cristina Almazan and Miguel Gonzales, two of the students I met when I arrived at the station. I had already seen them dancing around and yelling slogans. Cristina used to have a job in Spain but had to quit, that's why she came to the Netherlands to do her master in Wageningen. Both have a lot of friends that enjoyed good education but are either unimployed or have jobs that don't fit their education, "many friends have studied at university but the only job they can get is as waiter in a restaurant". "We are here to cause change in the current system." What is this system like that needs to change? "It forces everybody into a capitalist lifestyle. You're expected to always want more things and join every fashion. At the same time it separates people that can't or simply don't want to cope with this paradigm, it causes enormous unimployment and only the rich to get richer." On the question if he'd expect this movement to skip to other countries Miguel answerred: "Not yet, but if the situation is as bad as in Spain, everybody would do the same."
Swaffelen against the Spanish polititians
A! Anti! Anticapitalista!
After two hours of yelling, dancing and meeting it became quiet and suddenly the whole crowd took place on the floor. Speeches started. First somebody explained the rules that apply to demonstrations in Amsterdam. Than a loudspeaker was given to the speaker, who passed it to the next and the next and so on. Everybody who wanted to say something got a turn, sometimes interupted by drunk (Brittish) tourists yelling "FUCK CAPITALISM!". Allmost everything was in Spanish but happily there were plenty native speakers that could translate. Apart from emphasising what is wrong with the current system a couple constructive remarks were made:
- First of all, the question was asked about if the mobilisations would continue after the elections. A united "SI!" was the answer
- A proposal was made to organise also in other cities than Amsterdam, to decrease travelcosts and time.
- Somebody explain why and how not to use Facebook to spread idea's (capitalist, part of the problem). *Cheering*
- Somebody else stated that Facebook is also very cozy and sociable. *Also cheering*
- Somebody from Chile declared his solidarity on behalf of his country and from the people that are manifesting the Spanish Revolution in Santiago.
- A Dutch activist thanked the people on the Dam for showing how to organise and to demonstrate with such a broad support.
Last came the man who was handing out the flyers and he said that while knowing very well what you don't want, it is even more important to know what you want in the future. The word 'democracy' is emphasised so often that it's almost forgotten that Spain officially is in fact a democracy, a parliamentary democracy. Because it's not a total change of system but rather a change of nuances it makes it a lot harder to reach. Therefor it's important to keep questioning about what a democracy involves. Here, on the Dam, and everywhere people gather for this cause there is another kind of democracy in proces: a direct, participatory democracy. To dwell upon the it's consequenses, not to create a fixed idea and to keep critical on whatever way of decisionmaking.
After these words the crowd got up. People started to talk and discus what happened and what needed to happen. Adresses were exchanged and plans were made. The next day would be at the Spanish consulate. People started to drip away toward home or the station. That was the end of another succesful day of gathering.
Don't just watch, JOIN!
As if that wasn't clear already
We are agreeïng!
Some links to keep updated:
- Twitter, Spain At Dam
- Amsterdam activist Youtubechannel, Spirit Of Squatters
- Facebook, Movimiento Reivindicatio de Españolesen Holanda