Spain: Modern Trends of Mass Protest

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2020-64-9-73-82
S. Khenkin (,
Moscow  State  Institute  of  International Relations (University) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (MGIMO University), 76, Vernadskogo Prosp., Moscow, 119454, Russian Federation;
Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences, Russian Academy of Sciences (INION RAS), 51/21, Nakhimovskii Prosp., Moscow, 117418, Russian Federation

Abstract. The present-day Spain, a country stricken by a host of unresolved issues and differences, is witnessing mass protests taking vivid and diverse shapes. These include both traditional ones – represented by political parties and trade unions – and modern ones, initiated by social networks. Analysis shows that during the global financial crisis and in its wake it is the new social movements that have mostly taken the lead in voicing the Spanish protest concerns, outshining political parties, especially left-wing ones, and trade unions. In these movements, a remarkable role is played by the precariat – a new stratum that grew fast during the crisis amidst increased social inequality in Spain. It consists of part-time and full-time workers, as well as people doing odd jobs, with no permanent employment. One distinct feature of the precariat consists in its unstable position on the labour market, lack of job security, and social vulnerability, all of which result in financial and psychological difficulties. According to various estimates, the Spanish precariat stands at around 26% of the working population (12 mln people). Faced with numerous problems, with lost hopes of a better future, these people are deeply distrustful of political institutions. Their response to the authorities’ policies varies from a completely apathetic attitude to active participation in protest movements. To date, the social movements of the new type have already accomplished quite a lot, changing the public sentiment and making progress in certain areas. However, their clout is not enough to either depose the ruling elite or force it to accept a totally different political paradigm. Horizontally built, i.e. devoid of any leadership or rigid structure, these random movements are unable to replace the traditional parties or trade unions. Despite their criticism of the existing parties, the Spanish voters still cast their ballots. While complaining about trade unions, they do not discontinue their membership or at least enjoy the protection that the unions offer. Yet, competition against social movements within one electoral field creates a drain of the left-wing and trade union electorate, which leads to fragmentation in the left-wing camp. This competition is a strong factor encouraging traditional social and political organizations to review their own ideological and structural foundations. Slow as it may be, the transformation has already begun. Its progress is likely to map out what mass social protests will be like in the future and determine the balance of power between their main stakeholders.

Keywords: Spain, global crisis, welfare state, precariat, social movements of the new type, Indignados (movement of the indignant ones), parties, “Podemos”, trade unions


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For citation:
Khenkin S. Spain: Modern Trends of Mass Protest. World Eonomy and International Relations, 2020, vol. 64, no. 9, pp. 73-82.

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