Madrid "real democracy" activists discuss protesting against Catholic Church

Submitted by AWL on 15 August, 2011 - 1:35

By Sacha Ismail

Last night, myself and another Workers´ Liberty supporter, Esther Townsend, attended some of an indignados meeting in the Puerta del Sol, one of the main squares of Madrid.

The indignados movement has been holding meetings and protests across Spain for several months to protest against corruption and cuts and demand "real democracy" (see here for the international website they are part of and here for our somewhat limited coverage). It seems to be diffusely anticapitalist and left-leaning, though politically fairly unformed.

This meeting was to discuss the Pope´s visit to Spain this week as part of the Catholic Church´s ´World Day of Youth´. In an echo of debates when the Pope visited the UK in September last year (see here), some present felt taking part in these protests was wrong and would alienate the religious. I made a brief speech to the gathering, which they were very happy to translate:

"My name is Sacha Ismail. I´m an activist in London, in England, a socialist. I mean a revolutionary socialist, not like the Socialist Party in your government.

"When the Pope came to London last year, we protested, and I want to explain why you should protest too.

"First let me say I have nothing against Catholic people, or people of any religious. My mother is a Christian, my father is a Muslim, and I´m an atheist. I am happy to struggle together with people of any religion. What I object to is institutions which exploit and oppress people, and that includes the Catholic Church.

"Let´s look at the record of this church, and of this Pope in particular. They oppose abortion rights, and want to deny women reproductive freedom. They want to deny gay people equality and a free sexuality. They have caused millions of deaths and horrendous misery across the world by telling people not to use contraception. They have consistently opposed every left-wing and emancipatory movement. This Pope in particular was sent to Latin America to attack left-wing Catholics.

"It is particularly obscene and ridiculous that the Spanish government is paying millions of euros for the Pope´s visit, as the British government paid millions of pounds, at a time when jobs, public services, health, education and rights are being cut. We need to oppose this, and to fight against the cuts with strikes, with demonstrations and every means of struggle available.

"We should fight for a better world now, here, and not in the future in heaven. Protest against the Pope and fight for freedom, equality and workers´ rights across the world."

(Thinking about it now, I wish I´d added something like: "I think the way forward for this movement is to link up with the labour movement, to fight the bureaucrats there and make it into a force that can fight the cuts and win real democracy. If you´re not in a union, join one. Organise at work. Get involved in a fight to transform the labour movement so it can transform society." But I didn´t have much time to think about what to say!)

There were about three hundred people at the meeting, overwhelmingly young. It seemed like the the majority of the ´organisers´ (though they might have rejected that label) were women. From the general responses to my speech and others, the tone was left-wing and internationalist. Speeches from activists from South America - we didn´t catch which country - and Canada got very good responses. Most people clearly wanted to protest against the Pope. However, there was clearly a wide variety of political ideas in play, and not understanding Spanish we couldn´t follow much of it. We´re coming home before the demonstration against the Pope, but we hope to meet up with some activists before we go to do an interview about the movement.

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