Since 2007 over 420,000 foreclosures and 220,000 evictions have occured in Spain. Over 500 eviction notices are delivered every single day. That's a lot.
CounterFire tells us:
Draconian repossession laws in Spain so disproportionally protected the mortgage lenders that those unfortunate enough to lose their homes were also burdened with a debt for life.3 Until 2011 they allowed banks to take a mere 50% of the value of the property into account when offsetting the debt; this was then reluctantly raised to 60%.4 By the time interests, penalties and legal costs had been taken into account, a great deal of borrowers found themselves both homeless and owing the full cost of their mortgage. Lest we forget, these are the same banks that had accepted hundreds of millions in state subsidies. Between 2002 and 2008 a staggering average of 754,000 new homes were built in Spain every year. It is currently estimated that up to 6 million homes remain vacant.
What are people to do?
Fight back and resist, that's what.
Thus, the Platform for Mortgage Affected People (PAH). PAH was born back in 2009 in Barcelona to move the struggle from indiviuals trying to save their homes, their lives, to a collective resistance. ZSpace notes:
One of PAH’s first concerted direct actions was paralysing an eviction in November 2010 in Tarragona, Catalonia, by blocking the entrance to a property where eviction orders were to be served. Luis Martí had lost his job in 2008 and the $550 he received from the government each month since his unemployment insurance ran out wasn’t enough to make ends meet, let alone cover his mortgage payments. Martí, a single father with a then nine-year-old child, said: ‘I see no future because there is no work and the unemployment insurance people receive will come to an end. There will be more and more people in the street without a home.’ The bank foreclosed but was unable to auction off the modest one-storey property, and Martí was left with the news that he would be evicted and owe a $130,000 debt. The attempts by Martí and PAH to negotiate any other alternative with the bank met with no success.
Following Martí’s foreclosure, government officials and a bank representative, escorted by the police, went to deliver the eviction order. But they backed down upon encountering dozens of people blocking the entrance to his home. This has become a key strategy in PAH’s Stop Evictions campaign, which has ramped up with strong support from the indignados (‘the outraged’, as participants in Spain’s mass movement for political change are called). Over 550 evictions have been halted across the country, and banks have been forced to negotiate social rent or to foreclose a home but drop the debt for hundreds of families. Solidarity has also come from other sectors, such as the Assembly of Locksmith Professionals in Pamplona who unanimously decided in December 2012 that they would not change the locks on houses under foreclosure proceedings. They have been joined by fire-fighters in Catalonia and A Coruña, who refuse to assist evictions.
PAH developed a national network of assemblies and used the internet as well to defend those at risk of homelessness, to build a rapid response force to evictions, and just plain stop them in their tracks.
As the Multitudes are apt to do, once they get started they just keep going. PAH has moved on to occupations, to providing help and shelter to those evicted, and the pushing for large scale change - taking on the collective capital and the State.
"In 2010 the PAH was among a group of organisations that launched a popular legislative initiative, or ILP, to demand to parliament the regulation of the datio in solutum (in which the house is used as collateral to cancel any outstanding debt), an urgent stop to residential evictions and adequate provision of social housing and affordable rents. These measures have gained the support of over 80% of the population, cutting across all party lines (mortgages are clearly not the preserve of the left).
The "democratic" Spanish government refused to allow the motion into parliament. The State went so far as to attack PAH as a nazi like organizations with links to terrorists (ETA). The nazi/terrorist tactics of PAH were, according to ruling conservative People’s Party (PP) secretary and Castilla-La Mancha premier Dolores de Cospedal the tactic of peaceful pickets of the homes and offices of PP politicos.
The Prime Minister made similar outrageous statements, GreenLeft reports:
Ada Colau, the national PAH spokesperson, replied to the prime minister in an open letter: “Let’s talk about the escraches. It annoys you that we can come and protest outside your house. I understand. I wouldn’t like it either.
“But if you had ever come to an eviction you would understand that something much more annoying is involved. There are thousands of people living in the streets in this country, indebted, unemployed and with nothing to eat…and all the while surrounded by abundance.
“Thousands of families live in the streets of the European country that has piled up most empty housing. They go hungry in a state that allows tons of food in good condition to be thrown away.
“And you govern that country, for which reason you shouldn’t be surprised if those families knock on your door after having tried in vain to get your attention.
“This absolutely exemplary movement has exhausted all the channels that inadequate Spanish democracy has to offer: for more than four years we have tried to negotiate with financial institutions, we have talked with political parties, social services, local government.
“We have put resources into court cases and, toiling like ants, have collected nearly 1.5 million signatures. But all for nothing, the PP has not moved a millimetre and announces that it will reject the measures proposed in the ILP.”
Hello. Do you get the impression that these folks aren't done.
Certain organizations, such as the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) which publishes the World Socialist Web Site have criticzed PAH. They claim,
...the failure of the petition is proof of the bankruptcy of the perspective of pressure politics pursued by organisations like the PAH, which became the next port of call for many of the leaders of the Indignados (15M) and Democracia Real YA! The no-politics perspective they imposed on these movements was responsible for their collapse, and they perpetrated a similar exercise on the budding anti-evictions movement. Colau, a veteran of the G8 protest movement, insisted the PAH was as “an independent, apolitical and plural” organization.
In my opinion, they just don't get it. They can't understand how anything could happen without the leadership of the vanguard party guided by its peculiar understanding of Marx to lead the working class and explain to them what to do. I get a kick out of such groups criticizing more autonomous groups of working people for failing to immediately overthrow the state and establish a new world. I get a kick out of it because these "socialists" have such a great record of doing such. Laugh, chuckle, tears...
The truth is, you know, when these sorts of things start, when autonomous movements of working people begin, no one can say where they will lead. Working people can pretty much accomplish anything. Vanguard parties can never accomplish much of anything worth a damn. So if the working people of Spain have not, or do not, smash the State, and destroy Capital the day after tomorrow, their chances of getting it done in the future are, at least, a real possibility.
Meanwhile, in Spain, today, you just sort of have this feeling that all this is leading somewhere interesting. You just have this feeling...
That brings us to the following post from Open Democracy.