Alliance building and eventful protests: comparing Spanish and Portuguese trajectories under the Great Recession

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Social movement research has shed light on the relationship between processes of alliance building and multiple factors related to political opportunities, framing, identities, networks and resource mobilization. However, less is known about the
  Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at Social Movement Studies ISSN: 1474-2837 (Print) 1474-2829 (Online) Journal homepage: Alliance building and eventful protests: comparingSpanish and Portuguese trajectories under theGreat Recession Martín Portos & Tiago Carvalho To cite this article:  Martín Portos & Tiago Carvalho (2019): Alliance building and eventful protests:comparing Spanish and Portuguese trajectories under the Great Recession, Social MovementStudies, DOI: 10.1080/14742837.2019.1681957 To link to this article: Published online: 01 Nov 2019.Submit your article to this journal Article views: 31View related articles View Crossmark data  Alliance building and eventful protests: comparing Spanishand Portuguese trajectories under the Great Recession Martín Portos and Tiago Carvalho Department of Political and Social Sciences, Scuola Normale Superiore, Florence, Italy ABSTRACT Social movement research has shed light on the relationshipbetween processes of alliance building and multiple factors relatedto political opportunities, framing, identities, networks andresource mobilization. However, less is known about the impactof eventful protests on coalition building dynamics. Drawing ona paired comparison between the Portuguese and Spanish cycles of protest under the Great Recession, we aim at accounting for socialmovement alliances over time. While these countries present par-allel protest dynamics until 2011, after that point two eventfulprotests lead each country into di ff  erent trajectories. While thecycle in Portugal was marked by intermittent large protest eventsdominated by institutional actors, in Spain the peak of mobilizationwas consistently high between 2011 and 2013. When comparingthese cases two factors stand out: the mobilization capacity and theautonomy of new emerging actors vis-à-vis institutional ones.Eventful protests were a key factor in articulating these elements.In Spain, the strength and autonomy of 15M assemblies and anti-austerity actors facilitated the formation of strategic alliances withtrade unions. In Portugal, transversal initiatives and sustained alli-ances did not follow after the  Geração à Rasca  events. Theseemerged only later in the cycle, however were nonetheless ham-pered by overlapping membership and a lack of autonomy frominstitutional actors. Two srcinal protest event analysis datasets areused to illustrate these arguments. ARTICLE HISTORY Received 18 December 2018Accepted 16 September 2019 KEYWORDS Alliance building; eventfulprotest; austerity; pairedcomparison; cycle of contention; Iberian politics Introduction In 2011, two major protests marked a turning point in the protest cycles in Spain andPortugal. On the one hand, Portugal experienced its largest non-trade union or politicalparty led demonstration against the negative prospect of a precarious generation inMarch 2011  –  the so-called Desperate Generation ( Geração à Rasca , GàR)(Baumgarten, 2013). On the other hand, several thousand 15M/ Indignados  (Outraged)challengers mobilized two months later to contest austerity policies and make claims forreal democracy in Spain. In both cases, these mobilizations represented the most remark-able turning points in these countries ’  socio-political mobilization in recent years(Baumgarten, 2013; Flesher Fominaya, 2015; Portos & Masullo, 2017). Surprisingly  CONTACT  Tiago Carvalho, Department of Political and Social Sciences, ScuolaNormale Superiore, Florence, Italy SOCIAL MOVEMENT STUDIES © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group  however, while standards of protest remained high over the subsequent years in Spainuntil a declining trend became apparent following late 2013, Portuguese levels of extra-institutional mobilization remained low with some scattered protest events in late-2012and early 2013 (Carvalho, 2019; Portos, 2019). Comparative studies on social movements in Spain and Portugal have  󿬂 ourished inrecent years, focusing on frame di ff  usion, the legacies of the transitions, as well as theircivic and democratic cultures and practices (Baumgarten & Díez, 2017; Della Porta,Andretta, Fernandes, Romanos, & Vogiatzoglou, 2018; Díez, 2017; Fishman, 2011, 2019). Notwithstanding the salience of alliance building in the anti-austerity cycles of contention in the Iberian countries however, this topic remains largely unexplored.Drawing on a paired comparison between the Portuguese and Spanish cases, in thisarticle we explore the role that eventful protests have on alliance building trajectories. 1 Research on alliance building has highlighted the importance of certain pre-requirements for coalitions such as ideological congruence, pre-existing personal andgroup a ffi nities in terms of networks, styles and culture (Heaney & Rojas, 2008; vanDyke & McCammon, 2010). At the same time, we know that in most mobilizationcampaigns, forms of action need some degree of   ‘ eventfulness ’  to keep standards of motivation and feelings of solidarity high, consolidate networks, boost public outrageand experiment with new tactics (Della Porta, 2008, 2018). Furthermore, the eventful character of protests and mobilization processes stresses their transformative capacity (Gillan, 2018; Wagner-Paci 󿬁 ci, 2017). However, we know little about the role of eventful protests, and the distinctive pathways through which they can shape subse-quent processes of alliance formation. To what extent do similar eventful protests insimilar cases and contexts can lead to di ff  erent patterns of coalition formation?In this article, we argue that the 15M/Indignados and GàR events decisively shapedalliance building trajectories. In periods of heightened social con 󿬂 ict, coalitions are notnecessarily formal and enduring endeavors that hold challengers together throughshared claims and the exchange of resources; coalitions often result from strategicand fragile compromises between counterparts following certain eventful protests.Speci 󿬁 cally, established organizations and emerging actors within a cycle of protestmay overcome tensions and join forces when it is in the interest of both sides. Thus,anti-austerity 15M-related Spanish actors followed a process of downward scale shift(decentralization and specialization via sectoral  󿬁 ghts) and built strategic alliancesbetween these new organizations and major unions. These instances of collaborationwere essential for the recurrence of mobilizations such as general strikes and  ‘ citizens ’ tides ’  ( mareas ciudadanas ).Despite several attempts, instances of cooperation between new and old actors wererare in Portugal, as decentralization failed and major trade unions, such as the GeneralConfederation of Portuguese Workers ( Confederação Geral dos TrabalhadoresPortugueses , CGTP) dominated sectoral  󿬁 ghts. The critical stances of CGTP and thePortuguese Communist Party ( Partido Comunista Português , PCP) towards the post-GàR movement actors made any instances of collaboration di ffi cult (Carvalho & RamosPinto, 2019). Furthermore, the Portuguese unions maintained their mobilization capa-city without relying on social movement organizations. Transversal initiatives emergedonly at a later stage, however overlapping membership, a lack of autonomy (e.g. To Hellwith the Troika  –  Que se Lixe a Troika  platform, QSLT) and co-optation by the main 2 M. PORTOS AND T. CARVALHO  left-wing parties (the PCP and the Left Bloc  –  Bloco de Esquerda , BE) made sustainedalliances di ffi cult.All in all, in Spain the strength and autonomy of 15M/Indignados assemblies andanti-austerity actors allowed them to build strategic alliances with trade unions. Incontrast, Portuguese transversal initiatives and sustained alliances did not follow afterthe GàR events due to overlapping membership and a lack of autonomy from institu-tional actors.In the following, we  󿬁 rst develop our theoretical framework, then brie 󿬂 y present theempirical design of this study. After that, we identify the key eventful protests in our casesand explain how they shaped distinctive pathways of alliance building. The conclusionunderscores our main contributions and signals some avenues for further inquiry. Social movement coalitions and eventful protests Coalitions are one of the most vital tools that social movements have in their tacticalrepertoire (Heaney & Rojas, 2008; Levi & Murphy, 2006; Meyer & Corrigall-Brown, 2005; van Dyke, 2003; van Dyke & McCammon, 2010). A social movement coalition or alliance  ‘ exist[s] at any time two or more social movement organizations work togetheron a common task ... [while] partners maintain separate organizational structures ’ (van Dyke & McCammon, 2010, pp. xiv-xv). Alliances are agreements between orga-nizations to collectively address a given set of political objectives or policies (Heaney & Rojas, 2008, p. 42). By forming coalitions, activists and organizations establish speci 󿬁 cgoals, rules of interaction and boundaries, thereby bringing stability to what are moretypically multipurpose, unruly, unbounded, and dynamic structures (Heaney & Rojas,2008, p. 42). As coalitions integrate the work of myriad organizations that mobilizeindividual participants, they may also contribute to the meso-mobilization of socialmovements (Gerhards & Rucht, 1992).According to Corrigall-Brown and Meyer (2010), joining a coalition may bringbene 󿬁 ts to partner organizations by increasing and sharing resources, expertise ande ffi ciency, enhancing their political in 󿬂 uence and e ffi cacy. Conversely, joininga coalition engenders risk and costs for organizations, including loss of autonomy,potential con 󿬂 ict with partners, the alteration of strategic choices and compromise of identity (Corrigall-Brown & Meyer, 2010). Alliances may have a varying duration(collaborations may be occasional and short-lived or persist over time), encompassdi ff  erent interests (pursuing more or less similar goals), involve divergent degrees of formality (as regards the nature of the links between organizations), commitment andresources. Coalitions require neither a high degree of agreement nor dense exchangesof information between players, and typically have an instrumental character (Diani,2015). Actions can be very loosely coordinated provided that the ties between them areinformal and may be established on an ad hoc basis for a speci 󿬁 c protest event (Heaney & Rojas, 2008; Levi & Murphy, 2006). As Van Dyke and McCammon further contend, ‘ groups may, for example, plan a joint protest event together but not pursue furthercollaboration ’  (van Dyke & McCammon, 2010, p. xv).Based on extant literature, we know that coalitions form and dissolve over time.Coalitions are most likely to function successfully in multi-issue movements, with SOCIAL MOVEMENT STUDIES 3  groups that are congruent in terms of ideology. Additionally, the prospects of successincrease when: (1) there are bridge-building agents at work and a ffi nities at the personaland group levels; (2) their goals are de 󿬁 ned in terms of enhancing political in 󿬂 uence;(3) they face threats from their environments; (4) individual organizations within thecoalition are able to retain distinctive identities and a certain degree of autonomy within the collaborative process (Hathaway & Meyer, 1997; McCammon & Campbell,2002). Previous network interactions, contacts with mutual third parties, and havinga central position in a network encourage alliance formation, thus con 󿬁 rming the socialembeddedness hypothesis (Corrigall-Brown & Meyer, 2010; Heaney, 2004). In their investigation of the large protests organizers and surrounding networks inGreece between 2010 – 2012, Kanellopoulos, Kostopoulos, Papanikolopoulos, and Rongas(2016) found that coalition building depended on a polycephalous network consisting of three clusters of actors and their strategic interests: (1) trade unions, (2) the politicalparties of the left, and (3) the Greek Indignant Citizens Movement.  ‘ Old ’  actors areessential for sustaining protest campaigns due to their resources and mobilizing capacity (Diani, 2015; Diani & Kousis, 2014; Kanellopoulos et al., 2016). Interactions between networks of actors are crucial to understanding how cycles of protest unfold, sincematerial and symbolic exchanges occurred between actors along the way.On the other hand, coalitions are most likely to fail when they become plagued by ideological con 󿬂 icts, when framing disputes occur, and when individual members of a coalition possess su ffi cient resources to operate independently (Jones, Hutchinson, van Dyke, Gates, & Companion, 2001; Staggenborg, 1986). Moreover, the longevity of  coalitions is endogenous to the political process. Coalitions may dissolve prematurely because of ideological disputes, changes in the political opportunity structures, person-ality con 󿬂 icts and dwindling resources (Heaney & Rojas, 2008; Meyer & Corrigall-Brown, 2005; Staggenborg, 1986; van Dyke, 2003). Conversely, coalition dissolution a ff  ects the mobilization structure and social movement networks, usually by weakeningthe ties between previous coalition partners (Heaney & Rojas, 2008). As informationchannels, political attitudes, and organizational contacts change, movement actorsbecome less able to mobilize the constituencies of their former coalition partners(Heaney & Rojas, 2008).Although we know a great deal about the importance of the broader politicalopportunities, framing, identities, networks and mobilizing resources for coalitionbuilding dynamics, we know much less about what consequences certain eventfulprotests have on the formation of subsequent coalitions.As Kevin Gillan recalls,  ‘ events are historically signi 󿬁 cant to the extent that they impact on actors ’  ability to understand and act in the world; they thereby lead tochanges in durable patterns of relations ’  (2018, p. 5; see Wagner-Paci 󿬁 ci, 2017). The notion of eventful protests stresses the transformative capacity of contentious perfor-mances (Della Porta, 2008, 2018; Gillan, 2018; McAdam & Sewell, 2001; Sewell, 1996). A transformative event is  ‘ a crucial turning point for a social movement that drama-tically increases or decreases the level of mobilization ’  (Hess & Martin, 2006, p. 249).Protest events occasionally have a high degree of eventfulness, as they may become ‘ turning points in structural change, concentrated moments of political and culturalcreativity when the logic of historical development is recon 󿬁 gured by human action but 4 M. PORTOS AND T. CARVALHO
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