Resisting militarisation and militarism within the Spanish state

Koldobi Velasco Vázquez y Ander Eiguren Gandarias

In the heartlands, where dominant power constructs its hegemony, war is part of the programme: on economic lines, where money is spent on the military, research is carried out, arms are manufactured, traded, and financed, and the mechanisms of border control and securitization of our societies are deployed to such ends; in human resources, which promote the professionalization of the army, posited as just another public job…; and with ideological resources too, where the army is given a makeover, is reinvigorated, like when the military is deployed to do jobs that require civilian response. This militarization is an emergency on many fronts: in the military operations taking place abroad; in the militarization of schools; and in the militarization of social, cultural and political life in general. We see the normalization of the army’s presence in all dimensions of life, through its use of our communal spaces to train for war, through the militarization of minds in the futures we imagine, and through the use of resources to construct notions of the enemy as the Other, the foreigner, as ‘different’.

Struggles against this militarization and against militarism come in different colours and forms, in order to seek to put an end to this savagery which militarizes everything it touches, naturalizing violence and weapons as the only ways to resolve conflict.

We start from a key premise, which is that this fight is interlinked with other emancipatory struggles. We are looking for a systemic transformation; a move from domination, exploitation and forms of oppression to a model of development that is non-capitalist, non-racist, anti-colonial, anti-patriarchal, non-extractivist, non-Statist, non-ableist, not based in ecocide nor homicide… this other world without violence. In this way, our links and work in solidarity with other movements is key to these struggles, since all the axes of domination and privilege are fundamentally linked, and therefore so are our responses to them, which we seek to articulate with a more global and less fragmented outlook.

In this article we would like to explore some of the antimilitarist actions and campaigns in Spain.

An exploration of some campaigns and actions of resistance

Throughout the last few years - with varying intensity, location, levels of involvement, and impact - different acts of resistance to militarism and wars have been developed alongside form of nonviolent popular defense. We have learned by experimenting with civil resistance, cultures of popular mobilization, and taking strategic steps that build empowerment on personal, group, community-based, organizational and societal levels.

The common slogan we use is: “War starts here, let’s stop it here”, which started off as a motto for actions by the European Antimilitarist Network, and gives a sense of the meaning of our actions in each of our fights:

Resisting the military budget

Tax objection to the military budget

The campaña de objeción fiscal al gasto militar (OFGM, or Tax Objection to the Military Budget in English) is a civil disobedience campaign sustained in Spain since 1983 - some 36 years ago. The campaign roots itself in the traditions and strategies of nonviolence. Participants refuse to collaborate with the State’s spending on war preparations and the maintenance of the military structure, the army and other armed forces, by actively disobeying when asked to declare one’s personal income (for the purposes of income tax), and redirecting some of these taxes to a project that stands for solidarity and social progress. The aim of the tax objection campaign is the total elimination of armies, military research and the military industrial complex through a gradual reduction in military budgets.

Condemning military spending and social control

In Spain, €87 million are spent every day on the military, a figure which increases to €104 million if we include other forms of social control. We are undertaking the task of making this data and its harmful consequences to our society visible, through denunciation and by linking with other struggles.

The Global Campaign on Military Spending (GCOMS)

GCOMS is an international campaign, set up in December 2014 and promoted by the International Peace Bureau (IPB). The objective of the campaign is to convince governments to invest in health, education, jobs and climate change instead of investing in the military sector. We urgently need to build humane security structures around the world, putting an end to war and destruction at the same time.

Financing the arms trade

Campaign against militarized banking

The Campaign against militarized banking arises from the need to expose the links of a high number of Spanish banking institutions with companies that manufacture arms, through their financing. The importance of funding for the military-industrial complex cannot be overstated. Arms companies need banking services, as much to carry out their ongoing commercial operations as to acquire extraordinary amounts of funds which allow them to undertake the development of new arms, to export to new markets and, ultimately, to maintain their competitive strength in an eminently private sector. There are nine organizations currently participating in the campaign. They write reports, articles, and other informative materials, and carry out direct actions at stockholder board meetings and elsewhere in the streets, with the aim of preventing and interrupting business as usual. More information here:

Militarization of borders

Campaign: Spain is at war on its borders

These actions seek to denounce and make visible the neo-fascist and militarized politics towards migration of the Spanish state, using diverse methods:

Fighting the politics of war internationally

Influence defence policies in the EU:

Some organisations focus on researching and exposing othe military industry lobby in the EU. They petition the different parties before EU Parliament elections, asking them to not sign up to the project to rearm the EU, in order to reject four areas of development for European military power: the European defence budgets; the European Defence Industrial Development Programme; the European Defence Research Programme (EDRP); and the proposals for a new European army. Campaigns include:

  • Against NATO: Nonviolent direct actions against the summits and military manoeuvres of NATO. In places where these summits and Trident manoeuvres are taking shape every year.

  • NATO GAME OVER Campaign. Massive actions against the general headquarters of NATO in Brussels.

  • Marches against NATO and the celebration of the No victory against NATO in the 1986 referendum, in some Spanish state territories.

Fighting social militarization, war, and its manoeuvrings

Development of different actions:

  • Against the military operations abroad, in which Spain is involved in 21 interventions. We condemn these operations, their reasons and causes, and the consequences for their populations.
  • Against troops abroad and war training in different territories. Condemnation of war manoeuvres in different territories.
  • Protests against wars. A range of events against existing armed conflicts. Show of support for nonviolent resistance occurring in any relevant area. Condemnation of international meddling.
  • Nonviolent direct actions on Armed forces days and fairs, pledging allegiance to the flag, military street parades. Denunciation of the normalized military presence in different areas: parties, drills, exhibitions, sport, culture, politics, religion, social activities...

Development of peace cultures, and demilitarizing education

Participation in different campaign actions, such as:

  • Demilitarize Education ( which aims to prevent the spread of the presence of military institutions and their values in educational spaces. Under the banner ‘Guns don’t teach, they kill’, we want to show our disagreement with the gradual militarization of certain public spaces. We take action at school fairs and activities in the street where there is military presence; and support public declarations of schools objecting to militarization.
  • War is not a Game. Campaign for the withdrawal of the Army and any armed force from childrens fairs and education in general. We want the army out of all childrens fairs and the education of young people. The campaign existed between 2007 and 2017;
  • Commemorating 30 years of the campaign to refuse military service: Exhibitions, videos, documentaries, etc. 
  • Training workshops on nonviolent direct action. In different places, with a variety of groups and social movements.
  • Development of anti-military summer schools. These take place every year in Spain.
  • Monthly programme of community radio - The programme is called Peace News for a Nonviolent Revolution:  
  • Workshops, interviews, conferences;
  • Web pages:; 

Platforms for peace and neutrality and against the criminalization of protest

We develop actions against gagging laws, the criminalization of hospitality and solidarity, fostering the creation of areas free from armies and militarization, promoting initiatives that create areas through the Peace and solidarity platform (the Canary Islands, for example).

Demilitarization of the environment and spaces occupied by the military

Fostering action such as:

  • Marches on military zones demanding its restoration to civil use and recuperating areas under communal control. Resisting shooting ranges, military barracks, ports, and against the installation of military equipment.
  • Protest against transnational stockholder meetings that are plundering resources and destroying communities.
  • Against extractivism in the Canary Islands; Campaign against repsol and participating in Extinction Rebellion, in campaigns against ecocide and pointing out links between ecology and militarism.

Constructive alternatives

We are part of community-level-working towards humane safety and nonviolent popular resistance such as: 

  • Joining together in self-managed social centres
  • Building spaces of sovereignty (in food, energy, democracy) and
  • Cooperativism (Banca Fiare, Som Energí, Som Communicación…) and
  • Struggles for social justice and against all forms of inequality and oppression: platforms, collectives, fair trade… 

In everything we continue to: take on nonviolent direct actions and conscientious objections, in the spirit of civil disobedience and non-collaboration in war, militarization and oppression; carry out campaigns to raise awareness and exert political pressure which demand commitments to disarmament, demilitarization, conflict prevention, full respect of human rights, and the active promotion of peace culture; promote research for peace in order to better understand the causes of violence and wars and understanding of how to avoid them (workshops, seminars, publications, etc.); undertake actions and offering education for peace as a means of gradually replacing a culture of violence with a culture of peace, participating in building alternatives, and supporting individuals and groups that promote peaceful conflict resolution in different countries.

In every journey, new challenges or areas for improvement are bound to arise, such as: deepening our efforts in the organization of joint and intersectional action campaigns; developing and improving links between networks, organizations and emancipatory movements; building relationships, archiving processes and make them available for deeper learning; deepening our commitment to building alternatives and demilitarized processes; paying greater attention to the development of new aspects of violence, war, and femicide; expanding prevention-side action and assist activists that suffer the consequences of risks to their lives; weaving community spaces and cities sustainably; raising awareness of nonviolent culture as a socio-political strategy common to emancipatory movements, and improve organizational and methodological coherence rooted in our nonviolent principles.

And lastly, a spirit which we carry with us, described by Galeano in this story, with which we invite you to finish:

One afternoon we were driving in the van down a faded track and in the distance we saw a girl riding a bicycle. I slowed down so I didn't cover her all over with dust. When we got closer we opened the window and asked her, how long until we get there?... A never ending silence filled the surroundings and her gaze. The girl looked back at the path she had walked and looked ahead at the path left to go… and after an eternity filled with pauses, she replied with an endless message: “There’s not long left. Perhaps we are like those who walk, or those who build: we see what has been walked, and we see what is left. And we see that there’s not long left to go”.

In brief:

Grafitti reading "ven, seremos"

[Translator’s note: A play on words. When said aloud, the sentence “ven, seremos” - literally meaning something like “Come, we shall be” - sounds the same as "Venceremos”, the name of the Chilean protest song written by Claudio Iturra, alternatively by Víctor Jara, and composed by Sergio Ortega for the 1970 election campaign of Salvador Allende; it means "We Shall Triumph".]


Translation by Laurence Tidy. Many thanks to Carlos AG & Laura Salazar for translation assistance.


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