Ariadna Oliver Rabassa


The Platform of Mortgage Victims, known as PAH, is an association born in 2009, as a consequence of the financial crisis that begins in 2007-2008. It was created so as to offer an answer to the exponential eviction cases spread all over the state, in the atmosphere that brought the 15M mobilizations. The encampments in the main cities of Spain, the Marchas por la Dignidad, took place six years ago; the Indignados movement or other associations such us Democracia Real Ya (DRY), have lost their impact, most of their social support and appearance on the political agenda. So, what has made the PAH such a strong, impactful and broad movement through time and space? It’s strictly a social movement o it became some kind of pressure group?

The first step for the movement was to socialize the problem, by promoting the idea that it wasn’t a crisis, it was a fraud. They conquest the cultural hegemony, redefining concepts as crisis, home or rights and introducing notions in the public debate as dation in payment or social rent. Just a year before, their street and legal actions started to succeed: they stop evictions systematically and deal with banks for eviction moratoriums and debt exemptions. In December 2011, the PAH create their Obra Social and begins to okupy buildings owned by banks that were rescued with public money during the crisis.

On the 5th of February 2013 Ada Colau made an appearance as the PAH’s spokeswoman in the Congress of Deputies, invited to expose the ILP presented by the PAH and supported by 1.402.845 signs. After this meeting, the platform started a scratches campaign, Hay vidas en juego, in order to press and accuse the main political culprits that weren’t disposed to approve the popular initiative. Nonetheless, the PP vote against the ILP and it resulted to be blocked. In response, the scratches campaign intensified and all the PAHs around the state started working in autonomic laws; municipal pressure activities towards the city councils as well as the okupa movement increased. Currently, the PAH has stopped 2045 evictions and has relocated 2,500 families, has carried out state and regional legislative proposals and has approximately 230 centres throughout the state.[1] The movement’s evolution leads us to analyse the PAH according to Tilly theory: there are four elements that make the social movement force; the Worthiness, the Unity, the Number and the Compromise[2]. Tilly indicates that with the evolution of the movement, one of the points need to superimposed on the other, prevailing finally some of them. However, the PAH has not stopped growing in all its facets, and, largely if we set the same analysis framework to other groups such as the coloured tides or DRY.


Referring to the Tarrow political opportunities theory[3] -which exposes that the appearance of social movements is not related to the toughness of the situation but with the juncture; the possibility to access to the political elite, to make influential allies and the connexion with the world time (domino effect)- we can notice that the tides and social movements related to the 15M where born just after the Arab Spring and the effects of the 2008 crisis, in a clear political opportunity period. The PAH was founded in 2009, before the mobilizations in Túnez and the political imbalances due to the economic recession, so, the platform wasn’t born as their contemporary social movements. Nevertheless, it joined quickly and naturally to 15M as one of its main collectives. In fact, they had a shared diagnosis about the problems and culprits of the social situation. Their cooperation was beneficial and successful for both: the 15M had the people power because of its wide inclusive frames; on the other hand, the PAH had a strong organization beyond the Internet and social network infrastructure that articulate the main 15M tides and collectives. The PAH frames were inclusive as well, mainly due to the cultural hegemony gained with their first campaign, although, their complaint and demand was so concrete and it affects a closed collective. So, its discourse it’s not that full-scale as the 15M one, where people of all social classes and cultural interests where interpellated; the PAH is against the banks for the housing right. Since the very beginning their objectives very precise: that makes a strong short and long-term prognostic absent in the 15M; those were asking for a change, but they’ve never specified what kind and in which ways it should be landed.

The lack of prognostic in 15M social movements makes a plain contrast with the different level objectives that the PAH had stablished during its first years: to win the cultural hegemony (1), break in the political agenda and in the social media (2), build a strong organization made of cores around neighbourhoods to organize local assemblies(3), block the evictions and relocate the evicted people by the collective action (4), help involved people deal with banks or magistrates(5) and elaborate different legislative proposals to prevent and to avoid this difficulties without having to resort to civil disobedience(6)[4]. Those six main points experienced several new dynamics with the appearance of Podemos and other new leftist parties; new colours filled the Spanish political map after the autonomy and municipal elections of 2015. These new political forces assumed the main demands of the 15M and started to elaborate their own prognostic; the social mobilization which had started on the 2011 was nearly extinct, so the end of the bipartidism was considered as some kind of the 15M new stage. Ada Colau headed the list of Barcelona in Comú, ceasing to be the PAH’s spokesperson; the platform’s demand starts to have communication channels with the government as well, but its activity had not decreased, since it is bureaucratized and adopts conventional ways of proceeding. Olson states that the people is only disposed to participate in groups of interest when the benefits overcome the costs of being associated; the participation relies on the advantages that only the involved members can take profit[5]. This benefits-costs analysis is very illustrative in the PAH case, as a wide percentage of the people involved achieve resolutions to his housing problems. As the problem is not resolved, the dimension of the PAH keeps growing despite the fact that its presence on the street and unconventional ways of action have diminished after the political change.

Ending, we can consider that the PAH was born as a common civil rights movement some years before a tide of protests (2011-2015) that brought up a renovate political landscape. Despite the important role that the platform played in the protests, a really well-structured organization, a concrete and clear demand mixed with an inclusive frame, a detailed prognostic and an absolute effectiveness in helping and defending the interests of its members moves the platform away from what has been understood as the 15M social movements. The process of bureaucratization and institutionalization has made the daily activities of the platform more efficient, the communication with the government and the banks is almost systematized, presenting an organizational stability in the achievement of a solid objective, a characteristic of the pressure group. Nevertheless, the horizontal decision-making process, the internal dynamics such as collective counselling or the okupations, make the difference between the PAH and a pressure group, at least, a conventional one.





[1] All this information can be founded in the PAH main webpage:

[2] A detailed explanation of the term WUNC and the role that it plays in the social movement can be fined in the first charapter “Social Movements as Politics” of the book Social Movements 1768-2004 writed by Charles Tilly.

[3] We can find an approach to Sidney’s Tarrow political opportunity theory in the article De la estructura de oportunidades políticas a la identidad colectiva. Apuntes teóricos sobre el poder, la acción colectiva y los movimientos sociales elaborated by the Universidad Autónoma de México.

[4] The diagnostic-prognostic analisys of the PAH and the 15M social movements can be founded in Lluís Mangot Salas Article: La Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca.De la Crisis a la Estafa. Del Prozac al Empoderamiento.

[5] Mancur Olson’s thoery has ben approached by the Adrían C. Guisarri article; Mancur Olson (1932-1998) Sus principales contribuciones.