News from the debt crisis in Spain and the rise of a global response


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05 de Feb 2013

A corrala is a residential building originally typical to several cities in Spain. The small dwellings are constructed in blocks around an internal communal patio area where much of the community life takes place. In this article the corralas being referred to are those that have been occupied by rehomed families who are no longer able to pay rent and are at risk of homelessness (an initiative assisted by the 15M movement).

The families of "Freedom Corrala", in Seville, will now be associates in a housing cooperative to which the entire building rented.

By Editorial Andalucía, Hazeina Rodríguez / Translation: Rob Dyas & Susana Macías Pascua

The "Freedom Corrala" will soon be converted into a housing cooperative following an agreement with the owner of their building located in calle Evangelista 12, in the neighbourhood of Triana in Seville. Seven families will now be housed there who had previously been evicted from their repossessed homes. Amongst them are young children and one person with a severe disability. The agreement was announced at an emotional press conference, interrupted with shouts of "yes we can" and culminating in applause from other tenants and members from the 15M assemblies.

The families will now change from "rehoused" status to "associates" of the "Freedom Corrala Cooperative Society of Andalucia", a legal entity to which the owner "has granted the rental of the property at a rent fixed according to the payment capacity of the families in the cooperative", in the words of Eva, a member of the 15M housing group. The whole property will be let to the new cooperative at €600 a month. According to their explanation, the cooperative itself will then grant use of the homes to each family involved.

"A housing cooperative is a collective of people that, due to a communal necessity of shelter, decide to work together to find a solution to this basic necessity, according to values of mutual aid, equality, democracy and social responsibility", this is how Eva defines the model. "This is the legal entity that has proved to be the best in managing the process to date", and with which they are trying to "recuperate the house as a social asset and detach it from the logic of the market, a logic more concerned with the economic returns than the fundamental rights of the population which the home is part of".

One of the occupants of the "Freedom Corrala" also stated that she was grateful for all the support received and sent a message to the families "that find themselves in the same situation as us", to tell them that "they should know that the struggle is possible, that we are here for anything they need and that yes they can". Paco, another of the new "associates" of the Corrala, points out that "this collective is the thing making us strong and without it we wouldn´t achieve anything".

Enrique, the lawyer for the 17th March Group, who legally assists several corralas, has indicated that when "we adopt a legal assistance and possible defense of the persons that have decided to work on these corralas, we always have in mind that it could end in a penal process, we never imagined this result that has become a test case experience".

He explained that it was the owner, who prefers to remain anonymous, that contacted the families "as a result of the pressures from the police since Christmas Eve for him to report the occupation".

Adela, from the Intercomission of Housing 15M Seville, has welcomed this agreement as "very positive, because besides the fact that it stabilizes the families' situation, it may set a legal precedent for the rest of the corralas and the thousands of families who are in the streets". She insisted that "both the Government of Andalusia and the State must respond once and for all". To that end, she has urged the Government of Andalusia to declare "a state of Habitacion Emergency", which would allow for the "putting at the people's disposal many empty buildings currently in the hands of the banks, not just because these people need them but because they are entitled to them".

Manuela, from "Utopia Corrala", a pioneer in this fight, is overjoyed at seeing "an exciting new future in prospect". She couldn't avoid being overwhelmed by emotion several times during her statement, as "we have been through extremely tough times for eight months now". However, she finishes by pointing out that "we will carry on and we will succeed; with or without jobs, without water or electricity, we will carry on".

This is the first agreement reached between a corrala of rehomed families and the building ownership. Contributions from the Intercomission of Housing, the 15 M local assemblies, together with the exisiting Housing Information and Meeting Points in Seville city and province were also mentioned, as well as gratitude for the great welcome provided to the families of the "Freedom Corrala" by the neighbourhood of Triana.

"Utopia Corrala" is still trying to reach a solution with Ibercaja (Savings bank), the current owner of the building which gave shelter since May 2012 to the first of the six Corralas that now exist. For that purpose, the Housing and Urban Development Office of the Government of Andalusia, the City Council of Seville together with the Andalusian Ombudsman are keeping negotiations open. Another two corralas, "Expectation" and "Hope", have been in contact with this last institution so that it might mediate between them and the title holders of the flats that are now their homes.

[This article was originally published in Spanish on January 30th, 2012]

17 de Ene 2013

By Richard Crowbar / Translated by Rob Dyas and Susana Macías Pascua

The recovery of abandoned buildings to be used as social centres soars in Madrid. We talk to some of the activists of these new “free centres”.

Casablanca social centre / Photo: Olmo Calvo.

After the occupation of the Puerta del Sol during June 2011 and the initiatives of the 15M movement focused in the neighbourhoods, the occupation of abandoned buildings to be used as headquarters for social initiatives has soared in Madrid. Despite the continuous evictions, the number of “social buildings” has increased during this time from 10 to 18.

These kind of initiatives have emerged in both humble and affluent neighbourhoods such as Usera and Salamanca. Some time ago activists occupied a building La Osera in Usera, a working class neighbourhood. After 7 months of intense activity the activists were evicted from the building last July. In another example, the Salamanquesa project (which ended last May due to another eviction) developed in the affluent neighbourhood Salamanca. However, the project is still alive since a new building was opened up in Moratalaz in November.

“Now we find that the local people are much more involved in our activities”, said Silvia, one of the occupiers of an abandoned public school. This centre has large sport courts, kitchens and a canteen that has already been used as a conference centre. Such infrastructure is rare in the social centres in Madrid. The local meetings of the 15M assembly take place in this new building, something that was not possible in the former one. “This is a sign of the commitment of the people to the centre. In addition, a lot of kids use it, and I do not believe this is just because it was a school in the past”, Silvia says.

The social centre La Morada opened in Chamberi in late September following an initiative started by the 15M assembly of the neighbourhood. Although some of the activists had a pre-15M militant background (mostly the middle-aged), many of them were young militants who started their activism during the protest in May 2011. Remarkably, Chamberi is an upper middle class neighbourhood which generally follows the most conservative policies. In fact, the Partido Popular (right wing parliamentary party) obtained 62% of the votes in the neighbourhood in the last election. Obviously, this is the first self-managed social centre in the district.

Julia, who used to participate in the assembly at the Casablanca social centre in the Lavapiés neighborhood (evicted last September), states that “social centres existed before the 15M movement made them meeting points for working groups and the various assemblies that grow from such mobilisations”. This has provoked “a change in the profile of those that are now using social centres. Maybe this has opened the way for a new kind of social centre, much more open and inclusive. With less prejudices and less decisions taken a prori, there now exists a peoples movement in which the social centres are trying to participate, leading to a necessity for them to become more flexible and listen more”.

La Morada social centre / Photo: Álvaro Minguito.


With barely five years under its belt, the Patio Maravillas social centre – they call it a Multiuse Self-managed Space – could be considered a veteran. This project can be found in the Calle Pez, near one of the emblematic sites of the urban-politic polemic from Gallardon´s time as mayor of Madrid, the so called Triangulo TriBall (a gentrification experiment in Madrid). Both their sites have to date resisted successive attempted evictions and the transformation of the neighbourhood (the second of the two sites, evicted in 2011, is more a “subsidiary” located in an old local government building). The latter taking the form of the much lauded gentrification process whereby new tenants, with greater buying power, move in to displace the original population. Despite the difficulties, Cristina, one of the participants at the Patio, has noted “a growing legitimacy” of occupying as an activity. “The stigmatisation of these spaces is less than before. A much greater number of people consider the social centres as legitimate political subjects that have something to say and give to the city”, she believes. The Patio Maravillas could be considered a veteran with only 5 years behind it. It has resisted evictions and a transformation of the neighbourhood

Jota, one of those that participated in Hotel Madrid thinks that the opening created by the mobilisations on the 15th October 2011 from the abandoned hotel “served to jump-start multiple occupations which allowed for the establishment of social centres in other neighbourhoods”. In reference to the relation between the 15M movement and the social centres, he comments that both “have influenced each other reciprocally. The camp occupation of Sol (center of Madrid), made many of the principals (of occupied social centres) its own and thereafter the 15M has itself impacted on the dynamic of these centres and in the concept of occupation itself. Due to the movement, a whole sector of society that was not previously familiar with activism and militancy has now assumed these traits”. This activist stresses “an inclusive nature, media potential and the recuperation of public spaces as places of political participations” as the principal contributions of the movement. “With them, the social centres have been converted into an extension of the plaza”, he affirms.

A support network for social centres

Over the last few months a new space has emerged in Madrid called the Support Network for Social Centres. According to one of its participants, Álvaro, it involves“a bringing together of some of the social centres, based upon the acknowledgement of the diversity and autonomy of each social centre through, for example, the rejection of any all-embracing formula, such as a coordinating committee or a single communal positioning on issues”. At the moment, besides sharing experiences to resolve common problems, the network wants to work towards participatory research that highlights the role of the social centres in the transformation of the city.

Being an activity which is categorized as a crime in the Criminal Code since 1995, evictions and maintaining continuity of projects always pose a problem. Alvaro believes that “despite the fact that a social centre is being evicted almost every month, the number of them stays the same as others emerge. We have a double course of action in the network: dealing with the maintenance of the projects beyond the evictions and creating the conditions for the emergence of even more spaces”. He concludes that “there may even come the day when decreeing an eviction will be an unpopular measure and it will have a political cost ”.

Resistance to the Government Delegation drive

Threats from the Government delegate of Madrid have already translated into action on the ground: two social centres have been evicted in the last twenty days. On the 8th November, it was the turn of the Centro Social Okupado (Squat-CSO in the Spanish abbreviation) "16.0" in Malasaña (a neighbourhood in Madrid) and, on the 28th of the same month, CSO La Gotera in Leganés - a southwestern neighbourhood, 11 kilometres from Puerta del Sol, Madrid -  was removed.

Another of the veteran spaces within the social centre community in Madrid, La Traba, opened in 2007, announced at the end of November that had been summoned to appear at civil trial, which would take place the 10th of December. Unable to collect the 60.000 € expenses to appear at court, the assembly decided not to attend and instead to accept the imminent eviction warrant.

On 12th October, in response to the Casablanca Social centre’s eviction, the same building that had hosted the original project was occupied under the name of Magerit Social Centre. Within hours a large crew of riot police appeared to evacuate the building. Gonzalo, a member of the Casablanca’s assembly, commented: “this quick eviction was a heavy blow for those who were intending to continue with the project”. In spite of these events, on the 17th of November, an announcement was made that a new building located in the Calle Mesón de Paredes had been taken (a property of the recently bailed-out entity Bankia). With major restoration works ahead, as Gonzalo also says, on this occasion the project will be carried out under the name of Raíces (Roots).

[This article was originally published in Spanish on December 17th, 2012]

03 de Dic 2012

By Ter García and Pablo Elorduy / Translated by Esther Ortiz Vázquez, Susana Macías Pascua & Rob Dyas

Democracy, debt and human rights were the central themes of the Agora 99 meeting in Madrid, which was conceived to unify answers and demands against the shock policy being imposed by the EU. Despite the very ambitious goals, it was understood from the beginning that none of the European movements problems would be solved overnight. “Come down to earth and don’t tense up”, suggested one of the moderators. Calmly but with an intense schedule, due to the urgent situation of the European citizenship, for four days Madrid became the meeting point of more than two hundred activists from different Greek, Slovenian, German, French, British and Italian social movements which came to take part in Agora99.

The meeting took place in May during Frankfurt’s Blockupy workshop. Under the aim of coordinating a common European strategy for demonstrations around debt, social rights and democracy, the work meetings took place at Madrid´s Patio Maravillas (occupied social centre) thanks to technology such as Munble and other electronic chat tools. This threefold approach permeated the twenty meetings, tackling issues ranging from education, housing and health to joint water management, communication, and participative democracy.

“You are not a loan”

What kind of tools do we have to fight the debt model? The central one remains that of default. “This can be either managed from the top, by the debt owners, or from the bottom, democratically”, stated Isidro López, member of the Observatorio Metropolitano during the round table workshops.

Yorgos Mitralias, who forms part of the Greek Citizen Committee against Debt (CADTM), participated in the debt panels where the austerity measures imposed by the Troika on the peripheral Euro countries were analyzed in depth. In this workshop, tax resistance to the debt payment was suggested as a concrete response that might be given by the European citizenship. Moreover, the debt team highlighted the need of being pedagogic, coordinating and unifying the message at an international level so as to confront the blind alley that management of the debt as a shock tool inevitably leads to.

The work carried out by the different debt audit networks, especially in Greece, contrasted with the heterogeneous variety coming from the rights area. Here several movements spent hours sharing both experiences and information, with civil disobedience being the common denominator.

Occupy to stop repossessions

“There is a strong presence in the neighbourhoods in Spain. In Milan the movement is growing quietly, but it is taking shape and, in the last evictions we’ve had, the presence in the neighbourhood was also strong.” says Gonzalo Mosquiera of the Cantiere Social Centre, having just watched a video of a stoppage of a repossession in Madrid. Taking the lead from one of the tools that another housing group tried to put in place, Mosquiera’s collective have created a mobile app that allows users to view a map of notifications of evictions that might be taking place in Milan. He is quick to point out that there the campaign named Occupy Sfitto (Occupy the Empty) is more concentrated on preventing evictions of squats and the opening up of new squats for those without a home in a city that, he points out, has more that 80,000 empty dwellings owned privately and a further 4,500 empty public buildings. They have already forced the council to create a body that assesses each case individually.

“The situation in Germany is very different because we don’t have the same problems with mortgages”, confirms Hanno, a German activist, who also states however that the prevailing environment of fear is exploited by the landlords to increase rents, most notably in Hamburg. “In Berlin a short time ago locals managed for the first time to prevent a family being evicted, following the example of the Stop Desahucios (Stop Evictions) campaign in Spain and next week there is a protest being held for the right to a home”, explains Hanno.

A little later in the recently opened La Morada social centre, one of the Greek activists of Agora99 is speaking in a workshop about self-management and civil disobedience. He describes how, in Athens, the workers of a clinic occupied it in order to maintain the right to healthcare despite the proposed cuts.

Nearly 30 people attended the debate workshop to define and design a list of basic common rights. “In Paris we are working on the minimum wage. I think we need to fight for this on a European level and get it included on a list of European rights”, says Sophie Banasiak of Real Democracy Now Paris and other workers collectives. Sophie announced that on the 1st December there are protests organised based around these social rights and invited the other groups that were present to participate in order to make a Europe-wide mobilisation.

The removal process, that is the demand that the dominating powers resign, began more than a year and a half ago and will continue to be a key part of the European agenda. The commencement of a constituent process was one of the things that most inspired the participants. Roughly one hundred people worked throughout the Saturday afternoon to formalise the proposal, unifying the demands for direct, participative democracy through texts and communal events. Raúl Sánchez, one of the energizers of the axis of democracy, admitted during the morning session that the constituent debate does not have the same intensity in all the PIIGS countries (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain) in spite of the fact that the “commission dictatorship” of the Troika has attempted to block democracy from Lisbon to Athens.

Saturday evening proposals

During Saturday evening, sheltered from the rain, the three central themes of debt, democracy and rights were being settled so that the proposals could be transferred to the meeting the following Sunday. It wasn’t easy: exhaustion, the difficulty of dealing with some concepts at the same time in Italian, Spanish and English, and the specific urgent matters from each country, weighed down the progress of the three meetings. However, there were several proposals before the proceedings were brought to a close, both regarding agreement on future dates and common approaches that bring forward a new agenda of actions, mainly as regards to communications, which started last 14N.

The meeting on Sunday, which initially was to take place in Puerta del Sol, was in the end held in the EKO community centre. For more than six hours, participants of each working party presented their conclusions and proposals and, although the meeting did not finally produce any definitive decision, several actions have been brought to the table. “Why are dates so important?” wondered Aitor from Barcelona, “we are supposed to establish a horizon to know what we want and how we want it done”. His intervention questioned the emphasis in establishing an overly prescriptive agenda for the movement, which, nevertheless, has declared a few dates, some of them in connection with the pace of the different nodes, and others purely reactive, like the call to “hack” the forthcoming meeting of the Council of Europe in Brussels next March 2013.

“The meeting of the European movements in Madrid has been a qualitative leap”, states Dario Lovaglio from Universidad Nómada (“Small open political laboratory and in process that enables the collective production of new theoretical paradigms”- taken from its web site). “On the one hand, for being an ambitious project: a step forward to reinvent European democracy; on the other, for its inclusive and plural capacity”. To Lovaglio, Agora99 is the first step towards the construction of another European political framework, which feeds on the actual experiences of the participant movements that cope with the crisis. “It is there, where the crisis is lived out everyday, that new ways can be thought up of democratically re-appropriating common property and social, collectively produced wealth, both material and immaterial”, concludes Lovaglio. Working to revert the general state of shock and convene another meeting in the near future is the next step for Agora99, a public and open round table for the 99%.

A device within the network for the spread of information

The urgent need to configure a communications tool to coordinate and communicate to the different European movements (and many others) was suggested during the weekend in Agora99. “It is very complicated to build such a tool, there must be a group of hackers -people who work in participatory processes - who think of how to generate it also through other developed experiences like the ones in Brazil or Bolivia, explained Guillermo from Patio Maravillas (an occupied social centre in Madrid). At present what exists is an email list and a willingness to facilitate a fundamental tool that will help put to work the plans of the meeting towards a new network, which should be set in the coming months.

[This article was originally published in Spanish on November 9th 2012]

16 de Nov 2012

DIAGONAL Editorial notes / Translation: Rob Dyas

The European economic commissioner has made assurances that there is no need for Rajoy to make more cuts in 2013, this the same day that five countries within the EU executed their first joint general strike. The activities of the day represented a social response to the politics of austerity imposed upon millions of people in the euro zone. The day was brought to a close with the now familiar police harassment of protesters.

Businesses closed, businesses open or with the shutters just half open, empty or nearly empty, people without shopping bags and groups of ten or fifteen people waiting for the next march to link up with. Organised picnics on every open space. Groups of cyclists, of mothers, fathers and grandparents with shopping carts or with small children. Mercamadrid (food retail market) in complete stoppage, the industrial parks half empty and public transport on minimum service. Telemadrid (regional TV channel) “blacked-out” and public hospitals hung with hundreds of hand made signs against privatisation. Classic pickets mixed in with civil disobedience actions such as spontaneous road blocks. And police, lots of police.

These are the images from the morning of the 14N general strike, that together with a hundred other cities and localities (Barcelona, Valencia, Milan, Lisbon etc.) have shown the other side of Europe, a side that rebels against the payment of debt and the austerity measures. The EU felt obliged to make an appearance, in the form of the European Commission (EC) economic vice-president, Olli Rehn, to assure us that they will not be demanding more adjustment measures than those already presented by the government of Mariano Rajoy in the summer. Rehn also announced the delay until February of the next review of the Spanish deficit reduction.

The appearance of normality that the leaders of Europe have presented during this period of permanent shock from the crisis did not undermine the strikes success. Several hundred thousand people in the protests in Madrid, Barcelona, Seville and Valencia, amongst the more populated cities, – 800,000 in total according to the Interior Minister – attended the evening marches that terminated with police baton charges and a heavy riot police presence in several areas in the peninsula. The unions are in agreement that the attendance in Madrid alone was more than a million and in other cities they bypassed the figures of attendance seen in previous strikes.

In Italy, the scene was set in the morning by the massive demonstrations in Trieste, Milan and Rome. In some cases these ended with confrontations between protesters and police. In Portugal, where the strike was characterised by the high level of stoppages in the transport and industrial sectors, thousands of people surrounded the Congress opposite the San Bento Palace in Lisbon.

According to the UGT (union) estimates, of the 14 million people called to the general strike of he 14N, just five million went in to work. Amongst them are included two million people who were required to attend to comply with the minimum services agreed between the unions and the government in the various strategic sectors (administration, transport, health etc.).

As with the strike on 29th September 2010, the government has opted not to present the estimated figures of stoppages and, have instead chosen to publish details of electricity consumption on the day from the Spanish Electricity Network (along with a note to the press with details of the number of arrests). Considered one of the few reliable indicators of the impact of the strike, it showed that 84.2% of the electricity on a normal day was being used at 11am on the day of the strike. The collective Economists Against the Crisis spent the day explaining and qualifying this figure. Regardless of this, the information in the mass media pointed to a massive stoppage in the industrial sector, in schools and in transport.

The police security measures on the day of the 14N, with 4,500 officers in Madrid alone, was in the event overwhelmed by the variety and diversity of actions that took place across the state. From the classic pickets – confrontations led to 142 arrests before 10pm according to the Interior Ministry – to the lock-ins in hospitals (30 in Madrid, according to the Coordinadora Antiprivatización de la Sanidad – Anti-privatisation in Health Collective), bank offices or university faculties, or the road blocks created by bicycle pickets in cities such as Madrid, Seville or Valencia, or the expropriation of food by a feminist group in Barcelona. The general strike again shifted the matrix of power relations between the 1% and the 99%. In addition we are left with images of police attacks on the press and children and indiscriminate police charges against peaceful demonstrations.

[This article was originally published in Spanish on November 14th 2012]

28 de Sep 2012

By Madrilonia / Translated by Lara Hernández

On September 25, tens of thousands of people took the streets disobeying the state of emergency imposed by the Government. This text analyzes the significance of the protest.

Spanish Parliament surrounded by thousands of riot police to prevent the approach demonstrators. / Photo: Diego González.
They said we were going to take part in a coup. They said that behind us there was the far right, they lied in the media again and again, they threatened us, in all possible ways, saying that we would end up in prison, they brought 1400 policemen, and they identified and reported for criminal offence people who just gathered in a public park discussing the action. They tried to create fear as they had never done before… And the result was that tens of thousands of people took the streets disobeying the state of emergency imposed by the government. Today, media all over the world are talking about what happened in Madrid on 25S.

And we know that this is just the beginning.

Mariano Rajoy’s government is weaker than ever. It’s facing a threefold crisis which is getting deeper and deeper. First of all, a hard crisis of legitimacy in relation to citizenship, and not only among the tens of thousands who mobilized on 25S, but also among his own constituency. The government has absolutely no plans beyond insisting on the policy of cuts, always accompanied by a more intense and pointless repressive dynamic. We can easily see the symptoms of this growing lack of legitimacy, in the disproportionate response to the protests yesterday, the clandestine departure of the “honourable members of parliament” or the pathetic statements of most of our politicians. Let’s be clear, a government which is only sustained by the monopoly of violence is a weak government, dying, doomed.

Secondly, there lies a serious crisis of the regional model of State. Trapped between prostration to the troika (EU, ECB, IMF), which turns financial dictates into political impositions, and the dismemberment of the covenants between elites who held the sharing of power that embody the Autonomous Communities, the central government is just a mere scarecrow. It can hardly keep a certain unity of action with regional elites, as now it’s been shown with the “threat” of independence by CIU, who are able to mobilize (in a blatantly neoliberal and oligarchic project) much of the Catalan society. In this case, the weakness is not just that of the government, but that of the institutional arrangement as a whole, which we inherited from the Transition in the seventies, while this is showing us the need to build a new model of political and economic democracy.

Finally, the government has been unable to cope with the Troika and defend, in a much needed alliance with other countries of the periphery, the interests of its own people. In other words, the government has never stopped obeying the orders of the financial powers that constantly require a deepening in the social crisis. Within this framework, the only horizon lies in the imposition of recession and impoverishment on the majority of the population. Here we must remain vigilant, for surely on Friday or Saturday, at the very latest, we will know the cuts and privatizations required by the Troika as counterparts to the new bailout: reduction in unemployment benefits, increase the retirement age, public and common asset sales and new cuts in the rights of public workers. Today the risk premium has soared far above levels these days, in what may well be a reminder of the Troika by suspending the program of bond buying, that the policies imposed by finance are above any “concession” to the demands of the citizenship.

What we have experienced today in the streets of Madrid has been a first proof of the power of collective organization. We are at the beginning of a likely new cycle of demonstrations, which public employees or pensioners are yet to join massively. We must admit that the protest on 25S had a clear generational bias: a younger generation that has no housing, income, employment, hasn’t voted for the current 1978 Constitution, nor concedes any legitimate power to the agreements that have given shape to this model of State. However, it is to be expected that the series of measures that the government will surely approve will encourage many more to Siege the Congress once again. Since this is a political problem, our task remains to bring together the necessary social power to stop a dispossession that affects everyone.

Since this is a political problem, we have to get back to realize the same alliance that we lived in the July Days, where 15M, all kind of people from education and health workers to a crowd that went there with no more adjective that its own name, gathered together to indict the current constitutional system, the prevailing bipartisanship and the obsolete representative bodies. Democracy is something else.

Both in this country and in Europe, this new democracy is yet to be invented. We have finally come to a point where all the so-called Piigs countries find ourselves in pretty similar political, social and economical circumstances and, thus, the time is ripe for an alliance between the populations in these countries in order to reject the hardships imposed on us in the name of financial interests and enforced by an extremely short sighted German government. This way we can, certainly, shape together the future of a continent worthy of living in instead of the self destructive machine we are suffering now. The Madrid government delegation can say there were just 6,000 mobilized people, a ridiculously low figure, can still talk about us putting a coup or compare us with the Tejero coup in 1981, but their reality and ours are walking paths. Networking intelligence has its own ability to self-narrate and requires no mechanisms which “represent” it. This is a good example of the crisis of this form of State, which increasingly looks like a dictatorship. Therefore, we must shout again: we are not spectators, they do not represent us. 25S is finished.

Now the best is coming. The first step, today at 7pm and the next Saturday in Neptuno again, to show them that we go forward.

[This article was originally published in Spanish on September 26th 2012]

27 de Sep 2012

By María Carrión (Democracy Now!)

Coverage of the anti-austerity protests going on at the Spanish Parliament on September 25th, a massive civil desobedience action "to rescue the Congress from the abduction of the financial markets".

The Spanish protests stemmed from Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s plans to unveil further austerity measures on Thursday. According to Carrion, for weeks the government has been unveiling "a series of new measures that affect primarily education and health and salaries and the welfare of Spanish people." Many protestors cited a loss of confidence in elected leaders as another source of discontent. Thousands of civilians surrounded the Parliament, one of whom pleaded with the government to "Bail us out. Don’t cut education. Don’t cut healthcare."

After hours of protest, police in riot gear charged against demonstrators with batons and fired rubber bullets into the crowd. A peaceful crowd of protestors came back on the following day and are planning to demonstrate again next Saturday.

[This article was originally published on Democracy Now!]

08 de Ago 2012

By F. Fatale / Translated by Florencio Cabello and Lagdon Winner

Editorial note

To a considerable extent the current financial crisis in Spain was triggered by the collapse of a particular bank, Bankia, a relatively new financial institution composed of several smaller banks in 2011. Responding to the panic of "bailout," "austerity," and cuts in social services, a group of Spanish citizens related to the M15 movement has launched a campaing called 15MpaRato*. In fact, the campaign’s first move has been to file a lawsuit demanding that Bankia’s former director, Rodrigo Rato, as well as the rest of the board, be held accountable for the mismanagement and possible criminal behavior involved in the notorious bank’s demise. The story below provides details of the citizens’ case against Rato.

*Untranslatable pun meaning in Spanish both "M15 is out to get Rodrigo Rato" and "M15 is here to stay".

The signature of the memorandum [bank bailout plan] with the EU hasn’t caught 15MpaRato flat-fooded. Here we review the course of the citizens’ initiative that has been successful in including its lawsuit in the case against Bankia brought before the Audiencia Nacional, the court that deals with serious crimes in Spain.

"In the war between the elites and the common people, fear has changed sides. Now we are the ones who define the targets", proclaims the 15MpaRato campaign website. On the web site we can find the lawsuit against Bankia recently admitted by Fernando Andreu, judge of the 4th Central Court of the Audiencia Nacional. This means that the M15 movement is already fully entitled to appear in court in this case.

Some weeks ago, the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office backed the lawsuit filed by the UPyD (Unión, Progreso y Democracia) party. This meant that Rodrigo Rato and 32 former members of Bankia’s board are to be investigated on charges of falsifying accounts, dishonest administration, price manipulation and improper appropriation of the bank’s funds.

Why is the 15MpaRato complaint different from UPyD’s and others? In their own words: "Our complaint includes almost every charge that judge Andreu levels against members of the board, but also expands the first lawsuit to include offenses contained in Article 282bis of the Spanish Criminal Code". This article imposes jail sentences ranging from one to six years and fines ranging from six to twelve months if the administrators of a public company falsify economic and financial information in ways that cause serious damage. The 15MpaRato demand adds: "The charges of falsifying accounts, dishonest administration, price manipulation and improper appropriation are intended to protect Bankia’s legal goods, which formerly were public".

However, this complaint (launched by the Platform for a Citizen Debt Audit, Xnet, Citizens’ Bailout Plan, Iaioflautas [aging M15 activists], Platform of People Affected by Mortgages, Euribor Operation, #CierraBankia, Real Democracy Now network and Madrilonia) goes a step further: "We intend to protect the people, the affected; we represent no other interest than the common interest of the people. We are the people! The admission of our complaint allows us to appear in court and watch over those interests at every moment in the process".

The next steps of 15MpaRato will be to expand attention to the criminal aspects of the dispute and to gather information from Bankia workers. Besides, this campaign collaborates with the platform of #OpEuribor, which focuses on the possible manipulation of Euribor, the reference rate upon which most Spanish mortgages are indexed to. Together they reclaim "the nullity of all contracts signed by Bankia, on the grounds that the calculation of Euribor in Spain is has been revealed as a fraud of historic dimensions, in much the same way that we are seeing the Líbor scandal unfold in the UK".

The 15MpaRato lawsuit is also distinctive in its mode of operation, its forms, proving showing the power of network collaboration achieved through the Internet. The citizen response to the online campaign exceeded its own promoters’ expectations: the crowdfunding campaign launched to obtain the € 15 000 needed to file the lawsuit pulverized all records, raising the money in less than 24 hours; all the information required to initiate the case was gathered in 23 days, something that would have been impossible for any single citizen to accomplish acting on her own; in just 12 hours 50 small shareholders offered themselves as plaintiffs and dozens of inside witnesses were located.

From a communicative perspective, the campaign bears the imprint of M15 movement, making the most of social networks. The press conference organized in June to announce the filing of this lawsuit was both twitted and streamed. The message was clear: "Impunity is over. For each bank intervention, we will save schools, hospitals and jobs for the benefit of all. We don’t owe, we won’t pay. They owe, they shall pay".

[This article was originally published in Spanish on July 20th, 2012]

02 de Jul 2012

By Francesco Maria Evangelisti (Communication, Politics & Social Change Studies Group, Compolíticas) / Translated by Robert Dyas.

The Euro 2012 advertisement from Coca-Cola praises the fantastical idea of a Spanish “wonderland” with a chin-up attitude to the markets. I would not usually dedicate my time to the analysis of Coca-Cola advertisements but in this particular case the marketing agency McCann seems to me to have entered the realm of propaganda and it is worth a second look.


The 48 second ad can be divided into 2 sections. The first has no narrating voice, the sound occupied instead by the famous “get behind them” (“a por ellos”) that has substituted the “no we can’t” and “es-pa-ná” in the popular tradition of Spanish football team chants. The video starts with a panoramic view of a stadium where a match is being played. Next the focus moves into the depths of the stadium and the first point worthy of analysis is offered up: there is someone flying a Union Jack. Given this is the Euros and not the Olympics, it is surprising that someone has turned up at the stadium with a flag of a country that isn’t competing (United Kingdom). A more critical eye, given the long history of events in the straits of Gibraltar, might think this more than an oversight.

The next image is of an angry looking german smearing war-paint on his face in colours of the german flag, something that in these times of disguised bailouts, does not require further comment. The next group are the irish, another of the PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Spain) that should have better things to do than give it large in a central square; the dutch are passed by, but soon, while one is still vaguely remembering that Iniesta’s goal in the last world cup came from a corner that was not given to Holland, a flash of blue throws up the crisis fetish word: the risk premium (“prima de riesgo” – variable rate paid by the government when issuing bonds, a popular current daily news topic in Spain), itself an invention of the elite as an explanation to the masses for why they should soon be returned to their original role of slaves, an invention invoked at every opportunity and in any context.

Less than a second later, with just enough time to grasp the concept while a few english pass by (evidently not represented by the Union Jack this time), they appear, Spain’s Nemesis, the Other that allows one to define oneself and feel, although its not clear why, a little better: the italians. From the defensive and provocotive italians (see the gesture of the fan, apparently a typical gesture with the fingers arched indicating violence) we turn to another image on a computer screen. The blog Reporteros Freepress Reporters, an invention of the marketing company using the style and language of citizen journalism, that reminds us that there are 5 million unemployed in Spain (including you who is watching the television). For the next picture the authors decide upon a false article entitled “Europe has no confidence in Spain”. To create this they use a text published in El Confidencial (national newspaper) and, on the falsified page (with a very similar design to El País) they use a photograph that is pure poetry, picturing two unknowns that could be any politician. One looks like Rajoy, a bit darker, apologies for the reference.

The next image to appear is a danish chap jumping around and the following frame is of one of these screens that dictate our lives in the stock exchanges across the world, that indicates the umpteenth demolition of the spanish markets. That is just the prologue to a series of images ever present in the contemporary western episteme: a few stock traders, a building site with no workers, a block of flats in the middle of nowhere, residues of a street battle etc. After this we hear the voice of an english newsreader that, no doubt, is not reading good news and other supposed web pages then appear.

The main title of the first page is “Corruption is suffocating Spain”, the subheadings are: “Financial innovation does not mean death” (in english), “Analysis of the bailout plans” and the emblematic “Saving trend hits laminate flooring sales”. Then, at a dizzy pace, the others arrive: “Stockmarkets flagging”, “Financial Chaos”, “Financial asphixiation” and “Free Fall”. We can only read these by pausing the video. In this climax, a second of silence, and the narration comes back to that famous match between Holland and Spain and the studs in the chest of Xabi Alonso. We see a player picking himself up in pain and this is the key moment in the advertisement because, in the face of such injustice, a spectator rips up the newspaper with the “Free Fall” headline. He tears it to pieces and throws is from the stand creating a ticker-tape effect that we view from the centre of the pitch.

Get behind them!

The chant returns, the game restarts and another series of images begins, heterogenous in form and content: “España, first country in the world in organ donorship”, another website announces; “Together we can” on a hand written sign, the first to imitate the language used in the 15M demonstrations. Next some fishermen (a sector with plenty of problems); a child writing (an act that will probably be reserved in a few years only for those that have an uncle in the church); one of the many trains unveiled in recent years that don’t go anywhere; images taken from the archives of the more prestigious times of some volunteers; a video from Youtube where a darling tells us that “spanish technology companies increase sales” (by relocating to China they should add); little ribbons in the colours of various charitable organisations; a poster for blood donations; a “We are all Lorca” (the town but maybe referring to the poet as well) written in the style of a well-known social network; and volunteers from the Red Cross that give way to the “disaster” that the debate has generated: the use in marketing of the the popular demonstration, what Carlos Taibo has dubbed: “Seudo 15M iconography”.

The 15M is never cited but, as Roland Barthes has noted, the polysemy charges the image with ambiguities and multi-purpose meanings that, to be avoided, require the intervention of a string of devices that steer the interpretation precisely and without contradiction. In this case these devices, the “anchors”, are represented by the already mentioned social network and another two: the united and organized crowd and the occupations (acampadas). The camera reveals the interior of a tent in the camp in an urban square (the Puerta del Sol – central square Madrid) and then returns to the football fans, painting an idealised path that unites all in one commodification. The rhetoric of Coca-Cola is confided by a voice that accompanies the last images with this phrase: “We’re going to show Europe just what we’re capable of when we’re united.” On the football pitch firstly and then, maybe, well we’ll see.

Positive identity

One could interpret that the intention was to create a dramatic narrative that, while still reminding us that according to some, we live in a valley of tears and destruction, surrounded by europeans that want to take everything from us (from the public companies to the European Cup), Spain still has a positive identity (reflected as much in the donation of organs as in the popular demonstrations). Therefore whatever is happening, it can’t be that bad: relax, have a soft drink and distract yourself with the football.

What reflexions are provoked by this ad? What can we do with these relexions? The first, that incorporates all the rest, is that Walter Benjamin and some others in Frankfurt were right after all: in the culture of industry, nothing escapes from commodification, as seen with numerous counter-cultures and suppposed alternatives in the past 50 years. Zizek in his, First as tragedy, then as farce, explains that Starbucks uses the language and imagery of “alternatives” to present itself as an ethical product to its audience. The second is that the new structure of the audiovisual languages, used by those producing videos for the recent social movements, has proven, in a quantitative sense, its potency. It is being co-opted by “power” and this itself steers us to another reflexion.

It confirms that the initial success of the 15M in spreading anti-capitalist material was due to, amongst many other things, the realization that the rites of the system could be used and exploited, in other words, commercial publicity, political language and communication channels. Some of the strategies propagated in the material on the social networks, and reflected in the traditional media, have been similar to those in recent years to launch new products through online marketing. This advertisement proves in this case that Power has also learnt, on a larger scale, the populist language and its uses for their own ends, the reification of what was at the start simply a spontaneous expression.

The conclusion that I reach from this analysis is that the channel is not itself the message. Grassroots strategies should take advantage of the fact that the culture of industry now needs to include the “new popular” in their marketing, in the sense of “from the people” and the “celebrated” to pursue its objectives. It could be interpreted as a provocation but I sincerely believe that the properly prepared “indignant”, that sneaks into the next Big Brother and uses their language and dynamics, would achieve a connection with an audience that does not usually use the internet to learn how they are being exploited. If “Power” speaks “your” language to sell more cans of soft drink, you should use theirs, down to the most base and visceral, to colour your ideas and social imaginations.


[This article was originally published in Spanish on June 26th 2012]

08 de Jun 2012

By Marta G. Franco (DIAGONAL editorial) / Translated by Robert Dyas

The 15th May 2011 was the start of the increase in activity within social movements that we have witnessed in recent months. The governing parties have yet to pick up on the atmosphere in the street. Contempt for them grows as initiatives of self-organisation abound.

A year on from the protests of 15th May 2011, it might appear as though none of the demands have been met. However, a closer look reveals real changes that the 15M movement has achieved in several areas.


Housing: Repossessions and Occupations

The most constant, visible and successful actions carried out by the 15M activists have been the repossession blockades. Although the Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (PAH)  (Platform For Those Affected by Mortgages) existed before, their activity has grown in the past 11 months and, with the assistance of the popular assemblies, they have been able to impede 230 repossession orders across the country. Using popular pressure and legal advice, the PAH lends effective support to those affected so they are able to renegotiate debt and find affordable rentals.

The platform concentrates specifically on mortgaged homes but other groups also act to prevent repossessions. The Associació 500x20 in Barcelona for example, "In the neighbourhood of Ciudad Meridiana, the indignants and neighbours have succeeded in preventing all repossessions in March", says Antoni from the association. His colleague Salva explains that the "15M has found in the home a more practical means (of struggle) than on other fronts. Prevention of repossessions are small triumphs that help ordinary people".

Some of those subject to repossession are choosing to squat homes. The 15M has facilitated this with initiatives such as Edifici 15O in Barcelona and the Hotel Madrid. Although the latter was evicted, in its time it contributed to the improvement of the public perception of squatting and generated a network that continues to make flats available. In addition, the assemblies founded in the plazas have been occupying empty buildings since autumn from where they operate. In Madrid there are 7 new social centres and at least 8 assemblies from other cities have done the same.

Support Networks: Neighbourhoods Out in the Street

Upon the lifting of the campsites, the 15M wanted to expand its assemblies into the neighbourhoods. Carmen Espinar, from the Madrid neighbours association La Flor (the Flower) and expert in neighbourhood participation, commented that in some areas the "life of the neighbourhood has been revitalised". From the packed assemblies of the first weeks, "that served as a reminder that the plazas are not simply places of transit", have evolved more operational meetings; "they are working in small affinity groups and there are more activists that a year ago although you may not notice them". For Espinar the associative fabric of the community was dormant and "the 15M was the injection that has led to different things now happening, more dynamic and beautiful things".

One of the collectives that felt that push was the Brigadas de Observación de Derechos Humanos (the Human Rights Observation Brigade). For 2 years they have been documenting racist police controls and are now seeing more interest in their work. "It would be unusual now to find someone in Madrid who doesn’t know about the racist raids", confirms Ana, a brigade member. They have given workshops at many neighbourhood assemblies and alerted them to the task of sending out warnings about raids.

The 15M has also turned its gaze upon the Centros de Internamiento de Extranjeros (CIE) (Foreign National Internment Centres). They have set up condemnation campaigns and, in Malaga, set up camp infront of one of the centres. In this way the expulsion of Sid Ahmed Bouziane was impeded; a young man from Algeria whose life was in danger following an attack by a violent gang in his native country.

Social Economy: It’s not the crisis, it’s the system.

Encouraged by the questioning of the economic model itself in assemblies, new alternatives of consumption are being sought and social economy projects are being formed. For example, the Cooperativa Integral Catalana that provides for all economic needs (products, services and social currency) in the form of self-management (autogestion). The cooperative had been going for a year when 15M began but has really picked up in recent months. Its model is being reproduced in Madrid, Andalucía, Valencia, Cabo de Gata, La Rioja, Valencia and Aragón.

Criticism of the financial system has resulted in a good year for ethical banking which, at least, meets the principal of transparency. Triodos has doubled its profits in 2011, increasing its client base by 24%. The network Fiare, that operates in Spain as the agent of Banca Pololare Etica (from Italy), and the cooperative of financial services Coop57, have also increased their deposits and credits substantially. The latter speaks of "an incessant demand for talks, workshops and seminars" from the 15M collectives.

On a smaller scale, the popular assemblies are recreating consumer forms: banks of time, barter markets, self-managed learning workshops and pastimes, etc. The assembly of Carabanchel for example takes leftover food from Mercamadrid [biggest food retail market in Madrid] and gives it out in the neighbourhood.

Party Politics: The limits of democracy.

The 15M has never massively supported any voting option. It has however had an influence in the 2 elections while it has been in existence. According to the CIS, 18.8% of voters took it into consideration on 22nd May and the minority parties saw increased support; in other words, the movement contributed to the reduction in the bipartisan vote. A study by Manuel Jiménez Sánchez, of the University Pablo de Olavide, identified that it resulted in the greatest number of spoiled and blank votes since 1987, with higher incidences in towns where there was an encampment set up.

In the general elections of November these votes continued to increase and the total votes for the PP and the PSOE [the two major parties in Spain] carried on falling. The 15M has not contributed to abstention, according to Carolina Galais of the University Autonoma Barcelona. On the contrary, their contribution has given a protest angle to the vote: "Democracia Real Ya, #nolesvotes, #aritmetica20N and other related camps have energised the vote with initiatives such as apartisanism, recommending a critical vote as an expression of non-accordance with the current system".

To try and stop the drain of support, the PSOE and PP have paid lip service to the demands of the 15M. In June, Rubalcaba announced the Transparency Law which, after years of silence, will reach Parliament. It was not until April that the project was published. Organisations such as X.net have identified many deficiencies but at least the debate has been opened. Along similar lines, the subject of the debt swap (dación en pago – where a mortgaged property is surrendered in return for cancelation of the debt) has reached Parliament on several occasions (although the PP’s code of good practice has meant that few cases have actually been resolved). At least there has been a small legislative advance: the upper limit of a balance that could not be reclaimed due to unpayments on a mortgage was increased. It remains to be seen how successful will be the Popular Legislative Initiative (ILP) for retroactive debt swaps, the moratorium on repossessions and affordable rents, for which the process of collecting signatures has just begun.

The 15M has already had experience in this field: an ILP was registered in the Parliament of Andaluzia precisely to modify the process of these laws (ILPs) and help them to succeed. The government of the PSOE remixed the proposal and it was eventually approved with votes from all parties. The proposal was for a law reducing the number of signatures required for an ILP but it was "too light" in the end and, in the opinion of 15M, did not really promote participation as originally intended.

Meanwhile, the political class continue to be discredited and the response continues in the streets. The CIS has confirmed the perception of the political parties and the government as being one of the principal problems and specificies that there has been an increase of 4.7% in participation in protests since May. According to information published in 20 Minutos, 2012 is on its way to becoming a record breaker with 60 protests to date. In Valencia in January and February, 5 times more protests were recorded than in the same period the previous year.

Cultural Change: Disrepute and collaboration.

Disrepute is splashed across the means of communication. The use of social networking sites is often cited (as well as free networks: N-1.cc has increased user numbers from 3,600 to 40,500 since May) along with a proliferation in alternative mediums. Some media show the influence of 15M, such as Mas Público, a group of ex workers of Público [second-largest left-wing newspaper in Spain, recently folded its print edition because of financial losses] that want to recover the project as a workers’ co-operative.

Away from the internet, the periodical Madrid15M, edited by its own assemblies, is now onto its third edition, reaching 40,000 copies distributed, Rebelaos, a publication for self-management (autogestión) has printed 500,000 copies. Collaborative cultural projects are appearing that use the same structures as the 15M, such as the documentary 15M.cc, the musical project Fundación Robo or the online library Bookcamping.

Luis Moreno-Caballud, professor at the University de Penn and participator in Occupy Wall Street, describes 15M as a "a knowledge diffusion machine" and lauds its capacity for "collective and anonymous production of sense; usable discourse, inclusive and powerful due to being so difficult to pigeon-hole". The contribution of the 15M, in his opinion, relates to a cultural change: "the primary victory is precisely in having found a way of life in which the victories and defeats are not important. It has given new force to a means of existence based in collaboration and not in competition".

[This article was originally published in Spanish on May 12th 2012]

08 de Jun 2012

By Madrilonia

Madrilonia is one of the most politically active blogs that gained recognition during last year’s protests of the 15M movement. This article discusses the possibility of a Government fall in the following weeks.

On May 15th of last year we said: “Nobody expected the Spanish Revolution.” It’s been 12 months of debates and actions, of getting to know each other, and testing what we could do together. We see that bipartisanship has not listened to a single one of our demands. How then can we defeat the dictatorship of the market? How can we win a new regime of rights for all? How, in short, can we conquer a real democracy?

A government without a parachute

The first premise that we need to remember is that the current crisis is political and only political. There is no economic argument that justifies austerity policies that ultimately push us into recession. The problem lies only in the accounting hole of the large Spanish and European financial institutions – generously fattened off of several decades of successive financial bubbles united in an economic model based in brick, mega events and infrastructure that we never asked for and that today show an authentic black hole of debt and dispossession – and the incapacity to find a profitable business niche in a situation of the general decline of the market. In this sense, all of the decisions directed by financial rigor, austerity and deficit control are only oriented toward defending the interests of the large creditors – banks and investment funds – that have turned the public debt into big business, the only business now available.

The second premise results from the first: the political decisions that have ended up leading to the debt crisis are made only in a few centers of power. At the European level, the only one that really matters, the centers are the German government of Angela Merkel and the rigidly orthodox European Central Bank. At the Spanish scale, but only as a simple messenger, the last link of a long chain of command that begins with the large financial institutions: the State government and the autonomous communities, which can be more or less in agreement with the ideology of adjustment and debt, but don’t have any plans other than to cut rights and welfare.

We see that our government doesn’t do anything to stop the debt from growing and growing. Latin America lived a lost decade. A decade of poverty is foreseen for Greece. The growing snow ball must be stopped. The more time passes, the poorer we will become, the more unstructured our public services will become, the less room or maneuver we will have. Any government that doesn’t say enough and break the vicious circle of debt is an illegitimate government. A government that sells its citizens to save the banks’ profits is an illegitimate government. In Argentina, after the crisis of 2001, only the government’s fall opened a process that ended the debt. In Iceland, only the expulsion of the politicians allowed for the default and change of economic direction. But, how to overthrow a government? The rhetoric of bipartisan democracy is powerful, although legitimacy does not only depend on votes.

Blackmail no longer works

We launch ourselves into anticipating some events of the immediate future: there will continue to be new attacks on the market, the risk premium will go above 600 points, European intervention in the Spanish economy will stop being wrapped up in the rhetoric of “European politics” to be one of direct control of the public accounts to guarantee the debt. At the same time, there will appear, and they are already here, the first talks of reform: they will talk about abandoning, always partially, austerity measures, of recovering the path to economic growth, of partially maintaining the Welfare State. However, we shouldn’t conform, it’s only about rhetoric and partial measures to dole out a process of brutal dispossession. Simply, our political class, both Spanish and European, totally lacks an alternative that doesn’t consist of following the mandates of those that really direct the continent’s economic activity: the large financial institutions.

When they say, “we can’t allow the occupation of the plazas, it will erode confidence in the markets,” they are giving us a clue. What would happen if at some point we remained in the plazas? In Egypt they defeated a dictator and in Iceland a corrupt government. But, what would happen if the risk premium shot up without people in the streets? In Italy they have imposed a president that nobody voted for. When Rajoy’s government falls, maybe they will convoke elections or establish an alliance between the PSOE [Partido Socialista Obrero Español – Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party], the CIU [Convergència i Unió – Convergence and Union (Catalan Party)] and the PNV [Partido Nacionalista Vasco – Basque Nationalist Party] to ensure the debt payment and to balance the power of people taking the streets. But they would only govern to be the privileged witnesses of the rapid erosion of their legitimacy, by making visible the separation between society and the political class, between the real country and the representation of the country.

“Spain is too big to be bailed out,” we’ve heard said a thousand times. What would happen to the German and French banks, the creditors, if they saw that there is no way to pay the debt. If Italy is infected? Even more interesting, what if movements like the 15M take hold in other countries, like Italy? Could they be capable of maintaining the same policies of austerity and cuts in favor of the creditors with Europe socially boiling over and the currency in free fall? Could they continue governing as if nothing were happening? Could they maintain the same policies of social dispossession throughout the continent faced with movements that bring together diverse peoples on a European scale? Could they continue accelerating the looting in the context of blatantly leading economies to ruin?

A democratic revolution

Because of this, the revolution seems to consist in displacing the current political elites that aren’t going to do anything for the common people. The fundamental question resides in the following equation: how to make the destitution of the political class be paralleled by the constitution of new forms of democracy at different scales from the local to the continental? Here, again, there is no path to follow. Undoubtedly, we will find valuable all experiences of the creation of alternatives, self-management and the direct appropriation of public services, updating forms of use and management of common goods. Also, the assemblies in the plazas or work sites and digital networks provide experiences and tools for the democratization of politics and power. Without these experiments, in fact, there can be no real democracy. It is time for change, for innovation.

In parallel, new electoral candidates will appear – for example, the pirate parties or broad coalitions of small parties – that will attempt to wrest away the ability to exercise political power from within existing institutions, even if only so that those same institutions don’t impede the creation of other new ones. We will have to demand of them, of these new political platforms, that they have clear and consented upon democratization programs, and remind those candidates that their mandates are revocable and should be fully under the control of of new forms of democratic intervention and should assume the ability to generate proposals for citizen assemblies. Ultimately, that they should obey and do it thanks to a new system, a system that is more democratic and more just. There are more than enough examples of of new forms of institutions like those that have crossed Latin American in the last ten years or those that have emerged from the Icelandic revolution. The party system doesn’t work, the near absolute delegation of sovereignty to someone who doesn’t have any responsibility for their voters is dangerous for democracy and welfare. From the days following May 15, 2011, we have spent a long time thinking about this constituent process: what new forms of direct participation and deliberation to use, how to reform the electoral system, what social rights will need to be legislated, what type of financial controls to impose and what kind of economy we want to promote, and much more. Much, therefore, is already advanced, we only need a way to make it happen by uniting forces.

This is only one of the possible stories. Be it is how it described here or in another way, we will only stop society’s submission to the debt payment if the 99% lose our fear and say enough. We can never really know how to change things, but it can only be accomplished with much desire. For the moment, maybe, it is enough to insist in a method that works and that we know. Repeat ourselves and repeat ourselves. Occupy the plazas and avoid any provocation. For every eviction, a new concentration of thousands, tens of thousands, until the plazas are ours again. And when it is necessary to stay indefinitely in the plazas, with a unanimous scream: “They don’t represent us.” With one goal: A real democracy.

[This article was originally published in Spanish on May 14th 2012]

21 de Mayo 2012

By Amador Fernández-Savater, a Spanish author, editor of Acuarela books and freelance researcher.

"More wood, this is war!" The train in the Marx Brothers’ film is the most accurate picture of present-day capitalism. Running away, fleeing forward, dismantling itself to further fuel the machine: destroying rights, guarantees, life, wealth, resources, care, bonds, the entire building of modern social civilization. The mad rush of capitalism threatens to bring everything down with it. There is neither an overall plan nor a long-term prospect: just take all the wood necessary to keep the machine running. Capitalism has gone completely punk: "no future".


Deep down, something is broken. We act as if nothing has happened, but we know it. The general feeling is that "everything has become possible": for the EU to expel Spain from the euro, a bank run, a ‘corralito’ or an insurrection. Just anything. But we cling to the more remote possibility: that things just stay the same, that we return to "normal". Capitalism is improvising, but so are the movements that oppose it. No compass is of any use now, the maps that we have are falling from our hands and we have no idea where we are heading. The only thing that we can do – or so it seems – is to follow the events of the day: the King’s speech yesterday, Repsol’s troubles today, and tomorrow we’ll see. Time is out of joint.  

Protest seems pointless. Despite more than ten general strikes the Greeks have been unable to slow down the absurd speed of the locomotive even slightly, or even to decrease its terrible destructiveness. It is as if the powers-that-be have been disconnected from society and there is no way to reconcile them. It is scary indeed. The pace of capitalist destruction has been multiplied by a thousand since 2008. Achievements that required decades of work and struggle are being cancelled in seconds. And we don’t know how to stop this.  

If everything has to go down, we can at least take part in the sinking. A friend told me that in Barcelona the tolerance for street violence during the last general strike was massive: "you cut, I burn." A legitimate response (what is burning a waste container compared with burning millions of lives?). More wood, this is war: cuts, repression, lies. The normal, obvious reaction, is anger, hatred, violence. Legitimate – and indeed useless. Your head keeps banging against the wall, your anger growing stronger, blind and desperate. But the wall does not yield.  

They set the agenda.

They set the time frame.

They set the stage.

We react.

Has anyone out there seen Michael Collins? The movie about the life of the  Irish revolutionary leader opens with a re-creation of the Easter Rising of 1916. The IRA has momentarily taken over an official building, but the English are about to chase them out. This isn’t the first time: in line with the rules of conventional warfare the IRA is losing all the battles. Within the organization there are those who think that the continuing "blood sacrifice" contributes to the birth of the Irish nation: repression brings new recruits to the cause, and new uprisings. Worse is better.  

Michael Collins thinks nothing of the sort. While in prison, he reflects on this and proposes a radical strategic shift: "from now on we must act as if the Irish Republic was a fact. We will defeat the British Empire by ignoring it. Not by following their rules, but by creating our own". Thus began a historic guerrilla war, which for years made the British go mad, and ultimately forced them to negotiate the first peace treaty giving independence to the Irish.  

What Collins decides is to stop banging his head against the wall. He does not simply want to be right, nor is he ready to sacrifice anyone for the sake of a better future. What he wants is to live and to win. And winning implies the creation of another reality, concretely: to truly counterattack, the opposition must start building a new reality, which is paradoxically based on a fiction (we should act as if the Irish Republic was a fact).  

Fictions are serious things. The eighteenth-century French revolutionaries decided to "act as if" they were no longer subjects of the ancien régime, but citizens able to think and write a constitution. The proletarians of the nineteenth century decided to "act as if" they were not the mules that that reality forced them to be, but people like the others, able to read, write, speak and organize themselves. And they changed the world. Fiction is a material force as soon as we believe in it and organize ourselves accordingly.  

So let’s not complain, resent, react, or sue, but rather, act – act as if the Republic of the 99% was a reality. Instead of playing their game by their rules, let’s fight to ignore those rules and create others. What could this mean? 

I guess the first thing of all would be to issue a statement declaring a massive break with the corrupt reality of economics and politics. A serene, quiet, gesture to convey just one message: "you’re fired, we say goodbye". It would be like our Tennis Court Oath. Then we should infer what possible, practical consequences would derive from the impossible: if the Republic of the 99% was a reality, what would it be? We would set the time frame, the subjects and the scene. Make them exist and be respected, and make them last and grow. In short, inhabit here and now another country: real and fictional, visible and invisible, intermittent and continuous.  

The best way to defend something is to reinvent everything.

Not for you and your folks, but for the 99% (we’re all riding on the same train). 

And our revenge is to be happy.

[This article was publish in Spanish on May 5th 2012].



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