Monday, October 10, 2011

A Time for Furnaces and Light

"Now is the time of the furnaces, and only light should be seen." --Jose Marti

Just when I thought it couldn't happen in America.
Just when I thought, my compatriots were lost
I was proved wrong.
We are breaking away from the fetters of our fear.
We are awaking from the slumber of ignorance, and beginning to learn.
We are shaking off the chains of apathy.
We are finding our own way.
It can happen in America too.

So I returned from Spain in a bit of a despair. I had a long, beautiful, summer walking across northern Spain on the Camino de Santiago.1 This was an amazing experience, about which I will not write, because I'm going to keep that in my own head. If you're interested in that, contact me personally, if you know who I am, or the best advice I can offer you is to buy a plane ticket to Spain, a good back-pack, couple shirts, undies, a poncho, and some courage and go do it yourself. Coming back to the suburban waste-land of Pasadena has been difficult. I have few close friends here that relate well to my experience and reasoning, and few professional opportunities.  Although, I do have a wonderful family here who supports me; I'm too much of a wanderer to stay rooted for now.

Los Angeles is a a place that I don't fit into very well. I gained my social skills and my political and professional formation in places very foreign to Southern California. Although I grew up here, I feel as if this place is made for people who fit a certain mold, who like being more spread out. I loved and still love the Bay Area because things are more bunched up geographically, personal spaces aren't as distinct. Likewise, Madrid is a city of so centralized and well connected that even the outskirts felt close. I still feel this way: both the Bay and Madrid still call to me, and I feel like I'll be heading to there or somewhere similar if given another opportunity.

What's happening now? Reverse culture shock is an experience far more traumatizing, confusing, and mind-numbing than the original ***splash*** of jumping into a new culture. Things feel older, dated, backwards. Supermarkets and malls are cavernous spectacles of consumption that frighten my nerves that grew used to clustered Spanish cities and siestas.  As Chuck Palahniuk puts it, "Advertising has these people chasing cars and clothes they don't need.  Generations have been working in jobs they hate, just so they can buy what they don't really need." The events of May and June234 are still fresh in my mind, the taste of revolution still burning in my mouth. When I heard about folks organizing to start a similar movement in New York City I was hopeful, but frankly, not optimistic. When it began to take-off, I didn't think it would spread. Americans don't like things done slowly and correctly, I had thought. We are a culture gripped by consumption, and in many ways in love with our servitude to the forces of old and evil. I had thought for a while that when the moment comes for people to rise up, it would happen here only because we were forced to by situations abroad leading to the break-up of our plutocracy's hegemony.5

But now my hope is beginning to grow back. I completely reject the plutocrats and their political class, which is its attack dog to maintain the status quo. I have come to see reformism as far more utopian than revolution: to expect the same colluding forces of old and evil to change things for us is unrealistic. The geography of good and evil is inverted in our history.6 The good is with us, those from below. And we are coming to speak with those above.

Seeing this Occupy Wall Street movement spread to Los Angeles, I took my experiences investigating the dynamization processes in Spain to put observation and theory into practice. I've been intimately involved with codifying and concretizing our own processes here at Occupy LA to facilitate a General Assembly. What is a General Assembly? A General Assembly is an experiment on collective thought. This is opposite the Current System. Which is governed, by individual thought. It requires time. It is a long process. We are not going slow. We are going Far. It Requires active listening. It is not a choice, or debate. But a construction. It is a popular assembly. There are many different kinds of popular assemblies. It is an open, deliberative body. It seeks to construct consensus. Each of us chooses freely to be at General Assembly. Respect must be maintained. It is made up of assembled persons. It discusses proposals for Joint Action. A proposal has three parts. WHAT? HOW? And WHY? Without this, it is not complete. Consensus can be direct or indirect. When we can't reach consensus directly, we engage in a process to reach it indirectly. Through discussion, and reformulation. We are constantly working on this process together.

At the pre-occupation General Assemblies, things were very chaotic. Not much time or effort was given to procedural issues until just before the start of the occupation. As such, the first post-Occupation General Assembly was a massive cluster-fuck. Facilitation broke down entirely. There were divisive elements within the crowd that shouted others down. I personally didn't handle it well. The stress itself caused me to get pretty sick the next day, combined with a recent change in my blood pressure medication, it caused me to get very dizzy for the next few days. So I stepped back, and wonderful people stepped up to fill in the gaps and begin the process of facilitating the General Assembly. By last Wednesday the General Assembly had begun to crystallize. By Thursday, when I shadow moderated, it went well. On Friday night, I was honored with moderating a meeting of about 300 people. We came to agreement that night on issues of vital importance regarding an organizational definition, among other important issues and events. Saturday, at the latest GA I attended, there were hick-ups, but all in all it was productive, proposals were discussed, and decisions were made. I don't know how it went yesterday, although I hear things broke down a bit. I'm going to hope people fill in the gaps, because I can't commit all my energy and time without burning myself out. It is very difficult to try and pull together a decision making forum which tries to be as open and democratic as possible. One thing is clear though, the process itself is slowly becoming a self-perpetuating agent for advocacy and change. This will present a serious challenge to the status quo if allowed to continue development. For now, time is on our side, at least here in Los Angeles.

Now, a lot of people keep asking me where this movement will lead. Will it call for redistributive wealth policies? Will it bring out a guillotine? Will it lead to the further entrenchment of special interest and corruption in governance? Maybe, maybe not. Personally, I'm willing to discuss all these things. Do four hundred individuals control more wealth than the poorest half of Americans? More or Less. Do they deserve this? Maybe, but they better be able to justify this in the face of the abject poverty of the billions the world over. And to live in such opulence is a spit in the face to the millions in this country and others who suffer the indignity of un-or-under employment. How many houses does a man need? How many cars? The question isn't whether someone deserves to be rewarded for their hard work, but how much is too much? And is it right?

What demands will be made? Where do we go from here? For that, I'm going to paraphrase a statement made by Eduardo Galeano that I quoted in a post I cited above. We live in a backwards world. A world where we, at least in this country, arrest people by the millions for absurdities like the smoking of marijuana or the stealing of chickens. But the spoilers of the planet, are compensated for their crimes. Fears and criticism of what will happen next, what demands and objectives will be articulated are the fears and criticisms of the technocratic and plutocratic classes--those who manage every single crisis with the justification that only they have the tools to fix the problem. And SURPRISE! They come out on top, and even better off. There is room for intellectualizing this process of mass action and uprising. But I caution against a separation of the head and the heart. The mind and the heart and soul are not separate. They are part of our humanity—much like our labor cannot be commodified, since it is part and parcel of who we are. Moments where human beings begin to question, begin to awaken to their objective reality and seek to transform it; moments where people take history into their own hands, cannot be kept to the functions of the intellect. If our ontological vocation in this existence is to be more fully human—however each one of us defines this—then we must consider the whole of our situations before snapping to judgement. These moments, these days of furnaces and light, are based on a common bond, that of Love—the truth-force which binds all of us as one. This is a moment for us to remember the experience of falling in or making love, an experience we all need. An experience which is, in and of itself, infinite in beauty and value as long as it lasts.

Are you concerned about what is next? Have you recognized the fundamental contradictions and tensions in our social and material reality which threaten our survival on this our finite and beautiful planet? Particularly, have you noticed the contradiction of basing a world economy on constant growth in a world where resources are limited? If you have, you know that something isn't right. And again, if you have, and you haven't begun to question yourself, and what your role should be in the process of our liberation from the fetters of iniquity and the replacement of life with graves and business places—then get off the couch. If you're not trying to figure out what is wrong and what is to be done, then you're only contemplating tomorrows weather.

5“...two, three or many Vietnams flourish throughout the world...” Che Guevara
6La Chapis is a nun, a sister, a woman consecrated to God, or whatever you choose to call her...

"The problem with the Bad and the Evil is geographical.  The geography of evil was turned around, set upside down.  So when they tell the story of creation, the rich turn everything around.  According to them, heaven, or God, goodness, is up in the heights, while the Bad and the Evil, the Devil, are down below.  But it really isn't like that.  God is not up in the heights.  To correct that mistake, God sent his Son, Christ, to earth.  The powerful of those times convinced everyone that the earth was organized like heaven, that the Good were up high, the rulers, the ones in charge, and down under were the ones who obeyed, the Bad.  So heaven was equivalent to the government, and God was equivalent to the ruler.  And that's the way they used to justify, and continue to justify, the dictate that you have to obey the rulers.  So you get Bush, who drags God up whenever he feels like it--he uses God to justify every wrongdoing.
  Christ was crucified because he came to question all this.  And him being the Son of God, instead of meeting with the rulers, dining in their palaces, organizing a political party, and becoming their advisor, what did he do?  Well, he went and got born in a manger, surrounded by animals;  he grew up in a carpenter's shop wand created an organization with the poorest of the poor.  Now then, would God go where the evil is?  Of course not.  He stayed with those at the bottom, and this tells us that goodness is not up in the heights--he would have been born in the home of that bastard Salinas de Gortari or that damned Bill Gate, but he wasn't.  So heaven is not up there and neither is goodness.  Evil is up there, on the Right, with the rich, with those who govern badly, with the opressors of the people.  So where is goodness?  We don't know, we'll have to find it.
  I don't know, maybe goodness is down on the left, it might make the best place to start looking.  That's why I look down when I pray; I'm praying to God, who is with the underdog.  That's why I don't agree with the damn bishops and priests who are always siding with the rich and then become just like them, even in the way they dress.  So my advice to you, if you're looking for the Bad and the Evil: Start searching upward and to the right.  That's probably where they live."

-Subcomandante Marcos, The Uncomfortable Dead (a novel in four hands by Paco Taibo III and Subcomandante Marcos)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The May 15th Movement--An Experiment in Collective Thought

I've never liked to give myself deadlines, because I think it puts a limit on the number of ideas I can put into words.  That's why I've been hesitant to come out with a regular update of what I've been observing and participating in during the nascent M15-M (Movimiento 15-M, May 15th Movement) that has now sent a wave of protest against the imposition of austerity measures--to end the current crisis of capital--on those who have little to with causing this crisis: namely, those who work and produce but don't really control much capital.

So instead of giving a day-to-day on the events that have transpired (don't worry, I'll post up a several links at the end of this diatribe--mostly in Spanish, but a couple in English) I'd rather start by quickly touching upon the most recent successes of the movement, and then providing a primary source document on the dynamization of the Assemblies which I translated, and feel provides a wonderful model for organizing people towards a common goal.

Since my last post, the movement has packed up most of its campsites around the country and diffused the popular assembly method to the neighborhood level where concrete ideas and actions are growing against the status quo.  Meanwhile, protests in Greece have intensified as the IMF, EU, the Central European Bank, and the center-left government attempt to impose a new round of shock-doctrine style privatizations and cuts.  In Spain, the movement continues to gain support in public opinion polling  and concrete actions of civil disobedience have spread, including interrupting the inauguration of city councils and blocking the entry of deputies to regional parliaments attempting to vote in favor of cut-bucks.  There has also been drama surrounding the alleged infiltration of police agent-provocateurs who attempted to start violence with police, and then when they were singled out by the crowd, the police escorted them away after they appeared to call for back-up (video in link). Additionally a platform against foreclosure evictions has opened up, with people preventing evictions through nonviolence.  (In Spain, when a house is foreclosed on, the inhabitant not only has to leave, but has to continue paying his debt, even if that house is "under-water" (owed more than it's worth).  Finally, on June 19th, a massive protest was put on against the Euro-Plus Pact, with hundreds of thousands of people all over Spain participating.

How and who is organizing this?  Well, anyone who wants to.  How does it work?  Well, read it for yourself, moreover, use it in your own local movement, if you'd like.  Here's my translation of a Quick Guide to Assemblies put together by Acampada Sol's Commission on Dynamization of Assemblies.  These aren't concrete laws, only suggestions, and this one is a bit older--so things have changed slightly.

I hope you enjoy, please feel free to write me with any corrections to the translation, I'm not a professional translator.

Here goes:

Quick Guide to the Dynamization1 of Popular Assemblies.
A text by the Commission for Dynamization of Assemblies of the Sol Camp (Madrid) coming from various letters and summaries agreed to in the internal assemblies of the Commission (which will be placed in the official websites of the 15th of May Movement) and from experiences obtained in the General Assemblies completed by the Camp through the 31st of May, 2011. This guide aims to facilitate and dynamize the development of the distinct Popular Assemblies generated since the 15th of May Movement. This Quick Guide will be reprinted and revised periodically. In no case does this offer a closed model that cannot be adapted by consensus to each respective concrete Assembly. The Commission for Dynamization of Assemblies of the Puerta del Sol invites every person to attend and participate in its meetings, work plans, and internal Assemblies—open to all who would like to attend and actively participate in its maintenance, perfection, and development.

Open Reflexion on Collective Thought

We want to give some of our impressions but we encourage that they continue to be reflected upon and debated. We believe it necessary to dedicate ourselves to thinking about an important point of the movement: Collective thought.
Collective thought is totally opposite the current system, which is governed by individual thought. For now, it is difficult to assimilate and apply. We need time, it's a long process. Normally before a decision two people with opposing ideas will have to fiercely confront and defend each others' ideas, with the objective being to convince, win-over, or arrive at a middle point.
The objective of collective thought is to construct. That is to say, two people with different ideas put their energies into constructing something. It doesn't seek, therefor, towards the either/or—your idea or mine. It is both ideas together which will give us a new product which a priori we did not know—neither you or I. For this reason active listening--where we are not only preparing the reply which we will give--is so necessary.
A collective thought is born when we understand that each opinion—ours and different ones—all of them, are necessary to generate the idea of consensus. An idea which through its construction transforms us in an indirect way.
So lets move forward, we're learning, we're able to achieve this, the only thing we need is time.
What is a Popular Assembly? It is a participatory decision-making body which seeks consensus. It seeks the best arguments to make a decision that is most in agreement with different opinions, not pitting them against one another like what happens when there is a vote. Its development should be peaceful, respecting every one's opinions. We must leave prejudices and ideologies at home. An assembly should not center itself on ideological discourse but on practical questions: “What do we need? How do we get what we need?”The assembly is based on free association, if you're not in agreement with what has been decided, you're not obligated to do it. Everyone is free to do as they wish, the assembly seeks to generate collective intelligence, common lines of thinking, and action. It foments dialogue and we get to learn about each other.
What kind of assemblies have we employed until now? Work-group assemblies, commission assemblies, Neighborhood Assemblies (each neighborhood, town, and municipality) General Assemblies in Acampada Sol and General Assemblies of Madrid (acampadasol+neighborhoods). These General Assemblies are the ultimate deliberative instance, after which final consensus is adopted to articulate distinct lines of Joint Action for the 15th of May Movement in each city.
What is a Consensus? It is the form of final decision of the Assemblies on each concrete proposal that is shared. Proposals can be presented by a Commission, a Work Group, or an individual person. A consensus is reached when, in the assembly, there is NO single position roundly against that which is presented. All proposals should be presented according to this formula: 1. What is being proposed? 2. Why is it being proposed? 3. If consensus is reached, how would the said proposal be developed? Summary: What/Why/How.
What is a Direct Consensus? Consensus reached WITHOUT contrary opinions, in a direct form: Proposal-Consensus.
What is indirect Consensus? Consensus which is reached after debating different positions surrounding a proposal which HAS NOT reached Direct Consensus. Steps to reach Indirect Consensus: 1.-What/Why/How. 2. After the moderator asks, “Is there any opinion roundly against the proposal?” and there is, SPEAKING TURNS ARE THEN OPENED on the question. The Coordination and Speakers' Turn [teams] OPEN A FIRST ROUND OF DEBATE: THREE arguments IN FAVOR and another three AGAINST are made available. After this, the Assembly is asked to show its opinion with the Common Hand Signals. If consensus is still not reached after asking about contrary opinions, the moderator will make available 3-5 minutes so that the Assembly can dialogue (from their seats, in small circles). After this short recess, a second round of presentations of PROPOSALS OF CONSENSUS is opened. IF AFTER TWO ROUNDS CONSENSUS IS NOT REACHED: a) If the Proposal comes from a Commission or Group, it will be returned for REFORMULATION. b) If the Proposal comes from an individual person in particular, it will have to be given to an appropriate Commission or Work Group to debate and agree over its utility and be REFORMULATED then presented in the next Assembly, where it will be resubmitted for consensus with the same procedure. This way, until a Real Consensus is reached.
It's important to maintain calm body language so as not to transmit to the assembly any feelings or personal opinions; we remind at all times the value of a smile in moments of tension or blockage. Fatigue and hurry are the enemies of consensus.
LOGISTICS TEAM: Upwards of three people in charge of facilitating and/or employing the tools necessary for the development of the Assembly (Drawing a seating map on the floor to organize spaces, passages to permit movement among those seated, control of the microphone, offer chairs or seats to people with diminished mobility or energy, give out water or umbrellas in the case of heat and sun, etc.)
ASSEMBLED PERSONS: Every person attending the Assembly, including the Dynamization teams and members of the Commissions or Groups. They are the reason for being of the Assembly. Its beginning is its ultimate end. We are all responsible for the dynamism and construction within the assembly. Its function: Hear distinct speakers; participate in questions which require debate through Speaking Turns, and create individual proposals or subjective valorizations in the “various” turns (made available normally towards the end of each assembly) by signing up with the comrades from the Speaking Turn Team.
TEAM-SPEAKING TURNS: From two to four people (according to the number of people assembled) situated amongst the Assembled Persons near the aisle-ways. It is recommended that they carry something distinctive so that they can be located quickly. Often carrying a sign saying “Speaking Turns” lifted high for visibility, especially after each commentary. They are in charge of writing down all requests for a Speaking Turn by all those who ask for one.To prevent disorder and to make the process more agile, the ask requesting comrades:
1. Is this related to what we are speaking about? (Reminding the specific theme of the converstation) 2.Are you repeating directly something that has already been said? 3. In favor or against? With this information, the comrade will indicate if this can be passed into the Coordination of Speaking Turns or (if it is not directly related to the subject up for debate) they will take their name down to call them for the “Various” turn (there is no rebuttal phase) and will inform about other spaces of debate and reflection (speaker-corners, work groups...). They maintain a conciliatory, positive, neutral, and patient profile. They also collect the requests for relief of the person moderating that turn. As is possible, give priority of speaking turns to people who have not yet spoken. A habitual slip is not announcing the close of each Speaking Turn within each subject of debate. It is convenient to limit this according to general feeling so as not to elongate each question.
TEAM-SPEAKING TURN COORDINATION: One or two people in close and constant communication with the “Speaking-turn team” in charge of collecting the distinct petitions for Speaking Turns that arrive in order to sort them and pass them along to the moderators. In the case of being in the middle of an open debate, above all if it is heated, they inform and coordinate the distinct Speaking Turns in waiting so as to avoid repetitions of the same messages or mediate between similar positions so that they are presented as a single message which unifies the common contents. The coordinators only serve as a formal filter, in no case will they asses the value of the contents of each intervention. In order to insure that speakers stay on point, they should first remind them of the topic of debate, in the case of not being related they should inform speakers of other spaces for debate and reflection (speaker-corners, work-groups). Once speakers are coordinated, the team will indicate to facilitators the agreed upon order so that the moderator knows who goes first.
TEAM-FACILITATORS: Two or three people who support the moderator. They are the “Jiminy Cricket” of the moderator. The only ones who directly influence the moderator to favor his/her concentration and impartiality. They are located around the moderator's space. They are in charge of helping the person moderating to synthesize and reformulate proposals in an objective and impartial way, facilitate the flow of information that comes from “Coordination” to the moderator so that he/she can lets people speak in an appropriate order; try to prevent that any assembled person distracts the concentration of the moderator, and they should help those people who have a hard time speaking in public; slipping them vocabulary, making them aware of possible errors in synthesis of each speech, informing them of some sudden notice, reminding them of the Order of the Day in the case of difficulties, etc. In the case of large Assemblies they can distinguish themselves as a “Direct Facilitator” to precisely order guidelines to the moderator.
An important support function to insure the positive development of the assembly can be to incorporate various persons who concentrate on intervening directly in the case of stoppages, overheated discussions, or significant deviations from the subject. Its function would be to remind the assembly of the value of Collective Thought, the importance of Active Listening, and the meaning of Consensus.
TEAM-ROTATIVE MODERATOR TEAM: One ore more persons who can rotate in the case of a high number of attendees or accumulated tension in the assembly. It will always been the moderation team as a whole which decides when and how a rotation is completed, always with the goal of the correct development of the Assembly. The moderator could ask voluntarily for a rotation. The moderator should help the assembly flow, uniting the feelings of the assembly more than respecting a protocol, the ideal would be that this figure is dispensable (all should respect all). They are in charge of welcoming attending people; informing about the nature and basic function of the Assembly, presenting the Dynamization teams and their functions; Moderate, in a positive and conciliatory way, divergences without positioning themselves with any position presented. Inform about the evolution of each round of positions in favor or against during the process of Indirect Consensus. Briefly recap each comment during those rounds of debate and after those comments which require it. And repeat consensuses as they have been taken in the Minutes. They will also explain the symbols that attendees use in case the speaker does not know them (it is recommended that the public be advised not to express these motions—as much as possible—until each comment is finished, so as not to condition the speaker). Just the same, this person is in charge of favoring a fluid and positive climate for exchanging of ideas in the most objective tone possible. In case of it being necessary to alleviate certain tensions generated, remind of the positive value that all debate gives to the 15th of May Movement and motivate those in attendance to favor their participation and good energy. In the case of being considered necessary, the moderator could be substituted by the consented petition of the assembly. The moderation team should inform the assembly of all conversations they have away from the microphone to foment transparency.
TEAM-INTERPRETERS: One or two people in charge of translating into sign-language all oral commentary from the Assembly and to translate to the Assembly the possible comments of people with auditory or verbal disabilities; they should have one support person in front of them. To facilitate their work it is important not to stand in front of them or talk too fast In the case of being exposed to direct sunlight, the Logistics Team will situate two people behind the interpreters with umbrellas to give them shade.
TEAM-MINUTES: Two people in charge of taking note of all commentary, while not having to take down an exact transcript. In the case of consensus resolutions they can solicit the textual repetition of the agreed upon points to be ratified by the assembly and so that they can be written correctly. Normally, one takes notes by hand and another by computer, in order to check each other if the need arises. In case of direct sunlight, the logistics team can situate people behind the Minutes team to give them shade. They should read all points of consensus to the assembly at the end of each session so that all agreements are clear.
LOGISTICS: Its objective is to organize the Assembly Space before its celebration, so that it works and is efficient. They would be in charge of limiting the space according to the agreement of the other teams. // The moderating space has a rectangular perimeter marked off with chalk (or colored tape) on the floor in front of the Assembled Persons. Amongst these (Assembled Persons) SPEAKING-TURN collectors will be available, dispersed and visible as possible. In the moderation space will be: the MODERATOR and TURN ORDERER in the middle, flanked by the INTERPRETERS. // Around them (trying always to avoid blocking them from view) are found the FACILITATORS, normally squatting or sitting on the floor while not acting, and always at the reach of t he ROTATIVE MODERATION TEAM and SPEAKING-TURN COORDINATION. // On one side of the moderation space are seated the Spokespersons for the Commissions and/or Work-groups who will speak in different parts of the “Order of the Day,” on another side a perimeter will be made available for the COORDINATION OF SPEAKING-TURNS, in reach of the facilitators and away from the MINUTES team (which is always near the moderation space to be able to solicit a repetition, synthesis, or presented text) so as not to distract its concentration with the conversations that are generated before each commentary, thus helping their work.


With the goal of making the processes of collective expression more agile in the Assemblies, the following body motions have been agreed upon:
1.- APPLAUSE/COMFORMITY: Shake your hands openly above your head.
2.- DISCOMFORMITY: Cross your forearms in the shape of an X above your head.
3.- “IT'S ALREADY BEEN SAID”/“YOU'RE BEING REDUNDANT”: Arms are moved making the hands roll over one another like the “change” request used in sports.
4.- “YOU'RE SPEAKING FOR TOO LONG” Extended hands crossed, which slowly close together like the hands on a clock, closing palms at the top.
5.- “I CAN'T HEAR YOU WELL”: Show your ears or raise your hands up and down to indicate that the speaker should “turn up the volume” of their voice.
***It is recommended that the Assembly be informed of this sign-language at its commencement. It is also recommended that the Assembly be informed of the convenience of NOT expressing signals of approval or disagreement until the speaker has finished his comment, so as not to condition it. This should be done in an appropriate measure.


 We will use “Positive Language” avoiding negative statements which close the possibility of debating constructively. A form of communication that is less aggressive and more conciliatory. It is convenient to debate beginning with the things which unite us before supporting commentary on that which we differ on. Examples: 1.-”Don't touch this dog or he'll bite you!” could be expressed as “Pay attention to this dog, because he could bite you, and that is something neither of us want.” 2.- “If we don't reach consensus on this point, everything will go adrift” can be expressed as “It is important that we reach a consenus on this point or we could lose strength as a group, and that interests no one.
 We will use an “Inclusive Language” which does not differentiate gender. It is clear that the custom plays tricks on us, but it is convenient that ALL (persons) fit, we will help each other mutually to remember this aspect. [In Spanish, this refers to the use of the feminine in cases when arguing about actions or decisions to be made by the group—as in all PERSONS (personas)--or using both tones, so as not to continually use that of your's in particular.]


What is the “Order of the Day” of an Assembly? What purpose does it serve? The Order of the Day is the Summary of the subjects that the Assembly will process. It serves to not leave any important subject undiscussed, to maintain an order in the nature of comments, and to calculate, more or less, the time-length that each block can run for. It is written and organized by the Dynamization Team and it should be made very clear to the moderator of that turn that he/she will be the guide of the basic contents. The commission on dynamization of assemblies in no case shall value or decide the contents of the order of the day, it only orders them by consensus with the representatives of each commission and work group which had attended in each preparatory meeting. It is the script with fundamental lines that will be treated in the Assembly as topics and it is convenient that it be read at the beginning of the Assembly to maintain the attendee-participants informed and make them participate. With each experience each assembly will improve the design of this list, responding to the aspects which it considers more or less important. To allow this to develop, we recommend a time limit of duration for the assembly, in concert with the terms to be treated and number of participants—if it carries on for too long we will lose concentration and will not be productive.
**Practical guiding example of a “Order of the Day” in the form of this scheme **
1 – Welcome and Positive Presentation. The Assembly is the effective celebration of Popular power.
2- Summary of consensuses reached in the previous Assembly and of the subjects that could have stayed pending.
3-Presentation of the Dynamization Team of the Assembly which will begin it. Functions of each person.
4-Explanation of the concept of “Assembly.” We do not “vote” we agree.
5-Explanation of the concept of “consensus” (direct and indirect). Explanation of the process of indirect consensus.
6- Exemplification of the channels of “Speaker Turn Coordination-facilitation” during an Assembly.
7- General. Reminder of the “Common Signals” for common expression and suggestions to express verbally in concordance to the style of M15M [May 15th Movement] approved in General Assembly.
8- Informative reading of the “Order of the Day.”
9-Commissions' and Work Groups' without proposals for consensus, only information which does not require consensus. It is desirable that a spokesperson for each Commission or Work Group attends the preparatory meeting for the Assembly. (Listed)
10- Turn for Commissions and Work Groups WITH proposals for the Assembly. In the case of not reaching direct consensus speaking turns-argumentation are opened. Remember: maximum of two lists to defend each posture and/or find a point of union. TURNOS DE PALABRA A DEBATE – RESOLUCIONES/ APLAZAMIENTOS. SPEAKING TURNS-RESOLUTIONS/DEFFERAL In heated debates, a space can be created for a communitarian reflection and if (after the two turns) consensus is not reached, it is tabled to the next Assembly.
11- IMPORTANT ANNOUNCMENTS. Citations, information of general interest, latest news of interest, etc.
12- VARIOUS Turn. During this turn, Speaker-Turns will not be opened for debate. It is information that is ratified at that moment, if not, it is passed directly to a pertinent Work Group or Commission. ATTENTION! Announce the closure of the “Various” turn—if it is necessary for questions of time or crowdedness—and before putting it into effect inform those who were not heard today will be written down and will have priority at the next Assembly for the “Various Turn.
13- Conclusions and the citing of the date for the next Assembly.
14-Message of motivation and reminder of what unites us. In this stage could be included a singular expression which leaves a good taste in the mouth of those assembled: the reading of certain verses, some hopeful story or news, an exciting quote, a short passage from an inspiring text, etc...
16- Despedida y agradecimientos. Goodbyes and Thank-Yous
What is horizontal organization?
It is a way of social organization which implies equality to all persons participating in a collective or society. Hierarchy does not exist, it is opposite vertical organization in which some people make decisions and others comply.
El método que se utiliza en los modos de organización horizontal de una sociedad o colectivo es el método asambleario. The method that is used in the modes of the horizontal organization of a society or collective is the assembly method.
What is an Assembly?
An Assembly is a meeting space of equality between persons who have a common end. It could be:
 Information: participants give information of common interest. There is no debate.
 Reflection: Try to think together about a subject, a situation, or a problem. Information is needed, but there does not need to be a decision at the moment.
 Decision: implies that the group should reach some common conclusion or resolution about the worked upon subject. To reach that it is necessary to take the two anterior steps (have information and think about it) to reach the construction of a consensus.
What do we understand by consensus?
Consensus is the collective development of a solution or a decision about a common subject. It is not the development of a proposal which includes all individual necessities but a synthesis of all the individual opinions for the construction of the best option for the common objective of the collective.
It Implies:
 Having clear a common objective of the collective.
 Have a conscience that the collective is built beginning with the contributions and knowledge of each individual, of which is necessary the communication, attention, and respect of the opinions of each individual
 Know that this is not a competition, but a construction.
 Know that it requires a process, and give it time to take the steps necessary for it.
The required steps are:
 Create a group climate of relaxation, attention, respect, and complicity within the group.
 Have a clarity about the task which is to be worked on.
 Offer the information that each individual or subgroup, so that it serves as elements of analysis for reflection.
 Make a reflection.
 Start building the proposal beginning with the points which are clearly held in common.
 Advance, step by step in the development of the proposal through collective thought.
 Celebrate the achievement of that collective thought.
What do we understand by collective thought?
That which is the the result of a synthesis of individual intelligences and ideas, not an eclectic sum, but a synthesis. Individual intelligences put to the service of the common good, a creation from difference, understanding difference as an element which provides enrichment of common understanding:
 Feel part of a whole
 Stop letting that of “otherness” permeate. [Dejarte permear con lo del otro]
 Don't feel that the other is adversarial, but a component of the whole in equality of conditions.
 Respect opinions not through discipline buy by desire.
 Have a positive attitude to be able to see what unites, not what separates.
 Leave in favor in place of leaving against.
 Think a priori that the other will enrich me.
 Don't react immediately, let what others say settle with you.
This document was generated from the experience of the Commission on Dynamization of the Assembly of AcampadaSol and is only a suggestion. We encourage that it be completed, improved upon, and dispersed so that all learn and participate in an Assembly.

Monday, May 30, 2011

We're not going Slow. We're going Far

May 30th, 2011

We're not going slow, we're going far”1
For two weeks campsites filled with “indignant” people have been sprouting up all over Spain and are now spreading throughout Europe to Greece and France—calling for social and economic justice under the call for Real Democracy, Now.2 Many voices from the media and public at large who don't know much about this have been asking what it is all about. What exactly do they want? What are their goals? My take on the situation: they want to build their own goals, and refuse to let the powerful decide for them.

  1. Using the Head and the Heart
   On Tuesday May 24th, a group of activists from the encampment in Barcelona found themselves in a surprise encounter with the Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano. His words provide what I think is the handle on the functioning of this movement arising in Spain. Here is my rough translation, please feel free to reinterpret it:

  “Life is still worth living...another world is waiting in the belly of our current one...I recognize it in these spontaneous movements. 'What's next?' I'm asked...well, I don't know, it doesn't matter—what matters is now. What's the finality? I don't know. It's the same with moments where I fall in love. I don't ask what's next. Moments of love are infinite while they last...What the fuck to I care what exactly we're hoping for. The technocrats ask us that. They're ignorant and make immense salaries and after every crisis they end up on top...ruining the world.
This is a backwards world which compensates its spoilers instead of punishing them. Against this backdrop thousands are in jail for things like the use of marijuana or the stealing of chickens...It's a backwards world, a world of shit. But it's not the only one possible. There is another. This world of shit is pregnant with another, and it is the young people who will bring it forward.
Intellectuals bust my balls...when they call me a 'distinguished intellectual' I yell, 'No! I'm not an intellectual!' Intellectuals divorce their heads from their bodies. I don't want to be a head rolling along the road, I am a person. A head, a body , a sex, a belly. Be careful with those who only reason. We must reason and feel. When reason divorces itself from the heart I'd invite you to tremble with fear, because those characters can drive us to the end of human existence on the planet. I believe in that difficult and contradictory fusion—that is difficult but necessary—between what we feel and what we think.” [emphasis added]3

The moniker for those involved in this movement—“los indignados,” the indignant ones—has its origins in a recently published essay by Stéphane Hessel. Hessel, at 93 years old, has the life story of a historical bad-ass. German born but transplanted to France in his early years, during World War II he refused to accept the Vichy government imposed by the Nazi occupiers. He helped to organize the French Resistance movement and was eventually captured, then tortured and sentenced to death. He survived two different concentration camps and eventually escaped and found his way to the advancing Allied front. After the war Hessel participated in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. His short essay—titled “Indignez-vous!” has sold millions in Europe, and was recently published in its entirety in The Nation.4 Here is an excerpt from the essay in English that was published online:

“Ninety-three years. I’m nearing the last stage. The end cannot be far off. How lucky I am to be able to draw on the foundation of my political life: the Resistance and the National Council of the Resistance’s program from sixty-six years ago....
The motivation that underlay the Resistance was outrage. We, the veterans of the Resistance movements and fighting forces of Free France, call on the younger generations to revive and carry forward the tradition of the Resistance and its ideas. We say to you: take over, keep going, get angry! Those in positions of political responsibility, economic power and intellectual authority, in fact our whole society, must not give up or let ourselves be overwhelmed by the current international dictatorship of the financial markets, which is such a threat to peace and democracy....
To you who will create the twenty-first century, we say, from the bottom of our hearts,

This spirit of resistance, this call for outrage against the dictatorship of the market and the false representation of the elites echoes throughout the movement. As one compañero at a General Assembly I attended said, “We have analyzed what outrages not only in the head, but in the heart.”5
      1. Finding New Directions and Building the Future, Together.

After resting from a long weekend observing the birth of the movement, I decided to start examining in more detail the nuts and bolts of what is going on. The key methodology for this movement is centered on the idea of open and participatory democracy. The campsite in Sol is a mini-city. It is run by commissions that were created at a General Assembly which is the final decision making body of the campsite. There are commissions for camp infrastructure, food services, maintaining respect, organizing assemblies, expanding the movement, and others. Within the commissions are working groups which create proposals for actions, short-term and long-term goals for the movement, and ways to improve. It seems as if every subject that could be talked about has its own group to debate and propose solutions. All of these gatherings and decisions are made horizontally using a wide variety of methodologies.
Arganzuela Neighborhood Assembly

On Saturday the General Assembly of Madrid created and organized an extension of this participatory democratic movement to the neighborhoods and towns of the Community of Madrid to debate the movement, its aims, and its organization. Organized primarily through online social networks, these neighborhood assemblies attracted thousands of participants in over 100 neighborhoods and towns throughout the region.6 I was shocked at the level of participation in my own barrio, Arganzuela, which had—by my estimate—somewhere between 800-1200 participants. The methods proposed and taken up by these assemblies came from the General Assembly in La Puerta del Sol. Here is my translation of the suggested guidelines7:
Assembly Methodology


The object will be to promote, in all assemblies of this movement, transparent and horizontal operating functions which permit all persons to participate in equal conditions. For this, one of the central objectives will be to prevent the rise of leaders or bosses who decide for everyone without taking everyone into account, like politicians, as it were. If we do not like them in our institutions, we'll like it less when they take advantage of our movement for their own own interests.

These are only proposals for guidelines which each assembly should debate independently. Many groups use these methods—and many more—to function and avoid the rise of individual bosses that will assume control. However, it is obvious that to that to function, this requires the involvement and commitment of all.

* Rotating positions. So that no person or group holds a post indefinitely, because this is a way of making oneself more powerful than the rest, because it controls information, contacts, and many decisions. These positions could be:
o A moderator. This position is in charge of reminding people of the subject of debate so that we don't go off on tangents.It would also call attention and intervene when someone speaks for too long, does it without stoping, or repeats him/herself. The moderator should avoid making interruptions. Another function I s to manage the time of the meeting by proposing, without cutting-off a turn to speak, to change the subject or to close the assembly at the agreed upon hour.
o A Secretary. Take minutes of decisions and agreements. If someone is not in agreement, express their arguments to continue debate. If a consensus cannot be reached, it should be defined in each assembly the method to overcome blockages—Large majorities when there is a sizable minority which doesn't convince the rest.
o Turns to Speak. Another person should take down turns to speak in order of their petition, and help in the respect for order.
o Spokespersons or delegates. In charge of serving as a link between with other commissions, and taking the voice of their assembly to the Popular Assembly in Madrid where the delegates from the rest of the neighborhoods will meet to reach common accords, respecting always the decision of their assembly and not presenting their opinions as if it was of the assembly. It is important that the delegation be multiple people, 2 to 5 persons, who support one another and to help ensure that what is said is that which is agreed upon in their neighborhoods.
o Patience and Respect. Everyone has very interesting things to add, as such, so that everyone can hear each other, we should listen, in this way we will grow more and form clearer opinions. Not everyone expresses themselves in public with the same security and determination, but that that doesn't mean any of our opinions is worth less.
o Dynamic Assemblies. There exist common gestures to show agreement or disagreement without interrupting the assembly—throw your hands in the air to show agreement, show the thumbs down sign or make a cross in the air with your arms to signify disagreement; Also, roll your arms when someone is repeating him/herself or is talking for too long. It is convenient to do polls to know the level of support, or lack thereof, that a proposal generates so that a consensus can be reached. Discordant voices have a harder time expressing themselves in front of a larger majorities so it is fair to ask those who are not in agreement or who want to qualify something to express themselves before asking if everyone is in agreement.
o Assembly times. Assemblies should remember not just their start times but also their determined end times, to prevent the few who stay longest from deciding for those who had to leave. Two or three hours isn't bad.


o Mountain structure or, climbing up and down. The assemblies are the voice of the people who participate in them, so the only valid decisions should be those which are approved by the neighborhood assemblies, including proposals from the General Assembly of Madrid.

Every neighborhood assembly agrees to take to the General Assembly some proposals. There, they will be approved or not and returned to the neighborhood assemblies which ratify the minutes of the General Assembly, which is nothing more than an assembly of spokespersons without decision making power— with exception to technical aspects of little importance, and with permission from its assembly.

The process by which an assertion, action, or demonstration is approved could be::

Neighborhood/Town Assembly Proposals> General Assembly of Madrid (COMMON DECISION)> Neighborhood/Town Assembly RATIFICATION > General Assembly of Madrid FINAL DECISION.

If only a few neighborhood assemblies oppose, approval by a 4/5th majority could be used to reach approval. “A vote is better than a veto”, as only a last resort, we will always try to reach a consensus.

In any case, the assemblies are free to decide their own future and make their own decisions, understanding clearly that they don't make them on behalf of the whole movement without the approval of the rest of the assemblies.

To sum up, this tries to create a federation of transparent neighborhood assemblies of ordinary people in which we can guarantee equal participation.

This structure seems confusing and convoluted at first glance but I have seen it work. In the General Assembly of Madrid there are sign language interpreters to communicate to the hearing impaired. They've even constructed passages on the assembly floor to allow people to come up to the stage. The whole thing is a learning process, with new moderators sometimes struggling to understand their role, and being helped along by those who've had experience. People also keep from taking themselves too seriously, laughter mitigates tension and confusion. Some gripe about not coming up with or reaching ends quick enough, but the response to that by one of the compañeras has been, “The means is an end, what we do here sets an example.”8 It seems to me that there is a sense of needing a new kind of politics, not just in Spain, but everywhere. Something where people can come up with proposals that can speak for everyone. Four short term political goals—or, more accurately, lines of debate—have been agreed upon by the Assembly of Madrid. They are:
      1. Electoral Reform which seeks a more proportional system of representation and citizen participation in governance.
      2. Transparency to prevent corruption
      3. A separation of public powers, particularly between executive functions and the judiciary.
      4. The creation of mechanisms of political accountability (for example, if a candidate is elected who promised to be in favor of abortion, then votes against it, there should be a mechanism to address that discrepancy of action).
And while these are still broad, they are far more concrete than anything thought of the week before. I hold a a certain fear that people will become impatient and not want to participate in this process, because it does take a while. But there is a progress to it, and I see one important seed here: Perhaps a reason why people keep coming back, day after day (thousands participate in the General Assembly, either in person—where the assembly space fits about 3000-5000 people—or online, which last night9 recorded over 7000 viewers) is the fact that they are building their own collective goals, and not having those goals imposed from above by some sort of hierarchy.

  1. First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”10

Friday morning dawned on Madrid with an ordinary feeling. The campsite was preparing to host the neighborhood delegates that would come on Sunday. The infrastructure, respect, and food commissions were busy preparing for the influx of people that the weekends bring to central Madrid. And then something happened that threw fuel on the fire. Word came from Barcelona that the police wanted the encampment to leave for the day so that cleaning crews could clean up. This was, of course, absurd—since the campers had been maintaining the campsite clean. The objective, according to the police, was to remove any dangerous objects that could be used as weapons if the Barca football team won the Champions League cup on Saturday. They wanted to avoid any rioting, which often happens in Barcelona after football games. The police assured them that they could return, and suggested they wait until the day after the game to come back. The campers decided not to leave, and so the police attacked wearing helmets and wielding billy-clubs and guns shooting rubber bullets. There are pictures of old women and people in wheel chairs being beaten and dragged through the streets of Barcelona. Videos of police pulling people by the hair, and insulting citizens spread like wildfire.11 One Facebook profile of a man purported to be a Catalan police agent has comments and status updates complaining about the “sons of bitches” because he might have to work during the football game, and bragging about the fun he had beating up and removing the campers.12
The response to this act, was astonishing. In Madrid, a rally in support was called at 7:00pm, and instead of bringing rocks to throw at the police, or sticks to beat them with, thousands of people showed up with flowers for them. The Placa de Cataluña in Barcelona was, within hours, filled with thousands of people, and the campsite was rebuilt. Today the people of Barcelona continue to meet, debate, and act nonviolently.
  1.  Moving forward, spreading out

On Sunday evening the General Assembly in Madrid met to decide whether or not the camp was to stay situated in the Puerta del Sol. There are worries that the police will soon act to remove them at the behest of the local business association which claims it has seen a drop off in sales in the area and that the situation has become unsanitary.13 I can't know whether the complaint about sales being down is true or not, although the plaza is packed day after day and the bars in the area seem to be full as ever, particularly after demonstrations and assemblies. Perhaps people are coming to talk and think rather than buy things, but I don't know what is true or not. As for sanitation, the local union representing the sanitation workers of Madrid sent a message to the campsite condemning the police violence in Barcelona, and saying that their members in the area attest to the cleanliness and organization of the camp.14

The debate over whether to stay or not was multifaceted. There is a consensus that the camp and the movement are two different entities, and the the end of the camp will not mean the end of the movement. There are many problems in the running of the camp that need to be addressed if the camp stays. Leaving also means the answering of several questions over how and when to go, particularly since it will take time to clear it out. Another proposal was to relieve the campers with volunteers from the neighborhood assemblies. After four hours a consensus was finally reached. The campsite would stay, but a process of restructuring will be examined by the commissions to make it easier on the neighbors and make sure it runs smoothly. The cathartic moment when consensus was achieved came after a representative from Caceres, Extremadrua (in western Spain) arrived with a message. With tearful eyes and a voice trembling, she explained the difficulties they're having in Caceres. “We reach the middle of the day and we don't have water. They won't let us put up tents. We're sleeping on the floor in the open air. We've only been there two days, and if you leave, we'll have to leave!”15 At this point the chant “No Nos Vamos”--we aren't going--echoed throughout the Plaza. It was then decided to have an examination of what needs to change and what needs to remain the same so that the camp can become a better part of the neighborhood of Sol.

During the assembly, word came from other countries. In Athens, it was said that over 100,000 had rallied in support of Real Democracy and social and economic justice. Also, in Paris demonstrators and assembly participants had been beaten and removed from the Bastille by police using tear-gas. Afterwards, several hundred supporters walked in silence to the French embassy, where they held a vigil for the compañeros y compañeras in Paris, who've promised to retake the Bastille.

It is unsettling, the faith that exists in this movement. Four hours of conversation and the Plaza barely thinned from the thousands who began the assembly last night. And it's not the material aspects (the name, the campsites, etc,) where this faith rests, but in the participatory democracy that directs it. I have no doubt, that if this spirit keeps up and spreads (as it has been) it will infect the souls, hearts, and minds of honest people the world over. This process feels like an immense galaxy of interests revolving around the gravity of the moment, and the need to connect to others as human beings.

1One comrade's remark during the General Assembly of Sol on May 29th, quoting an African Proverb, 3h02m
5General Assembly, May 25th, 51 minutes
8General Assembly 25 May, 1h17m
9General Assembly 29 may 20:00-24:00h
10Mahatma Ghandi
15General Assembly, 29 May, 3h25m

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Live from the Spanish Revolution

I know it's been a while since my last post, but I've been waiting around for a good topic to write about sort of dropped out of the sky...

It came like a thief in the night. Last Sunday, May 15th, a few thousand demonstrators marched through central Madrid in what was called a gathering of the “lost youth.” They called themselves “indignant,” clamoring against the absurdity of one in five people being officially unemployed—and almost half of people under 30 have no work. They feel that the dignity of life has been usurped by political and financial classes whose interests are not with the people, but with Capital. After setting up an impromptu camp-site in the Puerta del Sol about a hundred campers were forcibly cleared by the police. 24 hours later, thousands arrived to replace them. Today is one week since the movement began, and the center of Spain has become its own world, its own city on a hill—where no money is exchanged, work is completed democratically and without hierarchy, and where solidarity is the axis of human relations.

Spain has a young 'democracy.' They had no 1968 uprisings, no civil rights movement. Their dictatorship was ended by Death as she visited their tyrant in 1975 and democratic governance was ushered in by elites. And while at first it seemed that those elites would build a welfare state that benefited the vast majority of people, the political class that arose has—like our own bourgeois democracy is doing—put profit ahead of people. But today, a generation which has grown up in this young democracy is substantially alienated. Words like “austerity measures” have no meaning to people who live all-too austere lives making 600 Euros monthly and are only able to find part-time employment. Cutting their salaries and social security benefits hits them harshly, and they've no choice but to take to the streets and conquer their right to work with dignity and economic security.

The massive tent city houses, by my estimate, about 1,500 or more over-night stayers, with many more participating on and off during the day and into the late night hours. They've organized an infirmary, committees for direct action, food, respect (a nonviolent police force), art/music, communications, audio/visual, infrastructure, politics, economics, and others. All of them form a part of the General Assembly, which is the ultimate authority (if one can call it that) of the Republica del Sol. The General Assembly has no leadership, all are welcome and all have a right to speak, discuss, and decide. Directives are issued by consensus. It sounds complicated, but it works. It is long, painstaking, real, and participatory democracy. There are working groups and conversation tents about every topic from economic theory to feminism and gender inequality. Concreteness is not the point, creating an abstract consciousness of resistance and struggle seems to be the common motif of the movement. It's hard to say what people are thinking or fighting for, and any sort of tangibility over what is happening here is difficult to put into words. My memories surrounding the last couple of days are of stories told in faces, looks, gestures, and laughter more than on paper. There seems to be a collective rage at the forces of old and injustice, and it is getting more and more organized by the day. I don't know if it will lead to anything, but I know that a whole lot of peoples' world views are shifting—and that in and of itself is a revolutionary process.

Those who have taken to plazas all over Spain have called for serious transformations of the economic and political systems which includes allowing citizens to participate directly in politics, an elimination of the senate, clearer separation of powers, and protection of economic rights.1 How they will reach those demands remains unclear, but that's because the consensus for a particular action hasn't been reached yet within the general assemblies sprouting up all over the country. Technology has become the most important tool here, with the movement growing daily and globally through social networks and means of communication. Traditional mass-media is addressed, but not respected as an effective and objective conveyor of truth.

I first began getting involved on Tuesday when I saw that some campers had been removed. By wednesday evening Sol was filling with campers and signs. Thursday night at around 1:30am, the crowds kept growing, especially after the protest was declared illegal. During the day, I had gone to see what was happening, only to be pulled off to the side by national police, questioned, documents checked, and informed that this was illegal and that the protest was not authorized. I played dumb tourist and pretended not to speak Spanish...The next day, it was decided by the Supreme Court of Spain that the campers were in violation of electoral law if they stayed into Saturday and Sunday, since protests of any kind are prohibited on the day leading into, and the day of, an election.2 Friday night, the last night that the protest would be quasi-legal and turn fully 'illegal', about 25,000 (by conservative police estimates) filled Puerta del Sol, at 11:59 the plaza stood eerily silent as the bells tolled over the tents. When they stopped, a roar began and the words “¡El Pueblo unido jamas será vencido!”--The people united, will never be defeated—echoed through the city in a challenge to the authorities to try and stop the tide of the people. Tonight I plan to spend the night and talk with the multitude of other young people that have taken up the cause of justice and solidarity.

I'm getting involved because I feel this is not a problem isolated in Spain, or in Europe. I am 23 years old and I've a degree from the University of California. I refuse to join the corporate main-stream. I refuse to go off and be some lawyer, and I refuse to join a political or economic class which puts its interests above the interests of the collective welfare of the world—and yet, I am told that if I don't do those things my education is useless, and that I am being too “idealistic” or too “unrealistic.” I don't think freedom means voting every four years while I rent myself out by the hour to some banker fuck-off who profits from me. If that's what the world is then I'll return it and build my own. There has to be more to it than this.

The truth is young people throughout the world are in the same boat, and it's sinking. Many of those who try and join up with the status quo are parried off and can't find work that gives them dignity. People start telling themselves that they need to “get real” and accept the status quo, or the establishment, without realizing that the establishment in and of itself is idealistic. Worse yet, it (the neoliberal narrative of the last thirty years) is the worst kind of ideology—an ideology without ideals, whose only goals are material and not social. It is time that people the world over wake up and realize that democracy is not at the ballot box, but in the streets. If we don't work towards a world where human relations are based on solidarity and mutual support—with respect to our connection to nature—then we will be doomed in a future of repression, and ultimately, extinction. If we don't prioritize people ahead profit, we will perish.

Wherever you are wake up and take a look around you. If you don't find a local revolution, start one.

“The apparent infallibility of globalisation comes up hard against the stubborn disobedience of reality. While neoliberalism is pursuing its war, groups of protesters, kernels of rebels, are forming throughout the planet. The empire of financiers with full pockets confronts the rebellion of pockets of resistance. Yes, pockets. Of all sizes, of different colours, of varying shapes. Their sole common point is a desire to resist the "new world order" and the crime against humanity that is represented by this fourth world war.

Neoliberalism attempts to subjugate millions of beings, and seeks to rid itself of all those who have no place in its new ordering of the world. But these "disposable" people are in revolt. Women, children, old people, young people, indigenous peoples, ecological militants, homosexuals, lesbians, HIV activists, workers, and all those who upset the ordered progress of the new world system and who organise and are in struggle. Resistance is being woven by those who are excluded from "modernity".

Subcomandante Marcos, “WHY WE ARE FIGHTING: The fourth world war has begun”--Le Monde Diplomatique, English edition:

More Links:

2Regional elections are happening today, and the ruling Spanish Socialist Workers' Party is expected to take a beating.