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 serĂ¡ 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:

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

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