Paris, September 21
These are four of the videos documenting the desalojo of the indignados at the Place de la Bourse in Paris.
Paris, September 21
These are four of the videos documenting the desalojo of the indignados at the Place de la Bourse in Paris.
Day 58 of the March on Brussels. Surprise action.
This is what I was talking about yesterday. A surprise action, planned in secret, and executed to perfection by the entire group. We are an army.
At ten in the morning the tents at Bercy had to be folded. Police were present in a small number to see to it that we did. After breakfast, people start assembling, most probably for the rest of the day. I go to the Communication squat – more commonly known as ‘Media Center’ – to upload information and to the start planning the road to Brussels with the Route commission.
When we’re done, the rest goes back to the assembly in Bercy. Only comrade Roberto and me, the Intelligence commission, we stay around to do some investigative tourism in Paris. We walk towards the Opéra, looking for traces of the Paris that was. We don’t find any of it, but what we do find is much more interesting. La Place de la Bourse.
The rectangular square is big enough to hold an acampada. It’s dominated by the immense temple of commerce in greco-roman style. On the opposite side there are two major banks and a luxury bar. In an angle there is the seat of the Financial Markets Authority. And on the far side, the headquarters of the Agence France Press. There is not a single police officer to be seen. The site is perfect.
“This is where we must hold our popular assembly”, I say, “it can only be here.”
We hide away in a boulangerie, we tear out the standard tourist map of the city, and we start making a plan. The idea is very simple, it’s brilliant. We decide to return to Bercy to make preparations.
At Bercy, the assembly has reached a decision in less than seven hours. The idea is to hold a popular assembly in Notre Dame, and to go there in silent march, everyone in line, so as to avoid any accusions of us holding an illegal demonstration.
The idea is good. But ours is better. We start talking to the right people, and in short the word gets around that we have a plan B. Four people know the details. The others will have to confide.
At six o’ clock people start moving silently in a long line towards the center of town. It’s impressive to see. Unfortunately, many of our communications comrades are absent. At Gare de Lyon, I don’t know from whom, we receive a message saying that Notre Dame is full of police and that the bus is already there to take us away.
This is it. We can act. The game is on again.
Once the entire line has passed the entrance of the Gare de Lyon subway station we stop. In five persons we spread word. We go for plan B. Everybody turns around. The tail becomes the head and starts marching into the subway.
Now all has to go right. We can’t take any wrong turns, we have to keep everyone together, and we have to move fast. Divided over two trains we go to the end of line, the Saint Lazare station. When everyone is out on the platform, we move to take the number three metro line going back. Four stops and we are at Bourse.
When we are all assembled, each of us raising a hand to signal their presence, I head to the exit, a bit worried to find the place crawling with police. But no, the word didn’t get out. The square is ours for the taking. I give a shout of joy as we pour out into the daylight. “Assemblee populaire! Ici! Maintenant! Put the word out on twitter, facebook and whatever! We are here, in front of the Stock Exchange!”
It takes five minutes, we are getting ready to sit down in a circle, when we hear the police sirens. Two vans drive up. They immediately surround us. Within moments there’s a police officer behind every single one of us. I move to the center of the circle to start filming.
Jesus Christ, one of the four people who knew about the plan, together with me, Roberto and Geraldo, moderates the assembly. He keeps his cool, we all keep our cool. We continue as if nothing is happening. The people at Agence France Press only need to look out of the window to gather news. I’m overjoyed, the move worked out as I planned. The rest is out of my hands.
We are informed that this assembly constitutes an illegal manifestation, because it was not announced to police. We respond that we are peaceful citizens gathering in a public square, not to demonstrate, but to hold an assembly.
Other people start to arrive. They want to join in, so they start to sit down outside the police perimeter, beginning to surround them. The police retreats to break the siege and let the people join in on our assembly. From behind their windows, the people at AFP look down curiously.
As police prepare to clear the square, we all move to the center, locking arms and legs together. It takes time and a lot of effort for them to drag us away. Outside the circle, sympathisers are cheering us one, someone is singing Schillers “Ode to Joy”. Curiously, the police respect the people who are filming. We are allowed to shoot it all from the beginning to the end, close up. We are the last to be rounded up. While they take me away, someone starts singing the “Marseillaise.” I can’t resist. I sing along.
“Allons enfants de la patrie / Le jour du gloire est arrivé / Contre nous de la tirranie / L’étendard sanglant est levé”
And so, yet again, they take us away in one big bus and various vans. Eighty people in total. But this time they don’t bring us to some vulgar police station. We got a huge promotion in just two days. They take us to an office of the French Intelligence.
They check all they need to check. Hours pass by, they don’t interrogate anyone. At midnight, once again, we’re free.
So what do we do now? We go back to the Stock Exchange for our rendez-vous. We can sleep there if we want, but without tents, or we can go back to Bercy and camp.
We stay. As I put out a piece of cardboard to sleep on, I smile. We conquered the square today, and we will hold it through the night. French intelligence was outsmarted by our own intelligence today, and I’m proud of it. Now we can leave Paris with our head up high.
Day 57 of the March on Brussels. Forced rest.
Our movement is extremely versatile. We can improvise and catch the moment, like we did yesterday, or we can lose an entire day in assembly trying to decide what we are going to do, like we did today.
It wasn’t surprising. After we spent most of the night regrouping on the Bastille, many people went to sleep only around eight in the morning. Most of the day I stayed in the Communications squat near Pompidou, where the people kept cutting, editing and difusing all day. In the afternoon the marches reassembled at Bercy and only in the evening we take our sole decision of the day. Where to sleep.
A small group of people wanted to prepare actions for today as well. They want to ride the wave. After we got gassed and arrested the night before, we gained some popular support in Paris and publicity in Spain. The wounded are out of hospital, and as far as I have been able to ascertain, the detenidos are free.
I’m eager to take a map and start planning. There’s no limit to the kind of things you can do as a peaceful group of disobedient citizens. If we were a bit better organised – or if we were organised at all – we could form different groups and coordinate actions in various points of the city, using the metro as perfect medium to move quickly from one point of the city to another. There’s is a lot of police ready to counter us, but Paris is big. We could drive them crazy if we want to. And as long as we are peaceful, they can never beat us.
Our American comrades are back, whom we lost after Dax. They told me that the movement in San Francisco works with small tactical squads who prepare the actions in secrecy. At the last moment they communicate the rendez-vous point and from there on they guide the operation. The others confide in the squad to do a good job. If they screw up, they won’t be on the tactical squad the next time.
I think our organisation should evolve into this direction. There is a big difference between policy and actions. The policy should be prepared by the working groups and decided by the assembly, but actions should only be decided by a few people. In an assembly you will never reach consensus in time, and even if you do, you lose the surprise effect.
At nightfall the assembly is visited by a representative from the police. After what happened the day before, they came to offer us the possibility to camp here at Bercy.
Our alternative is a 9 kilometer march to a sports facility in the outskirts. We decide to camp, right here, in Paris. But not after people indulge in a dialectical discussion about the decision. In the end, we camp next to the stadium of Bercy, not because we gained the approval from the police, but because we decided so ourselves – and because we are too tired to move.
We have reached an objective. We camp in Paris. The time has come to ‘declare victory and get out of here’. On the other hand, we know that the authorities are afraid of our actions. Maybe we can still prepare something funny before we march off…
Paris, 19 september.
Boulevard St. Germain. Indignados are advancing just before police use tear gas.
Panorama of indignados blocked
Police start tearing people away
Aftermath, indignados in the police bus being taken away.
Paris, September 19
Day 56 of the March on Brussels. Taking the streets.
After a weekend of general apathy, today we finally acted, and it was awesome.
In the morning we managed to unite all three the marches in assembly at Bercy to decide on what to do. It would take all day, I knew that, but something was bound to happen for sure.
Police have been monitoring us from very close by. They don’t feel at ease as long as we are here. There were seven police vans and about fifty to eighty officers on stand-by in one of the streets near the assembly. There were three more ‘undercover’ cops who listened in on what was discussed, communicating with headquarters through their ear phones. They quickly found out that our assemblies are lengthy and boring. One of them winks the other two. “Coffee?” “Coffee!” And they all walk off into a bar.
In the afternoon things start to get interesting. We finally decide we’re going to try to camp, all together, somewhere in Paris. Two reconnaissance groups are created under the name ‘Tourist commission’, one for each bank of the Seine. Actually, it’s the Intelligence commission, and we’re going to check out possible places to put up our camp.
I’m with the Northern Group, exploring the right bank of the river. We only have a couple of hours to play tourists. We send out a small detachment to check the possibilities at the Sacre Coeur, and the rest of us stay close to the Seine. In the end the most panoramic venues are Hôtel de Ville, or straight in front of the Louvre. But for practical reasons we decide on Centre Pompidou. The square is surrounded by tourist bars, there is water and toilets close by and it’s not easy for police vans to arrive on the spot.
At six we’re back. The indignados have their faces painted in warrior colours, and they’re ready to go. The Tourist Commission adopts Pompidou as our primary target. But moments before we march off, comrade Geraldo comes in and changes everything. “We are too many in this group. The news will come out. We have a secret destination ready. Let’s go.”
Hours, days and weeks of planning and assemblying are cancelled as we get moving joyfully and excitedly. Geraldo and me are the only ones who know the destination. I take the map and I plan the route ad hoc. There’s a stir among the police officers, they quickly get on board of the vans to follow us. We have to make sure they won’t guess our objective, so I start planning one diversion after another. It’s a thrilling experience, playing the game in the great city of Paris.
We cross the Seine, and at the next bridge we cross back again. We walk in the direction of the Bastille and at the first opportunity we turn around, the police vans are lost in traffic as our march returns to the river side. I have it all figured out. We take the bridge to the Île St. Louis, we walk through the streets, cheering. “Nous sommes indignés, indignés, indignés!!”
I have difficulty to realise that this is all true. A happy crowd of indignados is shouting “Liberté! Egalité! Fraternité!” as I guide them to the square of Notre Dame. Another diversion, the astonished tourists switch the focus of their camera’s from the church to oud parada.
We cross the square and turn back to the right. My idea is to head for City Hall, invade the metro and go to Concorde, in order to lose the police vans. At Concorde, instead of getting off and invading the square we would switch metro and burst out in the open again at the École militaire. From there, we would march to the Champ de Mars and camp in front of the Eiffel Tower.
I’m walking ahead with my tourist map, and it all works out well until a police van blocks the bridge and pushes us back. Immediately the festive mood changes. From my experience as a goat sheperd I know that whenever a thunderbolt strikes, the herd turns around and starts to run. People are very similar. Only a couple of dozen indignados keep cool and manage to bring the group together. We walk on. The next bridge is bound to be blocked as well. All plans go out the window, we head to the left bank of the river. From here on, we improvise.
We can go along the Seine, or we can walk on. I study the possibilities and decide on another diversion. We head towards the park of the ‘Luxembourg’. At the first opportunity we turn right onto the Boulevard St. Germain, to the great surprise of the people sitting outside the luxury bars. From here, we go straight ahead. I want to see the Dome des Invalides. I want to salute Napoleon.
We never get there. At the church of St. Germain des Prés a small police force blocks the road. They don’t have backup for the moment. We advance on them, they retreat. To stop us they employ tear gas. And yet again, when people start shouting “Gas! Gas!”, a part of the group turns around and runs.
“Be calm! Regroupez!” But it’s too late. The police quickly divide us, some people get away and the rest of our march is blocked. We sit down as the police vans arrive with reinforcements. and a big bus to round us all up and take us away. We have to gain time. Milk cartons are handed around against the effects of the tear gas. One of us is heavily affected by it, she loses consciousness. While she is treated by our medical comrades, the police officers look on without knowing what to do. In the meantime, the word goes out on the social networks. We have people filming, and some of it goes straight onto the web. A comrade takes the megaphone. “Citizen police officers. Smile, you are live on internet!” Local people are gathering around us, they start shouting in solidarity. The police force has to be divided to keep them at a distance.
Today will be a victory for the movement, we know it. And while we prepare to be taken away, our musical comrades put up one of their fabulous barricade performances.
The commanding officer gives us the possibility to come peacefully. We don’t need a lengthy assembly to decide that we will resist. And so the ‘desalojo’ begins. The soundtrack is great. We have enough people recording the scene. And police allow us to. I can shoot footage from over the shoulders of the officers as they have a tough time dragging people away.
I decide to take out the memory card of my camera, and then it’s my turn. I have the card in my folded hand as they search me. They don’t really care about the material. They just want us out of there and off to the police station as quickly as possible.
The final balance is three wounded and five arrests. But police were relatively polite. When the bus is full, we bang on the small windows, crying ‘Liberté! Liberté!’. Outside a crowd is saluting us with V for victory. Some people try to block the road to prevent the bus from driving off.
At this point, the initial tension is down. It’s like we’re on a school camping trip. “Hail to the busdriver, busdriver man!” We are cheerful when we pass the Bastille and when we hear that in Madrid people are gathering outside of the French embassy.
In total about eighty people were arrested. We are too many for one single police station, they divide us between the XI and the XIX arrondisements, up to eight people per cell, for hours and hours while they check our identities one by one. At midnight we’re free.
The rendez-vous point we established was the Bastille. In the early hours small groups of ex-detenidos arrive. It’s an emotional encounter, topped off by heartfelt embraces. Only three police officers look on from a distance. We did a great action today.
We wait and we wait. Only very slowly possibilities are created for people to sleep. I’m amazed that it is so hard to find housing for a group of less than a hundred indignados here in Paris. The organisation of the Paris indignés might not be great, but the ones who are present try to help us as best they can. The hot meal they bring us is exceptional.
Finally, we march off to different places in small units. I end up in the Communications squat. It’s five in the morning, and all of the people who had been filming are wide awake uploading images onto the net. I’m happy to see that the revolution never sleeps.
Day 55 of the March on Brussels. Paris.
Our attempt to camp in Paris has failed. After our retreat from the Bastille we have settled along the Marne in a suburban sports facility. And today we lost the occasion to make a rebound.
The rain was a serious blow to morale. We are disoriented and divided. We had long been planning actions and thematical assemblies for today, the French had been preparing something as well, supposedly. But the march got up late, and spent the greater part of the afternoon in the metro, surrounded by police after they had been passing the gates of the station without paying. In the end, they took the gates, and police let them go. It’s a positive point in an otherwise disappointing weekend. If we all stick together we can be civily disobedient, and get away with it. Even in Paris.
I went off on my own, to upload information, and to meet my mum, who has come over here as a proud mother to see her revolutionary son arrive at the Bastille. We walk the streets of Paris, and it’s not a pleasant experience. The people here have the air of being suspicous, unfriendly and snob. No wonder our arrival here can hardly be called a triumph.
It could have been though. The same day we were parading through the streets, there was also a Tecno Parade which attracted many more people than our march, and there was the “Fête de l’Humanité”, organised by France’s major communist newspaper. More than enough occasion to join up into one big manifestation and exchange of ideas.
I don’t think there’s any reason why we couldn’t have coordinated something. The lack of this happening can be accounted to the Paris indignados and the people from our march who have spent weeks in Paris to organise things that never materialised.
But this doesn’t mean that the 17S Day against the Banks has not become a succes. It only goes to show that Paris is no longer a revolutionary capital.
After we had walked straight into the trap of the Bastille and were shivering away under the rain, some news dripped through of tens of thousands of people protesting in New York and hundreds of people camping near Wall Street. There was a report that even in Amsterdam there was an acampada in front of the stock exchange. In Barcelona people were camping in Paseo de la Gracia out of solidarity with us.
Worldwide, things are moving. Encouraging news comes from all over the West. Massive demonstrations in Italy, renewed actions and initiatives in Greece, oceanic protests of Arabs and Jews together, all over Israel.
Our march is an inspiration to many, but we are not the spearhead of the revolution any more. The seeds have already spread over the continents. It’s everywhere. Paris used to be the avanguarde, but now, in 2011, she missed out on what is going to be the Big One. If there is any revolutionary spirit left in this city, it must have emigrated to the suburbs.
I leave you today without photos, but with a message from the General Assembly of New York City, dated 11 September 2011.
We are the citizens and non-citizens of the General Assembly of New York City. We come from every walk of life, a variety of cultural, political, and religious backgrounds. Yet we share the same indignation for the common wealth that has been pillaged by the global institutions of finance with the complacency of the world’s governments — a looting that has led to massive unemployment, generalized cuts to public services, despair and resignation.
It is the same indignation that has prompted the people of Greece and Spain to occupy streets and squares on a permanent basis, the people of Egypt and Tunisia to overthrow their governments, the people of Iceland to nationalize their bank system and rewrite the constitution.
Over the past few weeks we have begun to share this indignation and listen to each other in a series of public meetings open to everyone. Freely inspired by the general assemblies that are mushrooming in every corner of the planet we have begun to bring our differences together through a consensual decision-making process. Such process does not aim at erasing differences. On the contrary it wants to multiply them so that we may begin to rebuild this nation and this world anew.
One of the first concrete steps we have decided to take is to participate in a global day of action against financial capital on September 17, 2011. We invite you to join us in this action by peacefully occupying the streets and squares surrounding the Wall Street area in New York City beginning on September 17. At the moment we do not have a specific list of demands. However, the Assembly initiated a conversation through which a number of proposals and perspectives unfolded.
Some of us think that the imposition of a Robin Hood Tax on all financial transactions, tax increases on capital gains, and the reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act are three essential measures to reestablish a minimum of fiscal sanity in the United States and abroad.
Some of us think that true autonomy and independence cannot be achieved through fiscal reform.
Some of us believe that we ought to reboot the system, rewrite the constitution, recuse a system of government employed by the rich for the
Many of us think that what truly matters at this stage is to create a shared framework which may enable everyone to speak out, be heard, co-evolve and advance with others. If you look through this framework you may not see one defined picture. If you walk through it you will be amazed at the strange world on the other side. It is time to take back our lives. We ask you to join us now in New York City or to start your own General Assembly in your own town.
In solidarity and struggle,
The General Assembly of New York City
Place de la Bastille 17 September. This is footage from the police lifting a peaceful sit-in of the united marches on Brussels by force.
Comrade Oswaldo playing a guitar solo in front of police at the Bastille.
Two o’ clock in the morning. After a strategic retreat, the indignados are surrounded by police in hooligan gear at the central square of Champigny. They don’t like to be filmed.
Day 54 of the March on Brussels. From Bagneux, 7 km.
The evening before we marched into Paris was like a high school reunion party. Under a dome of blue lights our camp was invaded by familiar faces. Almost all of them were people who participated in the earlier stages of the march, but who couldn’t come along because of personal or professional obligations. “We’ll meet you in Paris”, they said. And here they are. Our march is complete.
At breakfast one of our comrades went around painting red hearts on people’s hands, to be waved at bystanders and police. Immediately, a counter alternative was born. The skulls. To differentiate themselves from the love-peace-and-harmony faction, other people started painting skulls and bones on the palms of their hands. There was also an ‘Italian’ with us, who carried both symbols, just to be sure. All the adherences have been diligently noted by the Intelligence commission.
It’s obvious, playfullness has returned to our group. We were longing to have fun with each other after long days and weeks of problems and conflict. We take the streets with flags and banners. This is the great day. We walk down boulevards until we encounter a sign that says ‘Paris’. Photo opportunity.
Just outside the Cité Universitaire we join up with the Mediterranean March and we hold an enormous collective embrace in the middle of the street. Next thing we have to do is organise today’s demonstration. It’s amazing. In the days and weeks before, it had been impossible to coordinate anything, but now that we’re together under direct pressure of time, everything works out. In a quick internal assembly the ideas are collected. Working groups are created immediately. A list of necessities is drawn up, and all things appear out of nowhere. While some comrades are preparing lunch, the others are at work making masks, signs, banners, flags. The scene is invaded by armies of photographers and cameramen.
According to schedule we should have been under way at three to be at the Bastille at six. But we’re Spanish, we take our time. We depart at four and in the end we arrive at the Bastille at nine.
All in all the demonstration was a good one. It wasn’t oceanic, but we were neither just a handful of people. We make a lot of noise. We wave our banners, and every once in a while, small units of four or five indignados detach themselves from the parade to perform the actions we planned. Tapping bank windows and cash dispensers with duck tape, changing the names of the streets with cardboard signs and covering walls and streets with slogans in chalk.
The police is nervous. They make the big mistake of trying to protect some of the banks. Immediately the indignados are all over them. It makes for a great photo opportunity. When the police officers start running towards the next bank, a group of indignados runs along, shouting and screaming like indian warriors, overtaking them, and lining up to protect to next bank from police.
So yes, playfulness has returned, also in the parade. We have reached Paris, and the route is marked by names that resonate centuries of history. Le ‘Luxembourg’, the monumental seat of the French Directory after the revolution of 1789, the Sorbonne and the Quartier Latin, which have been barricaded many times, most recently in May 1968. Now, just like the rest of the center of Paris, the neighbourhood has become horribly bourgeois. We cross the Seine, we sit in front of the Notre Dame on the Île de la Cité. On the other side of the river we arrive at the Hôtel de Ville. Once it was the seat of the Paris Commune, now the square has been prostituted to host a commercial event promoting the NBA.
While we’re advancing towards the Bank of France, voices reach the head of the march. “They have arrested someone! Come one!” Everybody turns around. The whole march gathers in front of the police vans. People sit down and start to shout. “Let our comrade go! Let our comrade go!” Five minutes, and he’s free. Everyone cheers. The march can go on.
We arrive at the Bank of France. “Coupables! Coupables!” we are shouting while signs are being attached to the walls and the name of the road is changed into ‘Avenue de la Democratie’.
It’s getting dark. We are already hours late. “To the Bastille! To the Bastille!” people say. It sounds like a battle cry. And so off we go, singing. “Paris, rise up! Paris, rise up!” I’m happy to witness this, I would never have thought. But then, it starts to rain.
When we arrive at the Bastille, it’s dark and the rain is pouring down. The police presence is massive. Once we have all arrived on the square the cordon slowly starts to straighten like a belt. In the end we are surrounded, a reduced group of soaked indignados on the pavement of the Bastille. When we try to sit down, the police charge immediately, they start to tear us away.
Welcome to Paris. Chaos is complete. People are wet, tired and hungry. After various hours of apathy, some food supplies are allowed to enter the square. The rain has stopped. But the organisation of a place to camp or to sleep is zero. The Paris indignados have let us down. They knew that police would be implacable. And they haven’t prepared any plan B, C or D. They left us catch a cold on the pavement until someone turned up with the possibility to sleep in a sports hall in the suburbs.
Shivering we march off in tactical retreat. We invade the metro and take the last train to Champigny. But that isn’t the end of it. At the village square we are once again surrounded by thirty police officers, many of them in hooligan outfit. They won’t let us go anywhere until someone from the mayor’s office confirms them that we have authorisation to sleep in the sports center.
Finally, in the early hours, authorisation arrives, and we can officially go to sleep. We learned that Paris is different from the rest of France, and we learned it the hard way. Don’t think that you can occupy a public space as a citizen. You have to be a registered trademark to do that, and you have to pay. If you do so, you can even put up your tents in front of city hall.
Day 53 of the March on Brussels. From Montlhéry, 26 km
We are camping near the gates of Paris. We have reencountered comrade Waldo who has meticulously prepared our arrival in this modest black-and-white suburb of the capital.
The walk over here was a strange experience. We didn’t cross the city and we didn’t cross the countryside. It was a hybrid. Old villages and modern flats interspersed with cornfields and vegetable gardens.
Half way towards the center of gravity, the urban matter thickens. We go from suburb to suburb over a bicycle lane through a green corridor of parks. The monuments we encounter tell the story of the division of general Leclerc, who received the honour to be the first to enter Paris in August 1944. While the soldiers were liberating the city, Ernest Hemingway was ‘liberating’ the wine cellars of the luxury hotels.
Since yesterday we are joined by a comrade from Barcelona, a veteran of the Mediterranean march. He confirms all the bad stories. I haven’t yet heard a single positive word about their march. Rumours had already reached us that they did at least three legs by car. It’s all true. They are a bunch of slackers.
What I didn’t know was that a French girl living in Barcelona joined the march in Montpellier, and grabbed power. The principles of horizontally were abbandoned in favour of dicatorship. She controlled everything, the assembly and the logistics. She imposed rules and punishments.
“Really?” I ask, “and did things go better after that?”
“No. The internal conflicts persisted. The only result was that people stopped participating and thinking for themselves, which are more less the two things we want to accomplish. Those who didn’t agree with the new regime packed their bags and left.”
Lady Blue Eyes, the Führer, was only once confronted with a rebellion, in Nimes. A minority of hard core marchers refused to go by car. But everything was already organised. A fait accompli. The rebels desisted. The march restarted from Lyons.
The only positive result of the coup was that the internal assemblies stopped being a lengthy waste of energy and time. They turned into informative meetings where the leader communicated her decisions to the group. The popular assemblies on the other hand were a theatrical piece that followed the exact same script every single night, interpreted by the same actors. “A farce.”
I recognise these tendencies. But in our march we never even got close to the extremes of the Mediterranean. And though we should all be sad about the failure of our comrades, a most human reaction to this news is one of self complacency. “We aren’t so bad after all, compared to those gilipollas of the Mediterranean.”
Unndoubtedly the most succesful march from a human and a revolutionary point of view is Toulouse. They were few and their organisation was minimal, but very functional. For the most part of the trip they didn’t have a support vehicle. They walked distances of 25 km max with their bagpacks on their shoulders and they hardly ever ate a hot meal. Only sandwiches. They didn’t have commissions, and they didn’t exhaust themselves with internal assemblies. Everything worked out naturally.
Even their communication was much better than ours. Their blog is serious, updated by one person only, and whenever they had a support vehicle at their disposal, the car went ahead to the villages on the route to distribute flyers and attach manifests announcing the popular assembly. By comparison, our Communication commission has counted up to eight people, about as much as the entire Toulouse march, and they hardly ever managed to do any difusion in the villages on the route, or to bring out the word of the march on the internet. One example says it all: the other day a member of our Communications commission came to me to ask if he could send an email to his family. They hadn’t heard from him in ten days, and he wanted to let them know that he was alive.
At Orléans our march has literally swallowed the Toulouse march. We treated them simply as another handful of marchers. We never did anything to integrate them, or to learn from their experiences. It’s one of our capital sins. Arrogance. ‘We are the March on Brussels, we come from Puerta del Sol, and we are going to teach the world the gospel of peaceful assemblyism.’
Some of the people from Toulouse have already left our march. The others don’t participate in the assembly, and rumour has it they are planning to secede after Paris and walk to Brussels the way they used to.
In the two speaches I held to the popular assemblies of Tours and Orléans I stressed the fact that there are many people who share our objectives. People who have been fighting for a better world for years. “We are conscious of this”, I said. “We also come here to learn from you. With all due humility.”
Comrade Vladimir, the only active participant from the Toulouse march summed it up in three words. For him, the movement of the indignados can only be aimed at one thing.
“Convergence of struggles.”
Montlhéry, September 15
Day 52 of the March on Brussels. From Etampes, 29 km
This morning, instead of going walking early, we sat down in the tavern ‘le petit caporal’, to plot about actions in Paris. We were not the only ones. There are small groups within our march preparing actions and diversive manoeuvres of their own accord. Also the Mediterranean march and the indignados in Paris are busy cooking up their own plans.
Then when the time comes to coordinate things in the internal assembly, we lose hours deciding whether a journalist of a photographic magazine should be allowed or not to assist to the assembly. In the end, we don’t even get to talk about the important things.
But do not think that this is a ridiculous chaos, o no, it’s tactics. The only way for us to avoid that the police knows what we’re going to do is to make sure that we ourselves don’t have any idea of what’s going to happen.
So far for things in practice. These last few days I have been talking about the theoretical nature of our movement with comrade Roberto, from the Economy commission, which is now known as the commission ‘Autogestión’, to appease the anti-monetarians within the march.
Roberto is a former stock broker and bank employee. He started off as a choir boy in church. He knows the enemy, and he has a very analytical way of thinking which isn’t blurred by any kind of moral. I’m trying to convince him to be part of a secret Intelligence commission, with the objective to gather any type of information about the march.
This information is divided on various levels. One is the organisation of the march, another is a classification of its participants on the basis of their mentality, and another is a classification on the basis of their political ideas.
We made a scheme of the commissions. Route, Economy and Dinamisation are the primary ones. The Route decides where we’re going. Economy controls the secondary commissions of Logistics and Kitchen. Dinamisation is a kind of central committee which prepares the politics of the assembly. If you control these three commissions, you control the march.
But maybe the most important commission of all is Communications. Through Communications we create the public image of the march. We depend on public support. Without effective propaganda, there is no march.
As for the mentality, people can be divided into the ‘rigorosos’, or the people who want to shape order out of chaos, the ‘permisivos’, who try to keep the group together with comprehension and endless search for consensus. There are the parasites, who don’t really care as long as they don’t have to walk and receive a free meal. And finally, there are a few visionaries who don’t take themselves or the march too seriously. They watch on with amazement and joy how this incredible movement develops.
On a political level you can recognise the classical distinction between radical revolutionaries and practical reformists. The former want to change everything overnight, so that as from tomorrow we can all live together, happily ever after. The latter admit that things are a bit more complicated than that. But most people probably don’t have any clear political ideas at all. They know things are not right in society, but they wouldn’t really know where to start to make a change.
At midday we walk. It was a strange day today. A part of the distance I walked alone, and whenever I did, I got lost. This hardly ever happens. I arrived last, late in the evening. I missed the popular assembly on the village square, which was a shame, because I heard it had been very interesting.
There was a woman present who works in a psychiatric institution. She told that she had 23 patients in her department, ten of which had drinking problems. It seems that Sarkozy has passed a law which allows police to send people who are caught drunk on the street to a mental institution. One of the patients got caught the very first time he ever touched a bottle. After six months in the clinic he had become a true alcoholic.