Yesterday was a great day. For a week they have been working on it at Extension. It was the day that ‘Sol’ would spread out over all neighbourhoods of Madrid and the surrounding towns and villages. Or not. The future of this movement was at stake.
We bet it all, and we won. The expansion has become a huge success. Popular assemblies have been organised in more than a hundreds villages and neighbourhoods, where hundreds to sometimes thousands of people attended. And best of all, it was not just the young. There were mostly elderly and families with children present. The people from the neighbourhood.
Our model of direct democracy has struck a cord. It finally gives people a voice. No longer does it end up on the bottom of a ballot every four years, no, it is heard.
The assemblies operate as follows. A moderator and a secretary are elected. These functions rotate, so nobody gets the opportunity to step up. The moderator ensures that everyone who has something to say gets his speaking turn in the order in which it is requested and within the subject that is currently being treated. The secretary is responsible for the minutes that are to be published at the end of each assembly or working group meeting.
Also, each working group sends a spokesman to the General Assembly to report on what the group is doing. Like any other function, spokespersons are rotative.
Voting in favour is done by waving both hands. Opposition to a proposal is expressed by crossing ones arms over ones head. If a large majority is in favour of a proposal, there is always asked if anyone categorically opposes it. If so, that person will get the floor to explain his or her reasons. It is not a dictatorship of the majority. People look for consensus through collective reasoning. If a significant minority continues to have objections a compromise is looked for that is acceptable to all.
The success of the neighbourhood assemblies is so big that most of them have already decided to convene on a regular basis. Then their spokespersons will bring the decisions of the neighbourhoods and villages to the General Popular Assembly at Puerta del Sol.
At the time of writing, Sunday May 29 2011, at a quarter past two in the afternoon, the first General Popular Assembly is convened at Puerta del Sol. The square isn’t large enough for all. The atmosphere you breathe is one that I’ve never felt before, one that I never even thought possible. We are working on something very big. We are making history. ‘Democracy’ is no longer an empty phrase, apropriated by a small group of politicians. It has become a reality.
Sometimes I have trouble comprehending it all. I almost become emotional. I think of the Agora of Athens. I think of the Founding Fathers of the United States. I think of the images of the mass demonstrations in East Germany in November 1989.
“Wir sind das Volk!”
I don’t sleep much, but I have energy to spare. I wish I could be everywhere at the same time, on all the squares, in all the working groups. I wish I could absorb all the information that is going around our movement. But I’m just me. A single neuron in a huge brain that is becoming aware of its own collective intelligence. I‘m doing what I can. I need to document this.
Sometimes the feeling of euphoria can turn into a kind of despair when our spontaneous organisation suddenly grinds to a halt. There I am, writing a piece in the Communications office whilst messages which have to be published are coming in from all sides. But the internet is down again, and the guys of Web are nowhere to be found. At such times it’s very frustrating not to be in touch with what’s happening in the cities and villages, and in all the countries that have seen the light of Puerta del Sol shining in the distance. And yet, when I ask the Megaphone to announce that we need information technicians, then they show up on the doorstep right away to re-establish our contact with the world.
This morning I was translating a manifesto of our comrades in Paris into English, see below. The tone is truly revolutionary, and I cannot help but feel a certain pride when I read that people in the capital of Revolution – on Place de la Bastille! – are inspired by what is happening at Puerta del Sol!
Comrades, take the squares and take the streets! They are yours! Once you have tasted a piece of real democracy, you’ll never want something else again!
Hasta la victoria,
Real Democracy Now!!!!
After the current financial crisis began in 2008 our democratically elected representatives have decided to make us, the citizens, pay the price for it, instead of those who are responsible: the banks. The European democracies have been hijacked by the international financial markets. Citizens are being strangled by the austerity plans that are being imposed all over Europe. Unemployment has skyrocketed and has plunged millions of people into precarious conditions and even misery. This crisis affects everybody. While the value of the French stock exchange has doubled, unemployment has reached 25% among young people. In Spain the unemployment rate for people under 35 has even gone up to 40 percent.
Faced with this situation, the people of Spain have risen up. As from the 15th of May tens of thousands of people are occupying public spaces day and night. The Real Democracy Now! movement is rooted in two fundamental demands: democratic regeneration and the defense of social rather than economic policies. It has sprung up as a truly spontaneous civil movement, completely independent and self administered.
As a result of recent demonstrations of solidarity organised by the Spanish community in France, we, French citizens, have come to identify ourselves with the aspirations of the Spanish people. We call on all people to become an active part of this dynamic movement for change. The Arab uprisings have crossed the Mediterranean Sea. The Spanish awakening sends a message to all people of Europe to seize this opportunity.
Faced with a political oligarchy which has monopolised democratic institutions, we demand the formation of Constituent Assemblies to remind our representatives that sovereignty should be exercised by the people.
Faced with a fistful of the ultra rich parasiting on society we demand a redistribution of wealth.
We call on everybody to organize peaceful occupations of public squares. By taking possession of our public space we will proceed to decide together our goals (civil, political, cultural and artistic), and the means with which to achieve them.
Exploitation will only be confined by our resistance!
Voted by the General Assembly in Paris,
Place de la Bastille, Sunday 22 May 2011
General Assembly every night at 7 PM in Place de la Bastille
Popular gathering out of solidarity with the Spanish uprising on Sunday 29 May at 2 P.M.