Democracy from the Bottom Up

In Acampada Sol, Madrid, Spain on 4 June 2011 at 22:26


The First National Congress has convened. Representatives from all occupied squares in Spain have reported yesterday evening to the General Assembly. We are not just Madrid any more, here in Puerta del Sol, we are all of Spain.

Since Franco’s death Spain is subject to strong centrifugal forces. You shouldn’t call a Catalan a Spaniard, and certainly, for your own safety, you shouldn’t say it to someone from the Basque Country. But today in Madrid, they are all here together as brothers to share their experiences.

So this morning I attended an assembly in the Plaza del Carmen, right behind Sol, where they had gathered in a circle under the trees, each delegation behind a cardboard sign with the name of the city. Seville, Valencia, Barcelona, ​​Palma de Mallorca, A Coruña, Donostia and dozens of smaller cities. Even from the Canary Islands there were delegates present.

It was finally a tangible proof of the strength of our movement. For it is one thing to receive news about acampadas and assemblies throughout Spain, but it’s quite another to see all the various delegations dropping in one by one. “¡Hola! Venimos de Segovia.” “Venimos de Sagunto.“, “Toledo.“, “Murcia“. It goes on and on. They tell us how many they are, what actions they do, how they are organised etc. And I can tell you, comrades, they seem to be doing great.

Some cities have concerts every day, in other cities universities are being occupied and in many of the larger cities people are already organising assemblies in the neighbourhoods. Good ideas pass around. The organisational structures and their coordination is improving. The spirit that emerges from the National Congress is that this is the beginning of something big, and that people are not in hurry. The revolution doesn’t necessarily have to be accomplished today. We are patient. What matters now is to lay the foundations of a new democratic society. This way, once the ancien régime will fall, it will not result in dangerous revolutionary chaos. A completely new structure will be ready to replace the old state, a structure that will already be tested at different levels.

In the afternoon I descended into the multicultural neighbourhood of Lavapiès. It’s a place where I feel at home, it reminds me of the livelier streets of old Rotterdam. Here you encounter a lot of blacks, and Arabs, and Chinese, Indians, Swiss and Latinos. It’s a neighbourhood full of music and the spicy smells of different cuisines from every continent. On the central square the weekly Assembly was in session. It was about local things. About cultural centers. About integration. There were working groups being set up. Decisions were taken that would be presented to the General Assembly in Puerta del Sol. Our direct democracy is one big web of arteries that branch off into the tiniest veins to feed every single cell of the body. And the heart is Puerta del Soul.

To get an idea of all the different layers of our future democracy, I also attended an assembly on International Relations this morning. We were mostly French and Greek. Clearly Spain is miles ahead of the rest of the world as far as organisation goes, but also abroad it has begun. The delegate from Bayonne rightly said that each country has to follow its own path towards democracy. In France, participation in the movement is relatively small compared to the great strikes. It might be necessary for our northern neighbours to follow a more political path and to try to bind the workers with immediate, practical demands.

Greece is a completely different story. Over there, the fruit is almost mature. Every day there are 50.000 people of all ages protesting around parliament in Athens, 20.000 in Thessaloniki, and recently the protests have even spread to some of the smallest towns. The big wigs want to appropriate all the treasures of the people and sell them for an apple, or an egg. But this is not going to happen, comrades. Not now and not ever. Democracy was born in Athens. And in Athens, democracy will be reborn, just wait and see.

Things keep on happening. All throughout the city you can feel the pulse of Puerta del Sol. While I was checking out the hood my brothers Riccardo and Mehmet attended a protest march of the anarchist trade union CNT elsewhere in the city.

At the word anarchism one usually thinks of chaos, arbitrariness and violence. But in political terms, anarchism is something quite different. Anarchism is the egalitarian self-organisation of people without leaders or revolutionary elites. Puerta del Sol in this sense is an example of anarchism in practice. And oh! Now I would like to tell you about anarchism in Catalonia at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, about the role of the CNT militias in the conflict, about George Orwell. But there is too much happening in the present to talk about history now. Once the revolution has been accomplished, I will have all the time in the world to put things in a historical perspective.

We receive another visit by Gail from CNN London. It’s incredible all the stories she has to tell, all the things she has witnessed. Afghanistan, Kurdistan, Moscow, Tunisia, Pakistan, Tibet and much more… The stamps on her passport read like an adventure novel. She says that squatters in the Netherlands have organised a ‘day of rage’ next week and that she’ll be going down there to report.

Gail has experienced world history of the past thirty years from very close by. A dozen major conflicts. Every day people getting wounded and getting killed. And now, at last, for once there is great and positive news in the air.

“These are damn’ interesting times we’re living in!”

“You bet, sister. You bet!”


PS Last night I did speak with the comrades of InformationTech. It seems that there are indeed plans ready for a counteroffensive. More I cannot say at this stage…


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