Day 25 of the March on Brussels. From Bayonne, 28 km.
It was a good idea to take a day off. We should do that more often, especially in the cities. It gives us the opportunity to walk around a bit, get to know the place, and rest. Our problem is that we have a tight schedule. We have to be in Paris in less than a month and we still have almost all of France ahead of us.
On the other hand we could have done without a day off in Bayonne. Taking everything into account, it was a disappointment. There was a handful of indignados to welcome us, but nothing that resembled an organisation. In the afternoon of yesterday we held a demonstration, carrying around a tent through the streets and yelling slogans in Spanish and French. The tent was a great idea, it made it almost look like a religious procession. The people looked at us with a smile or with a worried frown. But only very few of them attended our assembly.
Fortunately today was different. Like in Spain, the people’s interest in the movement is much bigger in the villages than in the cities, both in relative and in absolute terms. Even though for today we are camped next to the local sports center outside of the village, there are more natives than marchers present. They prepared us a warm welcome and have waited here for hours until the assembly was celebrated.
Of course our assemblies have to be bilingual now. It adds to the length of them and hence to the amount of subjects that can be treated, but it works pretty well. Some people who speak Spanish and French translate themselves. Others cede the microphone to a translator. The native German or English speakers gather around someone who speaks their language and whispers a simultaneous translation.
One recurring point that the French participants in our assemblies have made so far is the necessity of practical proposals. They say that people in France are very willing to take to the streets – something which they have repeatedly shown over the years – as long as they have a clear and simple goal. As if to say: they are capable of paralysing the country for days to demand a two percent wage increase, but they won’t get off the couch to demand a better world for their children.
I don’t really think this is true. France suffers from many of the same problems as the rest of the world. Gradual reduction of civil liberties, commercialisation of public goods, increased government control, corruption and nepotism, racism and social exclusion, etc. Many people are not happy with this. It’s not the society they want to live in, but for the moment I think they are not yet convinced that the 15M movement has the right cards to present an alternative.
Many times before the French people have decided to shake up the system and make revolution. They will do so again. For now we are sowing the seed of something great, in the countryside. And once the organisation of our movement is strong enough, which I admit will still take a lot of time, then also the French will rise up once more.