The hot sun felt like summer today, and we enjoy it as long as it lasts. We have advanced to the infamous river Somme, to the city of Amiens. Close to the river, in the more popular neighbourhoods, I have found traces of the low lands to which we are directed. The smell of French fries, and the presence of canals.
After the first few days from Paris, we have had certain problems of convivencia. When the distances become longer, the marchers become fewer. Many go by bus, train or hitch hiking, but they let their backpacks be transported by the comrade Charlie’s van.
When I say that this march seems to go ahead thanks to divine providence, that isn’t completely true. It’s thanks to comrade Charlie. He does logistics, kitchen, and mediation in conflicts. But yesterday, when he arrived and saw that all of the none walkers were drinking beer and didn’t help him unload the van, he was fed up with it.
The Central Committee prepared an internal assembly and announced that everyone will have to carry his own bags as from tomorrow. It was a threat. When people are faced with the necessity to carry their stuff, they start to think about what they really need, and what they can discard. People are used to accumulate, and so they were scared out of their wits.
In the end, according to plan, it was decided that only the people who are actually walking can bring one piece of luggage along in the van. The others will have to arrange themselves.
For the great part of the day I have been walking along with comrade Juan, who joined us in Paris. He is from the Communications commission of Acampada Málaga. We spoke a bit about Spanish history from the War of Succesion at the beginning of the 18th century up until the latest attempt of a military golpe in 1981. Comrade Juan knows his history, and he knows how to synthesise it.
A recurring theme is the existence of two different Spains. You could go back to the middle ages to make to this point, to the seafaring merchants of Catalunia and the feudal warlords of the highlands. The two states of mind have always persisted. On the one hand there is the Spain of the army, the Spain of god, nation, king and order. On the other hand there is the Spain of self determination and freedom, the Spain of the people.
Still, these spirits have never been confined to a specific category. In 1808, the populace rose up in favour of a decrepit monarchy, out of resentment against the French invadors. A few years later the intellectual elite styled the most progressive Constitution of the age, which was duly repressed by the royal establishment. In the century that followed, between one military coup and another, the liberal ideas and the feudal practices flowed and reflowed in Spanish politics.
The civil war in the 1930s was the exemplary expression of this conflict between the dark ages and the enlightenment. It was all the more symbolic because it encompassed all the great political philosophies of the 20th century. The anarchist trade union CNT had over a million members at the time. They formed their own militia’s on the republican side. It was like waging war, real war, in ‘15M-style’. They would take an old truck, paint it red and black, attach a gun to it, if they had one, and call it a tank.
The fascists won the war in the end. And only very recently has the spirit of the other Spain returned to the streets and to the squares.
Another recurring issue, linked to the former, is the question of centralism. Madrid as capital, against the autonomic regions, peoples and villages.
I have noticed this same issue in our movement. Officially, every popular assembly is one hundred percent autonomous. The 15th of May was a nation wide protest in Spain. But the whole history of the acampadas began in Madrid, on Puerta del Sol.
Sol has been an example for many. The first people camping out there in the square, and everyone who assembled in their support, have shown that all those people longing for change are not alone, and that together they can make a difference. As a result, acampadas sprung up in all cities down to the smallest towns of the country. Later, all the Spanish popular marches converged on Sol. But those marches didn’t come to Sol because it was the center, like someone might think. They came to claim the fact that each different assembly was distinct and autonomous. They came to share their experiences on a level of equality. Sol just seemed the appropriate place to meet.
At the moment, there are two assemblies meeting in Puerta del Sol. One is the original Asamblea General de Sol, which represented the acampada in its day, and the other is the Asamblea Popolar de Madrid (APM), which represents the assemblies of the neighbourhoods and the villages of the region.
For some time now, people have been saying that the General Assembly of Sol is no longer necessary. They argue that sovereignty resides in the neighbourhoods, and that the APM is the only representative assembly for Madrid.
We’ve had this discussion in the march as well. When ‘Sol’, asks us to reorganise our Communications, “or else…”, then some of us have the instinctive reaction of saying: “Who do they think they are?” These people generally agree that the Assembly of Sol should be dissolved.
Comrade Getafe and me argue against it. First of all, because Sol is not part of one of the neighbourhoods. Sol is Sol. Second of all, for sentimental reasons. Getafe was one of the Famous Forty, and I have camped in Sol for three weeks. It is our ‘native acampada’. But most important, as for me, Sol is a point of reference, a megaphone, a symbol.
Every revolution needs its symbols. And thanks to Sol, the sun itself has become one of the symbols of our movement.