Madrid is a beautiful city. But most of the time you fail to notice it as a result of the traffic.
Today, the one revolutionary event we stumbled upon was the Critical Mass. Thousands upon thousands of bikers peddling down the Gran Vía. It changed the city, it changed the air. It turned Madrid into the splendid place it really is.
Then we arrive at the Crystal Palace in Retiro park for the weekly assembly of the Coordinadora 25S. Five hours of exhausting discussion. Fortunately it was a sunny autumn day, otherwise I wouldn’t have resisted.
My personal conclusion is that the #25S is running out of steam. The coordinating assembly has given life to something that it is not able or not willing to pursue. Already it has lost the greater part of the activist wing which had adhered to this project’s original scope. ‘Surround congress until the government resigns’.
The people who are left are desperately trying to give meaning to the whole thing and to continue some form of mobilisation.
Today’s final consensus was vague enough to turn into something decent if there is the right inspiration behind it. October 23-25, when congress discusses the budget for 2013: organisation of a ‘people’s congress’ to discuss an alternative budget. October 27: demonstration at Neptuno. That’s it.
Supposedly, fear is a factor. The images of police shooting at a crowd and indiscriminately clubbing school girls and old men have caused some people to want to avoid confrontations. The same images have enraged other people to such a point that they are eager to go back to the streets and confront themselves with police.
Some of them are ‘specialists’. We held a secret meeting with them on urban guerilla strategy the other day. Just in case such a strategy is called for.
Naturally I won’t give you all the juicy details, also because the subject of ‘active resistance’ is very thorny within the movement. Nonviolence is a founding principle of 15M, but nonviolence doesn’t mean you always have to sit down waving your hands while police are charging with clubs and rubber bullets.
To some people, the specialists are known as the infamous ‘black blocs’.
Originally, black blocs are small autonomous units of antifascist militants who smash up banks and corporate franchises. They have their roots in the 1980s squatter movement in Germany, and in particular West-Berlin. They went international at the WTO riots in Seattle 1999, and in Genoa 2001.
In contemporary urban guerilla, the primary goal of these specialist units is to actively protect a crowd against police brutality. They provide first aid to the wounded, they carry substances that bring relief against tear gas, they try to prevent people from getting arrested, and they try to liberate those who are. They are armed and dangerous.
Aside from protecting the crowd, they counterattack police. If there are enough specialists active, and the crowd backs them up, police don’t stand a chance. They get swept away. Last time this happened was in May of this year, during the general strike in Barcelona.
Usually, once police get routed by the mob, the specialists torch a few Starbucks franchises to celebrate the event. It’s plain vandalism, but with a little bit of discipline, you can take control of the city. There is nothing to it.
The movement here in Spain has been dividing itself in a radical wing and a moderate wing. Actually, there is more than one division within the Indignados/15M/25S movement, however you want to call it. In general though, all the currents are flowing in the same direction.
Evening falls, I’m in Sol for the general assembly, together with comrade Max from the March to Athens. “It’s a kind of weekly ritual”, Max says, “like going to church.”
“It sure is, and just like church, most people have stopped attending.”
Still, compared to last week, and compared to the 25S assembly in the park, this week’s GA was pretty refreshing. There was serious content for once, and as a result, it attracted a crowd of discreet proportions.
The theme was energy. In the last five years, the cost of electricity in Spain went up 70%. Most of it turns into pure profit for a handful of (mainly foreign-owned) corporations. The lion’s share of this energy comes from unsustainable sources like natural gas.
These sources are not only overpaid for by the consumer, they are also heavily subsidised by the government. At the moment only a tiny amount of total energy comes from renewable sources. These used to be subsidised as well, until the Popular Party was voted into power. Cutting every economic incentive to develop the use of renewable energy was one of the first things they did. Among other polluters, Repsol Spanish petroleum was much obliged.
In the face of this, citizens, social collectives, environmental organisations and trade unions have formed a ‘platform for a new energetic model’. Their scope is not only to stimulate the production of renewable energy, but also to decentralise it.
Energy independence at the smallest possible scale should be a primary goal of the revolution. Together with food independence it’s an essential condition for a future society in which humans can govern themselves democratically, and be free.