Somonte, Sunday December 16
On Monday morning, when all the people of other collectives and all the citizen treeplanters had left, normal life resumed at Somonte, and we were confronted with the fact of how few we actually are.
We cleaned up the house, the barns, the yard, and then the fifteen of us sat down to lunch. After two weeks there are many aspects of the internal affairs in Somonte that I don’t understand, but I got a basic idea of each person’s place in the community.
With the Intelligence Commission of the March on Brussels we developed the habit of comparing the march’s participants to Chess pieces. The same method can be applied here. We have our Queen, our King, our Knights and Bishops, our Towers and Pawns.
Between some of the pieces you will notice rivalries, either implicit or obvious. They influence the social dynamic of the community, and in doing so they create something we could call ‘politics’.
You find politics on all levels. Especially in a revolutionary enclave like Somonte. We have a huge anarchist sign on the barn and we take pride in not working for an overlord, but that doesn’t mean there is no leadership in Somonte.
There is, and you notice it. Instead of leadership, I should call it ‘drive’, maybe, but it’s the same. It comes from the people who decided over nine months ago to occupy the estate, and who are still here.
For now, this is my last dispatch from Somonte. One of the reasons I came to this place was to see what the occupiers have achieved through the seasons. And I must say that I was pleasantly surprised. There are two big vegetable gardens, where all the different plants are neatly organised with love and sweat into large green battalions. There are dozens of chickens, three geese, a turkey, cats and dogs, twenty sheep, five goats. You can pick oranges straight off the tree, a whole division of olives has been planted, a reforestation effort is under way, and this week, just before the rains came, 20 hectares of terrain have been sown with corn.
So yes, a lot has been achieved during nine months of occupation of Somonte. Things that would not have been possible without a strong ‘drive’. Not only by the people who live here, but also by all the people who have supported this project, in particular the Andalusian Workers Union that organised the occupation in the first place.
But however the big achievements and the symbolic importance of this occupation in the struggle against Andalusian feudalism, Somonte is not a viable alternative way of life at the moment. And the fact that the actual inhabitants are so few merely underlines this. There is room for hundreds of families here, there are enough stones to build a village. But as long as the earth doesn’t start to give fruits in abundance, they cannot be sustained. A day labourer would do the same job at Somonte as he would do for a boss, only here he doesn’t get paid. This is the season of orange and olive harvest, and a day labourer cannot afford to miss it in order to make some money.
Another reason why Somonte is not yet a viable alternative is because of the precarious situation. This is still an occupied estate. We can be evicted at any given moment. Almost every day the Guardia Civil drives around the courtyard to remind us. They don’t stop, they don’t get out of the car, they just show up. On Sundays they usually come here to scribble down the license plates of visiting vehicles.
This week, the assembly has decided to look into the possibility of setting up a cooperative so that Somonte can officially apply for the terrains to be ceded, and so the occupation legalised. This could be important to prevent the terrains from being ceded to other entities who prefer the business of speculation.
The legal way is in any case a thorny one. Especially since the recent reintroduction of class justice in Spain, where you are supposed to pay considerable amounts of money to have access to the legal system or appeal judicial decisions. Unions and organisations are forced to create financial reserves for this purpose, and the poor are simply denied access to the law.
‘Somonte Resiste’ is written with rocks in enormous letters at the main entrance, readable from the air. And I’m pretty sure that Somonte will keep resisting, the revolutionary way, or by the rules. And after a chat with the tractor man, I’m also aware of great possibilities for growth.
He told me that someone had lent us a sack full of corn at one hundred percent interest. Now, in the financial world, you would be out of your mind if you took such a loan, and you would most likely be punishable by law if you provided it. But as corn is concerned, ancient farmers’ knowledge says that in an average season you harvest twenty times the amount you sow. So you can pay back the sack of the corn, plus the sack of interest, and you will still have 18 sacks of corn left.
Approximately four tons of organic corn have been sowed last week. It makes for a promising investment in the future…