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Archive for May, 2013|Monthly archive page

Istanbul Rising

In #GlobalRevolution, Istanbul, Occupy Gezi, Turkey on 31 May 2013 at 20:09

Photos via occupygezipics.tumblr.com and Twitter

May 31.

Dear people,

This morning in Istanbul, police have again brutally dispersed peaceful protesters who came to claim their park.

There have been skirmishes throughout the day, with tear gas and water cannons being used against protesters. An unspecified number of people have been wounded. One girl was reportedly killed by a tear gas cannister. She was later unconfirmed to be in a coma.

In the early evening, the people erected barricades and torched some of them. Police have fired, and keep firing on the crowd. Live rounds of ammunition have been heard.

This was the third day of the occupation of Gezi Park aimed at saving it from voracious real estate speculation. Even some Turkish parliamentarians joined in, and sat down in front of the bulldozers.

Solidarity actions are being organized in dozens of city in Turkey. In Amsterdam and Cologne as well, people have taken the streets. Also today, Blockupy Frankfurt challenged immense police presence and succeeded in blocking the European Central Bank, first, and the airport, later, as a protest against forced expatriations. Right now, Blockupy is protesting in solidarity with Istanbul.

Tomorrow, New York will follow suit at #OccupyHomecoming. Tonight, the whole world is watching Turkey. From the GlobalRev newsdesk in Madrid, our solidarity goes to comrade Memed on the scene, who is broadcasting the images.

Istanbul is not alone. The call is to besiege Turkish embassies and consulates, everywhere.

Check the livestream here.

Afbeelding

Afbeelding

Afbeelding

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Summer Picknick

In #GlobalRevolution, Istanbul, Madrid, Occupy Gezi, Spain, Turkey on 30 May 2013 at 19:56
Police tear gassing people at Gezi Park Istanbul, via @_ElifYilmaz_

Police tear gassing people at Gezi Park Istanbul, via @_ElifYilmaz_

The Monsanto March added a touch of global that had been missing in this #GlobalMay. On Facebook, an appointment was already launched for 2014, but for many people it wasn’t soon enough. A new march has now been planned for as early as October. In Istanbul protesters gathered near Taksim Square yesterday to demonstrate against the shoppingmallization of the city and in particular the idea to plant a mall in a nearby park.

People occupied the park and camped. This morning they were brutally dispersed by police. Tents were burned, teargas was employed. In the afternoon people have returned to claim the park by the thousands. (LIVE)

Next June starts will start on a high note. The Citizen Wave keeps growing. The latest wave of indignation is the purple one which unites the increasing amount of Spanish emigrados. Next June 1, the waves will march united against the Troika, in Spain and in dozens of other cities in Europe.

Also in Spain, a first timid attempt at mortgage strike was launched for June. The call is to delay mortgage payments a few days up to three months. Just to scare the banks.

I’m sceptic about it’s effectiveness for a few reasons. One, it wasn’t thoroughly prepared. People don’t know the initiative. Two, it seems you have to pay 66 eurocents for every day you postpone your payments. So the bank would even end up making money from this action. A serious mortgage strike could be done, but you need time to publicise and coordinate the action. You need neighbourhood solidarity, and a lot of determined people.

In America, determination is on the rise again. On June 1 an event called ‘Occupy Homecoming’ is planned in New York. The objective: Zuccotti Park.

So tune in to Global Revolution. We will be live.

Domino Theory

In #GlobalRevolution on 28 May 2013 at 23:40
Image via southweb.org

Image via southweb.org

Madrid, May 28

Dear people,

It got completely out of hand. Six weeks ago, someone launched an idea. Then Facebook groups popped up like mushrooms. The thing went viral. And last Sunday, hundreds of thousands of people marched, all over the planet, against Monsanto Corporation.

From deep down in the bunker, the event was broadcast as the streams came in. The channel came under attack around noon CET as each of the editors was individually targeted. Communications went down, the channel froze. Around three o’ clock, Global Revolution was live again on a virtual server. That was 9 AM in New York. The day had yet to start. And from then on, we didn’t miss a thing.

The whole day  in five minutes.

The march against Monsanto was a surprising success. But maybe there is some explanation for it. Monsanto touches people directly. This is about what we eat. And the company makes a great objective. They have a track record of death and destruction, they appropriate life, they feudalize farmers, they own politicians, they monopolize our food supply, they modify it at will and they don’t want us to know.

So that’s our first demand. We want to know. If you know you can choose. And only if you can choose you can be free. We demand labels on all products that contain GMOs. Two, we want a moratorium on GMOs until scientific research can establish their long term effects as a nutrient. We are not guinea pigs. We are humans. Third, we demand taxation of industrial farming. Anyone who causes damages to the ecosystem or maltreats animals, will have to pay damages. Conversely, we want incentives for organic farming and local produce. We demand our children eat organic food in school.

Monsanto could well be the weak spot in the castle’s wall, the perfect place to concentrate our forces and attack. It’s not just food, it touches on sustainability, on intellectual property, on mass distribution and control, on the chemical industry and so on. If we break Monsanto, we can move on to the big oil companies, the health profiteers, the banks and the corrupt politicians. We can revive local economies, community spirit, and democracy.

Big media hardly covered the march. So today a Facebook storm was launched, which flooded the comment pages of the big papers and tv channels. ‘Hey, this is happening in my town, and around the world. Why don’t you cover this?’

Giving in to popular pressure, CNN just broadcast an item announcing as fact that 2 million people marched against Monsanto last Sunday. The channel was originally planning to air a favourable item about the company. Instead they voiced a question that many people are concerned about. “Is it safe to eat these products?”

Relaunch the question. It’s time for the discussion about GMO to hit the mainstream.

“The Sherwood Syndrome”

In #GlobalRevolution, Barcelona on 26 May 2013 at 15:20
Robin Hood Festival, foto by Jose Manuel Vargas

Robin Hood Festival, foto by Jose Manuel Vargas

Madrid, May 26

Dear people,

Now that the revolution is over, let’s talk about the counterrevolution. In particular let’s study the behaviour of its guard dogs. The document I present to you was leaked over a year ago. It’s a military style manual on how to deal with anarchists, written by the current chief of police of Barcelona, David Piqué y Batallé. It was presented as his master thesis to the Open University of Catalonia at the end of 2009 under the title ‘The Sherwood Syndrome’.

Though the work focuses on the case of Gràcia neighbourhood in Barcelona as a practical representation of Sherwood, the author meant it to be a generally applicable battle guide. And he meant to picture the battle as a historic one. The objective is the complete defeat and assimilation all those people who are living in occupied spaces outside the system. The barbarians. They are likened to the rebellious tribes of Gaul, and in between the lines Piqué himself dreams to be Julius Caesar.

Bust of Caesar. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Bust of Caesar. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

When the guide hit the wires in May last year, it caused an outcry in the left wing community online. Piqué was called a fascist and a psychopath. His academic merits were ridiculed as infantile. Most quotations from his work highlighted examples of violent tactics, unlawful practices and dubious ethical considerations.

Indeed, academically speaking, the manual fails to live up to any accepted standard. It’s extremely superficial. It hardly relies on any sources. It includes anonymous rumours and random quotes. Most historical examples are flawed and out of place. It doesn’t take much to recognise a shameful lack of in-depth knowledge about military history and its political context. But we have to bear in mind that Piqué didn’t write his thesis for academics or historians. He wrote it for chiefs of police.

That’s why the document is only 37-pages, without terminology or references to other academic authors and their works. The grotesque mentions of Caesar and Cato and Hannibal, and wars varying from the Persian Gulf, to Yugoslavia, to Mexico and Cuba serve to inspire the local commanders. And to give them the idea of being on a civilized mission against the barbarians, in defence of the rule of law.

Considered purely as a manual the work deserves some credit for being lucid, reasoned and methodic. This is why it has been adopted throughout Spain as a pocket guide on how to handle anarchists. For same reason, I think it’s useful to make a condensed analysis of this work in English. If only to “know thy enemy”.

The original guide was written in Catalan. There is also a Spanish translation available. It is divided in three parts.
Parts one poses the problem. Who are these people challenging the system?
Part two describes which tactical models you can use against them in the field.
Part three proposes a five stage strategy to destroy them.

I will synthesize and paraphrase the guide in italics. Quotes come directly from the text in my own translation.

The Sherwood Syndrome

Part 1

The outlaws hide in Sherwood forest. Some consider themselves heroes the likes of Robin Hood. According to folk legends these bandits stole from the rich to give to the poor. “The problem was, as always, that Robin and his band decided who were the rich to be robbed and who were the poor to be benefitted”. According to old records, Robin was finally captured and rendered homage to the throne.

Riots in Greece 2010, via worldnomads.com

Today, Sherwood takes different forms. On the one hand it’s a problem of public order, like in Greece and Italy, where the “anarchists behave like vandals, and are treated as such, which causes a lot of violence.” On the other hand, in Copenhagen they administer their own neighbourhood, Kristiania, and “create very few problems to the authorities of the ‘system’.”

The squatting phenomenon comes from northern Europe. It roots in people’s need for housing after the destructions of the second world war. In the 60s and 70s, it gains a political dimension. “The movement is a collective protest that wants an alternative to capitalist society.” From the 90s onwards, it shows signs of globalisation.

Barcelona is a point of reference to the squatter movement internationally. A significant part of outlaw population comes from the rest of the country or abroad. Gràcia neighbourhood has the highest number of squats in the city.

Squats can be private, as a living space for the occupants themselves, or public, as an occupied social centre for political and cultural activities. These centres attract other grass roots groups like “feminists, ecologists, pacifists etc.”

Attempts have been made by established politics to integrate these movements, and failed. “The complexity of the phenomenon and its members – because they have no representatives – makes it impossible to strike any kind of deal with them.”

The problem is that there’s no leadership within the movement, it’s a mix of diverging interests. “From the foreigners in transit doing the ‘Barcelona experience’ to the ideologists of insurrectionary anarchism, passing by failed artists, covert delinquents, homeless, and people with social adaptability problems.”

Ideologically, the squats in Barcelona can be divided into three. Half of them have been confirmed anarchist/libertarian. Most of the others are undetermined. Some are Catalan independence squats.

Despite their heterogeneous nature, the squatters can rapidly take the streets in each other’s defence. They are connected, which presuposes organisation. Roughly one out of four anarchist demonstrations causes damage to public and/or private property. It is to the police force to avoid this, to arrest perpetrators, to guarantee public safety. In this thesis “we want to see which social and judicial model will permit us to orient public policy towards these groups that will avoid a deterioration of collective living without letting tolerance turn into impunity and therefore injustice.”

In general, theory on policing moves between two extremes. From zero tolerance (ZT) to maximum tolerance (MT).

Rudy Giuliani

Rudy Giuliani

An example of ZT is mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s clean-up of New York in the 1990s. ZT requires a lot of personel, a lot of cell space, a lot of bureaucracy. It’s very costly. The strict enforcement can alienate normal citizens, who dislike to be treated as criminals for a simple infraction. In the long run, ZT is a pain in the ass for everyone.

An example of MT was a short lived project in Zurich, Switzerland. A free zone where police would not intervene. It became a breeding space for drug dealing, prostitution, theft and violence. It infected the areas around it and attracted lowlifes from outside of town and the country. Before too long, maximum tolerance will cause a mess.

An intermediate strategy is needed, deployed on a social, political, cultural and economic level, which will solve the problem. But first, let’s look at the models of tactical engagement.

Part 2

Regardless of the model we adopt, we start by establishing an “Advanced Command Centre (ACC)”. In the ACC we coordinate the efforts of all public forces at our disposal. Police, Civil Guard, Firemen, Medical personnel, and Municipal cleaners. There must be no doubt about who is in command.

The Clausewitz model

This tactic is aimed at hitting the anarchists directly in their strongholds. Avoid open confrontations. Use the element of surprise. Dispatch special units. Evict their squats at night. Don’t give them the opportunity to resist, or to engage in ‘heroic’ actions.

Espionage is key. We need to know exactly where to strike, what we will encounter, and how to act. Act fast, be efficient, leave no traces.

Two historical examples of the Clausewitz model are the treatment of Japan at the end of World War 2 and the recent wars against Iraq.

Operation Desert Storm, February 1991

Operation Desert Storm, February 1991

The idea behind this model is to impose our force on the opponent. In Sherwood terms: “We enter the forest whenever and wherever we want. Resistance is not just futile, it is impossible.”

In the open field, we must intimidate our opponent with our presence. We block access to the gathering point. In military terms we would be cutting the line of supply. We install filters. We stop and frisk people, check their ID. People who lose their anonymity before a demonstration are less likely to engage in violent actions. Our message is that we’re not worried about the amount of demonstrators, we have everything under control. In Sherwood terms: “We know what you’re up to, and we also know who you are.”

When the demonstration starts, we abandon the filters and take strategic positions along the route. Police forces must be visible at all time to discourage acts of vandalism. Should they still occur, we act forcefully, we arrest, identify, and charge the subject.

This model can be enacted if we dispose of enough resources compared to the opponent. If we don’t, we might want to consider a different approach.

The Sun Tzu Model

The basic idea is to be smarter than the enemy. We must predict him. We must know the terrain. We must be able to win without fighting.

“The anarchists know that their actions have a bigger impact, socially and in the media, if they take place in open spaces. At the same time these spaces are less favourable to them from a tactical point of view.”
The boulevards of Eixample are especially adapted to the fast deployment of troops. In classical military theory we would use the cavalry to surround the enemy. Like Hannibal against the Romans at Cannae, or Caesar against the Gauls at Alesia.

Hannibal's destruction of the Roman army at Cannae, 215 BC

Hannibal’s destruction of the Roman army at Cannae, 215 BC

“In this case we don’t want to repress disturbances or make arrests, we simply want to avoid confrontation.”

In the open field we install filters as in model number one, then we close the circle and surround the opponent. He will have lost all initiative and his morale will suffer from it. We need disciplined officers in the first line who don’t react to provocation. Avoid wounded (‘martyrs’) and detainees (‘hero’s’). Identify and release in small groups, make sure they disperse.

The message in Sherwood terms: “Outside of the forest, in the open, you’re vulnerable.”

In the small streets we act differently. Here the outlaws feel at home. We don’t surround, we create a corridor. We block important exits to guide the flow of the demonstration. Beware in the forest that these blocks can be circumvented. So we deploy tactical units of undercover agents behind the lines. If any detached group of anarchists engages in vandalism, they will be caught, isolated, and treated as vandals. In classical military theory they would not be regarded as regular forces and therefore denied the rights accorded to them under international treaties. Like the previous ones, these tactics don’t always work.

Up until now we have seen models which try to limit the amount of detentions and injuries as much as possible. “If what we want, however, is the moral and physical defeat of the enemy – as we now consider him – we have to resort to the next model of enforcement.”

The Miyamoto Mushasi model

To annihilate our enemy, the first thing we need is a very good excuse. The second is to make people buy it. We must provoke violence. We need victims. We must cause outrage. Dehumanize the enemy in the face of public opinion. Rally support for law and order. Create an incident that justifies a violent reaction.

2WTC hit by plane, September 2001

South tower of WTC hit by plane.

Historical examples of this model are the “Spanish-American War on Cuba, the Balkan Wars, Pearl Harbor, USA-Mexico for Texas, most of the Arab-Israeli conflicts and the Nazi invasion of Poland.”

In police terms we will want the enemy to go on a rampage. The terrain doesn’t matter. Don’t perform actions that weaken the enemy on forehand. “The stronger and the more valient he feels, the more confrontations there will be, which is what we want.”

If the tension is not high enough, we can provoke the enemy by making a raid with the excuse of looking for drugs. The raid will be badly performed on purpose. We make a few unjustified arrests and we humiliate the enemy, just to piss him off.

Come the day in the field, we leave the initiative to the barbarians. No blocks, no filters, no stop and frisk. Let them burn the house down. We concentrate the main body of your forces close by, out of sight. Once the violence starts, we let it happen. “When the violence becomes generalised, the police interraction is deliberately delayed until the damages become socially unacceptable.”

Then we block their retreat and we send in the hounds. First the most undisciplined, vendicative troops. Be fast, determined, and ultra violent. We will want blood, on both sides. We don’t leave any one of them standing. Militarily speaking, we wouldn’t take prisoners. In police terms, we round them all up. The infantry finishes off the bulk of the barbarian army in the centre, the cavalry hunts down those who want to flee. 

“Unfortunately this tactic is not only used by totalitarian regimes, but also in many western democracies.”

The Julius Caesar model

Julius Caesar managed to romanize Gaul by practicing the military maxim of “Divide and conquer.” Nevertheless, during the final battle at Alesia, Caesar had to defeat a united army of Gauls. Which he did. Gaulic leader Vercingetorix was sent off to Rome to be executed.

In dealing with Sherwood we have to avoid that the enemy forms a united front. To this effect we exploit the (ideological) differences within the squatter community. We use all legal methods at our disposal to divide them. Deals may be struck with some, offering them benefit of protections from “the Empire”, others must be targetted and eliminated one by one.

On how to eliminate the Sherwood phenomenon as a whole I will present a complete strategy in five points.

Surrender of Vercingetorix after the battle of Alesia

Surrender of Vercingetorix after the battle of Alesia

Part 3

This plan must be executed under firm and unified command. Not all phases are necessarily consecutive. The successful implementation depends heavily on support from the public opinion.

Phase 1

“Create an atmosphere of aversion against every type of illegal occupation without explicitly mentioning the squatter movement.”

Use the media. Blow up stories like the one about the Spanish family that went on holiday and came back to find their house squatted by Romanians, and the locks changed. The idea is to create a public debate centered on a tougher stance against squatters. Cato the Elder provides a historical example for this strategy, as he used to finish all his orations saying that “Carthage should be destroyed.”

Marcus Porcius Cato the Elder

Marcus Porcius Cato the Elder

Phase 2

“Create a political debate on squatting.”

This phase is divided into various sub-strategies. Mind that not everyone who is part of the plan, needs to know the plan in its entirety. We will want to criminalise squatting, while forcing home-owners to develop their property. With support from the media and public opinion we will have tough laws adopted, like the recent Dutch law, which punishes squatters with up to two years of prison time. This same law would allow us to fine homeowners up to 7500 euros if they can’t justify the abandonement of their property.

“With this we pretend that local authorities will decide on the abandoned buildings and homes.”

We want local authorities to make a list of all abandoned property, and implement a policy that will put the spaces to community use, thus neutralising social jusification of squatting.

Whenever this phase leads to resistance in the field, we try to demobilise it quickly and silently using the Clausewitz method. If resistance is numerous and heated, we may want to provoke violent acts on the part of the enemy to further galvanize public opinion in favour of repression.

Phase 3

“Appearance of new legal norms.”

Once the new laws have been adopted we are ready act. But before we do, we issue an ultimatum. We give the squatters the opportunity to surrender, with the prospect of amnesty for those with no legal precedent. Municipal authorities can work out the terms of the deal. Those who refuse to surrender expose themselves to the full weight of the law.

Phase 4

“Attack on the heart of Sherwood, detention and humiliation of possible Robin Hoods.”
After the voluntary surrender of those who wish to avoid prosecution, it’s time to go after the ‘irreducibles’. In practice, we’re entering Sherwood forest to “cut down the trees.” The enemy will most likely put up resistance, so act with force and conviction. Go for the leaders. Avoid heroisms. Arrest each single subject and start criminal prosecution. We give an example to all squatters that it’s wiser to give themselves up, and benefit from the Empire’s forgiveness.

Phase 5

“Keep control of the situation.”

Use prior described tactics if necessary.

Darth Vader, copyright Disney

Darth Vader, copyright Disney

**

Roughly, this is the guide. I won’t indulge myself now in demonstrating why most of the historical examples don’t make any sense and are often clearly misunderstood by the author. Neither will I show that the association of historical military figures with the mentioned models is in most cases inappropriate. I will only make one comment on it, and add a general consideration of my own.

Piqué is fascinated by Julius Caesar. He theatrically ends his thesis with the quote “Alea iacta est“, “the dice has been thrown”. He probably ignores that this sentence wasn’t pronounced at the onset of Caesar’s campaign against the barbarian Gauls but at the moment the man decided to rebel against Rome herself. But the funniest of his historical mixups is right in the title. If this is about Sherwood, then Piqué is no Caesar at all. He is the evil sheriff of Nottingham, at the service of a cruel and illegitimate authority.

The manual was clearly written in a different age. By now, May 2013, there are an estimated six million empty houses in Spain, and yet the police force keeps evicting people from their homes on a daily basis. This is not creating the necessary public support for an all out war against squatters. Quite the contrary. Neighbourhoods and platforms are organizing themselves in solidarity to prevent foreclosures and to open new spaces for living and for sharing. Three and a half years after the guide was presented, Sherwood is everywhere.

Douglas Fairbanks as Robin Hood (1922)

Douglas Fairbanks as Robin Hood (1922)

Why #MarchAgainstMonsanto

In #GlobalRevolution on 25 May 2013 at 12:16
Image via Facebook

Image via Facebook

It has been a curious evolution. We used to go out to hunt and gather. It was a full time job, but at least we knew what we ate. Then we started herding animals, planting seeds and growing crops. Every year we reap and plant again.

Now, after ten thousand years of agriculture we’ve outsourced it all to companies like Monsanto. And we have no idea any more where our food comes from, how it’s treated, or even what it is. You need a degree in chemistry to find out.

Chemistry is Monsanto’s business. They come from plastics and they went into poison when it was booming after WW2. One of their biggest hits was DDT, a highly toxic pesticide that was widely used in the forties and fifties against malaria. It was very successful in the beginning, but then it caused a forced evolution. New generations of mosquitoes started to become resistant. So more poison was needed. At the time it was good for business, but in the long run it wouldn’t be sustainable. The damage caused on human health and natural environment was devastating by the time people started to realize it. The only species that flourished from DDT were the mosquitoes it was meant to destroy.

Another fine Monsanto product was Agent Orange, a herbicide which was indiscriminately used by the U.S. army in chemical warfare against the Vietnamese population, in violation of Geneva conventions. Hundreds of thousands of people continue to suffer the consequences.

Monsanto didn’t leave the poison business when they went into food. In fact, it’s all sold as a package. If you buy the seeds, you have the buy the herbicide and the fertilizer as well. Monsanto treats the genetic code of seeds as any other chemical substance, modifying them for maximum profit. They have managed to develop terminator seeds that don’t reproduce. The end of a natural cycle, the threshold of intellectual property and registered trademark. As a farmer, you are forced to buy the same seeds every year again, from the same company. And once you’re hooked, you’re hooked.

But there’s also the wind and the elements. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are not cultivated in a closed environment. They contaminate natural or organic crops, they contaminate our whole ecosystem. Perversely, corporations like Monsanto can sue farmers for trademark violations because of the contamination their own products are causing.

Many people and many countries have serious doubts about GMOs. Nonetheless they have been massively implemented under pressure from corporate lobby’s over the past few decades. without the general public being adequately informed, and without scientist foreseeing what the long term effects of GMOs can be. Monsanto also successfully lobbied against people’s right to know from the label if a product contains GMOs.

Companies like Monsanto are privatizing our food supply, endangering our agricultural heritage, our environment and our health in the interest of profit. They say there’s nothing wrong with this. It’s all safe, they say, just like they said about DDT. But somewhere deep down, Monsanto officials must be a bit worried. Or they wouldn’t have sponsored the ‘Monsanto Protection Act’, which protects them against law suits for potential GMO damages.

Monsanto is one of the tentacles of the beast. Today, in 400 cities worldwide, we #MarchAgainstMonsanto. To raise awareness, to demand the repeal of the Monsanto Protection Act, to reaffirm our right to know.

For the sake of ourselves and future generations we need to reclaim our food supply. We need to start a grass roots revolution against destructive and voracious agribusiness. The seed for this has already been planted. All around, people are rallying to save bio diversity, to practice agriculture with respect for people and nature, to develop technologies that don’t rely on poison or genetic engineering.

Traditional agriculture is the foundation of our civilization. We can’t allow it to be sold off for a quick buck with complete disregard for the consequences.

May 23 Memo

In Madrid, Spain on 23 May 2013 at 21:18
Demo for Press Freedom, May23, "We are not afraid."

Demo for Press Freedom, May23, “We are not afraid.”

Yesterday two photographers who regularly cover demonstrations in Madrid, were arrested at home, accused of defamation via social networks. Earlier today they were released with charges and this evening there was a solidarity protest outside the office of the Delegate of the Government in Madrid. Citizen press brandished their cameras and smartphones shouting ‘these are our weapons’ and ‘freedom of information’.

I also met comrades from the marches, with whom I have a bond that was forged over hundreds, even thousands of kilometres on the road. I have been a bit  out of contact with most, so I was shocked to hear the news. Comrade Abdelatif, battlename Abdullah, has died three weeks ago. He was a veteran and an icon of the Acampada Logroño, of the Northern Column and of the March to Brussels. He was over sixty years old when he marched all the way from Madrid to the heart of Europe, and apparently he was already sick.

Abdelatif’s past was shrouded in stories of a thousand and one night. Nobody really know who he was, where he came from. What we do know is that his family had him buried in Algeria. Some people say Abdelatif was as old as Methusalem. They say he is still alive, just like Elvis, just like Andreotti. Maybe they’re right, I don’t know. Otherwise, may he rest in peace. It was an honour and a pleasure to march with him.

Comrade Abdullah

Comrade Abdullah, augustus 2011.

OccupyDOJ

In #GlobalRevolution on 22 May 2013 at 19:06
#OccupyDOJ by @luckytran

#OccupyDOJ by @luckytran

Like radio, streams are playing in the background. In Washington DC, foreclosed homeowners camp in front of the Justice Dept and block all the exits. They’re angry about impunity for bankers. In Chicago, citizens surround city hall to protest the closure of schools. In New York the president’s office of Cooper Union, one of the most prestigious art academies of America remains occupied for almost two weeks now. Students are issuing proclamations against tuition and streaming themselves live. There is something happening in California as well. In Oklahoma, an Occupy OK Tornado initiative was launched a relief effort, taking example from last year’s Occupy Sandy operation, which proved much more efficient in coordinating relief than either the Government or the Red Cross.

In Europe, other things are cooking. On June 1 there will be demos under the motto ‘Pueblos Unidos Contra la Troika‘. In Spain the United Citizens Waves will flow again.

Before that, worldwide, there’s the March against Monsanto on 25 May. Against privatization of food. For the repeal of the ‘Monsanto Protection Act’, which safeguards the company from lawsuits over potential harm caused by genetically modified crops. One of the actions being planned is to print your own stickers, go to supermarkets, put them on Monsanto products.

‘Domenica delle Salme’

In #GlobalRevolution, Madrid, Spain on 21 May 2013 at 17:06
Economia Sol, Sunday 19 May 2013

Economia Sol, Sunday 19 May 2013

Madrid, May 21

Dear people,

Last Sunday’s triumphant performance of ‘Twilight of the Bricks’ didn’t only represent a brief history of the Spanish economic crisis. It was also, symbolically, a last tribute to the 15M movement. The revolution is over. We can all go home.

Really? Yes, we can. But don’t despair, resistance continues. It’s just not going to be the way it was. I’ll try to explain.

Over the past few days I bumped into a lot of people I know from all layers of the movement. Their stories and comments confirmed an image that was already pretty clear. There is no 15M, not no more. It became obvious when I witnessed the  meetings that were organised on the squares around Puerta del Sol on Saturday. Different assemblies on debt, education, the future, the past, the struggle, etc. Nobody really cared. And who can blame them? Two years have past, and we’re still here, talking about the very same shit, without any conclusions. Next time, we’ll start all over again. The only difference is that there will be even less people present.

Those who are left are the nostalgics. They lament the loss of the initial ideological purity of the movement, the assemblary Utopia that existed in the first few weeks – maybe just in our imaginations – characterized by the principles of horizontality, inclusiveness and consensus. A handful of them have entrenched themselves in the few working groups and commissions that remained after the end of the acampada, and they erected themselves as guardians of the spirit of 15M. They started to exclude people by accusing them of not being inclusive. They engaged in powerplay to preserve horizontality. They took personal decisions and presented them as consensus. In short, they forgot about the revolution, and so the revolution left them behind.

A few dozen people attend the closing assembly of the day. This is it. And so I ask myself, what the hell am I doing here? I spent two years of my life living like a bum in order to document the #SpanishRevolution for the benefit of all posterity, and now it turns out this whole revolution thing was merely a fashion? Screw you guys, I’m going home!

So there I am, the next day, ready to go. In Puerta del Sol I encounter my long term comrades from Global Revolution TV, streaming live. The Economy commission has just illustrated a list of practical proposals. They are also gathering proof for criminal prosecution of the big bankers. Then there is a rumble coming from Alacalà, and growing louder.

“Don’t go yet, it’s about to start.”

Five minutes, and well over ten thousand people of the ‘White Wave’ are flooding the Puerta del Sol, shouting their one demand: “Public Health Care.” There are doctors, nurses, patients, sympathizers. And the unions. The wave has full support of the big unions. But this is not a demonstration that was planned a long time ago. No, this is happening every single Sunday. And it’s massive. In the square, I even notice the first timid signs of political parties.

White Wave arriving in Sol. "You don't sell health care, you defend it."

White Wave arriving in Sol. “You don’t sell health care, you defend it.”

The hard core nostalgics of 15M are snobbing the waves, simply because they are supported by the unions. They keep dreaming of horizontal participatory democracy without flags and logos, but they are completely out of touch with the people. The 15M revolution has consumed itself. The people are in the waves. They are moving on.

So what remains of 15M?

In the first place, the indignation. It’s still the same indignation that made people take the streets and occupy the squares of Spain and abroad, two years ago. Eighty percent of the population still supports what 15M stood for, according to a recent poll.

In the second place, the awareness the movement raised. The empowerment of single persons coming together for the common good. But the most important thing that remains, is the method.

Most of the original working groups may have been wrecked by personal conflicts, but many neighbourhood assemblies are still regularly active and functioning. Plus, it is infecting the rest of society as well. In schools, universities, hospitals, working places, in the unions, in politics, people are organizing themselves in assemblies where everyone has a voice. It works locally, and it works online, where you can organize assemblies on whatever subject or action in the same way as you do in the square. And the beautiful thing about this method is that it is self regenerating. If one collective doesn’t work anymore, it will simply vanish, and new assemblies will sprout up to engage different issues, or to engage the same issues in a different way.

This is the heritage of 15M. It inspired men and women, young and old, all over the world. It made us conscious that we, the people, have the power to make a difference, if only we have the patience to pursue.

Assembly during Acampada Sol. Photo by Juan M. Plaza, via fotospanishrevolution.org

Assembly during Acampada Sol. Photo by Juan M. Plaza, via fotospanishrevolution.org

Twilight of the Bricks

In #GlobalRevolution, Madrid, Spain on 20 May 2013 at 00:50
The stage

The stage

Madrid, May 19

Dear people,

The Belgian uprising against the Dutch started in a theatre in 1830. Three decades later, the Italians were roused by Verdi’s operas to throw off the yoke of the Austrians. Today, after an amazing performance, it was once again from a theatrical stage that people were invited to rise up.

It took months of preparation. The scenes, the costumes, the music, the songs. Over 150 people took part in the production. The premiere was tonight in the grand hall of Tabacalera Social Centre, a 15M operetta in one act, 45 minutes, accompanied by the Solfonica orchestra. ‘El Crepuscolo del Ladrillo‘, or: ‘The Twilight of the Bricks’.

I was lucky I got in with the press, because the line of people waiting outside went all around the block. There were two shows planned initially, but to satisfy the popular demand, a third show was performed late in the evening. It was a triumph. I couldn’t have hoped for a more stylish return to Madrid.

Basically, the operetta is a very concise history of Spain over the last few decades, culminating in economic crisis and revolt. The libretto was written by José Manuel Naredo, with clear foresight, over twenty years ago. It was adapted and performed in a scenery that represented Acampada Sol.

The Solfonica during the repetitions.

The Solfonica during the repetitions.

For me, who had the privilege to have been there in those days, it was a wonderful déja vu. Not just to see stage pieces painted with the clock tower of Puerta del Sol and the crowded square, but also the cardboard reproductions of the most symbolic slogans and banners. Most famously, the enormous image of Heinrich Himmler with Mickey Mouse ears and a euro logo on his forehead, which dominated the occupied square for weeks. Art was evanescent in the Acampada Sol, and to find it reproduced was a testimony to its value.

The Solfonica starts to play and the stage is filled with happy people. Definitely I’m not the only one with goosebumps. The scene is bucolic, full of love and peace. And backwardness, poverty, or so it seems. But the government officials have the answer. Speculation, privatisation, cement, cement, cement. With the benediction of the church, because frugality is sinful, and investment is good, be it in gold or cement or indulgences.

People flock to the cities, to the factories, the days of old come to an end, and nobody cares for as long as money keeps flowing. Then crisis strikes. People are depressed, the government doesn’t know what to do, so an expert is hired to come up with a solution. This includes a lot of lofty phrases, and comes down to new technologies, communication sciences, services, networks, etc. Eurocrats and economists start to implement the measures. Efficiency is the key. But when the economy collapses once more, the only solution is austerity, discipline, control.

At that point it’s the dream fairy who inspires people to wake up, to recuperate their freedom, their music, their happiness, their love for life. And to overthrow their government, to take the stage, all together, for the grand finale.

During the thunderous applause that followed, a banner was raised by the actors, with a simple message. ‘Rebellion’.

The performance of the Twilight of the Bricks was one night only. But you might be lucky. According to rumours the show will go on tour. If you don’t catch it, you can find the stream of the live broadcast here…

http://www.livestream.com/spanishrevolutionsol/video?clipId=pla_99ed1bc9-aa44-4684-8aa3-4b7d28f9e41a

BCN International

In #GlobalRevolution, Barcelona on 17 May 2013 at 15:16

Acampada BCN

Barcelona, May 17

Dear people,

The differences are small, though many people proclaim the opposite. The differences between a place like Madrid and a place like Barcelona, I mean. Both are experiencing the same socio-economic problems, with the same causes, and as a consequence, the same type of resistance.

But otherwise you can’t fail to notice the contrast. The sea, mostly. The sea makes all the difference, also in people’s heads. Madrid is a young city in the centre of the highlands, built to be a capital, the seat of kings. Barcelona is an old city of sea-faring merchants, exposed to the winds and connected to the world, yet proud of its own language and identity.

In the middle ages, these two cultures used to be part of two kingdoms, Castile and Aragón. In a sense, this is what Catalan nationalists aspire to. After centuries of submission to the central government, they see independence as a way to reaffirm the equality between the highlands and the coasts. Many of them are also convinced that it could be a solution to the crisis, just like many people in Madrid think that the instauration of a third republic can be a solution.

With all due respect, it’s nonsense. Revolution is not a question of changing the flag. For this reason, Catalan independence is not an issue in the movement. But on a subliminal level the cultural differences persist within the 15M.

In Barcelona, many of the communications and assemblies are alternately in Spanish and Catalan, with a preference for the latter in written documents. Outside of that, there is a strong connection with Latin America and other countries in the romanic linguosphere like Italy and France. And also, everywhere else. The legendary International Commission of Acampada BCN is a central hub in the worldwide web of resistance movements.

In Madrid it seems as though the movement is very much aimed at itself and the miniature galaxy of the city, the neighbourhoods, the villages, the surrounding towns of the central highland, and all the collectives that are active on the territory. Sure, Madrid is well embedded internationally, but deep down there’s an unspoken conviction that it’s the spider in the centre of the web. When people from the rest of the country and the hispanic world arrive in Madrid they are subconsciously treated as peripherical outsiders who come to learn from the capital’s revolutionary example.

It’s not quite a good example lately, as far as rumours go. Internal struggle and personal antipathy are widespread around Puerta del Sol. As in many other places. In Barcelona on the other hand, the core of the movement seems to be quite solid. I have witnessed people from many collectives linking up and working together in liberated spaces like the media centre. Communications, art, film & photography plus internal, local and international relations, it all flows together. Most of people here are veterans from the acampada or even before, with a lot of common sense and dedication to the struggle.

Before coming here I was wondering what the secret of the International Commission was, how come they have been able to keep functioning at a high level ever since the beginning. And this is simply it. Personal alchemy. A group of people who get along, and who manage to create surplus value. We would need more of that in Madrid.

Their news distribution in Twitter is one of the best. Yesterday’s headlines included a feminist escrache in many cities of Spain to protest against the governing party’s intention to counterreform abortion legislation by abolishing the liberalisation that was implemented by Zapatero’s government. In Madrid the feminists took it to the home of justice minister Gallardón. One man was brutally arrested by police, leaving blood stains on the street.

Today’s headline is a joyful one. One of Spain’s big bankers has gone to prison. Miguel Blesa, ex president of Caja Madrid and good friend of former prime minister Aznar, is accused of fraud for his decision to buy a Florida bank in the midst of the financial crisis, for two to three times the bank’s value, causing Caja Madrid to sink. The judge had set bail at two and a half million euros. Blesa refused to pay, and was taken into custody yesterday evening.

On this hopeful note, I leave Barcelona tonight. Tomorrow I will be back in the heart of the evil empire, my revolutionary home town of Madrid.

#EscracheFeminista in Madrid, culminating in bloody arrest