Economia Sol, Sunday 19 May 2013
Madrid, May 21
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.”
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