Posts Tagged ‘indignados’

The Next Level

In #GlobalRevolution, Italy on 17 April 2013 at 11:19


Dear people,

Though I am lost in the backwaters of Europe, I keep following the events in Spain wherever I can. There is no way I can report on all things happening, because it’s simply too much. Sufficeth to say that evictions are being prevented every day, and demonstrations are being held at least every week. Recently there was a big demo in Madrid against the scandal-ridden monarchy, in favour of a third republic.

I hope to return to Spain soon, but before I do, I will inform you about how the movement is attempting to take the struggle to the next level.

Out of the primordial indignant chaos of the 15-M, various issue-centered waves have evolved, each adopting its own colour. The most prominent are the Green Wave (public education), the White Wave (public health care) and the Blue Wave (public water). There are many more waves concentrating on minor issues, and then there is the PAH, Plataforma Afectados por la Hipoteca, which coordinates the struggle against foreclosures and has a very strong presence all over Spain. Finally, there are the hundreds of popular assemblies in cities, villages and neighbourhoods that were born out of the occupations in 2011.

These local and thematic groups have united into a movement called Marea Ciudadana, or “Citizens’ Wave”. They have been pressurizing government with frequent marches on parliament, but since a couple of months they have also adopted a more confrontational tactic called ‘escrache’. Escraches, instead of targeting faceless institutions, are actions that target specific people (or parties) directly and personally.

You are a politician who has been taking bribes? Right, we won’t lament ourselves outside parliament, but we’ll come to your house. We’ll make noise under your windows, we will let all your neighbours know that you are scum. It’s a tactic that was first used in Argentina in the early 2000s to denounce politicians that had been responsible for atrocities committed by the military regime. It has been used in Uruguay, Peru and other Latin American countries, and since this spring it has been adopted by the PAH to denounce those politicians who represent the interests of the banks rather than those of the citizens.

In a certain sense, escrache is the enactment of a famous meme that was adopted by the movement in the early days of the revolution: ‘If you don’t let us dream, we won’t let you sleep.’

The great leap forward of the movement is supposed to happen this spring. From June 23 to June 30 the “United Citizens’ Waves” intend to exercise popular sovereignty through plebiscite. The premise is the following. According to the Spanish Constitution “National sovereignty is vested in the Spanish people, from whom all State powers emanate” (Article 1), and “Citizens have the right to participate in public affairs directly or through representatives freely elected in periodic elections by universal suffrage.” (Article 23).

Over the last 35 years people have tried to participate through representatives, but in the end it didn’t work out to their advantage. So now has come the time for citizens to participate in public affairs directly. They will drum up enough support to block privatizations, to end foreclosures by law, to reform the banking sector and to bring corrupt politicians to justice.

How this will work out in practice remains to be seen. But it’s going to be damn interesting to observe.

Of course, the skeptics will say that it can never work, direct democracy on this kind of scale. But you cannot know that until you try. And Spain is not the only place where direct democracy is being experimented. Another example is Italy.

Over the last few weeks, Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement has been under heavy attack from the establishment and the press for his failure to cooperate with the gerontocracy that has been ruling Italy – in various disguises – since the age of dinosaurs. They want him to support a government of the so-called Democratic Party, but since he continues to refuse, they blame him for the current political stalemate.

On top of all this, a new president of the republic has to be elected by parliament. Usually this doesn’t happen in parliament, but in the corridors. The major parties try to find a compromise on some colourless ex-politician that will not cause them trouble in the seven years to come.

The Five Star Movement refuses to take part in these shady practices. They think the citizens ought to have a say in the election of their head of state and so they organized primaries online, open to all the members of the movement. They could propose any Italian citizen of more than fifty years of age (as the constitution requires). The winner, elected over two rounds, will be the official candidate that M5S members will propose and vote. Yesterday, the results came in. No politician, no Nobel prize winner, but an investigative journalist will be the people’s candidate for the presidency: Milena Gabanelli.

You have to know that journalism in Italy is of an embarrasingly low standard. I was reminded by that lately, when I returned to read Italian newspapers. Generally, Italian journalists seem to think that news reporting consists of quoting politicians. For example, something is going on, say a demonstration, then your average journalist won’t give you an account of what happened and why, but he or she will stuff the microphone in the face of some second-rate politicians from the left to the right and publish their sound bites. The facts don’t matter. All you get is talking heads, always the same, ad nauseam. If not, you have your intellectualoid balloons, who preach about the dire state of the nation in such hollow terms that they cannot possibly be accused of having a real opinion on the matter. In any case, a true journalist is very hard to find in Italy.

Milena Gabanelli is an exception. For fifteen years she has been digging deeply into all the dirt related to corruption, speculation, squander, inefficiency, bribery and all-out organized crime. Now, the usual tactic of the establishment to silence journalists who actually do their job in Italy, is to denounce them for diffamation. They hardly ever win, but it serves to scare the great majority into becoming faithful mercenaries of the system. Not so Milena Gabanelli. She is a courageous woman, with a profound knowledge of all of Italy’s problems. For this, justly, the members of the Five Star Movement have nominated her to become the country’s head of state.

We are entering an age in which direct participation of all the people in public affairs is becoming possible. We don’t need representatives any more. Let the skeptics say that it can’t be done, that’s it’s going to be a mess. We will try anyway. The mess can hardly be worse than the one that our so-called representatives have caused.


Review of a Revolutionary Week

In #GlobalRevolution, Italy, Portugal on 5 March 2013 at 12:42
Demonstration against austerity in Portugal. Photo via @OCongres

Demonstration against austerity in Portugal. Photo via @OCongres

Dear people,

It has been quite a week. As the revolution goes, three things in particular were worthy of note.

First, the death of Stéphane Hessel.

Hessel was a former diplomat, member of the resistance in France during WW2 and one of the drafters of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man in 1948.

Two years ago, at 93 years of age, Hessel became an idol with the youth when he wrote a pamphlet called Indignez-Vous!, translated into English as ‘Time for Outrage!’

The pamphlet sold over two million copies in France alone. The Spanish translation was a major inspiration for the movement of the indignados.

As a member of the National Resistance Council, Hessel recalls the ideals that the Council adopted on 15 March 1944, and on which it wanted post-war society to be founded. These included “a comprehensive plan for Social Security, to ensure livelihoods for all citizens”, “a pension that allows old workers to finish their life in dignity”, “the return to the nation of the major means of production, common sources of energy, wealth of the subsoil, insurance companies and large banks”, “the establishment of genuine economic and social democracy which evicts large feudal economic and financial interests from the direction of our economy.” And, not in the least, a society where the press is free from corporate or foreign influences.

Over sixty years later, Hessel concludes that our society is not the one that was envisioned by the members of the National Resistance Council. Despite decades of booming economic growth, ours has turned into a society of suspicions against immigrants and expulsions, one that challenges pensions and social security, and where the media are in the hands of a few powerful people. Ours, in short, is not a society of which we, as human beings, can be proud.

Hessel denounced indifference as the worst of all attitudes, and he called for “a true and peaceful insurrection against the media that only offer our youth a horizon of mass consumption, of disdain for the weakest, of generalised amnesia, and of all-out competition of everyone against everyone else.”

He made an appeal to all youngsters. “To the men and women who will make the 21st century, we say, with affection: to create is to resist, to resist is to create.”

In 2011, his call to rise up took the world by storm. The spirit of resistance lives on.

Thank you, Stéphane Hessel. May you rest in peace.

Photo Wikipedia

Photo Wikipedia

Number two, last Saturday March 2 was another day of massive protests in Portugal. In thirty cities there were demonstrations against austerity. Over a million people took the streets, which is more than ten percent of the population. Imagine thirty million people demanding the resignation of President Obama on the same day. That’s about the scale of the protest.

The demos come a week after equally massive demonstrations of the ‘Citizen’s Tide’ in Spain. It looks like it’s going to be a hot spring on the peninsula.

Third, and most entertaining, is the elections in Italy. Without kidding, I’ve been rolling over the floor laughing. It’s a farce, but it’s all dead serious.

Immortal Berlusconi made yet another come-back. He had been declared politically dead by many commentators who don’t understand a thing about Italy. He might not have won parliament, but he did win the senate, which could give him enough political leverage to keep his ass out of prison.

But the real winner of the election is comedian Beppe Grillo, leader of the Five Star Movement, a party-political version of the indignados.

In the foreign press, Grillo has been called a populist and has been compared to any other populist in Europe. This is not just bad journalism, it is intentionally misleading.

Beppe Grillo and the movement he inspires is one of a kind, at least for the moment. I remember the very beginnings of his political campaigning. It started in theaters, it went online through his daily blog, then he came to the squares to decry political corruption, in favour of participatory democracy. Grillo exposed politicians of all parties in a way that nobody ever dared to do from a pulpit. He had been banned from television, he had been ignored by the press, but thanks to the Internet his movement reached millions of Italians who are fed up with business as usual.

In 2009 he supported civil lists in local elections. His party won the mayorship of Parma and other towns. In 2012 he made a breakthrough in the Sicilian local election. Now, in the run-up to the general elections, he drew a hundred thousand people to his show in Milan, eight hundred thousand in Rome. He inspired people like only a black preacher with a gospel choir can do. The man is a phenomenon. Last week, his movement became the single biggest party in Italy.

It’s hilarious. A few years ago, when I left the Beautiful Country, Grillo was a troublemaker that politicians loved to ignore. Now they are begging him to support the formation of a government.

With enormous satisfaction, Grillo told them to fuck off. All his opponents have been in politics since the age of the dinosaurs, they have to go, and before they do, they have to account for all the income they received over the years. They created this mess, the citizens themselves will have to clean up. Grillo’s party will only support bills that reflect the movement’s principles. They will not support any government. The representatives of the M5S have been chosen through preliminary elections on the movement’s website. They are tied to a code of behaviour which obliges them to respect the electoral program they were voted to enact. They have renounced to more than half of their income, and they will refuse to use or accept the customary title of ‘honorable’. Instead, echoing the French Revolution, they will address all representatives as ‘citizen’.

On the day the M5S entered in the Italian parliament, they opened the doors to the public, saying ‘this is your house’.

The first demands of the movement have to do with the clean-up of Italian politics. Two mandates should be the maximum, parties should not receive public subsidies, and no condemned criminal should have the right to be elected.

The left wing party, if it is to form a government, will have to be supported either by Berlusconi or by Grillo. They know that Berlusconi will eat them alive, so they grudgingly prefer the other clown.

It’s going to be very risky for the new M5S representatives. The Italian parliament is the most dangerous place in the country. The crime rate at Montecitorio is much higher than the crime rate in the most lurid outskirts of Naples. The new parliamentarians and senators will be thrown into a pit full of snakes. These creepy lifeforms have been lurching in the shadows of power for ages, they know exactly how much one is worth, they know who is selling, and they know who is buying. Ethics are not an issue in Italian politics, and the worst thing that can happen is that the M5S movement is torn apart by the existing parties and massacred by the press.

With Beppe Grillo and his movement gaining notoriety, some commentators have tried to understand what is going on, some others are dismissing this movement all together. They say that Grillo is dangerous. They accuse his internet strategist Gianroberto Casaleggio of having a secret agenda. The writers collective Wu Ming published a shameless declaration in which they accuse Grillo of being ‘one of them’ politicians as usual, without presenting any credible basis at all for their accusations.

Instead of giving in to this crazy need to always have an opinion, on whatever subject, I urge people to shut up, and watch. Beppe Grillo’s movement is a first attempt to bring direct e-democracy to a real parliament. His newly elected representatives are in a position to make or break a government. Let’s enjoy this, let’s see what’s going to happen, and learn from it.

Grillo riding the wave.

Grillo riding the wave.

Battlefield Lisbon

In #GlobalRevolution, Lisbon, Portugal on 15 November 2012 at 03:25

November 14, 2330 hrs.

‘Intifada’ is how the Portuguese news described the events in Lisbon today. Maybe it was a bit of an overstatement, we’ll have to see. In any case, nobody I spoke to ever witnessed something like this happening in Portugal…

Dear people,

A spectre is haunting Europe. For the first time ever, the proletarians of twenty countries joined together in a general strike. If anything, austerity measures are creating a sense of unity among the European peoples.

I’ve seen brief images from Greece, Italy, Spain and England. But today was too big to get a clear picture of everything. I will just tell you what happened here in Lisbon.

There were two feeder marches. One of the big unions and one of dockworkers, anarchists and social movements. Naturally I joined the latter.

It started off very small. A couple of hundred people gathered at Cais do Sodré near the harbour around one o’ clock. Once we got moving, the march had already swollen considerably. We had music, and we had firecrackers, courtesy of the anarchists. They could hear us coming from afar.

At the monumental Praça do Commercio an undercover police officer made a clumsy attempt to arrest one of the people throwing bombs. He almost got lynched by the mob. His colleagues in uniform stormed in to bring him to safety. The arrest was never made.

At Rossio we joined with the march of the unions. That was when the crowd really got big. Through the narrow streets we walked up to Bairro Alto, ‘high hood’. The firecrackers resounded frighteningly loud between the old buildings.

All the way, there was a clear distinction within the march between the unions at the front, and the movements at the back. At the top, we split. The red flags took the road, the black flags descended a small staircase to reunite at São Bento, the Portuguese parliament.

The building is on a hill, accessible through stairs, and surrounded by lawns. It was all fenced off with barriers. It’s an interesting sight, massive police protection of institutions against the rage of the people. It accentuates the ambiguity of the word ‘democracy’.

In front of the stairs, the union leaders staged their little piece of theatre, they were applauded by their members, and thankfully, they soon left.


But the people stayed. Something was about to happen. You could feel it from the beginning. For the moment, the drum band was drumming, the people were cheering. I was talking to a friend of mine. She said the crowd was actually pretty calm, too calm.

Before she even finished her phrase, it started. All along the line, people tore down the barriers. At the stairs, the front line moved up to face the police, but the crowd fell short of taking the stairs by storm. They could have succeeded, but the moment of hesitation was enough for police to organise and to form a line.

Taking down the barriers

So the bombardment started. It was around four thirty. First came the paint bombs. When they were finished, there came the bottles. When those were finished, there came the stones.

Now, you have to know that the streets in Lisbon are made of typical small stones. They are easy to dig up and they are the perfect size for throwing. The anarchists pulled their scarfs over their faces and they had a ball. Behind them, the entire crowd backed them up. The line of police had orders to stand and resist. It went on for hours. Given the amount of ammunition at hand, it could have gone on for months.

At the start of the assault, there had been some small skirmishes at the stairs in which the anarchists conquered one of the officers’ shields. With spray paint, someone cancelled out the word ‘police’ and replaced it with grand capital letters spelling ‘PEOPLE’. The roar was awesome when they brandished their booty.

And the beat went on. The drummers accompanied the stoning. Another police shield was smashed, a lone molotov was thrown to the delight of the crowd. But after about an hour, some people were growing restless. To them it was of no use to go on. They wanted everyone to stop throwing, and charge. At that moment I witnessed the most amazing demonstration of courage by some unprotected citizens who defied the stones by taking the stairs. Two girls sat down on the steps with their hands folded in meditation. But the assault continued, and they finally had to retreat.

Among the people battering the shields of the police there was an adorable old man throwing pebbles. He was completely relaxed, and he had an excellent aim. With one stone after another he could hit the same police officer on his helmet. He didn’t care to hide his face, he was having the time of his life.

Around six, authorities had enough of it. Via megaphone it was announced that people had to disperse or police would charge. The answer came with firecrackers and an intensification of the bombardment.

So police charged. And after having resisted for so long, they were bloody pissed off. They clubbed people down like savages. I took the space that the first line had left open in their wake, shooting footage of the violence. It was not very smart, I should have counted with the second line coming down behind me. One of the bastards went for my camera, then he went for me, then he got assistance. So now I know what a billy club feels like. It makes you mad. Really really mad. In the heat of the moment, I managed to save my footage, to shout all kinds of bad things about these goons and their mothers, and to get the hell out of there in pretty good shape, all more or less at the same time.

Part of us regrouped in a narrow street. We built up barricades from big plastic containers full of trash, and they were set alight. When police advanced, we retreated and built more barricades. Within minutes there were piles of trash ablaze at every street corner. The stench was disgusting, but the sight was wonderful. There was a sense of liberation in the air. “It’s good this is happening. Things needed to be shook up here in Portugal”, someone said.

Meanwhile police were blocking streets left and right, and advancing. We descended towards the sea and the big avenues. At a certain point, police officers started shooting rubber bullets. That’s when most of the group dispersed.

We reunited again at Cais do Sodré, where the demo had started. Phones were ringing continuously, stories came in about police hunting isolated citizens in the alleys and beating them up. Then they came to the square, in full riot gear. They raided the bar where we had found refuge, they took away the usual suspects. One of them was the streamer from audiovisuals. He hadn’t been able to broadcast today, because they had already confiscated his equipment before it all went down. Now he was taken in for questioning. Unlike another person that was taken away from the bar, I haven’t seen him return.

“This is what democracy looks like”, one of my comrades commented.

By now the images have reached the far corners of Portugal. Tomorrow we will have to see what their influence will be on the Portuguese state of my mind. If it were for me, without a doubt, I’d be back at parliament.

Analysis and Agenda

In #GlobalRevolution, Madrid, Spain on 15 October 2012 at 11:04

October 15

Dear people,

“It was an occasion to go to church. A ritual for the hard core of the movement. We failed to inspire the masses.”

This is a brief description of what happened on October 13, and a pretty accurate one indeed. Throughout the global revolution network, people are analysing why, and what this means for future mobilisations.

Madrid is now concentrating on the upcoming events. These will be less global, more relevant to Spain. They were drawn up by the Action commission of 25S last week. I have found no evidence that they were ever consensuated by the assembly, but they were published on the site, which makes them official enough for me.

Oct 19 – We will present a document at Congress to express our refusal of the current budget in which one fourth of all expenses is destined to pay the debt.

Oct 23 – While the budget is discussed, we will organise debates at Neptuno and surround parliament with a human chain, as from 7pm. We will stay there for as long as the parliamentarians are inside.

Oct 25 – Day of decentralised civil disobedience. In Madrid, in Spain and all over the planet and the solar system, local collectives and assemblies are invited to do whatever they see fit.

Oct 27 – Massive demo from Plaza España over Callao and Cibeles to Neptuno.

That’s it for now. I was actually pretty pleased about it. On paper it’s a good balance of content plus localised and centralised actions. You will get all the news as the ideas turn into practice. For now, I’m logging off.

Take care.


Occupy Links

First Wave

Global Noise

In #GlobalRevolution, Madrid, Spain on 14 October 2012 at 15:25

Global Noise on Times Square, NYC. Photo via @icicommence

October 14

Dear people,

I’ve been looking at the pictures coming in via Twitter from many a corner of the planet. I love it, the feeling of unity without borders, from timezone to timezone. This is us, a globalised public opinion that is fed up with a globalised system of exploitation.

On the other hand, it was but a mere reflection of last year’s unprecedented demonstrations of tens of millions of people in a thousand cities worldwide.

Back then it spewed forth waves of occupations, actions, consciousness. This year it was an anniversary happening. And I agree with a comrade from OWS when he told me that these things don’t make a lot of sense. ‘We’re still here’, seems to be the message.

But as far as Global Noise went, debt was another message. In Tokyo people gathered to protest against a meeting of the International Monetary Fund. Other concentrations that I know of took place in New Zealand, Australia, Berlin, Frankfurt, Budapest, Rome, Venice, Amsterdam, London, Stockholm, Paris, Spain and Portugal, New York, Mexico and the West Coast.

Global Noise London. Photo via @15mLondon

I witnessed the parade in Madrid. It was probably one of the biggest. But there was nothing much to say about it. Three words sum it up pretty well. Loud, civilised, boring.

There were about ten to twenty thousand people banging on drums and pans. The opening banner was ‘We don’t owe, we don’t pay’. While moving over the Paseo de la Castellana, people neatly keep to one side of the boulevard, leaving the other open for traffic.

Police presence was insignificant. There were far less lecheras and officers to control this crowd than there had been the day before to evict sixty people from Casablanca Social Centre.

In a few hours, the march arrives in Sol. People make some more noise, and then they disperse into the Saturday evening movida without leaving a trace. I take a walk, and I’m sad. At first sight, nothing seems to be wrong. Bars are filled, people are showing off. The only visible stain on this happy panorama are the men and women sleeping in the entrances of the shops. I have a feeling their numbers are growing and growing.

And while there are ever more people living on the streets, authorities keep evicting their citizens from abandoned buildings. Yesterday I witnessed how the masons, under police protection, walled up the entrance of Casablanca.

It’s not going to be the end of it. Already I can read the writings on the wall… “La lucha es el unico camino

‘Struggle is the only way.’

Madrid, Puerta del Sol. Photo via @kokekun

Casablanca episode V – The Empire Strikes Back

In Madrid, Spain on 13 October 2012 at 00:31

October 13, 0130 hrs

Dear people,

It lasted for about four hours. Authorities didn’t reflect on it, they struck back immediately.

At around eleven thirty this evening they sent police to shut down the housewarming party of the recently reoccupied Social Center Casablanca. And they made a show out of it.

I wasn’t there. I had just finished a translation into English of the comunicado from the centre’s website, which went up simultaneously with the re-occupation.

The text (down below) was an outcry of the neighbourhood against real estate speculation. It justified the occupation with the people’s need for a community space where they can shape their society together.

I just sent the piece up when I got a call. “They have arrived. I see six, seven, eight police vans. They are going to evict.” Then the line fell.

So I went. I almost got lost in the alleys of Lavapiès, but I couldn’t miss it. A long, long file of lecheras – or ‘milkmaids’ as the police vans are commonly known – was queued up in the streets. At a certain point, I stopped counting. Estimates say thirty.

I was impressed. Really. Like the epic scenes from Star Wars when miles and miles of Imperial Star Destroyer come slowly floating by over the screen. It was hard core.

The police had cut all the streets around the centre. I harvest the latest news and rumours. There were sixty people inside when it started. Police went in with a battering ram. They identified the people inside, then let them go. Thirty were still inside at the moment, and about to be released. Two were taken in because they had no ID on them.

I don’t know how gentle or violent the actual eviction was. All I saw when I arrived was a line of officers blocking a street.

They were ordered to disperse the crowd by pushing people down the road. All around the perimeter of the social center, this meant they were actually occupying a significant part of the neighbourhood. And the neighbours definitely didn’t like it. They made noise, they clapped their hands in rage, they banged against containers, from the windows they clashed their pots and pans.

And they hurled their outrage at the police. ‘Shame!’ ‘This is our neighbourhood! Get out!’ ‘You are to protect the citizens, not oppress them!’ ‘Mercenaries!’

I look at those officers. There are six in front of us. Only one has a shield. Two have guns. I look at their faces. Poor bastards. I really felt for them at that moment.

The shame in their eyes, it was touching. They did not like being there, and they did not make an effort to hide that. You could see they felt used. It hurt them when someone shouted that they had sold themselves for a plate of lentils.

Right there, I intuitively felt that authorities had made mistake. They enraged people by insisting on denying them access to a place that is legitimately theirs. They gave a exaggerated display of power tonight, and in the act they humiliated dozens upon dozens of police officers by forcing them to do this job.

Resistance will be punished harder in Spain, and oppression is being increased step by step. Around me there is talk of this becoming a police state. Then I look the officers in the eyes, one after another. True, this is police state strategy. But the line is very tin.

And this line is all they have. Riot police. Officers from the municipal corps make it clear they are something different. And the vibe from the army is that they will not suppress the population.

The thin line could break if we don’t give authorities reason to justify oppression. It comes down to simple fear. But the fear is not on our side. It’s on the police officer’s side. Fear to lose their plate of lentils. They enter Casablanca with a battering ram, because for the moment they are afraid to enter the place as citizens, and to join us in creating our own space, our own way of life.


Check out the video

Footage of the raid

from inside:

from outside:

Comunicado (Spanish original)

October 12

Inauguration of a newly liberated space in Lavapiès: CSOA Magerit

Today, as neighbours of Lavapiès we inaugurate a space that has been recently liberated. This decision comes from our need to have a place where we can come together and shape our social life. We believe it’s necessary for people to have places where we can build our lives freely and collectively. This is what we aim to achieve with the inauguration of the new Occupied and Selforganised Social Centre Magerit.

The reason we elected this particular place have everything to do with the situation we are currently living. The economic and social crisis that invested us has been largely caused by the greed of people who are playing with our lives. The real estate speculation (of which this space is a clear example) has affected a fundamental part of people’s lives: their homes, from which the whole social fabric stems. The construction companies, the real estate speculators, the banks, etc. (with the approval of the political parties and elites) are responsible for the fact that we have no home now, that education is expensive, that unemployment benefits have been reduced, that we are losing our fundamental rights – health, freedom of expression….

By liberating this space from speculation, we want to transform it, together with many people, into a real alternative to this ever more inhospitable world.

We want this new space to be open to all people from the neighbourhood, from the city, and from everywhere else, and we invite them to participate.

Come and discover what is behind this door… come to create it.

Solar Power

In Madrid, Spain on 7 October 2012 at 23:24


October 7

Dear people,

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.


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In #GlobalRevolution, Madrid, Spain on 5 October 2012 at 19:45

October 5

Dear people,

I prefer the barricades. But when all is more or less quiet here in Madrid, then surely something is happening elsewhere.

It’s not easy to get your hands on all the info, not even when you are in the centre of the Global Revolution network like I am. A lot of news doesn’t get out, neither through the conventional channels, nor through our own channels. Take Greece for example. The other day, a hundred odd dockworkers who hadn’t been paid for six months occupied the ministry of defense. They were all arrested. After that, a furious crowd surrounded the headquarters of police. The only written accounts we could found about all this were in Greek.

In the meantime, the Portuguese government has announced new austerity measures and tax increases. Last time they tried to do so, a million people took the streets and made the government swallow the measures.

This time, one of the Portuguese trade unions has called for a general strike on November 14. At the moment, 9pm CET, hundreds of people are gathering at parliament in Lisbon to protest.

In Spain the word ‘decadence’ in relation to the political class has been trending all day long. The Popular Party spokesman accused the judge who acquitted the #25S detainees of being a ‘posh anarchist’. He said he would hold the judge accountable for any aggression that members of the political class might suffer from here on.

That’s it for this brief update. We are having a worldwide conference about October 13, Global Noise, right now. It’s amazing. We have people from France, Spain, Scotland, Netherlands, London, New York. The neurons of the movement are coming together in the virtual space. I hope to see them back on the streets very soon.

Acquitted with Merit

In Madrid, Spain on 4 October 2012 at 17:26

October 4

Dear people,

In the heat of the moment, some people say that Spain is a dictatorship and that police are even worse than the grises, the grey-uniformed officers of the Franco regime.

These people don’t know what they are talking about. Dictatorship is China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, etc. In Spain, hardly anyone under 50 knows what dictatorship means in practice. Me neither.

In theory it has to do with open and violent repression, pure fear, absence of protection from the law, among other things. This is the classical idea of dictatorship. But the concept is changing, it’s adapting to 21st century reality.

In Italy, during the Berlusconi years, the modern variant was dubbed ‘sweet dictatorship’. It was no longer about brutal repression, it was much more subtle. Sweet dictatorship means ridiculing, delegitimising and criminalising any kind of opposition with the active collaboration of mass media.

In Spain, the governing Popular Party is the direct heir of the Franco regime. Instinctively they don’t like people who voice their opinions. They prefer the ‘silent majority’. Only when the opposing Socialist Party is in power, they send their supporters onto the streets in defense of conservative Spain’s ideals of nation, church and family.

Since they returned to power last November, the Popular Party has been working on its own version of ‘sweet dictatorship’. It would take a detailed analysis to show you exactly how it works, an analysis which I’m not able to make right here. But I can highlight some of its aspects.

On repeated occasions, people participating in popular assemblies have been subject to identifications by police. In many cases, people were fined for minor offenses.

Hitting people in their wallet is very effective. You scare them out of demonstrating or simply getting together in the street to talk, and at the same time you increase government revenue when it is most needed.

If fines are not enough, you scare people with the phantom of prison. This is what happened to the 36 people who were detained on 25S. Under pressure from the ministry of the interior, six of them were charged with crimes against the higher institutions of the state.

This morning they were judged. A small crowd had gathered outside the high court to support them. “We too organised 25S” were some of the slogans they brought. Police identified every one of them.

To back up the charges, the information brigade of the police had asked Google and Facebook to provide details on the people who operated the 25S website and mail accounts.

According to SER news outlet, the two companies handed over 50 IP addresses and one telephone number, but refused to give names or other information. The judge also asked two banks to turn over names and account info of the people who had rented a bus which would take protesters from Valencia to Madrid on #25S.

Alarm bells went ringing all through the social networks. Is the sweet dictatorship turning into a real dictatorship?

The answer came this morning. ‘Not yet.’ The Spanish justice system gave a formidable demonstration of independence, maybe too formidable. The high court upheld its original reaction to the charges. ‘You must be kidding.’

The requests for information on the part of banks and Google and Facebook were dismissed as no longer necessary. All defendants are free to go. There was no way that organising a demonstration or trying to jump a barrier constituted an attempt to enter Congress with the intent of altering the normal proceeding of the parliamentary session. In his verdict the judge explained he was surprised that authorities wanted to make it look that way.

He even went further, and this is where things got ‘too formidable’ to be true. According to the judge, “calling on people to ‘surround parliament indefinitely, to demand the resignation of the government, the dissolution of parliament, the decadence of the constitution in order to start constituting a new system of political, social and economic organisation’ cannot in any way be called a crime, because no such crime exists under Spanish law, and even if it did, it would be a serious assault on the freedom of speech. For we will have to agree that it is not up to us to banish the expression of any idea, however distant it might be from our own ideas, or however contrary it might be to the current constitution of the state. And neither are we to banish any idea about historic or contemporary events, especially in the face of the acknowledged decadence of the so-called political class.”

The key word here is ‘decadence’. The judge fully admitted the decadence of the current political class. This is as true as can be, but in order to give a neutral verdict, a judge shouldn’t give his own personal opinion, whether it be favourable to the cause of the revolution or not.

It’s not the political class that’s on trial here. Not yet, at least.

Check out today’s events on bambuser:


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Bull Fighting

In Madrid, Spain on 2 October 2012 at 21:29

October 2

Dear people,

Spain is like a bull fighting arena. The people are the bull, authorities are the torero, and the financial world is on the stands yelling: ‘¡Olé!

All the while the fury of the people keeps mounting. Instead of acknowledging public outrage, the delegate of the government in Madrid is waving a red piece of cloth by proposing to change the law in order to limit the people’s right of demonstration. Apparently she attaches more importance to the motorists’ sacred right to drive by the Prado Museum at any given hour.

In these days we seem to have found an ally in part of the international press. Especially the New York Times has been very critical of the Spanish government’s handling of the crisis. Last week they published an article called ‘Hunger on the rise in Spain’. It gave the dramatic image of young people who recently turned homeless, searching through the garbage in the city of Girona.

Girona is one of the richest cities of Spain. Most of its revenues come from tourism. According to the article the town council decided to lock the dumpsters to keep up appearances towards visitors from abroad.

A few days later, under the unequivocable title ‘Europe’s Austerity Madness’, op-ed columnist Paul Krugman suggested that ‘far too many Very Serious People have been taken in by the cult of austerity, by the belief that budget deficits, not mass unemployment, are the clear and present danger.’ He adds that this cult stems from a widespread North-European view wherein certain virtuous countries know how to balance their budget, while certain others are more dedicated to making fiesta with money they don’t have. According to Krugman, further austerity comes down to ‘inflicting pain for the sake of inflicting pain’ and is actually hurting the Spanish capacity of economic recovery.

Resistance against all this austerity is spreading into sectors that may seriously threaten the Spanish government’s security. In bull fighting, the torero has six aides who can help distract the bull in case of danger. Today, these aides went on strike.

In occasion of the ‘day of the police’, members of five police unions demonstrated in front of the interior ministry, and in front of government buildings throughout the country. They accuse the government of ‘hiding behind police interventions to avoid giving explanations to society.’

‘The politicians who keep cutting our salaries are the same ones that exploit our work for personal benefit in the face of the general public.’ They go on to accuse certain politicians of lying, of not keeping their promises, and of resorting to actions ‘of doubtful legality’.

Two of the police unions have announced they will organise the ‘biggest demonstration of security forces in history’. The appointment is for November 17, here in Madrid. I wonder who the government will send in to guarantee law and order…


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