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Posts Tagged ‘Madrid’

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.

‘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

Counter Offensive

In Barcelona on 15 May 2013 at 19:04
Demo in support of Cam Piella. Passeig de Grácia, May 15.

Demo in support of Can Piella. Passeig de Grácia, May 15.

Barcelona, May 15

Dear people,

The good news comes from Madrid. Last Sunday, the people filled the Puerta del Sol at the end of the demonstration, and the results of the Consulta Sanitaria were announced. In five days, more than a million signatures for high quality public health care were collected, only in the capital region of Madrid.

Evidently the social backbone of the movement is as strong as ever, but it doesn’t show on the streets any more, or only very rarely. In Catalonia police has launched a counteroffensive, and they chose the symbolic date of 15M to do it.

Yesterday morning, already, the recently occupied social centre ‘Las Barricadas’ was evicted. This morning police moved to foreclose the rural occupation of Can Piella, ‘symbol of self sufficiency’. In reaction, activists blocked a highway and raided the headquarters of the landlord to attach a banner to the building. “The law sows injustice.”

In the afternoon, a demonstration was organized in support of the indignant farm. A few dozen people attended. Despite heavy police presence, they were allowed to block the central Passeig de Grácia as they marched in the rain to Plaça Catalunya.

It makes one think, about the strategy of authorities with regard to 15M. In the beginning they tried to quell the movement by force. It backfired. The violent reaction of the first days only helped the movement to take off. Ever since, authorities have adopted a relatively peaceful stance. They prefered more subtle forms of repression, like identifying people and fining them. The next escalation was the eviction of the movement’s physical basis, the social centres. In Madrid this took place last autumn. In Barcelona this is ongoing.

The result is a squat war, where activists put into practice their much chanted slogan “One eviction, another occupation!”

It’s a war of detrition, which doesn’t favour the movement. Already, people are tired of occupying public space and of participating in demonstrations. They will tire of occupying buildings as well, if they can’t hold on to them.

Another fundamental part of the official strategy is the absolute refusal to make any concession whatsoever. It would be a sign of weakness. Like riot police, when they take one step back. It would be a victory that would encourage people to demand for more, to advance, to sweep them away.

We need a change in strategy as well. And this is happening. The movement is divided over thousands of small groups organising their own actions. The next step would be self organisation in schools and hospitals, a refusal by teachers and doctors to cooperate with any attempt at privatisation, creation of neighbourhood clinics, of self-organised kindergartens and education.

If we can create a strong basis of local solidarity, we can start to reoccupy space. Not just space for the usual squatters, but space for everyone. For living, for art and artisanry, for the exchange of knowledge, for barter, for local produce. And, of course, for fun.

130515 02

¿Dónde están? No se ven…

In #GlobalRevolution, Madrid, Spain on 12 March 2013 at 00:02
"They leave us without future" photo via @jozusu

“They leave us without future” photo via @jozusu

Dear people,

Protests keep rocking Spain. This time it was the unions. They demanded a change in economic policy, in Spain and in Europe.

The event was largely ignored by the indignant networks, and when it wasn’t it was just to show that “our demonstration was bigger than yours.”

This is the reason. Many people in Spain, especially the indignados, don’t like the big unions. I suppose it’s for the same reason why unions are disliked in many other countries. They tend to sell out for self interest. They tend to lack commitment to real change.

Last Sunday’s protest was organised by UGT and Comisiones Obreras. In 15M demonstrations it’s customary for people to chant about these two particular unions, in resentment. “Where are they? We can’t see them…”

Well here they were, in sixty Spanish cities. They brought tens of thousands of people to the street in Madrid alone. I wonder how many of the hardcore indignados were present.

That’s it from Holland for now. I’m leaving soon. See you all out in the streets this spring.

Citizens’ Wave Rising

In Madrid, Spain on 23 February 2013 at 11:12
Manifesto via Madrilonia.org

Manifesto via Madrilonia.org

February 23, noon.

Dear people,

I’m so excited. Today is the Grand Opening of the Revolutionary Season 2013! Everybody is going to be there. The white wave, the green wave, the red wave the blue wave. Wow. It’s going to be rainbow, it’s going to be everywhere, and it’s just the beginning.

The Puerta del Sol continues to be occupied. Police may harass, police may evict, but they can’t refrain people from returning to their square, over and over again. Notwithstanding the cold, notwithstanding the rain.

People are fed up. They demand that the government resigns, they demand that the economic system serves them, the people, and not the financial and political elites.

In particular, people demand free education, universal health care, decent affordable housing, an end to political corruption, an end to the discrimination of women, gays, coloured people etc. etc. In short, people demand a human society. Today will be the opening salvo. It’s going to be big.

We might not achieve this ambitious yet reasonable goal today, or tomorrow. Not even this year. But we’ll be back, for as long as necessary. We are the people.

The waves will converge on parliament. The building will be stormed. Check out the marches and tonight’s aftermath on SpanishRevolution.TV and on GlobalRevolution.TV.

Me, I’m in the studio for a change. If all goes well with the connection, I’ll be doing comment and translation live on GlobalRev.

Good day, and good luck!

Sol Evicted, Doesn’t Cede

In Madrid, Spain on 11 February 2013 at 18:49
Eviction of Sol this morning. Photo via @LuuNekoNyu

Eviction of Sol this morning. Photo via @LuuNekoNyu

February 11

Dear people,

After a massive demo on Saturday, people in Murcia took the square in solidarity with Sol. This morning, while a growing share of the Spanish population demands that the government steps down and that a popular bill against foreclosures is adopted, both the camps have been evicted by police.

The move comes after a cold and rainy night. Defiant occupiers were holding the square for the eighth night in a row, making an appeal through Twitter for more blankets, canvases and something warm to eat. It took little time before the call was heeded. ‘Start gathering some cups,’ somebody tweeted, ‘I will be down with a pan of soup in 15 mins.’

Since this morning’s eviction police do not even allow for a backpack to be placed on the ground. People have been protesting and holding signs in the square all day. They vow to keep occupying the square one way or another. Tonight, there will be demos in Sol and throughout Spain.

The objective is to bring down the government. Because a government that ignores the just reclamations of the citizens, or that responds to peaceful protests with force, does not have any legitimacy. Especially if it is involved in a corruption scandal that permeates the entire governing party apparatus.

There is only one occupation of public space that needs to be evicted right now. The Moncloa.

Continued resistance at Sol. Photo via @InviernosAlSol

Continued resistance at Sol. Photo via @InviernosAlSol

Bugsy

In Madrid, Spain on 9 February 2013 at 18:07
Bugsy Siegel (1906-1947), 'founder of Las Vegas'

Bugsy Siegel (1906-1947), ‘founder’ of Las Vegas

February 9

“Corruption is linked to power. In a capitalist system, it’s the capital that detains this power. The quest for accumulation, profit and personal benefit forms an essential part of an ideology that worships individual enrichment, a false and criminal idea of ‘competitiveness’, ambition and greed over values aimed at​​ cooperation, mutual support and the common good.”

– From a comuniqué against corruption, launched today by the Economy working group of Sol

Dear people,

Officials of the Popular Party governing the capital region of Madrid are convinced that a Las Vegas franchise can save Spain from the economic crisis. This is no joke. This is the same Popular Party which is involved in a corruption scandal that goes from top to bottom.

With these people in power, what do you think will happen when the third richest man of America – multi-billionaire Sheldon Adelson – knocks on the door with a project to build 750 hectares of hotels, restaurants, malls and theatres, a sports stadium, six casino’s and three golf courses?

Exactly. I thought the same.

Yesterday, after more than a year of negotiations and protests it was announced that Europa Vegas will be built (if at all) in Alcorcón near Madrid over the course of the next twelve years. During the evening, people demonstrated against the project in Sol.

In the meantime, another person who was about to be evicted from his home committed suicide in Córdoba, leaving wife and daughter behind.

In Paris, local indignados staged a demo at the Spanish embassy, demanding the resignation of the government.

Tonight, at Sol, it’s carnaval. Earlier, the occupants launched a call to action ‘For a European Spring’ on March 13.

“While (…) policies are designed to rescue big banks and big business, we, the vast majority, are made to pay for the excesses of the privileged.

All over Europe struggles and strikes are happening against these unjust policies. These struggles are our struggles, and we reject the violent attempts of European states to suppress them. Now is the time for solidarity across borders and sectors, to be the force to create real democracy and social justice. We are seeking to build a society where solutions, very different to those defended by the elites and imposed by the EU, can be proposed and discussed by everybody.

We call for actions, strikes and demonstrations on the 13th of March across Europe as part of a week of European resistance, with a mass mobilisation on the 14th in Brussels targeting the EU Spring Summit. We will show those in power that our growing movement will, sooner or later, be strong enough to change the course of Europe in the interest of us all.”

Winters at Sol

In Madrid, Spain on 7 February 2013 at 20:16
Occupation of BBVA bank in Barcelona, 7 Feb. Photo via @Xaviandreu

Occupation of BBVA bank in Barcelona, 7 Feb. Photo via @Xaviandreu

February 7

Dear people,

To the thoughtful words with which Ada Colau had presented the popular bill against foreclosures in the senate economic commission, the authorities have responded with a platoon of riot police.

At four o’ clock in the morning police evicted the protest camp in front of Bankia headquarters, where a few dozen people had spent the winter to demonstrate against a public bank that throws its own citizens out on the street.

Outrage exploded early in the morning. In Barcelona a BBVA bank franchise was occupied all day long. In Madrid, student protests continue as we speak. On the Puerta del Sol, the General Assembly of the ongoing occupation has just launched its manifesto… (Eng)

“On February 3 (…) we decided to stay in our Plaza del Sol [sic] (…)

We belong to the streets, the streets belong to us, we will not leave.

We are citizens fighting against corruption. We are people united by the same interests and we want to claim and stimulate civic struggle.

(…) we appeal to the people to mobilize and demand with us the effective investigation of illegitimate debt, the mass resignation of the government, the repeal of the current constitution and the formation of a constituent assembly to prepare a new constitution capable of returning citizens power over markets and economic corporations, which currently have kidnapped the rule of law.

We need your ideas, your actions and your media. We are young, elderly, students, the unemployed, workers, pensioners, evicted…

We are winters at Sol.”