postvirtual

Posts Tagged ‘Spanish Revolution’

Chapulling All Day Long

In Istanbul, Occupy Gezi, Turkey on 15 June 2013 at 15:06

130615 04
Istanbul, June 15, 1412 hrs.

Dear people,

In only a few days, the word ‘chapulling’ has taken international vocabulary by storm. Stemming from Turkish çapulcu, roughly meaning ‘looters’, it was used by prime minister Erdogan on June 2 to describe the people who had occupied Gezi Park. Instead of taking offense, it was immediately reappropriated by the protesters, who now proudly identify as ‘chapullers’. Almost overnight, the meaning of the word has changed from looters to rebels.

The Gezi Park television channel is called Çapul TV (capul.tv). One of the places distributing free coffee, tea and snacks all day and all night is the Çapulcu Cafe. I met a Dutch-Turkish compatriot there from Rotterdam. He has occupied Gezi since the beginning. He is unable to contain his enthusiasm and he makes no effort to do so.    130615 07

He shows me the supplies. All day, vans full of goods park at the kitchen. To allow for them to arrive up here the barricade down the road has been turned into a checkpoint. Some of the food coming in is home made by the Turkish mothers. Other articles are ordered from around the world, to be delivered at ‘Gezi Park, Istanbul’. Every time a van pulls up there are cheers, and a human chain spontaneously forms to pass everything to the storage depot. The same cheers can be heard when a garbage truck arrives, and the same line forms to take out the common trash.

My friend also explains a thing or two about Turkish politics, about the Erdogan regime, about his allergy to criticism, about his small steps toward dictatorship. Like the denial to recognise Alevi prayer houses as sanctuaries with the same status as a mosque, the ban on alcohol sales after 10 pm, the naming of the new Bosphorus bridge after sultan Mehmed II, known for conquering Constantinople but also for persecuting religious minorities, the intervention in family affairs by stating that women should bear at least three children, the ties with big business, the control of the media, etc. The intended destruction of Gezi Park was only the last drop. It brought the Turkish nation together. Religious and not, left wing, right wing and kemalists, Turks and Kurds and the rest of the world. They are all chapullers, chapulling all day long.

In talking about the first days of the rebellion, my Dutch Turkish comrade recalled some of the stories that will be legend. Like the ones about the water cannons and the bulldozer that were captured by the Besiktas fans. At a certain point they were so fed up with the helicopter hovering overhead and dropping cluster tear gas bombs that they painted a heli landing pad on the pavement and put out a tweet, calling for someone with experience in flying a chopper…

The Kurdish corner

The Kurdish corner

What I found interesting is that even a Dutch Turk was very sensitive about the Kurdish question. He consistently referred to their space as ‘Eastern Turkey’ and to Kurdish guerrillas as ‘terrorists’. Still, Kurdish people are an integral of Occupy Gezi. They have their own corner next to the steps leading down to Taksim, where they proudly exhibit the image of their imprisoned leader Abdullah Öcalan, not far from the Turkish nationalists’ stand and the images of Atatürk.

When the rebellion began, the Kurds were reluctant to show up, because of the sensitivities surrounding them in Turkey. But then, from prison, Öcalan was reported as saying that “if this is a democratic movement, then we have to be a part of it.” So here they are, in solidarity.

Notwithstanding the constant threat of invasion and the ongoing persecution of dissent, yesterday was a day of celebration throughout the park. Twice in a row, Erdogan had issued an ultimatum for protesters to leave or face violent eviction. And twice in a row the attack was called off as the place was packed with people all night. It meant defeat for the government. And victory for us.

At night, not even a tropical cloud-burst could temper our spirits. When it came pouring down people were singing and dancing in the puddles, chanting “Get wet! Get wet! If you don’t get wet, you’re Tayyip Erdogan!” Further down, in Taksim square, the pianoman defied the tempest and kept playing for the third night in a row, to the delight of rebels and police officers alike.

Gezi Mosque

Gezi Mosque

A common sight at Gezi, every day, are the photographers and the television crews. And me, giving in to vanity, I had myself interviewed by Spanish public television for a change. It was a good occasion to brag about my role in the Spanish Revolution, and about how we as GlobalRev tactical media team were invited to share our livestreaming expertise with the Turks. It was also a good occasion to talk about the differences between the uprisings in Spain and Turkey.

For one, the Turks had to fight to conquer their spaces, whereas the Spanish movement was founded on non-violence. For two, the Spanish indignados developed a fetish for assemblies and working groups right from the start, while popular self organisation is only slowly taking root here in Turkey. Yesterday, however, there were simultaneous neighbourhood assemblies being held all over Gezi. I counted five. Two in downtown, two in midtown, and one in uptown. There was also an assembly of Taksim Solidarity, but that one didn’t count. It was held in a closed space and it’s wasn’t accessible for all.

These days there is a sense of rebellion on the rise against the original organisers, because of their apparent lack of democratic openness. To the outside world, they speak for Gezi, but they do not represent us. Still I’m willing to admit that this has not necessarily been a bad thing. Full Spanish style horizontal democracy gives everyone the possibility to speak and participate, but it hardly ever leads to any practical results.

Taksim Solidarity started this movement and gave it a voice. It has issued a handful of clear, rational demands. Now it is up to us, the people, to prevent them from becoming some kind of institution or – Allah forbid – authority.

130615 02

Neighbourhood assembly and Dutch chapulling tent.

Neighbourhood assembly and Dutch chapulling tent.

130615 09

130615 08

130615 07

130615 03

130615 06

Advertisements

‘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

Activists’ Fair

In Barcelona on 12 May 2013 at 13:13

130512 02

Barcelona, May 12

Dear people,

Airports are all the same, but the air is different is everywhere. Arriving here in Barcelona after two months in eastern Europe, the air felt like home.

I entered Plaça Catalunya at nightfall. In one corner of the square I found a small foetus of occupation, an info point made out of a couple of boxes, with a dozen people around it. Some of them I knew, from the marches, from the International Commission of the Acampada Barcelona. They were here to celebrate the time of year – May has come around once again, the revolution continues.

There had been a press conference about the initiatives of the Global May, there had been four simultaneous actions throughout the city, against evictions, against the banks, against gentrification of the city centre, etc.

Occupations of buildings are gaining momentum here. The police can’t keep up with evicting them. I was housed in a five star squat in the centre of the city. The owner had only just finished to refurbish them as luxury apartments for tourists when he got in trouble with authorities over illegal practices. So the place was shut down by the city council and subsequently squatted. Now it’s an operational centre of the International Commission.

130512 04

One tent was erected on the square at the evening of the 10th, and yesterday the small core of the occupation had significantly grown. Prefab stands were placed around the perimeter, each one dedicated to a single issue. Debt audit, public health care, basic income, constituent assemblies, and the kitchen. All of them with their own sleak logo’s and styles. More than an occupation, it looked like an activists’ fair. And in a certain sense it was. The original spontaneous nature of the movement has given way to a myriad of interconnected initiatives. Cardboard is slowly being phased out.

During the day a handful of workshops were organized on the above mentioned subjects. Most were in Catalan, which is close enough to Spanish to understand. The attendance never exceeded a few dozen people. In the evening a general assembly was celebrated, and here too I noticed subtle changes since the early days of the revolution. For one, the circle was replaced by a hemicircle which divided the speakers from their public. For two, the typical gesture of waving hands was replaced by the traditional applause. For three, public participation was minimal. Representatives of the working groups explained their proposals, and people listened. The language was a mix of Catalan and Spanish. The attendance was nowhere near what it used to be. Maybe a few hundred people.

As always the most interesting encounters took place outside of the official appointments. Late at night we gather in small groups to discuss the philosophy of revolution, the nature of the state, we reminisced about two years ago, the big bang of 15M.

130512 05

One of the many the initiatives born from the movement, at least here in Barcelona is a political party – the X Party – which aims follow the institutional way to implement the principles of horizontality and direct democracy. The die-hard anarchist core does not agree. But we are not a dogmatic movement. Founding a political party can be useful as another front of struggle.

Evening falls again. In the midst of renewed philosophical debates, the news comes around that FC Barcelona has won the Spanish League. The air fills with tension. We can hear a rumble in the distance. Fireworks is set off. Chanting crowds are moving in.

“Don’t worry,” I hear one of us say. “Plaça Catalunya is territory of the indignados,” and he tells the story of two years ago, when the acampada was cleared by police to prepare for the football celebrations. Thousands and thousands of people descended on Plaça Catalunya during the day to retake the square and rebuild the camp, which they did, exactly the same as before, in a couple of hours. That evening, when the fans of Barcelona came to celebrate their victory in Plaça Catalunya, the square was turned into a fortress. Human walls were erected on all entrances to prevent the football fans from ravishing the camp. The defence was coordinated from the centre, an auxiliary unit of indignados moved from one gate to another, to provide backup where it was most needed.

They held the square.

So this year, even though we are only few, Plaça Catalunya is off limits for the Barcelona fans. And this time it’s police themselves who make sure that the crowds will not reach the square. Instead, they march all around with their chants and their fireworks. All in all, it was a very modest party. I have seen cities go up in flames at the end of the football season, not even because of a championship, but merely because of a promotion.

Today is the big day. In the afternoon, four or five different columns will converge on Plaça Catalunya. From there, at six, we march. And this time, we have specific demands.

Not a euro more to bail out banks. High quality public health care and education. A just redistribution of labour and income. A right to a dignified home. Basic income. Civil liberties.

130512 01

The Basque 8

In Spain on 20 April 2013 at 12:19

Basque8_large

Sofia, April 20

Dear people,

If this had happened in Iran, China, Russia or Nigeria we would have the liberal press jumping on it. We would have human rights organizations starting campaigns of solidarity. Politicians would complacently point out how much more ‘civilized’ our western democracy is.

Alas, it’s happening in the Basque Country, right here in western Europe. Eight left wing activists have been sentenced to six years in prison for being members of the revolutionary pro-independence movement Segi. According to the Spanish authorities Segi is a terrorist organization, related to ETA. Which makes everyone who can be linked to the organization in any way a legitimate target for political persecution. Even if they are only distributing flyers. Spain is no better than Russia or China.

None of these people have ever set off a bomb. None of them have ever engaged in violent struggle. And yet, they are treated as terrorists.

I remember a long talk I had with a Basque comrade when we were marching to Brussels. According to him, the objective of the Spanish authorities is to stamp out left wing opposition in the Basque country by linking every radical party to ETA. This is what they are doing, with tacit consent of the right wing Basque nationalists.

The day before yesterday, in San Sebastian / Donostia, hundreds of people succesfully rallied around the Basque 8 to prevent them from being arrested. Yesterday, the ‘Ertzaintza’ – the mercenary Basque police at the service of the Spanish state – returned in massive numbers. It took them hours to tear down the human wall, before they could finally take the eight into custody.

Today, hundreds of people laid siege to the prison were the eight are held.

The Basque Eight are not terrorists. They are political prisoners. They should be released immediately.

At the moment, this story is running wild on the social media (#Basque8), but most information is still limited to the Basque language, which is not right. The Basques on the scene should swallow their pride and report on this in Spanish and English as well.

Their struggle is our struggle. We need to know. Injustice concerns us all.

 

Check out more info in English here

(Police action against human wall in San Sebastian, April 19)

 

Check also (in Basque):

http://irutxulo.hitza.info/2013/04/20/ekaitz-iberok-martuteneko-espetxetik-agurtu-du-herri-harresia/

http://paperekoa.berria.info/agenda/2013-04-20/034/002/albistegien_inapetentzia.htm

In English:

http://sonsofmalcolm.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/our-basque-country-revolutionary-family.html

The Next Level

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

LogoMareaCiudadana

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.

¿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.

Opening Salvo

In #GlobalRevolution, Madrid, Spain on 24 February 2013 at 10:37
23F Demonstration in Valencia. Photo via @acampadavlc

23F Demonstration in Valencia. Photo via @acampadavlc

Dear people,

The start of the revolutionary season has become a success. Yesterday, February 23, people all over Spain massively demonstrated against the ‘coup d’état of the markets’.

The date was symbolic. The demos came exactly 32 years after the latest attempt of coup d’état. Some of you may remember the pythonesque images of army officers storming into parliament without knowing what to do next.

Yesterday, all the different waves have united. Students, teachers, miners, doctors, nurses, firefighters, the 15M movement, the platforms against mortgage foreclosures, etc. etc.

In Madrid there were over a 100.000 people, in Barcelona over 40.000. In every other big city in Spain there have been demonstrations, as well as abroad. Solidarity actions were organised in Brussels, London, Paris and Amsterdam.

This time, I haven’t witnessed it in person. But it has been all the more impressive to see the images of the crowds coming in via livestream.

At the Spanish parliament, after the demo, there were speeches by representatives of all the waves, and a concert of the Solfonica orchestra. All the while, in the crowd, someone walked around with a cardboard guillotine…

After the demo there were reports of police firing rubber bullets and charging protesters near Atocha railway station. Over thirty people were arrested.

Police hooligans arresting girl after demo in Madrid. Photo via @Jogueteroto

Police hooligans arresting girl after demo in Madrid. Photo via @Jogueteroto

 

23F Demo in Madrid. Photo @15MBcn_int

23F Demo in Madrid. Photo via @15MBcn_int

 

 

Madrid, aerial view of Neptuno. Photo via @Juanmi_News

Madrid, aerial view of Neptuno. Photo via @Juanmi_News

 

23F in Las Palmas. Photo via @BySanso

23F in Las Palmas. Photo via @BySanso

 

23F Oviedo. Photo via @lvatanax

23F Oviedo. Photo via @lvatanax

 

23F Barcelona. Photo via @15MBcn_int

23F Barcelona. Photo via @15MBcn_int

 

 

 

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!