And at least 20,000 people in the Plaza Thursday night, tonight there will probably be even more and the police may or may not try to evict everyone. Been there since Wednesday evening, with brief stops back by the house to write texts, trips to the copy shop, to cook. The whole city is passing through, everyone is debating about getting rid of all the political parties and even the government, meanwhile the grassroots politicians are trying to centralize everything in one assembly dominated by various specialized conditions, today they tried to kick out our tent where we have a distro, and they posted (without going through any of their precious commissions) a text saying that the “violent minority” handing out texts against nonviolence were probably police agents and everyone should get their cameras and take pictures of them.
But we’ve printed out tens of thousands of flyers of our own critiques, many including critiques of the assembly, people are really interested, and in the central assembly tonight there might be a big debate. Have to get back there, I’ll be out of touch for a little while.
Similar things are happening now in most other cities of Spain.
A Democratic Revolution in Spain
Barcelona, Wednesday night:
“Aquí comença la revolució!”
The revolution begins here, shouts the crowd on Plaça Catalunya. There’s maybe five thousand people, ten thousand people, mostly unknowns, mostly young, many older folks as well, no single aesthetic or political line. The plaça is full. They’re calling it “our Tahrir square,” and so far, they’re not entirely wrong in this claim. In 60 other cities throughout the Spanish state, people are gathering in their central squares, with easily over a hundred thousand people participating in total, and it’s only the third night.
In Madrid the police evicted the crowd from Plaza del Sol on Tuesday. They thought they were learning something from the recent general strikes, of September and January, by not letting a public area remain occupied to serve as a base for struggle. But somehow, the science of control always breaks down, it only ever works in retrospect. This time, they threw a torch in the powder keg, and the crowd came back 30,000 strong, also manifesting outside the prison, with anarchist banners, demanding freedom for those arrested. Since then, the police have been unable to control the situation.
All this started when a Twitter protest broke out all across the Spanish state on Sunday, 15 May, demanding “¡democracia real ya!” I didn’t go because there was a debate, because democratic discourse makes my stomach turn. The protest in itself wasn’t anything amazing, but the fact that it happened simultaneously all across the state made people hunger for more. Central encampments were suggested, and on Monday night a small group of people started camping out in Barcelona’s Plaça Catalunya and in a few other cities. It struck me as the wrong idea at the exact right time. I told a friend, “90% chance it’s a misguided social critique based in self-recuperating liberal values that won’t go anywhere. 10% chance it’s a misguided social critique based in self-recuperating liberal values that will explode into a revolution.”
In the last half year, Barcelona has been rocked by two general strikes, one of which bloomed into a day-long insurrection, and the most combative, vengeful May Day protest in over a decade. The elections, state-wide as well as municipal, are on Sunday. It is strictly forbidden to have any political rally on election Sunday or the prior Saturday. The protestors in Plaça Catalunya are already calling for the camp-out to last “at least” until Sunday, and for a protest march to take place during the elections.
The police have already been indicating that the encampment is illegal, but to uphold the constitutional order of the country they are practically obliged to evict before Saturday.
Pacifism has made creeping gains in the Spanish state since the arrival of democracy, and it already proved itself capable of defeating the equally massive anti-Bolonya student movement in 2009, which the police easily and brutally evicted from the occupied universities and subsequently from the streets. But since the last half of 2010, people seem to be more fed-up, a little too indignant and indignified for pacifism, and mass situations have been tending towards violence.
The encampments have not been organized by Democracia Real Ya, nor is the latter a permanent organization, but the gathering has a decidedly democratic character, and an organizational structure based on separate commissions whose proposals are rubber stamped by a nightly central assembly where someone–often a crypto-Trotskyist living out his wildest fantasies–reads them via microphone and periodically remembers to ask the crowd to cheer and wave their hands as a sort of vote of approval.
During the Wednesday night meeting, an anarchist stood up and starting shouting a criticism of the centralized form of organization, at which point the Trot quickly snatched the mike away from the woman who had been reading her commission’s proposals to explain to, and drown out, the benighted anarchist that it “wasn’t a perfect system” but it’s the best we had, and it was “absolutely necessary to organize ourselves.” (An article that appeared shortly thereafter on lahaine.org spoke of the need for organization to achieve a long term “accumulation of forces,” the tried and true Marxist strategy).
Several anarchists subsequently left the assembly but stayed in the square, talking and debating.
It seems that our place, as always, is in the margins, subverting the center, ignoring the unified assembly, multiplying conversations and meetings, assuring that the margins stay more interesting and more creative than the One Big Meeting. While most people did not seem to understand the critique that was shouted during the meeting (or even able to hear it), it was plain that most people felt more empowered and happy in the chaotic moments of the crowd than in the general assembly, when they were just listening and passively approving. Before the meeting, anarchists who were handing out literature–including critiques of democracy–were often swamped by people who wanted more, who were looking for new ideas and directions they hadn’t considered before.
Self-organization in the plaça and a multiplication of conversations and debates will continue, and it remains to be seen if the central organizers will achieve the establishment of their real democracy and attempt to kick us out if we don’t pass through their commissions, or if the police will evict us first before the conflict is able to ripen.
What’s important is that we are here, on the fault line of social conflict, we’ve clearly taken sides, and we’re looking for allies, while not being (too) arrogant with those we consider enemies. Because at this stage there is still a difference between those who are reproducing what they know but still acting from their passion, and those who get paid to do it; a difference between the politicians (or voters) of tomorrow, and those of today.
Social war is society against the State, not us against society. We’re here, in our revolution, and it’s a shitty, unromantic thing, but we already knew this was the world we lived in. At the very least it constitutes a definitive rupture with the daily isolation, and that’s more than a starting point. The important thing is that we are here, ready to fight and ready to learn, struggling for total freedom, and unmasking recuperation wherever it rears its head.
link to two anarchist texts distributed in the plaça, for those who can read Catalan