Ye Olde Clocke


A gust of wind tears open the tent above us and suddenly appears, majestically, the clock of Puerta del Sol. It’s five in the morning. Around the Communications table we are six comrades having a discussion about Right and Revolution. A Spaniard, a Basque, a Sicilian, yours truly, and Mehmet, our comrade from Istanbul, a 22-year-old anarchist history student whose appearance is somewhere in between that of Bakunin and a Turkish sultan.

These are the days, folks. These are the days that we will all remember, and of which we will be telling. “Democracy is like history”, says Mehmet, “you cannot know what it means until you experience it.”

Earlier this evening news came in from Greece. Parliament is being surrounded by 50.000 people. You probably don’t know anything about it, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. We receive live images over the internet. We are in the megaphone home at the base of the equestrian statue. We look at the pictures, at the raging sea of ​​people.

“What if we went to the parliament as well?”

We look at each other. Something is in the air. It binds us. We feel that anything is possible.

“Let’s be reasonable”, someone else says, “the time has not come yet. So far, our movement has distinguished itself by its excellent organisation. We must not let ourselves be carried away by our enthusiasm. Discipline, comrades. This is only the beginning.”

None of us really wants to go to sleep, we don’t have time for it. It’s like we want to experience every moment of these days. We want to discuss about everything, not in theory – saying that “the world should be so and so” – but in practice: “what are we going to make of our world?”

It’s an endless series of impressions and emotions. I’m working on my translation at the Communications table in the cold and early morning when we are visited by a very old lady. She shuffles up to us and she is surrounded by the love and care of our comrades. The chef of Food I, a rough sailor who bears a striking resemblance to captain Wal Rus from the Oliver Bommel stories, whispers to me: “She is more than one hundred years old. Someone is writing a book about her memories. The whole Spanish history from the Civil War in the 1930s, up to here and now in Puerta del Sol.” Lately she has been transferred to a different retirement home, without her being asked permission. Now she is here and she stands in solidarity with the new generation. She has volunteered to work with us in the field kitchen.

She has barely left when I’m confronted with a journalist from the German edition of the Financial Times. She wants to know how our little town operates, how the assemblies and the working groups are organised, and how we relate to other protests. I explain it to her in detail, I tell about what’s going on in Paris and in Greece, I say that we are giving back the original meaning to the word ‘democracy’. She is surprised. “But what is your political agenda?”

I say that everything is still taking shape. We are not a protest movement that wants politicians to grant them a series of demands. We want politicians to make room. They have failed. And now it’s our turn.

“And what do you want to achieve?”

“We want to change society.”

I hope the big wigs in their top floor offices will take note of it.

There’s applause resounding from our neighbours at Internal Coordination, I look up. There’s the mailman. Letters addressed to ‘Acampada Sol, Madrid’ arrive at their destination without any problem. They are opened in Documentation, the memory of our movement. Two letters come from abroad. One bears the seal of Cambridge University, it’s from someone who encourages us to go on through a number of carefully selected cartoons. From Asterix and the Vikings, for example, the two pictures expressing the moral of the (fabulous) story: “Do you think the Vikings did well to find out what fear means, Panoramix?” “Of course, Asterix. The great warrior is not one who knows no fear, but one who knows how to control it.”

The other letter is from Holland. Someone from Venlo sends us a well-known Spanish poem. An Ode to the Clock in Puerta del Sol.

And so the poet sings about the chief justice of Time in the heart of Madrid, which ordains the new year, time and again, whilst by tradition the populace eats a grape for each of the twelve chimes of Midnight. Oh clock! During all the time that you have counted the hours and the days of many a generation of Spaniards, patiently and relentlessly, have you never known a moment when your old mechanical heart would have liked to beat a little bit louder, a moment of joy because the ordinary dailyness on the square was broken?

Yes, the clock says. When we chased the French out of our country and Spain was free again, my old wheels would have liked to scream with joy! But after that, oh… how much mediocrity I have seen passing through the square! I have counted down innumerable lives that vanished without a trace. I don’t remember any of them, they all flow together in my memory while I dutifully make my rounds, every day, without illusions.

I look up at the clock of Puerta del Sol in the morning twilight. And I imagine that during these days, beneath those gray dials the old mechanical heart is beating a little bit louder.

All the best,



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