Tales from an Andalusian Uprising

Dear people,

A curious fact can easily catch people’s imagination. It’s like a rock plunging in a puddle. It moves the surface, the waves go out in all directions, and the story grows and grows.

When it hit me, a thousand miles up north, the curious fact had taken on epic proportions. It was about a peasant uprising in Andalusia.

The story spoke of a fiercely bearded mayor who was leading a gang of over five thousand armed communists on a rampage towards Madrid. They say his warriors attacked local feudal estates, liberating the peasants and drafting them into their ranks. They say the mayor lead his men in an attack on an army barracks, and – victorious – raised the red flag on top of it. They say his guerrilleros looted and burned all the banks they came across. They say they preyed on isolated supermarkets for their supplies.

‘Gawrsh,’ I thought, ‘what a story.’

If you like this story as well, then stop reading right away and spread the news!

Otherwise, if you want to know what really happened, read on.

I was pretty sure I knew who this mayor was. We had met him last autumn when he hosted the fourth national assembly of the 15m movement in his self-proclaimed utopia of Marinaleda. So the news didn’t completely surprise me. He seemed like the type.

Fortunately I have my eyes and ears in Andalusia. I contacted comrade Juan, whom I met on the March on Brussels, and he explained to me what was going on.

Last winter the Andalusian Peasants Union occupied an estate and collectivised it, ‘Marinaleda style’. The situation in Andalusia is pretty bad, even for Spanish standards, in part because of the remnants of feudalism which are more persistent here than anywhere else in the country. In the wake of the occupation of the ‘Somontes’ estate, another piece of land was occupied. Officially it belonged to the army, even though in practice it was largely abandoned.

Meanwhile, the socialists, which have been governing Andalusia for decades, were nearly defeated by the right wing Popular Party in elections. Only with the help of the radical left were they able to form a government.

The radical left came up with a series of conditions. If they were to participate in government, something had to change for real. Their list was headed by Juan Manuel Sanchez Gordillo, mayor of the peasants’ paradise Marinaleda. When he was sworn in he didn’t abide by the official oath. He said, pretty much literally, that he was here ‘to defend the people against oppression and to fight capitalism with every bone in my body’.

Even his party comrades giggled when they heard it.

But mayor Gordillo is a man of his word. And when it turned out, pretty quickly, that it was politics as usual and that nothing substantial would change, he slammed the door of parliament behind him, he rallied his troops, and he took to the hills.

The people occupying the army estate were evicted. They vowed to return, while comrade Gordillo pointed his arrows at the big supermarket chains. There are people on the brink of hunger in Andalusia, the food banks are empty, but the supermarkets throw away tons of edible food every day.

Gordillo explained all this when he and his army showed up at a major supermarket. They rode off with twenty shopping carts full of mostly basic necessities which would otherwise have been thrown away. National media jumped on it. The mayor had made his point.

This was the curious fact which had turned into full scale armed uprising when it reached Holland.

The supermarket action was repeated twice. All booty has been brought to the Corrala utopia, a building that was occupied by the 15m movement to house evicted families in Sevilla.

Currently, mayor Gordillo and his peasant union are engaged in revolutionary marches to each of the provincial capitals of Andalusia.

Apart from this, lately, I was wondering about people’s tendency to divide themselves, especially with the regard to the 15m. As I recall, only in the first few weeks it felt as if people were truly united in their call for change. But already in the twilight days of the acampada in Sol I could perceive hints of resentment towards the ¡Democracia Real Ya! platform which had organised the protest on May 15, by some of the people on the squares. It wasn’t pronounced and it wasn’t with regard to any subject in particular, but it felt a bit as if one part of the movement was starting to implicitly accuse other parts of the movement of not being revolutionary enough.

Also ¡Democracia Real Ya! itself has been subject to division, more recently, when some of the initial activists drummed up support for the platform to be constituted as an association.

Radical opponents argued that it was against the principles of a grass roots democracy movement to seek official recognition from authorities. It led to a split into two different organisations which continue to carry the same name.

At the moment, a major source of division within the 15m movement is the call to besiege parliament as from September 25.

The idea is to block parliament from all sides and camp until the government resigns to make place for a constituent assembly.

The call came belching up from the maelstrom of Internet, and nobody seemed to know who had actually launched it. Maybe because of this uncertain genesis, and because the idea didn’t sprout from an official 15m-licensed assembly, it got rejected by many. Others question marked the methods and the lack of realism before rejecting it.

One of the two DRY’s has officially dissociated itself from the call, and, more importantly, so has the General Assembly of Sol.

It’s curious to know that many of the assemblies in and around Madrid didn’t endorse the call, while support for the initiative mainly comes from the cities in the periphery of Spain, and from the islands.

A hell of a lot of talking must have been going on about this. Last year, during the acampada, we didn’t discuss so much. Some people started shouting ‘To parliament! To parliament!’, and within minutes a crowd of indignados came pounding out of the little village to march on parliament by surprise.

Nobody questioned their motives. It was revolution time, and people just went.

Over a year has passed, we can lament that not enough has been done, but on the other hand, an amazing web of communities has been created, and has persisted. Sure, not all of the assemblies that popped up last year have survived, but most of them did. They continue to reunite people on a regular basis to engage in local, regional, or national activities.

This web is still very much under construction. We always said it would take time. And maybe all the divisions and all the subtle dialectics are just part of a democratic maturation process.

According to Juan the ancient prophecy that was foretold last year when we lifted the acampada in Sol, is being fulfilled… ‘We are not leaving. We are transforming into your conscience.’