MetropolitanPosted: September 1, 2013
They say that Madrid has only two seasons. “Tres meses de inferno, y nueve de invierno.” ‘Three months of hell, and nine of winter’, courtesy of its position in the centre of the Spanish Highlands.
Hell is still reigning implacably over Madrid. Only since a day or two, in the very early morning, you can feel a first hint of coolness, to indicate that September is at the door.
From a revolutionary point of view, the city is in ruins. The movement has splintered. The United Citizens Waves have been subject to internal power struggles and disintegration. Enthusiasm has vanished from the streets. Many activists have become disillusioned and disconnected. Many youngsters who have no future in Spain have already left the country.
Symbolic of the situation is Sol itself. This is where the whole Spanish revolution took off in 2011. This square, for a short while, was the light of the world. Now, as if to mock the 15M movement and to savour its demise the city council has sold off the name of the Sol metro station to a telecom company. The central node of the Madrid metro is now known as ‘Vodafone Sol’. The signs are there – on our square! – as if it were normal. And the saddest thing is that nobody has had the decency to vandalize them.
Last year on September 25, the Spanish parliament was besieged by an impressive crowd. The action had been planned for months. People were talking about it, the press was talking about it. It was going to be big. This year’s September event is ‘Jaque al Rey’, the King in Check. It will most likely be a flop of insignificant proportions. And not just because the king is beside the point at the moment, but because the whole action is incredibly uninspiring and naive.
Firstly, it’s organized by the so-called ‘Coordinadora 25S’, the same group of people who had organized the action last year. I was rather displeased to find out they still existed. They failed last time. And in any serious movement, you don’t get a second chance.
So why was 25S a failure? Not because of all the people who participated, which were many, from all over the country and beyond. It fizzled out because the organization had no idea what the action was really about. At first it was called ‘Take Parliament’. Then the right wing press started crying wolf about an imminent coup d’etat, and the organizers watered down the whole thing by calling it ‘Surround Parliament’. It was an a priori admission of defeat.
There was one vague idea connected to the action. It should lead to one or more ‘Constituent Assemblies’, for the drafting of a new constitution.
Every now and then there is still some talk about these constituent assemblies. They are the pinnacle of 15M’s naivety. Do we really think that if you sit around in a circle with 30 perroflautas, somehow a new Spanish constitution will be drafted that has some sort of legitimacy? I doubt it. And besides, the current constitution of Spain is not so bad. It includes all the basic rights to health care, education, and housing. The problem is not the constitution, it’s the government who fails to respect it.
The one question that I never heard with regard to the constituent assemblies is: constituent of what? The city, the region, the state? It seems many people are seriously talking about a new constitution for all of Spain. But what is Spain? The Basques don’t want to be a part of it, the Catalans don’t want to be a part of it. The whole idea of a nation-state is outdated. As revolutionaries, we shouldn’t even be concerned with it. If we really want to constitute a space, then first we need to conquer and control it.
So this year’s flop will be directed at the king. Unlike last year, hardly anyone is talking about it. There will be a demonstration on September 28 which will culminate on Plaza de Oriente in front of the Spanish royal palace. After that, who knows? Some people say they might camp in the square ‘indefinitely’. Others, undoubtedly, are dreaming of occupying the palace.
In fact, the Spanish royal palace in Madrid, with well over three thousand spaces, is uninhabited and ready to be squatted. It would make a great social centre. Plus, it comes with a huge green area which can be used for anything ranging from an urban vegetable garden to a Woodstock-style rock festival.
The occupation of the palace – as a space for evicted families, as a free clinic for immigrants who are denied health care, as a soup kitchen for the poor, as a cultural and political space for the movement, and as an example for similar occupations – would really be a republican and revolutionary statement. But no-one really dares, not even to place the call.
The Spanish uprising in 2011 was marked by widespread popular support and participation. But ever since the beginning, it has been extremely naive, also when compared to similar resistance movements of the last few years.
The indignados did not have a clear objective like the Egyptians had when they demanded the fall of the regime. Neither did they have the determination of the Turks and their capacity to bring sworn enemies together. The Occupy Wall Street movement was just as naive as the indignados in a certain respect, but at least the Americans had a very strong public relations strategy.
So what the Spanish movement really needs is better ideas, better propaganda, and more balls (‘cojones’).
I don’t see all this happening. As a movement, on the streets, Spain is going nowhere. But far away from the limelight, the struggle continues. Last week I encountered a comrade from the March on Brussels, ‘Route Commission’. He was on his last week of work in Madrid. As from next week he will be full-time occupying an abandoned village in the mountains which was squatted last May. They are in six, working hard on the main house to prepare it for winter. Theirs is but one of many similar projects. And there are still lots of abandoned villages left to be reoccupied.
Another branch of the struggle that keeps going strong is the PAH, the Mortgage Platform. They are particularly strong in eviction defence, they have good communications, and they make effective use of diversity of tactics to further their broad political strategy.
But the most interesting revolutionary front is not in Spain right now, nor anywhere else. It’s on the web. The daily revelations from the NSA vault that embarrass the agency, and the U.S. government, and the internet giants, have caused a lot of consternation and hilarity. It also opens up possibilities. Knowing what they know that we know is very useful knowledge in creating encrypted, anonymous, decentralized social media on a large scale. We have been on this for some time. Such a system will be vital to organize revolutionary action, and to report on it safely, anywhere in the world.