Debriefing

Statue in Sofia

Statue in Sofia

Sofia, May 9

Dear people,

I have terminated my spring campaign in the Balkans.

Looking back on these two months I can discern three primary objectives. One was secret, accomplished, you will hear from it in due time. Two was to visit my brother Memed in Istanbul. Which I did, with great joy&respect. And three was… well, to do a ‘revolutionary temperature check’ in eastern Europe.

I did that too, more or less. Of course I don’t pretend to know these countries, not even a bit, but it’s pretty obvious that nothing is going to change for the better here in the foreseeable future.

Why? Because there is too much ‘oldthink’ in these places. In the countries that haven’t experienced communism – Turkey and Greece – the self-proclaimed revolutionaries still define themselves through this heavily outdated philosophy. They would be adorable if they weren’t, a. utterly ridiculous, and b. an obstacle to any social change rather than a facilitator of it.

In countries that do have experienced communism – Hungary, Bulgaria and to a lesser extent Serbia – everyone is well aware that a system that forces people to be mediocre doesn’t work. Anything that smells like left wing or socialism or that has the word ‘common’ in it, is heavily suspect. Life is bad in these places, but it has been even worse. So people shrug their shoulders, bow their heads, and try to get by. At the very least, capitalism doesn’t force them to be mediocre, it merely stimulates them to be that way.

Instead of 19th century political philosophies about workers and factories we need new ways of thinking, tailored to the information age. We have the web, which allows us to ‘cut out the middle man’, both in politics and in the economy. We can rule ourselves, we can decide ourselves what we consume and what we produce, we can rationalise the distribution of our goods and our space. Without authority, without coercion.

If anywhere, Spain will be a laboratory for this kind of ‘newthink’, call it anarchism if you like.

It’s fascinating, the popular indignation and the shape it is taking. There are many sides to it. One is about words, another is about taking conscience. In a society dominated by advertising, words don’t mean shit. It’s all about eye-catching images and pure nonsense. Not very different from the iconography and the slogans of the former communist block.

What we are doing is, we are going beyond the bullshit. For two years running we let words flow free in countless assemblies. This has changed the discourse. All public grievances are out in the open. Now we are trying to restore meaning to those words that define our political constitution. One is ‘popular sovereignty’.

If we the people are sovereign, we must be conscient of it, and we must exercise that sovereignty, or someone else will do it for us. To exercise it, we must decide what we want. During the Acampada in Sol it was impossible for people to agree on a few issues – the ‘consenso de minimos‘ – but these have taken shape themselves. A few basic things to start with, that a great majority of the population will agree on. Free health care, free education, public water, all of high quality. And a stop to foreclosures. If this is not possible in the current economic system, then the economic system must change, and with it the political structures that uphold it.

Spain is moving. Over a million people have signed for public water as a human right. And this week, from May 5 to 10, signatures for public health care are being collected all throughout the capital region of Madrid in preparation for a popular bill.

Another popular bill that was presented by the Platform against Mortgage Foreclosures, backed up by 1.5 million signatures, was mutilated by the governing Popular Party before they had it voted last month by their own majority. There is hardly a trace of the original demands of the Platform in the bill, like the extinction of debt with the return of the keys to the house.

So, for as long as the government keeps ignoring the will of the people, the struggle will continue in the streets, under the windows of the the ruling class, inside parliament, and inside the banks. Today it was Bankia’s turn, the nationalized bank that keeps foreclosing on its owners, the citizens. At this moment, all over Spain, people are flocking to Bankia franchises to shut them down in every legal way, by closing and opening accounts, by requesting every possible information, by depositing heaps of loose coins etc. etc. Many of the bank’s franchises closed on forehand.

That’s today. I haven’t even talked about the simultaneous demonstrations for public education in all the big cities. And there is much more. This thing is ongoing. As from tomorrow evening – inshallah­ – I will be back in Barcelona to continue my direct coverage of the Spanish Revolution.

Stay tuned.

Barcelona, "Bankia's turn". To the franchise with a guillotine. Photo via @15mBcn_int

Barcelona, “Bankia’s turn”. To the franchise with a guillotine. Photo via @15mBcn_int

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Citizens’ Wave Rising

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!


Holland

Volendam 1958, nationaal archief

Volendam 1958, nationaal archief

Dordrecht, January 29 2013

Dear people,

A happy new year to you all. And do forgive me for not keeping you informed, but there is not a hell of a lot happening as the Spanish revolution goes.

As I understand, it have been months of accusations, divisions and internal struggle. Once again, the movement seems primarily preoccupied with itself.

On the other hand, new actions and protests are being prepared. On February 23rd there will be a demonstration of the ‘United Waves’, representing the struggles for housing, public health care and education.

Also on a local level, actions continue. The platform against foreclosures is active all throughout Spain. Lately, they occupied a bank in Málaga and turned it into a soup kitchen.

Myself, I’m in Holland for the moment. And every time I’m here, back from the South, I have to get used to it. Holland is such a well organised little country, full of people who are generally decent and open minded. Aside from short periods of explosive irrationality, the Dutch prefer collaboration over confrontation. We haven’t had civil war or popular uprisings for centuries. Poverty in Holland is almost non-existent.

There is a very symbolic, almost biblical story that explains why. It’s a true story, it happened over five hundred years ago, right here in my home town of Dordrecht.

The Dutch, back then, used to be similar to so many other peoples in Europe. They fought each other over power. Left against right, democrats against republicans, guelfs against ghibellines, hooks against kabeljauws. That kind of thing. As political factions battled each other in the streets, the lord-their-god frowned upon the Dutch, for they had forsaken the covenant, their founding bond with the waters.

The water, to the Dutch, is both their most powerful ally and their most devastating enemy. It is the water, the sea, which is the ultimate proprietor of this country. The inhabitants only exert their dominion on a lease. And when the lease runs out, the water will take the country back.

As a matter of fact, they say that while it was god who created the heavens and the earth, it was the Dutch who created Holland. And it’s true. After the earth was crafted and covered with vegetation and wildlife, the lord carefully collocated all of the original tribes as he deemed fit. But when every land was divided among the peoples, the lord found that he still had one tribe left. To his personal embarrassment he had to admit that there was no room on earth for the Dutch.

“Let me make it up to you,” he said unto the Dutch, “I will give you a special treat, a challenge.” He plunged them into the shallow waters of a river delta and said, “Here, take this swamp. And show me what you can make out of it.”

Local proverbial wisdom states that either you pump, or you drown. And so the Dutch were forced to pump. They built dikes, canals, windmills. They harnessed the waters and they sailed off to trade in riches on faraway shores.

The lord looked down on them, and he was pleased. So he said unto the Dutch, “You have proven your worthiness, I shall make a covenant with you. You will be granted power over the waters and you will be my chosen people for as long as you will dutifully protect and respect this country, its dikes, and the life and liberty of its inhabitants.”

That was the covenant. And now, in the late 15th century, while the people were indulged in passionate mutual hatred, the covenant was broken.

For years all around Dordrecht the dikes had been neglected because of all the turmoil. And so one fateful evening – it was St. Elizabeth’s day – the waters rose.

Holland as people had known it was swept away overnight. Tens of thousands drowned. Hundreds of villages and hamlets were buried in the mud. Because of the flood, Dordrecht became an island. And up to this day, the old fishermen claim that when the full moon reaches its zenith, you can hear the bells of the churches over the water, the churches that were swept away by the tide.

It was only then, after all their efforts were turned to naught, that the Dutch painfully remembered the covenant. And Holland rose again.

This story has left only vague traces in the historical memory of this country, which is a shame. Not in the least because its biblical symbolism could easily apply to the present state of the planet.