Touching Utopias: Reflections on Revolution in the Form of a Dreaming Wanderer’s Unfinished Spanish Travel Diary

…the final regime imagined by socialists cannot be fixed at a determined date by a sociological prediction; it is in the present.  It is not outside us; it is in our own hearts.  Socialism is being realized every day, under our very eyes, to the extent that we are able to conceive what socialist conduct is, to the extent that we know how to direct institutions and, consequently, to the extent that the socialist ethic is formed in our consciousness and in life.

                                                 George Sorel, The Ethics of Socialism

… revolutionaries come into existence only by means of the revolution.

                                                 Gustav Landauer, For Socialism

In themselves, forms-of-life cannot be said, described, only shown, named, that is in a necessarily singular context.

                                                 Tiqqun, Contributions à la guerre en cours

Madrid : 15.10.2011

An enormous hydra fills the streets, from Cibeles to the Puerta del Sol.  Unified in intention and voice, its’ multiplicity shows itself only because it is unable to be contained in a Sol suddenly become lilliputian, its’many heads escaping into the tributaries of the square; a contemporary Purusha, of Hindu fame, a source of life, from whose continuous sacrifice come the fragmented bodies of 15M, Spain.

Thousands of heads has Purusha, the great being. Thousands of eyes has he, and thousands of legs. He manifests the world.  He stands beyond the count of ten fingers.

Purusha alone is all of this, that which was, and that which is too be. Moreover of immortality too is he alone Lord.  That which as food shows itself, that too is Purusha.

Purusha is creation, this we know. In time, he is all that is, all that was, and all that is to be. Does he have an end, like death ? No. He is Lord of immortality, of the eternal that dies not).

Creation feeds on itself. It requires food to grow, to flourish. What is food but other life? Life feeds on life, be it plant, or animal life. This is why we say the world grows on food, the world is full of food.  All that is hidden in creation, and all that emerges, to show itself and be food, all this is Purusha. He sustains creation as food.

                                                                                                            Rig Veda

Time stops, as the hours vanish.  Have we not passed these buildings before? Are those not the faces of Cibeles?  The streets and the squares have been taken again.  But so too has time.

The serpent is constricted in Sol.  And like some excess skin, we are expelled, to breath, drink, find ourselves again.  The seduction of Sol however is permanent.

Midnight marks its’ presence. A voice from the glass eye of the plaza enumerates, in accountant like fashion, the numbers of the day.  Half a million have claimed Madrid.  Again, the self flees.  A voice, at first, then voices, grab me and the so many thousands speak, “¡El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido!, ¡El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido!”

My left fist breaks the humid air, the sound moves our bodies like a wave.  I hold tightly to a friend next to me, so as not to fall. … I am in a closed auditorium with thousands.  Sweat laps at our feet.  An enormous man, with a mane of white hair, cliffs of black eyebrows, deeply set eyes, an immaculate shirt like a skin barely hiding a heart red and swollen.  The speech ends, something about revolution, the fists rise, the same wave moves my body: “O povo unido jamais sera vencido!, O povo unido jamais sera vencido!” Almada, Portugal, 1975, the PREC (O Processo Revolucionário em Curso), Alvaro Cunhal.

Time ceased to pass, and all pasts became present.

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The 15th of October was the global moment of the 15th of May movement.  It was the day that the toma las plazas was to be replicated throughout the world’s cities, a world revolution.  It would be a fiction, but a fiction lived that day in Madrid.

Our minds are littered with nostalgia, nostalgia for the Bastille, for the Commune, for the Winter Palace, for the Sorbonne, and the like.  No such centre was taken on this day.  Where then was the revolution?  But perhaps, in asking this question, one is not looking in the proper place.  What if 15O had a different lesson to teach?  From the 15th of May and the original occupation of the Puerta del Sol, to the camps in dozens of other Spanish towns and cities, to the creation of neighbourhood assemblies, the blockade of the parliament of Cataluña, to the violence of the police, above all in Barcelona, to the marches through the countryside and villages of Spain, to the hundreds of other protests, preventions of home expulsions, the organisation of embryonic alternative economies, what 15M was showing to all who cared to see was a new kind of revolution.  It would not be the politics of taking power, but of making or doing what over time those involved thought was democracy; a democracy of self-management, self-government, extended to as many spheres of human collective life as possible.  “¡No nos representan!” seems to summarise everything.  The politicians fail to express the will of the people, the economy is in the hands of an oligarchy, the few who dictate to the politicians, and who also own the channels of the mass media, cultural expression, the times of “work” and “non-work”, indeed, simply everything.  And what little “public” wealth remains, even that must fall.  The problem is representation.  The answer lies in rejecting it.  15M can in some sense be seen as a self-generating and multiplying series of experiments in non-representational forms of life.  There are no final, fixed criteria for deciding the success or failure of the experiment, for the experiment can never be declared closed.  It continues as long as there are those who seek, with others, to freely create their own lives.

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Madrid: 16.03.2012

In the place of an assembly of the Transmaricabollo group of 15M Madrid, …

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The Transmaricabollo group of Madrid was constituted in the wake of the events of May 15 in the Puerta del Sol.  (Its English name equivalent would be Transfagdyke).  From its inception, it has been one of the most radical expressions of 15M, for it has self-consciously placed ethics at the very centre of its conception of revolution.  In the Manifesto of Indignant Pride of June 2011, of which it was co-signatory, we read: “We want to construct a society where the full pleasure and free expression of our multiple sexual orientations and gender identities are not the privilege of white men, with administrative and natural identities and an elevated power of acquisition, but a reality for workers, the unemployed, women, immigrants, HIV positive persons.  A reality that is possible for all society, given that this struggle concerns the whole of society.” (http://asambleatransmaricabollodesol.blogspot.com/2011_06_01_archive.html)  The imposition of gender identity and its’ corresponding sexualities is central to capitalism.  To contest them is not then only to challenge the hetero-patriarchal sexual regime that orders our world, but also the very naturalistic assumptions which underlie gender identity, that is to say, it is to reveal other possibilities of self-making which regimes of control seek to diminish or destroy.  To put the matter succinctly and perhaps simplistically, the Transmaricabollo Manifesto, in declaring that “We give life to the rebellion of bodies, and we place our desires and pleasures above the logic of the market”, brings to the fore something which is essential to any profound human revolution, namely, the freedom to make ourselves as bodies, or as embodied, to render ourselves carnally free.

Without gender dissidence, there can be no revolution.

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… we find a circus, a Tattoo Circus.

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For three days, the Okupied Social Centre Casablanca is a stage for the remaking of bodies, a Tattoo Circus, to raise funds for the struggle against prisons as an instrument of repression and torture in spain and to support imprisoned political activists.  The tattoo as a gesture of struggle and dissidence has a long history, and the Tattoo Circus sees in the tattoo a radical intervention in the politics of the body managed by the State and Capital.  “We come together around tattooing and bodily modification as a demand and method of self-management in our opposition to the system and its prisons; to help all of those who have decided to struggle against the State and Capital, and all of those who are being repressed, exiled, and tortured by them.” (http://www.tattoocircusmadrid.org/; http://boletintokata.wordpress.com/)

The Tattoo Circus places us before the body as a territory of political conflict.  The organisation, constitution of domesticated and disciplined bodies is an essential element of modern power, as Michel Foucault has taught us.  It is the material reality in and through which subjectivities are incarnated-created.  Whether through the apparatuses of discipline, or the bio-political administration of physical well being, or the constant surveillance by a control society, as described by Gilles Deleuze, the body is a space of production, but thereby also a space of dissidence.  And the Tattoo Circus, as circus, celebrates the plasticity of our corporeal singularity as a permanent possibility.  Bodies as multiple, as spilling out of themselves, as borderless, as cyborgs (Donna Haraway) suggest paths that escape power as an identity machine towards notions/realities of affinity based community.

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The assembly has been cancelled, moved … it is never made clear.  In its place, the Circus fills the CSO that is known as Casablanca.  (http://www.csocasablanca.org/This evening, all is alive in the white house.   Segmented creatures of groups of people slide past each other, filling in all of the open niches and spaces.  Stair wells, appearing and disappearing, drink of this life.  Doors lead to walls, and windows open on to toilets.  An enormous pot of food walks to the patio.  Mouths coalesce around the serving table for a vigorous vegetarian fare.  Persons pass in a play of light and darkness, as if in a film.  Faces, bodies, limbs appear and disappear, meld and separate, become one and many.

In the lower parts of the house, a cabaret is performed.  Mocking metamorphoses recreate and satirise those outside, and ourselves, and we begin to feel, sense, and especially as the days pass “understand”, that all that we witnessed after was/is being played out here, on our first night of a week, in Casablanca, in a transvestite Morocco where all becomes possible, on condition that we dissolve our fears in desire and laughter.

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Madrid : 17.03.2012

A late morning gathering is organised around the issue of housing, at the CSA Tabacalera.  (http://latabacalera.net/It is cold, a cold intensified by the cavern like dimensions of Tabacalera.  There are few in attendance, but it is the first encounter with what I will increasingly describe as the school like nature of 15M.  Each assembly, each gathering, is in effect a classroom without walls, a group of students without a class roster or teacher, a lesson learned by each from each.  A member of the PAH (Plateforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca) is present, as speaker.  The socio-economic reality described is overwhelming, catastrophic.  A portrait is simply and eloquently outlined of spain’s present economic collapse, its implications for thousands of spanish families and the effort of the PAH, in a first moment, to protect people against forced expulsions from their houses by the banks, and in the longer term to minimally seek to change the debt laws such that should someone lose their home, that the debt will be forgiven. More broadly, the PAH advocates the creation of public social housing, a public evaluation of the mortgage market in the country, and the guarantee that the right to dignified housing is not transformed into a speculative market.

The cold fails to weaken the attention of those present.  Indeed, the more than one t-shirt is testimony that for some, the cold is my fantasy.  The discussion that follows is lucid, serious and not without dissension.  There is consensus on the reality of a problem and on the felt need to discuss and address it democratically, in assembly.  But beyond that, beliefs about solutions and tactics diverge; something that we will encounter again and again in every 15M group that we will have occasion to meet.  A weakness some say.  And yet the movement continues, perhaps for this very reason.

We continue to look for and insist on the same shadows.

The cold tightens its hold.  After some three hours, my body fails me. 

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The PAH predates the emergence of 15M (2009), but it is one of those associations or groups that has both benefited from the enormous human mobilisations that 15M has animated, as well as contributing to shaping 15M.  The association and the movement have grown together over the last year, and in some sense radicalised each other.  The tactic of blocking house foreclosures is in fact an example of okupation and puts radically into question the supremacy of private property over the contemporary needs of people in our societies.  In this way, the PAH has pushed 15M in the direction of more clearly anti-capitalist politics.  In turn, 15M has reinforced the capacity of PAH to engage in such actions and has perhaps also pushed the PAH beyond an excessive concern with legal reform.

The PAH Manifesto follows in Spanish …

CONTRA EL FRAUDE HIPOTECARIO, POR EL DERECHO A LA VIVIENDA

El pasado domingo 22 de febrero se constituyó en Barcelona la Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca.

Dicha Plataforma denuncia que:

  1. Hay miles de familias en situaciones dramáticas, sin poder pagar la hipoteca o a punto de dejar de pagarla. Muchas están ya en fase de ejecución hipotecaria, por lo que temen ser desahuciadas en los próximos meses. La mala regulación del sistema bancario español hace que no sólo corran el riesgo de perder sus casas y quedarse en la calle, sino también de mantener parte de la deuda, ya que ahora los bancos están tasando las mismas viviendas a precios inferiores .
  2. La administración no está proponiendo ninguna solución. La “moratoria ICO”, anunciada por el gobierno, no sólo no resuelve el problema sino que lo aplaza y lo complica al aumentar los intereses. Además, los criterios de aplicación dejan fuera a las familias en situación de mayor vulnerabilidad y en muchos casos los bancos se niegan a aplicarla, ya que no están obligados.
  3. Las personas hipotecadas denunciamos que somos víctimas de un fraude hipotecario generalizado y de unas cláusulas contractuales abusivas. Fueron los bancos los que facilitaron y otorgaron hipotecas a pesar de que muchos de nosotros no éramos sujetos de crédito y teníamos unos ingresos bajos. Sobrevaloraron la tasación de la vivienda , inflando el precio, y aumentando así la deuda contraída. Pero la lista de irregularidades no acaba aquí: comisiones abusivas; contratación obligada de seguros caros e inútiles; intereses variables referenciados al euríbor más unos diferenciales desorbitados; información sesgada, cuando no engañosa, sobre posibles aumentos de la hipoteca, etc. Todo ello con una finalidad inequívoca: optimizar beneficios y sortear los controles de riesgo que todo sistema crediticio razonable debería tener.

No negamos nuestra parte de responsabilidad al haber firmado un contrato que a día de hoy no podemos mantener, a pesar de las condiciones fraudulentas en que se pactaron muchas de estas hipotecas. Sin embargo hasta ahora el índice de morosidad de las familias ha permanecido increíblemente bajo. A diferencia de los bancos, que ante el estallido de la crisis no han dudado en exigir dinero público, las familias endeudadas han cumplido los compromisos adquiridos mientras han dispuesto de un empleo y los intereses se lo han permitido. Ahora que ya no pueden hacerlo, la respuesta de las entidades crediticias ha sido intentar renegociar a favor de la entidad o el recurso fulminante a la ejecución hipotecaria. Con un agravante: dada la “desavalorización” sufrida por los pisos, es posible que quien los pierda siga debiendo dinero a la entidad que astutamente lo endeudó.

Además de este cúmulo de irregularidades y despropósitos, no debemos olvidar la responsabilidad de las distintas administraciones públicas que han desarrollado una legislación que solo ha promovido el acceso a una vivienda en régimen de propiedad como única forma de acceso a una vivienda estable y segura y que en la práctica ha significado el sobreendeudamiento de las familias, marginando otras formas de acceso a la vivienda como el alquiler. La desgravación fiscal de la compra, la inestabilidad e inseguridad de los inquilinos ante una ley de arrendamientos urbanos que defiende los intereses del propietario, la desregulación del mercado hipotecario que permite hipotecas a 50 años, la inexistencia de un parque público de alquiler y la falta de control y restricción sobre el crédito, han empujado a millares de familias a endeudarse por encima de sus posibilidades para acceder a una vivienda.

Además los bancos, junto a inmobiliarias, administraciones y medios de comunicación, durante muchos años repitieron que alquilar era tirar el dinero, que era mucho mejor comprar y que los precios de los pisos nunca bajarían. Bajo estas condiciones, inmobiliarias, bancos y cajas aprovecharon ese contexto objetivo y dedicaron todo su aparato propagandístico a incentivar la compra y el sobreendeudamiento.

Por todo ello la asamblea de afectados por la hipoteca exige soluciones. Soluciones que son justas, posibles y que ya que se están aplicando en otros lugares:

a) Parar los desahucios, tanto de las familias hipotecadas como de los avalistas, hasta que se haya encontrado una solución a su situación. Y garantizar a los afectados el acceso a justicia gratuita para poder defenderse en los procesos de ejecución. En cualquier caso garantizar que ninguna persona se quede en situación de desamparo habitacional: un Estado democrático respetuoso de los Derechos Humanos no puede permitir que miles de familias se queden en la calle a la vez que millones de pisos permanecen vacíos a la espera de ser un negocio rentable.

b) Regular la dación en pago, de manera que si el banco ejecuta la hipoteca y se queda la vivienda, la deuda queda liquidada, como sucede en otros países de la UE o en EEUU. Es un abuso bancario que estén expulsando a la gente de sus casas y encima les exijan el pago de 20, 50 o incluso 100 mil euros.

c) Conversión del parque de viviendas hipotecadas de primera residencia en parque público de alquiler social. Que la administración fuerce a las entidades financieras a asumir los precios reales de las viviendas haciendo que los bancos renuncien a un porcentaje significativo de la deuda hipotecaria para que, a continuación, la administración compre la vivienda a precio de vivienda protegida de régimen general y el antiguo propietario pueda permanecer en ella como inquilino de vivienda protegida, siempre y cuando cumpla los requisitos establecidos para ser beneficiario de la misma. Así no sólo se ayudaría a las familias hipotecadas, sino que ganaría toda la sociedad al aumentar el parque de vivienda pública en alquiler. Una versión de esta medida se está aplicando ya en el País Vasco, por lo que se trataría de extenderlo al resto de comunidades autónomas.

d) Realización de una Auditoría social sobre el funcionamiento del mercado hipotecario. Existen indicios fundados que nos indican que la ciudadanía ha sido objeto de un gran fraude que debe ser investigado para poder establecer las responsabilidades de entidades empresariales, bancarias, así como de las instituciones públicas. La misma auditoría debería aclarar dónde han ido a parar los beneficios millonarios que se generaron durante el boom inmobiliario.

e) Establecer los mecanismos, las reformas y las políticas necesarias para que el acceso a una vivienda adecuada no vuelva a ser jamás un negocio para unos pocos y una esclavitud para las familias trabajadoras. En el caso del mercado hipotecario, establecer por ley que el pago de la cuota mensual hipotecaria en ningún caso sea superior al 30% de los ingresos de la persona o unidad familiar, a un plazo máximo de 20 años.

Invitamos a las personas afectadas a sumarse a esta Plataforma: la unión es la mejor manera que tenemos ahora para vencer el miedo, las amenazas y los abusos de los bancos.

También invitamos a entidades y colectivos sociales a apoyar este manifiesto, porque es una tarea de toda la sociedad el forzar un cambio de modelo: de la burbuja inmobiliaria al derecho a la vivienda.

Asímismo, invitamos a las administraciones a establecer un diálogo para avanzar en la aplicación de estas medidas. Mientras éstas no se apliquen, anunciamos que iniciaremos movilizaciones y las acciones necesarias para hacer respetar nuestros derechos.

http://afectadosporlahipoteca.wordpress.com/

Video :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=FwrPYc1Uzwg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXhoVcDCcSQ&feature=related

See also :

Por Una Vivenda Digna

http://www.viviendadigna.org/

Oficina Vivienda

http://oficinavivienda.net/

Stop Desahusios.tomalaplaza

http://stopdesahucios.tomalaplaza.net/

Oficina de Okupación

http://www.okupatutambien.net/

For an analysis of the current Spanish “crisis”, the essay by Isidro López and Emmanuel Rodríguez, “The Spanish Model”, in the New Left Review is instructive …

http://newleftreview.org/II/69/isidro-lopez-emmanuel-rodriguez-the-spanish-model

… as well as the video animation, Españistán …

http://roarmag.org/2011/05/espanistan-spanish-debt-crisis-explained-video/

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Madrid: 18.03.2012

Madrid is a city of stone and brick.  Aside from the imprisoned green of El Retiro, the city appears as uniformly grey and brown.  What flora and fauna is be found in Sol, I discovered in the minds of those we met.

It is the day of the General Assembly in the Puerta del Sol, in some sense, the beginning and heart of 15M.  The minutes of these meetings I had devoured since May, an appetite whetted by the trembling images of assemblies streamed across the internet.  The sheer size of the gatherings in the early months of 15M was magnificent.  But I was already aware that after the November national elections and with the unforgiving winter, that the numbers had diminished.

The Assembly began mid-day, illuminated by a bright, cold sun.  Some thirty to forty people were present.  Issues to be discussed: the “Semana por la vivienda”, which would begin that very day, was organised around a series of actions designed to bring attention to and contest the government’s housing politics; the manner of participating in the upcoming general strike called by the country’s principal labour unions; the need to create alternative economies as a response to the exploding unemployment and to contest and elaborate parallel realities to capitalism.

Another temporary school unfolds, with a very active involvement by many.  And what becomes ever more evident is how much effort all of these activities demand, how much dedication lays behind even a modest gathering.  15M is not only a lesson in views and theories; it is also a school in virtues.

Not for the first time, comparisons with May 68 enter my mind. An image and description of the streets of Paris during those heady months dominates: that of constant, open debate.  Whether at the Sorbonne, the Odéon, or in the streets themselves, the population of Paris seemed to have awakened from a deep sleep to re-discover the novelty and beauty of speech, and through it, politics.  Every encounter, meeting, was an assembly, and in every assembly, everything was apparently at stake.

We learn of Rebelaos, (https://www.rebelaos.net/) a publication advocating a withdrawal from the capitalist economy through the organisation of co-operatives.  Around the latter concern, a lunch would be shared.

In a small apartment, seated around a door through which we ate, we entered a less public, but more embracing community.  Numerous people, eight to ten at any one time, shared a meal, along with their passions, dreams and thoughts over the course of what remained to the day.  The food and drink were abundant, carried by those who could purchase it.  From among us, the unemployed and the homeless would also partake.  Between everyone, there is complicity, a commitment, an affinity, a seduction.  The commonalities and the differences would announce themselves, as they had on the previous day, but now it was no longer strictly at the level of ideas, if it ever is.  In the materiality of the group, in its eating, drinking, smoking, in its gestures, touches, embraces, a great deal more than electronic social networks is implied.  This was the word made flesh; the face, faces, of 15M.  The many do depend on electronic media, yet without the flesh, not only would 15M never have moved outside the virtual networks, it today would not exist.

The bodies testified to different histories, expressed conflicting and eloquent desires, while together sharing a common political commitment.  There was the feeling of a Last Supper, but without a centre and with no end in sight because of the complicity and collectivity of a way of being and doing that is the core 15M.

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Mérida: 19.03.201

Mérida, sculpted from silent Roman stone, was seemingly far from the passions of Madrid.  But the motive was to learn from an older utopian impulse that had somehow survived time, the Escuela Libre Paideia.

Neither the documentary images made on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the school (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DU7k7X7SzmQ&feature=related), nor the unfocused pictures of Google earth were of much help in finding it.  The city had grown; the landscape changed by an unfinished, devouring urbanism … the new “Rome”.

Paideia announces itself first by its trees, a cluster of greenery amidst paved streets and light posts waiting to serve still yet nonexistent suburban houses.  And then a barrier, a fence, topped by barbed wire and a sign pointing to an alarm system.  For whom, against whom, the barrier was for, we would never learn.  Assuming the door to be closed, we knock.  A child appears, approaches the gate and asks, “Who are you and what brings you here?”  “Visitors”, I reply, not quite knowing what to say and to whom I should address myself.  (Our arrival and visit had been planned beforehand, through correspondence).  Two adults then appear with more children.  “You can come in, as the door is never locked”, we are promptly told.  We are then introduced, personally, quickly guided into the school, and find ourselves before the assembled teachers at a table, finishing their lunch, in the school canteen.

Introductions, explanations, justifications, follow.  The response is attentive, not effusive.  Initial doubts are perhaps allayed, and whatever doubts there are will vanish over the next day and a half.

As coffee brings life back to my body, I begin to understand that we are surrounded by a swirl of activity, as the canteen and kitchen are cleaned, by all manner of children and teachers.  And as activities are concluded, children and adults spill out of the rooms, into others or outside, to pursue other things, but always doing something.

We are invited to take a tour of the school, to be guided by one of the teachers, I presumed.  The presumption was false.  Three children volunteer to serve as guides, of differing ages.  They walk us through the main building, adjacent storage building and preschool, garden, and playgrounds, without any clear borders between the spaces ever being pointed out by them.  Indeed, the children, everywhere active, in groups or alone, playing, studying or working, ignored any such possible limitations.  And always, without hesitation and a disconcerting curiosity, the questions: “Who are you? What’s your name? Where are you from? Why did you come to our school?”, which once answered to their satisfaction, freed them to return to what more pressingly interested them.

Throughout the tour, our guides explained the school’s infrastructure, the manner of its organisation, and responded to our questions without hesitation.  Their energy, in the end, far surpassed our own.

During the visit to the preschool, we cross paths with a little girl struggling to walk, but with a shoelace untied.  One of our guides, a boy, in age between an older and younger girl, took the little girl in his arms, set her down upon a chair to lace her shoe.  And then noticing that she was wet, told one of the adults that she needed a change of diaper and clothing.

The quantity of movement was overwhelming.  Everywhere, everyone was doing something.  But it failed to remind me of any school that I had known or knew.  There was a school building, but the walls, windows, doors, held no one in or out.  In the shutting and closing of an eye, a child could pass from a math problem to the throwing of a ball, could move from being “in class”, to rolling about in the dirt, or preparing a merienda in the kitchen.  And where were the adults, the overseers, the guardians, in all of this?  Chaos should follow; my disciplined memory told me that it must.  But it did not.  “L’anarchie est la plus haute expression de l’ordre”, Elisée Reclus had written. And I had never before felt like one of the “explorers” that my country so much fetishises; nevertheless, no other comparison came to my mind at the moment.  I felt a stranger in a strange world, and yet light, for I had walked with angels.

Mérida: 20.03.2012

The day began early, waiting for the school bus that collects most of the children of Paideia, through old and new Mérida.  Having been told where the bus would stop, we were met by one of our guides of the previous day, and her older sister.  Learning of my friend’s Armenian origins, the older child (10 years old, perhaps) tells us of a project that she had done on the country, earlier in the year.  The talk persists until the arrival of the bus.  Already about one third full, it continues its journey for some time yet.  I ask the one teacher on board if it is not difficult to find students for what is openly an anarchist school in a city as small as Mérida.  The response I am given, as if my question is a little odd, is that there are always enough anarchists in any Spanish town, to fill a school!

The school day begins at 10:00.  Each student is part of a work group, and on any given day different tasks are assigned to them.  Those tasks change from day to day, but whatever duties they carry (e.g. cooking, cleaning the school, cleaning the school grounds, caring for the garden, etc.), they are essential to the daily running of the place, such that each, both individual or group, depends upon the others, if Paideia is to exist as a community.

With aplomb, the children throw themselves into their jobs.  The most demanding work takes place in the kitchen, for the group assigned to this space must prepare three meals over the course of a day (breakfast, lunch, merienda), along with setting up the canteen and the cleanup that follows.  The group ranges in age from 6 to 13/14.  There is a group coordinator, previously chosen (an initial dispute among the older children over who the coordinator was for the day was resolved, by the children, in an impromptu group assembly), who organises and distributes tasks.  And the work begins.  A breakfast is served, followed by a lunch of lentil soup, baked fish with vegetables, and salad, concluded with a merienda of chocolate cake.  And between this work, the children will also do “school” work and play.

As the kitchen duties are carried out, mathematical and language skills are called upon constantly.  And children discover the beauty and demands of food.

A “class” is held, in assembly.  Desiring to attend, the teacher tells us that she must first ask the students for their consent.  They find no objection to our presence.  Each student is called upon to present what they have learned over a fixed period of time, in a diversity of areas.  They are evaluated by their peers, in this case in the same age group and the teacher, in light of commitments made at the beginning of the aforesaid period of time.  Their conduct is also evaluated, according to the ideals of the school: equality, freedom and justice.

The voice of a child crying breaks the assembly.  Two older children get up and leave to see what may be happening.  They return promptly, telling everyone in the assembly that it is nothing of importance and that their help is not needed.

During all of the time spent in Paideia, we saw no “class”, no “teaching”, as these expressions are typically understood.  But children at work, there were.  It was pursued however on their own, with the teachers serving only to assist, to offer guidance, paths to follow.  It is the student who ultimately determines whether s/he learns, and at what pace.  Though as all the children are in the same situation, they all “push” each other, and help.  The older children are constantly seen working with the younger on some matter or other.

¡Assemblea, grupo Paideia!  ¡Assemblea, grupo Paideia!, a young, running voice calls out, passing in and out between rooms.  We ask to attend, again with the same response.  The children, and this time the youngest age group, decide consensually to accept our presence in the assembly.  The latter, of an extraordinary nature, has been called to deal with an immediate problem (such spontaneous assemblies are supplementary to a weekly, school wide assembly, held every Wednesday, for up to three hours; it is the highest decision making body in the school).  Two of the youngest children failed to take part in the cleaning activity, earlier in the morning, leaving one of the older children to make up the difference.  The first task is to establish the veracity of the accusation.  The two accused children confess, admitting that they were out playing when their school mate was cleaning.  To understand the injustice of such behaviour is the next thing to clarify.  The assembly agrees that everyone in the school depends on everyone else, and that if some are idle, it is because another must work for the idle.  Does the desire to play justify not doing the work, in this instance? The answer is no, because the behaviour was a violation of equality and therefore of freedom, and accordingly is judged unjust.  The final matter to be deliberated upon is the response, which is not understood is in no way conceived as punishment, for they are not in fact punished.  Instead a promise is assumed.  The two young children are asked what they believe is fitting.  The response is that they will work two days cleaning without the assistance of their mates, should they not carry their weight of the duties.  The older student, offended, demands 3 days.  When asked why, she can give no reason, except that it is perhaps vengeance.  The assembly rejects this as unacceptable and the initially proposed punishment is agreed upon.  The matter is resolved, the assembly is closed, and all return to their activities.

Warming ourselves beneath a greedy sun on one side of the school, we hear a child crying on the other side.  One child comes running out to call those nearer to us to come and help.  We walk around to see what has happened, only to find three children comforting a fourth, who had hurt herself playing.

Around a rich, generous table, I ask what legal status the school has.  I learn in fact that it is legally registered as a cooperative, but that it is not recognised as a school by the state, yet it is tolerated (and has been for over thirty years).  Paideia is an experiment that emerges in the immediate period after Franco’s death – a moment of state uncertainty, which left open spaces for the creativity of those who constructed the school.

 As one of the older members of the cooperative put the matter, pulling hard on the cigarette between her lips, “Paideia is not illegal, it is a-legal”.  The statement still echoes in my ears, as the person who proffered it is beautifully fixed in my imagination.

Paideia, the living archipelago that is 15M, revolution itself, are all experiments in a-legality; otherwise, they would not be what they are.

____________________

Education is the Art and Practice of making people free.

Pepita Martrín Luengo

Paideia strikingly exemplifies a number of different, but interrelated ideas.  Its’ long and rich history, as an anarchist school, testifies to the remarkable dedication of those involved with it.  The school is first and foremost a political project, an intervention in capitalist society, with the ambition of contributing to its radical overthrow.  This is not of course done through some crude ideological catechism.  Collective, free and equal community is by nature anti-capitalist and what Paideia accomplishes with the children that join and participate in it is teaching through the practice of self-management the virtues of cooperative life, virtues that should serve them well when they confront the world beyond.  And in the best of scenarios, they may even be led to also challenge the violence of capitalist society.

The school of anarchy should be a social space where in an experimental and lived manner the fundamental principles of anarchism are introduced, in a nonviolent way, against the reigning principles of the authoritarian, patriarchal, competitive, violent, privileged, consumer, democratic, ordered, efficient and technologically specialized society.  (Josefa Martín Luengo, La Escuela de la Anarquía, p. 26)

In the words of the same author, anarchist pedagogy is an education against maternal-paternal dependence, private property, authority, egoism, competition and class hierarchy, violence, power and inequality, consumption, and the fictional security that comes with the fetishisation of these norms and structures.  Paideia works in what John Holloway might call a crack of capitalism, in this way weakening it, however modestly.

What is equally evident however is how fragile such a project is.  Not only has its survival in part been dependent on a degree of blindness from the authorities, it also requires a broader community of affinity to make itself sustainable.  That is, without parents who share some of the ideals of the school and without the generosity of those who work there (Paideia is not financially autonomous), Paideia would not be.  However much such projects succeed then, their success very much conditional on being part of larger collectivities, communities.  Alone, and with few individuals, they are short lived as experiments.  As with radical production or consumer cooperatives, their revolutionary potential rests on at least an ideological commitment to anti-capitalism and the possibility of establishing ever broader relations with other collectivities working towards/creating the same ideals.

The following video, made on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of Paideia, offers an excellent introduction to the school (in Spanish).

Paideia, escuela libre. 15 años de educación antiautoritaria

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DU7k7X7SzmQ&feature=related

A shorter, later video, is also available …

Educación libertaria. Un paseo por la Escuela Libre Paideia

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gGFhjSzUE8Y

The following text on the nature of anarchist pedagogy was elaborated by the Paideia Collective:

Libertarian Pedagogy

Libertarian pedagogy is a different way of conceiving of education from what we are accustomed to.  By education we understand assimilation by some of the persons of society, of the values and behaviour that govern its functioning.  Accordingly, societies and their models of functioning depend on education to perpetuate themselves in time.

The predominant society however aims to maintain certain structures and forms of power that we believe to be unjust, for they do not permit the equal development of people, creating instead politically and economically dominant classes.  This authoritarianism the society manifests through education, in the creation of dependent, authoritarian and competitive persons who accept the injustices of the system as something natural to humanity, thereby integrating them in a system without solidarity and that maintains inequalities, violence, conflicts and exploitation.  We seek a global transformation of society.  For this purpose, we must change many of the values of the current society by means of an education that seeks mutual aid, solidarity, freedom, equality, collective ethics, dignity and responsibility, that is, the happiness and well-being of the human being.

The whole of society plays a role in education; therefore we must not remain alone in the transformation of the school, as the principal school is life itself.  We do not have to centre ourselves exclusively on one specific age, that of childhood, to introduce these ideas.  It is however the most important age to introduce values, when the society, the family, power, communications media have not yet negatively influenced ours.  But this education should rather be a way of always functioning in our lives.

Anarchism endeavours to create a just, participatory and solidarity based society and for this reason its pedagogical ideas are in accordance with these ideals.  Libertarian pedagogy must be understood as part of a larger social movement.  Education aims to reproduce the social and cultural relations generated by the capitalist system.  Based on the principles of discipline and authority, persons since childhood are habituated to think and act as is convenient for the reigning system.  The principles, which to a greater or lesser degree, determine libertarian education, are:

– Freedom of the individual; freedom of the individual, but collective freedom, that is, a freedom which takes into consideration others and from the perspective of the responsibility of living in a group.

– Against authority; no one commands anyone else, everything is done through assumed compromises and collective, open and sincere decisions.

– The autonomy of the individual, against given and hierarchical dependencies; each individual has rights and obligations voluntarily assumed, collective responsibility and respect.  Persons confront their own problems; develop their own convictions and reasoning.

– Play as a means to know.  By means of play, it is easier to develop solidarity and collective work, socialisation, and a positive, joyful and sincere atmosphere.

– Social and co-education of the sexes.  Education is equal and combined, without discrimination for any reason of gender or socio-economic status.

To further exemplify however, we will explain some of the concrete forms of functioning that permit the realisation of these ideals in their day to day development in something stable and assumed by everyone involved.

To create free and self-managed persons, it is necessary that each individual decide, choose and deal with that which interests her/him, without the need for orders from anyone, being conscious of one´s own limitations; that each person elects what, how, when and where they wish to work on the concepts, the activities and the attitudes necessary for their education.

Autoditactism is important in this regard, permitting access to information that allows one to learn what one wants to learn, furthermore supporting didactic cooperation in seeking the help of other persons.

Creating dynamics of egalitarian and collective work, permitting access to notebooks, books, and other published material or audiovisuals, that are chosen by each; furthermore counting on the assistance of other students or teachers, who are but one more, with more knowledge and educational experience, but who act exclusively as sources of information and counselors without any power over anyone, each person decides on his personal and group didactic commitments that s/he will try to reach in any specific semester.  These commitments include not only intellectual elements, but also affective and relational with others.

Self-evaluation, with the recording of observations and proofs of maturity serve to check internal attitudes and those with the group, in addition to interests, necessities, and relations, intellectual as well as affective and social.  Exams are rejected as repressive and competitive forms of knowing how the educational process is proceeding.  Furthermore, daily tasks, such as cleaning, picking up after use, are shared between all people, with responsibilities distributed according to the capacities and possibilities of age.

The assembly is the setting for the taking of all group decisions, always motivated by the desire of finding the best solution to problems, and where compromises are sought and are self-confirmed by adherence to them; where we communicate with sincerity with the other persons of the collective and where we give birth to our participation, our relations to others, our criticisms, our self-evaluation.

Speaking freely of our doubts, sentiments and proposals, the assembly converts itself into the reference for all decision making, for which therefore there must be a written record of opinions and decisions, as well as a clear organisation for the taking of collective decisions, by consensus if possible and not by vote.

The assemblies may be comprised of smaller groups to address specific issues that affect a smaller number of people or general in which case the whole collective participates.

If these are some ideas to put into practice libertarian forms in education, the path is long and continuous, with their being many problems that have to be addressed if we wish to practice libertarian pedagogies.  Each assembly, each decision, each discussion, and each effort is a further step that should be positively evaluated.  If we do not try, then we will not succeed.

(http://www.paideiaescuelalibre.org/Pedagogia%20Libertaria.htm)

The school website …

(http://www.paideiaescuelalibre.org/)

____________________

Marinaleda: 22.03.2012

The silence and immobility of the yellow countryside breaks our urgency.  Speed betrays us; the lack of time makes us blind.  We can no longer wander through our last stop, a final destination called “utopia”, a utopia hace la paz.  But wander we do, a little lost, disorganized, tired … after Paideia, all seems grey.

The walls speak …

“La Libertad no se mendiga”

“Apage la T.V., enciende tu mente”

“Contra el capital – guerra social”

“Roba para comer, no para “joder””

… and “el Che”

The city government provides us with official information of all that the people of Marinaleda (for here, the government is the people) have accomplished in the area of work, urbanism, housing, sports facilities, professional training, irrigation, social events, energy, and the like …but we are too distant, left to look at brochures.

Someone breaks the silence.  In the agricultural workers’ union hall, we are told of how the peoples’ assembly of Marinaleda is the highest decision making body of the community, that the city authority is but the executive of the assembly.  What sustains this political reality is the collectivised lands and the activities associated with it that comprise the principal economic activity.  Marinaleda presents itself, in other words, as a communist community, born of a long struggle of land occupation in the years following the end of Franco’s regime. With the collectivisation of land, the wealth generated from the community’s labour managed by the assembly, is then poured back into the community for the social projects already mentioned.

Too many questions though remain, too many gaps in a story we cannot tell.  And as darkness settles, we must leave …

____________________

Marinaleda is an example of radical cooperative economics and politics, an example that invites reflection on the degree to which experiments of this nature can be described as anti-capitalist.

There has always been skepticism around the political relevance or importance of cooperatives for revolutionary politics, especially from a left that has often seen its principal objective as the taking of state power, an appropriation deemed a necessary precondition for any radical social change.  Furthermore, history would seem to testify to the failure of such cooperatives as instruments of revolution.  And the reason is not far to be found:

All enterprises operating in a capitalist economy are subject to “the coercive laws of competition” that undergird the capitalist laws of value production and realization.  …While small and localized enterprises can work under the radar and beyond the reach of competition…, most cannot.  So worker-controlled or cooperative enterprises tend at some point to mimic their capitalist competitors, and the more they do so the less distinctive their practices become.  Indeed, it can all too easily happen that workers end up in a condition of collective self-exploitation that is every bit as repressive as that which capital imposes.  (David Harvey, Rebel Cities, p. 122)

This kind of observation cannot be ignored.  And yet it is also unsatisfactory as a final evaluation of the role that cooperatives can and may play in anti-capitalist struggle.  One must first note their importance in teaching collective self-management.  They are in effect schools of future or present autonomy.

The cooperative, the collective, the commune are “above all forms of weaving ties, ties which are not neutral, but profoundly directed.  The degree of organisation is measured by the intensity of what is shared, both material and spiritual”.  (L’insurrection qui vient, comité invisible, p. 135)

If it is the case that we live in a global state of war, under Empire, what is at stake in this war are not different ways of managing society, to be tested by the exercise of state power, but irreducible and irreconcilable ideas of well being and their worlds.  (L’insurrection qui vient, comité invisible, p. 133)  A communism of cooperatives, in all areas of life, thereby emerges; “the sharing of a sensibility and the elaboration of a practice”, “resistant worlds to imperial pacification …irreducible solidarities to the reign of merchandise … friendships that assume the necessities of war”.  (L’insurrection qui vient, comité invisible, p. 136)

Cooperatives, multiplied and extended, also serve to undermine or even break the tyranny of labour, as a collection of apparatuses productive of a particular kind of disciplined subjectivity, the worker, and a corresponding social reality, commodities.  Self-determined free labour, liberation of labour, is in other words self-contradictory and a critique of capitalism cannot but imply a critique of labour.

A rebirth of radical critique of capitalism depends on the categorical break with labour. Only if the new aim of social emancipation is set beyond labour and its derivatives (value, commodity, money, state, law as a social form, nation, democracy, etc.), a high level of solidarity becomes possible for society as a whole.  (Manifesto Against Labour, Krisis Group, http://www.krisis.org/1999/manifesto-against-labour)

Lastly, if capitalism is above all about the circulation of capital, as labour and productive forces, commodities and money, any obstacle or interruption to that circulation is potentially positive.  And therefore any self-conscious collective project of relative and on-going withdrawal from capitalism and the creation of alternative economies would justifiably be at the centre of anti-capitalist politics.  The fragility of the exercise cannot be denied: “insofar as they produce for a market, they are forced to produce under the same conditions as any capitalist enterprise”.  (John Holloway, Change the World Without Taking Power, p. 240)  But then the alternative that is suggested in its place, a nationalized state managed economy, is as problematic, for the modern state form is itself a reality that is part of capitalism, and as such, cannot simply be used as a neutral instrument to correct the injustices of the system. (John Holloway, Change the World Without Taking Power, p. 232)

The creation of cooperatives, if they are to be revolutionary, must be accompanied by an expanding articulation between them and be part of a larger movement of revolutionary change. (John Holloway, Change the World Without Taking Power, p. 240)

To evaluate the experience of Marinaleda, with so little of it observed and shared would be impossible.  But in the wake of 15M, and in parallel with it, a revolutionary cooperativism is gaining life.  It is perhaps immediately evident in a series of initiatives responding to the expanding job precariousness and brutal unemployment in spain and the subsequent inability to meet basic needs.  The Asamblea de parados e precarious de Madrid (http://www.empleo15dejulio.blogspot.com/2012/02/asamblea-de-desempleadx-y-trabajdorxs.html), the Oficina Precaria (http://www.oficinaprecaria.net/p/que-es-la-oficina-precaria-la-oficina.html), the Marea Roja (http://marearoja9.wordpress.com/), for instance, both protest diminishing opportunities and worsening conditions of labour, while simultaneously promoting alternative forms of economic and social life (e.g., time banks, barter, other non-monetary forms of exchange, worker and consumer cooperatives, agricultural cooperatives, etc.).  More explicit reflections and examples of the latter both pre-date 15M and have been given new animus as a consequence of it.  (e.g., Opciones.org (http://opcions.org/es), ConsumeHastaMorir.org (http://www.letra.org/spip/spip.php?article92&lang=es), Konsumoresponsable, (http://konsumoresponsable.coop/), Viversinempleo.org (http://www.vivirsinempleo.org/), La Cooperativa Integral Catalana (http://blog.xarxaeco.org/category/cooperativa-integral-catalana/), COOP57 (http://www.coop57.coop/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=12&Itemid=26), La red huertos urbanos de Madrid (http://redhuertosurbanosmadrid.wordpress.com/quienes-somos/), etc., etc., etc., … the examples are too many to catalogue).  The experiments appear at the national level, as well as the regional, but also at the level of the city, and even at that of the neighbourhood.  (For example, the economia social project in Malasaña, (http://a2manos-dosdemayo.blogspot.com/), or similarly, in Carabanchel (http://economiadecarabanchel.wordpress.com/02-propuestas/), both neighbourhoods of Madrid).

Perhaps the most radical expression of this desire to both withdraw from the capitalist economy very broadly understood was initially expressed in the already cited publishing project, ¡Rebelaos!, which served to both describe and project an autonomist political ideal (https://www.rebelaos.net/), which would find a second life in a Manual de Disobediencia Económica (http://www.derechoderebelion.net/manual-desobediencia-economica/), both the work of  derechoderebelión.net (http://www.derechoderebelion.net/) and autogestionaos.net (https://www.autogestionaos.net/).

The manifesto of derechoderebelión.net is worth citing, for the Manual de Disobediencia Económica very much grows out of it.

Right of Rebellion

An initiative to generate a massive movement of civil disobedience

If we organize we will be able to create and defend spaces free of control and oppression by the power structure. When we manage to do that, the State will not be blocked immediately; instead, it will struggle to suppress our counter-power in order to save its hegemonic status. Thus, we are opening a space where the strategies of action need to be very well defined to transform into solid options that include a significant part of society.

In this context we propose the civil disobedience of the State laws that affect us. As individuals and as free beings, civil disobedience and self-organization in all aspects of our life are two of our basic tools for political action. As a massively organized people we have the responsibility of shaping the environment where we live and act the way we want it to be.  

As civil disobedience we understand a legitimate action (albeit outside of the law) which is carried out in a conscious manner and made public in order to achieve a total or partial transformation of society. The bet for civil disobedience is a bet for pedagogy through action. A bet to build a constructive path to visualise the conflict, to communicate by example, by personal and collective compromise. It’s a path of action that will empower us as persons and which has had important historical precedents in the last century.

In this framework of disobedience, one of the present strategies is the initiative “We will exercise the right of rebellion”, which started last September by declaring the illegitimacy of the institutions that manage the State. The manifesto that originated this initiative brought together people committed to disobedience to the State and disobedience to every law or regulation that we consider unjust.

The organisation of this initiative has been based on the assembly process. Collaborative processes have been used to facilitate the realization of actions of disobedience as well as the access to tools to guide the process.  Thus, periodic gatherings in assemblies and a internet-based collaborative work have enabled the joint work of a number of people in different parts of the world, and in particular in different parts of Spain.

We’re millions of people and we’re ready to act. We need to let go of our fears and insecurities so we can announce our compromise in public, so we can share in our environment the experience of dignity, so we can facilitate the liberation of each and every one of us and live in accordance to our ideals.

Economic disobedience for self-management

The proposal of Right of Rebellion is not just a proposal for a coordinated civil disobedience. It is also a strategy for action with the goal of deepening in the compromise with self-management and the building of alternatives to capitalism. For this reason, from our manifesto we call for total fiscal resistance to the State, so that the resources can be redirected to fiscal self-management by the local assemblies; it is these, and not the governmental institutions, which deserve to manage sovereignty. (p. 16)

At derechoderebelion.net we have coordinated the preparation of a manual of economic disobedience, which you can find at:  http://www.derechoderebelion.net/manual and currently we are starting the creation of offices for economic disobedience, as tools to support initiatives such as tax resistance, self-organization of debtors and bankruptcy as a form of action. (p. 17)

We will exercise our right of rebellion.

Join the manifest of a rebel new dignity

“When the government violates the people’s rights the insurrection is for people and for each and all of us, the most sacred right and the most necessary of their duties” (Human and Citizen Rights Declaration 1793) The current Spanish Constitution, enacted by the international financial power and approved without citizen’s consent, not only does not represent us, but we do not recognize  it as legally binding for us. In its article 135.3 it says: “The credit to satisfy the interests and capital of Administrations public debt will be understood as always included in the state of expenses in the budgets and its due payment will have the highest priority”.  By approving this modification of the Constitution without a referendum, it has been fully proved that popular sovereignty does not control the State, which has been abducted by economic power. A government that acts only for the profits of a few is illegitimate. As the Spanish Penal Code says: “Those who rise up publicly and violently for any of the following purposes will be considered guilty of rebellion: Repeal, suspend or amend fully or partially the Constitution” For that reason, and due to the hasty, selfish and antidemocratic character of this recent amendment of the Constitution, we can determine that the criminals are now in the government and the structures holding or supporting it. The right of rebellion has been recognized in the international law for more than two centuries, through, for example the “Human and citizen rights Declaration”. Its function is to ensure the right of rebellion for the common interests, to deal with circumstances such as the ones we are living now.  To fight against the financial coup of the economic upper layer, we have the right of rebellion in the lower one. Our commitment is with common welfare, and because of it, to comply with our legitimate duty as citizens, we declare ourselves rebels to Constitution, disobedient to the Government and any authority representing it. This is why when we declare ourselves as citizens of the popular assemblies, assemblies with post capitalist projects in which we participate. This is the way we exercise our sovereignty. Our commitment is to do anything on our hands to build a new popular power to achieve a society where decisions are taken truly by people. We understand that after the huge accumulation of indignation that we have lived the better way to recover dignity is by means of rebellion. We understand as dignity to be capable of disobeying unfair laws and/or laws contrary to people’s welfare. For all this reasons we appeal people to start and spread an action of total fiscal resistance in Spain to those who are in control to demonstrate that we are not going to pay “their debt”, because we do not recognize this Constitution. A fiscal disobedience to promote assembly self-management and give the highest priority to participatory budgeting of resources that we consider really public. Because of the situation we live in Spain, which is similar to other countries in the world, and because the financial power is now global, we would like to encourage other people all over the world to claim their right to rebellion by means of manifests like this one. Fiscal resistance was one of the civil disobedience strategies that lead India to the independence from the british empire; now it can be a key strategy to get independence from global financial dictatorship. Indignation time is over, now we are ¡a rebel new dignity!

(http://www.derechoderebelion.net/version-imprimir/english-version/)

The Manual de Disobediencia Económica defends the need for a civil disobedience against the capitalist economy and state.  By “civil disobedience” is understood a public, non-violent, political and conscious practice, contrary to the law and order of an authority considered unjust and illegitimate, that civil society undertakes with the objective of invalidating the said law and order and inaugurating a new legality in which the social and civil rights that the law denies come to be in fact recognized”. (p. 4)  To accomplish this goal, civil disobedience “not only violates judicial norms, but also bypasses the ordinary channels, both judicial and political, which exist within a democratic system for bringing about changes in the laws or government policy, that is, it places itself outside the rules of the game that sustain this political system”. (p. 5)

“As a people, if we organize ourselves, we will be able to create and defend spaces free of the control and the submission to power”. (p. 6)  Civil disobedience and self-management are thus political instruments which together, not only challenge the existing order, but also serve to create what is desired or aspired to.  And both then serve as a moral and political example of what is possible.

If the Manual’s focus is on the economy, it is not to exclude other concerns, but the weight of the economy makes economic disobedience central.

In the absence of a full translation of the text, a summary of what is proposed is not without value.  The list is long and this is but an overview: fiscal disobedience, which in this case involves taking advantage of whatever spain’s laws permit in the avoidance of tax payments, from income tax to sales’ tax; self-management of income; socialization or collectivization of mortgages; legal self-defense against foreclosures; creation of housing cooperatives; declarations of bankruptcy; withdrawal from banks and moving to cooperative banking; creation of integral cooperatives (which would cover as many of one’s social needs as possible); political autonomy through assemblies.  These proposals, put forward in far greater detail in the Manual, “are part of the path in which we leave behind one model of society to enter a new model that we go on building, constituting without a doubt a holistic model of transition and social empowerment against the predatory capitalist system in which we live.

Tout le pouvoir aux communes!

(L’insurrection qui vient)

 

____________________

Madrid : 12-14.05.2012

… a return to earlier stories, on the first anniversary of 15M …

Impressions of 15M, one year on …

“la revolución enamora” (words of Puerta del Sol)

The arrival in the Puerta del Sol, on Friday the 11th of May is disturbed by the presence of the police.  They are seemingly everywhere in the square, at its many entrances, before the Casa de Correos, centre of the regional government of Madrid, and in the square proper.  And their violence will be daily.  The yellow dressed employees of the gold shops, vultures of misery, compliment the image. … the tourists photograph, and hungry gypsies and soulless clowns beg …

“deseo, luego existo”

Beneath the statue of Carlos the III, the reality is fractured by a man with a large and disheveled head of white hair distributing leaflets for tomorrow’s demonstration.  “Lenin said that the revolution begins as a ball of snow, growing larger and larger as it is kicked about”, he says into my ear, as he holds me near his breath.  He is joined by a still older woman, curved by time, whitened by age, who stuffs a handful of further leaflets into my hands, only to rush off to attend to others.  This passion invades all that is done.

“Nuestra recompense se encuentra en el esfuerzo y no en el resultado. Un esfuerzo total es una Victoria completa.”

An exhibition opens on the 10th, at the Ateneo of Madrid, under the theme of the first year of indignant action.  There is suspicion about nostalgia, self congratulatory celebration, 15M as a museum exhibition, suspicions soon assuaged.  The contents of the exhibition were themselves debated more broadly in the movement, in Madrid, and the exercise is essentially pedagogical.

“por favor no molestar, estamos reflexionando”

15M as a school is an idea that constantly comes to mind during these days.  Everywhere one turns, there are discussions, debates.  Assemblies, thematically organized, are times-places of intense sharing and learning.  The Economy group of 15M Madrid holds Sol for almost 10 hours on the 13th, in an extraordinary exercise of reflection on and alternatives to capitalism.  And by late afternoon, thousands of people take part.  The patience and passion for the event, the remarkable interest and knowledge of those who intervene, is quite literally awe inspiring.  And this was repeated in numerous similar assemblies throughout the 13th and 14th.

“felicidad es ser, no tener”

Among the many anonymously in attendance at the assemblies were individuals known for their involvement in the affinity groups and neighborhood assemblies that form the archipelago of 15M.  They are the living and changing body of 15M, without whom the media saturated demonstrations and the more regular assemblies, would not occur.   But they are not known by most of those who attend.  They participate in the assemblies, they march when there is a call to, as one among many, but it is their work that sustains the movement.

“El sol es lo real”

On the 12th of May, hundreds of thousands colours and sounds take Sol.  No common ideology or group binds those who march together.  They are united first and foremost by indignation, and after one year of political militancy of extraordinary creativity, by a desire for a new world.

“no nos vamos, nos mudamos a tu consciencia”

The organizing engines for the demonstration are the local, neighborhood assemblies; their banners punctuate the procession.  15M in Madrid left Sol for city’s barrios and there constructed a network of collectivities and initiatives which are today part of the heart of the movement.  If 15M is a great deal more than a protest movement, defending or claiming rights against state authority (it is that also), it is because at the level of neighborhood assemblies, alternative realities are being created.  It is at this level of the movement that we find the barter markets, the time banks, the social markets, the consumer cooperatives that are the embryo of what may become alternative economies.  The assemblies are already examples of direct democracy.  What is complementary and essential to this political process is the elaboration of noncapitalist forms of wealth production and distribution.

“utopia o nada”

15M is not a single movement.  It lacks any central organization, ideology, or practice.  Its future is unpredictable.  It has however given rise to ethical-political spaces and times which make what for many is impossible, reality.  15M holds within it a politics of utopia.

(http://autonomies.org/en/2012/05/15m-a-cartography-of-the-spanish-revolution-89/)

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