Ofelia Nieto 29: The ethics of resistance


… what we are waiting for can only come from ourselves, from our own being.  It will come once we force the unknown, the unconscious, up into our spirit; it will come once our spirit loses itself in the spiritless psychological realms that await us in the caverns of our souls.  This marks our renewal as human beings, and it marks the arrival of the world we anticipate.  Mere intervention in the public sphere will never bring this about.  It is not enough for us to reject conditions and institutions; we have to reject ourselves. 

Gustav Landauer

Capitalism, the social relations which it weaves through our daily activity, is not just a system of domination and exploitation.  It creates fundamentally the very subjects which reproduce it.  It is not a power which oppresses from outside, but moulds us from within.  Under its contemporary form, the subjectivities which gestate in its womb and feed it are isolated, dependent and fearful.  The capitalist world that we generate appears as foreign even as we make it, it the source of the satisfaction of our needs.  What it offers us comes at a price: labour, ever scarcer, ever more abusive, more poorly paid, more precarious and debt, the debt necessary to cover our supposed needs.  Our isolation breeds dependency, a dependency which expresses itself in the fear of the inability to live as the societies fantasies suggest we can.  And before our increasing and stupidly celebrated individuality, we bury ourselves ever further in the very relations that isolate and burden us.

The opposition to capitalism will never come from purely “objective” circumstances.  The human capacity to endure humiliation, abuse, domination, seems limitless.  And if the most obvious path of survival demand violating the other, before any imagined possibility of rebellion, then it is the violation that we will choose.  Indeed, it is the aim of capitalism to establish over and over again the futility and madness of thinking beyond out present social relations, to bury deeply within us the absurdity of thinking of liberation as anything more than shopping.  If the death camps of the Nazis rendered all morality among the inmates superfluous because all conduct ended in mechanical and meaningless death, capitalism succeeds in a similar feat, reducing the aim of life to empty and blind accumulation.

To break with capitalism is inevitably and fundamentally an ethical gesture, first of indignation, then of refusal, and finally of rebellion, a rebellion that is as creative as it is contestatory.  What gives rise to such a posture, to such a way?  Perhaps the discovery that we are not alone, that the society to which we belong is not destined but created collectively through force and theft, and that therefore this same collective activity can be made our own and can become the source not of others’ privileged freedom and wealth, but the freedom and wealth of all of those who create together a shared world.

On the 14th of August, over a hundred people resisted successfully the attempted eviction of the Gracia González family from their home, 29 Ofelia Nieto Street, in the neighbourhood of Tetuán, in Madrid.  The family has lived in the house for three generations, since 1957.  It is today made up three families, or ten persons.  Their eviction order was the consequence of a 2004 city urban plan that called for the expansion of the adjacent walkway by 5,98 m².  The family’s house was simply in the way.  Behind supposed concerns with urban mobility lies the more obvious reason: real-estate development and speculation that has transformed a formerly working class neighbourhood into a landscape of towers.  In 2010, the city claimed the land upon which the house sits as its own.  A first effort at eviction occurred in September 2012, with the family resisting.  Fearing a repetition, the family turned to the “housing group” of the Popular Assembly of Tetúan, a child of spain’s 15M and other social movements.  A line would be drawn around the González’s home, as so many others have been drawn by the PAH and 15M’s city assemblies in their struggle against the savagery of hundreds of daily evictions.  As the eviction approached, the house’s inhabitants would be joined by as many as could resist from within, for days.  Camping on the terrace, barricaded from within, and with many more outside, on the 14th of August, the occupiers held their own against the riot police.  But as the end of this month approaches, the legal calendar limit for the execution of the eviction order, the resistance will have to continue.

The defense of the home of those who for whatever can no longer afford to pay for it is an act of extraordinary political significance because it places human need above commodity value.  It is also, and equally important, if not more so, a profoundly ethical gesture, that is, a free and creative gesture of a community of people who in so acting intimate a different world from that of capitalism.

Gustav Landauer, the german anarchist of the early 20th century would often speak of revolution as “first and foremost a movement of spirit”.  If he did not deny the religious genealogy of this manner of expression, it was nevertheless for him something not associated with any institutionalised form of religion.  For Landauer, the spiritual is precisely what we have been calling the ethical, namely, the capacity to autonomously and collectively assume our lives as something created in equality.  The resistance at Ofelia Nieto is such a gesture; it is an act of revolution.

Two videos by Jaime Alekos, Amanecer en #OfeliaResiste and Ofelia Nieto 29 Resiste


For the blog chronicling the events, see ofelianieto29


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