A Madrid May: resistance, escraches, occupations – the struggle for a commons

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In February, 2013, a 47 year old woman walked into a bank in Almassora, Castellón, poured inflammable liquid over herself, and then set herself afire, screaming as she did so: “Look at what you have done to me! You have taken everything from me!” (Publico.es 18/02/2013)  She would die three months later.  A form of protest, indignation, impotence?  It is perhaps far too easy to criticise or condemn, but it was not the first such act in spain.  Since the beginning of the reign of crisis, suicides before economic tragedies have not ceased to rise.

For every solitary act of desperate struggle, there are many more of collective resistance; resistance expressed in all manner of ways, but nowhere more emblematically than in the struggle for peoples´ homes, threatened by bank foreclosures due to inability to pay mortgages, privatisation of public housing to pay state debts, and rent increases.

Today, in spain, hundreds of evictions are ordered daily, almost two hundred thousand have been made homeless since 2008, and millions of houses sit empty, the property of banks and financial institutions; the same banks and institutions bailed out with public money.

Resistance to this politics of expropriation is above all exemplified by the Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (PAH), an organisation that pre-dates 15M, but which gained far greater protagonism with the emergence of the movement.  Today, in the movement´s most visible form of struggle, through local PAH, housing and neighbourhood assemblies, people put their bodies before the laws and the police of State-Capital.

In Granada, January, 2014 …

Beyond such protest, the same groups today, throughout spain, organise the occupation of bank owned, empty buildings, to house the homeless (what is referred to as Obra Social), and in this way constituting a new commons that directly challenges private property.  Today, in Madrid alone, six apartment buildings have been re-appropriated, to become self-managed collective housing. (Periodico Diagonal 12/05/2014)

For the politicians that promote the seizure of peoples´ homes, the selling of public housing and the indefatigable defense of banks, is reserved a escrache, a form of protest originating in south america, in which those politically responsible for the theft carried out under a politics of crisis, are publically reminded of the consequences of their decisions.

15th of May, Madrid, a escrache of Cristina Cifuentes, national government delegate to the Madrid regional government …

A full documentary on the PAH: SÍ SE PUEDE. Seven days at PAH Barcelona (english subtitles):

 

 

 

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