On the occasion of the 5th anniversary of spain’s 15th of May movement, we publish a series of reflections on its significance within the context of spain, but also more broadly, for the understanding of revolutionary politics today. This series will compliment our effort to share ongoing reflections on Nuit Debout in france as well as the series being published by Crimethinc, under the title the anarchist critique of democracy. Not all of the texts share the same vision of 15M, but they serve to engage a necessary debate.
Below, we return to a text by Santiago López Petit written in the early days of 15M and published by the Espai en blanc collective on the 3rd of June, 2011. However much the movement may have changed (indeed, for some it no longer exists), the text retains its importance, not only for the understanding of what may have been/can be, but also for the understanding of all of the “occupy” movements of the last five years.
To overflow the squares. A strategy of objectives
1. The 15M movement which has unfolded during these days implies the end of a long stage of obedience and submission. To take the squares has been the radical gesture that – repeated in so many cities – has allowed us to let out a collective scream of “That’s enough. We want to live”. We have begun to lose fear. Together we have crossed powerlessness and solitude.
2. We have learned to organise ourselves, to take decisions collectively, to live in the street and to have the street live in us. The collective intelligence has been prodigious as it has allowed us to carry forward what seemed impossible: to create an other world inside but also against this world made up of moral and economic poverty. We have known how to self-organise a black hole unintelligible to power and for this it is afraid. Power is afraid of everything that it cannot understand, and therefore, control.
3. The radical novelty of our movement is that it does not construct itself on the basis of society-the factory, but is born in the union and the sharing of the malaise of each one. We do not go to the occupied square as workers, citizens … but we leave behind there every identity. We are more than in any other place, each one as ourselves, and at the same time, we are the singularities of a force of anonymity, of a force of life that points beyond what there is.
4. The we that has gained shape did not pre-exist, was not latent, but surged up in the same moment that we took the squares. It is thus an open we, open to everyone who wishes to enter and become a part of it. In the square, we learned how to conjugate the verb to politicise, and the space itself is what has allowed for the articulation of the different politicisations that necessarily occur divided in time. The background murmur that power wished to silence has emerged. We are the face of that murmur that has put to an end the silence of cemeteries.
5. To take the squares means before all else to take speach. But speach, discourse, is not so much what is said as what is done. In the occupied squares, the most important is what is done and how it is done. This is certain and it is how it has been. Nevertheless, it occurs that little by little the potential that was given to us by the mode of doing things (commissions, subcommissions, consensus …) has slowly converted itself into a real obstacle. On the one hand, if an organisation so subdivided can be effective, it also introduces a growing dispersion, a loss of essential contents, and above all else, a deep arbitrariness that becomes paralysing. On the other hand, consensus must be a means but never an end in itself, otherwise pressing political decisions cannot be taken. To be together cannot be measured by units of consensus.
6. The fundamental problem now is how to continue the movement that has begun. Because from day to day, there is something that we are realising: if we do not continue to move forward, then we will move backwards. And this is because the position that we have raised in taking the squares can be undermined, as much by a return to a first phase of personal choices, that is, a proliferating of completely subjective interests that we had managed to set aside, as by the campaign of slander (“15M is deteriorating”, “they harm others” …) orquestrated by the media of official communication.
7. The problem is not whether we abandon the square or not. The problem is how we go ahead with a movement that has been the most important of the last years and that will surely open up a cycle of struggles. In Catalunya Square, we have shouted many times, “Here begins the revolution”. Perhaps we should take these words seriously. When we state that “we are not commodities”, “that no one represents us” or other similar phrases, we are constructing a revolutionary discourse that subverts what is essentail to this system.
The problem is not whether we abandon the square or not. The problem is whether we dare to go from being indignant to being revolutionaries.
8. As indignant, we knew that we had first to attack, before anyone else, the politicians and the bankers. This intuition was correct, especially in refernce to the first. The political subsystem that functions according to the code government/opposition, is very easy to attack. It is sufficient to strongly affirm that “no one represents us” and we short circuit one of the fundamental codes that organise reality. From the delegitimation of the State, that also of political parties has grown. By contrast, we have not been able to erode the code of to have money/to not have money that governs the economic subsystem. Nor of course have we known how to confront the crisis and the use of the crisis as a mode of government.
9. For this reason, the movement of the “taking of the squares” must jump to another level, for otherwise, either we remain in a self-complacent bubble comprised of personal choices or the delegitimation of politics by itself will never by itsel open on to another world. The whole of reality must be attacked, this whole, entirely capitalist reality in which we drown. To jump here means that we dare to be revolutionaries. More precisely, that we dare to imagine what it maens to be revolutionaries today.
10. The problem is not whether we abandon the squares or not. The problem is how we overflow the square, and for that we have to think of ourselves no longer as just indignant, but as revolutionaries. Before a reality (capitalist) that is essentially de-politicising because it redirects conflict and hides the enemy, because it incessantly increases its dimensions with the aim of imposing the obvious, the only path is the defence of politicisation: “when nothing is political, everything is politicisable”. To overflow the square is to collectively conjugate verb, to politicise, and for that we have to invent a combination of apparatuses that we have already begun to employ: cybernetic swarming, general and neighbourhood assemblies, diverse commissions …
11. In the same way that we are a we that cannot be contained within a non-state public space – we are a general assembly, a group in fusion, a nomadic people, a world made up of singularities – the organisation that organises the overflow has also to be a complex combination of apparatuses. The force of anonymity, the force of the life that we are, rejects the old identity and sectoral models. Any attempt to appropriate our force in the form of a party is therefore also likewise necessarily condemned to failure. The force of anonymity can never be closed in a ballot box.
12. To overflow the square is not a metaphor. It consists in infiltrating oneself within society like a virus, to act like partisans who sabotage reality at night. However we have to return intermittantly to the square and endeavour to maintain in it a trace of our defiance. The occupied square should continue being a political reference, and at the same time, the best base of operations from which to carry forth a guerrilla war. To infiltrate oneself within society implies most certainly a radical questioning of everything that is imposed with the strength of the obvious. For this struggle to be effective, we have to endow ourselves with a strategy of objectives and means adequate to action. The scream of rage and of hope that resonated in the squares has to organise itself politically, otherwise it will lose itself in obscurity. And again, silence will enter our hearts
13. When life is the field of battle, the old distinct battle fronts collapse and it is easier than ever before to create a strategy of objectives. The strategy of objectives that we propose could begin with: a) 1000 euros to each person for the simple reason of being a part of society and given the already accumulated wealth. b) No further evictions and a return of all of those already expelled. The possibility of returning the house to the bank without having to continue to pay the mortgage. c) No to the Sinde Law. Against the privatisation of the internet. The strategy of objectives inscribes itself and is meaningful only in the interior of a movement that delegitimises the State of the Political Parties. These are not however to be understood as minimal demands to be negotiated by representatives.
14. A strategy of objectives calls for direct action to be able to impose itself. In our time, however, its climax cannot be thought under the model of the classical general strike. On the one hand, the factory has lost all of its political centrality as it has disseminated itself throughout the territory; on the other hand, fear exists in it and labour unions know how to manage it. In the same way that with the taking of the square an unexpected form of struggle was invented, direct action itself must be thought anew. The social, economic and political political transformation that has taken place in the last decades – the whole of society has become productive – plays in our favour given that it extends vulnerability to the whole of the territory. For this reason, direct action must above all involve the interruption of the flows of commodities, energy, and information that traverse and organise reality.
15. The radical gesture of taking the square that has found expression in so many cities must continue to hollow out the institutions of power, but it must also extend itself in the real and effective blocking of this system of oppression. This is not something that is impossible. It is we ourselves in living who sustain this infernal and corrupt machine, blindly racing forward. If we are truly indignant, we have to make of our lives an act of sabotage and then everything will crumble. Everything will come down like a house of cards and perhaps we will discover a beach in the Puerta del Sol. We still do not know what surprises await us in the world that we have begun to construct.
From Espai en blanc – El pressentiment …
If Autonomies was not born in 2011 with 15M, it owes a great deal of its inspiration and determination to its example. Over the last five years, we have to to follow and reflect upon the events that have marked its short history, either through the voices of others or our own. If initially, is was above all an exercise of trying to gather and inform as many as possible of what was happening (and the rather disorganised and tattered nature of our early posts on 15M will testify to this), the need to critically evaluate the movement would make itself felt on numerous occasions. There is already a great deal of literature on 15M. For our part, we can do no more than guide the reader to the site’s tag, 15M. And of course, the “spanish revolution” continues.