Anarchy and 15M

Federación Anarquistas Gran Canaria

As 15M approaches its second anniversary, it is an occasion to reflect on its young and yet rich history, on its present, and possible future.  Far be it from us however to suggest any kind of omniscient or final judgement about the matter, as the movement(s) that comprise 15M are far too heterogeneous and changing to be summarized in a any simple political frame.

On this occasion, what interests us are the relations between it and anarchist movements in spain.  And again, not to fall into any excessive simplifications, many anarchists witnessed the emergence 15M with skepticism (see, for example, Peter Gelderloos Spanish Revolution at a Crossroads), a scepticism which on occasion collapsed into conspiratorial paranoia.  (Similar and more persistent hostility were and are expressed by Marxist-Leninist groups, admixed with the usual cynical efforts, and fortunately failed efforts, at colonizing the movement).

15M did not invent social protest in the country.  It did however serve to embody a generalized indignation, as well as a multiplicity of social movements.  It provided a kind of re-animating point of passage, which in turn has made possible new politics of contestation, of creativity.  Should 15M continue, or should it make sense today to speak of a post-15M politics, is ultimately unimportant.  15Ms’ contribution has been to be a school to a kind of politics where the central ideals have been autonomy and equality, today expressed in a remarkable diversity of experiments and practices of self-management.  That anarchists should observe all of this as mere spectators would be the final confirmation of their irrelevance.  But such has not been the case.

(For an early and relatively lucid anarchist reflection on 15M, from Madrid, see: Anarchists and the 15M movement

What follows is a brief account of an anarchist group from the Canary Islands …  

(A translation, from Periódico Diagonal 04/17/2013)

Gran Canaria: 55 buildings occupied in 2013

“The law is strong, but stronger is necessity”.  This quotation from the German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, embellishes one of the communiqués of the Federación Anarquista de Gran Canaria (FAGC).  This necessity is what pushed this organization to enter fully into the struggle for housing on the island at the end of 2012.  Following what Ruymán Rodriguez, member of the FAGC, explained to DIAGONAL, they have created at this moment the Grupo de Repuesta Immediata, a “commando” charged with occupying abandoned houses to re-house evicted families and to organize anti-eviction pickets.  Soon after, the Assembly of Tenants and of the Evicted was created, “an organ for the taking of decisions at the level of the population, in opposition to power, where injustices and abuses are communicated, which are mistakenly thought to be of a private nature, but for which collective solutions are sought”, in the words of Rodriguez.

Since January of 2013, these organizations have succeeded in housing more than 70 people in 55 empty buildings, for the most single family units, but also in apartment blocks, both in Las Palmas, as well as in other municipalities, such as Telde.  The owners are banking and financial institutions, as well as real estate companies.  In this way, Gran Canaria has joined the tactic of occupation followed by other housing movements in places such as Seville, Sabadell, or Madrid.

Forgotten Tenants

Who are the people re-housed?  “There is a just representation of the most oppressed and exploited of the capitalist system”, states Rodriguez, who lists them as follows: “Qualified manual labourers who with the collapse of the construction industry are obliged to survive with odd jobs in the underground economy, with money barely sufficient to live; the long term unemployed who no longer receive any kind of state assistance; the indigent, obliged to sleep in doorways, on benches or on the beach; immigrants, who once expelled from the  labour market and bled from the construction industry, find themselves without any means, with all of the bridges behind them burned; single mothers who find it ever more burdensome to keep their children afloat, with the constant harassment of the social services”, etc.  Rodriguez emphasizes that the majority of persons that contact them are mothers with families.

In Gran Canaria there is also a Stop Evictions (PAH), and there is collaboration between different groups, but the FAGC decided to pursue its own path, more centered on occupations and questions of rental housing.  Rodriguez notes that “among the re-housed, there are many cases of those carrying mortgages, but the majority is made up of tenants.  If the mortgaged are a crucial issue, we believe that social movements, the media, as well as public institutions, have more or less ignore the urgent situation of tenants”.  In many cases, this activist of the FAGC states, “they are tenants of construction companies, of real estate agencies, of multiple owners or of banks.  When they are evicted, they carry with them debts of nonpayment which are impossible to cover.  And if the situation of someone who cannot pay a mortgage of 600 to 900 euros is unsustainable, imagine that of a family that cannot even pay a 300 euro rent”.  “Tenants are the great forgotten of the struggle for housing”, he concludes.  Another quotation, this time from Oscar Wilde, summarises the socialization taking place among the people of the Gran Canarias: “It is safer to ask than to take, but it is more satisfying to take than to ask”.


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