Carlos Taibo: What is happening with 15M?

Carlos Taibo continues to be one of the more reflective and lucid commentators/activists in spain’s 15th of May movement.  What follows is a recent and succinct analysis of the state/diffusion of the movement, published in the Madrid based 15M newspaper Madrid15m (number 20) that is terribly timely at this moment …

For some time now, the trajectory of the 15th of May movement has given rise to endless discussions.  There are those who think that 15M has entered a crisis without remedy, as there are those who believe, contrary to appearances, that the movement maintains a good part of its former vitality.  Between these two readings, there a not a few who without more ado speak of the strengths and weaknesses of the movement, where many others prefer to distinguish distinct realities according to different locations.

Though one can always see the glass half full or half empty, I believe that it is appropriate to contest some judgements which, with excessive precipitateness, fail not coincidentally to value the reality of 15M in all of its dimensions.  Let us say first that whatever the weaknesses of the movement – hardly to be denied – in many places, it continues to be the spearhead of contestation.  On hearing the brutal criticisms of what 15M does, I see myself obliged to ask from what pedestal they speak who proffer them.  Commonly, the question receives no response, something that I intuit to mean that there is at least a tacit recognition that no one can presume to brandish initiatives and actions promoted by 15M as simply irrelevant.  Nevertheless, if someone adds that there are places where the movement has disappeared, I would have to accept this to a good degree.

It must also be noted, secondly, that the 15th of May movement is something uniquely generous : it has not hesitated to put all of its energies at the service of other initiatives and that what vigor we know them to possess today, in great measure they owe to the impulse and the work of 15M activists.  I am thinking of, to cite the most obvious examples, of the Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca or the Mareas.  On the occasion of evaluating the strengths and weaknesses  of the 15th of May movement, I believe that it is necessary to take into consideration the very sincere way in which the actions of 15M have unfolded beyond its borders.

It also appears to me, thirdly, and in a closely related terrain, that the ascendance which in the last years numerous autonomous spaces have experienced would be quite simply inexplicable if one does not given to weight to the rise of 15M as intermediary.  I am thinking of the significance, from the double perspective of self-management and de-commodification, of consumer groups, of the integral cooperatives, of forms of ethical ad social banking, or of the incipient workers movement which in a regime of self-managed cooperatives, have taken control of  businesses on the verge of bankruptcy.  A very ample part of 15M has placed much of its hopes in these autonomous spaces, ferment of a new society articulated from below.

It is not too much to add that, fourthly, it would seem that those who govern us do not cease to give credit to the idea that the 15th of May movement has entered into a terminal phase of corrosion.  The so-called Ley de Seguridade Cuidadana is witness to this, which in all evidence, and in good measure, in its gestation, was inspired by the aim of responding to the endless types of actions and protests put forward and developed by 15M.  We could with difficulty find better testimony to the fact that this last continues to be a headache for the Spanish government, a circumstance that – as far as I know – cannot be said of any other instances.

I have explained quite often, in summary, that for the media of non-communication, 15M is of interest only when there is a mega-demonstration or some presumably violet episode which they attribute to the movement.  They never attend however to the daily life that is revealed, often in less spectacular ways, in the neighbourhood assemblies and their initiatives.  To explain why the media act this way is not difficult.  To do otherwise with the opinions, in my mind often precipitated, of many people apparently close to 15M would not, by contrast, be so simple.  However, though certain, it is also not an easy task to understand why of 15M it is demanded that they have extraordinary successes and presence, while the manifestly moribund action displayed, without exception and contrary to their apparent strength, by the institutionalised left-wing parties and the majority labour unions, is accepted.

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