A Madrid May: 15M – A school without walls


The assembly in Puerta del Sol marking the 3rd anniversary of the 15M movement begins with presentations on the current economic crisis, that falls to the responsibility of the Economics and Justice groups of Sol, a heritage of the original working groups of the occupation of the square in 2011.  With hundreds in attendance, lectures on the nature of financial capitalism, speculation, unemployment, debt, and so on, pass over those assembled.  They respond as the assemblies have taught: arms raised for approval, arms crossed for objections, and always, the open round of debate that marks any assembly.

A theme emerges as central: the defense of the commons, of the commons as what is essential for life, all life (the soil, the water, the air, in sum, nature's waelth), of the commons as what is necessary to human well being (e.g. respect for the diversity of languages, cultural practices, etc.), and lastly, of the commons as "public/social" services, services necessary for human flourishing in our societes, services created over decades of struggles.

The theme calls for a response, the questioning, or more radically, the challenging, of private property.  15M defines itself increasingly as a movement against private property, against capitalism.  What is here placed at its heart is thus the defence of/struggle for the commons and the effort to create an economy consistent with the overcoming of capitalism; the destruction of capitalism as a genocidal economic system.

A second moment of the assembly: what democracy is desired?  From the days of the first protests, a slogan echoed and resonated repeatedly: "They do not represent us!"  But what follows?  Positions vary, tensions mount, between those who refuse political representation and defend forms of popular power, those who call for abstention in electoral processes, and those who call for a mobilisation behind political parties, new or old.

The debate has no resolution – and can have none in any immediate short term, for it marks territories of contrasting, opposing forms of life.  But 15M has become the object of competing appetites, sonmething that now tears at the movement, in an almost self-destructive cannibalism.

Consciousness of the problem exists.  Where this leads the movement remains painfully and obviously unclear.

But nothing can hide what the movement has changed, at least for the forseeable future: the common sense of those who participate in 15M and of those who are touched its echoes.  What was until recently unquestionable, ethically and politically, is now at the centre of all debate: the future of capitalist authoritarianism and inequality.

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