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.
Many Springs for 15M
A very extensive commentary would be necessary to be able to assess positively what 15M has made possible until today: a general rebirth of contestation, a general reminder that it is in our hands to do things that change peoples’ lives, the impulse to give, generously, to other initiatives and, in sum, and at least three years ago, the intention of permanent mobilisation.
It is worth however adding something to what has just been said. In the eyes of many people, and with the disagreement – certainly – of others, 15M proposed, with limited success, to recuperate tools which the current political game – that of the past as of today – seeks to do away with. I speak of the assembly, of self-management, of direct action, of the rejection of leaders and personality cults and, finally, the clear aim to discuss everything. The scenario in which this aim reveals itself today determines to a considerable extent a palpable fact: if the emergent political forces propose a discussion of little interest regarding the regime, they say little, or nothing, about the system. Under the category of regime, so that we may be understood, falls the two party political system, corruption or, including, the dispute between the republic and the monarchy. That of the system, by contrast, refers to all these matters that it is not fashionable to speak of in the salons of our time, independently of the ideological covering of the intervening persons (?): capitalism, salaried labour, commodities, alienation, patriarchal society, imperial wars, the ecological crisis, the collapse …
In the background, but in this same order of things, it must be recalled as belonging to it, that 15M has sustained, effectively, the openning of autonomous self-managed, de-commodified and, hopefully, de-patriarchalised spaces. I have said it many times: within the movement there have always been two distinct souls. If with the first, which in many cases ended up emigrating to find other horizons, what was sought in essence was to elaborate proposals with the confidence that they would be attended by one or another political agent, the second – that which interests me now – always oriented itself to the opening of these spaces, without waiting for anything, additionally, whether from political parties, institutions and government officials. I am thinking of all that is presupposed by alternative consumer groups, many of the ecovillages, the integral cooperatives, the many initiatives of social centres, or lastly, the incipiente movement of workers who through self -managed cooperatives have taken control of companies on the verge of failure. One of the pending tasks – well known to many activists – is that which calls for the federation of these initiatives and to expand their dimension of confrontation with capital and the State. As things were, the strengthening of many of the spaces that concern me here is, to my understanding, the most important change to have occurred in the last years.
The present scenario is marked – I believe – by two significant facts. If, on the one hand, there are many people – who I imagine, and for obvious reasons, are ever fewer – spellbound by what institutional political action can offer, on the other hand, we are witnesses to a dramatic demobilisation in the social and labour worlds. Before such a panorama, the least that can be said is that there are no small number of people who believe that it would be very good for 15M, or something similar to it, to gain breath and strength. As I count myself among those who continue to believe that the 15th of May movement as such carries with it a more than healthy image and a more than respectable curriculum, I do not see why we should seek for another name for the kind of initiative that I advocate (not without feeling obliged to add that of course in the end, that the name is what matters least of all). If there are many people who think the same, or something similar, it would be very good not to repeat the errors of the past. There are those who say that 15M was an attempt to adapt the scenario of crisis to that which was assumed at the time of the earlier anti-globalisation movements. If such is the case, then we now require a new adaptation, one that will permit joining together the action in the streets of 15m and its assembly based and anti-authoritarian vocation, with the goal of paying three onerous debts: that which we have to women – victims of an age-old marginalisation in every domain -, to many of the inhabitants of the countries of the south – subject since always to exploitation and exclusion – and with coming generations to which, following our current path, we will give an uninhabitable planet. In this respect, and in my very modest understanding, urgent tasks impose themselves, such as to de-grow, de-urbanise, de-technologise, de-patrichalise, de-militarise and de-complexify our societies.
It does not appear to me to be excessive if I recall lastly something often forgotten: 15M still exists in many places. No better proof can be had of this than the newspaper in which these lines are published.