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<nettime> Protest in Spain
allan siegel on Sun, 22 May 2011 15:52:34 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> Protest in Spain


Analysis of the May 15 movement in Spain
by Michel Bauwens

the 15thMay Movement reveals that far from being the passive agents  
that so many analysts take them to be, citizens have been able to  
organise themselves in the midst of a profound crisis of political  
representation and institutional abandonment. The new generations have  
learned how to shape the web, creating new ways of ?being together?,  
without taking recourse to ideological cliches, armed with a savvy  
pragmatism, escaping from pre-conceived political categories and big  
bureaucratic apparatuses. We are witnessing the emergence of new  
?majority minorities? that demand democracy in the face of a war ?of  
all against all? and the idiotic atomisation promoted by  
neoliberalism, one that demands social rights against the logic of  
privatisation and cuts imposed by the economical powers. And it is  
quite possible that at this juncture old political goals will be of  
little or no use.
?On 15thMay 2011, around 150,000 people took to the streets in 60  
Spanish towns and cities to demand ?Real Democracy Now?, marching  
under the slogan ?We are not commodities in the hands of bankers and  
politicians?. The protest was organised through web-based social  
networks without the involvement of any major unions or political  
parties. At the end of the march some people decided to stay the night  
at the Plaza del Sol in Madrid. They were forcefully evacuated by the  
police in the early hours of the morning. This, in turn, generated a  
mass call for everyone to occupy his or her local squares that  
thousands all over Spain took up. As we write, 65 public squares are  
being occupied, with support protests taking place in Spanish  
Embassies from Buenos Aires to Vienna and, indeed, London.?

What follows is a text by Emmanuel Rodriguez and Tomas Herreros from  
the Spanish collective Universidad Nomada, which was distributed on  
the nettime mailing list.

* 15TH May, from Outrage to Hope

?There is no doubt that Sunday 15thMay 2011 has come to mark a turning  
point: from the web to the street, from conversations around the  
kitchen table to mass mobilisations, but more than anything else, from  
outrage to hope. Tens of thousands of people, ordinary citizens  
responding to a call that started and spread on the internet, have  
taken the streets with a clear and promising demand: they want a real  
democracy, a democracy no longer tailored to the greed of the few, but  
to the needs of the people. They have been unequivocal in their  
denunciation of a political class that, since the beginning of the  
crisis, has run the country by turning away from them and obeying the  
dictates of the euphemistically called ?markets?.

We will have to watch over the next weeks and months to see how this  
demand for *real democracy now* takes shape and develops. But  
everything seems to point to a movement that will grow even stronger.  
The clearest sign of its future strength comes from the taking over of  
public squares and the impromptu camping sites that have appeared in  
pretty much every major Spanish town and city. Today, four days after  
the first march, social networks are bursting with support for the  
movement, a virtual support that is bolstered by its resonance in the  
streets and squares. While forecasting where this will take us is  
still too difficult, it is already possible to advance some questions  
that this movement has put on the table.

Firstly, the criticisms that have been raised by the 15thMay Movement  
are spot on. A growing sector of the population is outraged by  
parliamentary politics as we have come to known them, as our political  
parties are implementing it today, by making the weakest sectors of  
society pay for the crisis. In the last few years we have witnessed  
with a growing sense of disbelief how the big banks received millions  
in bail-outs, while cuts in social provision, brutal assaults on basic  
rights and covert privatisations ate away at an already skeletal  
Spanish welfare state. Today, none doubts that these politics are a  
danger to our present and our immediate future. This outrage is made  
even more explicit when it is confronted by the cowardice of  
politicians, unable to put an end to the rule of the financial world.  
Where did all those promises to give capitalism a human face made in  
the wake of the sub-prime crisis go? What happened to the idea of  
abolishing tax havens? What became of the proclamation that the  
financial system would be brought under control? What of the plans to  
tax speculative gains and the promise to stop tax benefits for the  
highest earners?

Secondly, the 15thMay Movement is a lot more than a warning to the so- 
called Left. It is possible (in fact it is quite probable) that on  
22ndMay, when local and regional elections take place in Spain, the  
left will suffer a catastrophic defeat. If that were the case, it  
would be only be a preamble to what would happen in the general  
elections. What can be said today without hesitation is that the  
institutional left (parties and major unions) is the target of a  
generalised political disaffection due to its sheer inability come up  
with novel solutions to this crisis. This is where the two-fold  
explanation of its predicted electoral defeat lies. On the one hand,  
its policies are unable to step outside a completely tendentious way  
of reading the crisis that, to this day, accepts that the problem lies  
in the scarcity of our resources. Let?s say it loud and clear: no such  
a problem exists, there is no lack of resources, the real problem is  
the extremely uneven way in which wealth is distributed, and financial  
?discipline? is making this problem even more acute every passing day.  
Where are the infinite benefits of the real estate bubble today? Where  
are the returns of such ridiculous projects as the airports in  
Castelln or Lleida, to name but a few? Who is benefiting from the  
gigantic mountain of debt crippling so many families and individuals?  
The institutional left has been unable to stand on the side of, and  
work with, the many emerging movements that are calling for freedom  
and democracy. Who can forgive Zapatero?s words when the proposal to  
accept the ?daci?n de pago? was rejected by parliament on the basis  
that it could ?jeopardise the solvency of the Spanish financial  
system?? Who was he addressing with these words?

The millions of people enslaved by their mortgages or the interests of  
major banks? And what can we say of their indecent law of intellectual  
property, the infamous Ley Sinde? Was he standing with those who have  
given shape to the web or with those who plan to make money out of it,  
as if culture was just another commodity? If the institutional left  
continues to ignore social movements, if it refuses to break away from  
a script written by the financial and economic elites and fails to  
come out with a plan B that could lead us out of the crisis, it will  
stay in opposition for a very long time. There is no time for more  
deferrals: either they change or they will lose whatever social  
legitimation they still have to represent the values they claim to  
stand for.

Thirdly, the 15thMay Movement reveals that far from being the passive  
agents that so many analysts take them to be, citizens have been able  
to organise themselves in the midst of a profound crisis of political  
representation and institutional abandonment. The new generations have  
learned how to shape the web, creating new ways of ?being together?,  
without taking recourse to ideological cliches, armed with a savvy  
pragmatism, escaping from pre-conceived political categories and big  
bureaucratic apparatuses. We are witnessing the emergence of new  
?majority minorities? that demand democracy in the face of a war ?of  
all against all? and the idiotic atomisation promoted by  
neoliberalism, one that demands social rights against the logic of  
privatisation and cuts imposed by the economical powers. And it is  
quite possible that at this juncture old political goals will be of  
little or no use. Hoping for an impossible return to the fold of  
Estate, or aiming for full employment like the whole spectrum of the  
Spanish parliamentary left seems to be doing, is a pointless task.  
Reinventing democracy requires, at the very least, pointing to new  
ways of distributing wealth, to citizenship rights for all regardless  
of where they were born (something in keeping with this globalised  
times), to the defense of common goods (environmental resources, yes,  
but also knowledge, education, the internet and health) and to  
different forms of self-governance that can leave behind the  
corruption of current ones.

Finally, it is important to remember that the 15thMay Movement is  
linked to a wider current of European protests triggered as a reaction  
to so-called ?austerity? measures. These protests are shaking up the  
desert of the real, leaving behind the image of a formless and silent  
mass of European citizens that so befits the interests of political  
and economical elites. We are talking here of campaigns like the  
British *UK Uncut* against Cameron?s policies, of the mass  
mobilisations in Portugal, or indeed of what took place in Iceland  
after the people decided not to bail out the bankers. And, of course,  
inspiration is found above all in the Arab Uprising, the democratic  
revolts in Egypt and Tunisia who managed to overthrow their corrupt  
leaders.?

Retrieved from ?http://p2pfoundation.net/15M_Movement_-_Spain?


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