(theecosocialist.com) On 15th May 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. You probably have not have read about it in the British press, but it is certainly happening. Try #spanishrevolution, #yeswecamp,#nonosvamos or #acampadasol on Twitter and see for yourself. What follows is a text by Emmanuel Rodríguez and Tomás Herreros from the Spanish collective Universidad Nómada.
15TH May, from Outrage to Hope
There is no doubt that Sunday 15th May 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 thatthis movementhas put on the table.
Firstly, the criticisms that have been raised by the 15th May 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 15th May Movement is a lot more than a warning to the so-called Left. It is possible (in fact it is quite probable) that on 22nd May, 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 Castellón 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 dación de pagowas 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 15th May 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 learnt how to shape the web, creating new ways of “being together”, without taking recourse to ideological clichés, 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 defence 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 15th May 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 UKUncut against Cameron’s policies, of the mass mobilisations of Geraçao a Rasca 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.
Needless to say, we have no idea what the ultimate fate of the 15th May Movement will be. But we can definitely state something at this stage, now we have at least two different routes out of this crisis: implementing yet more cuts or constructing a real democracy. We know what the first one has delivered so far: not only has it failed to bring back any semblance of economic “normality”, it has created an atmosphere of “everyman for himself”, a war of all against all. The second one promises an absolute and constituent democracy, all we can say about it is that it has just begun and that is starting to lay down its path. But the choice seems clear to us, it is down this path that we would like to go.
by Tomás Herreros and Emmanuel Rodríguez (Universidad Nómada)
(hurriedly translated by Yaiza Hernández Velázquez)
The main features of the Syrian revolution are its youthful, spontaneous aspect, and the fact that it was created on the streets and is linked directly to the people. It is a revolution without centralized control, led by insurgent individuals. Consequently, no-one can claim to govern it or lead and the reason is simple: the young insurgents rose up spontaneously and there are no signs of participation by religious elements, whose ideas are extremely reactionary, or indeed by any other tendency. (العربية)
(c4ss.org) Neal Stephenson’s novel The Diamond Age takes place in a future where encrypted currencies and e-commerce have moved most economic transactions into “darknets” beyond government’s capability of monitoring and regulation, causing tax bases around the world to implode and bringing on the collapse of most nation-states.
Encrypted currencies and darknet economies have been promoted by such thinkers as Daniel de Ugarte and John Robb as a real-world model for resilient communities in the impending age of hollow states. So you can imagine my reaction to recent news of Bitcoin, “a Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System.”
Jason Calacanis and his colleagues at LAUNCH describe Bitcoin as “The Most Dangerous Project We’ve Ever Seen” (May 15, 2011). Not only is it “the most dangerous open-source project ever created,” but “possibly the most dangerous technological project since the Internet itself.” It “could topple governments, destabilize economies and create uncontrollable global bazaars for contraband.”
The beauty of Bitcoin is that there’s no central server network to shut down. Bitcoin is traded from one desktop or mobile device to another via public key encryption. Short of catching and prosecuting end-users with harsh punishments — and we all know how well that’s worked out for proprietary content companies versus file sharers — there’s no way to stop it.
There are currently 6 million Bitcoins in circulation, with a total value of $40 million. Bitcoins are generated by a complicated algorithm, with the total to top out at 21 million. After that, increases in exchange of goods and services will be offset by appreciation of Bitcoins in value and deflation of Bitcoin-denominated prices.
This fixed upper limit and requirement for price deflation thereafter is one ground on which Bitcoin has been criticized. Another is that, since it’s not denominated in a familiar unit of measure like dollars, it’s confusing as an instrument of exchange for the average person.
As an alternative currency geek, I’d add the criticism that you can only engage in Bitcoin-denominated exchange if you’ve already obtained Bitcoins from previous transactions. This is definitely a downside, compared with the kinds of “mutual credit clearing networks” proposed by Tom Greco. Greco’s mutual credit isn’t a store of value from past transactions — just a measure of value for denominating exchanges of present or future goods and services. The backing comes entirely from the goods and services themselves. Like the many local barter networks that flourished during the Depression, mutual credit is a system for facilitating exchange even when there’s “no money.”
Despite my reservations, I consider Bitcoin grounds for enormous excitement. Pirate Party founder Rick Falkvinge calls it “the Napster of Banking” (Falkvinge.net, May 11, 2011).
As Falkvinge argued, it’s usually not the most feature-rich version of a new technology that achieves popular acceptance. Rather, it’s the most user-friendly. “… [I]t takes about ten years from conception of a technology, or an application of technology, until somebody hits the magic recipe in how to make that technology easy enough to use that it catches on.”
Technologies for sharing digitized music had been around for ten years when Fanning came up with Napster. Geeks had been sharing videos for ten years when YouTube came along. Falkvinge thinks Bitcoin will do the same for encrypted e-currency. It’ll do to banking what BitTorrent’s doing to the music industry.
Here’s how Falkvinge describes the ramifications:
“The governments of the world are on the brink of losing the ability to look into the economy of their citizens. They stand to lose the ability to seize assets, they stand to lose the ability to collect debts. … All the world’s weapons in all the world’s police hands are useless against the public’s ability to keep their cryptographic economy to themselves. … The decentralized, uncontrollable economy where one lifetime employment is no longer central to every human being is something I’ve called the swarm economy, and I predict it will redefine society to an immensely larger extent than the ability to get rap music for free.”
This is vitally important to a central theme in my work: The emergence of non-state spaces within which the low-overhead informal and household economy can function, outside the state’s ability to impose artificial scarcities and entry barriers and collect tribute for the usurers, landlords and proprietary content owners.
Bitcoin is monumentally important. Encrypted currency has been at the Altair stage of development. If Bitcoin isn’t actually the Apple II — and it may not be — we’re still just around the corner from that level of popular adoption.
(Libcom) A statement by the anarchosyndicalist CNT of Spain on the May protests and occupations which have swept the country.
The countless demonstrations and occupations that are taking root in the main squares of cities and villages since the 15th are a clear example of the organizational capacity of the people when they decide to be the protagonists of their own lives; overcoming apathy, resignation, and the absence of a self-awareness with which to articulate solutions to take on and construct alternatives to the many problems that today face all of us: workers, the unemployed, students, immigrants, retirees, the precarious…
The organizational formulas developed in these mobilizations prove the viability of direct participation through assemblies for taking decisions that channel our aspirations and demands and make us overcome individualism. We become protagonists, rather than spectators of a system based in representation and delegating authority, which erases our individuality. Assemblies, a rotating microphone, working groups, responsibility, capacity, organization, self-responsibility, coordination, involvement and visibility are the collective teeth that move our gears, capable of challenging the institutions and provoking an expectation and public debate that have eclipsed the electoral campaign and the recurring contents of the national and international press.
The illusions generated by the massive mobilizations shouldn’t allow us to forget that this situation will be an object for instrumentalization, distortion, and management by political, social, and union groups; these groups are even more afraid than the government of losing the small amount of legitimacy that they have left in the minds of some citizens. Likewise, the proposals and messages emanating from these mobilizations must be analized in-depth. Overcoming the two-party system and gaining a modification to the Electoral Law will not make us freer, nor will it favor individual sovereignty. We must state that the demands are centered in the necessary sociopolitical changes; but there is a lack of denunciations or proposals discussing the world of work – clear and explicit denunciations of the collaborationist role of the institutional union federations, of the Labor Reform currently in force, and of the wide legal margin for implementing layoffs and destroying jobs…
Disobedience is the fundamental element that, since the 15th, has characterized all of the mobilization and expressions of protest. It is challenging and defying once again the repression and the attempts to hold back the occupations that are coming from various offices of the government and the Electoral Commissions; it is further strengthening the participation, involvement, and self-awareness of our need to organize ourselves. Disobedience is a collective pulse that demonstrates our overwhelming force when we work together and decide not to give up on our demands. It is a throb in our hearts that fuels an awakening of consciences that will allow us to react, and to extend our mobilization, our solidarity, and the overcoming of the fear that neutralizes struggle.
“Cualquier noche puede salir el Sol” [“Any night the sun could rise” – a line from a popular rock song about revolution, also a reference to Madrid’s ‘Puerta del Sol’], and in Madrid’s central square we’ve already spent a week avoiding the sunset. We have materialized our practice, that it is not only possible but necessary to work together, unite, and fight to change our immediate present and to outline from our self-organization the pillars of a society without power, inequality, repression, and delegation of authority. On May 22 [Election Day], more consciously and visibly than ever, we will respond with abstention, because we ourselves have demonstrated that the politicians do not represent us, nor do we need them.
From the CNT, we will continue participating and calling for a permanent mobilization and struggle, as a means to resolve the problems in all spheres of our lives.
We continue to build at the same time as we disobey. The protest continues!
Night or day, the struggle is ours!
Secretaría de Acción Social del SP del Comité Confederal- CNT
(csmonitor.com) Iceland volcano: the eruption of an Iceland volcano, Saturday, is larger than last year’s Eyjafjallajokull eruption that shut down air travel in Europe.
Iceland closed its main international airport and canceled all domestic flights Sunday as a powerful volcanic eruption sent a plume of ash, smoke and steam 12 miles (20 kilometers) into the air.
University of Iceland geophysicist Magnus Tumi Gudmundsson said this eruption, which began Saturday, was Grimsvotn’s largest eruption for 100 years. Read more…
(RussiaToday) Iceland’s imposed a flight ban and closed its main airport after the country’s most active volcano, Grimsvotn, erupted. It lies under the uninhabited Vatnajokull glacier in southeast Iceland and has been dormant for 7 years. A large plume of smoke and ash is stretching 20 km into the air. Iceland’s Meteorological Office says that the eruption at the Grimsvotn volcano has been accompanied by a series of small earthquakes. Scientists have been expecting a new eruption and have said previously that this volcano’s eruption will likely be small and should not lead to the air travel chaos caused in April 2010 by ash from the Eyjafjallajokul volcano.