Spain, Madrid, Anarchists and the 15-M Movement: Reflections and Proposals

( This text was written in Madrid, so many of the descriptions and reflections may not match the reality of other locations, especially given the heterogeneity of the 15-M Movement. Even so, we think that it could be useful as a point of departure for reflection for all the comrades involved in the assemblies, regardless of the site. The text was written and corrected hastily so that it would be ready before the convocation of village and neighborhood assemblies on May 28. Keep this in mind while reading it and excuse any mistakes that it may have. —- Some Anarchists from Madrid —- 0. A word to begin … —- The signers of this text are anarchists, anti-authoritarian communists, anti-capitalist or whatever you prefer. —- The people who wrote it are “autonomous”.

That is, we are for the abolition of wage labor and capital, the destruction of the state and its replacement by new forms of horizontal and fraternal life in common. We believe that the means to do this should be as consistent as possible with the ends they seek and therefore we are against participation in institutions, against political parties (parliamentary or not) and hierarchical organizations, and we are committed to a policy based on assemblyism, solidarity, mutual aid, direct action, etc. Because we are convinced that these are the most effective means to lead to the revolution. We say this to remove any suspicion, and to mark the lines that we are basing this contribution on. Now, just because we are for a social revolution to destroy capitalism, the state and which involves the abolition of social classes (along with so many other things) does not mean we think that this can happen in the short term, from sunset to sunrise. What we have raised here are ends, ie, situations that, hopefully, we will arrive at after a long journey and a considerable development of the revolutionary movement. To think otherwise is to be utopian, is an exercise in delusion and immediatist fantasy. A revolutionary approach must translate into short-term strategy in a series of proposals to address the reality that confronts us with situations that involve issues such as the abolition of wage labor, the establishment of libertarian communism, the social revolution … issues which today, obviously, are not even remotely on the table. This intervention can not simply repeat monotonously the raging need for revolution and abolishing the state and capital. Being an anarchist does not mean to be a badge that chases everyone else, repeating over and over again how bad the state is and how good anarchy is. And yet, following the 15-M movement in recent days we have read online texts and commentaries close to immediatist delirium and, even worse, we have heard positions from comrades and friends that slide into the abyss of anarcho-badgism which, with all good intentions, are trapped in the maximalism of the great slogans of the long-term proposals, etc. We know what we’re talking, all the comrades writing this have been in these situations and, worse, have often contributed to their extension. Let us also be clear that this text is both critical and self-critical, and that it serves primarily to try to keep ourselves from falling in those traps. To wrap up, it should be noted that this text was written hastily, to the rhythm of events, with the aim of coming out before May 28, when the Popular Assemblies in different neighborhoods and towns Madrid have been called, so do not be surprised to note in some areas precipitation and urgency. We’ll stop there.

In summary, this text is intended as a reflection and a proposal to break the impasse in which we have been anchored for a long time, to get rid of burdens that drag and immobilize many of us. It is, in essence, a reflection to try to clarify for us how we can contribute to and participate in what is happening around us.

1. The 15-M movement: basic coordinates

And what is happening around us is obviously the movement called 15-M, which in the last week has emerged as a bull in the china shop of national politics. Whether we like it or not, and we want it or not, the 15-M movement has broken all expectations and has surprised everyone: police, politicians, journalists, organizers, ordinary people, citizenists, leftist and, of course, the anarchists. At first everyone was offsides and, since then, everything has been a series of more or less successful attempts to take positions on or within the 15-M. We will not even begin to analyze its causes or to review the various conspiracy theories or poisons that have emerged in its wake, these are not important for what we want to discuss. We will try to provide what we understand are the basic coordinates, or at least the most important ones, in which what we call the 15-M movement is moving, to see if an anti-capitalist or anarchist participation in it is possible (and if so how). Naturally, it will be a fragmentary, partial and incomplete description. We do not care, things are going too fast.

The first thing to say is that the 15-M movement is a real social movement and as such, is extremely heterogeneous and contradictory. It contains everything, and everything is in different doses. That is, anything we say here should not be taken as absolute defining characteristics, but rather as tendencies, nuances, etc. Expressions of a movement under construction within which there are struggles, tensions, and constant change.

That said, because of its social composition and the slogans that are most commonly heard in the meetings and working groups, as well as the opinions of people who are constantly publicizing it on the Internet (twitter), we could say that this movement is, most of all, a citizenist and openly democratic one. Or rather, it is these type of approaches to political and social reforms (electoral reform, real democracy, greater participation, criticism of mainstream political parties but not of the representative system or political parties in general …) that, in general, gather around more people and raised hands.

However, this content is expressed in assemblies that reject any classical representation (for example, becoming another political party) and who deny any precooked political ideology, symbol or form (from parties to Republican flags, including the circle-As). There is a slogan that is making the rounds on twitter: “This is not about left or right, but rather up and down.” The movement, for now, positions itself mostly on self-organization, direct action (not violent) and civil disobedience, though it does not use these magic words.

Non-violence is, in fact, one of the fundamental coordinates of 15-M, which, undoubtedly, is collectively assumed without discussion. We’ll get into that later.

All this does not detract from the fact that inside the movement you can clearly see a “power struggle” between different “factions”, organized or not. Members of leftist political parties, members of social movements, anarchists, ordinary “outraged” people that come with their own world view, etc. all struggling in the inside at all levels, from the ideological or practical orientation of the movement, to control (and in many cases, manipulation) of assemblies, committees, etc. In many committees and groups we are seeing everything from accidental loss of records, personality politics, people who cling to the spokesmen, delegates who try to stop debate in general meetings, commissions jump over agreements, small groups who want to keep the refreshment stand, etc. Many, sure, are the result of inexperience and egos; others seem to be directly taken from the old handbooks for manipulating assemblies.

Around this struggle is also all the people who come there. People who come to participate, to listen, to be heard, to provide food or other materials, to see what happens, or just to take some pictures while acting like tourists in their own city. Under the tents of Sol one has the feeling of being in a bazaar in which nothing is bought or sold.

On the other hand, one of the great problems of the occupations is the difficulty of participating in them fully, not everyone can go to the center every day, not everyone can stay overnight, not everyone can participate regularly in commissions, etc. This can certainly help create informal leaders, cliques, weird and strange biases that the people, who are not assholes, are going to notice, will discuss, and will act accordingly. In fact, one possible consequence of who is taking the brunt of the occupation (and also who is more accustomed to go and propose activities) is the progressive ghettoization that has been the occupation has suffered during the weekend. Compared with the atmosphere of encounter and protest during the most intense days (especially on Friday, given the expectation of a ban on the Central Electoral Board) over the weekend the thing lost steam and one could notice that the atmosphere of protest had become much more playful, even though the committees, subcommittees and working groups continued to operate. At times, #acampadasol seems to be reproducing the worst and most banal of ghetto squats: concerts, drum circles, dining, performances, clowns, etc. at the expense of its original appearance, which contained markedly more of a character of protest, politics and “indignation” (as pro-democratic and limited it was). On twitter, which we should not forget played a large role in the rise of the 15-M movement and the Sol occupation, the discontent of many people who are not happy about this drift is beginning to creep in. A clear example of the discontent that took place the weekend was the discussion for or against alcohol, on Saturday one of the assemblies had to leave Sol because of the number of wasted people, and the subject of the drum circles, which on Sunday even forced the postponement of a meeting where no one could hear (although it must be said that the drum circles, like alcohol, had plenty of supporters).

It is obvious that the 15-M movement is not a revolution, it is not militant, and those who disagree based on the hashtag #spanishrevolution with which it initially spread should realize that this was a mix of marketing, humor, and hope. Nothing more.

The last point is that we wanted to make is, for us, perhaps the most important, along with the marked assemblyist and horizontal character (with all its defects, which are many): the tremendous change of attitude that we have seen around Sol all week. Let’s recap. After the initial mass demonstration on May 15 and, especially, after the eviction of the first occupiers, people have taken Puerta del Sol en masse night after night in a way that none of us had ever seen. Protests against the war, although some were more massive, did not have, even remotely, the continuity, participation, attitude and environment we’ve seen this week in Sol. It is as if, suddenly, passivity and the habit of each person minding their own business had broken down around Km 0.

Going to Sol or its neighboring streets to distribute pamphlets is a pleasure, people come up to ask you for one, they take them with a smile, they ask questions, they thank you… The first days, if you formed a small group to discuss something, people would perk up their ears to participate, to listen. It has been normal to see the most varied sorts of people discussing in small groups. The working groups and the general assemblies are massive events of between 500, 600, and 2000 people (seated, standing, getting close to hear something), etc. And, apart from this, there is a permanent sensation of a good atmosphere, of “this is something special”. All of this reached its culmination on the night of Friday-Saturday, when people began the day of reflection. Listening to more than 20,000 people shouting “We are illegal” and taking pleasure like children in ignoring the law is truly breathtaking. However its clear that this intense atmosphere, of participation and of real politics began to decay beginning on this night. In part because of the adrenaline rush of Friday night, in part because of the decision to “not be political” on Saturday and Sunday, the weekend has had a much more festive tone, more like a circus than the previous days. Even so, we truly can’t remember anything like it.




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