JOURNAL OF THE 24TH YEAR
Japan's Fukushima Disaster
The Shura Case
Death Row Inmates Exonerated
NUGGETS FROM THE NUT HOUSE
From Netanyahu to Mladic
Edward S. Herman
GAY & LESBIAN COMMUNITY NOTES
Veterans Support Manning
Double Dip Recession
Iara Lee's Culture of Resistance
Len Weinglass (1933-2011)
Michael Steven Smith
Checkmate In The Great Game
Nicolas J.S. Davies
The Colonial Predator Legacy
Against Corporatocracy Rule
Bruce E. Levine
The Mideast & South Central Asia
Bin Laden and the Arab "Awakening"
From Poppies to Fentanyl Lollipops
The Lacandon Jungle and the Carbon Market
Displacing People for Profit
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Indignant and Organized: 15M to 19J
On May 15, thousands of people answered a call to “take the streets” against neoliberal economic measures that were being implemented in
Four weeks later, on June 19, a second march gathered over 250,000 people, once again exceeding all expectations and, more importantly, doubling the attendance of the first action. By that time, 15M was no longer just the date of a protest, but also the name of a very organized movement with immediate demands as well as long-term political ambitions. This movement now has its own institutions, proposals, and history. It even has its own newspaper, art work, and a sign language. This is a movement that frightens a select few because it creates hope for so many.
On the eve of the 2008 financial crisis, the economy of
During the fourth quarter of 2008, the
From that moment on, the social provisions built up under the welfare state were no longer sacred. Politicians from both sides presented social spending as a burden that aggravated the poor economic situation. The public lost trust in the major labor unions—traditional defenders of basic social protections—and saw them as weak, indulgent government collaborators. Corporations were soon firing workers by the thousands with reduced compensation packages, partly paid with taxpayers’ money.
The atmosphere was one of impunity for the powerful and resignation for the rest. Corruption scandals multiplied and, of course, the only public figure relieved of his duties was Baltasar Garzón, the judge that prosecuted the corruption cases. This and many other murky affairs left many disenchanted and resentful toward politicians, labor unions and even human nature. Cynicism became a rational defense mechanism. T-shirts read “People suck.” Even on the eve of May 15, this perception, however grim, would have been hard to challenge, at least without looking a fool.
“¡Toma la Calle!”
At some point, students from the University Complutense of Madrid, who had gained some success organizing a number of protests earlier in the year, saw an opportunity to send out a call. Their platform was simple and was explicitly independent from political parties and labor unions. They called themselves “simple citizens from all stripes,” and emphasized in their manifesto that “some of us are progressive, some are conservative.” They called for reforms that were meant to put the general public interest back on the program. A key aim was to remind the political class that it “was those who created the mess that ought to pay for it.” The name of their platform was “Democracia Real Ya” (“Real Democracy Now”).
The students’ call was an explicit rejection of both political parties, the right-wing PP and the center left PSOE. The message hit a nerve. All of a sudden, thousands of Spaniards filled the streets of
“¡Toma la Plaza!”
After 24 protesters were arrested for staying at the Puerta del Sol—the center
When I arrived at the camp on the following Wednesday, there were people immersed in deep conversations and the social diversity on display was incredible: immigrants, older people, feminists, family men, children, homeless people, high school students, unemployed workers, and conservatives. What is overwhelming to this day is that everyone dropped their attitude of mistrust.
By the third day of the camp, there was consistently between 5,000 and 20,000 people gathered in the central
The media would keep asking “We know what you are against, but what are you for?” It was partly out of concern around this question that the first camp assemblies were created. The camp was self-managed by committees that followed a division of labor that evolved according to the size of the camp. At first there were four committees. When the Sol camp was taken down on June 12, there were around 15 committees. It was very well organized, even providing campers and visitors access to movies at the 15M cinema where several documentaries were playing.
The committees were kind of the executive branch of the movement. Their work dealt with camp affairs and the movement as a whole. For that reason, some of the committees still exist. There were up to 15, but I shall mention only 12: legal, infirmary, infrastructure, respect, cleaning, library, arts, day- nursery, archives, communication, extensions, and information.
The legal committee was established at the very beginning and was the key to the success of the encampment. Its task was to handle or prevent any disputes with the authorities, the police, and all the people affected by the camp. Ten to twenty thousand people meeting every night must have been an imposition on some of the neighbors and shop owners.
This committee was very successful in establishing a dialogue with all these parties. Its influence ranged from preventing people from climbing on the scaffolds during the assemblies to trying to get the people who had been arrested out of prison.
The infirmary is another committee whose work is still very visible. This service was provided, for the most part, by one volunteer doctor and a dozen other professionals, as well as by volunteers who help carry patients when it is necessary.
Members of the infrastructure committee were constantly working, mostly in the background, and this group required the most volunteers. The camp needed constant extensions, repairs, transport of material, electrical wiring, an effective sound system, and so on.
The committee for respect consisted of volunteers wearing reflective vests that identified them. Their task was to ask people to refrain from excessive drinking, mostly during weekend nights. They also made sure that no one would block the entrances to the shops around the square or allow paintings on the iron gates.
The cleaning committee cleaned up the plaza, taking care of the garbage left by the thousands of people passing by. After three or four weeks of camping out, it became increasingly difficult to address some hygiene problems that usually require bigger and more sophisticated cleaning equipment.
The library started out with a couple of hundred donations from supporters of the movement. By June 12, it counted more than 4,000 books which are now stored somewhere in
Archives and documentation made it possible to offer maps to new arrivals to the camp, a crucial tool for becoming oriented with the multitude of activities and stations located in site. This committee also made it possible for journalists and others to obtain copies of important documents, such as the minutes of the assemblies and proposals produced by the working groups.
The communication committee was by far the most visited. It hosted all the web designers, the translators, and the spokespeople. According to the people working in this committee, all the important messages, communications, reports, minutes, and other information that came out of the many activities of 15M were translated into English, French, German, Arabic, Italian, Portuguese, and probably some other languages. Messages on the loudspeakers were read in the first three languages besides Spanish.
Finally, the extensions committee helped project the 15M movement into the future. Its work consisted of helping to coordinate the neighborhood assemblies created during the second week of the occupation. Its task on the Puerta del Sol was to inform people about their own assemblies, depending on what city or district they lived in. They have also encouraged the development of web pages for each neighborhood committee.
Typically, assemblies took place on the weekends: Saturdays for local assemblies and Sundays for the general one. It usually took around two hours to get through the agenda. Following discussions (during which everyone has the opportunity to speak) proposals and decisions are put to a vote. As I mentioned earlier, the sign language that we’d adopted was essential for the sessions to move smoothly forward. The general assemblies are always held in public spaces, usually symbolic places in the center of the city: Puerta del Sol in
Assembly sessions require the help of a number of volunteer workers: moderators, minute recorders (on paper and on tape), people giving turns to speak, medical care teams on stand-by during big assembly sessions, sound technicians, etc. These are jobs that are always carefully monitored and subject to turn over, the risk being that some individuals monopolize certain empowering tasks, breaking the horizontality of the movement. The decision making process is an issue that is still in progress. Up until the third week of the encampment, the rule was decision making by consensus. However, when the assembly decided to vote on withdrawal from the Puerta del Sol, a small minority managed to block vote after vote. This was the first real challenge, threatening the credibility of the movement. This deadlock type of situation is more common than we might think, which is why it is important to approach these experiences with flexibility.
Neighborhood assemblies are a replica of the general assemblies, although they may in the future adopt their own rules for decision making. Indeed, decentralization is absolute and the only obligation for the barrios is to send two to five spokespersons to report on what has been decided. The fact that the barrios are decentralized allows participants in smaller assemblies to be creative and to experiment. Ideas deemed successful could be reported and suggested to other assemblies from other districts or cities. Communication is so decentralized that each assembly is free to exchange views and ideas with other assemblies without consulting the general assembly—be it Madrid, San Sebastian, Girona, or Athens.
The assemblies brought participatory democracy to life. Although the 15M movement is still young, the indignant are very organized and are now taking the “barrios” of
Inclusiveness is a very important aspect of the movement that has not always been easy to achieve. As far as the assemblies are concerned there are several points worth mentioning: speeches are translated into the sign language by one or two interpreters. People are asked to be gender inclusive when speaking, which is more difficult (due to a bigger presence of gender accordance in grammar rules). Gender representation is also a prime concern, although so far it has been respected without any need for intervention. Women easily make up half the participants of the movement.
Another problem with inclusiveness came when long-term visions were to be produced by the working groups. Can we say we are anti-capitalist? Will we lose support if we do that? Is it legitimate to do that? After all, if the movement has the ambition to one day represent every Spanish citizen in the country, shouldn’t we postpone those questions for when we’re more representative?
There were many who were reluctant to set a long term vision at this stage of the movement. It is not that vision is unimportant, but my belief is that assemblies need to be institutionalized before we can start speaking of changing capitalism. Once assemblies become a permanent forum of discussion and decision making, becoming part of our institutional landscape, then people will naturally choose what is best for them. But the need for a vision should not dominate other considerations.
Working groups elaborate the proposals that will be voted on during the assemblies. They are subdivided, in some cases, in sub-groups. For instance, the working group on economy consists of seven subgroups: financial systems, housing employment, political economy, relation with developing countries, businesses and international economic relations. During these sessions, discussions go deeper into issues. There are ten different working groups: economy, politics, architecture and public spaces, social and migration, science and technology, feminism, healthcare, environment, education, and “thinking.” Each working group is now releasing a book of proposals that have been approved by consensus.
David Marty, a 2010 Z Media Institute graduate, has a French and Spanish background. He writes for ZNet, teaches law and languages, and currently lives in
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
Contact: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljustice center.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www. peacestockvfp.org.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.