Tag Archives: los indignados

from los indignados to Podemos: Esther Vivas reflects on half a decade of public outrage in Spain

What remains of all our outrage?

Esther Vivas | Público

It’s been five years since the massive occupation of May 15, 2011 that gave birth to the movement of los indignados, 15M. Five years of faltering progress with many advances and set-backs along the way. Five years of a tremendous crisis, civil unrest and mass protest. So, what remains today after such a sustained period of outrage?

15M has changed the way we read and interpret the crisis we are facing. We were all told in 2008 that “we live beyond our means”, and blamed for the present situation, but the movement of los indignados has enabled us to change the story. One of its principle slogans, “no somos mercancías en manos de políticos ni banqueros” (we are not mere things to be manipulated by politicians and bankers), pointed in this direction. 15M said that the banks were the authors of economic collapse, and that most of the political class was also complicit. Los indignados imposed a counter-narrative that challenged the official lie: neither guilty nor responsible, it said, we are victims of an age of corruption.

What began as an economic crisis, soon led to a social crisis and finally, under the impact of 15M and the independence movement in Catalonia, to a crisis of the political system per se, which led people to question the founding principles of the (post-Franco) Spanish Constitution of 1978  and each of its pillars, monarchy, two-party system and our state model. This would have been unthinkable not long ago.

15M connected with the seething social discontent and helped to propel it into the form of collective mobilisation, legitimising protest and nonviolent direct actions, such as camping in public places, or occupations of empty houses owned by banks, like the Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (or PAH – literally: Platform of People Affected by the Mortgage). Potentially illegal actions were now considered legitimate by a significant portion of public opinion. According to several polls, up to 80% of the public considered that los indignados were right and supported us, despite criminalisation and stigmatisation by those in power.

Two years after Mareas ciudadanas (the citizens’ Tide), the spirit of 15M finally made the jump to policymaking: moving from “no nos representan” to “Podemos” and the claims of “los comunes” , having overcome the difficulty of gaining political traction. Even after pundits had accused the movement of being unable to present a serious political alternative and said that the management of our political institutions must be left to professionals.

The emergence of Podemos came with the victory of five MEPs in the European Parliament in May 2014, which marked the beginning of a new political/electoral cycle; one that has not yet been closed, and that was further crystallized in municipal elections of May 2015 with victories against all odds, of alternative candidates in local government capitals of Barcelona, Madrid, Zaragoza, Santiago de Compostela, Cádiz… followed by the breakdown of two-party politics (in the General election) on December 20th. This political translation of outraged social unrest simply needed two things: time and strategic boldness. These successes had not been anticipated, and without the 15M movement would not have been possible.

Those stuck in “old politics” have been forced to rethink their modes of communication. Some have abandoned ties and put on more fashionable shirts, as step-by-step all kinds of shifts became imperative and the word “change” became ubiquitous in the electoral scene. As if that was not enough, a new party, Ciudadanos (Citizens) was launched, with the aim that social unrest might be railroaded into more harmless channels.

Maybe on today’s upset political chessboard the weakest side is the social mobilisation necessary to any process of change. The bid for institutional participation, the setting up of new political instruments and the sudden and unexpected victories in various city councils took place in a climate of social passivity. However, real change does not come about only through conquering institutions, but through gaining support from a mobilised society. If society does not exert pressure on governments for change, it is the powers-that-be that will, and we know whose interests they serve.

What remains of all our outrage? A regime in crisis, not ready yet to fall but ready to be reconfigured. As the French philosopher Daniel Bensaïd said: “Indignation is a start. A way of standing up and beginning to walk. One becomes indignant, rebels, and then thinks what next.” This is where we are now.

* Article in Publico.es, 15.05.2016.

 This is the name used by the candidacy of Ada Colau, elected mayor of Barcelona on May 2015.

Follow the link below to read the original article in Spanish:

https://esthervivas.com/2016/05/15/que-queda-de-tanta-indignacion/

Esther Vivas is an activist, journalist and the author of several books on food and agricultural policies and social movements; her latest work is The food business: Who controls our food? ( Icaria ed., 2014)

@esthervivas | facebook.com/esthervivas | www.esthervivas.com

**Translation is my own — approved by Esther Vivas

+info: http://esthervivas.com/

I would like to thank Esther Vivas for allowing me to reproduce this article.

Not all of the views expressed are necessarily ones shared by ‘wall of controversy’.

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Spain: popular resistance delivers results

Victory against Madrid’s hospital privatisation – and other recent struggles in Spain – shows popular resistance delivers results.

“Resisting is pointless,” we hear endlessly repeated. “So many years of protest but the crisis continues, why bother?” insist others, inoculating us with apathy and resignation. “Protests could lead to something that’s even worse,” whispers the machinery of fear. They want us submissive, heads bowed. Dreams of change are forbidden. However, history rebels, it is indomitable. And it shows us, despite the naysayers, that struggle is worth it. The victories against the privatisation of the Madrid’s public health system, of the Gamonal neighbourhood standing up to speculators and the corrupt, of the cleaners in their battle for jobs in the capital and the struggle against evictions and the banks, are good examples.

It is not easy to achieve concrete victories when the political class betray our rights and sell out to capital. It’s hard to win when the state apparatus defends the haves, and rolls back our democratic rights and freedoms. The task of change is arduous, when the media are hijacked by private interests. Still, there are victories, big and small, showing us the way.

The Madrid government’s u-turn on its plans to privatise six public hospitals is one of them. The [Popular Party-run] adminstration in the capital has been forced to revoke the “outsourcing” plan after fifteen months of protest and the announcement of the High Court of Justice of Madrid to provisionally suspend the privatization process on the grounds it could pose “serious and irreparable damage.” There have been months of demonstrations, strikes, a referendum with nearly one million votes against such measures, hospital occupations, lawsuits. The triumph swept away its leading promoter, regional health commissioner Javier Fernández-Lasquetty, who has been forced to resign. It’s worth the fight.

Gamonal, another great victory. After little more than a week of intense protests, from 10 to 17 January in Burgos, against the construction of a boulevard in the neighbourhood of Gamonal, mayor Javier Lacalle had no choice but to halt construction indefinitely. The conflict, however, came from afar. A multi-million euro project, with huge profits for firms and politicians of the day, in a working class neighbourhood lacking investment and amenities. The “urban” conflict in Gamonal became the spearhead of the fight against corruption, land speculation and crisis. Demonstrations were held across Spain in solidarity with the community. And the attempts to criminalise and spread misinformation failed. It’s worth the fight.

13 days of strike and tons of debris around Madrid were necessary to avoid 1,134 layoffs of street cleaners and gardeners of the City of Madrid. It took an indefinite strike to paint into a corner private contractors that not only wanted to have hundreds of workers, but to carry out pay cuts of up to 43%. The victory was partial because the staff had to each accept 45 days temporary furloughs (unpaid lay offs) annually over the next four years, and a wage freeze until 2017. Still, this does not detract from an indefinite strike , unprecedented sadly in this day and age, succeeding in protecting every single job. It’s worth the fight.

The fight against evictions has been, without a doubt, the ultimate expression of a collective rebellion against this con-trick of a crisis. In response to the unlimited usury of the banks, people organized at the grassroots. Over a period of more than four years, the Platform of People Affected by Mortgages (PAH) has managed to stop 936 evictions, rehouse 712 persons in empty properties owned by financial institutions and today occupied under the Obra Social campaign of the PAH. And it has forced many banks to negotiate hundreds of repossessions and social rent. Some will say that is very small progress compared to the overall offensive. That’s true. However, I would put that to all those who thanks to the PAH have a roof over their heads. It’s worth the fight.

Since the emergence of the indignados, or 15M movement, we have gone from “They do not represent us” to “Yes we can”. We have regained confidence in ourselves. The offensive by capital continues, but our indignation and disobedience increases. Victories today are catalysts of the victories of tomorrow. Struggle is imperative to change things. We must take note. And if we do, we can win.

* Article published in Público.es, 30/01/2014. Translation by Revolting Europe.

* Esther Vivas is a member of the Centre for Studies on Social Movements (CEMS) at Universitat Pompeu Fabra. She is author of the book in Spanish “Stand Up against external debt” and co-coordinator of the books also in Spanish “Supermarkets, No Thanks” and “Where is Fair Trade headed?”. She is also a member of the editorial board of Viento Sur.

I would like to thank Esther Vivas for allowing me to reproduce this article.

+info: http://esthervivas.com/english/

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Filed under austerity measures, campaigns & events, Esther Vivas, neo-liberalism, Spain

Remember, remember… the Occupy movement

Tonight is November 5th and in Britain that means it’s “bonfire night”, or “fireworks night”, or, perhaps more properly, “Guy Fawkes Night”. Fireworks are exploding all around me as I write, and yet strangely most people in Britain have very little idea who Guy Fawkes was, or what the so-called “Gunpowder Plot” was really all about. And I must confess that I am similarly ignorant when it comes to the important details of the case.

When younger, I even believed that Guy Fawkes was being celebrated on November 5th; the British being a people renowned (or at least believing themselves renowned) for cheering on the valiant underdog who presses forward in spite of the incredible odds stacked against them – Scott of the Antarctic’s misguided adventures making him the very model of a modern British hero – and what better underdog than Fawkes himself, taking it to the entire British establishment with just a few barrels of gunpowder and a damp tinderbox? Attempting the impossible with only the covert support of a merry band of trusty but evidently suicidal comrades!

So fireworks night, when I was a child, had naïvely appeared like a tribute to Fawkes’ audacious and so nearly successful (if we accept the propaganda) overthrow of the ruling authorities, that ended in his martyrdom. Fawkes being sentenced to be publicly hanged, drawn and quartered – which happens to be the other part of the story that just about everyone in Britain still knows. For some reason it simply didn’t occur to me that the burning of his effigy on bonfires throughout the land was actually a celebration, not of his doomed but gallant attempt, but of his capture (along with his fellow co-conspirators) just in the nick of time – the fireworks bursting not in mimicry of the gunpowder in the plot, but in mockery of Fawkes’ failure to ignite it.

Had I been born and raised in Northern Ireland, where sectarian tensions between Protestants and Catholics still persist – instead of in a sleepy Shropshire village close to the Welsh border – I would undoubtedly have understood the real significance of November 5th a good deal better and much earlier than I did. A very close friend who had lived in the province later pointing out to me that “Burning the Catholic Night”, as he preferred to call it, was something perfectly well understood by those on both sides of the religious divide.

And then there is the famous rhyme:

Remember, remember the fifth of November,
The gunpowder treason and plot
I know of no reason
Why the gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot

This was something I, like most Britons of my age, had once committed to memory. Learning the lines in school whilst also hearing them so often repeated outside of school. And since we are free from committing ourselves to any daily pledge of allegiance in Britain, this is just about as close as we ever collectively came to swearing any kind of national oath. A verse with an underlying message that is both stark and abundantly clear, at least when you stop to think about it: reminding us all that once upon a time, long, long ago, a few desperados attempted to overthrow the government and look where it got them.

So why mention any of this? Well, exactly twelve months ago to the day, something remarkable was happening in my home city of Sheffield. A small band of disillusioned strangers were getting ready to set up a makeshift protest camp outside the cathedral. Thus the Occupy movement that first sprang into being with the Spanish Los Indignados in Spring, re-emerging in Wall Street in mid-September, before spreading so rapidly from city to city and state to state, had suddenly sparked a response across the pond in Britain. A global protest movement was beginning to take shape, and not before time.

For some weeks, I deliberated. Keen to support those taking to the streets, but reluctant to camp down in the bitter cold and join in the overnight vigils. Instead, I visited the camp on a number of occasions, especially in the early stages, although as the weeks wore on, began to feel that my visits were more like intrusions. My lack of all-out commitment turning me into an outsider, whilst inside the canvass enclave, a shared hardihood was quickly bonding the 24/7 occupiers into what increasingly felt like a clique. Not that I blame the people living on the camp for this, since it must have been extremely hard for them dealing with the cold and discomfort whilst others like myself occasionally came by and then, just as quickly, departed again. Rushing back to the warmth and security of our homes.

But as time passed, I also wondered what it was that the mainstay of the Occupy Sheffield camp thought their continued presence on the city streets would ultimately achieve. Certainly, it showed that they had tremendous conviction and were deeply committed to the cause, proving their mettle by battling against the worsening elements day and night, but in the face of mixed public opinion was this really the best way to spread the bigger message and bring others on-board. I never really thought so.

And the message exactly? Everyone understood very well that the demand was for ‘change’ – and so probably the majority in Sheffield were already broadly sympathetic to that stated aim. Change has rarely been so urgently required and for this reason there are a great many people, especially as you move North in this country, who have long been crying out for a more radical change in political direction – but precisely what kind of change were those in the Occupy protests calling for? This was simply never made clear enough, as it so easily could have been, with no programme outlined nor strategy agreed. All of these important details being considered too much of a straight-jacket apparently. But then, as I wrote at the time, there were many problems with the whole approach taken by the Occupy movement.

The Occupy Sheffield encampment lasted little more than a couple of months, snuffed out by cold weather and, I think it is fair to conclude, a disappointing lack of progress. Which was really the way with the Occupy movement more widely: starting off as a genuine grassroots uprising, it would soon become partially co-opted (certainly this was attempted in America) but mostly, was either crushed by police assaults (again this was very evidently the case in America) or else it simply fizzled out due of its inherent looseness of structure and lack of obvious, purposeful direction. So the steady demise of Occupy has been saddening, but only what we all should have expected.

If, in future years, the Occupy movement is remembered in any popular historical context, it will only be because a far stronger movement arose from its ashes. In such an event, one feature of those future accounts, aside from descriptions of the tent cities themselves, will probably include mention of the Guy Fawkes masks. And it’s strange to think that such a quintessentially British anti-hero somehow became imported back to us from America, albeit radically shape-shifted after his silver-screen renaissance in the film “V for Vendetta”.

Already used as a disguise by hackers in the group Anonymous, the Fawkes mask was quickly adopted as representing the anonymous 99% percent and worn by many on the streets in the Occupy protests. And it lent the movement a somewhat more subversive air than it truly warranted; Fawkes, in the film, having been recast as the faceless man in the mask who, though righteous, is more or less entirely nihilistic in his comic book rampage against a despotic future government. His first act being to blow up the Old Bailey, and his last (here comes a major plot spoiler – so be warned… because you’d probably never guess!) to blow up the Houses of Parliament. Two well-aimed strikes that entirely obliterated our national emblems of Justice and Democracy, which are, after all, still the only places where those of us in the 99% get any representation at all.

Was this the kind of revolution those within Occupy were really seeking… no, of course it wasn’t! But, if not, then why adopt the masks? Symbols being of utmost importance, as those with real power understand very well – and the reason our culture is altogether saturated with flags, banners and logos of every description.

So although powerfully evocative, I regard the adoption of the Fawkes mask as a mistake, and as a mistake, one that accidentally revealed a deeper truth about the movement itself: that from the outset the Occupy movement was, like the man in the mask, suffering from an excess of anarchism. Seeking to rebuild the whole of society from the ground upwards, and yet without offering any real alternatives. That like Fawkes and his rag-tag gang of four hundred years earlier, Occupy hadn’t stood the ghost of a chance in any case. In its methods, rather than in its aims, Occupy having been poisoned by a terminal dose of utopianism. And that unlike Fawkes, the Occupy protests never properly got beyond the stage of wishful thinking.

Not that I am advocating violence of any kind, because I certainly do not – believing for both moral and also more pragmatic reasons that violence should only ever be a last resort in any situation, political or otherwise. Indeed, violence of different forms is what we are all confronted by – the direct violence of pepper spray and taser, or the more insidious violent assaults against our hard-won economic rights and individual freedoms. Our adversary (the same one that Eisenhower famously referred to as the military-industrial complex, although perhaps better renamed the financial-military-industrial complex) having armed itself to the teeth and constantly ready to resort to violence at the first hint of any trouble. So the struggle we face will become near impossible to win if it ever means trying to fight fire only with fire. Fire being the element ‘the powers that be’ always understand best.

It is, however, imperative that we directly confront the corruption we increasingly find all around us. So Occupy was important and if only because it first galvanised and then channelled our growing dissent – aiming it more precisely at the unfettered power brokers in Wall Street and the City of London. It was mistaken, however, in imagining that such widespread public outcry alone might somehow be enough. This was always the biggest fault with the original Occupy movement, and the reason I think that it never grew above a certain size, and will never, in its current form (since pockets of the movement still exist), develop into the full-blown mass movement that is required.

This November 5th happens to fall on the eve of the US elections, elections that amply illustrate not only how desperate the immediate situation is becoming, but also how badly the Occupy protests (not to mention the thoroughly co-opted Tea Party protests) have failed in the longer term. Now you may say, as many in Britain do say to me, that we should leave it to the Americans to worry about America, and trouble ourselves with what’s happening closer to home. My primary objection to such a disinterested position being straightforward: that whatever is happening today in America will come home soon enough. Britain more than any other country (Israel excepted) marching to the beat of the American drum – or more correctly the Anglo-American (aka Wall Street and the City of London) drum. Full-steam ahead and with the rest of the western world expected to follow – and destined to follow, if we all continue to allow our destiny to be decided for us.

So what can we expect this time around in the US election pageant? Well, neither Obama nor Romney are about to change anything of significance, or at least not in any helpful way. They are both well known sell-outs to the same special interest groups that have taken control our societies, and for this reason their stated policies are so inherently similar that there has been little worth debating at all – the presidential debates serving mostly to debase the proper meaning of the word ‘debate’.

Whatever happens in tomorrow’s election, those in Wall Street and the City of London will continue to be very well served because, as Nomi Prins wrote recently, “Before the Election was Over, Wall Street won”:

Before the campaign contributors lavished billions of dollars on their favorite candidate; and long after they toast their winner or drink to forget their loser, Wall Street was already primed to continue its reign over the economy.

For, after three debates (well, four), when it comes to banking, finance, and the ongoing subsidization of Wall Street, both presidential candidates and their parties’ attitudes toward the banking sector is similar – i.e. it must be preserved – as is – at all costs, rhetoric to the contrary, aside.

Obama hasn’t brought ‘sweeping reform’ upon the Establishment Banks, nor does Romney need to exude deregulatory babble, because nothing structurally substantive has been done to harness the biggest banks of the financial sector, enabled, as they are, by entities from the SEC to the Fed to the Treasury Department to the White House.1

Click here to read more of Nomi Prins thorough-going analysis.

That said, I don’t doubt that Romney, if elected, will be more dangerous than Obama, since Romney has candidly told us as much. Intent to push harder and faster in the same old directions, Romney becoming president will be much like a return to Bush, but this will be like Bush after a decade of Bush.

Coming in as a fresh face and determined to push on again with a freshly laundered neo-con offensive of more wars and less freedom. And whereas Obama was bad in pretending to be different from Bush, Romney will be worse again, and if only because he won’t be burdened by having to pretend so much: “hope and change” having ceased to be any part of the mainstream political discussion now taking place in America.

Of course, the ballot box has ultimately failed in America largely because the political system is stitched up between two parties. Third candidates being almost totally excluded from entering the debate, and not just because of the relative lack of financial backing (the big money having already been spent on the Obama–Romney spectacular), but also more directly in that access to the televised debates is tightly controlled by a non-profit organisation called the Commission on Presidential Debates:

To qualify for the debates, candidates must “have demonstrated a level of support of at least 15 percent of the national electorate, as determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations, using the average of those organizations’ most recent publicly-reported results [as of September 21].” Of course it’s almost impossible to earn the support of 15% of the electorate if you don’t have regular access to network television or to the debates themselves.2

Click here to read more about why you probably didn’t hear anything from Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party, Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party, or Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party. All three had qualified for the ballot in enough states that they could, at least technically, have won the election, but whatever alternative they may have been offering was easily suppressed by other means. And when the ordinary course of democracy has been captured so completely in this way, then mass dissent becomes the only answer.

But if we, the 99%, are to successfully resist what is happening to us then we must learn very quickly from the failures of Occupy to help us move forward to the next stage. And we have to recognise that up to now all of the major protest movements have failed, or at least stalled (I gather that Syriza may still offer some small hope of a rescue of Greece).

Iceland stands out as the only exception to the rule. In Iceland the people won the day and the banks were prosecuted, but then Iceland is such a tiny place that, at least in terms of setting any precedent, it may very easily be disregarded as a uniquely special case. We ought nonetheless to applaud their victory, rather than (as I sometimes hear) deriding their people for not settling up on their debts – the debts were never theirs in the first place – which is perhaps the most important point that many still fail to appreciate about this crisis we face.

We must endeavour to turn this tide quickly, or we will soon lose everything that we still hold precious. The screws are about to be seriously tightened, and not just economically, since the ongoing economic collapse marks (and to some extent masks) what is really the trigger for the greater oppression to come – and if you still doubt this, then please take a moment to meditate on the implications of the NDAA indefinite detention bill that Obama so deceitfully passed into law late last December.

As the people are forced ever deeper into debt by banker bailouts and QE-infinity (as QE3 is also known), we will, by degrees, also be forced into servitude by other means. Compelled in the name of national security to give up on the rest of our inalienable rights and freedoms. And if we fail to resist by peaceful means, then eventually we will be left with only gunpowder and plot (and both in rather short supply I imagine) – a very messy and unreliable means for the re-establishment of any system of fair democracy and true justice.

*

Additional:

On August 25th, James Green, a community producer for Occupy Brooklyn TV, interviewed Norman Finkelstein, political dissident and world renowned scholar on the Israeli-Palestine conflict. They discussed his new book about Gandhi, which he has dedicated to the Occupy movement, and also talked about the Occupy movement more broadly. Here is an extract from the interview as transcribed in the late September edition of CounterPunch:

Like any good movement, the Occupy movement has to conduct a serious self criticism and look at what it did right and what it did wrong. At this point it’s pretty much disappeared. And that’s just a fact. I pass Union Square nearly every day and it’s a very sad sight now. When I go to Union Square the main occupants of the square now are the Hare Krishnas again. Well with all due respect to Hare Krishnas it was much more inspiring when the center stage was occupied by the Occupy movement. And that’s no longer the case. Last night when I passed it was the Hare Krishnas on one side and it was the young fellows doing their gymnastics to music on the other side surrounded by crowds of people. Well the Occupy movement is gone. And there has to be some serious reflection on what went wrong. Serious self criticism.

I think that people like Bloomberg, they’re complete thugs. No question about it. But on the other hand it must be said that they are politically savvy. They don’t get into those positions of power, in the case of Bloomberg both economic and political power, by being anybody’s fool. And they recognized that the Occupy movement had reached a point of extreme fragility. And that you can go in with the bulldozers, knock out the whole thing, and effectively eliminate it. They recognized, which I have to say I did not, that the fruit was ripe for the picking. They could get away with it at that point. And then the question is why. What happened? What went wrong? And I think there are two things, speaking as a strict outsider – and I always have to enter that caveat, two things which seemed to be wrong.

Number one, Gandhi’s great skill was as an organizer. He dug very deep roots in the Indian masses. He was not speaking from the outside. He was among them. He lived like them. He dug deep roots and he was careful, methodical, to the point of tedium, organizer of every detail of his movement. Most of his collected works consist overwhelmingly of letters. And he’s watching where every nickel and dime goes. This is the people’s money. Nothing is going to be wasted. Nothing is going to be squandered, let alone no one is going to be cheated. No one is going to get away with thievery. So the first rule is you have to dig very deep roots in your constituency. I’m not sure how successful the Occupy movement even initially was at that. I got the impression – it’s a superficial impression but nonetheless even surfaces tell something about reality – let’s say when you were in the Boston Occupy. There seemed to be a sense of “We the encampment.” Us versus them. Namely the world outside. We were the enlightened ones and surrounded by the corrupt society. That’s not how you build a movement. It has to be among the people. The moment it becomes us versus them you then become an easy target for the bulldozers because nobody cares.

The second thing which everybody said, [former editor of CounterPunch, Alexander] Cockburn put it as the – I don’t remember the exact adjective he used – something like the incessant speechifying. That the Occupy movement never got beyond the speechifying to Where’s the Beef? The ability to not just synthesize a slogan [i.e., “We are the 99%”], which was brilliantly done. But then we have to move from synthesizing a slogan to synthesizing a demand or a series of demands with the same criteria. Where is the consciousness of people? What’s the furthest you can reach them with, or their incipient consciousness? What are their demands. Obviously a demand like, nationalize the banks, no – people were no where near there. But demands like, if you had four demands. One, a moratorium on student loans. Two, a public works program. Three, a major increase in taxes for the rich. And four, something on the mortgage crisis which is hitting so many people badly.

If they had synthesized four simple demands and worked from there I think there were prospects. But they never made the transition from the slogan, which was excellent, to the demands. OK, what do you want? And it felt like we were stalling there. Exactly why it didn’t happen I don’t know. I’m not on the inside. Exactly why it didn’t happen, I can’t say. But I think personally the least significant factor by a wide margin was the police repression. The police repression was relatively minimal. And it didn’t require more than minimal. Because they wisely assessed that now was the moment to strike. It would work, and it did. The movement vanished. It is a source of wonder how it so quickly disappeared from sight.

Click here to read the full article in CounterPunch.

1From an article entitled “Before the Election was Over, Wall Street won” written by Nomi Prins, published on her own website on October 23, 2012. http://www.nomiprins.com/thoughts/2012/10/23/before-the-election-was-over-wall-street-won.html

2From an article entitled “Why are there only 2 Candidates in the Presidential Debates?” posted on October 3, 2012 by allgov.com http://www.allgov.com/news/top-stories/why-are-there-only-2-candidates-in-the-presidential-debates-121003?news=845846

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25S: the salvaging of democracy

Spanish state. 25S: the salvaging of democracy
Esther Vivas

Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in Madrid on Tuesday September 25, 2012 to protest against the sequestration of popular sovereignty by the banks and “markets”. Repression was once again brutal, leaving dozens of people wounded, and there were numerous arrests.

In this article, Esther Vivas reviews the motivations for this mobilisation and the causes of an ever more brutal police repression.

“They call it democracy but this isn’t one” was the cry repeated in the squares and on the demonstrations. And as time went by, this slogan took on still more meaning. The stigmatisation and repression against those who struggle in the street for their rights has only intensified in recent times. The worse the crisis gets, the more popular support broadens for those who protest and the more the brutal repression increase. The thirst for liberty is being smothered along with the current “democracy”.

Recent days provide a good illustration of this. On Saturday, September 15, 2012, when activists were detained during the demonstration against austerity in Madrid, what was their crime? Carrying a placard with the slogan: “25S: Encircle Parliament”. The next day, two wagon loads of police carried out identity checks on dozens of people in the park at Retiro. The motive? Participating in a preparatory meeting for the said action. Five days later, several of these activists were charged with offences to the highest institutions of the nation and they could be jailed for up to one year.

What were the objectives of the “25S: Encircle Parliament” action? Its appeal expresses them clearly: “Next September 25, we will encircle Parliament to save it from a kidnapping which has transformed this institution into a superfluous body. A kidnapping of popular sovereignty carried out by the Troika and the financial markets and executed with the consent and collaboration of the majority of the political parties”. What will be the form of this action? Its organisers have said and said again: “non-violent”. What kind of fear is it that dictates all these police measures? Fear of violence, or of freedom of expression?

As I said a few months ago at a social centre: “When those at the bottom move, those at the top tremble”. That is the truth. Fear has begun to change sides, even if only partially. The repressive measures, like those we have mentioned, show the fear of those who exert power. The fear that the people rise up, organise, express themselves freely against injustice. The fear of a handful faced with the multitude.

Coup d’état?

The criminalisation of “25S: Encircle Parliament” practically began a month ago when the government representative in Madrid, Cristina Cifuentes, characterised this initiative as a “disguised coup d’état”. The former minister and PSOE deputy José Martínez de Olmos compared the action to the attempted neo-Francoist coup by Tejero in 1981: “Occupying Parliament from the inside as Tejero did or from the outside as some wish on September 25 has the same goal: the sequestration of sovereignty”. Words repeated yesterday by the PP secretary general, Dolores de Cospedal.

Coup d’état? The only putschists here are the financial powers who overthrow governments as they wish and replace them by their trusted henchmen. In Italy they have sidelined Silvio Berlusconi in favour of Mario Monti, a former consultant for the Goldman Sachs bank. In Greece, they have replaced Giorgios Papandreou with Lucas Papadémos, ex-vice president of the European Central Bank. Spanish Economy Minister Luis de Guindos is a former employee of Lehman Brothers. As the journalist Robert Fisk puts it: “The banks and the ratings agencies have become the dictators of the West”. And when the “markets” come in by the door, democracy goes out the window.

It is difficult to believe today that Parliament “represents the popular will”. A good number of ministers and deputies come from private enterprises, others return there as soon as their political careers end. The companies reward them generously for services rendered. Do you remember Eduardo Zaplana? First Minister of Employment, then consultant to Telefonica. Elena Salgado? Vice minister of the Economy, she became a consultant for Abertis. Not to mention Rodrigo Rato, former Economy minister, then director of the International Monetary Fund and finally president of Bankia. His adventures as head of the bank have cost us dear. Without forgetting former prime ministers Felipe Gonzalez and José Maria Aznar, the first becoming a consultant for Gas Natural and the second working for Endesa, News Corporation, Barrick Gold, Doheny Global Group and so on. So it goes.

More democracy

But democracy is, precisely, what the movement of the indignant is demanding, a real democracy in the service of the people and incompatible with the sequestration of politics by the business world or with the Spanish centralism which denies the right of people to self-determination. Paradoxically, it is the protestors who have been deemed to be “anti-democrats”. Anti-democrats for symbolically “besieging” the Catalan parliament on June 15, 2011, during the budget debates which involved austerity measures which had not appeared in any electoral manifesto. Anti-democrats for organising meetings in the squares and stimulating public debate. Anti-democrats for occupying empty housing and putting it to social use. Anti-democrats, definitively, for combating unjust laws and practices.

And when there is more democracy in the street, there is more repression. Fines of 133,000 Euros are demanded by the Ministry of the Interior against 446 activists of 15M in Madrid; 6,000 Euros against 250 students involved in the “Valencia Spring”; hundreds of Euros against activists in Galicia, to mention only a few examples. Along with that, more than a hundred arrests in Catalonia since the general strike on May 29 and a modification of the Criminal Code to criminalise the new forms of protest.

The other face of austerity is the politics of fear and repression. Not so much a social state, as a penal state. Democracy is not on the side of those who claim to exercise it, but rather on the side of those who fight for it. History is full of examples of this, and “25S” will be one of them.

+info: http://esthervivas.com/english/

I would like to thank Esther Vivas for allowing me to reproduce this article.

*

On Wednesday [Sept 26th], Democracy Now! also reported on the 25S “Occupy Congress” protests which they say led to at least 60 people being injured after police in riot gear had charged against demonstrators with batons and fired rubber bullets.

They spoke with independent journalist Maria Carrion who told them:

Well, as you, as your viewers and listeners have been able to see, it’s a very serious situation here in Spain. This is just the latest of many, many protests that we have been having here in Spain, in the last year, especially, and there will be many more coming. People have lost faith in government. People have lost faith in the main institutions. And we are facing 27 billion euros in social spending cuts.

Every week, the government unveils a series of new measures that affect primarily education and health and salaries and the welfare of Spanish people. And as we saw at the top of the hour, Greece is really an example of what’s coming our way, and that’s why I think people are so enraged and so worried, because they see that none of the measures imposed on Greece on in Portugal or in Ireland are having any sort of effect on the economy, on people’s welfare, on employment. And so, I think people are saying we do not want to head in that same direction.

Well, the PP, the conservative government in power, even before the protests took place, they were already equating them to the 1981 coup d’état here, the military coup d’état that tried to return Spain to a dictatorship. And they, you know, posted 1,400 police in riot gear and even sharpshooters around Congress. So, the disposition—disposition was already there to criminalize protesters. And now what has happened is that those who have been arrested are being charged with crimes against the nation for trying to, what they say, occupy Parliament while in session, which is a crime. They—the, you know, protesters always said, “We’re not occupying. We’re just surrounding Parliament.” But in any case, they are being charged with crimes against the nation, and they will go before a judge, a justice, at Spain’s National Court, which is the court that’s reserved for trying high crimes such as terrorism.

Click here to watch the report or read a full transcript at the Democracy Now! website.

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Filed under austerity measures, campaigns & events, Esther Vivas, Greece, police state, Spain

one year of protests in Spain: Esther Vivas marks the anniversary

15M: A look toward the future
Esther Vivas

Untimely and unexpected. That’s what the emergence of this movement of collective outrage at the Spanish state was. If we had been told on 14M (May 14th, 2011) the next day thousands of people would start  taking to the streets week by week and occupy squares, organized meetings, challenge the power with massive civil disobedience while staying in the streets… we would never have imagined it possible. But that’s what happened. People, two and a half years after the outbreak of the “great crisis,” said “Enough.”In the countries of Europe’s periphery, emulating the popular uprisings in the Arab world, drawing warmth from Tunis’s Qasbah and Cairo’s Tahrir Square, people took back and took over the public space. The Arab Spring gave us confidence in “ourselves” and our collective ability to change the existing order. And looking also at Iceland and Greece, the 15M movement broke with the prevailing skepticism, resignation and climate of apathy. But a year after popping up, what remains of it? What has been achieved? What challenges and prospects lie ahead?

The movement of collective outrage heated up fast. Beyond the thousands who occupied the squares, attended meetings, marched in the streets… many others, from their homes, identified with this angry tide that “represented” them. And with 23% unemployment, 175 evictions per day and one in five households living below the poverty line in the Spanish State, how could anyone resist growing indignant, rebelling and disobeying?

The 15M has been able to go beyond the activist core of protesters, awakening a new militant generation and lifting many people out of their easy chairs. These are young people, environmentalists, women, the elderly …, who made up the “people of the Plaza del Sol” in Madrid and “Plaza de Catalunya” in Barcelona. A year after 15M we see how the movement has charged both those holding economic power and those holding political power with social responsibility for the current crisis, highlighting the close links and collusion between them. 15M has unmasked a low-intensity democracy, held hostage by financial power; those who govern serve the 1% not the 99%. It has succeeded in altering the collective imaginary and the political atmosphere to its roots. The crisis has provoked a social, political and economic earthquake, but the emergence of 15M has also, conversely, generated a process of re-politicization of society.

The deepening crisis and the emergence of the movement has allowed people to “think big” and “act big.” Today, there are not only calls demanding reform of the banking system but promoting the expropriation and nationalization of banks and for “nonpayment” of unjust, illegitimate and illegal debts. The action agenda has expanded and radicalized; it is no longer enough to simply demonstrate and take to the streets, now we occupy plazas, block traffic, stop evictions…  The crisis exposes how often what is “illegal” is legitimate and what is illegitimate is precisely what is “legal.” To occupy houses or banks can be punished, while evicting families or swindling with “preferentes” (complex bonds of ownership) by the banks is perfectly legal. Facing a reality so unfair, why not disobey the law or support those who do? This is one of the great victories of 15M: to make these forms of struggle normal and socially acceptable.

And what challenges and prospects do we face? Changing the world from bottom up is neither easy nor quick, and for this, as the philosopher Daniel Bensaïd pointed out, you must arm themselves with “a slow impatience”. We must rebuild another correlation of forces between those in power and the vast majority of society, and this requires a long march, which does not always follow a predictable or straight path. And 15M is just the prologue of this cycle of struggles that has begun. At the same time, to win concrete victories beyond some defensive ones is extremely difficult. Despite the anger and social unrest, the cutback policies are intensifying.

To combat slander, criminalization and repression is another key task in the coming period. The erosion of the rule of law is accompanied by the emergence of the state of emergency. This we have already seen. The more the welfare state withers, the more the police state grows. It begins by slandering those who are mobilized by dubbing them “perroflautas” (street musicians), then goes on to criminalize them by calling them “anti-system thugs,” and steps up repression using preventive detention, websites that insult, etc. What’s involved is creating “an enemy,” to justify repressing it.

The politics of fear and intimidation is the other face of the policy of cutbacks. But the best antidote to such measures is the massive size of the protest. How can you slander the elderly of a town who defend a clinic from being closed down? How can you smash down those who defend themselves with their books in their hands? It can be done, and has been done, but not without paying a high price in public opinion. So far, repression has boomeranged, striking back against the power.

It has often been said that with 15M “fear has disappeared”, but “fear” continues to be very present in the workplace, where capital dominates with hardly any bumps. That the leadership of the major trade unions submitted to the government and the employers, weighs heavily on all social movements. We need a militant trade unionism, which has its center of gravity not in negotiations from above but the struggle from below and that defends a culture of mobilization and solidarity.

And if the movement plans a radical shift in the paradigm, we cannot forget other key aspects of the crisis, beyond the economic ones and the fight against cutbacks, debt and privatization. The ecological and climatic aspect of the crisis is a central element. It is impossible to believe in “another world” without fighting the logic of a system of that prioritizes production but ignores the limits of the earth. Economic and ecological crises are intimately intertwined. Nor is an alternative possible unless it also seeks to end a patriarchal system that refuses to recognize women’s work, making it invisible. We can say the current economic crisis clearly has a feminine face.

International coordination is another major challenge we must resolve. Although the movement has had successful days of global mobilization, like that of last October 15th, 2011, and now the 12M and 15M, its international coordination is still weak. Capitalism is global and, consequently, resistance to it must be equally global, internationalist and built on solidarity. From the public squares to global outrage there is a road of comings and goings we will have to travel more each time.

Looking backwards a year, few would have foreseen the magnitude of the cuts in the Spanish State (which reached making Constitutional Amendments to put a ceiling on public deficits) or repression (threatening changes to the Penal Code to severely punish non-violent direct action), but neither would anyone have imagined this angry tidal wave that has smashed on the political and social panorama. In troubled times, certainties tend to be false and we have but one that isn’t: those in power will not give up their privileges without a fight. We do not know the outcome of this “battle” between “those at the top” and “those on the bottom,” but if we do not struggle, the game is already lost.

*Esther Vivas has published recently, with Josep Maria Antentas, “Planeta indignado. Ocupando el futuro” (Ed. Sequitur).

**This article has published originally at Público.es. Translated by John Catalinotto

I would like to thank Esther Vivas for allowing me to reproduce this article.

+info: http://esthervivas.com/english

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so you say you want an evolution…? Vlad Teichberg talks about Occupy Wall Street on BBC news

HARDtalk: Vlad Teichberg, Occupy Wall Street

First broadcast on BBC News at 12:30 am–1:00 am on Friday 9th December.

Available until 4:59 am on Saturday 8th December 2012.

Click here for link to BBC iplayer.

Stephen Sackur recently spoke with Vlad Teichberg, a prominent member of the Occupy movement and a co-founder of Global Revolution TV, on the BBC news HARDtalk show.

Sackur immediately put it to Teichberg that the Occupy movement was “running out of steam”, and in response, Teichberg told Sackur that although the movement has been forced to change, it is also virally spreading.

Here are a few of the opening salvos in what turned out to be a lively discussion:

Sackur: It seems to me that you do need a symbolic focus, I mean you know, ‘Occupy Wall Street’ is the phrase known around the world but you’re no longer occupying Wall Street, or that part very close to Wall Street where you were. And it seems to me, numbers generally in most of the camps that remain are tiny now. So this claim that, you know, ‘we are the 99%’ is beginning to look a bit ridiculous.

Teichberg: Well, I mean let’s look at how that happened. It’s not like people packed up, and said, you know, problems are solved, I’m going home. You had, you know, jackboots on the ground. You had violent evictions of these camps. And then you have the government go in and build fences around all of those squares to stop people from having the conversation. Does it mean that the conversation is over? Probably not. As we’ve seen time and time again, violence does not solve these problems…

There seems to be a dual standard in the western press. When these kinds of protesters are repressed in Russia, or in China or in Iran, you know, it’s a crime against democracy. When you have this in your backyard, it’s a threat to public order.

Sackur: You began this movement in the late summer and it appeared to be gathering some sort of momentum. And people were expressing support for the Occupy Movement. But you never actually got mass numbers out on the streets, did you? And when you claim that you are representing the vast majority of the people, in a campaign of protest against capitalist greed and corporate greed, it’s a bit of a problem when you don’t build up mass numbers.

Teichberg: First of all, the movement did not start in September in New York. This movement has been going on for quite a while. We think in some ways it started in Tahrir in January of this year, with the Arab Spring. It was jumped upon, it moved to Spain, and you had the 15-M revolution in Spain, which was very similar to what happened in the United States in September…

There are a few unifying themes between what these movements are fighting for. And these are actually positive – it’s not actually a rebellion against capitalism, or against institutions of some sort, just like for the sake of rebellion. It’s actually an idea that society should be based on some fundamental humanistic principles, like equality. I mean it sounds like a radical concept but it’s actually very, very basic and human.

Sackur: Well never mind that it sounds like a radical concept; it sounds like a very vague concept. And a lot of people have said… that the problem here is the message you’re delivering isn’t very clear. It’s clear what you’re against. You don’t like the modern form of US-based and western-based capitalism. But it isn’t actually clear what you want. What are your actual specific demands and proposals?

Teichberg: Well, the main thing that we wanted – and I think that we achieved that to a large degree – was, when we first went into Zucotti [Park] was that we wanted to start like an international conversation about the future of our planet. And when all these other camps sprang up, and started doing similar general assembly processes and so on, we basically set up a structure for this public debate about our future. Unfortunately, ‘the powers that be’ decided that this debate should not continue, and they deployed riot police to stop the demonstration from happening… But you can’t stop this idea from happening. It’s something that’s spreading like a tsunami…

Sackur: You can’t have a long-lasting and significant political movement, can you, just based on the idea that ‘people need to have a conversation’?

Teichberg: But there’s much more than that – I mean I’m sorry but you sound a little ignorant. The reality is that the things that are happening at these camps in terms of processes – the idea of the general assembly – that every citizen should have an equal voice. Designing structures around that actually allow us to have a consensus-based decision-making process that pushes forward. The idea of a non-hierarchical organisation – a society that would not have any implicit hierarchy in it. It’s maybe an idea whose time has come.

Sackur: You’ve made a very important point, I just want to know if that’s a model that you see being applied to the governance of cities, states, nations?

Teichberg: Not necessarily. No-one said that. But it’s a model for having a discussion about our future. You see this is the thing. All we wanted to do was have a debate. We didn’t come into these camps and start setting up armies to overthrow the government. It’s a peaceful revolution of citizens. But we do want to have a conversation about the fact that the privileged class is skewing the system, skewing the rules in such a way that they always have the advantage. And the gap between the richest and the poorest is widening. And as we are having this conversation, certain things are coming to light – as the population is becoming more and more educated, of course the people who are in power are becoming more and more threatened and so now they are dispatching their armed forces to stop the debate.

Sackur: Would you call yourself a revolutionary?

Teichberg: No, I’m a citizen.

Sackur: No, I understand that, but I say revolutionary because is what you want to see a revolutionary transformation of the society in which you live?

Teichberg: I want an evolution. Revolution is a very big term: it can mean many things. What I want is evolution. I want a society that is much more fair, yes.

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the 99% of Britain: it’s time to turn on, tune in and stand up!

Populist movements are gathering around the world. People from different generations, ethnicities, and multifarious backgrounds taking to the streets and public spaces to express collective outrage at what is happening to them. Thus the rumour of a ‘global revolution’ is spreading. So these are exciting times, though also perilous times. Revolutions have a habit of being derailed and going bad; that’s history. But I admire the optimism, the enthusiasm, and the courage of all those now actively resisting the increasingly apparent slide into outright economic and social breakdown.

A week last Saturday [Oct 15th] signified the first day of truly international dissent. 15-O, which had been called for by los indignados, was marked not only by huge protests in Spain (half a million in both Barcelona and Madrid), as well as Greece and the other “PIGS” (to use the vile and frankly racist acronym so freely attached in the press), but by many in other European countries, as well as throughout the United States, and as far afield as Hong Kong, Tokyo, Mumbai, Canada, parts of South America and Africa. Click here to read a list of the 15-O “occupy” protests around the world.

Media attention inevitably focused on the rioting mobs in Italy, where the protests had been infiltrated by a substantial element of anarchist hooligans, rather than on the relatively peaceful protests elsewhere; in some cases remaining non-violent in the face of rather extreme police provocation. And the widespread police tactic known as ‘kettling’ is inherently provocative; a kettle, of course, being an object that has a singular purpose of bringing a substance to boiling point, which is precisely what confining any crowd of people in a tight area is likely to do to them. But as Democracy Now! reported, the New York police went further still, sending mounted officers into already ‘kettled’ crowds. That no-one was actually trampled to death during this incident was simply due to the self-restraint of the crowd and pure good fortune:

Mass strikes, marches and demonstrations can, of course, only take any movement so far. For real victories, a more cutting political edge is required; clear demands for a realistic and realisable alternative. Only then can any movement either steer the policies of established parties, or else, and given that almost all current political parties seem to be sold-out to identical interests, begin to build new political parties that offer genuine and viable change for the better. The simple fact is that to change the course of a country, let alone the whole world, means sooner or later picking up the reins of power. You have to get your hands dirty in the end.

But when I come to Britain, I am puzzled. My home city of Sheffield, the once proud ‘Steel City’, its name engraved on cutlery throughout the world, was also renowned for being a hot-bed of ‘Old Labour’ socialism, and yet after more than a year of deeply unpopular government ‘austerity measures’, there have been just two significant protests. One when the Lib-Dem Spring conference showed up in town, and the other, a trade union march and rally against the cuts. When the Jarrow March came through the city a fortnight ago, it was welcomed by less than a hundred people. We were there to applaud them:

The Jarrow March in Sheffield

Whilst on 15-O there was no protest at all in Sheffield, and Sheffield was far from alone – did you hear of any action that took place in Birmingham, or Newcastle, or even Liverpool?

Last Wednesday [Oct 19th], I attended a public meeting with a friend. It had been organised by Britain’s largest civil service trades-union, the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), and was also supported by the Sheffield Anti Cuts Alliance. We were two newcomers of the around thirty people who turned up; the great majority being experienced and committed activists, and about a half of those attending being on first name terms with one another.

At the meeting, all opinions were welcomed and respectfully listened to, and overall the meeting was frank and informative. Having said this, however, and after more than two hours of discussion, the only decision made was that we needed another meeting…

But a meeting about what exactly? That was what my friend and I couldn’t actually fathom. Although there was a clue in the title of the leaflet promoting the event. WELFARE, it read in large friendly letters, and beneath: “a campaigning and organising meeting for workers and unemployed people”. But campaigning and organising to what precise ends? A simple enough question, and one raised during the meeting, with someone respectfully asking what other speakers precisely meant by saying “we” all the time. It was a question that went all but unheard by most in the room.

And why was the meeting only called “for workers and unemployed people”? Workers and unemployed people as opposed to who exactly?

There is a sense that the anti-cuts movement in Britain is about to repeat the mistakes of 1980s all over again. The traps are set, the population having been so effectively divided against itself thanks to the policies of Thatcher and Blair. For if opposition to the ‘austerity’ programme is to be successful, then it needs to be engaging with more than just the ‘Old Labour’ old guard; we really need to find support within the other sections of the 99%.

So what exactly am I saying here? That in Britain, the left is too wrapped up in itself. That it talks to itself all the time, sometimes with good intention, other times wistfully reminiscing, and still with a significant minority fixated on the Marxist dialectic. On this occasion the only Marxist to speak up, explained very eloquently how the welfare system was just another symptom of the sickness of Capitalism, which was perhaps not the most helpful contribution under the circumstances. But, in any case, what leads some on the left to suppose that the masses of unemployed and workers are about to be won over by oblique and antique instructions laid down in Das Kapital and the Communist Manifesto? Writings from the nineteenth century that most people never read and never will. I increasingly fail to understand why the left feels this need for philosophic validation to justify or promote their own visions of social justice. As Orwell pointed out, the notion that society should be fairer is really just a matter of commonsense. And Marx sort of said the same, albeit in a more roundabout and convoluted fashion, which is presumably why so many academics love him so much.

Meanwhile, many of the ‘Old Conservative’ right are also disaffected, but those of the disaffected right form into different groups like UKIP and talk to themselves about how the country is being sold down the river by Eurocrats. In this they are correct, the Eurocrats being another big part of our problem. Membership of the EU is costing the nation £45 million each and every day, and for what?

Others on the right try to make their opinions heard via groups like The Taxpayers’ Alliance, complaining about the increasing rates of personal taxation and how their standard of living is dropping. And in this they are correct too, but instead of seeing that their money is being stolen by the super-rich, they wrongly point the finger of blame downwards to those scraping a living at the bottom of the social heap; the irony being that they are suckered into the same phoney class war as many on the left.

And here, we ought not to forget the Greens, who talk to themselves about saving the planet. And good for them, because it’s only the insane who willingly destroy their own world. But do they really think they can halt the devastation by tinkering with a corporate system as corrupt as ours? Right now by far the most important thing being to reverse the escalating economic crisis before our society breaks down entirely (as appears to be happening in Greece). This should be the immediate goal for all of the disaffected and since this requires a mass resistance to the social and economic measures being imposed, the disaffected on all sides must urgently establish some common ground. For once there is much to agree about.

I might have said some of this at the meeting last week. It might even have been politely applauded, as many of the contributions were. Although I never quite understood exactly what we were meant to be talking about, and so I kept my thoughts to myself. I suppose what I was really burning to say was something like this: you cannot stop the cuts to welfare until you take on the hedge funds and the bankers. But I also wanted to say please, please, please look beyond the local issues – the fine details – we need to understand the bigger picture to get a proper perspective on what’s going on right now.

And we need to learn from the many ‘occupy’ movements, which though to some extent crossing the traditional party political allegiances are stuck in another way. They have trapped themselves in a strait-jacket of the “consensus model”, which means, at best, wasting precious hours deliberating over details of where to go and what to eat, and at worst, letting the voice of a few dissenters call the tune. The simple and expedient truth being that every democratic movement needs to accept some kind of majority rules and decision-making. That said, the gathering thousands who are now camping out in Wall Street and elsewhere have set their sights on the real enemy; and in this respect, at least, the protests abroad are well ahead of ours in Britain.

On 15-O, there were indeed some brave souls who made the decision to pitch camp in London, and good luck to them, though camping is perhaps an unlikely method for gathering popular support in Britain, especially now that it’s almost November. Quite frankly, I think we may need a somewhat different strategy to one adopted during a Mediterranean Spring, which in any case hasn’t as yet forced any significant concessions from their own government’s brutal austerity programmes. The important thing is not to automatically copy the action of others, but that in some way we begin taking a more visible and collective stand. We need people speaking up and joining in.

Here’s a great example from Real Democracy Now Berlin/GR, with protesters directly confronting and challenging President of the European Central Bank (ECB), Jean-Claude Trichet:

This moment in history is an extraordinary one. A dire time that is also an opportunity for the most extraordinary transformation of our society since the war. I believe that such a transformation is coming whether we choose it or not. If we do nothing then our nation will undoubtedly be torn apart, sold off and slowly taken over by a small criminal syndicate – the tiny banking and corporate elite who caused this economic crisis and now sneer over us as masters might their slaves – a ruling elite that probably doesn’t even amount 1%.

I’d wanted to say some of this at the meeting. How we shouldn’t only be talking about jobs and welfare, as vitally important as such issues are, because the situation we face is much worse than most can yet imagine. The rescue of our nations requiring nothing less than a sweeping overhaul of our venal and oppressive political and economic systems. An end to globalised systems in which usefulness is all that counts, and after that we can all go to hell. We, the 99%, need acknowledge our common grievances, to pool our dissent, to think bigger, and we need to act urgently… so how about another meeting next week, anyone?

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Jarrow March reaches Sheffield on Wednesday 12th October

With the Spanish los indignados having finally reached Brussels at the end of their extraordinary march from Madrid, so on October 1st, a group of young British protesters, which calls itself Youth Fight for Jobs, set off from Jarrow on a march to London, aiming to arrive at Temple Embankment in London, 12 noon on November 5th.

The protest, which is supported by a number of trade unions 1, will follow in the footsteps of the Jarrow Crusade which took place during the Great Depression exactly 75 years ago, when about two hundred unemployed followed a similar route to raise awareness of mass unemployment:

On the Jarrow March we are demanding:
  • A massive government scheme to create jobs which are socially useful and apprenticeships which offer guaranteed jobs at the end – both paying at least the minimum wage, with no youth exemptions.
  • The immediate reinstatement of EMA payments, expanding them to be available to all 16-19 year olds.
  • The immediate re-opening of all youth services that have been closed, including reinstating sacked staff.
  • The scrapping of ‘workfare’ schemes – benefits should be based on need not forced slave labour.
  • A massive building programme of environmentally sound, cheap social housing.

To make the march happen, we are working with the trade union movement and activists to raise £26,000 and organise demonstrations, rallies and protests in every town, city and area that the march visits. We have produced an information pack on the march, click here. Any further queries, get in contact here, or email youthfightforjobs@gmail.com or call 020 8558 7947. For more info on Youth Fight for Jobs, see our website http://www.youthfightforjobs.com

Taken from the official blog for the Jarrow March 2011.

Here is a list of forthcoming stops and rallying points:

Tuesday 11th October

Marching between Wakefield and Barnsley
5pm rally at Peel Square
Evening gig at the Pulse Bar, Wellington Street

Wednesday 12th October

Marching between Barnsley and Sheffield
4pm Protest at Job Centre
5pm rally at the Town Hall
7pm Sheffield Anti-Cuts Alliance meeting with Jarrow marcher speaking, 7pm, Sheffield University.

Click here for more information about events in Sheffield.

Thursday 13th October

Marching between Sheffield and Chesterfield
2:45 rally at Chesterfield Market Place
Evening social event at Chesterfield Labour club
7pm in Lincoln, Lincoln Trades Council meeting with Jarrow marcher speaking

Friday 14th October

Marching between Chesterfield and Nottingham
12:15 rally at Shirebrook Market Place
2:30 rally at Mansfield Market Place

Saturday 15th October

Demonstration through Nottingham
Assemble 1pm at Forest Recreation Ground

Click here to read a complete itinerary.

*

Saturday 15th October also sees an international day of action, with calls for people to take to the streets and squares in cities and towns across the world.

The event was originally called for by the Spanish los indignados as part of their Democracia real YA! campaign Toma La Calle (or “Take the Streets”).

Click here for information from the Democracia real YA! official website.

The Nottingham demonstration on the Jarrow March is listed as just one of a number of events taking place around Britain. As yet, no event has been planned in Sheffield.

Click here for a map showing where other events are taking place around the world.

1 The Jarrow March is backed by 8 national tarde unions: RMT, PCS, UNITE, UCU, FBU, BECTU,CWU, TSSA.

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David Graeber on debt and why it must be cancelled

Back on September 10th, David Graeber, a lecturer in anthropology at Goldsmiths College, and the author of several books, including his latest, Debt: The First 5,000 Years (published in July), talked to Max Keiser about the relationship between money and debt, and what he sees as historical shifts from credit systems to cash systems and back again.

Graeber claims that this current “virtual money” credit era, which began about forty years ago, is not radically new, and only different in that during former times there were periodic debt jubilees. That in today’s system, without such regular debt cancellation, there is no safeguard against an otherwise inevitable descent into a debt trap.

And Graeber believes that the banking crash of 2008 has radically altered many people’s perspectives on money. He told Keiser that the world isn’t short of smarter ideas for economic alternatives, which is one of the reasons he remains optimistic about what’s now happening in Europe and elsewhere:

“I mean what we have in Greece, what we have in Spain, and it’s beginning to spread to other countries. The way I like to think of it is – I think in 2008 they kinda let the cat out of the bag. You know, for all these years they’ve been saying that markets run themselves and the people in charge, they know what they’re doing – they might not be very nice people but they’re incredibly competent. In fact they’re the only people who know how to run an economy.

And of course we were also told debts are sacred and have to be repaid. What we learned with the crash was that none of those things were true. People had no idea what they were doing; they did get bailed out; the markets didn’t run themselves.

So once we understand that money is actually a political arrangement – it’s a social set of promises that people make to one another – well, if trillions of dollars worth of debt can be made to disappear, if that’s convenient for the big players, then I think what people are saying is: well, alright fine, if those are the new terms that makes sense, but if democracy is going to mean anything now, it’s means everybody gets to weigh in on how promises are made and how they’re renegotiated. And that’s what people are calling for and demanding and I think it’s very promising for a sort of new political movement.”

Graeber has been personally involved in organising the “Occupy Wall Street” protest, as he explained on yesterday’s Democracy Now!

And with regards to precedents for debt cancellation, Graeber says:

Well, the interesting thing is that most of the developing nations have actually pulled themselves out of the situation. Structural adjustment has come home to Europe and America. I think it would be a great idea. I think it would bring home that we really are in a different age, that money doesn’t mean the same thing as it used to. And there are people who have tried it. Saudi Arabia, actually most dramatically, that was their reaction to the Arab Spring: they declared a debt cancellation. So there are precedents. I mean, they kind of don’t want people to know that they did it, for obvious reasons, but they did.

Click here to read earlier posts on the #occupywallstreet protests.

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Filed under debt cancellation, Europe, Greece, Max Keiser, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Uncategorized

#sept17 – protests continue to grow across Europe and America

On Saturday, los indignados of Spain joined the indignés of France on a march through the heart of Paris as part of a global day of action against the banks.

Apart from helping to inspire the movements in Greece, Chile and Israel, the indignados might have attracted a lot of international attention, but they remained a largely nationally-based movement.

All of that changed yesterday. Next to the highly anticipated occupation of Wall Street, actions were held in San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto, Tokyo, Tel Aviv, Athens, Madrid, Barcelona, Milan, Rome, Amsterdam, Berlin, London, and numerous other cities around the world. What is most exciting is that all of these actions were organized by local action groups, no longer just by Spanish expats. More than ever before, it has become clear that what began in Madrid on May 15 has now become a truly transnational movement with roots in every major city of the Western world.

From an article entitled “We are going slow because we are going far!” by Jérôme E. Roos published in yesterday’s RoarMag.

The report continues:

As always, the French police was omnipresent. Afraid of even the slightest chance of an escalation, dozens of riot police constantly marched alongside us as we made our way from Cité Universitaire to Banque de France, and from there to the Bastille. Every single time we passed a bank, the coppers would rally in front of it, forming a line to protect the retail arms of these corporate casinos from the innocent direct actions the indignados had planned for them. Once again, it became obvious where the allegiance of the modern state truly lies. Apparently those in power still consider it more important to protect the banks from the people than the other way around.

Arriving at Bastille, the protestors were confronted by a few hundred riot police, who had completely blocked off the square. Roos continues:

Within minutes, the police managed to ruin what even the 1,000 mile march and the torrential rainstorm could not destroy: the festive atmosphere of this entirely peaceful protest.

Rapidly, they formed a kettle around us, virtually sealing us off from the rest of the city. Hundreds of policemen surrounding a thousand protesters at most. Some of them carrying massive cannons for firing tear-gas canisters. I couldn’t help but wonder why, anytime the people take to the streets to exercise and defend their democratic right and duty to rise up against social injustice, they try to contain us, bottle us up inside their kettles, seclude and segregate us from the rest of society, annoy us with their stern faces and disrespectful words, intimidate us with their shoulder pads and weapons, refrain us from publicly airing our indignation at the current state of affairs.

The only conclusion I can possibly come up with is that they fear us. Just like Ben Ali and Mubarak were afraid of their people, our own government is afraid of us. For we represent the future and they represent the past. They represent the problem and we are presenting a solution.

Meanwhile, in America, protesters also gathered to occupy Wall Street. Here is a report from today’s Democracy Now! :

Demonstrators are marching on Wall Street today on the third day of a campaign dubbed “Occupy Wall Street,” which began on Saturday when thousands gathered in New York City’s Financial District. Inspired by the massive public protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, and Madrid’s Puerta del Sol Square, hundreds have slept outside near Wall Street for the past two nights.

To find out more or to join protests near you, go to take the square.

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Filed under France, Spain, Uncategorized, USA