Tagged: Spanish Revolution

Overcoming the Shock Doctrine

Soy Pública

Lately, we’ve been talking about the techniques of manipulation used by the government and mass media, regarding the privatization of public education, and all public benefits.

In these first months of legislature, the better part of this manipulation has been aimed at rendering us into a state of shock, after which, intimidated and paralyzed, we would not react against the losses of rights brutally imposed on us. The measures, announcements and declarations of the autonomic and central governments are meted out to us day by day, gradually, like a poisonous drip of constant anxiety.  Relentlessly, the media – in some cases, better to say “propagandists” – continues their tireless preaching, like a disheartening echo of bad news from on high (from the council of ministers or the rating agencies).

Naomi Klein explains in her book, “The Shock Doctrine”, how neo-liberalism, unable to convince people by means of argument (since these neo-liberal measures are essentially anti-people), has only been able to impose itself via coups d’etat, declarations of war, situations of catastrophic natural disaster, or other traumatic phenomena, leaving the public in the grip of anxiety and fear.

And what, if not fear, are they trying to inoculate us with in this country? Fear of losing our jobs, for example, or of never again being able to find work, or of being offered nothing more than exploitation, plain and simple; fear of losing the right to healthcare,l or being unable to provide adequate education for children; fear of ending up foreclosure victims, sleeping on the street; fear, finally, of being unjustly arrested for peacefully protesting at a demonstration.

In this article, we examine how the shock doctrine takes effect on us under the name “learned helplessness”. But also, how we can escape this state of despondency if we learn to correctly attribute the causes of our malaise.

Learned Helplessness, a weapon of mass destruction

It’s true enough that the powers that be treat us like dogs, or at least like the dogs in Seligman’s experiment.

At the end of the Sixties, psychologist Martin Seligman carried out the following experiment. Inside a lab cage, a dog was exposed to a series of unavoidable electric shocks. Meanwhile, in a different cage, another dog would be able to interrupt these shocks by pressing a lever. Later, both dogs would be situated over an electrified surface from which they could escape by simply jumping over a barrier. The dog that had been able to control the electric shocks would jump the barrier, while the other dog, instead of looking for a successful exit from an adverse situation, stayed, passively bearing the shocks. This dog had “learned” his helplessness. Why waste the energy trying to escape from the negative stimuli when you know (really, more like believe) that you can’t?

Learned helplessness leads to depression. Not doing anything, because you think it’s all useless.

In the following video, we see a teacher inducing learned helplessness on a group of students through a simple activity.

From this we can infer that, given the current power of media propaganda, it’s feasible to induce a state of depression in large sectors of the population. Thanks to this video, it’s easier to understand why the victims of Nazi Germany accepted their deaths with little resistance, in much the same way that abused women often accept their fate with resignation:

To activate English subtitles, press captions button at the lower right

It’s terrible, isn’t it? But not as terrible as realizing that this inoculation by way of learned helplessness is, precisely, what’s being done to us. Right now. They’re trying to convince us to passively accept the loss of our rights and the privatization of public services with no resistance or protest. The slogan is: it’s useless no matter what we do.

We, like the dogs in Seligman’s experiments, are submitted to shocks, better known by their euphemisms “adjustments” or “cuts”. These shocks are apparently unavoidable, no matter how many times we go on strike, take part in informative actions or protests. Furthermore, many protesters become victims of unjustified arrests and preemptive prison sentences, hardly compatible with fundamental human rights.

Greece, which has suffered this commons-stripping for far longer, has seen depression spread like wildfire among the people. The suicide rate has skyrocketed. In his article entitled “¿Y si no hiciésemos nada?” (And what if we didn’t do anything?), philosopher Amador Fernández-Savater echoes this desperation that has taken hold of the Greeks.

More than 10 general strikes in Greece, but has anything been achieved? Alexandra-Odette Kypriotaki has taken part in the movement since 2008, only to move to London with that very question in mind. “In my country, you can’t even find a job as a waitress”, she told me. I met her in a meeting organised by thinker-activist Franco Berardi (Bifo) in Barcelona. Her presentation there was as evocative as it was challenging.

Reflecting on the underlying logic of conflict and protest, both impotent in preventing social devastation, repression and destruction, Alexandra proposed a new start from a different angle. “Neither fighting nor confronting, but deserting; neither demanding nor pleading, but unfolding, here and now, the world we want to live in. Neither taking action nor mobilising, but giving ourselves over to abandon. Turning our weakness into strength.”

Capitalism demands from us a constant disposition towards desire, contact, production. Where time is permanently occupied and under pressure to deliver results. Nowadays, being happy, optimistic and positive is obligatory. We must constantly project the image of knowing what’s up, that everything is going fine, it’s all under control, and we’re strong. But, doesn’t political activism often demand the same? Struggle, results, a ready answer for everything, constant high morale, rejection of the meek, doubtful and melancholic…

Couldn’t we muster up an army of the weak, the clumsy, the ignorant? The rallying cry could be, “Yes, we’re depressed, so what?” The program: “I don’t know”. The strike, doing absolutely nothing, not even mobilising ourselves. Do nothing day… Wednesday, then Thursday and so on.”

The figure of the helpless punisher

Arbitrary electric shocks, administered at regular intervals and beyond our control. Shocks, or the looting they call “cuts” or “deficit control”. Psychological abuse, bordering on the limits of, what just a few months ago, would have seemed like dystopian fiction: “IMF Requests That Pensions be Lowered Because of “The Risk That People Will Live Longer Than Expected”.

Rating agencies, international organisms (IMF, WB, OECD, WTO) in service to the financial elite, the European commission and the ECB… they all subject us to a series of demands and adjustments, gradual though inexorable. Of course, we are assured there is nothing we can do. On the other hand, cases like Iceland are silenced in the mass media.

What is the role of our leaders in this situation? Simply, to be efficient executors of this pillage ordered “from above”. “We have to do what we have to do”; “The European Union demands it from us”; “We must increase confidence in the markets”, etc.

There’s no point labelling the politicians who carry out these tasks as “evil” or “sadistic”, although it’s often tempting, given some of their statements. In her book Eichmann in Jerusalem, Hannah Arendt expressed her concept of the banality of evil: a mediocre Nazi civil servant like Adolf Eichmann was perfectly able to perform mass murders, not out of cruelty, but simply because he acted from within the rules of the system he belonged to, without reflecting on his acts. What Eichmann did was expertly carry out orders given from superiors, just as politicians in government do with the mandates of those representing the interests of financial capital. And they are unable to question the rules they follow, having been blinded by the tenets of the dominant ideology, neo-liberalism, which additionally legitimises the fact that these same leaders – or their friends and family – profit from it in ways which we would consider immoral, thanks to the loss of social rights of the citizenry and the privatization of the public sector.

Adding insult to injury, the government can even present itself to public opinion as mere victims of learned helplessness. This is typified by phrases like “I’d like to do something else, but I can’t do anything; the orders come from above. If I acted differently, the consequences would be much worse”. These selfsame heads of state become public models for learned helplessness. And, as we well know, the best way to lead is by example. This was the case when former Spanish president José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero was called by Barack Obama. But now, with our current president, Mariano Rajoy, this phenomenon has been so exacerbated that he himself has become a living example of helplessness and weakness, with his cheat sheets at public appearances, his absences, his gestures and actions. Here we see him in the Senate, running away from journalists eager to ask him about the latest budget cuts in education and healthcare:

In conclusion, what these politicians are showing us by “playing helpless” is that our country is no longer sovereign, but subject to the orders of those truly in charge: the famous “markets”. So why not be honest and consistent, and simply resign, and let Spain become a protectorate of financial capital just like Italy and Greece? Perhaps our role within the shock doctrine has not yet been totally fulfilled. We’re still not fully subject to learned helplessness. But how can we prevent it from defeating us completely?

Better living through attribution

To fend off learned helplessness, Seligman applies Fritz Heider’s attribution theory. In Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life, he studies three dimensions or characteristics of the attributional style, also called causal attribution:

  1. Personalisation: whereby internal or external causes are attributed to good or bad events. Either I feel guilty when I do something wrong “because that’s the way I am”, or I’m able to externalise the problem and hold myself responsible for making changes. This dimension is related to self-esteem. Attributing bad events to external causes increases immunity to learned helplessness.
  2. Permanence: the duration, stability or instability in time which we attribute the causes underlying good or bad events. Extreme examples are expressed through discourse in the always – never poles. Thinking that the causes behind bad events are stable, permanent or even definitive, makes us more vulnerable to learned helplessness.
  3. Penetration: how many areas in our lives are affected by our good or bad luck, whether these causes affect us globally or specifically. Expressed through discourse in the all-nothing extremes.

On the other hand, in their paper on learned helplessness and its immunisation in human subjects, José Ramón Yela Bernabé and José Luis Marcos Malmierca also refer to the importance of our controllability of events.

1) Depersonalisation: the problem lies in the situation, not within us

Another strategy used by the powers that be to trigger learned helplessness is encouraging us to blame ourselves for what is happening. We’re told that we’ve “lived beyond our means”, when in reality, the means allowed to those at the bottom were well below the standards of a decent life, as evidenced by low wages and the lack of basic resources such as housing.

Geographer David Harvey offers his systemic explanation for what is happening. According to him, we’re living through a process of accumulation by dispossession. With the fall in wages since the 70s, increases in profits are being absorbed by the capitalist class due to the privatization of common goods, the financialization of the economy, the management and manipulation of the crisis, and the uneven redistribution of resources. The author gives an overview of the current crisis in the following video:

Authors such as Vicenç Navarro have pointed out that the lack of resources amongst popular classes has provoked rising debt levels, and not the other way around. Had we enjoyed a public policy defending universal access to decent housing, people wouldn’t have gone into such levels of debt, and the housing and credit bubbles that led to the crisis never would have occurred.

So, we shouldn’t fall into the trap of thinking that the blame for this “crisis” (accumulation by dispossession) is ours. We must get beyond the mass media information overload, and analyse the underlying causes of the current social, economic and cultural model so we can help mitigate the harmful effects, and even propose new and different alternative models.

2) The crisis is also a crisis of the dominant economic paradigm

Regarding the stability of the source of our problem, we must ask ourselves: can this accumulation by dispossession go on forever? Are we now at the endpoint of history? Far from it. Many have pointed out that we are living through a global crisis in capitalism owing to ecological limits which impede the model of infinite accumulation and growth. The late Spanish ecologist Ramón Fernández Durán has, like many others, indicated that the predictable depletion of fossil fuels will lead to the collapse of our civilisation.

The documentary “The Story of Stuff” does a fine job of describing the human and ecological limits of the current mode of production:

So, instead of worrying about what’s happening, shouldn’t we be looking for alternatives already?

3) Opportunities for emancipation

Regarding the penetration of the problem; is our entire being negatively affected by this pillaging of the Commons?

While the crisis/scam is undoubtedly affecting a good portion of our lives, due to unemployment, ever worsening public services and the loss of human rights, it’s also worth remembering that there is life – a lot of life – beyond the crisis.

Now is the time to explore new ways of relating to ourselves, to others and to our environment. The time to look for new modes of life.

This economic model, even at its peak, was still the cause of dissatisfaction. Beneath the surface of consumerism, mutated into a pyramid scheme thanks to the abundance of easy credit, lurked a modern version of King Midas. Everything touched by the model was converted into goods, right down to our lives and the most intimate corners of our minds.

Alienation has never reached such extremes. While in the times of Fordism and mass production, the worker was alienated during his or her work time; nowadays, capital extracts profits from the totality of our lives.

The Commons, that which we all share, is what’s being “expropriated” by some, the 1% of the population, to keep on accumulating capital. Advertising appropriates our common culture to invade our brains with consumer programming. We relate to others under the criteria informed by rentability, and we ourselves become merchandise to be sold off in the labour market or when we try to draw benefits in our personal lives.

The part of our lives affected by the crisis is, therefore, miniscule compared with everything that this crisis of the system can offer us:

The best way to increase happiness is through interpersonal relationships. Fostering cooperative relationships instead of those based on competition. All that’s given shall not be lost.

Not allowing cognitive creation (our thoughts, arts, and knowledge) to be expropriated from the common intellect by means of so-called intellectual property; an illegitimate appropriation that answers to the interests of big corporations dedicated to the production and distribution of cultural and technological products.

The promotion of commons-based economy, where instead of rentability, value resides in a model of cooperative enterprises dedicated to improving both society and the environment.

Ending the predominance of financial economy over productive economy. Overcoming the scam that is the private issue of money as debt which enslaves persons and peoples through its mechanisms.

Rallying for initiatives such as basic income, so that people may work freely, and not be forced to work for subsistence. Natural resources are a common good.

And, to complement this basic income, why not propose — as F.D. Roosevelt did in his day —  a wage ceiling, to be taxed at a rate of 100% once surpassed? As J.J Rousseau wrote in The Social Contract, “…in respect of riches, no citizen shall ever be wealthy enough to buy another, and none poor enough to be forced to sell himself.”

Value ecological proposals such as degrowth: consuming less, manufacturing less, designing totally recyclable objects and using less energy. Developing local economies.

Constructing autonomous distribution channels independent from the large-scale distributors that control practically all commercial activity, from production to retail.

Reconstruct the public sphere in a truly democratic manner, with the participation of everyone and as equals.

The future is, partly, in our hands

Finally, what is our capacity for control of our situation? In the previously cited article, Yela Bernabé and José Luis Marcos Malmierca argue that, in order to immunize ourselves from learned helplessness, the best thing is to have encountered neither success nor failure exclusively. Be conscious that there are things which we can control, and things which we cannot. As Epicurus remarked: “We must remember that the future is neither wholly ours nor wholly not ours, so that neither must we count upon it as quite certain to come nor despair of it as quite certain not to come.”

There are many examples of resistance to accumulation by dispossession that have triumphed in the world, such as the water in Bolivia or the insurrection in Chiapas. Never forget that history is mostly written by those above, who are happy to remind us only of the defeats suffered by those who struggled for emancipation.

Here in Spain, despite the clumsy first steps of a child learning to walk, the 15 M movement has obtained some notable successes as well as international projection. It has raised awareness about the root of our problems among a large sector of the population, it has put together very diverse social movements and it represents an excellent starting point for the development of cooperatives and solidarity networks.

Of course, we will make mistakes, but errors are what make us wiser.

Acting to open possibilities

In summary, faced with the fear that surrounds us, we must always remember that what is happening is not our fault, that the crisis is a crisis of the current economic model –  which is not stable, it is anything but stable – and that this change can be an opportunity for a new, more humane world, free from the tyranny of money and other goods.

And, above all, let us never forget Alain Badiou’s teaching: we must act. Our actions do not have to fall within what’s possible; instead, the action itself can open up a new space of possibility. “A subject is a point of conversion of the possible into the possible. The fundamental operation of the subject is to be at the point where something impossible becomes a possibility”.

Guerrilla Translation/Related:https://guerrillatranslation.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/unity-without-convergence-e1383342540180.jpgUnity sans Convergence/ Madrilonia/@PinkNoise RevDisneyland: An Immunized UtopiaJuan Domingo Sánchez EstopStrength and Power: Reimagining RevolutionAmador Fernández-Savater

A call for the World Record of people shouting, “You’ll never own a house in your whole fucking life”

Ah, the joys of homeownership and mortgage payments. We at Guerrilla Translation take these issues very seriously, so we’ve brought in an expert to tackle this ever pressing concern.

Artivitist Leónidas Martin is the co-author of our recent translation “12 Inspired Actions to Outsmart Repressive Situations and Laws”. In the following lines (and videos), Leo reminisces about an illustrious career characterised by smashing world records, and interviews some of his buddies addressing the housing crisis in their own peculiar way.

First up, we have the TV ad leading up to the world record…

“A call for the World Record we set for the most people shouting, “You’ll never own a house in your whole fucking life” (sadly, Guinness wouldn’t recognize our feat). An event that gathered hundreds and hundreds of people in cities all over Spain to shout, collectively and publicly, what had been experienced until that moment as a personal problem.”

How did this illustrious event come into being?

The baby says "The mortgage is KILLING ME!"

The baby says “The mortgage is KILLING ME!”

An anonymous email started making the rounds on the net, summoning thousands of people to protest against rising home prices and speculation on May 14th 2006, at the same hour, all across Spain. The protest was repeated during many a subsequent Sunday and, lo and behold, something like a social movement had sprung up, with a regular assembly organising a bevy of activities (marches, press conferences, actions, media appearances, etc). Within this context, it didn’t take us long to realise that we were a varied bunch: graphic designers, teachers, activists, hairdressers, actors… the lot. This held a potential, a cornucopia of riches that we immediately exploited; this is the origin of all the design and creative elements that made Vdevivienda 1 such a visible phenomenon (graphic campaigns, videos, action staging, etc). Every production made within this open, creative, diverse and cooperative framework was an example of collaborative creation. It was delightful.

And to wrap it up, this thrilling Ramones-song-length documentary on the making-of the World Record. Here’s what Leo has to say on the subject:

The "Fuck-o-meter". You saw it here first.

The “Fuck-o-meter”. You saw it here first.

On October 6th, 2007, we beat a new world record. Thousands of people in cities all across Spain simultaneously shouted: “You won’t own a house IN YOUR WHOLE FUCKING LIFE!” The decibels radiating from this collective cry were registered by an interactive meter, baptised “The Fuck-o-meter” for the occasion. The sheer intensity and volume of this vociferation was reflected in real time and projected on a massive screen by a stage, whereupon a group of actors, showmen and activists hosted the proceedings for this grand public intervention. That was a day we made ourselves heard; man, did we ever make ourselves heard…

Bonus! We didn’t translate this one, because Leo is possessed of full English-speaking Ninjahood. See him here, waxing lyrical on the joys of the Spanish revolution….

1. [Or “H is for Housing” a wordplay on V for Vendetta.]

Las raíces internacionales del 99%

https://guerrillatranslation.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/las-raices-internacionales-del-99-3-e1389046033982.pngJeffrey Lawrence

El 19 de septiembre de 2011, dos días después del comienzo de la ocupación de Zucotti Park en Nueva York, dos de los españoles del 15-M que participaron en la organización de Occupy Wall Street estaban preocupados. Como los demás simpatizantes del 15-M que asistían a las reuniones preparatorias, Begonia Santa Cecilia y Luis Moreno-Caballud habían imaginado que el campamento en el corazón de Wall Street sería algo parecido a las acampadas que habían visto en España ese mismo año: espacios hospitalarios y abiertos en plazas públicas donde se congregaban grupos diversos de gente. Sin embargo, las cosas no eran así. El parque estaba rodeado de furgonetas de policía y los escasos y homogéneos manifestantes gritaban a los agentes y a los curiosos que pasaban por allí. Además, las propias asambleas se habían vuelto rápidamente conflictivas. Moreno-Caballud y Santa Cecilia decidieron proponer un cambio de táctica, enviando un email al grupo de trabajo de Extensión, que se ocupaba de comunicar el mensaje de Occupy al exterior.

El propósito de ese email era simple. Occupy tenía que enfatizar que no era una protesta más “contra el sistema”, sino un movimiento que estaba creando un espacio físico y conceptual en el que la gente podía encontrarse para hablar, escuchar y formular soluciones alternativas a la crisis económica y política global. Releyendo los emails organizativos y pensando retroactivamente sobre los debates de las asambleas preparatorias, los dos españoles decidieron revitalizar un slogan que había sido formulado a través de un proceso colectivo en los días previos a la ocupación: “Somos el 99%”. Enviaron un email con el asunto “#Occupy Wall Street sobrevive transformándose en #Somos el 99%”:

“Parece que #Occupy Wall Street necesita urgentemente una operación masiva de ampliación para sobrevivir. La clave para el éxito del movimiento es que sea inclusivo. Ahora mismo el movimiento es demasiado homogéneo, debido al imaginario y al lenguaje “activista” con que se identifica… Propongo que empecemos hoy una rápida y masiva campaña de extensión con esta idea: #SomosEl99% -Este es el plan: ponemos toda nuestra energía y recursos en anunciar el día de #SomosEl99%, que tendrá lugar el próximo sábado 23, en nuestro espacio en Zuccotti/Liberty Park.”

Dos días después, Justin Molito, otro miembro del grupo de Extensión, empezó a imprimir flyers. Para el fin de semana, la campaña del 99% estaba en marcha y #WeAreThe99% (“SomosEl99%”) era “trending topic” en Twitter. En dos semanas, aparecieron acampadas en más de cincuenta ciudades norteamericanas. Se coreaba “Somos el 99%” en todo el país, y después en todo el mundo. El movimiento del 99% se había hecho global.

Resulta útil pararse un momento a recordar lo profundamente que caló el slogan “Somos el 99%” en la conciencia nacional americana, a partir de los meses de octubre y noviembre de 2011. Quizás estamos todavía demasiado cerca de esos meses de Occupy para entender completamente cómo, en un país que se enorgullece de hablar en nombre de la clase media, la retórica del 99% y del 1% ha reconfigurado el vocabulario político. De hecho, parece probable que dentro de unos diez años esos meses sean vistos como el momento clave para las elecciones presidenciales de 2012: el momento en que un Obama muy tocado por los desastrosos resultados de las elecciones legislativas y por su fracaso en el conflicto del “techo de deuda” con los republicanos pudo por fin apuntarse un tanto populista, gracias al vocabulario introducido por Occupy. Pero, ¿cómo llego a suceder todo esto?

Hay muchas percepciones falsas sobre la historia del movimiento Occupy en EE.UU. Desde los primeros días de Occupy Wall Street, cuando la periodista del New York Times Gina Belafonte se refirió al campamento de Zucotti Park como “la protesta política convertida en espectáculo”, los medios masivos norteamericanos presentaron a Occupy como un hatajo de individuos insatisfechos y con dificultades para encontrar un propósito en sus vidas. Al mismo tiempo, los simpatizantes del movimiento a menudo han dado una versión sobre sus orígenes que gira en torno a las actividades de un grupo de organizadores americanos que consiguieron de alguna manera capturar la imaginación pública. Este texto propone una narrativa diferente: la historia de cómo un grupo de extranjeros que trajeron tácticas y experiencias de movimientos sociales recientes en otros países articularon algunas de las ideas más persuasivas y de las prácticas más duraderas que iban a surgir del movimiento Occupy.

I.  Los participantes internacionales de Occupy Wall Street

http://tropicsofmeta.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/we-are-the-99.pngDesde el 13 de agosto al 10 de septiembre de 2011, asistí a los encuentros de la Asamblea General de Nueva York (AGNY) en el parque de Tompkins Square, en Manhattan. En estas “asambleas generales” semanales, abiertas a cualquiera que quisiera participar, un grupo de unas cincuenta o sesenta personas planeó la acampada y la ocupación de Wall Street para el 17 de septiembre. Fui, por tanto, testigo de la prehistoria de Occupy Wall Street, aunque reconozco que fue más por curiosidad que por convicción. Hasta ese momento yo me hubiera calificado como miembro de la izquierda “distraída” −había dedicado tiempo y esfuerzo a varias iniciativas políticas y sociales sin sentirme totalmente responsable de esas causas (y sin que nadie me lo exigiera). Las asambleas previas a Occupy Wall Street me abrieron los ojos, pero como aún me resistía a intervenir en los debates y las deliberaciones tácticas, me limitaba a intercambiar opiniones con otros participantes antes y después de las asambleas. Gracias a mi tendencia a mantenerme al margen del reducido núcleo de estas reuniones, pude observar la dinámica asamblearia desde una perspectiva que la mayoría de los integrantes más activos no pudieron permitirse. Aunque he seguido participando en asambleas, grupos de trabajo y convocatorias de Occupy a lo largo de un año y medio, me he mantenido mayormente en la periferia del movimiento. Desde esa posición de participante a la vez que observador, he podido constatar lo poco que se sabe aún de los inicios de Occupy Wall Street.

La historia estándar de Occupy Wall Street en los Estados Unidos es que la izquierda americana fue capaz finalmente de promover un movimiento colectivo para combatir los abusos de las élites político-financieras, en la estela de la crisis económica de 2008. Incluso los artículos que han reconocido las conexiones internacionales de Occupy normalmente las han caracterizado en términos de inspiración indirecta de los movimientos sociales de 2011 en Egipto, Grecia, España y otros lugares.

Sin embargo, lo que yo vi en estos encuentros y lo que he sido capaz de reconstruir estudiando los primeros documentos de la Asamblea General de NYC, es que cerca de un 40 o 50% de los participantes en las asambleas de agosto y septiembre de 2011 provenían de lugares que no eran Estados Unidos: España, Brasil, Irán, Grecia, Armenia, Japón, India, Palestina, Argentina, Rusia e Italia, además de la nación Choctaw y Puerto Rico. Solamente un artículo aparecido en los medios durante el primer mes de Occupy Wall Street se enfocaba parcialmente en las raíces internacionales del movimiento, “Cómo empezó realmente Occupy Wall Street”, publicado por Andy Kroll en la revista Mother Jones el día 17 de octubre. Bajo mi punto de vista, su provocadora pero legítima afirmación de que los participantes extranjeros eran al menos tan importantes como los americanos en la organización de Occupy Wall Street, no fue tomada en serio en ningún otro lugar.

Lo más sorprendente, quizá, sea el modo en el que destacados intelectuales de la izquierda, y muchos del movimiento mismo, comenzaron a ensayar ese relato de la inspiración indirecta, y no la participación directa, una vez que Occupy se extendió por el mundo. Al contrario de lo que uno esperaría, los principales teóricos académicos de Occupy se han basado en gran medida en la versión mediática de los orígenes del movimiento, aunque hayan dado más relevancia al impulso internacional del movimiento, frente al nacional, e idealizado lo que la prensa ha tendido a demonizar. Me inquietó que el académico y teórico político norteamericano Michael Hardt hablase de las “continuidades invisibles” de los nuevos movimientos sociales durante una charla sobre “El derecho a los comunes” en la Universidad de Princeton en noviembre de 2012, como si Occupy solo se pudiera conectar con Madrid y Atenas mediante una analogía. En su ahora famosa “Declaración” de mayo del 2012, Hardt y Antonio Negri emplean un lenguaje metafórico casi idéntico al de los medios de comunicación masivos para describir los movimientos sociales de 2011: las acampadas “se inspiraron en” las revueltas, los ocupadores de Wall Street “tomaron el relevo” de los indignados europeos, y los manifestantes de todo el mundo “reconocieron la resonancia”. En su empeño por atribuir los movimientos alrededor del mundo a una “multitud” horizontal, sin rostro ni nombre, Hardt y Negri no parecen contemplar la posibilidad de que alguno de esos manifestantes hubieran tomado un avión. ¿Los historiadores materialistas no dan ninguna importancia al hecho de que la participación de extranjeros en estos movimientos no fue sólo virtual sino también presencial?

NingunPero mi objetivo aquí, en cualquier caso, no es simplemente recuperar la importancia de los participantes internacionales. Desde los primeros días de la Asamblea General de NYC y de la organización de Occupy Wall Street, existieron visiones distintas sobre los propósitos del movimiento. Paradójicamente, aunque la mayoría de las interpretaciones de Occupy han tendido a marginalizar a las voces extranjeras del movimiento, fueron éstas las que resonaron más profundamente tanto en Estados Unidos como en el resto del mundo.  Al relatar la historia de los participantes internacionales, espero ofrecer algunas posibilidades futuras para la actual ola de movimientos sociales que están latentes en estos personajes olvidados de la historia de Occupy. Me centro concretamente en los españoles que contribuyeron a Occupy Wall Street porque creo que sus ideas y sus prácticas fueron absolutamente cruciales en las fases emergentes del movimiento ─el contingente español solía constituir entre el diez y el veinte por ciento de los asistentes a las pequeñas asambleas organizativas─ y porque presencié esas prácticas de cerca. Al igual que Moreno Caballud y Santa Cecilia, otros españoles acababan de retornar de España, donde habían participado en el movimiento 15-M, conocido también como el movimiento de los indignados, que estalló el 15 de mayo de 2011 con una manifestación a escala nacional contra la corrupción de las élites políticas y financieras del país y que desembocó en el levantamiento de numerosas acampadas en las principales plazas de ciudades de todo el estado. Para julio de 2011, el 15-M había conseguido el apoyo del 80% de los ciudadanos españoles y se estima que el movimiento ha llegado a atraer a entre seis y ocho millones de personas a las acampadas de Madrid, Barcelona y muchas otras ciudades. Además del entusiasmo y la convicción nacidos de haber sido testigos de ese movimiento verdaderamente popular, el contingente español de Occupy trajo también un principio que se había gestado en las acampadas españolas.

Este principio era lo que estos españoles comenzaron a llamar “la política de cualquiera”: la creencia en que los movimientos sociales deberían estar compuestos por cualquiera que quiera participar en ellos. Aunque “horizontalidad” se había convertido en un palabra clave en los movimientos autónomos y anti-globalización de los 80’s y 90’s para referirse al proceso de creación de consenso en las asambleas populares, la concepción de Occupy que tenían los españoles estaba menos orientada hacia esas actividades internas de las asambleas –grupos “autónomos” que practican la “acción directa”- que hacia la participación de la gente en general, estuvieran o no en las asambleas. Es decir, les preocupaba más la inclusividad que la horizontalidad del movimiento. Para ellos un movimiento “sin líderes” era importante no sólo porque estableciera un protocolo para asambleas no-jerárquicas, sino sobre todo porque desdibujaba los límites entre el “dentro” y el “fuera” del movimiento.

El contingente español a menudo repetía la frase: “nos importa menos el propio Occupy que lo que Occupy genera”. Les había impresionado la manera en que, durante el 15-M, los activistas habían cedido autoridad y agencia a cualquiera que llegaba para participar en las acampadas, y exigían que el lenguaje del movimiento fuera accesible para quienes no eran activistas ni académicos. Por todo ello, consideraban que la acampada en Wall Street no debía ser sólo un lugar para protestar contra los excesos de las instituciones financieras americanas, sino también, más fundamentalmente, un espacio para la construcción de una sociedad alternativa en la que la cooperación y la ayuda mutua sustituyera a la competición económica. En cierto sentido, esta idea concordaba con los principios anarquistas de auto-gestión que su compañero de asambleas, el antropólogo David Graeber, expuso en su ahora ya icónico artículo “Las raíces anarquistas de Occupy Wall Street”. Graeber, una de las caras más visibles del movimiento en la escena internacional, ha reconocido por lo demás en numerosas ocasiones la importancia de la contribución de los “indignados” españoles a la creación de Occupy Wall Street (por ejemplo, aquí). Pero a la mayoría de los españoles de Occupy les preocupaba que un énfasis exagerado en los procesos asamblearios pudiera crear un aislamiento de la comunidad “radical” en lugar de un movimiento inclusivo. El éxito de Occupy Wall Street, pensaban, no consistiría en “traer a gente al movimiento” para que escuchara su retórica, sino en expandir el movimiento –sus propósitos, su vocabulario y sus prácticas- para que cualquiera pudiera contribuir a su construcción.

Me resulta difícil explicar tales principios por escrito ya que la eficacia del contingente español de Occupy residía sobre todo en cómo decían lo que decían y cómo hacían lo que hacían. Recuerdo a un americano que hablaba en términos casi religiosos de la “fe inquebrantable” de los españoles, y a otro (algo menos entusiasta) que señaló que él era uno de los pocos asistentes a la AGNY que no hablaba español (estadounidenses incluídos). Sin duda, anécdotas personales como estas suelen dar una impresión distorsionada de los múltiples significados, fuentes e interpretaciones de un acontecimiento político. Estos puntos de vista tienen tanto de interpretación como de observación, como diría seguramente el antropólogo Clifford Geertz. Sin embargo, también soy consciente de que el tipo de teorización global sobre Occupy ofrecida por Hardt y Negri tiende a simplificar las complejas trayectorias y contingencias de los movimientos sociales. Cuando hablé con Hardt tras su ponencia en Princeton, me comentó que sabía de la presencia internacional en la prehistoria de Occupy pero tan sólo de manera “anecdótica”, una respuesta que me dejó un tanto insatisfecho. Una de las preocupaciones más acuciantes para cualquiera que desee comprender el movimiento Occupy es precisamente cómo relacionar la enorme escala de los nuevos movimientos sociales con la creciente sensación de que expresan las crisis que nos afectan en nuestro día a día. Es por eso, creo yo, que debemos estar abiertos a explorar alternativas tanto a la teorización abstracta como a las típicas reconstrucciones periodísticas del movimiento que tienden a elevar lo anecdótico al fijarse en el detalle pintoresco, la entrevista al “tío más siniestro de la acampada”, o el dramático tira y afloja de los debates entre militantes. Combinaré, por tanto, las observaciones personales con el análisis, reflejando así no sólo los conceptos centrales del movimiento sino también cómo y cuándo se pusieron en práctica (o no) estas ideas.

II.  Occupy ama al 15M

El tránsito de estas gentes, prácticas e ideas entre España y Estados Unidos en el verano de 2011 generó mucha de la energía que iba a impulsar los esfuerzos organizativos de Occupy en agosto y septiembre del mismo año. Por supuesto muchos tipos de protesta y tendencias políticas diferentes convergieron en la formación de Occupy Wall Street. El movimiento debe mucho a las campañas anti-globalización de Seattle y Argentina en el cambio de milenio, a las protestas pro-democracia de la primavera árabe cuya onda expansiva circulaba ya por Occidente y a la llamada a la propagación de acampadas de protesta americanas realizada por la revista canadiense Adbusters durante los calurosos días del verano de 2011. En julio, la coalición New Yorkers Against Budget Cuts (“Neoyorquinos contra los recortes de presupuesto”) probó la idea erigiendo unas pocas tiendas de campaña junto al City Hall: el campamento que llamaron “Bloombergville” (en referencia al alcalde de la ciudad, Michael Bloomberg).

Pero incluso antes de estas iniciativas norteamericanas, el impulso para lo que se convertiría en el movimiento Occupy empezó en Nueva York con una manifestación en solidaridad con el movimiento 15-M en Washington Square, el día 21 de Mayo de 2011. Durante las seis semanas siguientes, un grupo de españoles reunidos bajo el nombre “Democracia Real Ya – NYC”, entre ellos algunos que llevaban bastante tiempo viviendo en Nueva York, se dieron cita semanalmente en el salón de actos de un bar español para solidarizarse con el 15-M y comentar la posibilidad de que un movimiento similar pudiera suceder en Estados Unidos. César Arenas-Mena y Moreno-Caballud comenzaron a asistir a las reuniones de New Yorkers Against Budget Cuts hacia mitad de julio, y el día 27 del mismo mes, tuvo lugar una charla informativa sobre el 15-M en la librería feminista de Manhattan Bluestockings. El momento clave de esta fase previa, sin embargo, lo constituyó un encuentro organizativo en el espacio de arte y activismo situado en el corazón de Wall Street 16Beaver, el día 31 de julio. El encuentro, llamado “For General Assemblies in Every Part of the World” (“Por asambleas generales en todas partes del mundo”) y organizado por Ayreen Anastas, Rene Gabri, Xavi Acarin y Moreno-Caballlud, entre otros, reunió a participantes en acampadas españolas con griegos que protestaban en la plaza Syntagma, además de activistas japoneses, palestinos y americanos (algunos organizadores de Bloombergville entre ellos). En esta reunión se anunció la primera asamblea de la Asamblea General de Nueva York (en aquel momento conocida como la Asamblea General Popular sobre los Recortes), que iba a tener lugar el 2 de agosto.

Durante los días siguientes, la frase más icónica y duradera de Occupy, “Somos el 99%”, fue acuñada por una serie de participantes de la Asamblea General de NY. El contingente español fue absolutamente crucial en esta articulación. El 4 de agosto, se inició un hilo de emails titulado “Una única demanda”, en la recién creada lista de correo “Septiembre 17”.  Uno de los aspectos más fascinantes de esta serie de correos es que desmonta la teoría de la ingenuidad del movimiento por rehuir la formulación de una “demanda oficial” porque deja constancia de la intensidad y la perceptividad con la que los integrantes del movimiento debatían la necesidad de presentar demandas en la fase inicial de Occupy Wall Street. También demuestra que la idea de Occupy Wall Street como movimiento del 99% no fue “inventada” por un solo manifestante sino que, de hecho, fue desarrollada pacientemente por varias voces a lo largo del tiempo. Así pues, al contar la historia de los orígenes de la frase, resisto la tentación de tratar de identificar a un “pionero” pero sí quisiera documentar las contribuciones concretas de un amplio conjunto de personas al concepto de un movimiento del 99%.

El americano Willie Osterweil, recién llegado de las acampadas en Barcelona, comenzó la discusión señalando que esta “única demanda” del movimiento debería ser lo suficientemente amplia para incluir a todo el mundo: “No queremos observadores, queremos participantes”. Lorenzo Serna, un miembro latino e hispanohablante del grupo de Extensión respondió diciendo que tal vez lo que necesitaba no era una única demanda sino un mensaje único, algo que pudiera ser “fácilmente transferible de mi a cualquiera”. Isham Christie entonces enfatizó la diferencia entre una “demanda”, “que se dirige al estado o a las élites económicas” y un “mensaje”, “que se dirige a la gente que intentamos traer al movimiento”. En definitiva, el consenso “online” al que se llegó fue que Occupy Wall Street debía definirse menos por el qué de su posición política que por el quién de sus participantes. Moreno-Caballud sugirió entonces que la identidad del movimiento se definiría según su capacidad de generar un mensaje que fuera fácil de entender y que combinara lo político con lo económico, como había hecho el 15-M con su “No somos mercancías en manos de políticos y banqueros”. Amin Husain añadió un eco populista de la constitución americana ofreciendo el slogan: “Nosotros, la gente, estamos tomando las calles porque el gobierno no nos escucha”. Finalmente, David Graeber, inspirado por un artículo del economista Joseph Stiglitz sobre “la política del 1%”, propuso la expresión que se convertiría en sinónimo de Occupy:

“¿Qué os parece “el movimiento del 99%”?”. Graeber continuó: “Los dos partidos políticos gobiernan en nombre del 1% de americanos que han recibido casi todos los beneficios del crecimiento económico, que son los únicos completamente recuperados de la recesión de 2008, que controlan el sistema político y la casi totalidad de la riqueza económica. Así que si los dos partidos representan al 1%, nosotros representamos a ese 99% cuyas vidas han quedado esencialmente fuera de la ecuación”.

Al día siguiente Santa-Cecilia y Moreno-Caballud imprimieron un flyer, añadiendo el pronombre “nosotros” al 99%, creando así una “identidad colectiva” para el “todos” y el “cualquiera” que formaría parte del movimiento: “Nosotros, el 99% llamamos a una asamblea general el 9 de agosto a las 7:30 en el Potato Famine Memorial”. El concepto del 99% empezó a circular por las calles de Nueva York. Más tarde, el activista y bloggero Chris lo transformó en su forma final: “Somos el 99%”, que dio nombre a una página de Tumblr. Estas fueron las palabras y el concepto que Santa-Cecilia y Moreno-Caballud recuperaron en su email de septiembre, durante la primera semana de la acampada.

  ser    Aunque el “mensaje” único del 99% fue una de las constantes que unió a los participantes de la AGNY desde dicho email del 4 de agosto hasta la ocupación del 17 de septiembre, los distintos contingentes de la asamblea variaban en su manera de ponerla en práctica. No es casualidad que la presencia española fuera la más fuerte en el grupo de trabajo de difusión Occupy Outreach, encargado de desarrollar el mensaje de la asamblea para llevarlo a otras comunidades fuera del movimiento. De los aproximadamente diez integrantes del grupo de Difusión en agosto y principios de septiembre, tres eran españoles. Además de Moreno Caballud y Santa Cecilia, Lauren Dapena Frais también participó activamente en el grupo. He de reconocer que cuando Moreno Caballud y Santa Cecilia, que no son ciudadanos estadounidenses, me hablaron en agosto de su plan de distribuir folletos en las salidas del metro de Brooklyn, me preocupé por su seguridad. ¿Cómo iban a reaccionar los neoyorquinos ante dos personas con acento marcadamente español instándoles a asistir a reuniones para la ocupación de Wall Street? No obstante, el contingente español persistió en sus esfuerzos más que nada porque, fieles al espíritu del 15-M, creían que el movimiento debería identificarse no sólo con los asamblearios, los manifestantes o los acampados sino, ante todo, con el conjunto de la población que es sometida a la manipulación de la élite político-financiera. Durante las asambleas de Tompkins Square Park, mientras gran parte del debate se centraba en cuestiones tácticas y logísticas de la ocupación, a Santa Cecilia se le veía, a menudo, repartiendo folletos a transeúntes curiosos que pasaban por el parque, hablándoles de las razones de Occupy. La idea era que la asamblea debía mantenerse abierta al 99% de la población, considerada la protagonista del movimiento. De hecho, aunque Moreno Caballud y Santa Cecilia acabaron uniéndose a las manifestaciones y la acampada del 17 de septiembre, albergaban serias dudas sobre las connotaciones imperialistas del nombre “Occupy” así como sobre la idea de levantar la acampada en “territorio enemigo”. Como habían pasado gran parte de su tiempo en España asistiendo a las asambleas más pequeñas que se extendieron en distintas localidades tras el desalojo de las acampadas masivas de Barcelona y Madrid, Santa Cecilia y Moreno Caballud siguieron propugnando el lema del 99% y propusieron esfuerzos por crear y apoyar asambleas locales más allá del distrito financiero de Nueva York.

            No me parece del todo casual que el grupo que más se preocupó de la inclusividad del movimiento, y más se esforzó por ella, haya sido excluído, en efecto, de los principales relatos sobre los orígenes de Occupy. ¿Por qué es así? En primer lugar, el 15-M fue más drástico que otros movimientos de 2011 en su creencia en un movimiento sin líderes hasta el nivel orgánico; al ser entrevistados, los acampados españoles solían negarse a dar sus apellidos, una práctica que fue replicada inicialmente por el contingente español de Occupy.  Especialmente en los primeros días del campamento de Zuccoti, esta táctica de despersonalización fue habitualmente recibida con confusión, hostilidad y, sobre todo, indiferencia por una sociedad americana fuertemente afectada por el culto a la celebridad. La falta de auto-promoción por parte del contingente español de Occupy supuso la progresiva disminución de su visibilidad y su influencia en el movimiento. Para el momento en que Occupy Wall Street había capturado la imaginación popular, en los últimos días de septiembre, los españoles ya no tenían una presencia decisiva en los principales órganos del movimiento, ni en Zucotti Park ni fuera del parque. Este giro confirmó, en parte, la efectividad de su concepto de un movimiento del 99%. Pero, por otro lado, el hecho de que fueran menos visibles que otros participante hizo que los medios globales –y en consecuencia, los activistas y académicos que, a pesar de toda nuestra retórica, continuamos estando fuertemente atados a esos canales estrechos de información- básicamente ignoraran las continuidades entre el 15-M y Occupy.

En el primero de mayo de 2012, durante una marcha a través de las calles de Manhattan, un grupo de participantes de Occupy intentaron reconstruir los puentes entre los dos movimientos. Preocupados por el hecho de que la gente tanto en Estados Unidos como en España siguieran viendo a Occupy como un movimiento local enfocado en el sistema político americano, llevaron una pancarta que decía: “Occupy Loves 15-M (Spain)”. Tengo fotos del contingente español llevando esa pancarta desde Union Square por todo Broadway hasta Zucotti, pero no creo que mucha otra gente reparara en ellos. La pancarta era una especie de testimonio de cierta derrota. Siendo cierto que muchos en Occupy “amaban” al 15-M, se había vuelto ya casi imposible afirmar una verdad mucho más profunda: que el 15-M era, o al menos era una parte fundamental, de Occupy Wall Street.

III.  Activistas, académicos, y cualquiera

Una de las principales características que distinguen al contingente español de los demás participantes de la AGNY es que la mayoría de los españoles del movimiento nunca habían sido activistas antes de los acontecimientos de 2011. Como muchos otros españoles en casa y en el extranjero, el 15-M les atrajo precisamente porque el lenguaje de las acampadas se había despojado del tradicional discurso de la izquierda. Casi todos los miembros españoles de la AGNY tenían estudios de posgrado —Santa-Cecilia, Moreno-Caballud, Lauren Dapena Fraiz, Ángel Luis Lara, Maleni Romero, Lucia Rey, Vicente Rubio, Manuel Levin, Xavi Acarrín, y Nikki Schiller— y sin embargo, todos se sentían cautivados por los lemas e ideas que salieron de las acampadas del 15-M. Al igual que los demás participantes de la AGNY, los españoles estaban imbuidos de la tradición de la política radical, habiendo leído desde  Marx hasta Franz Fanon, Gilles Deleuze y Felix Guattari, desde Gayatri Spivak y Jacques Rancières hasta Hardt y Negri. La diferencia fundamental, a mi modo de ver, era la forma en la cual los participantes se identificaban con esos teóricos políticos. Mientras que la mayoría de los activistas empleaban una retórica anti-capitalista en prácticamente cada frase que pronunciaban, había otro grupo, representado en el email de la “Demanda Única” por Lorenzo Serna, Isham Christie y Moreno Caballud, al cual le preocupaba más cómo se podrían modificar, reformular y traducir dichas ideas en lemas “fácilmente comprensibles”. Dentro del contingente español, este deseo de hablar un lenguaje cotidiano solía manifestarse en un rechazo deliberado a identificarse como intelectuales, activistas o académicos, a pesar de que varios de los españoles desempeñaban profesiones académica.

Aunque sería fácil calificar ese rechazo de hipócrita y engañoso, la precariedad de su situación era muy real en esos momentos. En los primeros días del movimiento Occupy existía el temor legítimo de una represión del gobierno, en especial hacia quienes no poseyeran la ciudadanía estadounidense. Y lo que es aún más importante quizá, el 15-M ya se hallaba en vías de reconfigurar la relación entre académicos, activistas y el resto de la población. Los debates acerca del papel del intelectual en los movimientos sociales se remontan a La Nueva Izquierda británica y norteamericana, pasando por Gramsci, Lenin y más allá, pero han adquirido una urgencia mayor en el mundo de habla hispana a raíz de las guerrillas de los años 60 y 70, la insurrección Zapatista de los 90 y los recientes movimientos populistas en Latinoamérica. Grupos como el Colectivo Situaciones de Buenos Aires, que empezó a combinar los esfuerzos organizativos y la militancia política con iniciativas de investigación tras la crisis financiera argentina de 2001, han atacado tanto a la izquierda ortodoxa como al establishment académico debido a su desinterés por interactuar con las personas sobre las que escriben. Siguiendo la pauta de estos movimientos en el mundo hispanoparlante, el 15-M fue notable por el papel secundario que asumieron los activistas y académicos del movimiento al ceder el paso a los indignados que llegaban a las acampadas y rechazando intencionadamente el tradicional concepto izquierdista de una vanguardia revolucionaria.

            Esta nueva forma de pensar y actuar de los españoles respecto a los movimientos sociales ha tenido, no obstante, sus teóricos. El más importante, con diferencia, para el contingente español de Occupy era Amador Fernández-Savater, un escritor y editor independiente de Madrid que publicó una serie de apuntes en su blog en mayo y junio de 2011 titulados “Apuntes de acampada sol”. Aunque Fernández-Savater cuenta con una larga trayectoria como activista, su modo de pensar, escribir y participar en acciones políticas cambió radicalmente tras varios años de colaboración con las víctimas del atentado de la estación ferroviaria de Atocha, Madrid, en 2004. Los apuntes de Fernández-Savater consistían a menudo en breves frases que había oído al pasear por las acampadas (“Sin vivienda, no hay viviendo” o “Somos personas”) seguidas de una explicación sobre cómo estos pronunciamientos en lenguaje cotidiano expresaban un sentido común alternativo en el movimiento. Solía autodenominarse “recogedor de citas”, un oyente que recopilaba y glosaba lo que otros expresaban en las plazas. En la primera anotación de su blog, Fernández-Savater reflexionaba sobre el significado de recoger estas palabras y expresiones encontradas:

“Discusión con un amigo militante. Me dice que le chirría el lenguaje que se emplea. Lo encuentra muy pobre: “democracia”, “ciudadanía”, etc. Se lo discuto: desde el “no a la guerra” son precisamente ese tipo de enunciados “planos” los que abren espacios donde todos cabemos y que mueven las cosas. Es verdad que me parece más potente “no vas a tener casa en la puta vida” que “no somos mercancía en manos de políticos y banqueros”. Pero me parece que hoy está claro que las palabras tienen fuerza no tanto por lo que dicen, sino por quién las dice y desde dónde las dice.”

Este intento de encontrar un lenguaje en el que “cabe todo el mundo” fue un distintivo del contingente español de Occupy.

            Se podría decir que el énfasis del contingente español sobre el lenguaje cotidiano y la gente común no era nada nuevo ya que las corrientes teóricas más significativas de los últimos veinte años han luchado por el poder colectivo de los grupos marginados que no hablan el idioma de la élite culta y que a menudo son excluidos de las historias de los “grandes hombres”. El énfasis sobre el anonimato y la marginación, fortalecido por el renovado interés por el marxismo tras la crisis financiera mundial de finales de 2007, puede verse en el concepto de Hardt y Negri sobre la “multitud”, los estudios poscoloniales sobre lo “subalterno” y en las teorías de Henry Lefevre y Michael de Certeau sobre las prácticas de la vida cotidiana. Todos los españoles conocían estas corrientes, y sus palabras y escritos reflejaban el lenguaje de esos autores. De hecho, se podría decir que el proyecto de Fernández-Savater en “Apuntes de Acampada Sol” fue articulado en constante diálogo con la creencia de Jacques Rancières en la “igualdad intelectual” de todas las personas y la insistencia de Michael de Certeau en “llevar las prácticas y el lenguaje científicos de vuelta a su tierra natal, la vida cotidiana”. Sin embargo, sería un error interpretar el discurso español como una simple aplicación de esos principios teóricos, porque el logro del 15-M fue, de hecho, invertir lo que Rancière y de Certeau se propusieron hacer. En lugar de formular una teoría sobre la vida cotidiana y el lenguaje común, llevaron dichas teorías académicas a la práctica en el mundo real. Además de traducir los sentimientos populares de las acampadas en España, el contingente español de Occupy fue también capaz de traducir las contribuciones intelectuales de una generación de teóricos ─muchos de los cuales respondían a los movimientos sociales de 1968─ al idioma cotidiano de los movimientos de 2011.

            Quizá la mayor lección que Fernández-Savater aprendió a su paso por las acampadas fue que el anonimato y la despersonalización no eran los únicos medios para combatir el culto a la individualidad de la sociedad contemporánea. En su introducción al libro Las voces del 15-M, publicado en su blog el 6 de junio de 2011, Fernández-Savater ofreció una alternativa a lo que denominó la práctica del “anonimato radical”. Refiriéndose a la larga serie de experimentos literarios y académicos con “la disolución del yo en procesos y tramas colectivas”, Fernández-Savater escribe:

“Conozco, comparto, he practicado y practico esa modalidad de anonimato. Pero hoy también me pregunto si es la única vía posible para escapar de la maldición del “autor individual y propietario”, si es la única articulación interesante y liberadora entre yo y nosotros, lo común y la singularidad. Veo que en las redes sociales y los blogs hay un uso de la primera persona, con la potencia que tiene ese tipo de enunciación muy encarnada, pero como un nombre propio más, como uno cualquiera; y además conectado a un flujo de conversación colectivo, aportando a un gran relato coral (blogosfera, hashtags, etc.). Quizá podamos pensar hoy también lo colectivo como un sistema de resonancias entre puntos singulares y no sólo como un mural dibujado a muchas manos.”

Mani NYSegún Fernández-Savater, las nuevas tecnologías sociales ofrecen un buen modelo para comprender la relación entre lo individual y lo colectivo en los recientes movimientos. Estas tecnologías le permiten a uno situarse junto a otros, convertirse en un nombre propio más “como cualquier otro” más que perseguir una especie de fusión definitiva de la energía humana en la que nadie puede determinar quién es quién. Su referencia a los hashtags es reveladora; el retuit de Twitter funciona simultáneamente como afirmación del nombre propio y expresión de una opinión común. Aunque se podría argumentar que el “sistema de resonancias” del que habla Fernández-Savater no es más que un nuevo envoltorio para la industria de la cultura denunciada por Max Horkheimer y Theodor Adorno, el análisis de los medios masivos como engaño masivo que realizaron estos autores se desmorona cuando nos fijamos en los casos concretos del 15-M y Occupy. De hecho, el “sistema de resonancias” no tardó en literalizarse en Zuccotti Park mediante el llamado “micrófono popular”, una creación improvisada de las primeras horas de la ocupación para sortear la prohibición oficial de altavoces en espacios públicos. Los participantes se levantaban y expresaban sus opiniones y propuestas, haciendo una pausa tras cada pocas palabras para que la muchedumbre o la asamblea las repitiera, transmitiendo así el mensaje a un círculo de personas cada vez más amplio a modo de eco. Aunque el “micrófono popular” estaba sujeto a diversas formas de manipulación, fuera por el temperamento de la asamblea, la elocuencia de la persona que hablaba o una simple interferencia de sonido, su característica más innovadora, quizá, fue que apartó a los medios casi por completo de la mediación entre lo personal y lo colectivo. Moreno Caballud escribió posteriormente que fue esa misma modulación de la voluntad de la asamblea la que actuaba de conducto para el mensaje del movimiento: “Lo interesante del micrófono popular es que funciona como el movimiento: no se trata simplemente de unos individuos moldeados a un grupo claramente identificado e identificable, sino que articula una composición colectiva variable que crece en proporción directa a cuántas personas suscriben lo que se propone —en voz más alta, mayor acuerdo— o por el contrario, disminuye cuando una propuesta es inviable u objetable —en voz más baja, menos acuerdo—.”  Yo añadiría que este mecanismo de “comprobación” que suponía el micro popular es precisamente lo que media entre la voluntad individual y la colectiva, un pensamiento expresado por un individuo que, a continuación, se incorpora (o no se incorpora) al discurso de la asamblea.

El acento sobre el lenguaje de la calle, la idea de que las formulaciones del movimiento tendrían que ser lo suficientemente amplias como para que “todos quepamos” y la política de lo que Fernández-Savater denominaría “el anonimato en primera persona” eran los principios de funcionamiento del contingente español de Occupy Wall Street. Todos estos principios eran congruentes con la creencia de que el mensaje del movimiento sería determinado no sólo por lo que se decía sino también por quién lo decía. La tremenda importancia que el comité de Difusión confirió a la cuestión de convertir el lema del 99% en un 99% real demuestra el compromiso de los españoles por ir más allá de la acampada para expandir la geografía del movimiento al vecindario, la ciudad y el país entero. En su email del 19 de septiembre, cuando el lema del 99% no se había popularizado aún, Moreno Caballud advirtió del riesgo de excluir al 99% si se seguía empleando una retórica primordialmente académica y activista. El siguiente correo me sigue pareciendo la expresión más emotiva de las ideas centrales de Occupy, una afirmación que sintetiza tanto los peligros como el dinamismo del movimiento y un reconocimiento de su necesaria temporalidad: “Hemos atraído mucha atención en internet e incluso en los principales medios de comunicación. ¡Aprovechemos esto ahora, antes de que pase! Construyamos un movimiento masivo y realmente inclusivo.”

¿Qué habría sucedido si Moreno Caballud no hubiera enviado ese email? Quizá no habría cambiado nada. Como hemos visto una y otra vez durante los últimos años, en pleno fervor de la agitación social, los acontecimientos e historias más improbables pueden surtir los efectos globales más profundos. La contingencia, sin embargo, no es lo mismo que la casualidad. La recuperación por parte de Moreno Caballud del lema del 99% en aquel momento pone de manifiesto su creencia de que deshacerse de la identidad cismática del “ocupador” como activista y académico no se podía anunciar sin más; había que repetirlo en voz alta y ponerlo en práctica en el entorno del movimiento mismo. El éxito de dicho email se puede atribuir no solo al “acontecimiento” de la formulación del lema, sino también a la pura tenacidad de repetir el lema del 99% por encima de la retórica activista que se había instalado inicialmente en la acampada. Se pueden decir muchas cosas acerca del legado de Occupy, pero lo que es innegable es que en esa semana de septiembre se hizo un llamamiento a un movimiento “masivo”. Otra cuestión distinta es si la transformación de las “identidades tradicionales” del activista y el académico sucederá o no. Eso, aún está por verse.

 IV. Problemas y progreso

Demonstration on May 1st 2012Aunque las iniciativas comunitarias creadas por Occupy a finales de 2011, como Occupy Sandy (para ayudar a las víctimas del huracán) o Strike Debt (Elimina la deuda), infundieron nueva energía al movimiento y obligaron tanto a los medios como a los académicos a replantearse su descripción de Occupy como un proyecto fracasado, no cabe duda de que las aspiraciones de plena inclusión que motivaron el mensaje del 99% se han topado con serios obstáculos. Ya en el primer mes de la ocupación de Zuccotti Park, muchos participantes y comentaristas observaron  el reducido porcentaje de personas de color en el movimiento, sobre todo de afroamericanos. En una columna de opinión del Washington Post titulada “Por qué los afroamericanos no se están sumando a Occupy Wall Street”, Stacy Patton señaló que, mientras que la población negra de EE.UU. constituye el 12,6%, las encuestas mostraban que representaba tan sólo el 1,6% del movimiento Occupy. Tras sugerir que muchos afroamericanos desdeñaban Occupy Wall Street por considerarlo un “movimiento blanco” que comenzó cuando los blancos empezaron a sufrir algunas de las dificultades económicas que los negros llevaban ya años padeciendo, Patton concluye que “si el movimiento Occupy no cree en la solidaridad con otros colectivos de personas explotadas y oprimidas, y si la América negra no concibe nuevas estrategias de liderazgo para abordar los problemas de hoy, la sabiduría de Frederick Douglass seguirá siendo cierta: la poderosa corriente de raza y clase subyacente en la sociedad estadounidense impedirá que tanto negros como blancos sean libres.”

Ahora los comentarios de Patton sobre la distancia entre el movimiento Occupy y la comunidad afroamericana me parecen acertados en gran parte; mis propias observaciones durante los primeros días del movimiento coinciden bastante con esa impresión. Recuerdo que en las reuniones de agosto en Tompkins Square Park hubo varias propuestas de trasladar las asambleas generales de la ciudad de Nueva York a otros barrios fuera de Manhattan basadas en un supuesto que sigo considerando correcto: los participantes variarían mucho según el lugar donde se celebrasen las asambleas. La inercia general de la AGNY respecto a estos temas confirmó algunas de las acusaciones de las que posteriormente fue objeto el movimiento. La idea de que “los afroamericanos se sumarán al movimiento cuando vean lo que estamos haciendo” siempre me pareció reductiva, y lo sucedido en los días iniciales del movimiento demostraron que esa creencia no se cumplió. De hecho, incluso me atrevería a argumentar que la presencia española en Occupy Wall Street pudo haber exacerbado el problema debido a que el discurso del 99% el “todos” y “cualquiera”— sonaba demasiado al lenguaje de los derechos universales que frecuentemente han sido traicionados en la práctica, aunque no por principio. Resulta significativo que la ahora extendida norma asamblearia de “step up, step back” (da un paso adelante, da un paso atrás) en el que a los participantes varones de raza blanca se les pedía que cedieran el turno para que se pudieran oír otras voces, no se implementó hasta mucho después de las asambleas de Tompkins Square Park.

Pero las apariencias engañan a veces. Cualquier persona que haya pasado tiempo en las asambleas de estudiantes reconocerá lo crucial que han sido los afroamericanos en la expansión de los grupos de educación y de deuda del movimiento y, como señala Graeber, los líderes del histórico sindicato negro Transit Workers Union of New York fueron “algunos de los primeros patrocinadores y entusiastas de la ocupación, con un ávido apoyo de sus bases”. Asimismo conviene recordar que el artista de hip hop Lupe Fiasco fue una de las pocas celebridades que ofrecieron apoyo ideológico y táctico a Occupy Wall Street antes del 17 de septiembre. Por último, un momento destacado de la infancia de la acampada de Zuccotti fue la convergencia de los manifestante de Occupy con la protesta del 20 de septiembre en Union Square contra la ejecución de Troy Davis, un afroamericano acusado de matar a tiros a un agente de policía de Georgia en 1989 y cuya inocencia defendían muchos activistas, grupos de derechos humanos y gran parte de la población negra. Muchos participantes del movimiento Occupy recuerdan la increíble energía que se desató cuando, tras recibir folletos repartidos por integrantes de Occupy, un amplio grupo de los manifestantes contra la ejecución de Troy Davis decidieron seguir su marcha hacia Zuccotti Park. Unos días más tarde, los integrantes de Occupy les correspondieron sumándose a una convocatoria a favor de Troy Davis. Dado que ese intercambio tuvo lugar en la calle, lejos del puesto de los reporteros, los medios de comunicación lo obviaron casi por completo.

Otro argumento discutible que Patton presenta en su artículo es que la relación entre Occupy y los afroamericanos ha sido un reflejo de las clásicas divisiones de la sociedad estadounidense. Su tesis de que el movimiento se originó en, y representó a, “la América blanca” fue, como ya he mencionado, inventada de forma retroactiva, en parte por algunos integrantes del movimiento y en parte por los principales medios de comunicación. Un ejemplo perfecto de la insidiosa fusión entre los relatos de Occupy y los de los medios se encuentra en el libro Occupying Wall Street: The Inside Story of an Action that Changed America (Ocupando Wall Street: La historia desde dentro de una acción que cambió América). Aunque el libro es “anónimo”, escrito supuestamente por los “Autores del 99%”, la contraportada contiene una nota de Johathan Lethem, un abanderado de la cultura vanguardista de la América blanca, que describe el libro como “Un relato de primera mano esencial e incitante sobre cómo el oxígeno volvió a fluir repentina y milagrosamente al cerebro americano”.  Los capítulos sobre los orígenes de Occupy titulados “Los comienzos” y “Ha nacido una ocupación” no sólo alimentan la extendida creencia de que los movimientos internacionales de principios de 2011 sirvieron sólo de “patrón” para AGNY, Bloombergsville y Occupy, sino que idealizan el papel de los conectores de la cultura blanca de Estados Unidos que lograron transformar las protestas extranjeras en un mensaje capaz de llegar directamente al cerebro norteamericano. Según cuenta el libro, el protagonista de la prehistoria del movimiento es el anteriormente citado Willie Osterweil, el manifestante estadounidense que había pasado varios meses en las acampadas de España. Los autores del libro citan a Osterweil: “En España resurgió mi urgencia y reconocí realmente (no intelectualmente) la naturaleza del momento histórico y las posibilidades que teníamos a nuestro alcance en EE.UU.” Aunque ya he aludido al papel crucial que desempeñó Osterweil en la formulación del lema del 99%, el libro no hace ninguna referencia a los participantes españoles y latinos que realmente (no solo intelectualmente) estaban presentes en la AGNY junto a Osterweil. La transfusión de oxígeno entre estadounidenses blancos y estadounidenses blancos se completa en el primer párrafo de “Ha nacido una ocupación”, en el que los autores hablan del “nacimiento” de la ocupación gracias a los esfuerzos de “un reducido grupo de hombre y mujeres mayoritariamente jóvenes y blancos, que hicieron planes de última hora para el sábado 17 de septiembre”. Es decir, al ocupar Wall Street, el movimiento se auto-blanquea.

Estas versiones de los orígenes de Occupy no las considero como indicativas de la perspectiva histórica de todos los miembros del movimiento sino más bien como el relato que a una facción del movimiento le gusta contarse. De hecho, el estallido de popularidad que Occupy experimentó entre finales de septiembre y octubre de 2011 coincidió con el creciente interés de autores como Lethem y otros exponentes de la vertiente “cool” de la cultura blanca estadounidense plasmada en ciertos medios como la revista neoyorquina N +1 o la revista McSweeney’s de San Francisco. Estas publicaciones literarias y culturales tendían a reproducir las impresiones de la “segunda ola” de ocupadores, mayoritariamente blancos, cuyo compromiso con el movimiento comenzó cuando Zuccotti Park ya estaba convirtiéndose en un circo mediático, un momento en el que a todos (me incluyo) nos resultaba difícil distinguir entre la forma y el contenido de la acampada. No quiero decir que esos participantes no estuvieran comprometidos con las causas del movimiento sino que representan a uno de los muchos sectores demográficos del movimiento y su relato es uno entre los muchos que se podrían contar sobre la trayectoria del movimiento. Los medios de comunicación que informaron sobre las primeras semanas de Occupy Wall Street padecieron, en general, de la necesidad de confirmar sus ideas preconcebidas; se dirigían a Zuccotti Park para retratar a un colectivo de manifestantes blancos, modernos, sobre-privilegiados e infra-informados y buscaban exclusivamente a personas que se ajustaran a ese perfil.

Si volvemos a fijarnos en los participantes de la AGNY que contribuyeron al hilo de emails sobre la Demanda Única, queda claro que los “ocupadores originales” distaban mucho de tipificar la América blanca. Isham Christie es un Choctaw (aborigen norteamericano) de Dakota del Norte, Amin Hussain es estadounidense de origen palestino, Lorenzo Serna es latino e indio americano, Moreno Caballud es español. Graeber y Osterweil son los únicos que se aproximan al perfil estereotipado de Occupy Wall Street. Por otra parte, la narrativa generalizada en EE.UU. ha pasado por alto los estrechos vínculos entre Occupy y la comunidad latina, creados sobre todo como consecuencia del empeño que los primeros integrantes españoles y latinoamericanos pusieron en llegar a los barrios de habla hispana por considerarlo crucial para la supervivencia del movimiento. Ya desde los comienzos, Santa Cecilia y el puertorriqueño Pablo Benson ayudaron a organizar el grupo de trabajo de Occupy en español, en el que participantes de Puerto Rico, México, Argentina, Uruguay, España y otros países (así como estadounidenses de habla hispana) celebraban asambleas, concedían entrevistas a medios hispanoparlantes y debatían sobre cómo crear redes con organizaciones y movimientos sociales latinoamericanos fuera de EE.UU.

Uno de los grandes éxitos del movimiento Occupy de Nueva York ha sido su capacidad de conectar con establecidas organizaciones latinas y de inmigrantes, entre ellas, los colectivos sociales La Indignación, La Unión de Brooklyn y El Centro de Staten Island. Durante el pasado año, el grupo 16 Beaver Street ha celebrado reuniones abiertas con miembros de la cooperativa de tratamiento de agua de Cochabamba, Bolivia (), y del Colectivo Situaciones de Buenos Aires. La gran corriente subterránea de Occupy sigue siendo la comunidad hispana, que a partir de unos pocos españoles y latinoamericanos involucrados inicialmente en el movimiento se ha extendido a inmigrantes sin papeles, agrupaciones políticas locales y participantes de acampadas fuera de EE.UU. entre otros. Más recientemente, el contingente hispano de Occupy ha dedicado gran parte de su tiempo y esfuerzos al foro pro-commons Making Worlds, que ha reunido a escritores y teóricos como Silvia Federici, George Caffentzis y James Quilligan junto con miembros de la sociedad, artistas, docentes y académicos. Este giro hacia los “commons”, sistemas de intercambio regulados por el usuario (como por ejemplo, Wikipedia) considerados como una alternativa tanto al estado como al mercado, refleja un intento consciente de desarrollar las ideas y las prácticas solidarias de Zuccotti Park  — la cocina comunitaria, la asistencia médica, y demás servicios gratuitos— más allá de la retórica reinvindicativa de Occupy.

      Lo que muestran los párrafos anteriores es que muchas de las cuestiones de “relaciones públicas” a las que se ha enfrentado el movimiento Occupy no sólo tienen relación con las prácticas y creencias del movimiento mismo sino también con las historias que se han contado dentro y acerca del movimiento. Estas historias influyen en la opinión pública sobre Occupy y, de un modo mucho más encubierto, en las teorías sobre Occupy que circulan entre académicos y activistas. ¿Cuál es, entonces, el papel del académico respecto a Occupy Wall Street? Recuerdo una frase que Moreno Caballud me repitió en numerosas ocasiones durante los primeros días de la acampada: “Más que nuevas teorías, necesitamos nuevas narrativas”. Mi crónica sobre el contingente español de Occupy es, o al menos pretende ser, una de esas narrativas, pero hay otros cientos de historias que se podrían contar. No sólo historias sobre los orígenes de Occupy, sino también relatos acerca de la repercusión que los múltiples movimientos, acciones y teorías del pasado han tenido en los movimientos sociales del presente. Quizá no hablemos el mismo idioma hay claras diferencias metodológicas y disciplinares que condicionan nuestras formas de escribir acerca de estos movimientos— pero quienes nos consideramos estudiantes y profesionales de la cultura tenemos la especial responsabilidad de trasladar estas narrativas de forma comprensible a personas ajenas a los círculos académicos y activistas. Nuestra formación y nuestra trayectoria nos permite analizar de forma seria, y crítica, los movimientos sociales que están transformando nuestro mundo. Los académicos no podemos ver todo lo que sucede sobre el terreno, claro está, pero sí podemos reconocer los límites de lo que vemos y tratar de ampliar nuestra visión en lo posible. Esto no nos hace héroes de la revolución, pero al menos nos permite ser partícipes de nuevas narrativas sobre la sociedad en la que vivimos, sea a nivel local o global, y sobre las complejidades de la transformación que está experimentando.   

Guerrilla Translation/Relacionado:Occupy, la deuda y los límites históricos del capitalismo/David GraeberStrip: Rushkoff in Real Life“El objetivo del juego no es tener un juego con objetivo”/ Douglas RushkoffStrip Capitalism works¡El capitalismo me funciona!  Verdadero/Falso/ Steve Lambert

1. [El artículo publicado en Tropics of Meta es una versión condensada de este texto completo. Partes de esta traducción se publicaron hace unos meses en El Diario.es. ]

The Path to the RealWorld™


“World War III will be a global information war with no division between civilian and military participation.” (Marshall McLuhan, 1970)

My associates at Informa’t! BCN have proposed that I write about the War and the Internet. How online communication is changing offline politics and, specifically, how social media is structuring new forms of social conflict in the wake of the #15M Movement. In other words, they’re asking me how these “get-a-job you dirty hippie!” types go about waging their digital war. How, lacking any means, you can conquer, hold and make use of the political hegemony these social movements, the opponents to the Spanish regime and pro-democracy activists, have on the Internet.

Enthusiasts of the Internet as both political tool and battlefield, and I count myself among them, are fond of making grand statements such as: “this will change everything”, “it’s tyranny’s greatest nightmare”, or “the Internet is not just a tool, it is an epoch in history”, convinced that it’s the greatest weapon that we — those at the bottom — have ever had to defend democracy and defeat the enemy. The Internet is what Lawrence of Arabia must have been dreaming about all along. But observing the effects, day after day, isn’t enough. There’s a parallel struggle wherein we, day after day, have yet to convince our analogue colleagues and sceptics alike that these effects are not only real, but that what happens on the Internet doesn’t just stay on the Internet.

In daily practice, or at least in my daily practice, this is the digital divide that worries activists to no end, and this is what the debate is all about. There are two spaces: Internet and the RealWorld™, and many perceive them as discrete, separate compartments. Dividing them, they must imagine an unbridgeable chasm “while not everyone has Internet access”. In my opinion, this argument is the equivalent of what, in an old-style conflict, would have been expressed as: “stop using radio communications, not everyone has a radio receiver”.

I suspect that “Taking our fight to the streets and away from the keyboard” or “Forget about Twitter, come out to the streets” are just slogans. Are you telling me these people don’t know that there’s Internet on the streets too? How do they think anyone’s going to know about what’s going on at street level if there’s no one to tweet about it?

Then there’s those who say that people tend to stay at home because they can watch the protests streamed directly to the comfort of their living rooms. Do you think they’ve noticed that their argument is suspiciously similar to the one often repeated by the musical industry? That every time you download a song, that’s a song you haven’t paid for?

Me, I think that the Internet is an unbeatable way to get to people who don’t have Internet. That’s the way it’s always been, from the origins of marketing and in two-step flow of communication theory, and that’s how it should be in guerrilla marketing. Fashion campaigns aren’t geared to influence boys and girls, but to influence boys and girls who influence boys and girls. Political marketing campaigns don’t seek to convince voters, but to convince voters who convince voters.

Pizarro 1 didn’t know how to read. But Cortés’ strategy was read to him, he cloned it and that was his grand tactical advantage. In the same manner, parents keeping their offspring away from the influence of television by disallowing them to watch television don’t realise that TV’s influence on the child originates with his peers, not the TV set. That’s how culture and human social behaviour work, and that’s how they’ve always worked. We live within networks because we’ve evolved within networks. Regardless of whether you’re connected to the Internet or not, the culture you live in is connected to the Internet, as a fish is connected to water.

Ideas change the world. I know this because I’m monitoring it in real time, day in, day out: Some ideas are born on a Saturday at 5 a.m. in that seedy, but authentic, dive that is 4chan. The following day, a few discuss the idea in the skyscrapers of Reddit as they work in their offices. Someone who’s seen it hoists it up to the cover of Menéame 2. Once past the bottleneck of Menéame’s shantytown filters, it automatically spreads over the vast fields of Twitter. That same night, it will be all over the walls of the suburbs of Facebook, where more people will see it than in any of the previous stops. Staying there is not the objective, though. If you only make it up to here, you’re not achieving true virility, just a very broad type of endogamy, but endogamy all the same. You still have to get to the RealWorld™, because that’s where the rest of the world is.

When you see the idea has spread to WhatsApp 3 groups, you’ll know it’s just about made it. There’s one last stop: the old and eternal email chain letters that serve as the gateway to the Internet. Everybody who’s on the Internet has an email account. Congratulations! You’ve now arrived at the RealWorld™ by making the reverse journey from the Internet. The idea you’ve fought for has triumphed over its enemies. People are talking about it in the street and down at the bar.

There’s shortcuts. For example, we can take an aspect of our agenda via Twitter (whether its healthcare, education, housing, rights, democracy…) and make it leap from the Internet to paper media in one step. We’re obviously not using Twitter just to spread memes amongst Twitter users. Getting a Trending Topic has never been the objective, the objective is to rewrite the agenda. That’s a shortcut we take every day. There’s another shortcut between Menéame and TV newsrooms. I’d like to write about all of this in another occasion.

Depending on the idea and the strategy, traversing this route can take anywhere from a couple of hours to a few years, but I’ve always observed a marked constancy along the way. If there’s a divide between the Internet and RealWorld™ it isn’t more insurmountable than the divide between Twitter or Facebook, or the English speaking or Latino blogospheres, to give a couple of examples.

It was all over in Barcelona on the #15J, 2011, at 1600 hours 4. We had fallen into the trap. Mass media had criminalised the protest in Parlament and public opinion had shunned our action. By 1500 we had been wiped from the streets and were at the keyboards, desperately deploying for a last ditch computer counterattack. By 1900, this video was out. Just minutes after making the front page of Menéame, it spread over Twitter and, within the hour, started getting plastered all over the walls of Facebook. The next morning I overheard two old people talking about the video at the entrance to the supermarket. I don’t know how it happened, but I can guess: Not every person in the world is on the Internet, but every person on the Internet is out in the world. Simply put, those pensioners live with people who are connected, and that’s more than enough. Not only did we make it through that day but, since then, and going through #QueSoyCompañeroCoño 5, the concept of the provocateur has gone beyond protest circles and is now part of global political culture. It’s an example of an idea that made it.

In my opinion, the RealWorld™ is just another layer. But, out of all the interfaces, it’s the one with most users, more bandwidth, better graphics, and it’s the only one in which you can have a beer.

http://informatbcn.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/nodosmultinivel.pngMap of the descent to the RealWorld™ as imagined by @toret Source: DatAnalysis15m

1. [Francisco Pizarro, 16th century Spanish conquistador best known for his conquest of Perú, and for initiating the decline of Inca culture. See here for more.]

2. [Basically, a Spanish take on Reddit’s system of upvoting stories and links. Here’s their site.]

3. [Whatsapp is an instant messaging smartphone application that’s insanely popular in Spain. See here for more.]

4. [On June 15th, 2011, thousands of protesters in Barcelona physically blocked access to the Catalonian Parliament where a series of austerity cuts were about to be voted on. See here for more.

5. [Hashtag which, translated, means, “I’m one of yours”. It refers to a viral video of an infiltrating policeman, dressed up as a violent protestor and getting arrested during the 25th September 2012 protests in Madrid while he pleads his allegiance. See this article for more.]

Unity sans Convergence (Political Self-organization Models for Hyperlinked Multitudes)

15 MImage by Olmo Calvo


Translated by Stacco Troncoso, edited by Jane Loes Lipton –Guerrilla Translation!

Original text in Spanish

The 15-M movement seems to be at an impasse, unsure of how to make use of its multiple victories and enormous public support. To break out of this situation, numerous organizations, assemblies and collectives are repeatedly appealing to the ideal of unity (amongst the political left, the movement, the “bottom 99”) as a means of reaching the necessary levels of coordination needed for standing up to, and defeating, the government and markets. However, so far it doesn’t seem like their ideals-inspired efforts have led to any noticeable improvement in the organisational capacity of the movement. Prior to the birth of 15M, it was not uncommon to see initiatives by the political left coalescing around ideals of convergence, coordination and unity, with generally poor results. Our hypothesis is that these traditional modes of political organisation have grave shortcomings, needing urgent revision. What can we do when the old ways aren’t working anymore? Do we forfeit our experience? Go our separate ways? Surrender to the idea that revolution can only be chaotic and spontaneous? Nothing could be further from what we’re about to share here.

The fact is that since the birth of 15M, we’ve spent more than two years experimenting with radically new modes of mass organization. Crowds capable of synchronizing en masse, to attack or to defend themselves at specific moments and with blinding speed; initiatives that detach from the movement at strategic junctures to then develop on their own, opening new spaces for confrontation; mechanisms capable of mobilising huge sectors of the population when they’re most needed…new forms of mobilisation that have come to stay. We’re rehearsing the mass social self-organisation methods of the future, and we’ve managed to create a scenario for hegemony and social conflict the likes of which we’d never have imagined. An understanding of the organisational models that have led us here is paramount for forging ahead.

The reductionist focus: unity as convergence.

In our opinion, most attempts to coordinate unity amongst “the movement” (or “the left”, or “pick-your-favourite-social-subject”) stem from a terribly reductionist mindset: unity as convergence. The simplest structural example would be organizations with tree-like dynamics, where decision-making and consensus-building processes are redirected to a series of increasingly centralised nodes within the overall structure, from “collective coordinating” assemblies for citywide initiatives to state level structures that coordinate the activities of local nodes. Any time convergence is mentioned, it goes hand in hand with an appeal towards promoting narrative and discourse; for example, reaching consensus on collectively created manifestos is used as an prime example of unity. In the end, it comes down to creating space that functions as the ultimate representative for the movement. A kind of centralised brain that, ultimately, both hierarchically coordinates and makes decisions on behalf of all the other spaces. The problem is that this vision of unity though convergence, within tree-like structures, doesn’t work, at least not in the hyperconnected societies of the XXI century.

Convergence can work at a reduced scale or in simple organizational structures. However, in more complex scenarios, it generally leads to heavy, slow, expensive, and high-maintenance structures. These are usually marred by rigidly determined, inside-outside distinctions that quickly face major difficulties when needing to add new participants at moments of peak activity. And yet today, despite knowing full well the limitations of this model, we are witnessing a revival of this so-called convergence. This is especially surprising when we take into account that most of the mass-scale mobilizations we’ve seen across the world in the last few year, from Arab Spring and 15M to Occupy Gezi, hardly bear any resemblance to this type of organization. On the contrary, they’re processes of coordination and synchronization of large groups without any apparent formal organizational structure. In the best of cases, centralised structures only arise when the movements are on the wane, or losing their power of assembly. Faced with this scenario, we need new modes of unity to create unifying processes in societies where technological networks grant us an enormous capacity for large-scale social auto-organization.

Liquid, de-centralised unity: a dynamic nucleus model.

How do you organise a system comprised of millions of parts, with no hierarchical structure nor centralised controlling organ? The field of neuroscience faces a similar problem. The brain is a highly distributed and interconnected organ, capable of organizing itself to enable a great variety of complex, coordinated behaviors. Hundreds of thousands of neurons in the human brain are capable of coordinating and forming a single structure, but it’s highly unlikely for this to happen by means of converging structures. Convergence in the brain isn’t a plausible scenario, as there’s no central area to centralise the rest. Besides, it has been demonstrated that models of neuronal convergence lose most of their efficacy at large scales due to problems arising from combinatorial explosion 1. An additional, and major, problem is that convergence strategies aren’t effective at adapting to new situations that require unexpectedly different behaviours (that is to say, they’re not good at improvisation).

On the contrary, the brain lacks any sort of static, centralised structure. “Unity of mind” is constituted through instances of grand-scale synchronization, whereupon different neuronal areas act transiently in coordination 2. These instances of synchronization have a limited lifespan so the brain doesn’t get stuck in a specific sync-mode. They dissolve after a certain period of time to make way for a new mindstate characterised by the synchronization of different neuronal areas (Graph 1). This mode of synchronization is known as the “dynamic nucleus” 3 and it functions in a decidedly un-convergent manner, as not all parts of the system function simultaneously. Instead, it acts as a pole of reference where different neural areas connect and disconnect at different times. Should the opposite happen and if synchronization extends uncontrollably, trapping different neural areas in the process, it can provoke serious neuronal disorders such as epilepsy attacks.

Graph 1. Dynamic nucleus as an organizational form. Different parts of the system sync temporarily to later dissolve and make way for new configurations, with no need for all parts to be constantly synchronised.

Dynamic nucleus and poles of reference in the 15M movement.

Do revolutions work like our brains do? Or, to put it another way, do we function as a collective brain when we enter a revolutionary climate? We’re still searching for answers even as new questions arise. For now, what we do know is that the mechanisms of unity in the human brain are very similar to the processes of distributed social mobilization we are witnessing. Regarding 15M, the movement has been a succession of different “dynamic nuclei” serving as poles of references during the periodic organisation of enormous processes of synchronized coordination: the summons for the initial protest by DRY, the encampments, the PAH, the Citizen Tides, the 25-S protests, etc. 4 Some of the reference poles have been global, others more local. Some have lasted weeks, others no more than a few days. Some have disappeared to rise again later, unexpectedly, and brimming with renewed strength. What they have in common is that they’ve all been capable of organising large sectors of the population — and not always the same ones — acting with coherent unity, as a great collective mind capable of overwhelming and seriously wounding the regime’s institutions.

But there remains a general perception that this is not enough. The old political parties still occupy the institutions, blocking any possible change. This is a fact, but we don’t think that the problem rests on the limits of this model of organized distribution. Rather, we think it’s a question of not having developed adequate mechanisms to act as poles of reference in a space with dynamics as particular as those of the electoral space. We believe it’s only a matter time until society organizes to dismantle the electoral space. There are, in fact, various initiatives underway with this purpose in mind.  We predict that only those who have understood the logic of distributed, networked processes of self-organisation and participation will succeed.

We’ve spent two years organising in radically new ways, and the results have been astounding. We’ve built structures that have generated total hegemony amongst the movement and over the most crucial axes of social conflict (housing, education, healthcare, democracy, etc.) Structures endowed with the sort of on-the-ground organization capable of scuttling any attempt to hide, repress or criminalize the movement. This has just begun. The same neuronal synchronization we’ve described organises itself at different nested levels, and through increasingly influential protocols of auto-organisation built on top of previous, smaller ones. We have a model of auto-organisation that works, we only need to replicate, improve and understand it more deeply, to extend it to new levels.

We’re convinced that in the coming months and years we’ll keep on seeing vast advances in forms of networked organisation. To improve on them, it is essential to keep formulating hypotheses to create new poles of reference capable taking in and coordinating other areas of conflict. To keep listening to and analysing the process, in order to identify and interpret points of rupture. Being able to experiment and strategically connect or disconnect components from our dynamic nucleus to claim victories. To construct the sort of unity that won’t get trapped in a determined configuration, but which constantly transforms to keep moving forward. We’re at an historic juncture; we’re taking the first steps towards the construction of a collective, fluid and distributed coordinated social mind. Insisting on obsolete modes of organisation is a error. We are rehearsing the methods of massive social auto-organisation of the future, and the perspectives are more than optimistic. The dying bipartisan regime is confounded and entrenched. We only have to keep syncing.

Footnotes and references:

1. [Malsburg, C. von der. (1995). Binding in models of perception and brain function. Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 5(4).]

2. [Varela, F., & Thompson, E. (2003). Neural Synchrony and the Unity of Mind: A Neurophenomenological Perspective. In The Unity of Consciousness. Oxford University Press.]

3. [Tononi, G., & Edelman, G. M. (1998). Consciousness and Complexity. Science, 282(5395), 1846–1851. doi:10.1126/science.282.5395.1846]

4. [These are all groups and collectives enmeshed within the 15 -M network. Briefly:

To read about these, and many other, initiatives taking place in Spain right now, read our translation of Bernardo Guitérrez’s “Spain’s Micro-Utopias: The 15M Movement and its Prototypes”]

This translation has been republished on:

The Interruption of the Dominant Narrative, an interview with Colectivo Enmedio

“The interruption of the dominant narrative to create our own is the sort of politics we’re interested in”

Amador Fernández-Savater interviews colectivo EnmedioMembers and collaborators of Enmedio, taking part on the “Paro Monumental” (Monumental Unemployment” action. The text on the balloon reads: “Spain, champions in unemployment”

Amador Fernández-Savater/Colectivo Enmedio

Translated by Stacco Troncoso, edited by Jane Loes Lipton –Guerrilla Translation!

Frustrated by the lack of connection between art and political action, Campa, Leo, Mario y Oriana created, among others, the colectivo Enmedio (“InBetween collective”) (Barcelona)  to explore the transformative potential of images and tales. They recently hacked the statue of Columbus in Barcelona and, amongst many other initiatives, they are also responsible for the striking visual campaign used by Spain’s anti-foreclosure movement, the PAH, to highlight and publicly shame corrupt politicians responsible for maintaining Spain’s draconian foreclosure laws. We talk to them about art’s power to politically intervene, both practically and potentially, in the crisis.

A space in Barcelona, an art collective, an action group, what exactly is Enmedio?

Leo: The name says a lot about us. Enmedio is born of heartbreak. We’re all image professionals (designers, filmmakers, artists, etc.) who’ve left our usual work behind. We found no meaning in the spaces we were assigned: the art academy, the advertising agency, the production company. So we got out of that and came up with a new space where can do what we want, a bit of an uncomfortable and difficult space in a no-man’s-land.

Campa: There’s no politics in the established spaces for art (though there’s no lack of politicking!) nor will you find a whole lot of concern about aesthetics in political spaces. This is what pushed us to create a third space, to be in-between art and politics.

Mario: Visual work can be very powerful and that’s something that we want to keep exploring. It’s our thing, it’s what we do best and the way we relate to the world. But we need to take that to other places and mix it up with other things. “Enmedio” makes reference to that unknown space we want to occupy, that has something to do with photography or vídeo, but it isn’t just that, although it has that too, I don’t know if I’ve made myself clear….

Oriana: We’ve been exploring this edge for some ten or twelve years. Some of us come from collectives like Las Agencias, Yomango, V de Vivienda, etc. There are  people who’ve been involved in squats, or the anti-globalization protests, or Latin American movements, like Zapatismo, and people with no political history, or otherwise informed by today’s movements: V de Vivienda, 15-M, etc. This mix of different creative and political backgrounds breaks our individual roles when working together and produces some surprising effects; that may be our strongest suit.

Does symbolic political intervention make a difference during a crisis like this, which touches and affects the most material and real sides of our lives (housing, salaries, etc.)?

Campa: Capitalism drives us to this sort of misery, to these foreclosures and this suffering, through images and tales. It’s a master storyteller with an impressive capacity to fascinate. Lots of people got mortgaged because they bought the story, built on words and images, that we got from banks and advertising on a daily basis. Advertising creates images of desirable worlds, and that collective image generates economic paradigms and social situations.

Leo: It’s not like on the one hand we have this fiction, and on the other, reality. Fiction is the hard nucleus of reality. From a protest (an act of street-theatre) to the writing of a political speech (which deals with images and popular imagery), it’s all fiction. What’s important is the effect of these fictions, whether we can re-appropriate them or not, whether we believe in them or not, whether they generate confidence or impotence in ourselves. The basis for social change is cultural: the stories through which we make sense of our lives and the world we live in.

Mario. That’s the reason why we work in two directions. First, to interfere with the dominant narrative, the official explanation for the world, through guerrilla communication, with signs, catchphrases, messages, etc. Second, contributing to the production of an autonomous imagery. Not as much breaking down a narrative as bringing in a new one. This is what’s most important and most difficult: to represent ourselves, create our own story, our own explanation of what’s happening. A narrative we can inhabit.

Let’s explore all this in more detail, by way of your own actions. If you want, we can start with the party at the unemployment agency INEM [1] that you organised in 2009

Fiesta en INEM. Press the close-caption button to activate English subtitles.

Oriana: Maybe the most interesting thing was the moment: the crisis erupts, but there’s no reaction in the street. There’s fear and paralysis. Our idea was to find a place that condensed and represented that fear. We chose the unemployment office, and what better solution to fear than throwing a party?

Campa: Enmedio functions through self-representation. What I mean is, it wasn’t a party for the unemployed. We’re also unemployed, we live precariously, etc. We’re not lecturing anybody. We start by looking at ourselves, and then we invite everyone else to join. In the vid you can see people smiling, participating, cheering or telling us “you’ve cheered up my day”. We look for that empathy by starting with our own worries, problems and woes.

Leo: That video got an amazing amount of views. I think we touched on something that vibed with a shared feeling: if you start with what’s bothering you personally, you can communicate it to others. What’s most intimate is, at the same time, most common.

Mario: We want our actions to be inspiring and contagious. We plan and design them as seeds that can take root elsewhere. Once the 15-M movement got started, we saw parties thrown at an INEM office in the Canary Islands, and other similar actions.

Tell us about the Reflectors.

The Reflectors, ready for action.

Leo: The Reflectantes (Reflectors) is an action group that sprang from a series of creative activism workshops we called “Como acabar con el Mal” (How to end Evil) where we tried to pass on creative activism experiences and practices to younger people who got into politics after 15-M and whatnot. It’s linked to a long tradition of character creation which acts in protest spaces, from Prêt a Revolter to the New Kids on the Black Block, proposing new ways of taking to the street, filled with joy, colour and creativity.

Mario: The Reflectors have a lot to do with the moment they came out, around the first anniversary of 15-M. The powers that be had, by then, gone full thrust with acts of repression and criminalization, in order to end street protest. Bringing in that kind of dynamic leeches the natural plurality from the street, “de-democritising” protest until only small and very homogenous groups remain, easily identified and codified. That’s where the Reflectors come in, saying, “We’re not gonna play this game, let’s break the rules”.

Campa: The Reflectors play with the imagery of superheroes and fan culture. They’re normal people, but armed with a set of tools which allows them to combat Evil: inflatable cubes to deflect the police if they decide to charge, mirrors to blind surveillance ‘copters, disguises to break the codification, etc. They both dramatise and de-dramatise protest by using humour and generating new feelings, making street presence desirable again, while, at the same time, putting elements into play that help to channel moments of tension and violence.

Oriana: A lot of people joined the Reflective Block on the 15-M anniversary march. We also met people we didn’t know who had seen the costumes on the Internet. Nowadays, the Reflectors are an autonomous group, very close to Enmedio, but independent. That’s quite interesting too.

What can you tell me about the Party at Bankia? [2]

Fiesta en Bankia. Press the close-caption button to activate English subtitles.

Mario: The same week the government announced cuts of 20 billion Euros in healthcare and education, we found out that they were going to bail out Bankia with 23 billion Euros in public funds. Like most people, we were furious, so we decided to do something about it.

Leo: We got together with like-minded people and started thinking about what we could do to damage Bankia’s image. We thought that the only way we could affect a bank, and show our rejection of the bailout, was by encouraging people to close their accounts. And the best way to do that would be…throwing a party (as you can see, we just love to throw parties).

Campa: So, one day, a group of people went to a Bankia office, and patiently crouched and waited for a client to close her account. Then we went in and threw a party for her. She couldn’t believe it. We were in there for four minutes at the most, that’s how long the song lasted. We lifted her up and carried her out over our heads, and got out of there the same way we came in. We then cut a video out of all this and it got more than 100.000 visits in 24 hours and hasn’t stopped since. The YouTube page is full of comments. The vid was shown on various TV channels, and other “Cierra Bankia” parties took place in cities all across Spain.

Oriana: The idea was to show that something as intimate and private as your bank account can be used as a political statement; that closing an account can be a public act, and, above all, a lot of fun!

What was the Discongreso (De-congress)?

Photocall 25-S

Mario: Enmedio joined the 25-S campaign: “Ocupa el congreso” (Occupy Congress). It was a call to action that coincided with our own internal debates: We felt that 15-M had fallen into some repetitive inertias and that 25-S could be a good occasion to break out of them. The problem was that it was a very insular call to action, both exclusive and codified. Our work there was to use communication as a way of opening it up. WIth the posters, a graphic campaign and a proposal to occupy the space in a different way, we wanted to come up with a different story, reappropriate the event, and make it both open and desirable.

Oriana: Design-wise, it was a very simple campaign. We replaced “Occupy Congress” for “Surround Congress”, because for us it was never about taking power but a removal of power. Then we added. “On 25-S we’ll surround Congress until they resign. Period. In the poster we had a series of different coloured dots, representing a plural society, surrounding a centre.

Campa: Those dots actually become pictures later on. We put out a photocall inviting people to take pics showing their own reasons for going to an event like 25-S. We took the photocall out to the street, and we put the word out on social media so people could take their own pics and add their reasons. We wanted to highlight diversity and open up an event that, at first, had felt very exclusive.

Leo: And finally, the dots were turned into frisbees on which people wrote their demands. We then sent these on to Congress, flying over police barricades during the actual protest on September 25th. Since, by land, there was no way to get into Congress so they’d listen to us, the only option we had was by air!

Tell me about the “We are Not Numbers” Action Photography Workshop.

Pasting bills at Caixa Catalunya

Oriana: Working with photographs and, in collaboration with PAH, we wanted to reverse the dehumanised and victim-like portrayals of people affected by foreclosure that the media puts out. We portrayed people about to be foreclosed, or who had already been kicked out, and we pasted those portraits, all blown up, on the banks that had led to their situations, showing that the foreclosed have faces and eyes, that they’re not just statistics. And from those pictures, we’ve also designed a series of postcards where we tell these people’s stories. These were directed, first of all, to the banks, and later (during the escraches), to politicians.

Campa: These photographic interventions work in two ways. On the one hand, they empower the affected. They come to the workshop, they pose, see their photographs, then they’re pasted up on the banks, and like this we break the wall of shame, they create a presence in public space. On the other, it’s guerrilla imagery in the struggle between different depictions of the crisis, the day-to-day battle held on the walls of the cites, associating a face with the organization responsible for the foreclosure (foreclosures are often talked about in the media, but they never mention the names of the banks).  The interruption of the dominant narrative to create our own is the sort of politics we’re interested in.

Leo: For us, the real key isn’t the quality of the portraits or videos, but their coordination with social processes as powerful as PAH. But we’re also quite careful and exacting about form. We don’t share the sloppiness of those that think that “the content” of the picture or poster is the only worthwhile thing. We’re concerned about aesthetics, not out a love for aestheticism itself, but because of the very politics of aesthetics: the “how” of relating these things, the “what” we’re given to see, the “what” we’re led to feel”. Lacking form, there’s only naked rage and no communication.

You’ve also designed the popular red and green signs used by the PAH in their escraches[3]. A friend, after being in a escrache, told me “Those simple signs are so important; without them we’d just seem to be a furious mass, and little else”


PAH’s colours read: Green: “Yes, we can” (Stop foreclosures. retroactive nonrecourse debt, social rent). Red: “But no, they don’t want to”.

Leo: The problem with housing has always been central to us. Some of us took part in the graphic commission of V de Vivienda-Barcelona [4], where we came up with the famous slogan: “You’ll never own a house in your whole fucking life.” So, during the “No somos números” (We’re not numbers) workshop we formed a direct relationship with the PAH, and they asked us to take care of the visual side of the escraches. It was a very important proposal for us and, at the same time, a very delicate one.

Mario: The idea was to lay out the conflict with a very simple visual statement. On one side we have the “Yes we can” from the PAH (the million signatures, the social support, etc). On the other side, the “But they don’t want to”, coming from the political elite, totally deaf to society. Green and red: walk and stop. A lot of green signs against a lone red one: 99% and 1%. The signs and stickers weren’t so much designed to point to any specific politicians but, more than anything, to gather and serve the outpouring of social support the PAH has had.

Oriana: In the original Argentinian escraches, the neighborhood played a crucial role. In this case, it was very much the same idea. being able to surround your representative with green buttons on your own neighborhood. That shopkeepers (the baker, the hardware guy, the newspaper vendor) could put the sticker up on their shops. In other words, so that the whole neighborhood would be denouncing the representative, inviting him or her to push the green button. The important thing about the escraches is to pile on people, people from the neighborhood, people who walk by, so that anyone can be part of the “green tide” as represented by the PAH. That’s the effect we wanted to have with the signs.

Campa: Again, the production side of this has been very important, how you put this to work. The materials are simple and cheap, the design is up for grabs in PAH’s website, so anyone with a printer, some paper and a bit of cellotape can go and make their own signs. We’re just as concerned with the concept (the “what”) as with the production (the “how”).

How about wrapping up by going through some of the main influences or reference points for your work, between images and social concerns, between art and politics?

Oriana: Zapatismo, due to having lived though it myself and because of its meaning. To come from the frivolity and disenchantment of the 90s, to suddenly finding a new way of doing politics and communication. The importance of words and symbols, in the harshest living conditions. Working within and working from the true imagination of the people you work with and the people you want to reach. How central processes, not just results, are.

Mario: Pop music. I see my work as being very related to that, pop culture, what’s popular. This desire to get in touch with the whole of society, the will to push emotions and desires, the yearning to come up with juicy representations where you see yourself reflected, wherever you want to participate, so you can get moving…

Leo: The Yippies, a group created and active in the midst of 60s American counterculture, whose aim was to politically radicalise the hippie movement. Yippies understood social change as a struggle between symbols, and flexed most of their activist muscle creating myths, rumours and fictions to shortcircuit the dominant narrative, and to put in circulation autonomous images. Coming from a very different context, I pretty much think the same way.

Campa: Regarding what I’m concerned with, and given that Zapatismo has already been mentioned, I’d say punk. Not so much in a musical or aesthetic sense, but having to do with sheer attitude, that nerve, freshness, immediacy, nonconformity, DIY culture, the intensity of a 3-minute song. I think that ties in rather well with what we do at Enmedio.

[1] INEM: “Instituto Nacional de Empleo” is Spain’s National Institute for Employment: “Administrative body coming under the Ministry of Labour , set up in 1978 to develop and follow up employment policy , to co-ordinate and run public employment offices and to administer the unemployment benefit system.”

[2] Bankia is Spain´s own big-bank-bailout debacle, going from public bank to private entity, subsequently bankrupting itself and then controversially being rescued with public funds, concurrent with the imposition of austerity measures.

[3] “Escrache”, an Argentinian term, describes a mode of protest wherein people go take their concerns directly to their representative’s homes and neighborhoods to condemn and publicly humiliate decision makers on their unethical choices. Read more here.

[4] Or “H is for Housing” a wordplay on V for Vendetta. Read more here

This translation has been republished on:

Seeing the Invisible: on Unicorns and the 15-M Movement

Image: Marina Gullón

Amador Fernández-Savater

Translated by Stacco Troncoso, edited by Jane Loes Lipton – Guerrilla Translation!
Original article in eldiario.es

“A Chinese prose writer has observed that the unicorn, because of its own anomaly, will pass unnoticed. Our eyes see what they are accustomed to seeing.” (Jose Luis Borges)

In Spain, May is school exam month, and the 15-M movement is no exception. The celebration of its 2nd anniversary is an auspicious occasion for a bit of media judgement: Is 15-M still alive? Have they withered or grown? And what have they achieved? Their eyes see what they’re used to seeing:  the event, not the process, identity, not metamorphosis, the spectacular, not the everyday, macro, not micro, quantity versus quality, results, rather than effects. The clinical view, the outside view, the paternal view; and the biggest problem is that we internalize these views, and conform to their standards. That’s why, the the other day, a friend protested by saying, “Screw the anniversary, we fight everyday, we could just as well celebrate on the 3rd of February or the 11th of June. If the media has pronounced us dead, fine, now we’ll be able to work in peace!”

A unicorn is not quite a horse. Likewise, neither are 15-M, the Mareas (Citizen Tides), the Plataforma Afectados por la Hipotéca or PAH (Spain’s game-changing anti-foreclosure movement) the familiar social movements, but names and masks endowing the users with a truly unprecedented process of social politicization. At once constant and in flux, a metamorphosis. The challenge isn’t in how to respond to the media’s endless lies and cilchés, but in learning to see ourselves, and tell our story differently. To learn to name, give value and communicate all that’s extraordinary about how we live, and what we do.


The current political situation, the personal impact brought to actions, protests and organization – today´s social malaise is shared not only among friends in bars, but among strangers in the street. They are spurred into action. This isn’t mechanical, automatic, or necessary, it shouldn’t be this way. In fact, this isn’t happening in other European countries affected by the crisis/scam. More usual is the widespread sense of fear, resignation, guilt and individuation. That’s the process of neutralization achieved by spreading the official line, “we’ve lived beyond our means”: we’re sinners with no right to protest, we can only find atonement through punishment. Thus we welcome with open arms the cuts of Rajoy and Merkel (allowing them the role of the punishing father). But that narrative has failed to emerge as the new hegemony. What was once private is now common and shared. Depression is politicised. While the belief system that fueled our existence (property, success, consumption) sinks into oblivion, we strive, together, to create a new one. We set out from the spaces we inhabit to take charge of this collective situation. Accountability versus guilt (in fact, and likely thanks to this, the assumption that suicide rates are on the rise due to the crisis doesn’t quite hold up to statistical analysis).

Hippies, public workers, firemen, police, medical staff, judges, teachers, ordinary people…the participants in 15-M, PAH and the Mareas are the 99%. These struggles aren’t collectives of like kind, but rather inclusive of various elements, and all for the common good. First, they unite people of diverse ideologies around common values and concrete objectives. This effectively neutralizes the contrived clash between the “two Spains“, so useful to the powers that be. Secondly, they break the traditional split between political actors and spectators: the backbone of the education-focused Marea Verde (Green Tide) includes parents, teachers and pupils. Marea Blanca (White Tide), which protests against fiscal cuts and the privatization of Spain’s public health system, includes doctors, medical staff and users. Meanwhile, the PAH unites foreclosure victims with activists of varying backgrounds and everyday people. The list goes on. Finally, they share mutual moments of public protest (like the last 23rd of February), modes of action (assemblies, traffic stoppages, lock-downs) and a common narrative on the present situation in Spain: “We are not commodities in the hands of politicians and bankers”.

This isn’t mechanical, automatic, or necessary, it shouldn’t be this way. What’s expected is self-referencing, and material or ideological fragmentation. Struggles that go about their business, never aligning with others, lacking a common concern about our world; never coming up with viral possibilities for collective action, never going beyond the strictest of definitions for any problem. That’s what’s to be expected. Recently, a Greek activist passing through Madrid remarked that Syntagma square has always been divided amongst groups: anarchists, communists, etc. He was surprised when told that in the 15-M squares, we create an open and inclusive community where differences are both recognised and transcended.

And, isn’t the 99% vs. the 1% narrative, this resymbolization of the commons from the ground up, what may have squashed the possibility of a Spanish version of Greece´s Golden Dawn, with its scapegoats and street violence, from ever being born? The Greek activist explained that the neo-Nazi group is very much sponsored by the police. He was flabbergasted when we listed the some of the unheard-of gestures we’ve seen coming from some agents of the law: protests, criticism against politicians and higher-ups, acts of disobedience, the refusal to carry out foreclosures, etc. You find your enemy above (1%), not by your side.

What is expected, as mass media keeps reminding us, is for a “social explosion” to take place. We’re not quite sure what they mean by this, but lets hypothesise: looting and pillaging, an uncontrollable rise in delinquency and all out war. Consequently, the state’s authority as the necessary arbiter of society would once again be legitimized. It isn’t happening. On the one hand, a new network of formal and informal social solidarity has been created, dealing with material concerns such as precariousness and poverty (everything from economic solidarity networks, to networks of everyday family and friends). On the other hand, what those on high usually call the “anti-political” (I’m thinking here of PAH) can work social malaise into collectivity, creativity and dignity, reviving happiness even in the midst of desperation.

The impossible

In “The Shock Doctrine”, Naomi Klein explains how “disaster capitalism” takes advantage of social panic and depression to catalyse a leap towards the neoliberal transformation of society. In Pinochet’s Chile, in Post-Soviet Poland, in Katrina-devastated New Orleans, a melting pot of repressive and economic shocks left whole populations knocked out, wrecked social solidarity, spread paralysis, resignation and fear of others, all of which fostered dependence on a protective father figure. The main objective of the Shock Doctrine, as explained by Klein, is to sweep away autonomous narratives, and the ways and customs by which common people make sense of their world. Advantage is then taken of the ensuing confusion, to push “every man for himself” as the dominant definition of reality

The Shock Doctrine hasn’t quite triumphed in Spain as it should. We can see it in the inherent irritation evident in neoliberal economists’ analysis of Spanish society and the crisis. Their problem with us is our persistent refusal to see ourselves as isolated atoms, with neither collective rights nor close ties among people or places, motivated only by notions of success and individual self-realization (using terms like “normative rigidity”, “insufficient geographical mobility”, “limited entrepreneurial spirit”, “parental financial cushion”, etc.)

There’s no shock because there’s politics. According to French philosopher Jacques Rancière, politics makes three moves. First, it interrupts what’s perceived as inevitable (this-is-the-way-things-are, it’s-the-economic-crisis, there’s-no-money, we’ve-lived-beyond-our-means…). Second, it creates an alternate map of what’s possible: things we can possibly feel, do or think. For example, taking notice of a foreclosure and forced eviction where, otherwise, we wouldn’t have seen anything but the “routine execution due to lack of mortgage payment”. Being able to feel that foreclosures are intolerable, incorrect, unnecessary and not inevitable, and they concern us all. Goading us to band together and stop them. Third, it invents new political subjects: redefining who is able to see, feel, do or think. Politics is not the expression of those subjected to earlier or preconstituted constructs (whether ideological or sociological), but the creation of subjective spaces where none existed before, where the supposedly “incapable and ignorant” speak up and take action, turning from victims to actors.

Politics allows us to map a new set of connections. The fact that there are many groups doing many things in Spain isn’t as profoundly relevant as the fact that a climate of politicization that transcends social divisions has been created. At once it is a highly charged, conductive space where words, actions and affections circulate; an ecosystem that’s more than the sum of its parts; a field of forces and resonances; and a common sense-building tale of what’s going on (with us). The air is charged with electricity.

We can only see what we’ve been habituated to see. The normal, never the impossible. But, since the 15th of May of 2011, we’ve been living the impossible. Contemptuous of all probability, inevitability, destiny. Therefore we need a “belief in the impossible”. A school of thought to break us of seeing what’s habitual to our eyes, so we can see (and value) what’s happening and what should not be happening, what isn’t happening and (by logic) should be happening. A de-naturalizing school of thought, the ability to see creation where before there was repetition, action rather than social or causal determinism. To feel the power of our actions, to make it persist and grow in unpredictable ways.

Spain’s Micro-Utopias: The 15M Movement and its Prototypes

Image: Voces con Futura

Bernardo Gutiérrez

Translated by Stacco Troncoso, edited by Jane Loes Lipton – Guerrilla Translation!
Originally published in two parts at 20minutos.es. Part 1. Part 2

“The old protests, so dull and single-minded, have passed into obsolescence, and given rise to infinite possibility. We’ve rethought the concepts of action, protest, relationship, the public, the common…”

In the collective text,  This is Not a Demostration, we find a hidden corner of thoughtfulness completely ignored by mass media. This is Not a Demonstration isn’t an exercise in nostalgia. There’s no sense of longing for that Vibrant Mass that Occupied the Squares which formed that unpredictable collective body, the tangle of relationships some call “The 15-M Movement”.

This is Not a Demonstration has taken all-inclusive stock of actions, processes and projects which simply can’t be done justice by the old lexicon of protest. This is not a demonstration, we said: “And our imagination has totally overflowed the space of what’s possible, even as we build new worlds upon the carcass of the old”. This is not a demonstration. This is not a sum total. This is more than a rattling-off of victories. This is more than an echo of  “we’re going slow, because we’re going far”.

Some of the media is too quick to bury “what’s left of 15M”. After the second anniversary protest of May 12th, which took place all across Spain, some will rush to hammer the final nail in 15M’s coffin. After the headcount, they’ll pick the photo with the sparsest crowd. They’ll even go so far as to manipulate some images, like any dictatorship would.

Alone in their cave, they’ll toast the funeral, reflected in the tarnished mirror of old-world media. They won’t see the details, the process, the steady drip. They will not take note. They will not listen. They will not read this text.

Surely, 15M is too complicated to be easily categorized, explained, translated. Besides, the eye sees what it’s used to seeing, as Amador Fernández-Savater reminds us in his highly recommended Seeing the Invisible: on Unicorns and the 15-M Movement. But it might just be possible to catch a glimpse of its transformative power by describing the little things, the modest dreams, the collective projects, invisible to many. There´s no need for that utopia of May 68, that ridiculous “Beneath the paving stones, the beach” which never materialised. There´s no need for it because 15M has already built its own: dozens, hundreds, thousands of networked micro-utopias. 15M has no use for a utopian model because it already has one, hundreds, thousands, of working prototypes. Micro-utopian prototypes, connected amongst themselves and (almost) in real time.

Keyword: Prototype.  “An early sample or model built to test a concept or process or to act as a thing to be replicated or learned from”. Digital culture, copyleft processes and the hacker ethic, so pervasive in the leadup to 15M, all imbued their spirit in this new revolution of the connected crowd. The working prototype, within this new, open, process-based world, replaces any fixed model. And 15M is still churning out prototypes. It has built them collectively, as a network and in an open way.

The initial Acampada Sol (encampment at Madrid’s Puerta del Sol square) wasn’t made up of groups protesting the collapse of the system. Within the encampments were prototypes for the new world. And the devil was in the details: its day-care centers, its open libraries, its food gardens, its video streaming, its analogue and digital mechanisms for proposing change. 15M –  whether seen as a signal, a movement, a state of being or a set of human interactions – has built its prototypes, and they’re many: judicial, urban, cultural, economical, technological, communicative, political, affective.

The true power of 15M doesn’t lie in its (necessarily) reactionary collective defense of the welfare state. Its real, and massive, hidden strength is in its creative, innovative, proposal-oriented nature. Given our willfully blind politicians and media, increasing the visibility of these real, shareable, living prototypes is crucial, now more than ever. But it’s not a list we need, it´s more like an act of poetic justice. A subjective inventory, giving shape to something so big we don’t yet have a name for it.

As we’ve been saying for some time,  being happy is our best revenge.

                                                               PROTOTYPE 1 / THE METHOD MICRO-UTOPIA

Image: Ondas de Ruído. Creative Commons Share Alike 2.0

The encampments of 2011, specifically their restoration of community assemblies, took the political old guard by surprise. Here were non-hierarchical, open assemblies that anyone could take part in. For the first time in decades, we saw political assemblies held in public spaces. Assemblies that turned into method, human hardware for uniting urban citizens.  The need for consensus arose from a spirit of dialogue and coexistence, born in reaction to the visceral antagonism of the old political class:  we won’t go until we reach an agreement. Following the erosion of the mechanisms of consensus during the encampments, the strategy of geographical and thematic diaspora came into being. #TomaLosBarrios (#TakeTheHoods). #TomaLaPlaya (#TakeTheBeach). #TomaLoqueQuieras (#TakeWhateverYouWant. Join with others. Open it up. And, from the hardships of coexistence, the slow nature of consensus, from decentralization, the workings of autonomy emerged..

In free software jargon, “fork” describes a peaceful deviation within a common project. The term was quickly adopted in 15M citizen politics. The newly formed Comité Disperso (Scatttered Committee) sums up 15M’s fresh ways of dealing with an assortment of processes. “You can be there without always being there.  You can be, without being the same. You can participate without needing to tie yourself to anything or giving up your autonomy. Acting from mutual respect, scattered organization allows varying degrees of collaboration amongst people and collectives, according to their own wishes, goals and abilities at any given moment”. It isn’t surprising then that Partido X, Partido del Futuro, which forked out from 15M, defines itself as “a method”.

                                                                PROTOTYPE 2 / THE URBAN MICRO-UTOPIA

Image: Campo de Cebada. Creative Commons Share Alike 2.0

The encampments led to a double mutation of urban space. First: the shift from public space into common space. Public squares, beset by excessive prohibitions and the privatization of their usage, were reborn as the urban commons. A leaderless, non-hierarchical citizen network organized this urban space “peer-to-peer”, consisting of interconnected public squares.

Second mutation: hybrid space. These weren’t squares made of paving stones. These squares were of bits and atoms. Analogue and digital life were intimately intertwined, inseparable. During the encampment at Sol, theTwittómetro connected networks and public squares, virtual and physical spaces. The #AbreTuWIFI, (#OpenYourWifi) campaign, which encourages people to open their home WI-FI access during protests to allow easy communication, nurtured this new hybrid urban space. Another good example is the #Voces25S map, created to protect mass groups from police violence. You only had to tweet from your GPS-activated mobile phone to lay out the “digital rug” over the physical city-space.

The first of the two mutations described above is building a network of former public spaces, now transformed into self-organising, self-governed places bristling with activity, like Madrid’s Campo de Cebada, recent winner of Ars Electronica’s prestigious Golden Nica Award in the Digital Communities category. These spaces are often supported in part by stale, dried up public institutions desperate for new ideas. The second mutation is branching out through Convoca!, a mobile app that allows you to check in at gatherings, protests, events or encampments. Both mutations coalesce in a melting pot of networked spaces, connecting peers locally and globally, beyond institutions or boundaries, on the fringes of commercial logic.

                                                       PROTOTYPE 3 /THE COMMUNICATION MICRO-UTOPIA

Image: Fotomovimiento.org

Very few countries have put into practice sociologist Manuel Castells’ concept of “mass self-communication” at the same level as Spain. Under the nose of a mass media trapped in its clichés and corporate compromises, 15M created an historically unparalleled system of mass communication. It introduced transparency as a method: video streaming of assemblies, open minutes and documents for every meeting, a transparency at once action and communication. From the get-go, 15M produced better live-streamed media of protests than anyone else. TV grew increasingly irrelevant when compared to on-the-ground video streaming as exemplified by People Witness or Toma La Tele. The revolution had finally been televised, contrary to Gil Scott Heron’s prediction (The Revolution will not be televised).   What’s more, some written media, after seeing the global impact of SolTV and citizen-streaming, felt the need to catch up by aping the method and providing live video too.

A good number of photopress agencies lost some lustre to the explosive, poetic material showcased by FotoMovimiento. Meanwhile Audiovisol, Agora SolRadio or the printed-paper Periódico 15M have set the new standard in intelligent mass self-communication.

Some new media such as ElDiario.es, La Marea, Reset Project, Revista Números Rojos or Café amb Llet were born steeped in the micro-utopic communicative spirit of 15M. And if that wasn’t enough, let’s not forget 15M’s role as a global Twitter-trending-topic machine, planned on collective pads such as this one, and which are already being studied in the communication programs of universities worldwide.

                                                               PROTOTYPE 4/ MICRO-UTOPIA IN FEMININE

Vídeo: presenting the Zorras Mutantes (Mutant “Ho”s) in Sol General Assembly, 3rd of May 2012.

Spanish, being a gender-based language, was hacked to be gender-flexible (from nosotros to nosotras) early on in the encampments. We started seeing men speaking very naturally in feminine/gender inclusive forms of speech, a hugely significant detail. It’s a symbolic mutation, a step onwards from competition to collaboration. This is the tip of the iceberg of a new worldwide paradigm. I’m not referring to it as a Feminine Micro-utopia, because this shift runs much deeper than that. At the very least, we’re witnessing a remix of classical feminism, which, at times, has constructed the same kinds of antagonistic and categorical walls as “machismo”. 15M is creating a grounded, intuitive outgrowth of Donna Haraway’s utopian cyberfeminism.

The existence of assemblies such TransMaricaBollo (composed of LGBT collectives in Madrid) is another example of the micro-utopian aggregate,  inclusive and genre-transcendent, that 15M as a movement is striving for. While not being central to the movement,  the Zorras Mutantes assembly, which plays with the queer movement, polyamory and the jargon of “cyborg-feminism”, is another spark within this #PostFeminist, #PostPatriarcal micro-utopia. Here’s an extract from their manifesto: “We’re animal-human-machine-software hacking the limits of established norms (…) We’re on strike, striking against species and gender: we renounce our binary gender and human categorizations, arbitrary classifications of an imperialist tradition (…) We abhor subject-object dualism, possessive individualism and the right to own property, and we declare ourselves as metabodies.”.

                                             PROTOTYPE 5 / THE COLLECTIVE CULTURE MICRO-UTOPIA

Copyleft culture – conceived as a reaction to copyright – directlly influenced 15M. Copyleft idealism and its legitimization of copying and recycling content was at an all-time high in the months leading up to 15M, due to the threat of the antipiracy Sinde Law. These intuitive, collective and unplanned tenets formed the backbone of the #GlobalRevolution. Public squares acquired copyleft traits, becoming ctrl+v spaces constantly mirrored in their digital doppelgangers through texts on how to camp, how to videotape in a constant and unprecedented barrage of infectious creativity.

Born in the wake of 15M’s explosive appearance, Fundación Robo (or, “Steal this Foundation”), diluted the concept of individual authorship, churning out songs authored by the collective identity of Robo (Steal). Freely downloadable songs, under open licenses. Meanwhile, Asalto (Assault), Robo’s literary counterpart,  was born soon afterwards, with its collective literature and poetic snippets remixed into intense “Collective Assaults”. And Plazas Invisibles (Invisible Squares), as written by Italo Calvino with the 99%. And VocesConFutura, visual shout-outs by inspired graphic creators camped within 15M pixellated environs. And Bookcamping.cc created to answer the innocent question, “what book would you take to the square?” With its book-filled shelves, its playlist of titles, its guided visits, Bookcamping.cc stands as a prime example of the new web-created and commons-oriented culture. But, it’s possible that 15M.cc, – a transmedia project composed of a book, a documentary and the 15Mpedia – may well be the best across-the-board representation of the collective, open and collaborative spirit of 15M’s cultural micro-utopia.

Remixing – A copies B, B recreates A’s original work – turns flaws into virtues. Remixing becomes an homage, a co-creation – and, why not, a battle cry. What could be better than #cutandpaste a fragment from “Asalto nº 4, Lorca remix” in support of Marea Verde and its defense of public education. “Green that I love you Green. Green wind. Green branches. Education needs your hand, to help avenge it, to expel those seeking the failure of the masses”.

                                                            PROTOTYPE 6 / PARTICIPATORY MICRO-UTOPIA

The assemblies, celebrated in public squares, marked a previously unheard of politicization of public space. Even taking into account that their consensus building mechanism didn’t end up directly influencing the democratic process, the creation of new spaces for political dialogue soon made the old institutions look dated. The project/process Parlamento a la Calle (Take Parliament to the Streets) for example, is a true master stroke against a static democracy that only allows for dialogue within the chambers of parliament. Besides, public-square assembly did manage to consolidate certain specific mechanisms.

This yearning for participation is the essence of Propongo (I Propose), a tool and platform for the collection and implementation of political ideas by a collective voting system. Propongo inspired the Rio Grande do Sul’s (Brazi) Digital Cabinet. Meanwhile, Asamblea Virtual (Virtual Assembly), a participatory online system where proposals are drawn, debated and voted on, has become an invaluable laboratory for techno-political participatory systems. Similar initiatives, such as Ahora tu decides (Now You Decide), a platform for non-state-mediated digital referendum, the urnas indignadas, physical voting booths placed on the street last November to vote on the proposal against foreclosures, or ballot information tables set up by public health defenders, Marea Blanca, make an important symbolic statement capable of forcing change in the system’s participatory mechanisms. Finally, Graba tu pleno (Record your Plenary Session) which encourages transparency by inciting citizens to video every single convention of assemblies, could also be considered another 15M prototype.

Demo4Punto0 (Democracy 4.0) is perhaps the most innovative initiative of them all. A hybrid participatory strategy and mechanism, it would allow any citizen to digitally vote on any parliamentary proposal or law. Based on each political party’s ratio of seats in Parliament, the mechanism proportionally discounts a seat for every 150.000 that participate in a vote. These citizen votes represent a proportional part of a congressman’s constituency. It’s no coincidence that the regional government of Andalucia (in the south of Spain), has commissioned the groundbreaking Andalusian Digital Democracy Report from the founders of Demo4Punto0.

                                                  PROTOTYPE  7 / FUN-TIVISM MICRO-UTOPIA

Non-violence has always been an inspiration to 15M. The Movement resurrected peaceful resistance and adapted it to the Internet age. Repudiating weapons and classic urban guerrilla tactics, 15M made protest creative, constructive and, unmistakably, fun. Networked emotions and viral actions that amplified and altered their own effects. Culture Jamming, the remixing of logos and  commercial symbols as exemplified by Adbusters, morphed into something else in Spain. 15M’s culture jammers became virtual DJs, spinning memes and emotions. We saw how Flo6x8, a flash mob collective, was able to flamenco their way into a bank. We saw a crowd throwing a party in a Bankia branch, to promote its #CierraBankia (#ShutDownBankia) campaign. Bankia was Spain´s own big-bank-bailout debacle, going from public bank to private entity, subsequently bankrupting itself and then controversially being rescued with public funds, concurrent with the imposition of austerity measures. We were delighted by the parodical Ballot Box ATM: if it´s the banks that really govern us after all, why not just vote directly while at the bank?

Political Jiu-jitsu, or defeating an enemy by turning its strength against itself, is the tactic used by the Metro de Lujo (Subway DeLuxe) campaign. Elegantly attired individuals protested the Madrid subway’s inscrutable price hikes by dressing up and toasting champagne to welcome the new “aristocratic” pricing. Or, how about the ultimate fetid vengeance, exemplified by the #TubasuraalBanco (#TakeYourGarbageToTheBank) campaign – which, ultimately, made it as far as Portugal (#OLixoAosBancos). Another hilarious example is the #ManiFicció/#ManiFantasma (#FicticiousProtest/#GhostProtest), a fake protest announced as a total urban guerrilla outing,  which managed to ridicule and embarrass Catalonia’s riot police (Mossos D’Esquadra), when they arrived to meet the dangerous enemy to find… no one!

15M has creatively and humorously reinterpreted the tenets of Saul Alinsky classic “Rules for Radicals”, or The Guerrilla Communications Handbook. amongst other direct action classics. Additionally, it has birthed a particularly active army of Twitter troll activists. Profiles such as @barbijaputa or the @ikastrolla collective are prime examples.

                                                                     PROTOTYPE 8 / RESILIENCE MICRO-UTOPIA 

Faced with the unjustified rising cost of public transport, classic resistance-based activism would respond with barricades, protests and setting things on fire. On the other hand, resilience-based activism uses adaptation, micro-attacks, and hacking, expressed through cracks and loopholes in the legal system. “Translegal”, rather than illegal. IGetOn YouGetMeoOn… non-payment tactics for public transport. If you get fined, there’s a co-op that will handle the cost of the fine.  It works out cheaper to make a monthly contribution to the MeMetro (IGetOn) co-op than paying the regular monthly pass. Adapted from an identical initiative in Greece, the YoNoPago movement fights against the rising cost of highway tolls and public transport, another sign of resilience. When the VAT was raised 21% for Spanish freelancers, a new “bacterial” web-based network called #HuelgaAutónomos (Freelance Strike) sprung up to deal with the problem by paying individual taxes collectively, or by refusing to declare income on certain months (Freelancers in Spain are required to pay a disproportionately high fixed monthly fee to able to work legally).


Imagen: Marea Verde, by Andrés Arriaga. Licensed under: Creative Commons.

The Citizen Tide phenomenon, especially in Madrid, has not been thoroughly studied by social anthropologists, but it should be. As far as mass media is concerned, apparently it isn’t even worth analysing.  The Marea Blanca (defending Public Health), Marea Verde (Public Education),  Marea Azul (against the privatization of water) and the Marea Violeta (feminism), are permutations on the traditional protests and marches declared by unions or political parties. 15M turned everything upside down. It modified the source code of protest and spread the virus to the rest of society. That’s the reason the Mareas work within horizontal, non-hierarchical networks. These mobilizations create new sets of visual associations (green equals “education”), and no one displays any union or political party paraphernalia during marches, whether they’re members or not. Their texts and objectives are written collaboratively and with absolute transparency. The Citizen Tides are a new form of social mobilization. Could we be witnessing the birth a radically different form of syndicalism? As for me, I haven’t the slightest doubt that the Tides represent a form of networked post-syndicalism that marks the beginning of a new era.

#TomaLaHuelga, a summons by 15M to attend the protests organised by the official government sponsored – and highly inefficient and corrupt – unions, as a differentiated “critical march”, is another clear-cut case of post-syndicalism.


Stop Desahucios (Stop Foreclosures) map, built on Ushahidi. A SMS alert shows foreclosed individuals and families the location of empty bank-owned apartments in their area.

The popular, and subtly reactionary, eighties Spanish children’s TV program “La Bola de Cristal” (The Crystal Ball) introduced the phrase “sólo no puedes, con amigos sí” (you can’t do it alone, but you can do it with friends”) into the burgeoning Spanish collective unconscious. Those youths, now grown, repurposed the phrase from the start of the movement. Maybe that’s why we’ve seen such a natural shift from DIY (Do it Yourself) to DIWO (Do it With Others). Here’s an interesting distinction: 15M has consecrated the value of “multitude” over “masses”. In contrast to the “mass-man”, as portrayed by Ortega Gasset, we see the emergence of the “multitude man”. as exemplified in the Smart Mobs of Toni Negri and Howard Rheingold. The Smart Mob forms an autonomous whole, bigger than the sum of its parts. 15M’s Smart Mobs brought to life the concepts of “swarm” (Kevin Kelly / Steve Johnson) and “collective intelligence” (James Surowiecki, Pierre Levy) like never before.  Initiatives such as Stop Desahucios (mass gatherings to physically prevent foreclosure eviction proceedings), actions like the “Eschaches” (public humiliation and condemnation of corrupt politicians and bankers) and campaigns such as Toque a Bankia are palpable demonstrations of swarm and collective intelligence initiatives in full gear.

Collective intelligence also powered the 15Mpedia or the Vivero de Iniciativas Ciudadanas (Open Hatchery for Citizen Initiatives) Glossary, and played an essential part in the formation of WhatsApp IM groups used in protests to assure the protester’s bodily safety. These are telling examples of the kind of collective intelligence that feeds the parallel, alternative and sustainable world mapped on projects such as MeCambio.Net, a listing of companies and services founded on ethical and sustainable values.

                                                                            PROTOTYPE 11 / THE MICRO-UTOPIA OF THE COMMONS

“Out of chaos, we’ve seen actions, constructions and turnarounds arise with clear, integral, non-corporate intentions, all marked by a tendency to organise into community”. These words, recently expressed by hacker Marga Padilla, give credence to the theory that 15M has acted as a springboard for communities. A steady stream of communities where neighbours share their wifi thanks to Wifis.org, use community currencies (like Seville’s PUMA, and many others), analogue/digital barter systems such as Nockin or cooperative practices like the No.Ma.Des Project (a wordplay on nomadism and and “No More Unemployment) which seeks to find meaningful, constructive activity for the hordes of Spanish unemployed.

References to “the Commons” were omnipresent in all the initial debates of the 15M movement. The construction of interrelated communities stems from a marked desire to improve on the wealth of the commons. The Carta de los Comunes (A Letter for the Commons), a text signed the Madrilonia.org collective and edited by copyleft publisher Traficantes de Sueños, is an excellent example of the concrete – if, at times, cleverly subtle  – prototypes reflecting the commons via their intellectual content.

                                                                          PROTOTYPE 12 / THE LEGAL MICRO-UTOPIA

15M has shaken up one of the pillars of the Western State: the legal establishment. The existence of The Comisión Legal Sol, (Puerta del Sol Legal Commission), was an impromptu creation on the first night of encampment, when one camper offered legal advice to another.  This marks a shift towards collective methods in what is traditionally perceived as a very individualistic profession. In Spain, certain groups of lawyers were already pooling their talents, sharing resources and incentivizing the use of free licenses in their documentation. The arrival of 15M has multiplied this free, open and collaborative legal micro-utopia.  We can see a good example of this in the legal strategies collectively designed to benefit the Stop Foreclosures movement. Op-Euribor, a collective initiative organised and disseminated by online working groups, is another spectacular example of 15M’s burgeoning legal micro-utopia.

Toma Parte (Take Part) is another fascinating example. On the one hand, it’s a networked collective of lawyers functioning anonymously. On the other, it acts as a platform and tool for the activation of collective intelligence: “Toma Parte is a tool designed so we, as citizens, can pool our resources to find solutions. Our team of legal advisors will provide the necessary knowledge to determine the best legal course of action to implement these solutions. Anyone can make an online proposal, which will then be voted on by the community at large, completing it with evidence and testimony and funds generated through crowdfunding campaigns. All the documentation pertaining to the proposals – made available under Creative Commons Licenses – will be freely reusable”

But the most spectacular and ambitious example of this legal micro-utopia is, undoubtedly, the 15Mparato campaign. Launched through crowdfunding platform Goteo.org, the campaign gathered more than the necessary 16.000€ in less than 24 hours, collapsing Goteo’s servers in the process. These funds are being used to finance a lawsuit against Rodrigo Rato, former IMF Managing Director, head of Bankia and nominated by Bloomberg as one of the worst CEOs in the world (2012), for his mismanagement and accounting irregularities at the time of Bankia’s merger. We are talking about a mass lawsuit designed and funded online, that quickly gained the support of 50 shareholders who stepped forward as plaintiffs, as well as a host of internal witnesses. Spain’s networked citizenship shifted from defending itself to taking on the enemy. This, the first crowdfunded mass lawsuit, showed that the economic political elite isn’t as cozily secure as it thought. Or, as we can read in 15Mparato’s site: “Fear has switched sides in the struggle between those who are the bottom and those who are at the top”.

                                             PROTOTYPE 13 / THE FREE KNOWLEDGE MICRO-UTOPIA 

Free Knowledge, Free Licenses, Free Access. 15M squarely positioned itself against copyright from the very beginning. Many individuals and collectives within 15M have played an important role in lobbying for a more thorough transparency law. These groups have also been instrumental in the fight against restrictive proposals like the SOPA-like Lasalle Law. 15Mpedia reflects a healthy amount of free-culture and free-access related initiatives, like this list of online libraries which offer free downloads.

15M and the Marea Verde are defending universal access to public education by incorporating some important new details. The “Ciudad del Aprendizaje” (City of Learning) – education partaken on the streets, without walls and free from traditional hierarchy – is already up and running. On March 9, Spanish universities took to the streets as part of the #UniEnLaCalle (#CollegeInTheStreets) campaign, with 575 public squares and urban meeting points serving as the backdrop for innumerable master classes.


Video: Iaioflautas The Rebel Grandparents from Magma Multimedia Productions /Creative Commons Non-Commercial, Non-Derivative License

“We may be old, but we have no fear” This is the collective motto often used by the Iaoflautas / Yayoflautas collective, and it demolishes every stereotype about the 15M movement being made up of unemployed, lazy youth with nothing better to do than protest. The eruption of the Senior Citizen Iaoflauta collective in Barcelona dismantled the media’s repetitive, closed-minded mantra that 15M is a collection of crusties and and dirty hippies (“Perroflautas”). “Yayo” is an affectionate word for “Gramps” in Catalonia. It didn’t take long for the Yayoflauta phenomenon to spread throughout the rest of Spain. It marked the arrival of a new revolutionary meme within an old, withering Europe. Could it be that the meme that demolishes the Troika and takes over Brussels won´t come from a student, but from a grandma empowered with social media skills by her grandson?. The #LaBolsaolavida (#TheStockExchangeOrYourLife) action that kicked off the Yayoflauta prototype had such symbolic impact that I don’t think we’re quite able to grasp its implications yet. The image of a group of pensioners invading a Stock Exchange is so unprecedentedly shocking, it sounds like something out of a cyberpunk novel. But no dystopian future vision could have imagined something like this, and #ItsHappeningRightNow.


15M has dissolved international borders. It has woven transnational communities together and eased the exaggerated nationalism that the system likes to promote during crisis. First, 15M expanded its network around the world, ignoring nation-states. The proclamation, “We aren’t commodities in the hands of politicians and bankers” was immediately understood across all nations and languages, enabling networks and breaking down borders. At the heart of this global network, the Spanish node that is 15M has always embraced diversity. It’s protected its immigrants from police abuse, it’s campaigned against Alien Detention Centers, it’s founded Neighbour Brigades for the Observation of Human RIghts. There are even doctors who’ve declared themselves as conscientious objectors due to the recent cut in immigrant public health rights, and have vowed to treat illegal immigrants, in spite of new laws prohibiting this. 15M is forging a new Internationalist movement, as far-reaching as the workers movement of the late 19th century, but endowed with an historically unmatched set of tools and connectivity. The video embedded above, showing German citizens in solidarity with Spain, was filmed as a direct response to one of 15M’s videotaped assemblies, and is visible proof of the new international micro-utopia we are forging together.

15 MImage by Olmo Calvo

I have presented 15 Prototypes, 15 for 15M.  I could describe more, many more, but this text is not intended as a list, or 19th century inventory. This text is in construction. This text longs to be a candle, a lantern. A faint ray slipping through the cracks in the system to throw some clarity on the building blocks of the world that’s coming. There could be as many prototypes as there are individuals. It only takes a certain attitude to pick up the lantern, shine some light into a corner, and try to see the change.

Guerrilla Translation/Related:https://guerrillatranslation.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/strip-unicornsjpg-e1383342203680.jpgSeeing the Invisible: on Unicorns and the 15-M Movement/ Amador Fernández-Savaterhttps://guerrillatranslation.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/unity-without-convergence-e1383342540180.jpgUnity sans Convergence/ Madrilonia/@PinkNoiseRevhttps://guerrillatranslation.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/globalp2p-e1383342891247.png#GlobalP2P, The Wind that Shook the Net/ Bernardo Gutiérrez

This translation has been republished on:
  • The Economics and the Commons Conference’s site (Published in two parts: part 1, part 2)
  • TAHRIR International Collective Network’s website  (Published in two parts: part 1, part 2)
  • The P2P Foundation blog (Published in two parts: part 1, part 2)
  • TakeTheSquare.net (Published in two parts: part 1part 2)
  • Occupy.com (Published in three parts: part 1, part 2, part 3)