Seven Questions about May 12-15 (12M-15M) in Madrid

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This is the first of three  translations of recent articles that appeared the Spanish blog about the first year of the 15M Movement and the events organised to mark it. We will be publishing all three on ILR today. The author of this piece is Guillermo Zapata who tweets @casiopeaexpres. All three were translated by Liz Mason-Deese. Thanks to Mick O’Broin for sending them on.

Before May 12:

A call from my mom, lately she calls me often asking more or less the same thing. Have you read what so and so said? Did you see what X said? She calls me because she’s worried. They say that Madrid is full of police, that the 15M [May 15 movement] won’t be able to camp. When did we say anything about camping? The newspaper said it. The following day she calls me again. And if they arrest you all? I get angry. I get angry and say to her, “Mom, who is this ‘you all’? Maybe you aren’t going to go to the march? Of course she’s going to go, as are her friends and her boyfriend and my brother.

The media issues warnings, Soraya issues warnings from the Moncloa, a government delegation warns. In the networks people talk, talking in neighborhood assemblies, talking among friends, talking in families. They talk about not about not falling into provocations, they talk about going out into the streets en masse, they talk about breaking with the state of emergency, they talk about recovering the plazas, they talk about what will happen if we do or don’t manage to enter the plazas.

It was us, each and every one of us, sending each other emails, tweets, text messages, chatting, conversing, etc., that created the collective confidence to go out and break the fear. In Madrid and everywhere. And we shouldn’t forget that.

May 12 – The Climate in Movement:

The north column advances toward the Plaza Sol. Tweets and phone calls let us know that the other columns are advancing toward Sol. How many of us? I don’t know, there are a lot of us. Quite a lot. There are many more of us than there were that May 15th of last year. But we are different, as well. The media wants to certify a success or a failure with this mobilization, a numerical question to determine who wins and who loses. For them, it is about a “protest,” about expressing something out loud. The people there are arms and legs. Numbers. For us it is about a “mobilization,” about moving, about activating all of our being. The people that are here are, above all, minds.

The May 15 Climate has been convened by a set of discomforts, longings and frustrations in order to recognize a force in the midst of so much impotence and political misery. The Climate has taken over the city of Madrid. The Climate is sustained through (analog and digital) networks, its spine. And it has convened.

May 13 and 14 – The Movement and the Climate:

The following days are proof of a break, of a “double thing.” There is the Climate and there is the movement. The movement are the self-organized entities that propose the thing in the street. They are neighborhood assemblies, working committees, some collectives like DRY [Real Democracy Now] Madrid or Youth without a Future. Through these instances the way of being has been organized. They are instances of process. They have (more or less) been functioning for a year. They have designed a schedule of activities through a series of meetings and now they propose it to the plaza.

Problems: The difference between the Climate and the movement is numerically overwhelming. Not because the movement is small, but because the Climate is enormous. To think of those entities as constituted and closed spaces makes it difficult for more participation from the Climate. Something similar happens with the scale of the problem. The movement looks within the borders of the State, the Climate moves discontinuously around the planet.

Problems. Communication is not broadcasting. Communication is the raw material of political organization. Communication is contagious, is copying and proliferation. The movement’s spaces of communication cannot be seen as records of the Climate, it has to be turned around, we have to generate new tools because the challenge is greater. None of what already exists is bad, but it is insufficient. To stop thinking about it is the only problem. Conversations in the plaza. Someone says: “We need new interfaces.” We need to call ourselves together for things that aren’t calls.”

May 13 and 14 – From copyright activism to copyleft activism:

There was much more than breaks between the “Climate” and the “movement.” There was innovation in the forms of activism. There was concrete work. There was a redefinition of 15M activism. In many of the plazas where there were meetings, there was little talk of content and much talk of tools. What was presented were machines, prototypes (failed, experimental, in process) to put in use. Mechanisms of connection between the Climate and the movement.

Copyrighted activism is a tendency that becomes hegemonic when we don’t think about it. It is a tendency to take control of spaces if it is not avoided with methodologies and innovation. Copyleft, let’s not forget, is a movement that permits great liberty based on a few strict rules. Flat spaces are fertile grounds for traditional activism, egocentric monologues and repetitive rituals that don’t think from the situation.

Copyleft activism is proud to open itself up, to imagine new things, to receive input, seeking it insistently, it does not have much respect for its memory and, if it has to abandon the known places, it does so with joy because it has maps and plans.

May 15 – Movement-Climate Intersections. We are nomad noise.

They call it democracy and Clang Clang Clang. A proposal crosses Sol’s general assembly. To call for a cacerolada [pots and pans protest]. At first one would say it is an old proposal, a copy of an Argentinean custom, but in Madrid it is new territory. Never (not even in the mobilizations against the war in 2003) have there been really powerful caceroladas in Madrid. The proposal takes hold and works. The movement proposes something that connects with the Climate and multiplies its expressive power.

After four days of the state of exception, nerves, detentions, workshops, celebration, massiveness, hitting a pot is something cathartic, a liberation of energy. An explosion of happiness travels through the plaza’s spine.

But a problem remains in people’s heads, “how to leave? How to close? There the caceroladas come back and a march, again, leaves Sol behind and recovers its force as nomad noise, as anyone’s space, that can appear in any part, that moves together, like the green wave for education or the flow of water opening a path through the rock. Nomad Noise.

That application, that small innovation, give us some pots, changes the location, the way of being, it creates Climate. For this we need more applications, more ideas. More proposals.

You want to identify us?

From May 12-15, the police made over 500 identifications and thirty-some arrests. That is to say, greater levels of pressure and more fines, but not less participation. The police of Cifuentes and the Interior Minister were deactivated by a massiveness that made them disappear on the 12th and that constructed a support network in the plazas every time there was a problem with the police in the following days. This didn’t stop the arrests or the identifications, but it did permit everything else to happen.

A collective brain functions best the more brains there are cooperating and the more those brains are united in their “common sense.” When we are few, we are more vulnerable. When we are many, we are varied. When we are many, if you want to identify us you have a problem. We are powerful when we are whoever. We are powerful when we are the 99%.

And now? They go fast and they don’t go far.

They are going faster than ever and it’s not as if after capitalism’s trip at hyper-speed we could push a button and go back to the previous stage. It’s not like in some video games. The screens are not saved. It matters little that they travel toward their destruction, because what they will leave after the explosion has no reason to be good or even better than what there is. The 15M is much more than a movement. It is a space where we can come together, not only to stop the destruction, but, above all, to construct something beyond it. These days we have seen the first prototypes, the first machines that we will try out to obtain housing, income, shared care, health, education, etc. When we think about these things our mind tends to dissociate itself. Sometimes it thinks in the institutional field, which is where the power of control and resources lies, and sometimes it thinks in the social field, which is where intelligence, creativity and the power of creation can be found. But for the situation we are going to live, we need all these things. We need everything: creativity, intelligence, creation, power and resources.

Because we are talking about a society for all and every one of us. A political architecture of redistribution of resources and of access to rights for all the world. Whether we like it or not, this is the challenge. We’re on it.

P.S. We are alive. More than the 1%. Let’s not forget it.


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