12M: Barcelona once again becomes a revolutionary hub

by Leonidas Oikonomakis on May 13, 2012

Post image for 12M: Barcelona once again becomes a revolutionary hub

With the re-occupation of Plaça Catalunya, the movement in Barcelona once again finds itself on the front-line of a Global Spring of resistance.

Photos by Rieko and Teresa, via AcampadaBCN FotoMovimiento

In red, Brave Iberian Bride.
Barriochino’s lights are turning on.
(You) My sea-rider Spaniards and (you, my) Greeks
Greco and Lorca – Spain and Passionaria.

From “Resistance”
Nikos Kavvadias*, 1910-1975
(Greek sailor-poet and writer)

May 12, 2012 — “15-M”– Plaza Catalunya, Barcelona

Tens of thousands of Catalans took to the streets, responding to the call for a second global day of action after October 15.

“We demand, firmly but without violence: social justice, wealth distribution and an ethic of commons. We condemn poverty, inequality, environmental devastation and corruption as tools of subjugation by the powerful on society”, according to the 12-M website. And in a country with 24 percent unemployment (6 million people) and 50 percent youth unemployment, these demands seem more urgent than ever before.

Plaza Cataluña was again full of people: young, old, locals, foreigners, students, workers, pensioners, unemployed. It was no general strike, no 1st of May, no football victory celebration. No political party was involved in the mobilization and no trade union organized it.

Yesterday, the indignados of Barcelona took back the square — symbol of their struggle. A struggle against — let’s say it openly — the dominant political and economic paradigm: representative democracy and capitalism. And they will stay there until the 15th of May, the anniversary of the movement — and who knows for how much longer.

The movement that we watched being born last year in the squares of Tunisia, Egypt, Spain, Greece, and the US, is returning to its birthplaces to make its self-assessment, and decide on its next steps.

Will the leaderless movement that is based on popular assemblies, horizontal decision making processes, direct democracy and consensus; the movement that rejects the political party as an organizational form and representative democracy as an institutional practice; will it stay loyal to its ideals and try to bring about social change through building alternative, parallel institutions?

Or would it try to achieve state power, and if so, how? Via the long parliamentary path, with all the necessary concession-making with the political establishment that it involves? Or via a shorter revolutionary path, which would bring it in direct confrontation with the state, and at risk of reproducing power, exchanging one form of domination over another? And finally, what would be the state’s reaction?

“A ver”, as they say over here. Spring is coming, and it is going to be more interesting than ever before.

In March 2012, together with Jerome Roos we had the chance to interview Greek resistance hero and anti-austerity campaigner Manolis Glezos. And — referring to the occupation of Syntagma Square — he told us that an occupation of a square is not really direct democracy itself; it is a lesson in direct democracy.

Last year, the indignados had their first empirical lesson in direct democracy and they passed it successfully. And today, they’ve just entered the second semester.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

esther May 14, 2012 at 00:51

good for the real democrazy: people feel indignation for the injustice, political and finantial corruption. Civilians in all the world are suffering for this… shame, shame!!!
In the mayority of cities of spain people took the streets.
People must know that our current govertment are so conservative with the same ideas that the past dictator franco.


dave May 14, 2012 at 09:34

Nice article, thx Leonidas. Let’s hope the Catalans have the fortitude of your eponym.

My only point of disagreement: You say “Or via a shorter revolutionary path, which would bring it in direct confrontation with the state.” Any process, be it slow of fast, that takes as it’s objective the dismantling of representative governance and capitalism is going to have to confront the state. That’s the one thing of which revolutionaries of all stripes can be sure.

A question: Can anybody translate the last sentence in the photo above? I cannot speak Catalan, but “juntes” is close to the Spanish word for council or committee. “Podem is like the Spanish word for power. Is it the Catalan equivalent of “all power to the soviets”? Anybody know what it says?


Jerome Roos May 14, 2012 at 13:40

It means “together we can”.


dave May 14, 2012 at 22:32

Oh no! I thought it was a revolutionary slogan, now it turns out to be an endorsement for Obama. Ugh!


Dominique May 15, 2012 at 10:23

I don’t think the Catalan people had Obama in mind when they made that banner!
Just kidding…
Things are definitely moving here in Barcelona.


Leonidas May 14, 2012 at 17:51

Dear Dave,

thank you for your comment.
You are very right on pointing out that any effort to dismantle representative parliamentary democracy and capitalism would have to directly confront the state.
Yet what I am concerned about, and what I believe, is that movements that try to bring about social change through parliamentary means, run the risk of falling into the “trap” (to quote James Petras and Henry Veltmeyer) of becoming part of the system themselves.
Therefore, in that case, the state would not choose to confront them directly. It has ways to “re-socialize” them, until they are on the same side.
Therefore I don’t believe that radical change through the parliamentary path is possible.
Of course never say never, but that’s my humble opinion.


dave May 14, 2012 at 22:26

Yes, Leonidas, I agree on all counts.

Keep a smile on your face,
And spring in your gait,
And don’t forget,
To smash the state.


JC Tripp May 15, 2012 at 06:05

Very inspirational article and website. I live in the South of the USA and the divide between rich and poor is pronounced and accepted as the norm. People go into tremendous debt just to appear affluent. It’s sad. I struggle to have a home and have camped in the past just to remain independent. The economy here has ravaged many lives, many are distressed but don’t know what to do. The Occupy Movement did have momentum here, albeit briefly, but the public’s attention has moved on. The issues, however, haven’t. Something is brewing, I just hope it won’t become an excuse for oppression and violence. Stay strong, stay united. Peace.


Michael Kenny May 15, 2012 at 17:33

The interesting point is the rejection of political parties. Last year, the usual coterie of old fogey Marxists tried to hijack the movement and were politely but firmly told to get lost. Mr Roos seems to have tried to do the same thing on the old fogey’s behalf, with, as it would seem from thia article, as little success as the old fogeys themsleves. I’m sure Manolis Glezos did all kinds of wonderful things in his youth (he was born in 1922) but the future is built by the young and the somewhat awe-struck references to Mr Glezos, in this and in Mr Roos’s article, suggest a clinging to the past rather than the reaching out to the future which, unlike Greece, seems to be the central spirit of the Sapnish protest movement.


Jerome Roos May 16, 2012 at 04:27

You seem to have absolutely no clue what you are talking about. When were you last in the squares with us? When did you last attend a Spanish assembly or speak to a Greek youth? When did you last have to run away from the cops for peacefully speaking your mind? Enjoy trolling the blogosphere for anything you disagree with, but don’t expect to get any street creds with this kinda nonsense.

By the way, check the byline before you start calling names. This article was written by my good friend Leonidas, who as an active member of the Greek movement was teargassed and attacked by riot police for resisting the authoritarian imposition of austerity measures upon his people. He is one of many young Greeks who are building the future of their country in the squares and in their everyday lives. Your arrogant posturing is not only blatantly uninformed, but also profoundly disrespectful to those who put their own health and freedom on the line to stand up for what’s right.


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