My name is Ale Fernandez. I live in Barcelona, Spain and I'm Chilean and Italian.
I am a web developer, artist and technical researcher.
I've lived in Scotland, Italy, Spain and England and career-wise I am interested in distributed systems and their applications to improvised performance and ecology.

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5/22/2011

Is peaceful cohabitation with self organisers possible?

My predictions for Spain are pretty bleak at the moment, although I have some hope. I predict the right wing Partido Popular, founded by a member of Fascist dictator Franco's government, will win these elections.

The PP will have none of the PSOE's qualms in dislodging the protestors once results are in. There will be some trouble with police and law in order to empty the squares, and for some time, things will return to normal.








These are beautiful protests – more a spontaneous group of people just expressing discontent, and trying to find alternatives to the way things are. They now reach 300 cities and towns where people are camped in the main squares, and the evening "caceroladas" (some sonic discontent making at 9pm with cans and pots) reach every street in Barcelona.

I think the camp's future is uncertain at the moment, but that a movement may have been born, a movement that will oppose or maybe even cohabit with the old order in new creative ways.

"teach noam chomsky in schools"
And then in the longer term there's the upcoming financial crash.


Anarchists have been targeted in Greece by police violence, maybe because they are one of the main groups organising protests and actions. There are also lots of groups here organising more for bottom up resistance to cuts: decreiximent is the main eco centred group coming up with interesting ideas, and there is a local cooperative with far reaching aims, the Cooperativa Integral Catalana. But then there are also people involved in various movements which have joined the streets at different moments in recent times and the demoralised unions. A lot of the anger needs a positive direction and there is a lot to be done. The cuts are due to the need to pay back a huge EU loan, and the anarchist black blocks make up a lot of the violent elements at protests. But fighting policemen doesn't help people make bonds.

The problem with this: Spain is getting close to a debt situation like Portugal, which yesterday received a bailout from the IMF's sexy purse. But that money is running out, and if Spain and Italy join the queue, the EU could suffer tremendously. What happens when Italy and Spain both go for that last bit of money is all unclear at the moment.

This is having strong effects on day to day life in Spain. In the Plaza Catalunya Acampada on Friday, a woman told the crowd at one of the spontaneous assemblies of seated people, happening in various places around the square, on a loudspeaker that her wing had been closed after 30 years of work there, but that it had been opened again so that a minister could have his pacemaker put in, before closing up again.At 9pm the "cacerolada" started - a loud banging of pots and pans and lots of shouting. It was beautiful to see the call rise and everything start, like a symphony taking off. The next day I was on my little streets away from the centre, and the cacerolada started - in some streets a lone beater in some window, banging on a pan, and in other streets whole families out with all their kids banging pans and talking to people about why they were doing it.

Cacerolada Acampada Barcelona Miercoles 19 by alefernandez

Services are being cut meanwhile, and some things are starting to fall apart. Getting work is a bad joke when 100 people apply for a single position within a day, so that finding work becomes an exercise in becoming meat for the short term money so that everything can keep working badly in the contracting companies the employment agencies find workers for. In Greece, this has reached the level of mass hunger strikes of immigrants, general strikes and some areas organising direct action and sabotage, blocking roads and taking action. Here, an attempt last winter to occupy an abandoned cinema and use it as an information centre,  was quickly and brutally evicted by police.

The disintegration of the social structures people once relied on is slowly progressing, as housing agencies, local shops and larger business alike fall apart from one day to the next. Financial meltdowns are nothing new in Spain, often at huge social costs.
A "post capitalist baby" at plaza catalunya. "Help us grow - we are in an embryonic phase".

Anarchism offers lots of ways (there is probably a different version of anarchism for each anarchist there is) to self organise in participative ways and keep things going in some way when government services collapse. I believe these people protesting should use their remaining time in the square finding out how to make the assembly permanent and functional. Through virtual spaces and perhaps the use of empty shops and spaces.

The best action you can take is action to protect and provide help to your own area, because the politicians can't argue with the fact that they have ceased to provide important services. Cooperative spaces can begin to fill these spaces, and volunteers can do a lot with their cognitive surplus.


The workers who run those government services just have to agree to open the place up, find out what is needed to make it running and get to work again - a method described in "La Toma" - about the worker's takeover of abandoned factories in the financial crash in Argentina at the beginning of the century. It's also been shown that anarchism reaches a certain level of efficiency that is higher than that of the state, once the cost of maintaining a functioning government becomes too high for it to function properly. This is very much what happened when the republic fell in 1936 and people just stuck in and organised themselves to take over. This kind of popular democracy might not be possible today in the way it was then, but it's important not to forget that these experiments tend to be crushed by both right and left wing sides, as they show that the whole establishment of a modern government or a nation as state might actually not be the best or the only way to run things.

During the time when most businesses were collectivised and run by cooperatives in the 1930s, in the Catalunya and Aragon provinces, where I happen to live, self organisation reached a huge level, and apparently not through any particular influence from anarchist groups.


From what I see in this film or from Homage to Catalonia, this was spontaneous bottom up organisation much like what is happening now in squares across Spain. Here is "land and freedom" by mike leigh, hoping that's a good video playlist for these times.

It is much easier to step in when there is no one to oppose you, but as a government slowly loses money and stops functioning, it is hard for collaborative groups to step in, like the people self organising in squares across Spain today.
Yesterday the Environment office (tent) from the local Acampada Barcelona - the people camped out in Plaza Catalunya in the centre of Barcelona, joined up with Barcelona en Transicio, whilst welcoming many other local groups to come and share what they have been trying to do in response to the ecological and financial situation with the people in the square. There are also calls going out to lots of other groups around the world for solidarity with the protesters. I'm trying to get a few translations of their call now in various languages! A lot of the difference between the Transition movement and anarchist groups, which are frequently much greener and have been going much longer, is that transition groups actively seek funding and work together with lot of organisations, including local government.

Nowadays though most anarchists would never collaborate with a government in co-governing. But collaboration is known to have a certain efficiency in living systems in general, and I think it deserves a look, and a decent attempt at making it work alongside government. How to get government to accept a bit of self rule in the interest of stability? I think it needs to happen with a lot of smiles and friendly gestures, because if it starts off wrong, it won't happen, and those services won't be around when the government actually goes.

2 comments:

melski said...

I agree, collaboration is a fundamental ecological principle and a cornerstone in systems thinking. Good points you're making.

Stiliano said...

I agree, greatings from Greece

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