by Isbel Diaz Torres Photos: Jimmy Roque Martinez & Isbel Diaz
HAVANA TIMES, August 20 — “Look! Somebody from 15-M right here beside me!” exclaimed one participant. Her joy perhaps expressed the thoughts of the majority of people who gathered at the Friday forum organized by the Critical Observatory Network.
The individual pointed out was Marta, who has taken part in mobilizations in Spain and now would be with us for a while.
For days I had been waiting for this moment, so it was especially exciting when I finally heard her speak. She looked like a simple young Spanish woman, an elementary school teacher in a public school for exceptional children, someone with an agile mind and fluid speech.
Marta immediately removed the label of her being any type of 15-M ambassador. We all know that it’s a movement without hierarchies or representatives. She defined herself as a normal citizen, a person who was a little nervous speaking in front of so many people, and she acknowledged that in this encounter of friends she could only give us her personal vision of what has occurred in Madrid since this past May.
When I read the astounding figures for that month, I could hardly believe it. In Madrid more 50,000 people had taken to the streets, in Barcelona more than 15,000, in Murcia between 10,000 and 12,000, between 10,000 and 15,000 in Valencia, in Tenerife between 7,000 and 11,000 people… and it went on like this for all Spain.
In total, nearly 129,000 people had been mobilized to protest government corruption and the absence of a sustainable alternative to the hedonist and consumerist world that “developed” capitalism has created.
There lazy and don’t want to work
A French investor recently told me that the problem is that the Spanish are lazy. According to him, they don’t like to work, that’s why it was the least developed country in Europe. He explained that all the ruckus around 15-M is nothing more than a tantrum of bored middle class brats demanding more discos.
Since I’ve never been to Spain, I couldn’t say a whole lot in response, though of course I didn’t swallow the old capitalist notion of lazy workers.
Marta explained to us that many issues are being addressed, not solely the critical problem of unemployment on the Iberian Peninsula. Also included are issues such as the privatization of public services as proposed the government in an attempt to slash the budget, increasing acts of racism and discriminatory legislation directed against large numbers of emigrants; as well as corruption within the government, political parties and unions, which has caused indignation among a good part of the population.
Indeed “Los indignados” (The indignant ones) is what these protesters have been branded as by the media. But Marta said that not only are they indignant, but also independently organized, raising key issues and coming up with new forms of reaching out to people, of generating support. Participants are collectively studying the situation that surrounds them and designing strategies, some which have already shown positive results.
The best thing is that the spirit of rebelliousness is expanding across all of Europe, even reaching Northern Africa. The creation of a new “social subject” seems to be one of the major outcomes of this process, said some speakers at the Havana forum.
Internet and the new technologies
Cuban participants in this encounter were interested in the use of new technologies. Between the Cuban government’s demonization of the Internet, blogs, social networks, etc., and the real cybernetic war directed by the United States against Cuba, it’s sometimes difficult to know where the trap lies.
Someone spoke about conspiracy theories organized by “revolutionaries” in the countries of Europe, Africa, Asia and even Cuba. But for Marta and the 15-M, certain things are clear. For the time being the strategy is to use those mediums as tools for information and mobilization in Spain, but decisions are made in the street, face to face, in assemblies.
The participatory outline of 15-M is still not something that can be taken as being fully developed. Debates around direct and representative democracy are taking place in forums. Certainly the preference for direct participation in decision making has a great number of followers, but things get a little more complicated when the movement grows like it’s growing now.
Marta described to us the large number of commissions that they’ve been creating according to the needs and interests of the participants and in response to the movement’s tremendous growth. For those with burning desires to speak, there was always an open microphone. In this way assemblies aren’t always taken up the whole time by the same people.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could use a microphone like that here? Don’t you think?
In short, between friends from the Observatory, some youth who found out about the activity over the Internet, others who happened to be in the park and joined in, and a few agents from State Security who filmed us, we totaled around 35 people. The debate was very rich, though it was quite symptomatic that the adults and teenagers in the park had never heard of 15-M.
Without disorderly conduct or provocations, with mutual respect among everyone, we learned about other experiences of anti-capitalist struggles. Of course, the de-colonizing gaze was always attentive. It’s not possible to import formulas, names or strategies. Anti-capitalist and anti-authoritarian struggles follow contours that are as diverse as the circumstances, places and peoples.
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