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Tahrir in Madrid


Violence broke out at a mass demonstration in Madrid late Saturday when dozens of youths began throwing projectiles at police, who responded by charging at them.

Tens of thousands of people marched on the Spanish capital in a mostly peaceful protest against austerity policies, but an AFP journalist said youths later began smashing windows and setting bins on fire.

For background, see: Adrià Rodriguez and Lotta Tenhunen

A southern democratic tide to overflow Europe

It’s been almost three years since the plazas of the Spanish cities called out for real democracy now. Still there is none, and the struggle to win that democracy has turned into tiresome banging of heads against the institutional blockage. More cuts. More exclusion. More evictions. More repression. More misery.

Yet even in this situation a multiplicity of democratic embrions are developing. In the practices and demands of the various initiatives born in or fortified by the uprising of the plazas in 2011, democracy is the common denominator. The destitution of the current political and economic regime dating back to the Transition from Franco’s dictatorship smacks of urgency. In the bipartisan game played by conservative PP and centre-left PSOE, everything will be finished off by the ongoing austerity policies. Jobs, education, healthcare, income, housing, social service and benefits, political, social and labour rights are at stake. The Troika of ECB, European Commission and IMF holds the strings.

In this framework enRed, a process of organization initiated in Madrid in the autumn of 2012, set out to compile the demands and proposals of the streets and plazas into one document. This document, called the Charter for Democracy, aspires to serve as a tool in the democratic revolution announced by the #15M. Since the first draft was formulated, the Charter for Democracy has passed through different movements both in Madrid and other cities. The critiques, improvements and additions proposed to it have been discussed on and incorporated to it. On Saturday 18th a first encounter was organized in Madrid to work on the Charter. Besides the document – seen as a processual, open protoconstitution–, there are still many open questions about the roadmap of its implementation and the organizational model to make it happen. The openness is not only a weakness. Heard in the encounter was: “I got interested because it was the only thing that was still open to participation in the process.”

While enRed opts for sharing a tool –the Charter– and has proposed a certain process –with its organizational model and strategy– the contents of the Charter are also a resource for others. During this spring, for better or worse, democracy will be the trending topic of the European elections. Spain is already in full blossom with new post-15M parties like Partido X, Podemos or EQUO popping up day by day. Many of the initiatives have surely been inspired from the Charter, and the copying should be seen as with open source software: a welcome contagion between organisms inhabiting the same ecosystem. In a political ecosystem of the 99% these organisms will have to find a way to relate to each other.

They need each other: as the institutional blockage doesn’t give up any space for regenerating the political structures from below, the question of breaking the blockage becomes imminent. If not breaking it a la Ukraine, how to do it? The real divisive questions between the different electoral strategies are the ones of representation and leadership on one hand, nationalism and views on Europe, on the other.

There are three factors in why the proposal of enRed excites us. Firstly, proposing as the only programmatic point the dissolution of Las Cortes and the convocatory of a constituent assembly.

Secondly, it understands that there is no democratic outcome from the current systemic crisis within just one nation state. Thirdly, the first two factors are presented assuming that the elections are not an end in itself but only one of the means. If there isn’t a democratic tide that wipes away the old, overflowing the neoliberal Europe with new forms radically democratic institutionality, there will only be a change of the flag in the palace of power.

What are the forms we can think for the democratic tide as the electoral acceleration of time hits the temporal autonomy claimed by #15M? Is a reappropriation of the electoral space possible –as tending towards talk-show debates and opinionism instead of organization from below as it always is– for the expansion of the process that the occupation of the plazas impulsed? Is it possible to hack the elections from below without reproducing the same calamities and succumbing under the diagnostic of the tristezas del poder?
About the authors

Lotta Tenhunen lives in Madrid where she participates in the post-15M struggles such as the movement for the right to housing. She has studied sociology, feminist studies, performative arts and journalism in Tampere, Finland. She tweets @sydansalama

Adrià Rodríguez is from Barcelona. He participates with the Fundación de los Comunes network and is developing the Kairós Project, a video archive on the emerging social movements throughout the Mediterranean. He tweets at @adriaral

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