Manifesto against the Plundering of the Commons

From Evernote:

Manifesto against the Plundering of the Commons


Reading this piece by Conor McCabe on Dublin Opinion about the number of vacant housing units in the republic of Ireland by comparison with the actual social need, I remembered I had a piece of translation I had not got round to finishing. It’s from Madrilonia back in November, which I’ve only got round to finishing now.

Titled ‘Manifesto against the Plundering of the Commons’ it is a manifesto that arose from a series of sessions –Workshops against the Plundering of the Commons: City, Territory and Capitalism held in Madrid among various social movements from the 10th through the 12th November.

The content of the manifesto relates closely to the ideas set forth in a book, available for download, by one of the participating groups: the Observatorio Metropolitano de Madrid (Madrid Metropolitan Observatory). The book, which is very interesting, is titled La Carta de los Comunes: The Charter of the Commons, which is available for download here. It’s in Spanish and is 57 pages long. I would recommend a donation to the publishing house (the books are available for free) if you have the money. Obviously if you don’t read Spanish you might run into difficulties. With this in mind I might translate some of it on this site.

Note: I have translated bienes comunes as ‘commons’ (as in, enclosure of..); however this translates literally as ‘common goods’.

Manifesto against the Plundering of the Commons

Spain has been the theatre of a prolonged speculative wave that ended abruptly in 2007, having been one of the world leaders in the cycle of real estate-financial accumulation. Spanish capitalism took advantage of an intensive use of the territory that guaranteed strong profit rates, with the support of large masses of capital acquired on  global financial markets. The characteristics of this model are well known: unprecedented volumes of house building and transport infrastructures, a proliferation of rapturous macroevents and megaprojects and levels of real estate revaluation that seemed to distribute wealth to anyone who was the owner of a house, or at least, "owner" of debt.

Underneath this financial-real estate mirage, a process of plundering of the commons was always at work, bringing about a very heavy concentration of social wealth in the hands of a few. This process can be traced in the commodification of fundamental goods such as housing, the irrational consumption of non-renewable resources, the irreparable damage to areas of highly ecological value, or to people’s health.

Now, once the expansive phase has closed, we find ourselves, moreover, with a landscape of fantasmagorical settings, full of empty motorways, ports and airports, of unoccupied buildings that coexist with the increase in evictions. In parallel, the levels of family indebtedness, in a context of intensification of unemployment and precariousness, are strangling households.

One cannot understand the irrationality and the flagrant short-termism of the previous cycle without singling out those who have been, and still are, the beneficiaries of this model. The real-estate cycle and its decline has been controlled and promoted by oligarchies encrusted in institutions at the level of state, autonomous region and local authority, which have designed a government regime that is monolithically favourable to their interests, which they share with the neoliberal European project. When real estate-financial profit ceased to flow, these oligarchies have unloaded the costs of the crisis onto the rest of society, and, especially, onto the most precarious sectors, through privatisations and cutbacks that affect basic services, in connivance with the Europe of the marketeers. Also we should not forget about the responsibility of citizens who have contributed, on a different scale, to strengthening this circle.

Against the financial-real estate nihilism that the main political parties cling to, and the silence of the academic world, we want to open a path towards a transformation of the economic model, starting with recovering the right to the city and resolving the main problems outstanding. To do so we propose:

  • To make an inventory and audit of the surfeit of assets in land, infrastructures, buildings and housing in order to take democratic charge of its uses.
  • To make an inventory and audit of debts, public and private, to determine responsibilities for them, their legitimacy, and to establish  conditions regarding whether or not they should go unpaid.
  • To strengthen networks of knowledge co-operation and co-ordinated actions, in light of the imposed model of inter-territorial competition.
  • To institute the "statute of the commons" for a collective and democratic management that guarantees the inalienability of the goods necessary for living.



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