Lessons learned from the #PrimaveraValenciana
Lessons learned from the #PrimaveraValenciana
I am not teaching you anything, I just help you to explore yourself.
By understanding the nature of the opposite it will not be difficult to synchronise with it and turn it to our advantage.
1. “The street is mine” or Fraga Reload: The Partido Popular (PP) wants to regain control, to manage what happens in the streets. It is not that it is going to ban demonstrations, we are talking about something perhaps more important, we are talking about the street as a public place, where people can express their anger directly, without having to be called out by a large organisation. They know very well that an on-the-spot expression of whoever speaks for the whole of society, however small this might be, can end up connecting with many others. Since May something has changed, the street has become a meeting place for diverse people, where being together makes sense beyond protesting against a concrete measure. People’s recovery of public space it what really worries the Government and that is why it proclaims itself the defender of the rights of those who do not turn up to the protests: perhaps it does not rob these people?
2. Wax on, wax off.
The PP knows that violence can be an effective method for turning the streets into a hostile place, so that they are no longer perceived as a place for meeting, but for confrontation. For the ‘authorities’, control of the situation involves testing people’s stamina and thereby working out what type of action is most efficient: fines, police charges, arrests, or a mix in different doses, accompanied by a good media spectacle. It we look at the front pages and the opinion columns of ABC and La Razon in recent days, we can clearly see how much importance the Government and associated sectors give to winning the media battle. The tactic consists in using devices of repression and media devices at different levels with the intent of cutting off potential connections between any given protest and everybody else. As we are seeing these days, they try to deprive protesters of any legitimacy, whether by discrediting, levelling accusations, sowing confusion or, from friendlier positions, recognising that their reasons are understandable whilst calling for responsible behaviour due to the crisis in which the country finds itself. Rajoy called for calm, as if we did not know that he takes decisions at the expense of the 99%.
3. Stir up fear by pointing at Greece
The Government of Mariano Rajoy uses Greece to frighten: an image that evokes an apocalyptic place, a scenario to which the protests might lead us, where life is unbearable and survival almost impossible. Spain-The-Firm must give a good image, must be a country where people assume that there is no alternative. The economics of finance appear clearly as a device of social control. If you go out and protest, we will not receive credit from Europe. This mantra hides the fact that the Greek situation has been caused by measures that the Rajoy Government supports; with European bonds the Greek debt would not have multiplied. But what they will never say is that it is the people who go out onto the street in Greece who are guaranteeing people’s lives, that those hundreds of thousands of people are those who are struggling for dignity and collective survival. People who not only go out to protest, but who collaborate to maintain access to services, who share out food, exchange resources and, despite everything, keep on weaving a future.
4. Communication is our shield
Faced with police violence, a communications strategy is set in gear, with thousands of points from which we transmit and broadcast what is happening so as to protect those who are in danger. In these flows of communication there also surges the forms of organising ourselves so as to go out and place one’s body in the street. The videos that people upload instantaneously and the tweets that are sent out before the journalists arrive, are showing an enormous power: they cannot deny the berserk repression. We know that we are many, in many places, and this means we go out onto the street feeling we are protected.
We have to remember that there have been many protests snuffed out through repressive pressure and that the logics of action-repression-action can end up situating us on a game board with limited movements and increasingly minority positions. When going out onto the street is scary, children, grandparents, and adult women and men stop going out, and all that remains in the confrontations are young people, especially young men, who are easy to isolate and criminalise. This is what has been avoided, with a lot of intelligence, by the Valencian students who from the first sit-down in front of the Lluis Vives college have defended their right to be in the street by displaying evidence of police brutality. We must not forget that it is not enough to be right when confronting the police, it is more important to speak to people than to confront the State.
Like the young people in Valencia we say: “Careful, I’m coming out armed, I’m carrying a mobile”. In this context, the traditional forms of conflict turn out to be those that best fit in to the scenario that the Government wishes to construct. Thus, not being violent proves much more potent than being so. The Government insistingly seeks a violent response and this is why it sharpens its repressive dynamic, but it is like using cannon fire against a swarm or trying to hunt a ghost.
5. Returning the blow differently:
#YoTambiénSoyElEnemigo (translated: #I’mTheEnemyToo), the magnificent hashtag, used widely in Twitter to respond to that call to fracture by whoever talks about enemies, made it possible to recover a language of majorities that want to be together. It is nothing that is said to “power”, but something that we say to each other. Irony that prevents us from falling into isolation. A gesture of complicity that involves us all. It is communication to care for each other, not communication to attack others. I am the enemy too is pure communication from and for the 99%. The enemy, for that sad police chief, thus turns into anyone. This is how the very scene of confrontation of confrontation is blurred, that of the battle between sides and even the importance the Government gives to the police is dissolved. Let’s say that in the Valencian Spring, the police was an obstacle, because what gave meaning to the protests was being able to be in the street showing that they are up for it, that the young are not giving up.
6. Acting always changes things
The Valencian contagion has shown many things once again such as the importance of collective care or the viral capacity of communication. But we cannot forget the starting point: the deterioration of public education and young people’s expectations for the future. Students, who see how their basic rights are deteriorating, are increasingly mobilising so that politicians fulfil their obligations. But the movement that has unfolded in these days is not merely a demand. The young people are expressing their readiness to do something, because those who are in charge are an embarrassment and they cannot trust them. When the PP and the mass media blame left-wing politicians for being behind the protests or they accuse teachers of manipulating students, they are denying the capacity of the young men and women to take the initiative. We estimate this gesture very highly, secondary school students who take the initiative and are supported by mothers, fathers, and teachers. A college is not the same after this experience and all the students who have taken part in the demonstrations will surely live out a different relation to education.
Once again we have seen these days how many more we are, the more people think together, the greater the intelligence and the greater the potency that is set in circulation. Cooperation at this level of intensity lasts a few instants, but it is doubtless a model that can be replicated on a smaller scale to develop alternatives when faced with the impotence and the cutbacks they are imposing on us.