Monthly Archives: September 2012

From 25S to 26S: the bond spread as life insurance

This is a tranlsation of a text posted last night by John Brown, on the new round of mobilisations in Spain, this time directed at the Spanish parliament.


From 25S to 26S: the bond spread as life insurance

26S. Second day of mobilisation after 25S. Today people gathered once again at Neptuno, as close as possible to Congress. There were no police baton charges. A number of infiltrators were neutralised effectively. People are still partially cutting off the flow of cars, cutting off the flow of commodities. They are also protesting against austerity and even more against the regime that imposes it, which is increasingly identified with its own immediate past: Francoism. This is something more than 15M, a 15M that has embarked on the path of deposing the regime, of the definitive erosion of its legitimacy. The first response from the regime has typically Hobbesian: first of all, it insists on its representative legitimacy (the Parliament as the Seat of Popular Sovereignty), but it quickly returns to the mythic origin of representation, presenting itself as the Great Protector of the population…confronted with itself. The Spanish government tried yesterday to renew the Mafia deal of ‘obedience in exchange for protection’ which, according to Hobbes, sums up the pact on which sovereignty is based. It did so by blatantly spreading chaos, violence, and even panic through the streets of Madrid, amid scenes that would not be out of place in those films in which extraterrestrials clad in exoskeletons try to rule the earth and indiscriminately attack the earthlings who flee in fear. It matters little whether yesterday’s violence resulted from police infiltrators or the margins of the movement: the tension had already been prepared with the barriers, the 1500 androids and the threats and insults from the different caverns across all the right-wing, including El País and the PSOE.

(Photo via Periódico Diagonal)

Despite all this, the degree of dignity and outrage among the population could be gauged yesterday in the peaceful –or rather energetic- resistance to highly unwarranted baton charges. The terror that the Spanish regime has generated in its subjects since the 18th of July 1936 is quickly dissipating. For more than a year, through the growing outrage at the widespread pillage suffered by the majority of the population, the outrage, the hate produced, according to Spinoza, by evil done to one’s peer, is proving stronger than fear. This also corresponds to the fact that the new post-Fordist forms of labour are less receptive to terror. To terrorise a cognitive, communicative, affective and social worker such as today’s worker is to openly destroy productive forces, to destroy a fixed capital that today is inseparable from living labour. That is why the threat of a coup d’état is not credible. Not even a systematic cut in internet communications is possible. A coup d’état was a disciplinary solution that was useful for the Fordist bourgeoisie; under post-Fordism we no longer see coups d’etat, but rather progressively more paranoid attempts at control and surveillance of the population. Maintaining communications flows and networks of co-operation, but monitoring them very closely. The shape of freedom must be kept intact in order for the new figure of the worker to produce.

(Photo via Periódico Diagonal)

Today, the 26th of September, people have come out onto the streets once again. Asserting that they are not afraid. As if their intuition told them that terror no longer works as a method of government. Already this morning we could see how the bond spread of the Spanish State had gone up more than 30 points. Resistance makes the bond spread go up. The bond spread indicates the way the financial markets are highly sensitive to the repressive destruction of the productivity of the new forms of labour. The impoverishment to which neoliberal neo-Francoism is subjecting the Spanish population is reflected in that spread, as is resistance to the rulers. There is resistance to the rulers when they are unable to establish with workers, with the population as a whole, a shared convention about the appropriation and sharing of value. Finance capital does not desire for populations to be reduced to ruin: it says so when this happens. It prefers, by far, to exploit its wealth. As with every form of power, the domination of finance capital is a relation, which entails a constant mediation and negotiation by the rulers with the population. The transaction entailed by private indebtedness and financial rent stopped working when the crisis broke. For this very reason, the rulers seek to impose exploitation through force, but, as we can see, this does not work either, since it produces ruin and poverty. Opening up in front of us is the material base of a new period marked by a new material constitution and a new political form.

The bond spread is today the life insurance policy of the population in revolt. The regime founded atop mass graves never had any scruples about killing during demonstrations that were aimed against it. It did so with particular brutality in the 1970s when it imposed its new avatar, the young democracy, through fear, blood and the capitulation of the mainstream left. However, from 15M until now there have been no deaths. For those who lived through the 70s it is surprising –pleasantly so- to see. This is not the result of higher moral standards, or a greater degree of civilisation on the part of this criminal regime, but rather, as pointed out before, of the fear that unrest should be reflected in the bond spread or in the rating from credit rating agencies. Today we are not afraid, because we can no longer be governed with fear. The productive multitude –Durutti knew this but today it is clearer than ever for us- is what makes the world, without it there can be no wealth, nor that mystified form of wealth that is capital. Every power is faced with a resistance, since it is a relation: capital too.


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Occupy Beyond Occupy (I)


This is a translation of the first part of an interview conducted by Amador Fernández Savater for the Interferencias blog on I am translating it because for the most part I haven’t devoted a great deal of attention to the events surrounding the first anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, since the idea of an anniversary, didn’t really capture my attention, and what little attention I did give was toward the sort of headline stuff that crops up in information feeds, without even bothering to digest it properly. There seemed to be a lot of stuff about what Occupy ought to do next, how it ought to transform itself into something else, and, of course, why it didn’t do what it ought to have done because of what it lacked, as though it were always a simple matter of overcoming whatever the ‘lack’ was. None of which, to be honest, was of any interest to me whatsoever. If you felt similarly, you might want to read this interview. This is the first part; the second part is due to be published tomorrow so I may translate that at some stage.

Occupy beyond Occupy (I)

Begoña, Luis, Susana and Vicente have been living in New York for some years now. With barely any political experience behind them but very affected by the 15-M, they made up part of the group that made the call-out launched by Adbusters magazine to occupy Wall Street on the 17th of September 2011 and have actively participated in Occupy Wall Street during its first year of life.

Unhappy with the more activist dynamics of the movement, they created Making Worlds, a space from which Occupy might be inhabited in a different way, with different aesthetics, questions and rhythms, working around the idea-force of the commons as the axis of dialogue and research (beyond the alternative of public or private, State or market).

Begoña Santa-Cecilia was born in Madrid and has lived in New York for 17 years. She is an artist and art teacher in the Harlem School of the Arts and the Metropolitan Museum. Luis Moreno-Caballud was born in Fraga (Huesca) and has lived in New York since 2003 and teaches classes in contemporary Spanish literature and culture in the University of Pennsylvania. Susana Draper was born in Uruguay, arrived in New York five years ago and is a teacher of Latin American literature at Princeton University. Vicente Rubio was born and raised in Zaragoza, and has been living for six years in New York where he is writing his doctoral thesis on contemporary Spanish ideology and culture at SUNY Stony Brook.

What impressions did you get from the first anniversary of Occupy?

Luis. Different and contradictory feelings because there were different moments. The anniversary was set across three days. Saturday, education: self-training activities, talks and debates. Sunday, celebration: gathering in a park and a party. And Monday, resistance: return to Zuccoti Park and blocking actions in the area of Wall Street.

Vicente. The imagination regarding the anniversary was very poor to start off: a logic of the event and not the process, as if in three days you would get what hasn’t happened in a year. I don’t know.. I was only there on Saturday in Washington Square. But not much happened. It was something very internal, with ways of being together that are already ritualised: information points, assemblies etc. There was no electricity in the air.

Begoña. For me the three days story seemed problematic because everything seemed to culminate on the third day with the protest actions. That’s why on Monday I went to Zuccoti sceptical, but I came back very happy. We could only gather in the square, because an incredible police presence prevented us from moving (in fact I would say that there were far more police than last year). But in the square a lot of people got together, new and different people. There wasn’t as much anxiety as last year.

Susana. Yes, last year Zuccoti was like a drug. This time there was a lot of contagious energy, but more subtle, more serene, without so much fuss. You could really talk to other people. The drums sounded from the south as always, but they didn’t hypnotise like before. We were very happy to be there together again, showing that the movement is not dead, that we need it, we want it, and we we build it from day to day.


How was the anniversary picked up on in the media?

B. In short: “Occupy is not dead, but it has decayed”. They haven’t been able to kill it, because plenty of people went to the gatherings. But that’s what they say: it’s fading away and nothing has been achieved. Morale: without permanent structures, visible leaders and traditional demands, you’re going nowhere.

S. It’s a clinical look: alive or dead? But what is alive or dead? What are you referring to, what are you speaking about? They haven’t understood what it’s about since the beginning.

L. That’s right, but the problem is that our attention is too centred on what the television and the New York Times are going to say. You could notice it on Saturday: there was a climate of celebration but at the same time we patted ourselves on the back as if to convince ourselves that we remain alive. The narrative of the mainstream media weighs too great on the movement. We judge ourselves from that perspective and we strive to show that we are still alive and doing lots of things. We let ourselves be examined.

B. The only thing the media recognises is that Occupy has “changed the conversation”, by putting on the table the problem of economic inequality. But I wonder what conversation they’re talking about. Are they referring to the fact that the political and media agenda has widened to include another talking point for its debates and electoral campaigns? That appropriation deactivates more than anything else. What is interesting is how everyday conversation changes. For example, thinking about personal debt as a political and collective problem. That’s starting to happen.

V. We can’t confine ourselves to blaming the media. The problem is the obsession with understanding it all in terms of identity. An Occupy-identity has coagulated: the assembly or the square are symbols that get venerated and not tools that help to work for and achieve things. They are fetishes rather than open symbols under permanent construction. Whoever we start to fetishise things we ourselves become very open to being caricatured. For their part, the alternative media inflate the Occupy phenomenon in order to hold back the contempt from the mainstream media, but they keep playing in the same logic of the spectacle. There is a balloon that gets inflated and it keeps getting codified, caricatured even if this is with good intentions.

L. The difficulty is that we don’t have our own language for speaking about what we are doing and for naming an experimental and open political process that consists in living everyday life in a different way, but without becoming radically separated from society.

S. I wonder why we can’t generate our own narrative. In the meetings prior to the anniversary we were talking the whole time about the police and the media, but never about how to tell our own story. A different story, more inclusive (going to Manhattan already excludes all those immigrants who are immediately deported if they are detained). More unpredictable: why can’t we generate an event where they aren’t waiting for us? Why can’t we make a potency out of invisibility? We are responding time and again to the gaze of the Father: the police, the journalist, the State. Making efforts to respond to their own evaluation criteria, when in reality the fact that they don’t understand us is a very good sign because it means we are creating another story and we have our own criteria.

Some of us use the metaphor of ‘climate’ for thinking about the 15-M as a movement that cannot be reduced to a localised organisational structure, but rather one that affects social life in ways that are more diffuse and decentralised. Can one speak in the same way about Occupy?

V. Of course, there are numerous Occupy. The media Occupy has deflated, the brand has lost appeal for the media. For example, it plays no role with regard to the elections. It has disappeared and I don’t know if that is good or bad. There is also a diffuse Occuoy that affects other struggles and experiences as a kind of breeding ground, for example in the case of the struggles of teachers against the worsening of their job conditions that are unfolding now in Chicago. From the most active nucleus of Occupy there is now a Debt Strike getting proposed: it entails working politically with regard to this problem that determines the lives of millions of Americans in the US. And then you have the projects that came out of Occupy that work longer term and continuously. That for example is the case in New York with the Free University, the newspaper Indig-nación, with Making Worlds and much more.

B. The taboo that has been broken now is that many groups have given up the Occuoy name as it is already very codified. And you even hear voices that propose thinking about a post-Occupy. Not a next phase of Occupy, but something else.

S. We ourselves in Making Worlds no longer use the Occupy identity. We carry with us the climate, but we no longer use the name. Occupy is seeds that exist in people who lived the experience of the square and which in other contexts will become other things.

L. Occupy has been a necessary moment of separation from the party system. The possible start to a long term renewal of the political culture in this country. It is a first crack that can deepen further along. It does not affect the general situation as much as the 15-M in Spain, but It also has to be said that in the US the crisis is not striking as hard. There are sectors of society that live in a dramatic situation, but they have always lived that way. This is a very heterogeneous and fragmented society, and it is very difficult for something to affect everyone. The issue that can generate most resonance is that of debt.


Tell me about the problem of debt in the US and what people are trying to do about it.

L. First of all you have to understand the extent of the problem. In the US, sustainability of life does not only depend on accessing a job or a salary, but getting access to loans. Every person is dependent on their credit history, which records whether you are suitable for credit or not. If you want to rent a house or even buy a phone you have to present your credit history. It turns into a real obsession, the perfect way of turning people into numbers.

S. To understand it better: your credit history gains points if you are capable of taking out and paying back debts. If you show you are able to manage your debts. Whether you ask for loans and you pay them back regularly. If you are a reliable citizen who always pays on time. And better if it’s large debts, better if it’s with an American Express than with another card, of course.

V. If you don’t have a visa and you don’t apply for loans you don’t have a credit history. And not having a credit history is something very suspicious here. That is, if you don’t take out loans you are suspicious. They look at you funny when you go to rent a house, for example. Culturally it’s a radical difference. Having debts is not dysfunctional or unusual, but the most normal, logical, natural thing. Everyone lives in debt. Study debts, consumer debts.. to live in the US is to live in debt. You appear rich, but you’re really very poor.


B. The objective of Strike Debt is to politicise the problem of debt. That is, to change perceptions: it is not a strictly personal problem, but one that is political and collective. A information manual has been put together, and they are figuring out collective ways of getting free from debt, etc. The campaign slogan is very good: “You’re not alone”. A play on the phonetic similarity between “alone” and loan. The sentence says simultaneously: you’re not alone and you’re not a loan.


L. People live ashamed of their debts. The people from Strike Debt talk about how the “debtor assemblies” they organise help people to stop feeling ashamed of having so much debt. Because not only is not paying it stigmatised, but so too is accumulating a lot of it, despite the fact that we are bombarded with messages that impel us to get into debt (tonnes of letters in the mail offering you credit cards and so on).


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“The euro is a powder keg that is going to explode”


(image via

This is a translation of an interview with Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras, conducted by Eduardo Febbro and originally published in the Argentinian newspaper Página/12 on Wednesday 19th September.

Euro or no euro. That was the grand dilemma in which Greece, and in particular, the Syriza movement that you lead, was framed. How do you analyse the period of crisis that Europe is currently undergoing, and which seems to put in question much more than the sacrosanct stability of the euro?

I believe the European model has to be rebuilt from below. We can’t be satisfied with what today is called Europe. The current crisis is not a European crisis but a global one. Europe today does not have the mechanisms to confront it or control the worldwide financial attack against its peoples. Hence why Europe became a continent where the attack of the global financial system was ferocious. We have no defences.

Might it be that the euro, the common currency, is an unviable currency, which is to say, a currency that does not represent the real level of the 17 countries of the countries that make up the Eurozone, and that hence, imposes sacrifices on many nations that cannot meet the demands that the euro needs to exist?

The euro isn’t the only reason for the crisis, but it is part of it. The crisis springs from the architecture of the euro within Europe. We need a common currency, but not a controlled currency, which merely benefits big business and the rich. What we need is a currency that corresponds to the need of the peoples. We have a common currency, but we need to have the ability to have policies for every country, especially those countries on the periphery, which are suffering at the moment. The euro is a unique phenomenon worldwide: we have a common currency, that is, a monetary union, but we lack a political union and a European Central Bank able to provide assistance to every country in Europe.

Is there not a contradiction in your stance: on the left and at the same time defending the euro?

The contradiction would exist if we were defending the way the euro works, what it represents, what its architecture is, and the hegemony within this common currency. The problem is not the common currency but the policies that go along with this currency. The euro has become a prison for the peoples of Europe, especially the weakest economies on the periphery going through the crisis. The contradiction is in the base on which the euro was built. The euro is a powder keg that is going to explode if we continue in this direction. The adjustment policies that go hand in hand with the neoliberal model within the euro will lead us to the destruction of the euro. But this situation is going to be paid for by the peoples and not the banks, who will save themselves, or try to save themselves. The dogmatic sectarianism of the European elites who defend this model is driving Europe many decades backwards.

You and the left have a brilliant diagnosis of the problem. But there is no sign of the same effectiveness in the way of handling the confrontation with the liberal system. How then does one leave behind the poetry of diagnosis and properly enter a forceful process of reform?

One good way consists of starting by changing the correlation of forces in society. In May and June the Syriza party was very close to breaking the correlation of forces that existed. Greece became an ultraliberal experiment, a guinea pig. Here the politics of shock were tried out in order to spread them to the rest of Europe. But society reacts. People no longer have the everyday life they had before and it is those same people who reacted so that things change. Through its mobilisation society threatened the elites in our country. That means that we are changing the correlation of forces through the critical behaviour of the masses. We have to remember that after the Nazi and fascist occupation of our country, a few years later, in 1958, the left was on the verge of rising to power. We lost the last elections by a narrow percentage. But we have to bear in mind that on the other side the adversaries were not only the political forces, but also a very powerful global and European financial system that fought us ferociously with all their weapons. But if we won the elections Greece might have become the weak link capable of breaking the chain that binds Europe. Perhaps in this way Greece might move from being a guinea pig to being the future baby, the embryo of hope. We have not yet lost that historic opportunity. The peoples have not spoken their final word.

Was Greece a little like the Chile paradigm in Europe?

If we had won the elections we would have become the Chile of Europe. But we don’t know today. The Latin American experiences of recent years are very enriching for us. What happened in Chile when the dictatorship fell, what is happening in Venezuela today, what happened in Argentina ten years ago, when the IMF left Argentina, all this constitutes experiences that make us much richer and help us to perfect and concretise our strategy, both in Greece and in Europe.


In what sense does what happened in Chile, Venezuela or Argentina bring something to the radical left movements in the Old Continent? [Europe]

The most important lesson lies in that the left cannot deploy their weapons merely by trying to change the political system – no. The left has to base its hope and its work in the uprising of the people. The peoples rise up and they struggle. If in the future we in Syriza end up with a government, in order to transfer the power of the powerful to the people, this process has to be accompanied bv the participation of the masses, so as to reverse the situation. A government alone cannot do it. New democratic institutions are also necessary. We cannot change clothes and put on the suit worn by the previous powers. That suit does not fit us well. Therefore we have to create new social and political institutions to raise the forces of the people, which at the moment are marginalised within the system and have neither participation nor power. We have to transfer this power to everyone.


Many compare what happened in Argentina in 2001 with what is happening in Greece. People recall that Argentinian slogan that said “All of them out” [que se vayan todos]– Does this hold for Greece currently?

Here you still hear voices saying ‘all of them out’. The major media outlets supported this slogan which, in reality, has no political content. But what was the result of this: in a country such as Greece, where what we call democracy was born, we now have the rebirth of fascist ideas at the hand of the neo-nazi party Golden Dawn, which now sits in the Parliament. Golden Dawn is even finding support among the popular classes. There are many similarities between what happened in Argentina and today’s Greece. The politics of liberal shock that were implemented in Argentina in the 1990s under the orders of the IMF were also applied here. We are in that process, slow but destructive, a process that acts very violently against the peoples and the marginalised: adjustment plans, attacks against wages, unemployment. But since we are in the Eurozone the IMF does not have things so easy as with Argentina. If they abandon us, the consequences would be very significant for the other countries of Europe. Our economy represents 2.5% of the European total. Moreover, the euro is the second reserve currency in the world’s banks.


What lessons do you take from the Argentinian disaster of 2001?

The Argentinian experience is very important for drawing political conclusions. I would say that the most important conclusion is rooted in the fact that the politics of neoliberalism is cynical and inhumane. It is a dead end. But, on the other hand, Argentina showed us the way in which a people can put a stop to this system and rebuild its bases in order to live better, to reorganise the State and society. I had to respond in the Parliament to the Greek Economy minister when he made a very racist attack on Argentina. The minister said: “We are not like the Argentinians”, and I responded to him that we were far worse than Argentina. That is the truth.

Argentinian democracy was revitalised with the crisis. In Greece, however, a very powerful neonazi movement arose. This leads one to speculate that there may be in future a neonazi majority with a strong radical left opposition, or vice versa.

I don’t think we will end up with a far right government. The Greek people is the heir to a great anti-fascist history. This people has a historical memory and it will not allow it. But there is something that has to be said clearly: neo-Nazism and Golden Dawn are not an anti-systemic force, no, they are a force of the system within the system. It is the strongest arm of the system which will be used if it senses it is in danger. The only danger for our country are neoliberal policies, the troika (IMF, BCE, EU), and the neo-nazi movement, which is their ally for travelling along this route.

You recently broke the silence by proposing in the Greek Parliament that Greece should concern itself with the fate of the Greek disappeared in Argentina. What happened with that call?

Among the 30,000 disappeared in Argentina during the 1970s there were cases of around 17 people who were children of Greek people. Their parents still do not know what happened to their children. We raised this matter in the Parliament in order to try and ascertain with the help of the Argentinian government what happened to those young people. We cannot forget how an autocratic regime that ruled Argentina brought genocide to nearly a generation. The violence, the disappearance and the murder of so many people at the hands of those automatic regimes must be forgotten about. In modern history there is a parallel between Greece and Argentina, because here too there were dictatorships backed by the great empires. We must protect with democracy future generations from those dictatorships with democracy.

The neonazis have a lot of strength. Part of it comes out of the social work that they do, their street actions, their offer of safety. Could it be that the left lacks the ability to defeat the far right in concrete situations?

What the left needs to do is create an ideological front and, at the same time, build a model of society based on resistance and solidarity. Solidarity is not philanthropy but how to resist together. We cannot allow these groups to present themselves all cleaned up when in reality they represent the history of the greatest violence suffered by humanity. Our struggle in the street needs to have a different model to build that ideological front for protecting the people. It is a matter of a dual front: against neoliberal forces and against fascism.


The so-called radical left has many enemies, starting with those who should, at least, be a partial ally: social democrats.

In Europe and in the world social democracy has undergone an incredible mutation in recent years. Social democracy operates as a kind of plastic surgery with which they want to change something that does not get changed. This casino financial capitalism cannot change its image however much surgery it gets. Social democracy is incapable of providing solutions to the real social problems that peoples confront. In Greece, the party that represented social democracy, PASOK, was no different from the right wing. They are a duplicate. That is why our left can become a pole of alliances with a true social and popular base.


What would be your ideal model: Chávez in Venezuela, the Castros in Cuba, Lula in Brazil or the Peronism of Kirchner in Argentina.

Latin America was always an incredible social and political laboratory that gave results. Every country and every movement has its own specific qualities. We are interested un knowing what is the best vision of socialism for the 21st century for the whole planet. Despite the specific qualities we need a common vision and the same enemies. We follow very closely the process of integration in Latin America. That process is not theoretical, it is being practised and it provides responses to neoliberal dogmatism. But what is closest to the Greek model is Argentina and Brazil. In social realities and historical parallels, we have much more in common with what happened in Argentina and Brazil. Of course, we also have things in common with Venezuela and Cuba. Our enemies say that Syriza wants to turn Greece into the Cuba of Europe. We respond to them by saying that they want to create a Cuba in Europe, but the Cuba before 1960. That is where they want to take us.


You represent a generation marked by an era in which there was a great depoliticisation. What would be the formula for reintroducing politics, and, specifically, interest in a politics of the left?

At the moment we are living through the final phase of capitalism and not of socialism. We are in the fall of the capitalist system and that brings us to a different analysis of social behaviour as a generation, so much more so if we consider the conditions we are living through today. My generation entered politics as a very small force in the universities and colleges when there was a near complete hegemony of neoliberalism, when there were economic growth rates that were huge but at the same time abstract and when the examples of the good life were those of super-consumerism. Now we are in a different reality. Today, in Greece, half of young people between 24 and 35 have no job. They are condemning that generation to live a lot worse than their parents, they are condemning them to live without dreams. What we can give and say to this generation is that in its consciousness it has to recover hope within struggle. In order to rebuild those destroyed lives a better future has to be built, there is no other way. Social justice and dignity are two very important things for a generation that wants to win its future back.


You play football and you’re surrounded by people from Argentina, one of them is an Independiente supporter. In a while you will be going to Argentina. Which club do you fancy? Let’s take three: Boca, River or Independiente.

I’ll back Boca because Maradona played there. I have that mythical image of La Bombonera that I saw in photos and films. I have a lot of faith in the politics of Syriza because we have that fantasy football that is Argentinian football.


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Ocupa El Congreso

Amid yet another media spectacular about Muslims, aimed at focusing people’s minds on supposed threats to freedom of expression emanating from elsewhere, it is worth considering what is now happening in Spain. Since the initial bursting forth of the 15-M movement last year, the authorities have sought tirelessly to criminalise and forestall democratic protest, through the introduction of new legislation and often brutal policing measures. This can be seen in the run-up to the next major popular demonstration, which is due to take place this Tuesday. Known initially

as ‘Ocupa el Congreso’ (Occupy the Congress), the intention of the organisers is that the parliament buildings are to be surrounded until the politicians inside resign. A little further down there is a translation of one of the more widely circulated texts calling for people to engage in the act.

The reaction on the part of the authorities has been predictably authoritarian. If the Partido Popular government, elected to an absolute majority by only a third of the electorate, has introduced cutbacks intended to inaugurate a new era of inequality and impoverishment of a starkness unseen since the dictatorship, it has done so with the assurance, indeed the arrogance, that it can count on a judicial and policing apparatus with the powers of popular repression suited to the purpose. The Government delegate for Madrid, Cristina Cifuentes, had already called the event “a disguised coup d’état” back in August.

According to a report in Público, ‘the promoters of the “peaceful” protest action called for Tuesday 25th of September in the area around the Congress of Deputies are facing up to a year in prison. At least ten of the people who have participated in the preparative assemblies for this event, which took place in the Retiro park in Madrid, have recently received judicial summonses in which they are charged with a presumed against the high organs of the nation, as laid out in article 494 of the Penal Code. Last Saturday, four activists who were carrying a banner for the event were also arrested whilst they took part in the Social Summit demonstration.’

According to a report in, ‘The National Police will start rolling out 28 groups of riot police, totalling 1,400 operatives. This, for example, is four groups and 200 agents more than those who worked on the demonstrations of Saturday 15th. Of those 28 groups, 11 are from Madrid and 17 will come from other departments.

There will be three perimeters surrounding the Congress. The first has been there for some months, since the social protests against the cutbacks began at the beginning of the summer. Now there will be two more, which the Security Forces call the “theory of concentric circles”, three circles which do not touch each other but expand out around the Congress making up a security zone of “up to 500 metres” which will be impossible to overcome, police sources explained to 20 minutos.

The event at the Congress is to surround it, but not to occupy it, say the organisers of the civil disobedience action. The same sources point out that there is concern at the highest level in the police and the Interior Ministry about 25-S. The police have been conducting security operations for some time to monitor the antisistema [literally, ‘anti-system’, a blanket term for people who manifest opposition to the ruling order, and one loaded with enough sympathy for the ruling order that it is surprising it should be used without quotation marks here by -R] who have been “operating within acts organised by the 15-M” [Of course actual violence in such demonstrations is frequently the work of undercover provocateurs, aimed at getting their colleagues started on the crowd -R]’

Here is the translation of the aforementioned callout text in circulation. Another text can be read at the Occupy Wall Street site.

Democracy has been kidnapped. On 25S we are going to rescue it.

This coming 25th of September we will surround the Congress of Deputies in order to rescue it from a kidnapping that has turned this institution into a superfluous entity. A kidnapping of popular sovereignty implemented by the Troika and executed with the consent and collaboration of the majority of political parties. Parties who have betrayed their electoral programmes, their voters and the citizens in general by breaking promises and contributing to the gradual impoverishment of the population.

We are surrounding the Congress following more than a year of intense mobilisations across all sections of society and after it was made clear that there can be no democracy when the institutions that claim to represent it are guided by interests that are not those of the majority. Because we have nothing to say to a power that has shown itself to be systematically blind, deaf and mute in the face of just and concrete demands for equality and social justice. We are surrounding it to rescue politics from an unsustainable and predatory economic regime: the capitalist system.

We are surrounding the Congress because we want to make a leap forward in the mobilisation of society and to place at its centre the recovery of sovereignty and citizen power, that is, of democracy. We have created numerous processes of struggle, spaces for participation on social networks and in squares, neighbourhoods and workplaces, and we have carried out initiatives that we want to continue developing from below, without shortcuts and step by step. Because we believe that the time for decisions taken by a few has ended; because, faced with those who want to leave us without a future, we have the means and collective intelligence to decide and build the society that we want; because we do not need false intermediaries, but collective resources and tools that actively develop the political participation of all people in common affairs.

We are surrounding the Congress on 25S to say to those who claim to rule us, that no, we shall disobey their unjust impositions, such as that of paying their debt, and that we will defend collective rights: to housing, education, health, employment, democratic participation, income. To begin a process that ensures that those responsible for this crisis no longer go unpunished, so that the pyromaniacs who have provoked our crisis are not rewarded and so that instead they start to be prosecuted.

To rescue Congress is to launch an invitation for other social movements, such as the struggle of public servants in defence of public services, the various ‘wave’ and other struggles for equality and social justice, to express themselves and unite. It means refusing to accept the fear, impotence and disorientation that arise from the reduction of the political to the economic, and its fascist, xenophobic, racist and sexist consequence. And to seek a collective way out.

We invite all those people who want to accompany us in surrounding the Congress on the 25th of September, to say enough! [basta] and to continue on this route to rescue democracy and sovereignty.

We want rights, democracy, justice and freedom for everyone.

We have come this far, we are not afraid.

See you on 25S…and beyond.



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Against Charity

If you’re a fan of the Secret Millionaire TV programme, this post is for you. It’s a translation of a piece by the Comité Spinozista on how charity reproduces the inequality that characterises the established order.

Against the society of charity and its morality, for an ethics of collective liberation.


Men are also gained over by liberality, especially such as have not the means to buy what is necessary to sustain life. However, to give aid to every poor man is far beyond the power and the advantage of any private person. For the riches of any private person are wholly inadequate to meet such a call. Again, an individual man’s resources of character are too limited for him to be able to make all men his friends. Hence providing for the poor is a duty, which falls on the State as a whole, and has regard only to the general advantage.’

– Spinoza, Ethics, part IV, chapter XVII




I board the underground train [metro] in Madrid where a friendly woman opens the carriage door for me. As I sit down, I notice that the woman remains standing, and starts to speak, with tears in her eyes, about her desperate situation. She is unemployed and has two daughters, and is about to be evicted, and only asks for a little money to be able to give her daughters something to eat. This tragic situation is becoming normal in the carriages of the Madrid underground, and it is happening more and more. The image is even more awful if we perceive the feeling that there is a screen that surrounds her; young people with headphones, and well-dressed adults looking into their phones and chatting, remain detached from the scene. It feels as though the situation were some kind of spectacle, as if what is unfolding had nothing to do with us and were nothing more than another televisual unreality that has no bearing on our lives. Only a few people, the majority of them immigrants, seem to sympathise with the image and agree to make a small donation.


This image in itself expresses all the mechanisms that determine modern servitude. It expresses the extreme impotence of those who are dispossessed of any means of guaranteeing their subsistence, of those who are forced, therefore, to plead to others for their life. Thus a hierarchical structure is reproduced that is resolved by way of charity, where the dispossessed rely on the moral goodwill of their benefactors. But charity, far from altering the established order, functions as a mechanism for its maintenance. Whenever we have to plead to others for our life, whenever we find ourselves forced to guarantee our subsistence through the voluntary donation of a third party, we end up in a hierarchical relation that will be structurally reproduced each time this “beneficial act” [acto benefactor] takes place.


Let us now consider why this situation expresses all the mechanisms that determine modern servitude, as I said at the start. This “beneficial act”, consisting of “pleading for your life” [pedir tu vida] to the other on whom you depend, is what happens any time we apply to our kind bosses for a job, trailing our dignity along the floor each time we attend a job interview. This “beneficial act” also takes place when we seek a loan from the banks, or when a country seeks a loan from a bank or other political-financial institution, in exchange for the corresponding requirements (payment of interest, economic policies, etc). As such, the situation of the person who pleads to others in the metro for their life is not that far from being a generalised situation, and even with regard to the politically dominant role presently played by the banks. That is why it is surprising to see the indifference or the detachment with which citizens treat these situations. This is due, no doubt, to an ideological mystification that prevents us from seeing ourselves for what we are.




An example of the way in which this ideology is constructed can be found in the recent debates shown on Telecinco regarding the collective expropriation of basic foodstuffs carried out by members of SAT [Sindicato Andaluz de Trabajadores: Andalusian Workers’ Union] in certain supermarkets that hold a monopoly on the distribution of such products. SAT’s action radically breaks the rules of the charity game. Here the dispossessed do not resign themselves to their life being “given” to them, here they seize the reins of their destiny, and they take it. Ruling propaganda, the stout defender of the hierarchy that enjoins charity, was not long in launching a massive (and rather ridiculous) smear campaign against those who carried out these acts. Such was the extent of this that the Telecinco debate broadcast the night of the 11th of August, in which there was an attempt to roundly condemn all aspects of the SAT action, was followed by a report that showed the good example of the charitable actions of a Swedish family, who had helped an evicted Spanish family, having been moved by a TV report they had seen in their own country. Thus it becomes clear which action must not be held up as an example, and which one should. The just and the unjust, the lawful and the unlawful, which appear as attributes inherent in the actions themselves, are in reality extrinsic designations that emanate from the powers that be, which determine the rules of the game in which one may legitimately play.


The solution proposed to us in this way by the ruling ideology is a private, charitable, individual and passive solution, the expression of a marketised society in which every pact between individuals is mediated by the handover and exchange of a thing (be it a donation, a wage or a loan). Marx called the way in which the social body tends to be governed near exclusively by this principle ‘the commodification [cosificación] of human relations’, the basis of commodity fetishism. The SAT comrades’ solution, on the other hand, entails collective organisation, an active disposition, which calls into question the very rules of the game in which the situation of charity takes place. The first solution appeals to morality and the maintenance of the status quo of the inequality that forms the basis for charity. The second appeals to direct political action, and calls into question the order of existing things that enforces charity.



Therefore, we can measure the importance of an action by the level of condemnation levelled at it by the ruling powers. Because thanks to the action of Sánchez Gordillo and his SAT comrades we can envisage another way of confronting the crisis and of confronting the commodification and individualisation through which we are structurally constituted. We can realise that wealth is simply there, and that we merely have to organise ourselves collectively in order to take it and make use of it. We can realise that we do not need to sell ourselves to a boss, nor sell ourselves to a bank for any kind of loan if we opt, in a collective manner, to take and manage directly the wealth that is obscenely accumulated in private hands. Therefore, it would be a matter of shifting the sphere of the political away from the farce of parliaments and parties, and into the sphere of the real production of life and wealth itself, that is, our jobs, study, homes, etc. It would be a matter of building a framework in which social problems are not managed individually, in a private manner, among unequal parties conducting exchange, but collectively, politically, among equals who co-operate. Because if the so-called sphere of “the political” has any use in our modern capitalist societies, in so far as it is a separate and autonomous sphere, it is precisely to invalidate the pretense that, in any other sphere of society, what is truly political in terms of what is at stake, can be treated as separate and independent. Parliament and all institutions of ‘robbery’ of the political from the citizens exist precisely as a form of privatisation from all other social spheres, which are then presented as mere sites for the conduct of private individuals and their private property, within a framework of mere market exchange.


It stands to reason that building another kind of society that transforms individualised and forced charity into a political power in common (which seizes its existence, and does not seek it on loan); transforming the ruling moralistic ideology into the ethical power to build a new and more just frame of relations, is not an easy task that can be achieved from one day to the next. But we will have at least made a big step forward if we get over the paralysing pitfalls of the ruling ideology. Then we can deal with the question of whether we want a life of submission based on the unquestionable obligation to pay our debts to our ‘benefactors’, or whether we opt to put life and politics before the needs of the market’s games.      


Exceptional acts of mobilisation, of protest, and of disobedience, allow us to become aware of a community beyond individualised rights that derive from the market economy, and from the usual channels through which our structural submissiveness must pass. They allow for the configuration of a new common stage where the signs and affections in circulation can make up a collective body of a greater political potency. They allow, ultimately, literally, to see beyond the ideological veils built into our everyday perception. Faced with the indignity and the impotence of beneficence and charity, which seeks its right to exist and to do from external parties, faced with the individualised moralism of private agents that have no common bond, what is needed is the construction of a common fabric of experiences that lay down the foundations for a stronger and more conscious collective action than that of separate individuals. Let us meet in the streets in these September days of mobilisation, and let us experience that what is most useful for a person is neither money nor possessions, nor is it that commodification of alienated power that we call the State, but plainly and simply, another person with whom to co-operate and agree with naturally, in such a way that together we can shape a new individual who is stronger, more rational, and happier.

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Calming The Waters

This is a response posted on the Irish Times website to an article by John O’Hagan, Professor of Economics at Trinity College, Dublin, with the unusual title Referendum straitjacket on State over EU treaty changes, which conjures the image of a State wriggling to free itself of its own laws. Leviathan as Houdini, or perhaps vice-versa. But then, anything is possible in the fairy tale land of ‘international economic law literature’, which the author cites to support his contention that in a world of countries subject to the pressures of financial markets, representative democracy –‘a dream so powerful we were quite literally willing to bomb it into people’s heads’, as memorably described by Jerome Roos here– is where sovereignty should only ever be at.

Whose waters, precisely, have been calmed on account of the most recent actions? What the ECB and the German constitutional court have achieved, by helping to institutionalise the austerity conditionalities of the EFSF and the ESM, is one more mighty turn of the screw  against the working population of Europe, in favour of the banking sector and the owners of capital. It translates into a political programme of further wage depression, eroded working conditions, and, as the former Goldman Sachs executive, now unelected head of the ECB Mario Draghi has celebrated, the end of the European social model.

The concept of economic sovereignty is not ‘extraordinary difficult’, nor does it require hitting the ‘international economic law literature’ books for a more ‘nuanced’ interpretation, as the author suggests, in order for people to understand it.

The sovereign -coming from the Latin superanus- is whoever it is that exercises authority over everyone else. In economic terms, sovereignty does not currently reside in the peoples of Europe (nor, for that matter, with their parliaments, which have abandoned fiscal decision-making powers) but rather in finance capital – as the author himself puts very nicely indeed, ‘every nation is subject to the pressures of financial markets’ – and its various personifications, whether Mario Draghi and his colleagues at the ECB, top executives at Goldman Sachs or Deutsche Bank, or even those political representatives who see every demand from finance capital as a self-evident necessity and renege on their electoral promises in fulfilling those demands.

Whilst the author may be concerned at the capacity of private individuals to influence political decision-making in the course of a referendum campaign in Ireland, he seems very sanguine indeed about the concentration of immense political power in the hands of a few unelected individuals, and the capacity of finance capital to act through them.


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Bleeding from the Ears


In today’s Irish Times, a letter-writer displays an attitude toward Ryanair characteristic of many, if not the majority, of people living in Ireland who might have the time and the inclination to write a letter to the Irish Times:

‘It may be the airline that Donald Clarke loves to hate but I, for one, am very grateful to Ryanair for breaking the old cosy cartel of airlines that ripped us off for years and to Mr O’Leary who has created a competitive environment that has lowered air fares across Europe. – Yours, etc,’

Michael O’Leary and Ryanair have a certain totemic importance in Ireland, as the expression of a pro-privatisation, anti-worker, anti-regulation, anti-trade union, anti-politics, anti-politician, and anti-PC animus, in celebration of a hyper-Thatcherite populism that sees itself as anti-establishment. This is not so much the case in other places.

There was a recent first-hand account published in Público of an emergency landing of a Ryanair flight at Barajas Airport in Madrid. Titled ‘Ryanair made me think of death’ the author wrote that ‘people were scandalised, frightened and angry with a company that has given no explanation. Though we all wished to make a complaint, it is only possible to do so by sending an e-mail to the Ryanair headquarters in Dublin.’ When placed on another flight to the original destination in the Canary Islands, the flight, according to the author, had ‘none of the perfumes, magazines, snacks, and all the range of products that Ryanair tries to sell its passengers throughout the flight. This time there was silence.’

What follows is a translation of a piece published in Público by David Torres, 11th September.

 The life of Ryan

Perhaps, while I’m writing this, dozens of Ryanair passengers are vomiting, bleeding from the ears or suffering panic attacks at 15,000 feet. We can be assured there are hundreds of unsuspecting people who, while you’re reading this, have just deciphered the small print in the contract and discovered that should the return flight fall through for any reason, they have to arrange return via their own means: a fun proposal altogether if with one’s family and a load of suitcases at an airport counter in, say, Cairo. There is not the slightest doubt, though, that right now, there are thousands of people who have got back alive from a flight with the happy Irish company and do not know whether to give thanks to God or curse him. [In the original, literally, ‘defecate on all his dead relatives’. If you can find a suitable idiomatic translation, I’m all ears – R]

It is also highly likely that many of those reading this have travelled with Ryanair and nothing bad has ever happened to them.  They may have found its way of transporting airborne livestock to be quick, cheap and effective, and may have even won one of those free flights to Berlin in one of those noisy raffles with which the company enlivens its odysseys. They may believe that one can fly to London and back for 30 euro (more or less the same price as the average taxi journey from the centre of Madrid to Barajas Airport) without wiping one’s exhaust pipe with the most elementary security norms. It may well be that they have flown on Ryanair without suffering  abuse, without getting ripped off at boarding time, without having to pay a revolutionary tax for an extra kilo in one’s luggage, without seeing how two handymen fixed up a broken window with insulating tape or without getting infested with lice mid-flight.

There will also be captains, pilots, mechanics and flight attendants who are delighted to work for a company of slave drivers where people work twice as much as elsewhere and get paid half. To say nothing of those sad village airports where not a soul will fly to but that Ryanair keeps open and operational thanks to a couple of weekly landings that are not necessarily emergency ones and millions in subsidies from local authorities.

Each person talks about the dance depending on how it goes for them, it is true. So why pay attention to bad press. I have also met plenty of little old men, besides Mayor Oreja [Jaime, Partido Popular grandee – R], who speak wonders about Franco’s regime because they say that nothing bad ever happened to them during the dictatorship. All that stuff about torture in the prisons, children stolen from incubators, dead bodies in mass graves, the police that beat the crap out of whomever they felt like, bah, fairy tales. If one stayed nice and quiet in one’s seat, like with Ryanair, nothing bad happened to you. The captain thanks you for your trust.

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