The Nation of #14N

Photo: Espectacular foto de Madrid! #14N


Translation of an article by Jorge Moruno originally published on Público, 16th November, on the subject of Wednesday’s ground-breaking European General Strike.

#14N, we are a Nation

Was the 14N strike a success? The BBC’s international channel had the European general strike as its main headline and devoted nearly its entire bulletin to it. But we only have to cast a glance at the front pages of the more conservative press and observe their enraged attack to say yes, it has been a total success. And it has been so despite the large quantity of factors that hinder its development, such as the 6 million people who cannot opt to go on strike and those who supposedly can do so but in large number have their constitutional right annulled due to their precarious job status. To this whole range of obstacles we have to add the constant pressure of the police, who suffocatingly did everything in their power to prevent another constitutional right from being properly exercised: information pickets. Pickets that represent the last dam of democratic resistance in the face of the near total hegemony of the interests of finance over the media, when it comes to informing about the reality in which we live in this country.

But undoubtedly what has been most interesting about the 14N strike has been its deeply political character, widening out the horizons of what was becoming understood as a mere labour dispute, something that at any rate is still political. Rosa Díez [right-wing politician whose populist rhetoric has a more left-leaning hue than that of the Partido Popular – R] has not tired of repeating that the sphere of trade unions and labour has nothing to do with politics and the latter must be in charge of running common affairs. The problem is that politics cannot be reduced to parliament and especially not politics in capital letters – the politics that turns the tables in the game usually occurs in the sphere of collective disobedience and politics. Curiously, the same liberal Parliament that they defend as the only space for politics arises from the mobilisations that take place outside of the constituted order. Such as the Bill of Rights that comes out of the Glorious Revolution in England in 1688, or in its French version, the guillotine, which from 1789 gave way to the establishment of the parliament.

That refrain that gets repeated in order to convince the population that what exists is all that is posible, and that reality is what it is and can be no other, is the greatest ideological expression of all. What is held up as natural and unquestionable, but always in defence of a specific orientation, even though one might wish to portray it as the outcome of technical work done by professionals, is still politics.  What bothers financial and business elites, as expressed via the mouths of their parliamentarians, is the same thing that bothered absolute monarchs: a population that politicises itself and organises itself with the explicit intention of widening the democratic horizons regarding the decision of how the cake is divided out. Because for them, for the 1%, that a strike should be political is an abomination because those doing the talking are those who have no qualification to do so, precisely because as el Roto points out in one of his cartoons, their politics is nothing other than the politics of business. 

(“Your strike is political!” “Yes, and your politics is business”)

That is why this strike has been a complete success, why the regime’s media try to rein it in to figures about energy consumption, because they are afraid of recognising that the thrust of the protests is not so much identity forged around work, as that of citizens who reject the accelerated impoverishment of the country for the 99%. It is difficult for employment to be the sole element of cohesion when in many cases it is either non-existent or impossible for a stable community to be generated around it. Not only is it a movement of unions, but above all it is an embryonic overflowing of the multitude of the poor which goes beyond the labour strike. It is the politics of the effervescent multitude that narrows the margin between that there is and what there can be; outside but also inside parliament with a virus that has yet to be built.

One can recognise a tinpot patriot by the size of his flag, which gets bigger and bigger as more and more wealth produced by Spanish people gets handed over to German banks. He can be recognised by the patent contrast between his sad passion of shouting “I am Spanish” (“yo soy español”) when the national team wins at football and his total absence and apathy when they are ransacking his country. There are even those who prefer to sing with pride “I am a scab” (“yo soy esquirol”).

The English idea of the nation comes from when ‘the peoples’ laid claim to their ‘equality from birth’ against absolutism, an idea that became universal with the French Revolution. The people who went out to demonstrate on 14N, those who did not consume or did not work are in reality the raw materials of the idea of the nation: the nation of those who are equal and who build a country (patria) by confronting the absolute thieves of our lumpen-oligarchy. There can be no democracy without dignity, without shelter, without health and education, there can be no equality when so few rob so much from so many in so little time.

The UIP –riot police- work for Merkel, the picket of young people rightly shouted at the pólice on Madrid’s Gran Via. They work for Merkel, but also for the residents of the Salamanca district [posh part of Madrid] who looked on in astonishment, with contempt and indifference at the march of pickets through their streets, amid their jewelleries and luxury stores, and just as in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, their ‘demons attacked, spectres resisted’.


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