Friday, October 19, 2018

Spain Is Africa (Part Two) – The Seminar of Prof. Taylor

Colectivo Ayllu

Some Recent Institutional Motion

This is the second post about recent meetings and events of migrants and Afro-descendants in Madrid. After the earlier- and below-blogged conference at the Reina Sofia museum in July of this year, city cultural institutions are moving on the issue. Although the city proper still hasn't done much for the mainly African street-sellers without working papers who are represented by the Sindicato de manteros y lateros de Madrid (@manteroslateros, #LaLeydeExtranjeriaMata) – much less anything for the many African beggars (or sellers of the weird La Farola newspaper) who aren't part of the union, there are now a slew of cultural programs appearing.
The Afroconciencia group, resident at the giant Matadero cultural center ("Black in Spain"), produced a festival recently. It included a big market. Another African market event is slated for CSA La Tabacalera (although that is regular; Tabacalera self-organized has had a Templo Afro collective since its beginnings). Another resident group of Americans (no, not USAians), Colectivo Ayllu, has an exhibition up at Matadero as well: "Devuélvannos el oro" -- "Give us back the gold." And the weirdly conceived Grigri Pixel residency project at Medialab Prado has begun (#grigripixel18), dynamized by a meeting with anti-racist groups and social center activists. I hope to report on some of this action in later posts.

Professor's Taylor's Listening Session

Professor Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor was in Madrid in the summer touring her recent books on Black Lives Matter and the Combahee River Collective. Her lecture is discussed in the previous blog post. The later seminar was peopled by members of many of the same groups as the MAC4 session (also blogged earlier), along with many new ones. Both events were part of the Reina Sofia Museum's fascinating series "Six Contradictions and the End of the Present". My notes are from the simultaneous translation into English.
Beatriz García Dorado of Traficantes de Sueños introduced. She referenced a 2005 project of migrant solidarity which that editorial collective had done, the “Ferrocarril Clandestino” (underground railroad). This early initiative was prefigurative, as today today rescue ships, like Open Arms, ply the Mediterranean despite the fulminations of the Italian interior minister.

There is now an alliance, Beatriz García said, between the precarious worker and the migrants. It is anti-capitalist, and works against the way people are divided.
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor said her interest in black feminism was spurred by the U.S. Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and the women she met in it; especially the #SayHerName campaign to remember black female victims murdered by police, like Sandra Bland.

The Story of the Combahee River Collective

In the view of whites, Taylor said, black women are angry, aggressive, “impervious to pain.” “Slavery was far more terrible for women.” “Overlapping simultaneous oppressions explain the essence” of black feminist politics. In the 19th century there was both a “woman question and a “race problem.” Gender, race and class meet in the Combahee River Collective Statement.
The name of the group came from an 1863 U.S. army raid directed by Harriet Tubman which freed 750 slaves. While the Combahee River Collective paralleled the mostly white New Left of the 1960s, the slogan/idea “the personal is political” was not a retreat, but a description of their lives of oppression. Their “daily indignities” were not abstract.
Like the Black Panther Party, the CBC's program was misconstrued as a demand for separation. The idea was that if black women were to be free, everyone would be free. “Black women will never be free within capitalism.” Oppression is in the “marrow of the nation.”
Between today and 40 years ago, the class divide between black people has grown. As an example, in Ferguson – [the 2014 protests in Ferguson, Missouri, after the police killing of Michael Brown] – black political figures urged young people “to get off the streets and vote for them.” BLM rejects that kind of politics, and the “pathetic tradition of currying favor.” The CBC, in contrast, were internationalists aligned with third world movements.

Muchas Quejas Importantes

The seminar was peopled by reps from many of the same groups as the MAC4 session, with many new ones.
NOTICE: I am sorry that I didn't get the names of people speaking, and sometimes not even their organizations. Please, if you know and can comment, I'll happily improve this and any other post. This is a rough report.
Discussant (Francesca?) – The NGOs [Non-governmental organizations] have been instrumentalized by the political parties. The Roma community [aka gypsies] has been criminalized. We seek cultural strategies both inside and outside the system.
[I thought about museums of the excluded, like the installation called the Culture and Art Museum of Migrant Workers in China I saw at the Principio Potosi show in 2010.]
Beatriz Garcia: Territorio Domestico is organizing care and domestic workers. Care work has been politicized. (Silvia Federici, author of Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation, and an important theorist of 'women's work', has been to Madrid often to speak about this issue.) We are thinking of spaces we can build together.

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor – I am here to listen.

Josh (?) of the collective of transgender migrants (also present and speaking in the earlier meeting at MAC4) – Sexual dissidence is also an issue among migrants seeking refuge in Spain. We are talking about the politics of social death inflicted on non-heterosexual bodies.
Ángela Muñoz of Las Kellys, a group that organizes hotel cleaners – Tourism is the engine of the Spanish economy. The last labor reform laws made our hard jobs miserable. Cleaners are paid two euros (about $2.35) for each room cleaned. There is overt discrimination against black workers. We also regularly confront sexual violence.
"We migrant women have an extra load on us."
K-YT – That it is seen as women's work allows it to be devalued. It's an excuse to keep wages low.
? – Europe was built on slavery and genocide, but hides behind a universalist humanist discourse. It is a sinister legacy. In Spain it is fascism and racism. Gender colonialism. An inferiorization of peoples. The nationalist idea is of a hetersexual nation. Other bodies don't matter.

Institutional Aporias

K-YT – This is similar to the U.S. There is no national monument to slavery. A complete denial of racism in the USA.
[There is the Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit (est. 1965) with grand displays on slavery. There is the Black Holocaust Museum, founded by a lynching survivor in 1984, which lost its building in Milwaukee in '08, and is gimping along. In the '90s Colonial Williamsburg added a slave market to their recreation. Children cried. The very popular National Museum of African American History and Culture in D.C. is recent. Brand new is the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, aka the Lynching Memorial in Alabama.]
To admit this history would legitimize black demands for reparations. By denying it the disparities [in income and wealth, education, etc.] can be seen as inherent to black people, as coming from them.
A Caribbean journalist Taylor talked to in London said, “We were there, so we are here.” People are here now to demand what is theirs. The expatriation continues. The past is not past.
[This was said in the shadow of the scandal of the Windrush generation in the UK, Caribbean immigrants to the island during the 1940s and '50s who had their UK citizenship revoked. This resurgent white nationalist policy abrogates the responsibility to negotiate the human legacy of imperialism in British society.]
? – A women's refugee network is forming. We need to make alliances to combat this socio-economic system.
K-YT – In the U.S. the police and ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency] have been unleashed.
[In June when she said this, I wrote in my notes, “I think she exaggerates, but not by much.” Now, in October, after a brutal summer which saw the incarceration of migrant families, which continues with 13,000 children in concentration camps (the figure is only estimated) and the threat to jail more, I can see that she was not exaggerating in the slightest. One thing this nakedly brutal Republican administration is eradicating is any residual belief among its citizens that the US government represents good or moral political behavior in any way, on any level.]
This is a normalization of the security state, which began with the “9/11 process”. It has affected everyone.

Start with the Most Oppressed

How to organize is to start with the most oppressed, and keep that struggle front and center. There is a lack of space in U.S. social movements to have these difficult conversations.
Man from SOS Racismo – As people who live in the margins, we are inside structures. There is a difference in the struggle around La Manada [a crew of rapists who were treated with leniency by a Spanish court, leading to mass protests by women against Spain's deep culture of male sexual aggression] and the struggles of the strawberry workers in the south of Spain who are mostly black. We are lonely in this struggle. The struggles of racialized people are always pushed to the margins.
The reception of the Aquarius [a boatload of rescued migrants which was rejected by the Italian government and welcomed in Spain] was very good, but it was atypical of what has been happening to other migrants arriving. Moroccan workers have been raped in factories.
Woman from the Vallekas PAH – I am Ecuadorian. To get documents we are often ignored by functionaries because they are racist. A Spanish person does not suffer this. The police stereotype us. In the PAH, we welcome everyone.
Another woman of the same group – I am from the Dominican Republic. I am here 21 years. But I am still being told, “Go back to your country.”
Malik of the Sindicato of Manteros [the union of blanket sellers, mostly Senegalese migrants] – We experience police abuse every day. This is institutional racism. There is a rising current of xenophobia. The white left has closed their eyes, because the anti-racist struggle does not give them votes. The racism of the Popular Party and the Ciudadanos [right-wing Spanish parties, old and new] does give them votes. We are subject to invisibilization as sin papeles [without papers, sans papiers in France]. We need papers.
Francisco of the Colectivo Ayllu now resident at the Matadero cultural complex criticized the institution of power. “Racism has a cultural dimension” in the “Indian” identity. The Museum of the Americas has to recognize this pain. In our daily life and our private life we must reckon with this memory of colonization and white violence. We have to find ways of healing this long memory of pain. “We don't need a white voice” to tell us who we are.

Borders Are Violent Spaces

A woman from Peru added, mistrust and rage have very deep historical roots. We are speaking about power, and how we participate in it. There is a lot of desire to take on these problems. Borders are violent spaces, more violent for some than for others.
“Eric” – Race, class and gender, yes. But where is coloniality? We are not here to perform a victimist narration. We want to conquer a political situation. The tension with the white left is causing us great problems.
Woman from Territorio Domestico – I was protesting alone in front of a hotel because they were disrespecting and smashing me. If you are a black woman they don't respect you.

Lynching memorial in Mongtomery, Alabama, USA

Professor Taylor's Concluding Statement

K-Y Taylor concluded with a brief on the U.S. political situation:
The death toll from the hurricane in Puerto Rico, she said, shows what U.S. power looks like in a cultural context: 4,300 deaths. Black activists see cities as “internal colonies.” A small space opened up for the black elite – after all, the U.S. had a black president! So black people think they are American.
The presence of white people is an issue in the Black Lives Matter movement. BLM groups are not integrated, but the protests see many white people involved. [And, I'll add, victim support as well.] There is a long history of independent black organizing, with left white people, not liberals, involved. Black people are 12% of the U.S. population. Changing society in an anti-capitalist way won't be possible with segregated movements. To confront the Trump administration “we have to figure out how to do things together.” BLM is a young movement. It's not even four years since Michael Brown's murder. Now the U.S. government no longer counts people killed by police. Estimates are 1,000 a year. The biggest challenge now is “how does the movement get bigger?” There is no coalition organization for BLM. BLM doesn't have to manage diversity within their movement. Joining struggles seem like the obvious next step. For example, to connect to the immigration crisis, and attacks on Arabs and Muslims. But people are worried about their issue being subsumed. The funding streams of foundations tend to narrow the political perspectives of those involved. This makes people more conservative.
The rich are hoarding their wealth and we all have to scramble for what is left. Racism is the explanation for this, in “the way that it is explained away.” Blame the poor, “paint them as crminals.” The most vulnerable are blamed for their social problems. The center left political parties have failed to produce a change. Racism is a strategy the right has evolved to cover over their own failures to take care of society. “There is no post-Occupy autonomous organization in the U.S.” Occupy was effectively smashed by the U.S. state. This, and the legacy of horizontalism, of “leaderlessness” has amplified the lack of input people have in the decision-making processes.
Okay, it was a pretty bleak afternoon. And, as we head into the US midterm elections, it could get bleaker. Hope not! I voted! But the renewed desire to fucking do something to stem the white nationalist counter-revolution, both electorally and in schools, streets and workplaces, has to be the best thing in the USA today.


Grigri Pixel -- "Magical objects in urban spaces"

MNCARS, Reina Sofia Museum – "Six Contradictions and the End of the Present"

Ferrocarril clandestino

PDF The Combahee River Collective Statement - American Studies

Principio Potosi show in 2010.)

Black Holocaust Museum, Milwaukee (presently virtual)

Slavery and Remembrance -- Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia

Lynching Memorial -- account of an Englishman's tour
Thomas Laqueur, "Lynched for Drinking from a White Man’s Well"
London Review of Books

Windrush scandal

Windrush Generation

from doomsteaddiner blog

Friday, October 12, 2018

Spain Is Africa (Part One): The Spanish Visit of Prof. Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

A constant cause of activism in the squatting and social center occupation movement is open borders, and solidarity with migrants. The European squatting movement is peopled with activists from many European countries, most of them with colonial pasts of which activists are well aware. Threaded through this blog, and the book Occupation Culture that came out of it, are stories of experimental solidarities like the Metropoliz in Rome where punks and gypsies live together, and Jeudi Noir, the French collective that squats big buildings for migrants to live in. And recently in Madrid, the Sindicato de Manteros y Lateros – the union of blanket-sellers and can-sellers, who work selling on the streets without legal papers, was organized inside squatted social centers.
With the unceasing flows of migrants and refugees from south to north, the issue has been on the front burner of global politics, leading to the rise of "populist" neo-fascists who have mobilized white fear to win elections. At the same time, the USA has seen a spike in activism by people of color – by Afro-descendants in Spanish parlance, against police violence, and by immigrants against the mass detentions, deportations and jailing of children by the Trump government.
Beyond what can be called reactive activism, powerful as it may be, the inspiring initiatives of Cooperation Jackson in that Mississippi city are part of the global municipalist movement. (I've also blogged on them here.)
As municipalists have taken power in some Spanish cities, a line of work specifically focussed on migrants and Afro-descendants has been taken up by the cultural institutions. This string of posts will be devoted to a review of some of those initiatives.

A Union of the Excluded and Illegal

Earlier this year I was commissioned to write on a social art project with the Sindicato de Manteros y Lateros de Madrid (@manteroslateros), a kind of union for the mostly Senegalese and Bangladeshi migrants who sell stuff on the streets. They do the work they can do without papers, and endure much police harrassment and punishing fines. (The text was written, but not published – that's another story.)
But I saw the stirrings of a larger movement against institutional racism in Spain, which connects to wider struggles of migrants and marginalized peoples globally. In the summer at the MAC 4 conference, a group met to talk about it. (I blogged this in a July post "MAC 4: Anti-Racism and Subaltern Europe".)
That summer I could not follow most of the talk in ESP – but, with the visit of Princeton professor Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor to Madrid shortly after I had another chance to catch up (@KeeangaYamahtta). Prof. Taylor is Anglophone, so the Reina Sofia museum which invited her set up a seminar with simultaneous translation into English.
She'd given a formal talk – on the translation ftom Traficantes de Sueños of her 2016 book. From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation. And in the seminar she frequently referenced her work in the 2017 book How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective.

Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective

Beatriz García Dorado of Traficantes de Sueños introduced. She referenced a 2005 project of migrant solidarity, the “Ferrocarril Clandestino” – underground railroad. (This early initiative has been eclipsed today by the rescue ships, like Open Arms, which ply the Mediterranean despite the fulminations of the Italian interior minister.)
There is now an alliance, Beatriz García said between the precarious worker and the migrants. It is anti-capitalist, and works against the way people are divided.

1987 pamphlet of the Combahee River Collective

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor said her interest in black feminism was spurred by the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and the women she met in it; especially the #SayHerName campaign to remember black female victims, like Sandra Bland, murdered by police.
In the view of whites, Taylor said, black women are seen as angry, aggressive, “impervious to pain.” “Slavery was far more terrible for women.” “Overlapping simultaneous oppressions explain the essence” of black feminist politics.In the 19th century there was both a “woman question and a “race problem.” Gender, race and class meet in the Combahee River Collective Statement.
The name of the group came from an 1863 U.S. army raid directed by Harriet Tubman which freed 750 slaves. Identity politics for the Combahee River Collective was about how black women were being politicized. While they paralleled the mostly white New Left of the 1960s, the slogan/idea “the personal is political” was not a retreat, but a description of their lives of oppression. The “daily indignities” were not abstract.
Like the Black Panther Party, the CBC's program was misconstrued as a demand for separation. The idea was that if black women were to be free, everyone would be free. “Black women will never be free within capitalism.” Oppression is in the “marrow of the nation.”
Between today and 40 years ago, the class divide between black people has grown. As an example, in Ferguson – [the 2014 protests in Ferguson, Missouri, after the police killing of Michael Brown] – black political figures urged young people “to get off the streets and vote for them.” BLM rejected that kind of politics, and the “pathetic tradition of currying favor.” The CBC, in contrast, were internationalists aligned with third world movements.

NEXT: Spain Is Africa (Part Two) – The Seminar of Prof. Taylor: Important Complaints

16th c. engraving of Columbus landing in the Caribbean by Theodore de Bry. Via Florida Museum/University of Florida Library


Occupation Culture: Art & Squatting in the City from Below, by Alan W. Moore (Minor Compositions, 2015)

Il Metropoliz – Space Metropoliz

Collectif Jeudi noir

Cooperation Jackson

Sindicato de manteros y lateros de Madrid - Inicio | Facebook / (@manteroslateros)

July post "MAC 4: Anti-Racism and Subaltern Europe" reporting on the anti-racism discussion

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor - Wikipedia

“She'd given a formal talk...”
Her talk in ENG with x-lation into ESP after each statement was posted by Katakrak as Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor «Un destello de libertad» (a flash of freedom)

Her visit was part of the museum's fascinating series "Six Contradictions and the End of the Present"

Combahee River Collective

Ferrocarril clandestino

PDF The Combahee River Collective Statement - American Studies

Monday, September 17, 2018

Of Platforms and Contradictions #2

This is my second post on the “Overexploited and Underpaid” talks, part of the series “Six Contradictions and the End of the Present” at the Reina Sofia museum in Madrid. In this I reflect on the seminar held with the main guests, professors Trebor Scholz and Tiziana Terranova.
It's great that the museum hosts events like this. Institutions here do continuous adult education about new ideas, new media, and the new ways of thinking, being, and working which these momentous changes entail. The processes of information capitalism are working so far in advance of most people's understanding it is imperative for state institutions to step up to educate the public. Continuous education will be needed for people to cope with the impending changes in every aspect of life.
The framing of this appearance was announced on the museum's website:
“Though the Internet was initially considered a public space based on the free interaction among equals, it is now conceived as a huge factory without walls where any aspect of the day-to-day life can be valorised, produced and commoditised. Is there any alternative to this scenario?”
A study document was prepared by the GEC, which is quite extensive, concluding with the group's "Requirements for a transformative cooperativism". I did not see this. I just kind of came along, and had no hesitation about barging into the conversation.
The seminar with the two guests began with a presentation on the short-term housing platform Airbnb by Javier Gil, a sociologist and activist with a Madrid tenants union (@Gil_JavierGil; I think this is the PAH, but not sure).

The Straight Dope on Airbnb

Two things are happening with Airbnb in Madrid, Gil said: property owners are taking housing out of the market because of the rent gap, and renters are doing it with their own flats, to help deal with a 38% increase of housing prices in last four years.
Of these in Madrid, only 6% are people doing it out of their own home; the other 94% are owners taking units out of the housing market. For them, said Terranova, management agencies in Naples contact owners and offer to manage their Airbnb. A big hotel chain in Madrid is doing that now, said Gil.
Around the corner from the museum in the diverse Lavapiés barrio, there is a strike now against a 300% rent increase. The tenants union is a collective solution to a collective problem, a message to owners that increasing rents so high will meet resistance. The “nos quedamos” (we stay) campaign refuses rent increases.
Gil spoke of “urban nomads,” those who rent on weekends and sleep elsewhere. This is a stressful life for the individual, Scholz said. In your fieldwork how did you find the “urban nomads”? One by one, right? You could have found them more easily if you had access to the Airbnb data. The platform capitalists create market instabilities, and they don't allow for solutions to emerge using their data.
This market couldn't operate without a frame of government which allows this. Meanwhile, the human and social costs mount, and are not adequately addressed.

The Urban Money Mindset

Airbnb accelerates the housing market, Gil said, Precarious people can participate, but only in moments of crisis. For some it allows them not to work in traditional economy. They prefer that kind of life to a bad job. It's the new subjectivity. People start looking for more money opportunities in how you organize your life, your house. “Hey, I can rent my sofa too.” The market is expanding itself into aspcts of life which have not been mercantilized.
The model of the market is continually enforced, said Terranova. How do we contest the political hegemony that enforces this modality over others? Maybe that is the form of the class struggle today, against the market.
In their publicity, Scholz said, Airbnb talks about this old lady who can now stay in her apartment thanks to them. The guy doing global outreach for Airbnb did his PhD on religious cults. He is aware of how to manipulate subjectivity around the company's product. Scholz said he was recently in a solidarity economy meeting and Airbnb was on the panel, presenting all these lies, a charming young lady. It's like the pharmaceutical industry selling drugs.
It is hard to communcate this to North American colleagues, he said. Because only health, education and services are growing sectors, these should be the basis of the economy, not the cost. The economy needs to be re-centered.
This is exactly the argument of feminist economist Kate Raworth with her conception of what she calls the “donut economy.”

Addressing economic organization is a post-national way of thinking. Yet even as market capitalism and global finance have lost legitimacy, this precarity and financialization of everything embeds the neoliberal mentality very deeply.

An Excursus on Art

Terranova, referencing Stewart Hall, said that we need to “make stories” – the popular cannot be only the field of capital. We need novels, volumes of similar stories, TV shows in the reward and punishment format.
I disagreed on this. It's the argument of Stephen Duncombe for an “ethical spectacle” in his 2007 book Dream. I'm a diehard avant gardist, I suppose, and prefer to step outside the Spectacle for cultural strategies. Example, “Dada Ruso,” the magnificent exhibition presently in the MNCARS museum.
At this point, a guy with TV experience spoke up, a producer of web series. Long form story telling in that medium, he said, is a corporation thing. It's very difficult to do something different. Bernardo Gutiérrez, who introduced the seminar, told of a friend who made a proposal for a TV show about student journalists around the time of the 15M movement. It sounded like a great pitch to me. It was rejected – “Who would be interested in that?”, they said.
A garbage picker from Sao Paolo told Scholz, “I read your book, and it's inspiring, but I really need money.” The question is, what do we have that people can engage with now, next week? It can be completely flawed, only temporary, but immediate in its effects. There is a story of Emma Goldman. She is giving a fiery speech, and afterwards an old worker says, That's great, but what about me? I'm old. I won't see the revolution. What about worker rights? She took the point.

Economy Is Political – Why No Co-op Lobby?

During the break I said that my biggest question concerned the apparent disconnect between political activism and cooperative initiatives. The Cooperation Jackson group in Mississippi has elected a mayor. They intend as well to build “a solidarity economy, anchored by a network of cooperatives and worker-owned, democratically self-managed enterprises” (quote from a succinct UK documentary on the group [ca. 30 min.]). The group is regularly invited to Barcelona en Comú's municipalist meetings (the “Fearless Cities” series), but has never come to Madrid.
Why don't the cooperatives demand political support and funding from their governments? A key part of the Cooperative Jackson plan is precisely to swing city contracts to workers cooperatives.
A convener of the GEC told me Madrid had tried that, through a program called Mares Madrid. But the right wing attacked it as “jobs for friends”, and the timorous city council cut the funding way back.
When we reconvened, Scholz said he was seeing among academics a fatigue with analysis. They are reporting, analyzing, and then throwing their hands up, as if to say, What can we do about it?
“Free Jeremy Hammond,” I cracked. (He is the notorious hacker of the Stratfor defense intelligence website who is doing 10 years in US federal prison; @FreeJeremyNet)
For me, Scholz said, it's not about bringing the giants down. Corporations and coops exist side by side – one can't destroy the other.
Side by side they may be, but one is beating and squashing the other, like Laurel and Hardy.
“An investor-based startup gets tax advantages. If you do the same thing as a co-op you don't. This has to change.”
Scholz talks to policymakers, and has had success in Brussels, some in Germany and France. Jeremy Corbyn in the UK has made platform co-ops part of his program for the Labor party. Scholz's group has tried to get the US DSA (Democratic Socialists of America) to do the same. This is a long road, up a steep hill.
The infamous ALEC, which writes boilerplate regressive anti-union legislation for state governments around the USA, is joined at the hip with chambers of commerce. These bodies don't have co-ops on their agendas.
Scholz lamented that the biggest co-ops, like Spain's Mondragon and USA's TrueValue hardware chain don't flex their muscles politically. “Peoples banks in Germany are huge, but they are just like any other bank.... In Spain and Brazil the co-ops are rich... How do we motivate them to invest in their future?” These giant co-ops have lost sense of their mission and social responsibility. “They don't project their values outward. I think that's because of McCarthyism,” Scholz said.
That's a historical question. Co-ops emerged strongly in the US during the Depression of the 1930s, but they were not included in Roosevelt's New Deal. Instead corporations and extractive industries were favored. The big co-ops have gone a long way to disassociate themselves with left politics.
But how can the chicken run away from the egg?
Today in the US, co-ops are part of Cooperation Jackson's plan. These organizers come out of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. Malcolm was on top of J. Edgar Hoover's enemies list. The Communist Caucus of the DSA in Oakland advocates cooperatives. They are a group despised by the Democrats.

Can a Union be a Co-op?

This blog began as an investigation into the squatting movement. And I keep a weather eye on that movement and its possibilities as they have changed over the years. Municipalism is part of that change, and I have blogged a lot about that. But now, to many in the left movements in Spain, municipalism has turned into something of a false promise – as a Chavista in Madrid anguished during the formal talk of Scholz and Terranova, “The left has come into power here but refuses to take power.” Another part of that change is the emergence of what Beatriz Garcia has called social unionism in the world of the social centers, sindicalismo social.
The platform cooperativism program is quite hopeful. But the question remains, how can people move into positions of participation? It seems obvious that left electoral platforms should boost co-ops. Their constituents stand to benefit most. Unions as well, clobbered by foreign competition, regressive legislation (in the USA), and the looming clouds of AI and robots, should be out front of co-op formation. But they aren't doing it.
Which leaves... what, hackers, academics and anarchists?

How About a Squat?

Italian social centers come out of a strong autonomist marxist tradition. They have always been “workerist.” So it was an unsurprising surprise that Terranova concluded her remarks at the seminar by recalling that many conversations in occupied social centers in Naples had contributed to her understandings of these issues. Now, she said, there is a fear that these centers, only recently given a path of legalization, may be shut down by a change of city administration.
(This was a key topic at MAC 4 which I blogged – but not that session. It is yet to come... [cue flush of shame].)
Luca Recano, who traveled from Naples with Terranova, explained that Macao in Milan, the cultural center that emerged out of an important squatting action there in 2012 – (I blogged it at the time; Emanuele Braga wrote of it in Scapegoat) – has turned the money they have raised from cultural activity into a blockchain crypto-currency called Common Coin, which also includes labor. (This is from the Bank of the Commons, now in beta.)
Political action is paid in the Macao system, because it is considered important work in the general interest.
Even so, Luca said, “strong contradictions which limit the reproduction of this experience.... There's a lack of trust among some in the use of the technology... a fear of scaling up this practice.” Many of these economic relations remain on the level of gift economy.

Macao in Milan. "Nowhere", i.e. "utopia".

“I don't think that when people get paid that it's all about being paid,” said Scholz. Speaking of a project he had done in India with dalit women, “becoming owner of a business changed their lives.”
In a sense, OSCs are already quite internet platform-dependent. And they are intrinsically cooperatives. mount websites and use existing platforms like Twitter and Facebook to distribute their activities. They have a virtual presence that often lasts long past their actual physical existence.What they have not done – and it's a big stretch – is make substantive changes in people's daily economies.
I am doubtful that the OSCs can become incubators of cooperativism, either platform or brick-and-mortar, on anything like the scale of even a small restaurant chain. OSCs are too minoritarian, and their constituency is split, like classic anarchists, between sindicalists and insurrectionaries. But, as seminar introducer Bernardo Gutiérrez shows in his book Pasado mañana. Viaje a la España del cambio, sprouts of cooperativism are appearing all over Spain, not just in OSCs.
Municipalists have been concentrating on pulling what levers of the state they can, re-municipalizing privatized city services, building new social housing, and taming repressive police forces. It is up to entrepreneurs of the social to promote, institute and maintain the economies – many of them, and all diverse – that we so desperately need to survive the Anthropocene.


NEXT: Back to Old Business – MAC 4 Concluding Session; Spanish Social Centers Ponder Legalization Strategies; The Madrid Seminar of Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor


study document prepared by the GEC for this meeting

Rent-gap theory

The concept of ethical spectacle offers a way of thinking about the tactical and strategic use of signs, symbols, myths, and fantasies to advance progressive, democratic goals.

Russian Dada 1914–1924

UK documentary on the group Film length: 32:06 In Jackson, Mississippi, Cooperation Jackson are building a solidarity economy...

Mares de Madrid - Barrios. Economía. Futuro
Mares de Madrid es un proyecto de transformación urbana que, a través de la economía social y solidaria, busca fomentar iniciativas productivas innovadoras.

Naples OSCs given a path of legalization...
Marta Cillero, "What Makes an Empty Building in Naples a 'Common Good'?", Political Critique, April 25, 2017

Co-ops were not included in Roosevelt's New Deal....
Jonathan Rowe, "What History Books Left Out About Depression Era Co-ops", Yes! magazine, Sep 14, 2018

Beatriz García, “Centros sociales y sindicalismo: la potencia colectiva,” June 2, 2015, Diagonal Periodico

I blogged it in 2012....

Bank of the Commons

M^C^O – Macao – their manifesto about Common Coin

using the Bank of the Commons (now in beta)

“Messages of Rupture”: An Interview with Emanuele Braga on the MACAO Occupation in Milan By by Cultural Workers Organize, translated by Roberta Buiani

M^C^O - Macao


Saturday, September 15, 2018

On the Tech Beat – Of Platforms and Contradictions

Graphic from IGD podcast of Nov. '17 "Error451: #04 Net Neutrality"

So summer is done and it's back to school before you know it. There's still a bunch to say about what happened in Madrid in July – and I promise to get back to it. But first, to the current course work.
I attended a talk last week at the Reina Sofia museum entitled “Overexploited and Underpaid,” part of a series called “Six Contradictions and the End of the Present” produced by the Grupo de Estudios Críticos.
The speakers were professors Trebor Scholz and Tiziana Terranova.
The framing of this appearance was announced on the museum's website:
“Though the Internet was initially considered a public space based on the free interaction among equals, it is now conceived as a huge factory without walls where any aspect of the day-to-day life can be valorised, produced and commoditised. Is there any alternative to this scenario?”
A study document was prepared by the GEC, which is quite extensive, concluding with the group's "Requirements for a transformative cooperativism". I did not see this. I just kind of came along to the seminar after the talk I blog below, and had no hesitation about barging into the conversation.
I had met Trebor 15 years ago at a conference in Buffalo, New York, called “Free Cooperation.” I was working then on artists' groups and collectives (I finally published Art Gangs in 2012), so all this stuff and these people interested me. Key conveners of that long-ago conference were Trebor Scholz, Brian Holmes, Geert Lovink, and Howard Rheingold, a Whole Earth catalog veteran and professional tech optimist.
“Free cooperation” named a conditon of labor promoted by Christoph Spehr. A book came out of that conference published by Autonomedia which emphasized the creative side of online action: “New media artists create social online tools and urge others to participate,” the promotion reads. “Knowledge collectives gather information in large, open repositories. Free culture – with all its file-sharing applications – is blossoming.”
At that point internet penetration was about 13% of everybody. Last year it passed 50% of everyone in the world. What has powered that is not free cooperation, nor indeed any kind of blossoming. It has been the raw power of capital. And, despite Google's pledge to “not be evil,” capital is not benign.
In 2016 I saw a barnstormer tour appearance by the authors of People Get Ready concerning the "jobless future" of AI (artificial intelligence) and super supple robots which turbo-capitalism can soon deliver. The implications for liberal democracy are bleak. The Atlantic magazine has been dinning this line for some time, most recently in a text by an Israeli author, who ought to know.
Or not. There's clear advantages everywhere for everybody in the platforms which capitalist internet firms have provided. This modern sword of Damocles hanging over our virtual banquet table is one of the “Six Contradictions” the seminar series at MNCARS set out to explore.
Scholz and Terranova both spoke in a formal lecture talk at the museum. I was immediately presented with a classic meat-world problem when a sniffling sneezing young woman sat down next to me, blocking me from the aisle. Foolish me, to take an inside seat. I really didn't want to get sick.
Terranova had the dystopian side of the argument, as she pointed out that the internet was developed with state funding. In the middle '90s it was opened to business and the market, and the slide towards monopoly concentration began. Investment poured in for all kinds of schemes. It stuttered with the “bubble” of '00, when many of the more hippie-minded projects popped, then came in again for real with the aim of disrupting all former businesses as usual. Ergo, shopping malls dying all over the USA today.
She began with an enormous obscure graphic – "Anatomy of an AI System [artificial intelligence] -- The Amazon Echo as an anatomical map of human labor, data and planetary resources." More than a map, this enormous graphic is accompanied online by an extensive illustrated essay. Terranova pointed out that the terms with which we think of capital and labor today must undergo deep change in the face of the rise of AI.

A 17th c. graphic from the "anatomy of AI" article; this illustration of "citafonia" from the Baroque era makes as much or more sense than the micro-rendering of the AI diagram itself....

All of this development is going to remain invisible to us, the users, “confined to the front end,” i.e., the user interface. These ways of interacting with “computational platform capital,” like Alexa and Siri [Alexa is Amazon's virtual assistant, like Siri from Apple's iPhone], raise the specter of a foreclosed dystopian future, like the TV series “Black Mirror.” (Which, BTW, I will not watch as I consider it the epistemological equivalent of the “strong guys with guns” genre of TV programs.)
Alexa starts laughing in the middle of the night, scaring its owners. Is a resistance embedded in the program?
All of this is profoundly disruptive to life as we have known and lived it, driven by the idea that information-based economic models can replace market systems. What maintains this hegemony in the sphere of public life is neoliberalism, an ideology, a Foucauldian “abstract machine” that subjectively holds the explicit structures together.
Trebor Scholz had the optimistic role, but he began it with a sober reminder. “People gave their lives” for the rights of workers over the past 200 years, and now capitalist “sharing” platforms are wiping those away. Discrimination among platform workers and vendors is resurgent as well.
As the evangelist of platform cooperativism, he drove straight to a few of the 45 cases from his book with Nathan Schneider, “Ours to Hack and to Own.” Among them is Up & Go Cleaners in NYC, one of a number of in-home services groups comprised of women of color and migrant laborers. There is here an alignment, a commonality with union organizing, as in the case of Las Kellys, and Territorio Domestico, workers' rights groups active in Spain among hotel cleaners and care workers.
Another is a Swiss co-op, which helps “citizens to securely store, manage and control access to their personal” health data. Very useful when talking to different doctors, and also to access clinical trials.
There is also FairBnB, a short-term rental platform which started in Italy and also works in Spain on a principle of “community-powered tourism,” returning a portion of profit to local projects.
These examples directly address current hot button issues – low-wage labor, exploitation and exclusion of migrants from labor markets, data privacy, and impact of Airbnb tourism on housing availability.
The idea is not new, Scholz said. Older co-ops, some quite powerful – e.g., Mondragon, True Value hardware – are “hiding in plain sight” as they have adapted to the corporate landscape, and do not look down at the seedlings around them.
The platform cooperative idea has a good deal of powerhouse academic support behind it. Multiple sessions of training are being held, and publications produced.
A questioner wondered if this was not cultural imperialism? The precondition of co-design, that the workers themselves be intimately involved in developing the platform, works against that.
Politically, said Terranova, the main task is to show that platform capitalism is doing a lot of collateral damage. Scholz said that in the USA they are looking to municipalities to support these initiatives. As per André Gorz it's a “reformist reform.”
People are struggling to survive, said Terranova. That's a strategy of power. They don't have time to organize. And (unsurprisingly) most of these platform capitalists are US companies.

NEXT: The seminar report



Six Contradictions and the End of the Present

Grupo de Estudios Críticos

one brief bio of Trebor Scholz

Tiziana Terranova

study document prepared by the GEC for this meeting

an idea promoted by Christoph Spehr

the book, “Free Cooperation”

internet penetration last year

Summary highlights from People Get Ready, by Robert W McChesney and John Nichols

a text by an Israeli author – "Why Technology Favors Tyranny," by Yuval Noah Harari; extract from his book

shopping malls dying all over the USA
"Big, bold … and broken: is the US shopping mall in a fatal decline?", by Dominic Rushe. 23 Jul 2017

"Anatomy of an AI System -- The Amazon Echo as an anatomical map of human labor, data and planetary resources."
More than a map, this

evangelist of platform cooperativism – Trebor Scholz has published a number of books.
This pamphlet by Trebor Scholz is online, “Platform Cooperativism: Challenging the Corporate Sharing Economy,” January 2016

Nathan Schneider – “Everything for everyone”: Michel Bauwens interviews Nathan Schneider, Sept. 10, 2018

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Saturday, July 7, 2018

MAC 4: “Subaltern Europe” Continued

A 2015 performance action against "wolfish" financial speculators in housing, performed by Warsaw group Miasto Jest Nasze

Voices from the East

In Raúl Sánchez Cedillo's trans-European segment of the MAC 4 conference Justyuna Koscinska of Miasto Jest Nasze spoke. That is the City is Ours group of Warsaw, Poland. (She distributed her card upon leaving the conference, which is quite untypical in these gatherings; it was easy then to find her group online.) They are fighting “wild reprivatizations” and evictions from social housing, and always the cutting down of trees to prepare parks for development.
(I recalled the hard story of the Warsaw woman housing activist murdered in the 1990s for her activism that we heard from activist architects at our SqEK conference in Rome in '14. Never solved. Even so, as I write this, NY Times reports: “In Poland, nearly half of the judges on the Constitutional Tribunal, one of the nation’s top courts, rebelled and declared its workings politicized and dysfunctional”, illustrated with a photo of people protesting in front of the Supreme Court in Warsaw. So not only the young left, but also the shreds of civil society are pushing back against the authoritarian government. SqEK's 2017 conference was in the east of Europe, in Prague, for the first time.)
Radomir from the Belgrade, Serbia, group Roof Overhead, a consortium of anti-eviction groups, spoke also of their struggle against the privatization of flats acquired during the socialist period. “When we made an electoral run,” he said, “we were shocked by how the media banalized and stereotyped our positions. It's a thing to be aware of, how your positions will be distorted.”
Justyuna concurred. “We are stereotyped as communists who want to terrorize society. Ownership of apartments has been valorized. We think it's better to rent. Tenants' rights is hard to discuss, because renting is associated with communism. The air pollution problem is also involved with ownership, and the property rights of the car.”
She referenced the sanctuary cities movement, and the offering of municipal ID cards to migrants. Urban citizenship is happening more in the German-speaking world right now, she said. This amounts to rethinking global justice from the municipal level.
I was reminded of the prescient artists' project, recently shown in Madrid, the “NSK State.” It was created in 1992 by people from Slovenian arts group Neue Slowenische Kunst (NSK). They issued passports for their “state”, which for a period were actually used successfully by some African migrants.

One-time logo of Warsaw municipalist group

Corporate Power in Cities

A madrileño, Tom of Ecologists in Action, asked: “What are the limits of municipalism in relation to corporate powers? With Ahora Madrid we can see there are big limits. How to spend public monies is the question. Here in Madrid, a huge amount goes to transnational corporations. How can we get rid of that? We don't have small and medium companies to take over from the transnationals. From the first moment, corporate power was organized to stop any systemic change.”
Now, he noted, AirBnB is lobbying in Brussels as the “European Holiday Association.” They are asking the EU to intervene in cities' lawsuits against AirBnB, relying on the capitalist market policies of the EU.
A woman from Greece observed that now, ten big cities in Greece have left governments. Women have campaigned to pass resolutions against TTIP, the trade pact that would affect cities' ability to do local democracy, and other things.
Renau from Lisbon: The political questions are obvious, even if they are not discussed under the rubric of municipalism. The anti-austerity movements of 2011-12 were the biggest movements in Portugal since the Carnation Revolution. They started to shift the political composition of the ossified left in Lisbon. Questions around gentrification and tourism weren't as present. But recently there has also been a shift in global investment. A huge influx of foreign capital has come to Lisbon. Rented social centers have emerged. Squatting is hard because of the weakness of the social movements. There is now an Assembleia de Ocupação de Lisboa – AOLX to claim housing in Lisbon. We try to squat city-owned property. The group is not openly antagonistic, she said (although their blog posts are pretty rad). “They've sort of formed an NGO.”
Passport of the NSK State

This compares directly to the NYC of the 1980s and '90s, when the movement squatted abandoned city-owned properties which the city was trying to sell to private developers. (The story is told in Christopher Mele's book, “The Selling of the Lower East Side.”) Then artists weren't so hip to being used. Now artists are coming to the aid of the movements early on – e.g., the activist art group Left Hand Rotation has produced a documentary comparing the new pressures on housing to the 18th c. earthquake that levelled Lisbon.

Raul Recapped –

Isabel spoke (and I missed her) on how the work of care is being reorganized. On the long trend of racism. Ecologies of care. Techno-ecologies. On the new social commons, and on new ways of defining social struggles. Transformation of classes.

Poster from Euromayday

He summarized me (on the question I've written already) – speaking of constructing migrants as subjects in themselves, not only as subjects of care, and how cultural institutions could relate in that work.
Other points of his summary in telegraphic fashion –
Elections are useful mainly as ways of deblocking at the level of the state. I think this meant “deblocking” the path of the social movements, how they are constrained in terms of the invisibility of their issues, distortion, etc., and their inability to propose policy and legal solutions to their questions.
Gerald Raunig: We need our own media.
Lunch. (I failed to buy a ticket, and there was no more room.)
The second session of the Subaltern meeting was assemblyistic. Groups were defined in a kind of rolling chaos, but ended up being something like 1) on treaties, municipalists against them, and how to network for practical purposes; and 2) housing – the struggle against global funds like Blackstone, and e-platforms like Uber, Cabify, Air BnB.
I joined a 3rd group on networking. The discussion was broad:
In the electoral pursuits, you get into an NGO world. Which network can municipalists use to help them? Radomir of Belgrade – Foreign legitimation of our struggle against waterfront development was helpful.
Italian man – We need to share legal best practices. Other municipalities offer examples of what is possible to do. A knowledge exchange in the field of law. I mention the crowd source law project in Madrid, which is in its infancy.
A “how to” program of questions like social media, how to do campaigns, etc. Question of the local vs. the national: “Neighborhood politics is already transnational” because everyone comes from someplace.
Me – (broken record) Cultural institutions in relation to social movements.
Raul – There is no global-local opposition anymore. Any locality is already a small world, an isomorphism that is already academic. Democracy is not overdetermined by national interests and governments. The manteros are harrassed by local police. This is not only here in Madrid, but everywhere.
He proposes an action day on issues, like No Se Vende (Not For Sale) EU-wide.
The main idea is to reinforce each movement in its own place.
Tom of Ecologists in Action – Who represents municipalities on the EU level? EU regulations impact cities, but the cities can't influence them back? This is a question, to work to influence power on an EU level, or mainly to build local power? We can use a concrete exchange with political platforms like Corbyn's Momentum and Bernie Sanders campaign on media and social media.
Gerald – We need these classical campaign logics, but on social media we need not to be so classical. We should think of funding our own media. Using Facebook and so, we will not produce a disobedient character. For example, the Euromayday program, a networked event which started in Milan in 2001. It spread all over the EU. The question of precaricization of labor became foregrounded. They named the issue. Municipalism was long a'building. EU wide action days can help.
In Hamburg in 2009, I saw street poster traces of Euromayday all around the city, as groups there had participated and pushed the program. An amazing Lego animation announced it online. I met graduate students who planned to write theses on Euromayday. Now online there is merely a fading luminescence of this event. I put some in the links below.
Many, including Gerald Raunig and most recently Geert Lovink in an anthology by my publisher, have written on the question of dissident media, and the dystopian aspects of corporate social media platforms. These writings definitely inform my consumption and use of the corporate platforms. But “our own”? So much more easily said than done. I recall the failed efforts of Michael Alpert's to launch one a few years ago. I'd love to see Gerald get a big grant and launch a platform with built-in auto-translation (like Facebook and Twitter have), that would greatly extend the fine work EIPCP has done with its occasional multi-lingual e-zine.

MAC 4 Concluding Session; Spanish Social Centers Ponder Legalization Strategies; The Madrid Seminar of Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor


Miasto jest Nasze | Warszawa: miasto mieszkańców!

Roof Overhead, Belgrade, Serbia (in Cyrillic)

Squatting in the East - Baltic Worlds


The city belongs to those who occupy it: Okupying Lisbon
blog post of Sept. '17 describes the movement

Assembleia de Ocupação de Lisboa - AOLX

"Terramotourism" documentary by the activist art group Left Hand Rotation
42 minutes

I saw the Madrid city website last year, but now cannot find it. There is this article, which looks to be an exhaustive rundown, as of 3 years ago. (This stuff changes fast.)
Robert Ambrogi, “The Failure of Crowdsourcing in Law (So Far, At Least)”, August 10, 2015, at

Tomas Herreros and Raúl Sánchez Cedillo, “Euro Mayday: El otro 1 de mayo,” 01/05/2008

Publication in PDF (SP): "Milano-Barcelona. Euro MayDay 004. 1º Primer de maig de 2004. MayDay! MayDay! Contra la precarització de la vida..."

EuroMayDay - Tactical Media Files (ENG);jsessionid=1C8A4F64F806E9DED6EF792AD9C52ED5

Geert Lovink and Ned Rossiter, eds., Organization after Social Media (Minor Compositions, UK/USA, 2018); online via Scribd at:

Tomas Herreros and Raúl Sánchez Cedillo, “Euro Mayday: El otro 1 de mayo,” 01/05/2008

Publication in PDF (SP): "Milano-Barcelona. Euro MayDay 004. 1º Primer de maig de 2004. MayDay! MayDay! Contra la precarització de la vida..." EuroMayDay - Tactical Media Files (ENG);jsessionid=1C8A4F64F806E9DED6EF792AD9C52ED5

Friday, July 6, 2018

A CODA to the first post, “Acto Inaugural” – “Disenchantment”

Meeting of members of Instituto DM at

I'm afraid this post is out of order, but as the first post was far from clear, it seems necessary to explain further what this MAC 4 meeting in Madrid on municipalism, self-government and counterpower was intended to be about.
In the first post on MAC 4, I referenced the disappointment many in Spain are feeling with the city governments they helped to put into power. In a pre-conference article posted to El Salto, Alberto Azcarate spelled it out, and I condense points from that below.
Note that these MACs are not meetings about municipalism per se, like academic conferences or meetings of elected officials and their governments' functionaries. The MAC meetings are intended to function as “an observatory and a critical monitoring platform” for the “change councils” to ensure that they comply with the mandates they received from the social movements that stood behind them from the beginning and voted them into power.
The new electeds were to serve as “promoters of counter-power organizations” in order to neutralize institutional inertia. In Madrid especially, after decades of right-wing government, the “administrative apparatus [is] strongly impregnated by the normative philosophy of that political current.”
Instead the city councils seem to have forgotten that they did not arrive to power as leaders, but as messengers to fulfill the mandates of the movements. They have succumbed to “institutional possibilism.”
The booklet – La crisis sigue. Elementos para un nuevo ciclo político/“The Crisis Continues” – published for the MAC 4 analyzes what the authors see as the close of a cycle of politics. “It is no longer about assessing the municipal experiences that were born in 2015,” they write, “but about starting to bet on those movements and struggles that can push beyond what has already been achieved.”
The next wave will again be driven by the movements, to “reconstruct the mobilizing base.” They look to the milestone of the the feminist strike of 8M, the national mobilization of pensioners, the “everlasting PAH – a collective star of movementism,” and the new movements for housing vs. gentri- and touristi-fication, the unions of precarious and domestic workers, and of sin papeles., among others.
The main areas of discussion at MAC 4 then were to be the emergence of a new militant feminism and its leadership “in the struggles against the general crisis of the reproduction of life”, the urban movements against the new real estate bubble – rising rents, gentrification and turistification of urban centers; the “new anti-fascism to confront the war against the poor”, and institutional racism. Also of course “the issue of political organization, in complex and fluid movement contexts, ranging from cooperativism to social centers.”
The movement groups which made such efforts to take Ahora Madrid and Manuela Carmena to the municipal government today feel cheated. Their issues have been forgotten. Now, as Ahora Madrid and Carmena look to “the middle strata of social democratic” voters in Madrid, “the sinuous drifts of institutional politics begin to promote a silent dispute over the integration of future candidates and candidates in electoral lists.” MxM: Madrid por el municipalismo convened the final assembly of the MAC 4 (which I did not attend), where these issues were addressed.


Alberto Azcárate, “Desencanto de los ayuntamientos del cambio en el MAC4,” pub'd 6/23/18 Disenchantment of the municipalities of the change in the MAC4

La crisis sigue. Elementos para un nuevo ciclo político
PDF download

MxM | Madrid por el municipalismo

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

MAC 4: Anti-Racism and Subaltern Europe

The first day proper of the MAC 4 conference of municipalists in Madrid dawned plenty hot. I decided to attend the panel on anti-racism, freedom of movement: organizing alliances and politics for a city without borders. A tall order, to be sure... This meeting was held in a tent, poorly indicated on the conference map. How I long for those hand-drawn maps of complex locales one sees in antiquarian tourist papers! I know the Matadero pretty well, but an entire building was left off the abstracted map, so I had to wander back to the central reception in the blistering heat to ask “Where the fuck are the tents?”, which, needless to say, were not privileged locations on that day.
I arrived late, como siempre. The discussion in Spanish with various accents was mostly over my head, although I could recognize familiar themes repeated from the inaugural session. Fortunately for me much of the content of this meeting would be repeated later at the Reina Sofia museum on the occasion of the visit of Black Lives Matter activist and historian Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, which I will blog later.
There was talk about demonstrations and which groups participated. An African man spoke of capitalist resource extraction in Africa. This is a frequent line in talks by migrant spokespeople, which seems rather like a familiar song. What is less known today is the new varieties of “assistance” by the Chinese, and the US military expeditionary forces operating in relative obscurity.
From what I've seen of movement activism here, there hasn't been much done on foreign policy. Unlike the USA, the EU is not so directly fucking with other countries. But there also doesn't seem to be much attention given to what Spanish corporations are doing overseas, which can be rough.
Madrid has seen a recent growth in visibility of groups advocating for migrants and for an end to institutional racism. Groups like Afroconciencia, a group of “afro-descendant” people supported by the Matadero cultural ce nter, and the ally group SOS Racismo among others have emerged strongly, and are networking internationally. The neo-fascist reaction to the high flow of refugees and migrants has brought this struggle to the forefront.
This is exciting for me, since for my lifetime anti-racist struggle has been at the forefront of US left action. I have many ideas about it, and there is a lower bar to white participation in the movements in Europe than in the USA. (As Professor Taylor told us later, Black Lives Matter is black-organized, period.)
A woman from Barcelona (I think with BCN en comu itself) spoke of institutional racism in the Mossos (Catalonian state police), and other functionaries of the state. This is effective racism, she said, not just an attitude among the public. To confront this requires public education. Also migrants and diverse peoples must be put into public service.
Another person noted that in the state of Madrid (not the city, but “Comunidad de Madrid”, run by the right wing) there are 14,000 unresponded requests for asylum. There needs to be a concrete program of education, “talleres de sensibilizacion” for city workers. A wonan said she is trying now to organize exactly that, talleres de sensibilizacion in schools which have high percentages of migrants of certain groups.
A trans person of color spoke about the problems facing the community. Migrants without papers – sin papeles, sans papiers in France – cannot participate in most official centers, because “first they ask for your DNI [national identity card], which they don't have.” In Spain everywhere for everything you have to show and give your ID card number. With the recent change in the federal government after the no confidence motion unseated the right wing, sin papeles have been given access to public health services.
A guy from Cameroon spoke very well, since he had studied Spanish in his country. “People here in Spain couldn't imagine that.” He had only been in Spain six weeks, he said. “People can't imagine that Africans come to Europe for tourism.” He suggested forming mixed football teams to encourage anti-racist attitudes. “That's easy to do.”
With a low comprehension, my mind began to wander. Amidst this mixed crowd of people both white and of color, I ruminated on a recent favorite theme – a living museum of the cultures of African and American peoples. I realized the thought came probably from the FITUR - Feria Internacional de Turismo we attended last year, where countries mounted pavilions to display themselves and their attractions to entice curious Spanish tourists. We browsed the fascinating pavilion of Mali, and chatted with the people there.
Madrid, alone it seems among the capitols of major colonial powers, has no major museums of the colonized peoples of Africa, and only a remote and anemic one to represent the Americas. What this means in affective terms is that immigrants, migrants and refugees and their descendants in Spain are visible only as subjects of care, victims of racism, people in the end to feel sorry for and to try and help.
That's ridiculous. In NYC, and most major US cities, large general museums with ethnographic displays are crucial instruments – and were so conceived of by their founders – to educate the people about each other and their pasts. They confront with their “riches” racist attitudes that are reflexive, automatic, unconscious, institutional.
Even so, these collections were founded by imperialist white explorers and scientists who regarded the places and peoples they studied as exotic objects. Some of these museums have been the staging ground for teach-ins and demonstrations demanding that they focus more on the legacy of colonialism and the damage it has done. “Decolonize This Place” – it is not a new campaign. There is a depth of experience among these cultural activists which I hope to be able to connect with Spanish movements in the future.

Simultaneous Translation

Because of the anti-racism panel, I arrived 40 minutes late to Raúl Sánchez Cedillo's mesa on subaltern Europe. A woman was speaking as I entered, on a “general European problem,” that is the need for a process of “redemocratization,” a need to enlarge the practices invented here in Spain as an alternative to liberal democracy. That is a third way. It is not about winning the next election, it's about augmenting social movements.
Surprisingly she was speaking in English, as was nearly everyone else in this meeting, which offered simultaneous translation as well.
Her point was the same as the US DSA analyst I've been following, Ethan Young, made in a post on the the conflict between building movements – “organizing” they say in USA – and winning election campaigns. There are signs that the shock of Orcasio Cortez's win may reinvigorate DNC efforts to perform the former more assiduously. Labor unions as well have been jolted hard by the recent high court decision in favor of open shops. This cuts unions off at the knees. So they look to be at last waking up to the necessity or organizing.
We need to be aware of the ever-increasing racism which is more and more openly outspoken in everyday life, the speaker continued. Also fight against sexism. These are always already transnational practices. Our work has to be feminist.

Demonstration in Madrid against the release of the gang rape defendants in Pamplona

Raúl Sánchez Cedillo is a longtime member of the Fundación de los Comunes, co-organizer of the conference. He published a text framing the panel issues as part of a series posted by El Salto magazine online.
“The municipalist issue,” he wrote, “is fundamentally about the ways in which popular struggles and liberated social cooperation can invent new democratic institutions of counterpower, capable of imposing measures of social justice and lastingly defeating neoliberal 'extreme center' regimes, as well as the racist and fascist nationalisms” (auto-translation). “Extreme center” is a recent formulation that includes both traditional center right and left parties losing ground in recent EU elections because of their mutual support of EU austerity policies.
Gerald Raunig was also present. He is behind the multi-lingual online 'zine, which for years, as the EIPCP (European Institute for Progressive Cultural Policies), has published many invaluable analytic texts. We are confronting dictatorships, he said, and “machinic capitalism”, i.e. the platform capitalism of Uber and AirBnB.
Isabel (?) continued: It is reductive to see municipalism only as winning elections. We need to transform the state apparatus and its institutions, not just take them over and be the nicer face of the state apparatus. There are instances, like Naples and Zagreb, but there is no strong national municipalist movement in the EU, only in Spain. But if we include movements like those against gentrification and against touristification – those are not the same – and right to the city – these movements are translocal.
The idea of “ecologies of care” has a feminist legacy. Preserve those which are existing in barrios. We also have to concentrate on checking the development of an obedient character, which has also developed in the last few years. The “fake news” incantations of the right – for the classical Nazis it was Lügenpresse, “lying press” used as a Schlagwort, a slogan or literally “striking word”) – has eroded trust in all media.

Issues All Over: But Housing Rules

An Italian man spoke on the subject of the commons. The protocols of Naples (which I will discuss in the blog post on the social center session), offers an opportunity to rethink this question. Democracy is based on ownership. You own a piece, you vote. To own without being present is in Roman law. The question is to reconceive ownership so that citizens have a voice and a role to play, and so that citizenship is only a proof that you are living in a place.

Once they start talking in English, the report gets a lot longer!


Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor visit to Spain

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor «Un destello de libertad»
Her book talk posted by Katakrak publishers; her book was published in translation by Traficantes De Sueños
She speaks first in English, then there is a translation into Spanish -- 1:30 hours

Afroconciencia: The Festival

Sos Racismo Madrid

“Anti-Columbus Day Tour Attended by Hundreds at the American Museum of Natural History”, by Elena Goukassian, posted October 10, 2017

Ethan Young is the author of the recent pamphlet, "Mapping the Resistance: Insurgence and Polarization Between 2016 and 2020”, May 2018; ENG and GER at:

Raúl Sánchez Cedillo posted on 6/20/18, “Por un municipalismo autónomo de las subalternas transeuropeas”
It's part of the series of texts published by El Salto online in connection with the MAC 4 meetings