Friday, October 20, 2017

MAC 3 -- A Game of Cards (3rd post)

"Take back the economy" -- The Plan as per the Hidra collective (posted at

Before look at the first full day of MAC3, I must confess I was confused. How can a meeting of political party operatives and elected officials be about “counter-power”? Aren't they in power, and supposed to be figuring out how to use it? Aren't the people out of power, the activists, squatters, general masses of the unwashed beating at the gates and yelling at them to do something? Aren't the folks in government always telling activists, Well, it's complex, you don't understand how things work, we can't do what you want now, I have to go to lunch now with important people, etc.... Are you also confused?
In a March '17 interview, Pablo Carmona of the Ganemos Madrid list author of The Municipalist Wager, and a key theorist of the movement explained. The concepts may seem hard for USAians to grasp...

Interviewer: It is not always clear what municipalism is....

Pablo Carmona: ...Municipalism has a strong libertarian matrix, it does not think of conquering power to change things, but to change things, power has to be elsewhere. Its objective is to disperse power and to challenge the existing institutional mechanism....

According to Pablo, “the wave of institutional participation that is opening up in many parts of the country largely has the mission of dissolving or de-structuring the Spanish power system” which is entrenched in precisely these institutional arrangements.
That is to say, everything is not all right. The constitutional order of 1978 is “damaged.” (Imagine the state of the 1789 product!) As the 15M movement of 2011 moved forward, they found it was “a good time to rearm the old tool of Libertarian Municipalism.”

Pablo Carmona in his natural habitat, bookstore Traficante de Suenos
(Fashion- able hoodie is actually kind of dress-up for Spanish left politicians.)

The social movements (that's like the PAH, the squatted social centers, feminists, sin papeles, ecologists, etc.) are incapable of dissolving the institutional structure and building a new one – i.e., of effecting a revolutionary transition that would have the character of a union, not of labor but of the social itself. So they decided to enter politics on the municipal level, We wanted to “deprivatize politics and launch it into society.”
“That is why we attach such great importance to linking institutional participation and the movements, which linkage has not been collaborative. Many times that [idea] is not understood. 'How, if you are part of the movements, do you always say that the movements have to be a counter-power?' Because we understand that the relationship, even when we have talked about that idea of a party-movement, has to be an antagonistic relationship. That is, it would be a mistake to fall back into the [habits of] social democratic Europe, where many social movements or organized civil society are subordinated, co-opted or financed under the institutional wing.” That's why they cheerfully participate in critical debates about the city council initiated by the social movements, even when they are against them. “Many of our colleagues see it as a rupture, as a betrayal, but we think it is the diversity necessary for this system of antagonisms and counterpowers not to make the social sphere decapitalize and lose its value and meaning.” That “capital” is the valor and energy of the social movements.
[The above is a tweaked machine translation. The original: “nosotros pensamos que es la diversidad necesaria para que ese sistema de antagonismos y de contrapoderes no haga que el ámbito de lo social se descapitalice y pierda valor y sentido.”]

“To the Tables!”
We arrived for the MAC at a regular civic center. Old people and youngsters drifted about. There's also a library upstairs. We were herded into two rooms with card tables, and seated in small groups. On each table was a pile of cards. I had a nice chat with Leilla of Barcelona en Comú (she's a roommate of Kate Shea Baird, la jefa of BCNenC's international committee). I showed her the Lumpen magazine from Chicago which had my lovely article on the municipalist movement in it. She smiled and nodded her head politely. Then the horror began....
The cards were dealt out. I had a 10 of clubs. Leilla had an ace. It was explained to us what we were to do. I thought it was about coming up with ideas about how to build the movement, from its past, its present, and its future – I wrote my bright ideas on the table... but I was wrong. It was much much more specific. I had just made the clean paper dirty.

The job was to consider how the municipalist movements could effect change on different levels of governance. The “clubs” had the level of European Union. Discussion began. The EU maintains human rights, but it also oppresses, sell weapons, and maintains borders (“Fortress Europe”). A principal in the DM Institute began to outline how the rules of the EU on economic policy, laid out in Brussels, control finance, tourism, the real estate market, and create limits to municipalism. He rattled rapidly on, interminably, uninterruptibly... I was soon swamped, and couldn't get a thing from his talk. We shuffled again, and this time I drew a 2. That was more appropriate!, since I was by now swamped and sinking. Another guy from Marea Atlantica said something about markets. Water was washing over the bow. Finally we were to write the key points of our talk onto the paper covering the table.
I was not the only person not talking. At our table were two women of color. They were from Territorio Domestico, an activist group working with domestic and care workers. Many of these are migrants, and some undocumented. They also seemed lost in the blizzard of talk, but at least they understood the language! At length, one of them spoke about the importance of the stories of individual lives.

After the first intensive discussion and the summary written out by Lilliana of Barcelona en Comu, we were moved to another table and dealt a new hand of cards from a different suit, i.e., . We then launched into a short discussion of the written textual consideration that we saw the previous group had left on the table. We wrote a response. There followed another move, short discussion, another response. We were ordered then to move into the adjacent room, where another large group at several tables were doing the same thing. I shouldn't say “we,” because at some point along the way I staggered from the room....
Although it blew my fuses, it really was a great game!, a wonderful way of getting everyone thinking strategically. In they end, they have a lot of raw material for a strategic document or a manifesto – fodder to chew on for future meetings. The document that came out of the MAC1 in 2016, while it was called a manifesto, was a text that “brings together several lines of discussion that emerged in the workshops and working spaces” of MAC1.

Many tweets came from this extended card game exercise – e.g.,
We are remixed again to discuss the 2nd question: achievements and challenges of the municipalist movement. We are still at the top in # Mac3...

...and, Fundación Comunes Retweeted La Hidra Cooperativa‏ @LahidraCoop “Organizar red municipalista a escala europea es el gran reto contra políticas austericidas y estrategias de control estado-céntricas #mac3” via Bing x-lation: “Organize municipal network at European level is the great challenge against policies austericidas [austerity-cide!] and #mac3 state-centric control strategies”. Those are two gangs who really understood what was going on.

Curiously in the MAC1 statement there is a strong emphasis on migrant rights. The sin papeles, or sans papiers, the undocumented, are severely disadvantaged throughout Europe, whether they be refugees or economic migrants. While there is no Joe Arpaio or Jeff Sessions' DOJ hunting them down, they can be detained and deported, and are regularly fined for trying to work or sell things. MAC3 did not have much discussion of the issues of the undocumented. Mainly I'll guess this is because they are super-poor, working all the time as they can, and even if funded can't travel on airplanes which have ID checks.
Territorio Domestico in a small session at MAC3

I sat in the lobby at the kids' table and typed up some notes, looked at tweets. I was feeling pretty low, facing a three hour lunch break with no one to talk to. Along came Alejandra from Medialab Prado in Madrid. She had helped with the Lumpen article, and she is is actually bilingual. We chatted, and then she also was off. On my cel, Malena said, “Go enjoy A Coruña. It's a beautiful city.” With I did. Wandering into the Museo de Bellas Artes, which is a mortuarial place full of bad art of the ages. I was not much cheered up.
Still, I could go back to the apartment, lunch with my host at a crowded tapas bar, take a nap and still make the session on journalism in the afternoon.

NEXT: Journalism, propaganda, and online voting


Entrevista a Pablo Carmona, Ganemos Madrid: "No es como lo habíamos imaginado hace dos años" 05/07/2017 | Marcos Ancelovici y Montserrat Emperador Badimon

Lumpen magazine from Chicago which has my lovely article on the municipalism, called “How to Do”

Territorio Domestico

Link is to a short video of a 2010 demonstration organized by Territorio Domestico in Lavapies, Madrid. "Without us the world doesn't move." The prop being pushed was part of an exhibition, 'Principio Potosi" at the Reina Sofia museum

The Municipalist Manifesto, 2016

A Coruna from above

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The MAC 3 Begins

I was in Lugo 100 miles away from A Coruña on the morning the conference began. Lugo was in the throes of the ancient festival of San Froilán, honoring a pre-Romanesque bishop and patron of the province. The city was full of country folk looking for places to eat octopus. Although the week-long extravaganza was coming to an end, the night before saw an earsplitting bed-rocking disco outside our window which ran until 3am. That morning we found that the bus schedule to A Coruña had been cut back because of the festival (what?!), so Malena hooked into the Bla Bla Car ride share app. I was slated for a late afternoon ride, hopefully in time for the registration and opening plenary. We'd have to go to the outskirts of Lugo, to the highway where the guy was coming from Madrid. He was having battery trouble, and would be an hour “or so” delayed....

In the end, he took me to the door of the Facultad de Economia of the university on the outskirts of the city. I was just in time for the start of the conference. As I registered folks talked to me in English – for the last time. In the auditorium, a lineup of reps from different cities spoke about their concerns, their objectives, their main problems. I tried to understand, but of the various accents of Spanish (which is in fact Castilian, of one province) some are not so hard, and others are really difficult to understand, like one slurred stream of sounds. As the panelists hurried to finish, my comprehension decreased. Still, I got some sense of the issues that would be negotiated here at the MAC 3 as the municipalistas “oil their network.”
Unlike the “Fearless Cities” conference in Barcelona in June (see blog posts on that here), there were no explanations and no exhortations. There were also no Americans or Brits. This MAC was to be a working meeting, and what was proposed from the stage to the crowd of some 200 conferees was a rough agenda. With partial comprehension my notes are choppy. There was no press office to clear any of this up. (There was one in Barcelona, but they folded right after the conference.) Comments on this post are welcome and corrections and emendations will be made.
Reliquary of the saint in question

A woman took the stage to introduce. (Who? No idea.) She said, “There is a difference in times between institutions and social movements” (I take this to mean sense of time, movement of actions and ideas, the former being slow and deliberate, bureaucratic, and the latter meditative but moving straight to action.) The institutions don't reflect the “urgencies of the micro-political.” We want to tap the richness of the citizens' knowledges and ideas.
Then a parade of folks clad mostly in black, some with declarative t-shirts, took the stage. Emmanuel Rodríguez of the Instituto DM (Instituto para la Democracia y el Municipalismo) spoke first and super-fast, as I knew from the seminar he conducted at Traficantes de Sueños bookstore in Madrid. All I got was a remark on the “brutal differences in economic power,” not only between poor and rich citizens, but between the municipal governments and the banks and corporations. (This leverage was brought into play immediately after the recent vote of secession in Catalonia as a number of major Spanish banks and firms announced they would withdraw their headquarters and hundreds of jobs from the province.)
A guy from A Coruña announced that in December they would hold a “classic party congress” of the Marea Atlántica platform (that includes A Coruña – our host for the meeting – and number of other cities in Galicia). They would use the MAC3 discussions to “introduce debates into our own process.”

Another poor guy had first a loud buzz in his wireless mic, apparently from his mobile phone, and then immediately afterwards feedback from his notepad! (New tech = new problems.) When the different electoral platforms meet and talk here, he said, some of the questions they will work on include contesting monopolies, diversity, working on a European scale, and ….(?). Reps from other cities were introduced. Juan from Málaga with a Casa Invisible t-shirt spoke of the problem of corruption and the hidden transactions made by former regimes. For them – the Málaga Ahora party – a key value is transparency of all actions by the municipality. Real estate speculation is a huge problem in that city.
Santa Rosa (?) of Zaragoza en Común in Aragon, adjacent to Galicia, spoke (much more clearly, for me) of using “institutional rhythms to activate the potential of the 15M movement” – (here, unlike in USA, the broad mobilizations of 2011 have not only not been forgotten, they formed the ground floor for everything that has come after) – to “intervene in the constituent processes.” The PSOE has power in Málaga. (That's the socialists, conservative left, like the US DNC – their slogan, a bald lie, is “we are the left”).
So Zaragoza en Común tries to set up “posts of participation” in the neighborhoods (barrios) of the city to contest the proposals of the PSOE. The PSOE's informal networks of power influence the institutions disproportionately. ZenC are also working on remunicipalization of city services. “We don't want to obssess on the electoral problem.”
Marta of Pamplona (the Basque city where the MAK2 was held) mentioned the social center in the center of the city. I assume she is from Aranzadi: Pamplona en Común, and was referring to the September occupation of empty palace of the Marquis de Rozalejo, in the center of Pamplona. It was taken in 2007, evicted, and retaken in September '17 by a group which proclaimed the Rozalejo “open to all the neighborhood, all popular groups in the neighborhood and the city that need it, to all those people who want to contribute to building social change from the foundations." They consider that "not having gaztetxe while building luxury hotels is unfair, not having gaztetxe while building the high-speed train is unfair, not having gaztetxe while dozens of public buildings remain in disuse or in abandonment is unfair” [from]. (Gaztetxe is the name of a self-organized occupied social center in the Basque language of Euskara; it also means youth house.)
Palace of Rozalejo, occupied in Pamplona

For the Aranzadi platform, remunicipalization is a key economic issue. They are trying to do that with energy, which is now controlled by a monopoly. The question of intervention in the social economy is complex. (It is clear typing these up that the speakers are putting forth issues they face, perplexing problems which can be considered in the days ahead.) For another speaker how to compose their list of candidates was a challenge.

For a speaker from La Hidra Cooperativa of Barcelona, the key question was how to overcome the institutional blockage to redistribute power and wealth? (I heard the same line in Barcelona in June from city officials there, that the system is designed against us in our efforts to use it for egalitarian ends .) This shows the limits of municipal power when confronting problems of urban speculation, tourism, etc. They have built cooperative apartments with public support, bu still the state scale determines a lot of what can happen, like the “habitual” tourist economy. They try to investigate the hidden transactions taking place in the city. These are the issues which have most interested the assemblies in the barrios. The money produced in the center of the city does not get to the peripheries.
Barcelona is a model for the successful remunicipalization of services, in particular water, under the slogan “no nos serviran” (they don't serve us). For the Hidra “think tank” the big question is how to construe (?) the different levels of governance, to coordinate action toward objectives on the different scales of barrio, city, territory, nation and European Union. (This would be the basis of the game we would play the next day.)
As the speakers realized they were going over time, the talk became too fast for me to follow, and the action a little manic. At one point two men wrestled a woman for the microphone... All I could catch was a definition of “social sindicalism” as a struggle for the most precarious of our citizens. (This concept is explicated by Beatriz García of the social center La Villana in Vallecas, and the Fundación de los Comunes in a 2017 article.)
The final speaker from A Coruña noted that while they remained a minority in the city government, and were declining electorally, he remained optimistic. The PP (the Popular Party of the right) was the main enemy. They were threatening municipal autonomy on a federal level. (Shades of Repugnican state legislatures and Sessions' Justice in the USA!) Our next struggle, he said, is to raise citizen participation, to open channels and spaces to participate.
In A Coruña they are fighting now over development plans for an area on the water, near the port. (Actually, all of central A Coruña is on the water; it's shaped like a gnawed-on pork chop sticking into the Atlantic, so land is scarce.) Plans now call for hotels, commercial use, and high-rise residences with no provision for public space. We have to dispute this “common sense” kind of development.
More Local Color
The dinner after was beautifully organized in the cafeteria of the faculty. Several long tables with no chairs were set with plates of tapas and raciones, vegetarian and non (the clear choice). I didn't know anyone, only Emmanuel Rodríguez from his seminar. He was polite, and then moved off. I ran up on the guy from the Hidra Cooperativa who had spoken earlier. “What's that?” I asked. “A think tank,” he replied, explained a bit, then also slinked off. I was left talking with Susanna of La Villakas in Vallekas. Good fortune! She was one of the few folks from social centers here at MAC3. Vallecas is the working class district of exurban Madrid, a traditional site of left resistance,
I also chatted in English with Arturo, one of the information guys (wearing a big “I” sticker on his shirt) who said this meeting is a chance to “oil the network” of municipalism, since they are not as well coordinated city to city as they wish to be.
Later that night I chatted with my host, who is active with issues of “historic memory” in Galicia. That isn't at all an abstract matter. It concerns the recovery and re-interment of remains of those executed by Franco's regime and its fascist cadres over decades, and buried in mass graves all over Spain.
She was interested in some of the meetings, especially the cultural one. But who is speaking?, she asked. I don't see any names. And that was true. It was only the subject under discussion that is listed. No expert opinion was to be put forward, and no single person to organize the talk. I did not even see this as an aspect of MAC3 until she mentioned it, but it's radically different than other conferences with a roster of identified importantxs. I think it's part of the general feeling against expert culture in this movement, and against empowering spokespeople. It's not that there is no leadership in movements like this, it is only that it is not foregrounded. It is not enmarcado, framed out in advance. That is finally very different, and quite refreshing! It's also the procedure of our own SqEK meetings... although finally this can be frustrating when our links are so weak that one forgets who one was talking to!

Map of locations of common graves, excavated and not, in Spain

NEXT: A game of cards....

Emmanuel Rodríguez of the Instituto DM (Instituto para la Democracia y el Municipalismo)

Marea Atlántica

Zaragoza en Común

Aranzadi- Pamplona en Común

La Hidra Cooperativa

Centros sociales y sindicalismo: la potencia colectiva
Jan 16, 2017 - Beatriz García, La Villana de Vallekas/Fundación de los Comunes

Center for the Recovery of Historic Memory (Galicia, Spain)

Monday, October 16, 2017

Back from the MAC (1st post)

I have returned to Madrid from the city of A Coruña in the north of Spain, where the MAC3 conference was held – “Municipalism, Self-Government and Counterpower” was the title. It was essentially a party congress of municipalist platforms in Spain. I think I was the only native English speaker there (except for the bilingual Kate Shea Baird, the major spokes for Barcelona en comu's international committee, who passed me regally yet again; I've still never met her.) I was for sure the only U.S.A.ian.

I preface with an apologia – unlike Kate, I am far from bilingual. My comprehension of Spanish (which is actually Castilian) spoken fast and subtly is about 20-40%. But I'm pretty well prepped on the municipalist movement, and I've spent a decade researching “counterpower” in the form of squatting in Europe. My whole life has been an infatuation with mischief culture, on both small and grand scales. “Heretical,” yes. With a PhD. (Sigh.)
The MAC3 conference this time was hosted by Marea Atlántica, a party, er, platform or coalition which came to power in 2015 in the city of A Coruña in the autonomous community of Galicia, Spain. (Thank goodness few sessions were in Galego; the language of the Galician region is close to Portuguese.)

A Coruna city hall

The first MAC in 2015 was in Málaga in Andalusia in the south. The city has its own municipalist platform, Málaga Ahora, and is the home of one of the coolest occupied social centers in Europe, La Casa Invisible. (I say "cool" 'cause their five minute “lipdub” music video of a few years ago brings tears of joy to my eyes.) La Casa Invisible is a key seat of the Fundación de los Comunes – the Foundation of the Commons – which has several sites in Spain and was one of the organizers of this conference.
Texts around this first MAC1 conference were posted in several languages on the EIPCP Transversal web-zine site as a special issue entitled "Monster Municipalism." (This was an echo of the earlier “Monster Institutions” issue devoted to occupied social centers in Europe – maybe the picture is beginning to form up now, eh? This blog has been only about squatting for years.)
The second MAC – (or “MAK,” because they speak Euskara there) – was held in the Basque city of Pamplona, famous for the running of the bulls that enchanted Hemingway. It's a country of squats, analyzed in a recently defended PhD thesis by Sheila Padrones Gil. Thanks to an energetic media group, Pamplonauta Iruñea, numerous short videos of MAK2 participants were posted to YouTube (search the makers and #MakDos; Spanish only).
I had to go to this MAC – even knowing I would be blankly uncomprehending much of the time. I had to go because increasingly I feel that organized localism is our ONLY HOPE for getting out of the dead-end planet-destroying sitch we're living. Especially in the godforsaken USA which is on fire and sinking down. “Believe it if you need it” – the nation state – “if you don't, just pass it by”! (That's “Box of Rain” – yes, this political system “is all a dream we dreamed / One afternoon long ago”.)
I fulminate at length on this in the new issue of Chicago's Lumpen magazine in an essay called “How to Do Now” (another song title). The issue contains numerous other essays and proposals. The deepest one for sure is that from Jackson Rising in Mississippi. They've just published a book – Jackson Rising: The Struggle for Economic Democracy and Self-Determination. JR comes out of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement; their chief exponent was a lawyer for the Black Panthers. 'Nuff said!
It drives me absolutely nuts that activists in the USA don't immediately pick up this stick and get on with the business. Assemble! And push your local governments to disobey!

Okay, the setup is enough for today. Tomorrow the reports begin.....

tweet by Asad Haider, an editor at Viewpoint – – expresses the guts of the municipalist organizing strategy:
“Thought of a crazy idea:
1. Go to working-class neighborhood
2. Knock on doors
3. Ask people what they need instead of telling them
stop this shit right now!

As a footnote I have to praise a book I haven't read yet – Michael Hardt and Toni Negri's new book called simply Assembly. (It's the first in Oxford University's “Heretical Thought” line of books; viva Galileo.) Assembly is the basis of municipalist politics. On the sound file below is an hour of Michael Hardt in London talking about the book. He advocates "tactical leadership, which is deployed and then dismissed." With the assembly model – (that is 15M, Occupy Wall Street, new municipalist platforms, etc.) – everyone else in the movement needs to take responsibility, step up and make mistakes. What resources do people have for democratic decision-making? The capacities which people have for cooperation overlap with their ability to self-govern. We need to reclaim "entrepreneur." When neoliberals say "entrepreneur," "they mean they're no longer going to give you any money" for social services, and you have to make do on your own. You have to do it on your own. (At one point, Hardt says, we wanted to call the book “Enterprise” with an image from Star Trek.) Salvation from above?, like Syriza or Podemos, or the U.S. DSA? "There is no left government... What there is is a government that can give space to the left." For example, Barcelona en comu, which tries to give space to the movements.


My two books on squatting, both free PDFs online, can be found at:

Marea Atlántica municipalist political platform

Málaga Ahora municipalist political platform

La Casa Invisible in Málaga

Fundación de los Comunes network

EIPCP Transversal web-zine site, the issue "Monster Municipalism"

“How to Do Now” – proposals for municipalism in U.S.A.

Jackson Rising: The Struggle for Economic Democracy and Self-Determination in Jackson, Mississippi

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

“Fearless Cities”: Second Plenary Session (5th post)

Since I wrote this two weeks ago(!), Barcelona en Comú international has posted a video of the entire plenary to YouTube. This is in addition to posted videos of numerous panels at the conference. Most, but not all, of the speakers are Spanish. Even though this was the last event, it's ready to post now, so I'm doing that. (Apologies for discontinuities; there is more to come.)

After the meeting on how to construct electoral platforms, I drifted to the cool gardens of the University of Barcelona for the lunch. I met some interesting folks hanging around a gal I'd met in a breakout. A guy working with a municipalist international called “Plenari” handed me a flyer for a September 1-3 conference in Thessaloniki, “Right to the City and Social Ecology” (the Bookchin phrase).
Another fellow was wearing a 2013 t-shirt with the words “Asembleas Populare” and a red and black anarcho-syndicalist flag. It was from Argentina, he said. We chatted about anarchists' non-participation in muncipalism – (but not about electoralists studious ignoring of anarchists!). “I am here to listen,” he said. The gal from Manchester I'd met in the breakout was with him. “Really I'm from no city,” she said.
(All this time my SqEK comrade Galvao was waiting outside for me to meet him. They wouldn't let him in to the conference as he had not registered. I had no cel phone, and had forgotten our appointment. This was a bit of funky misplaced security, as he is a doctoral student in governance. Other folks did slip in who were not, as will be discussed.)
After lunch we were back in the Paranimfo, the grand site of the plenary. This time all the seats beside the throne were full of the leading lights of the movement, conference organizers, and their friends. A man from the Catalan network acted as MC for a succession of speakers. (According to the list, this was Xavier Domenech, Executive Board of Barcelona en Comú, MP for En Comú Podem, Coordinator of Catalunya en Comú.) In our region, he said, we are celebrating the 148th anniversary of the Paris Commune. (Historical consideration of that epochal event was also at the core of a recent course put on by the Institute of Democracy and Municipalism in Madrid, meeting at the Traficante de Suenos bookstore – not as a nostalgic event in the nimbus of vanished utopian revolution, but how exactly it was organized.)
We have our own history of struggle, Domenech said, trying to build a radical democratic city. It tracks back to 1815, when the slogan was “Associationism or death.” And to May 2015, when the “rose of fire” returned. (This I think was a reference to the days-long street battle to defend Can Vies social center in the Sants district of Barcelona from eviction and destruction. Can Vies was finally attacked by a bulldozer, which was burned. A book was published about this, which includes considerations of the relation between 15M/Occupy and the anarchists. Much of the book's contents were posted to the Crimethinc blog.) That's when the people are fed up, and take to the streets.
Kali Akuno spoke about Cooperation Jackson, the movement behind the recent electoral victory in that city. He warned of the “Syriza trap” – thinking that our progressive forces can manage capitalism. (The left coalition Syriza government in Greece was forced to accept harsh terms from the European Union to gain tranch loans to sustain basic services, harsher many believe than would have been offered to a “center” or right-wing government.) First we must transform society from the bottom up. The welfare state is gone. We are living in the neoliberal order.
A series of reps from different Spanish towns gave short speeches. My host in his “solidarity apartment,” Steven Forti rattled off the Italian towns that have new allied governments – Naples, Bologna, Padua, Palermo, Verona, Reggio Emilia. A woman from Poland said, We face an extreme right in the federal power that seeks now to ban abortion and cut down the forests. (Trump, no surprise, plans a visit.) They have called a congress of urban movements to take place in Warsaw. Clare Walden from London told how the recent surprise wins of Corbyn's Labor party had restored confidence among the left. She quoted Shelley's classic rabble-rousing poem:

Rise, like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number!
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you:
Ye are many—they are few!
"The Masque of Anarchy," by Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1819

Walden spoke of the alternative food chain started in Bristol. And recalled how Margaret Thatcher had gutted the progressive localist government of London. We must refuse this, she declared, and develop our own alternatives.
This is the anarchist strain speaking, that which proceeds and develops regardless of government. IMO, when this strain is recognized as a key part of municipalist strategy, together with the indisputably non-partisan citizens' assembly, the movement will become irresistible. Damn the law, full speed ahead!
Another woman spoke of an emerging French network including several cities. The Zagreb activist spoke of a waterfront project planned for Belgrade which would see processes of privatization and financializing of public space – “20,000 people came to the street to fight this.” In Zagreb their platform won some seats. A woman from the USA called on us to “take down Trump.” A woman from Valparaiso, Chile said, “Our fear is to continue as we are with this neoliberal model which is not creating what we need.” (Valparaiso was spoken of as a site for the next conference of municipalists.)
A man from Rosario, Argentina spoke. Another from Brazil, Bele Horizonte. The popular democracy movement of Sao Paulo now has the city council there. A man from Hong Kong told us how the Communist Party is trying to take away local government. The military expansionism of the state is threatening other countries. The moderator said this is why municipalism is dangerous, Our enemies will work hard against us.
We heard, “Greetings from Kurdistan!” Murray Bookchin said once there was a chance for a coalition of cities, but then along came the nation state. Rojava now is the center of a communal life against capitalist modernity. The “democratic autonomy” of Kurdistan has much in common with the “autonomy of the zones” practiced by the Zapatistas of Mexico. Ours is a woman-centered radical democratic communally-based revolution. (I wonder if this spokesperson could even enter the USA now – I rather think not.) A man from Beirut spoke of how their movement is fighting big capital projects.
This dizzying array of speakers was capped by the tag team of Kate Shea Baird, the English-language international rep for Barcelona en comu and Chavi (her partner?), she speaking English and he Spanish. They said they'd been trying to identify the key ideas which all these different projects share.
They are all based in local means, a political project that is linked with base movements. Not just a part of the state, but a way to make a new kind of government. Formal democracy is finished. We need to go one step further, inventing new ways of representation. Our political space includes people inside and outside institutions. One only of these is not enough. Ours is a female-led feminized politics. It puts care work at the center. Why is municipalism working better now? Baird referenced Naomi Klein's video “Made for us.”
“We have to win where we can,” she said. Small victories show us what is possible. With small wins we communicate, “Join us.” We can win. Things can be done to change people's lives.
All these big things happen at local levels. There we experience them, and there we must deal with them. The local is the space we know. If we can't do it locally we can't do it at all. Candidacies are built in different ways. Diversification makes it more difficult to attack.
During all this, I noted an agitated and angry-looking man in a muscle shirt with no conference badge sitting near me. He was fidgeting nervously and glaring back just to the side of my line of sight. I was looking at him, yeah. And thinking how there was no evident security at this meeting, and we were building up to Ada Colau.
Working in networks, the speaker asked, how do we do it? Through the exchange of knowledge and specific tools. We believe in the commons in the face of corruption and trafficiking of services. We stand for interpersonal relations. With the campaigns in Belgrade against the waterfront development we made this struggle more visible. In Berlin, when Andrej Holm was attacked, our network supported him. We are doing Skypes, publishing articles and such to let folks know the experiences of other cities with the same problems. She referenced articles in English on Rosario, Argentina – (famous in activist art circles for the late '60s “Tucaman Arde” project) – and on the Zagreb movement, which “make our experiences visible.” We can compare policies, for example on the use of public space. We don't leave the responsibility to bigger organizations. These are things each of us can do. This is how we can contribute to the network.
Ada Colau closed the session. She reminded us she is the first woman to be mayor of Barcelona. Also she's the first from a working class background. “The media and the economic powers are not wirh us.” We must work in a network, and we must continue to strengthen it. Our next meeting is in Valparaiso. Meanwhile, you must be courageous and ambitiuos. We want a politics of the majority. This alliance should be open and generous as possible, and not fear being contaminated. We are battling giants. The battle of water privatization is going to be a big one. Municipalism is necessary because states are not useful anymore. They are too slow, too hierarchical. We must become municipalists. We must be selfish. Proximity is our strength.
We are still in a place where we must defend things we think are obvious. Many workers of the city helped us. The state machinery is old fashioned. Arriving in office, I found my agenda already full of formal meetings. Once inside city hall, my people disappeared. You enter a micro-world. This meeting is our family. In traditional politics, not everything can always be said. Here we can recognize our fragility. But we are not afraid, because we are together.
Later at lunch I saw Michelle Teran, who translated Ada Colau's book into English for JoAAP. She's doing video now. She was shooting interviews at the conference. She had just finished a tape on bank occupations, people who sat in at bank branches to force discussions of specific individual cases. It's a new strategy of coordinated occupations of several branches at once. Things get hotter.


Closing plenary -- Spanish speakers in Spanish, English speakers in English
"Ciutats sense por. Plenari de cloenda: municipalisme internacional"

Transnational Institute of Social Ecology – Conference in Thessaloniki 1-3 of September

Cooperation Jackson, Jackson, Mississippi

“The Rose of Fire Has Returned! The Struggle for the Streets of Barcelona,” by Crimethinc, posted April 2012
In print from Descontrol / Barcelona, 2014 / 160 págs.

Tom Crewe, "The Strange Death of Municipal England,” London Review of Books, Vol. 38 No. 24 · 15 December 2016
gated site -- free 24 hours with registration; as I check it is all online, however

Naomi Klein "You represent the best of the yes" #FearlessBCN

Sven Heymanns “An attack on democratic rights: Sociologist Andrej Holm fired from Humboldt University,” World Socialist website, 31 January 2017

Michelle Teran, media artist

Saturday, July 15, 2017

More than my notes and recollections...

The Barcelona international committee has posted at last videos from the June, 2017 conference. It's a feast of new political perspectives and information. I'll not have time to revise my blog posts according to these records -- not even the ones I've still got coming along. But this is where you can get the straight dope, if you have the time. Watch it in your assembly!
At last! They did it -- and it's all out there... "Fearless Cities" in Barcelona, the straight dope on European municipalism. BComu Global‏ @BComuGlobal Jul 13 If you couldn't make it to #FearlessCities you can catch up on ALL workshops and roundtables on our youtube channel:

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Getting Elected: Barcelona “Fearless Cities” Report (4)

This post continues reportage on the “Fearless Cities” convergence in Barcelona. The need for effective inventive organizing in the USA is so urgent I prioritized sessions on strategy and application. This was one of them. The panel was “Como creat una canidatura municipalista y participatia” (panel in English, title in Catalan in the program, go figure), How to Create a Municipalist Candidacy.
[REVISION: Video of this session has been posted, July 2017.]
Maria of Ahora Madrid introduced.* She presented activists of Spanish and European platforms who explained how they conducted their electoral campaigns.
Clare Walden of Take Back the City in London has a background in Occupy London. Her group launched a campaign to elect representatives to the Greater London Council. Her platform came together in 2015. Politics then seemed bad, Both the Labor and Tory parties embraced austerity and neoliberal policies. With privatizations, the housing crisis and evictions were massively increasing. Homelessness was increasing. Low wages was also an issue. A group of teachers working with mostly young people of color realized that the politicians didn't reflect them. Their students were so removed from politics that the teachers decided to form this platform, this association called Take Back the City.
In one incident, young mothers and pregnant women were about to be evicted. (In a well-publicized action, exactly this kind of group squatted vacant public housing to draw attention to their issue. Clare Walden didn't confirm that this was the same incident.) Two-and-a-half years ago working-class politics was dead. Take Back the City wanted to launch a peoples' mayoral candidate. Then 25 Greater London Council members were to be elected, so they decided to go for that instead.
Participation was at the center of the project. From day one young people of color were invited in. Part of our success has been including young black and brown kids. We started with a massive outreach. We met with 75 groups around London. We were going around to homeless people to ask, What do you want from London? What would a fair just London look like? We held a Peoples Manifesto workshop. We met with migrant cleaners in their lunchbreak. We met with 75 groups, and also did an online thing. We got policy proposals through this process. (She shows a slide: “Building a peoples manifesto.”) We prioritized the physical, not the online outreach.
A mayoral campaign was such a large undertaking we decided not to do it. (Later, in plenary, she said Mayor Sadik – weirdly criticized by Trump after the recent terrorist attacks in London – was the most left candidate standing, so we also did not want to run against him.) We picked East London to run a Greater London Council candidate, and another one in the south. Gentrification was a big issue. We tried getting people talking, having them bring their children around. We had big trays of free food, also singing and dancing. We wanted to create an environment to give people confidence in their own viewpoints. 800 young people came to an evening of political music and spoken word. In the UK there is no history of open air assembly, “because the weather is so shitty.” We had singing workshops for kids while we chatted with their parents abouut politics. We had our candidate standing on the back of a bus campaigning. We tried to do campaigning in a different exciting way. We did crowd-funding.
We weren't very successful – you have to knock on doors and such in the UK. Our manifesto was the most successful product. (They have a great yellow graphic – Take Back the City.) Our language is sensational, not academic or political.
After she spoke came Laura Berges from Comu de Lleida, a small city of some 139,000 near Barcelona. It is a rural city, with an agricultural base, a service city for a rural region. The politics are “a traditional city with its fat cats.” It has been Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) since democracy came to Spain (mid-1970s). The same political landscape for 40 years. There is only 50% voter participation. In the last round all the right wing was elected.
Comú de Lleida

We united around “a minimum consensus.” We made a call to social movements and left parties. We held open assemblies and private meetings. We made a call for a united candidacy. The social movements did not want to be identified with one party. They worked with us, but not in the name of their movement.
To launch our candidature we had primaries, spending one week on the streets. We had a total of 573 votes – 397 present, 176 e-votes (“telematic”). We sought a consensus to choose the first candidate. We presented a group of electors, not a political party. For that you must gather signatures. Most of our signatures were acceped by the Town Hall secretary. The process was time-limited – we had 20 days. The town secretary told us, Next time do a party because this is a lot of work for me.
Her slides: “Strategies. 1) Transparency – give information with meaning. 2) Participation – open structure. 3) Commons – common wealth / collaborative work / common discourse.”
“How: 1) Streets. 2) Hard work. 3) Reports. 4) Social digital networks. 5) Meeting with local entities. 6) ooking for agreements with other parties. 7) Supporting but not absorbing social movements.”
The traditional media did not give us much space, so we needed our own.
Slide: “Problems: 1) keeping and improving levels of volunteer participation. 2) time management – differiing rhythm of institutional workers and volunteers. 3) Money for something – space, legal advice, etc. 4) Us as “strangers in the hall: some political isolation.” 5) Low media impact. 6) “Goliath infuriated: the aggressive response of those in power.” 7) Are we a local autonomous group or part of a bigger project?
Then came Claudia Delso Carreira, counselor for participation in A Coruña, a city in the northern province of Galicia. (I met Claudia at a workshop on micropolitics held by a feminist collective in Barcelona a few years earlier. The book is forthcoming!) Historically, she said, A Coruña was a big party government – socialist (PSOE) for more than 30 years. Then a short period of coalition, which failed, then the right took power. Then we appeared – Marea Atlántica. We wrote a manifesto. We came into the streets, into the squares with a small piece of blue fabric and a microphone to share the question. The people took the mic and stated their concerns: “I want to change this in the neighborhood,” etc. It was really natural, really organic, without any kind of structure. After those kinds of meetings there arose in the neighborhoods groups we call mareas.
We called ourselves Marea Atlántica, something really charateristic, from our identity as a city on the Atlantic coast. A poet, Manuel Rivas, named us. The vocabulary of the marea is our own. “Marea” means tide, which is low and then high. We spoke of “buiding our own house.” We proposed the salary for elected people, and explained the kind of government we wanted. Now we are in it. Now we are it.
We invited people in the parties to join us but not as party members. Some came in, but not without tension. That really depends on the character of the person, how they deal.
There is no recipe of how to win elections or do municipalism. It is how we build the space – like standing up, speaking to you, to build another kind of situation. We walked, from 9am to 9pm. The media wasn't speaking about us, but the people were speaking about us. And that is how we won the election.
During the discussion session, a guy from Capetown asked, how do we organize across racial and class lines in the city.
In Barcelona, Claudia said, they made a map of classes and races in different neighborhoods. In A Coruña we have a favela (area of “informal settlement”) of gypsies from Portugal. We came to talk to them and said, “We have a common desire” that everyone can make their own solutions. Each person can really relate to that. (I'll note here that in addition to different theoretical orientations, the municipalists of Spain have a research-based approach to governance. They are well prepared for many problems by the time they enter the institutions of governance. This is because they are already working outside the institutions, so winning elections isn't a totalizing goal for them, without which they will have nothing, stop working and go home.)
A young man of color from Denmark said, We are organizing in peripheries of the city which are like asylum camps hidden away. These are racialized cities, like London.
In Madrid, said the rep from Ahora Madrid, the south is popular and the north is wealthy. This disparity has been increased over years by policy. We did maps of inequality, how money was put into one neighborhood rather than another. The north was cleaned more often than the south. So we took that question to the assemblies. We lost in the north, but won in the south, and also won in the center where gentrification and excessive tourism are issues.
Trina Turner from Stockton, California: Class is an issue. People aren't comfortable with one another, and don't know how to interact. “You have to be creative about how you put different classes together” so they can have conversations comfortably.
Woman from Budapest: We went to every door in our part of the city twice, 3,000 doors. We lost. The winner was a celebrity. But we got people who had never voted before. Even so, participation was only 17%. It was a poor district abandoned by the city, so people think this is no point. We continue now with small discussion circles around different topics.
Man from [Crowd?] party in Amsterdam: Geographic segregation of people in Amsterdam is strengthened by policies. Many narrow interest group parties rise up. No coalition seems possible. How do you combine when the city has a clear policy to segregate people?
An elderly woman from Vermont (part of the Bookchin contingent, his widow perhaps) said, “We came close to winning twice.” Now we try to have assemblies, planning assemblies, once a month. This starts with a community dinner. Within the assemblies we encourage people to discuss things as if they themselves were the legislators. Our candidates vowed to support only policies approved by the assemblies.
{This is classic libertarian municipalism. It's nothing like what the U.S. delegates I met have in mind. It would be a new political habit for them – or, as Fred Dewey has it, a very old one.)
A guy from Belgium also spoke about class and politics. Our working class candidates have been elected, but they have problems. The French language is used in the legislature, and lawyers are common there. Our representative was an electrician. He was laughed at, and when he voiced his concern about people unable to pay high electricity bills, he was referred to a social worker who might help him.
Later he explained he had been in the city council five years in opposition. “Don't only represent,” he said. Be part of the protest. Join the movement. “What happens in the city is more important than what happens in the council.”
A man from “Zagreb Is Us” platform in Serbia said their group came out of Reclaim the Streets mobilizations. They got going in a few months. They took four seats in the city parliament, two dozen in neighborhoods and 40 in local councils. Their city council members will rotate, so everyone gets to see how the system works, and get ready for the next election.
A man from Belgrade said that in opposing mega-developments their big problem was how to raise money. A woman from City is Ours in Warsaw said the same. How can we fund our campaigns? Our friends are not enough. In Poland political parties are funded, but we are an association and we don't want to change that.
Laura Berges from Comu de Lleida said they are doing a summer school, with workshops on law and bureaucracy as it affects neighborhoods.
A woman from (where?) said that their movement is voluntary. “Human resources are a huge problem.” Our activists in the institutions now have 60-hour-a-week workloads. “The movement is empty.” Dealing with the frustration of people expecting change is hard. We are always explaining to the neighbors why we can't do things.

* The speakers listed were not the speakers who presented. I regret I did not catch all the names, only the English ones I could get on the first pronunciation. I got almost none of the names or platforms during the Q&A.


Take Back the City

Aditya Chakrabortty, “For real politics, don’t look to parliament but to an empty London housing estate,” Guardian online, 23 September also followed the story closely

PDF of the book "Situating Ourselves in Displacement"
edited by Murmurae (Paula Cobo-Guevara and Manuela Zechner) and JOAAP (Marc Herbst)
Print edition forthcoming from Journal of Aesthetics and Protest Press

Nice blurb on Fred Dewey's book "School of Public Life"

Sunday, July 2, 2017

“Fearless Cities” in Barcelona, Arrival and Plenary (3)

Friday 9 June 2017 – Noon. I arrive in Barcelona on the excellent fast train, the AVE. I've had departure anxiety, but also renewed technical trouble – my phone is dead again, this time for real. [Later in Madrid the mainboard would be replaced.] A Berlin friend's belief that security state services were interfereing with him seems paranoid – but the “push button state” in an “era of smart devices” seems more or less possible, so I don't discount the possibility. “Aggressive” and “parasitic” are theoretical terms to describe contemporary capitalist forces and, like a well-embedded tick, they'll shift position with every effort to dislodge them. As to whether someone is fucking with me – I'll allow as I can make it hard on myself without too much assistance, and also there is just bad luck.

Friday 6pm – the event begins at the plaza in front of MACBA art museum – how I'd like to be inside! Such great exhibitions they do. Completing registration for Fearless Cities. Incommunicado, naturally. Wish I'd brought a MAGA hat! That'd show what are the stakes for us.
Chatting with a woman from NYU, Sophie Gonick, who did her PhD on PAH Madrid, and her MA thesis on the unincorporated part of Madrid, Cañada Real. From the stage the speaker calls both Brexit and Trump “hijos de miedo” – children of fear. NYU gal says the “Barcelona model” has obscured the municipalist experience of other Spanish cities. “Fear” is the theme of the conference opener here, with references to terrorism. Mayor of Madrid, Manuela Carmena speaks of the 2003 Atocha attack (by jihadi terrorists), and the recent conference on peace in Madrid.
Saturday morning – at a cafe beside the University of Barcelona, site of the conference on the first full day of proceedings. Last night spent a few moments with a contingent of San Francisco based Democratic Socialists. I was downbeat. They said, “There can be no municipalism without social movements.” If there aren't any, how do you do it? Synergy, which is already happening. Then met Miguel Martinez of our SqEK group, fresh from the conference at Klinika in Prague, and a cabal of women academics – one who worked on PAH Barcelona. I feel bad I was so pessimistic with the San Francisco folks. But the Democratic Socialists in Milwaukee appear really lame. “Each chapter is different,” he said, and in San Francisco they are politically engaged. (The Milwaukee Dem Socs are actually a 501-c3, i.e., a cultural organization which is prohibited by law from engaging in electoral political activity; that's ridiculous.) The Spanish model is not so easily replicable. Met also some church-ed guys from Philadelphia. (These folks later proved to be really powerful, from the PICO national network of progressive faith-based community organizations.) I told them I thought in the Midwest it was really only churches which could organize, in Milwaukee anyhow. I also put in a word for the IWW.
Gerardo Pisarello Prados, deputy to Mayor Ada Colau, law professor at University of Barcelona, speaking at the inaugural assembly

“Yes” they say some sessions will be recorded and available online. (I didn't believe it then; and haven't seen it subsequently.) Now, in the “Paranimfo of the Aula Magna,” a blisteringly over-determined space with enormous 19th century murals in oil of men in scenes of the colonial era. Speakers sit in a throne-like area beneath royal portraits, flanked by rows of chairs for cardinals and ministers. A small group just realized they could sneak into those – why not? To be closer to the speakers. (Later presentations had indeed, the “cardinals and ministers” of the BCN en comu and allies sitting in those seats, rather unconsciously fulfilling historic roles.)
Now the vice-mayor of Barcelona is speaking, Gerardo Pisarello. He references that bunch of “mayors from all over.” References political parties, etc., and the municipalist movement as “an embryo, a seed of democratic movement in this global moment as capitalism without limit is generating suffering and “a lot of fear” that people will lose their jobs, lose their homes. Insecurity. The reaction to fear is reaction. “Far right monsters” have emerged – Trump, Le Pen, Hungary's Jobbik party – proposing masculine authority, religious authority. The women's march in Washington, D.C., which was echoed globally, shows that we can provide security through “democratic radicalization.” Through a fight for our common goods we can generate new kinds of relationships, and provide spaces in governance more permeable to citizens. We are making laboratories of this kind of being. It is important to have these experiences in common at this conference because they are examples of change, of resistance.
Then Ana Mendes of Ahora Madrid spoke. I reported her remarks on the resistance of the structures of the adminstrative state in a previous blog post. (That's "BCN Muni 2: Theory, Practice, Theory.")
Then the head of feminism and international relations for Barcelona en Comú, Laura Pérez Castaño, told us we must fight, and fight also the resistances within ourselves. (These notes come directly from the ear-in English translator, so they're rough.) We are democratizing from a feminist point of view. “Feminizing” is the expression we use. This means an end to the traditional marginalization of women from the spaces of decision-making and power. We build a more plural executive in Barcelona en Comú. We seek how to reduce verticality, to foster collective knowledge. Men usually talk more, and seem to have more legitimacy. “Why are women not intervening?,” we ask. We also time them to try to reduce the differences. Also we question, Who are the experts? The know-how is in the assemblies, the districts. “Every neighbor is an expert in their neighborhood.” The third step is to foster co-responsibility in municipalism. This is our big problem now. We call it the consolidation. We change meeting times, provide play areas for kids so women can participate. We also use digital participation, and equalize data about public uses. For example, in public transport “mobility has an agenda.” We try to design based on diverse needs, especially for migrant women. We work in the area of cultural policy for people traditionally excluded from telling their stories. We do “gender diagnosis” and “intersectional praxis,” not to control but to improve, to try to make things more fair and equal.
Marina Vicen, counsellor in Torrelodones, Madrid province, presents in Barcelona

A speaker from the Netherland women's march, Tammy Sheldon told us Women's March is a movement! We opposed not Trump but any system that would allow a sexual predator to become its leader. How the marches felt was pushing back against the hateful rhetoric of the right. We need international outreach. We need it so we can share “municipalistic moments.” She spoke of the dynamics of late evening meetings of women. Then she called for a round of applause for the childcare which is helping us to be here.
Marcelo Expósito, a Podemos deputy in congress from Barcelona said, We are proud to inherit the political heritage of Barcelona, especially the Raval district where our meetings began. We will not allow the system to commit crimes against the people. We bring an ethic of care to local government. Neoliberalism is exploiting and destroying these networks of care. We want to build cities of care. “We have to gather what is most beautiful” from the movements of the past and use them now to build local counter-powers for good government. We recognize peoples' fear but we cannot let it drive them. “Vamos a las mesas!” – to work.

RECENT TEXTS posted on the "Fearless Cities" conference:

Barcelona urban planning: a look at everyday life, by Gerardo Santos

These Cities Might Just Save the Country: Dispatches from the Urban Resistance, from Atlantic City to Miami Beach, June 30, 2017, by Jimmy Tobias
possible paywall

In Barcelona, the ‘Fearless Cities’ gathering brings together progressive councils for pro-people alternatives Enric Barcena, posted July 1, 2017, Green Left Weekly issue number 1143