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.
“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.
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
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