Monday, October 23, 2017

Not “Seeing like a State” and a talk about Our Press at MAC 3 (4th post)

"Mutaciones, Proyecciones, Alternativas y Confluencias 15M" (2014) legible at:

Preliminary theoretical excursus:
In a review of recent books on the Anthropocene, Benjamin Kunkel writes: “No collective actor can be conjured from a name, and the literature of the Anthropocene so far fails to identify any historical process that might combine with moral exhortation to produce a borderless social movement in which human beings throughout the world effect their ecological solidarity as a political force.” Who could this “collective actor” be? A Comintern? An NGO? (Greenpeace is pretty good.) Apparently, a decentred movement is not good enough. Is it disingenuous to believe in a leaderless global movement?
Not according to Amador Fernández-Savater. Rather than thinking like 1919, he emphasizes the "everyday places of experience" we each inhabit within the present planet-destroying processes of hyper capitalism. “Neoliberalism is in fact a co-production." This is not a personal responsibility one small step argument. For Fernández-Savater it's another stage of politics, a part in a "multilayered and multichanneled revolution." The change we want to see follows “'a strategy without strategists'. No one directs it according to a plan, they are practices that multiply and spread by imprinting, via intensification, a new global direction to reality, effects 'without an author'.”
Amador Fernández-Savater; standing before what looks like a plastic ribbon divider at CSA Tabacalera

Still, there is that anxiety, like that behind Kunkel's text. That same anxiety had me carrying a small UN flag during one of the first marches in NYC after 9/11. I strongly felt this now weird-seeming delusion that a conclave of nationalistically self-interested monkeys would somehow put in the fix, and restrain the enraged gorilla. Ha.
The municipalist idea runs against the grain of statist anxiety. That is the fear that localist movements will destabilize the nation state, and with it the global order. It is why the Catalan independence ruckus has unnerved so many. There are good reasons to try to cut free of stifling federalist regimes entrained to the neoliberal order. And indeed there are translocal municipal movements, networking more and more each day, which are dedicated to the radical participation of citizens — or simply inhabitants, regardless of legal status. The activists of municipalism argue that the global challenges of corporate and state domination depend on “local anchors” that can be contested. (I paraphrase Romy Krämer's report on the June '17 “Fearless Cities” meet in Barcelona which I attended and blogged here.)

How? Listen....
As is clear from the above, to do effective political work now it is important to change habits of mind, habits that bind us to older formations, which like waterlogged wreckage from the totalizing shipwreck we are in the middle of, are dragging us down into the suffocating deeps of nowhere.
Changing habits of mind, finding the new place from which to move politically, begins with listening to what others have to say, to what they feel is important. It probably means listening to those with whom you disagree, including those you don't even want to hear. Listening is a skill refined by the political audio art sound collective Ultra-red. They have published on this: “Some theses on militant sound investigation, or, listening for a change” (2008).
Here it is certain that the most careful political work being done on intersubjectivities is by feminists. The agenda of the feminist meetings at MAC 3 are described in this text on “Municipalisms, economies and feminism” – they are all plural. We are many and all different.
Ultra-red, "What is the Sound of Freedom?" at the Whitney Museum NYC in 2012

Back to the Meetings
The journalism group met at the headquarters of Marea Atlantica. It's a lovely modernist glass-cube building overlooking the Plaza of Humor – which is exactly what it sounds. We looked down from the second floor meeting room on a concrete plaza inscribed with cartoon characters, historical caricatures, and the like. The plaza features comical bronze busts, and two granite benches with carved figures of Galicia's most famous caricaturists sprawled on them.
A mini-bookshop was set up in the lobby, with books and DVDs. I noted many familiar authors: four volumes of Emanuel Wallenstein's treatise on world systems, essays by Rosa Luxembourg, works by David Harvey, bell hooks, Angela Davis, Silvia Federici, Yanis Varoufakis – and DVDs of the Yes Men, the French TAV occupation, the Danish “youth house” squat Ungdomshuset, one on the Sanfermines of 1978, a violent police riot in Pamplona during the transition period, etc.
Locations, libraries and artworks I can describe. With the conference talks I get only the gist of it. Basically the meet was was concerned with the communications efforts made in support of the municipalist candidatures and platforms.
Seated granite artist at Plaza de Humor

Media workers in several cities spoke of their experiences and perceptions.The moderator was from El Salto periodical. Issues of the magazine covered the book table, and this successor to the periodical Diagonal was a frequent reference in the talks. It is the Spanish left media, especially for this movement. The question concerned precisely media strategy for the short, medium and long term. Elections are coming up in 2019, and several of the municipalist platforms have experienced big lossses. They have many enemies – not onlyt he right wing, which pounces on every mistake the munis make (and being young, ideological, and inexperienced in electoral politics they make many), and generalize them as characteristic of the movement itself. (One young elected's anti-clerical call for an end to public subsidies for the centuries-old religious processions in one city is a classic example, and provided the right with dirt for a year.) But the munis also face opposition from the PSOE (socialists, i.e. liberals) and IU (united left), potential allies. They are all competing for votes, and the state resources that come with them.
The moderator was from El Salto – I recalled him from another Instituto DM meeting recently in San Fernando de Henares, where the town is confronting the imminent opening of an enormous garbage dump (a macrovertedero). He described the workshop as a continuation of the work from MAK 2, in Pamplona. “We are a diverse group, from places big and small, and all looking forward to the 2019 elections.”
The audience was about 30, but swelled in time to 40. Not all were journalists – many were interested political activists. Ana from Madrid described her group as volunteers, sort of autonomous, basically promoting positive things about Ahora Madrid, doing publicity and defending them when they are attacked. They also do “electoral marketing.” This kind of media unit seems almost quaint compared to the phalanxes of 'high-powered media consultants' in the USA, the technicians who engineer our elections.
Hector of Sevilla described the problem of being “invisibilized” by large media groups. “We use humor in short videos,” he said, emulating the U.S. Yes Men. (Their strategy is imposture of government and corporate spokespeople.) These videos make fun of the false statements of politicians and newspapers. They rely on alternative media like Diagonal, and now El Salto for information.
Sante of Ahora Málaga, the home of the Casa Invisible social center, reported that the PP right-wing mayor is “adored.” They try then to point to the many incidents of corruption and conflicts of interest. The turistification of the city and the expulsion of residents from social housing is an enormous problem in Málaga, even more than in Barcelona. The tenants have mounted a strong campaign. Ahora Málaga prints a paper which lampoons the format of another. Many experts, architects and such, want to write for them. A man from Pamplona in Basque country where the party Bildu is in control reported that they started a blog with various lines of work. They try to articulate positions and start “communicative structures.”
A Barcelona man spoke of their use of social media. Twitter, Facebook, memes on WhatsApp – “we experiment a lot.” Their enemies, of course, have more money, and use the micro-targeting techniques on social media which were so successful in the Trump campaign. They are also experimenting with “deliberative platforms” – the subject of technopolitics will be discussed in tomorrow's meeting. (As I wrote, HackFest 2017 was underway in La Ingobernable social center in Madrid [#Hackmeeting17], and Medialab Prado is getting ready for a weeks-long vetted workshop on exactly this kind of citizen participation platforms.) With these platforms, he said, citizens can create counter-power, and engage in citizen journalism.
After a coffee break, one man laid out statistics on media viewership so – where people get their information – so that we may understand “the machine that confronts us.” A woman from Santander, where the munis are very much in the minority, said they rely on concrete actions like discussions and book talks as tools of mobilization in a kind of cultural intellectual campaign.
Another man quoted revered Galician experimental writer Valle-Inclan, and said it was better to experiment and risk failure than simply to lament the lack of money to implement conventional strategies. The Basque man regretted the lack of self-esteem in the discussion. “We have done well so far.” Sante said early mistakes, like nominating our friends for electoral office, and stupid statements, provided fuel for enemies, and will haunt the movement well into the future.

Next: Technopolitics and Social Centers


Benjamin Kunkel, “The Capitalocene” London Review of Books, 2 March 2017

Notes for a Non-Statocentric Politics by Amador Fernández-Savater • 21 April 2014

Romy Krämer, “The Birth of a Translocal Movement,” n.d., posted June 2017

Ultra-red, “Five Protocols for Organized Listening,” 2012

Ultra-red, “Some theses on militant sound investigation, or, listening for a change,” 2008

“Municipalisms, economies and feminism” – in Spanish: Coordinadora en Clave Feminista MAC3, "Municipalismo, economía y feminismos," October 2017

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