Sunday, April 23, 2023
More Police, Less Music? “I See That, and Raise You a Marble”
When does the left become really dangerous? When it starts being interesting and exciting, when it starts to stimulate the imagination in ways threatening to the system. “That’s when I reach for my revolver”…
I’ve been trying to process the Italian experience I’ve recently undergone in Venice and Milan, and to panic-organize for Milwaukee this August, and with all that – and the Covid interregnum – I’ve lost touch completely with Madrid’s social center action.
So, when a great event at a place I know popped up on some social media feed, I rushed out of the house. It headed to the social center ESLA Eko in the barrio Carabanchel for the climax event of a week-long electronic music festival, “Sync! 2023”.
Closing day program of the Sync! festival at ESLA Eko
Instagram: @sync_npc // Festival de música electrónica de Carabanchel. 13, 15, 20, 21 y 22 de Abril en E.S.L.A EKO y Nodo de Producción de Carabanchel.
It looked to be great, the many rooms of the enormous Eko social center would be occupied by sound artists and musicians. All of it put together by a group called Nodo Produccion Carabanchel.
So I’m out of the metro and heading towards Eko around 6pm, and I meet a comrade on the street. She’s part of a large crowd heading away from the event back towards the metro.
“Eko has been evicted!” she says. “WTF?! But that’s a building owned by a union! They can’t have asked for that.”
I arrive, and a gaggle of municipal poli are alongside the front, lights flashing. A few of the event organizers, one wearing the event t-shirt, are out front. I start to ask, What’s going on? No one wants to tell me.
“It’s closed now. You can come back tomorrow and drink a beer here.”
“I didn’t come across town to drink a beer, thank you.”
A senior among the officers salutes me. I return his salute – “A mistake,” my ever-critical friend tells me later. “They will think you are with the police.”
When I’ve obviously attracted police attention, I don’t want any further encounter. I’m not a Spanish citizen.
It’s unclear why this event was closed – noise complaints, over-capacity, an allegation of rape. The organizers wouldn’t talk to me.
“Of course it was closed,” says Ms. Critica, “they need permits to do an event like that.”
“But it’s a fucking okupa! They never have permits! This is outrageous!”
There is nothing online yet about why this happened. There may never be anything. But when I look for that report – se = “festival de musica cerrado por la policia en Carabanchel” on Bing, I see the police have been closing down festival events in Carabanchel for years, starting in 1976.
At least I’ve found the group who organized this now. And it seems somehow urgent to talk to them soon. These folks are lineal descendants of the Vaciadoros, the group whose fiesta Bernardo Gutierrez described in his book "Pasado Mańana. Viaje a la España del cambio" (Arpa Editores, 2017).
A young anarcist artisan writes on her Instagram, in a passage that could have come from Bernardo’s book:
“I'm excited because things are moving in Madrid… From the transformation of @eko_carabanchel into an increasingly self-sufficient space, from which to do endless things on the sidelines of the system, both in values and structures (as in many other self-managed spaces); to ‘The Carabanchel Production Node’ and ‘The Social Currency the Marble [la canica].’
“As a libertarian communist (anarchist) that I am, this is not exactly the end I aspire to, as I do not believe in any concept of "money", however, I currently continue to live in the Madrid-Matrix, and within that context, I find alternatives necessary and great. I will talk more in depth about these projects. But the key is that they are horizontal, self-managed production and consumption networks by us ourselves, with firm values and practices alternative to slavery and exploitation.
“For example, last year I used to go a lot to the vegan pizzeria of @sr.boniato [Mr. Sweet Potato], in which I paid in "marbles", a virtual currency of our network. I used to get the marbles selling my crafts made from recycled material.
“We now have a new venue, with kitchen, ovens, workshop, tools and collectibles.. and lots of projects, of all kinds, about to start. It's time to get serious about self-management, from farm production to city life.. You can find more info by looking on the Internet about the Carabanchel Node, the Social Currency La Canica, the ESLA eko…”
--#kristinakokoro on Instagram / machine translation
Photo by #kristinakokoro
So, while the institutional movement towards a realistic future has taken a nose-dive under the current right-wing provincial and municipal administration, and social centers in Madrid have been evicted en masse, there remain burning embers of futuristic hope and striving. Not to sound like a Pollyanna, but we are not all the way down here yet.
Speaking of Bernardo, although he has moved on to other things, he is proud to note on his website that he worked on this book. It’s a token of all that the current mayoral administration has destroyed in its return to the mercantile, its neoliberal absolutism: “The Laboratory of Collective Intelligence for Participatory Democracy (2016-2019) is a project that arose out of Medialab Prado in coordination with the Government Area of Citizen Participation, Transparency and Open Government of the city of Madrid. Its work has been very connected with the analysis, reflection and innovation found on the digital participation platform Decide Madrid. The project has also organised many workshops and conferences that have brought together hundreds of people from the world of participatory democracy. This publication summarises the project’s core working principles as well as the open activities it has hosted over the course of these three years. These pilot experiences offer a possible vision of the future of democratic governance.”
– Future Democracies: Laboratory of Collective Intelligence for Participatory Democracy (2019)
The social center La Ingobernable, across the plaza was evicted by the right-wing mayoralty soon after their election. Very soon thereafter, the Medialab Prado was dissolved, er, or “relocated” far from the center of the city. I spoke to a worker there who said the staff had been reduced from 15 to 3. Needless to say, there will be no more conferences on the future of democracy.
The end of a festival? The festival is just beginning.
e.s.l.a. EKO – Espacio Sociocultural Liberado Autogestionado
La Canica, la moneda anarquista de Madrid
Future Democracies ; Laboratory of Collective Intelligence for Participatory Democracy (2019)