2011-05-20 #Spanishrevolution continues, spokesperson says "we are creating a different way of participating democratically in our economic, political and social life" #acampadasol #democraciarealya

WLCentral will be providing coverage from Spain on the ongoing #spanishrevolution, happening now in over eighty cities, inside and outside Spain, with thousands of people camped out claiming the streets. Contact us at @wikileaks_world or wikileaksworld@wikileaksworld.org to help us with footage, information and opinion.15MayRevolution.com provides information in English about the 15M movement. An updated agenda of protests around the world can be found here.

In the Puerta del Sol, Madrid, the 15May movement is getting stronger every day. And more organized too. On Friday the police estimated that 25 thousand people were there at the same time, at around 8:00 PM, at the beginning of the daily protest. Some neighbours argued that the square at full capacity can hold more than 30 thousand people, and not only was the square full, but the streets around it were also crowded. Adding up, it is fair to say that well over 60 thousand people have passed through the camp throughout the whole day, where they could participate in debates, paint signs, volunteer for work, ask for information on the movement, sign petitions of various kinds or just relax in the rest area. There is a free restaurant, a nursery and even a library where visitors are encouraged to pass the day in the independent city in the middle of Madrid.


The tents now cover a very large area, giving shade from the sun and allowing thousands of signs, made by everyone who wants to leave a message of indignation, support or plain humour, to be hung from the threads supporting the plastic sheets. The fact is that because this movement is so heterogenous everyone has their own voice and can express it however they feel like. The whole square, buildings included, and the streets around it have been reclaimed by the people staying or just passing by. All ads and political propaganda have been covered by thousands of signs reading different messages and slogans written by anonymous people. Even though the messages are lost in their own abundance, they form a strange whole that leaves visitors awestruck. Through their messages it is clear that the citizens of the camp and their supporters all have a common set of enemies, they know what they don’t want. Some messages are repeated, for example, “this is not a party, respect the revolution” can be read dozens of times, in small handwriting on pieces of paper and in a huge banner hung on the balcony of a collaborative neighbour. There are drawings, digital designs, collages or just plain messages: “I’m not so young but I’m still here” or “behind each corrupt politician lie six talk-show hosts”. However, when a sign is hung that does not represent the masses, they boo it off until it is taken down.

During the early hours of the morning, when the camp comes to life, breakfast is served for the campers: milk, hot chocolate, cookies and “porras” (a typical Spanish breakfast) are distributed for free. The only thing that is not scarce is the food, all of it donated by neighbors (mostly old grannies). Announcements are made and the order of the day is read out through the intricate set of speakers placed around the camp. The first assemblies start and, while most young people are still asleep, the older citizens and participants of the collective share the microphone to speak. “My name is Pedro and I am eighty years old”, said a man, visibly moved during his turn in the 10:00 am meeting, “I have been doing this since the 1960s, and seeing all of you here makes me proud and willing to keep on fighting for what I think is fair”. His speech was answered by a unanimous round of applause. Another old man took his place in the middle and read his own manifesto nervously, claiming for reform and a new idea of democracy, and then the microphone was handed over sistematically to other hands.

Meanwhile, bordering the circle, hundreds of people walked by, listening, some staying, others moving on to other parts of the camp, all of them fascinated and awake in a new way. The whole atmosphere is politically charged in a sense that is completely new to most of the people present, this is because they really feel as if they are participating in building a new future for themselves, something that cannot be achieved through the present system. At this point, even if the whole movement collapses, the seed of active citizenship has been planted in the heads of thousands of people passing through Sol, as well as in those that are camping in other cities of Spain or abroad.

At 6:00 pm the General Assembly starts, where matters of general interest are voted on by consensus. On Friday, for example, the Assembly decided that a sociology team would start analyzing and collecting data, so as to present a view of the movement from the inside (they may need it later to contrast with other independent or biased analysis). It also approved a movement of decentralization from the square: the smaller assemblies, dedicated to pragmatic issues such as policy making, would meet in surrounding squares and the camp would extend it’s borders. It also decided that on Saturday, the eve of election day, the major protest would be held, and because of the risk of police intervention the security measures were reminded and ratified by consensus. These included the pacifist motto of non-aggression that is vital to the movement, where the people are supposed to hold hands in chains and if attacked will proceed to sit on the floor and act passively. “Our biggest strength lies in our voices and our peaceful hands”, reminded the moderator. When the assembly dissolves everybody gets back to work in their different commissions, sometimes smaller groups remain and debate about whatever subject is raised.

At 8:00 pm the daily protest begins and thousands of people stream into Sol. Here is when the fun starts and people bearing their banners chant the now common hymns: “they call it democracy but it’s not” (lo llaman democracia y no lo es). There are hundreds of people playing drums, trumpets and other instruments, singing and dancing in celebration, doing something actively and with joy. During this ceremony I interviewed one of the official spokespeople of the movement, who was trained in special courses that took place during the first days of the camp, for people willing to attend to the media:

[This interview is a transcript from a recording I made, some parts could not be deciphered because of the background noise]

Please, tell us your name and how you came to be here.

My name is Leopoldo Camacho, I've lived in Madrid for many years and I think I got here in the same way as most of us, after a public protest was called for because of a growing feeling of social discontent.

I’ve been following the development of this movement from the beginning and I’ve noticed that the people here are very individualistic and therefore sensible to anything that resembles normal political practice, for example, flags or visible leadership. Because of this, and the way it has come to be organized, many believe it is already a success, however, in your opinion, what would be more of a pragmatic sucess, such as in direct reforms?

There is a long series of proposals for direct reform, it is not an empty movement nor is it made up of a purely rethoric discourse. In every assembly these claims are discussed and ratified when a consensus is reached. This process is ongoing. Some of them are already official, for example, we ask for the repeal of the Ley Sinde [a law recently passed to tighten government control on the Internet, Wikileaks cables reveal pressure from the U.S. on behalf of it’s corporations, to have this law passed, as they saw Spain as a piracy hotspot]; the rejection of the new pensions law, that has delayed the age of retirement yet again; we also ask for effective financial regulation; a necessary reform of the electoral law, that benefits the current two party system; a change in immigration laws under the principle that no person is ilegal. If you ask what would be a practical achievement, well, if we could get any of these proposals heard and accepted we would consider our campaign a success.

Taking into account that there will be general elections in Spain in eight months, do you think that there is a chance that a legitimated political platform could emerge from this movement?
Evidently, the only way that could happen is if a political party would be formed, but this won’t happen here because there is no intention for it to happen.

Well, that is my point completely, because it seems logical to think that the only way to get these claims turned into real reforms is to participate politically... In other words, wow do you intend to achieve these goals?

This is precisely what is being discussed in the assemblies right now, the course of action is being decided democratically. We need to make another way, because the way of doing things in our current society needs to change radically, and we are showing our fellow citizens that a different course of action is needed. It really is all about creating a different way of participating democratically in our economic, political and social life. We do not aspire to be a political party because we reject political clasification, just like the EZLN in Mexico[Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional] has rejected being called a political party, even though they practice politics. The outcome of this will be outside that logic and therefore cannot be understood in terms of elections.

Given that this is a Spanish movement, happening in many cities inside and outside the country, not only in Sol, do you think these movements can merge together into one form of popular will? What role is the Internet playing?

Right now the tools are being created for a popular forum on the Net. Our web page [www.tomalaplaza.net] is fully operational and we and other parts of the movement are present in many social networking sites that are promoting dialogue and consensus. There is a new space being created that needs a new idea of citizenship. Now we have all those tools and we are using them in the best way we can.

Could you give us details on how the camp organized itself?

Let’s see, everything we have done is out of plain common sense, something we feel is influencing everything we are doing. If, for example, you need to build tents because it’s raining, then you create an infrastrcutre commission that will be in charge of building them, as well as setting up basic things such as sound systems, tables etc. Because the press neeeded to talk with us, an external communications commission was created and spokespeople like myself were prepared for the task. When all these commissions are created and located in different tents, then you make a map, it’s all common sense.

So it is something that is being generated spontaneously...

No, I don’t think that is a good word to describe it. Spontaneous means that there is nothing behind it, that it just happens, and in this case it’s just plain common sense that meets needs we encounter: if it gets dirty we need a cleaning team, for example, and after it is ratified by the General Assembly then the team is made.

So, finally, how does the General Assembly work? What is it’s relationship with the other, smaller assemblies?

Well, the smaller ones have internal coordination rules that make them different. They have a more pragmatic focus, for example, creating policies for a given area, such as Health or Environmental policies. In the General Assembly internal affairs are organized, things such as the creation of new commissions or security protocols. It serves the puropse of reaching a larger consensus for problems concerning self-government.

[End of transcript]

Leopoldo is not Spanish, and I didn’t ask him where he comes from because here, it is not that important. As the night slowly went by, the citizens of the square began falling into sleep. Tents and mattresses were given out to groups, as well as cardboard boxes to put on the floor. The celebration went on well into the morning, the drums played on until 8:00 am and the cleaning team started work, making sure the area was left clean and well kept, they dont wan’t to give the politicians they are fighting any excuse, besides, Saturday is a big day.