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By Josep Maria Antentas and Esther Vivas
The dynamism, spontaneity and momentum of today's protests are the strongest since the emergence of the anti-globalization movement for more than a decade. It seeks to place itself in the wake of movements as disparate as the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia or the victory in Iceland, placing its mobilization in a general combat against global capitalism and the servile political elite.
There are no longer doubts. The wind that has electrified the Arab world in recent months, the spirit of the repeated protests in Greece, of the student struggles in Great Britain and Italy, of the anti-Sarkozy mobilizations in France… has reached the Spanish State.
These, then, are not business days as usual. The comfortable mercantile routines of our "market democracy" and its electoral and media rituals have been abruptly altered by the unforeseen irruption in the street and the public space of citizen mobilization. This "rebellion of the indignant @ s" worries the political elites, always uncomfortable when the population takes democracy seriously ... and decides to start practicing it on their own.
Two and a half years ago, when the crisis that erupted in September 2008 rose to historic proportions, the "masters of the world" experienced a brief moment of panic, alarmed by the magnitude of a crisis they had not foreseen, due to their lack of instruments. theorists to understand it and for fear of a strong social reaction. Then came the empty proclamations of the “re-founding of capitalism” and the false mea culpa that gradually evaporated, once the financial system had been propped up and in the absence of a social outbreak.
The social reaction has been slow in coming. Since the outbreak of the crisis, social resistance has been weak. There has been a very large bias between the discrediting of the current economic model and its translation into collective action. It is explained by various factors, in particular fear, resignation in the face of the current situation, skepticism regarding unions, the absence of political and social referents, and the penetration of individualistic and consumerist values among wage earners.
The current outbreak does not, however, start from scratch. Years of small-scale work by alternative networks and movements, initiatives and resistance with a more limited impact have kept the flame of response in this difficult period. The 29S also opened a first breach, although the subsequent demobilization of the CCOO and UGT leaderships and the unpresentable signing of the social pact closed the path of union mobilization and, if possible, deepened even more the discredit and discredit of the majority unions among combative youth and who now star in the camping.
Indignant and outraged!
The "outrage" so in vogue throughout Hessel's pamphlet is one of the driving ideas that define the ongoing protests. It reappears like this, under another form, the "Ya Basta!" chanted by the Zapatistas in their uprising on January 1, 1994, then the first revolt against the "new world order" proclaimed by George Bush Sr. after the first Gulf War, the disintegration of the USSR and the fall of the Berlin Wall.
“The outrage is a start. You get indignant, you get up and then you see, ”said Daniel Bensaïd. Little by little, however, it has gone from discomfort to indignation and from that to mobilization. We are facing a true “mobilized indignation”. From the earthquake of the crisis, the tsunami of social mobilization begins to emerge.
To fight not only requires discomfort and indignation, it is also necessary to believe in the usefulness of collective action, that it is possible to win and that all is not lost before starting. For years the social movements in the Spanish State have essentially known defeats. The lack of victories that show the usefulness of social mobilization and raise expectations of what is possible has weighed heavily on the slow initial reaction to the crisis.
This is precisely where the great contribution of the revolutions in the Arab world to the ongoing protests comes in. They show that collective action is useful, that "it can be done." Hence, these, like the less media victory against the bankers and the political class in Iceland, have been a reference from the beginning for the protesters and activists.
Along with the conviction that “it is possible”, that things can be changed, the loss of fear, in a moment of crisis and difficulties, is another key factor. "Without fear" is precisely one of the slogans that have been felt the most these days. Fear still grips a great majority of workers and popular sectors and this gives rise to passivity or xenophobic and unsupportive reactions. But the M15 mobilization and the encampments spread like an oil slick a powerful antidote to the fear that threatens to dismantle the schemes of a ruling elite at the head of an increasingly delegitimized system.
The 15M movement and the camping trips have an important generational component. As every time a new cycle of struggles breaks out, a new militant generation emerges with force, and the “youth” as such acquires visibility and prominence. Although this generational and youth component is fundamental, and is also expressed in some of the organized movements that have had visibility these days as “Youth Without a Future”, it should be noted that the ongoing protest is not a generational movement. It is a movement of criticism of the current economic model and of the attempts that the crisis is paid by workers with a fundamental weight of youth. The challenge is precisely that, as on so many occasions, youth protest acts as a trigger and catalyst for a wider cycle of social struggles.
The anti-globalization spirit back
The dynamism, spontaneity and momentum of today's protests are the strongest since the emergence of the anti-globalization movement for more than a decade. Internationally erupted in November 1999 in the protests in Seattle during the WTO summit (although its antecedents go back to the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas in 1994), the anti-globalization wave quickly reached the Spanish state. The consultation for the abolition of the foreign debt in March 2000 (held on the same day as the general elections and whose holding was prohibited in several cities of the State by the Electoral Board) and the strong mobilization to participate in the Prague counter-summit in September 2000 against the World Bank and the IMF were the first signs of the start, particularly in Catalonia. But its massification and expansion would come with the mobilizations against the World Bank summit in Barcelona on June 22 and 24, 2001, whose tenth anniversary is about to be fulfilled. Just ten years later we witness the birth of a movement whose energy, enthusiasm and collective strength we have not seen since. So this will not be a nostalgic tenth anniversary. Quite the opposite. We are going to celebrate it with the birth of a new movement.
The assemblies these days in Plaza Catalunya (and, without a doubt, in all the camping trips that run through the State, starting with Sol in Madrid) have given us priceless moments, of those that happen every long time and that mark a before and after in the biographical trajectories of those who participate in them and in the dynamics of social struggles. The 15M and the camping are authentic "founding struggles" and clear symptoms that we are witnessing a change in the cycle and that the wind of rebellion is blowing again. Finally. A true "Tahrir generation" emerges, as did a "Seattle generation or" Genoa generation "before.
As the “anti-globalization” impulse traveled the globe, following the official summits in Washington, Prague, Québec, Goteborg, Genoa or Barcelona, thousands of people identified with these protests and a great diversity of groups from all over the planet They had the sensation of being part of the same movement, of the same “people”, the “people of Seattle” or of “Genoa”, of sharing common goals and feeling part of the same struggle.
The current movement is also inspired by the most recent and important international references of struggles and victories. Within the Spanish state itself, the 15M demonstrations and now the encampments, in a simultaneous example of decentralization and coordination, draw a shared identity and a symbolic community of belonging.
The anti-globalization movement had in its ascent phase in the spotlight the international institutions, WTO, World Bank and IMF and multinational firms. Later, with the beginning of the "global war on terrorism" proclaimed by Bush Jr., criticism of the war and imperialist domination acquired centrality. The current movement places on the axis of criticism a political class, whose complicity and servitude before the economic powers has been more exposed than ever. "We are not merchandise in the hands of politicians and bankers" read one of the main slogans of 15M. Thus, frontal criticism of the political class and professional politics and criticism, not always well articulated and coherent, of the current economic model and financial powers are linked. "Capitalism? Game over ”.
Towards the future
The future of the 15M movement is unpredictable. In the short term, the first challenge is to continue expanding the ongoing camping trips, start them up in cities where there are still none, and ensure that, at least, they continue until Sunday 22. Nobody is aware that the days of the 21st reflection, and on the 22nd, the day of the elections, will be decisive. In these two days the massification of the camping is essential.
It is also necessary to consider new mobilization dates, in the wake of 15M, to continue maintaining the pulse. The main challenge is to maintain this simultaneous dynamic of expansion and radicalization of protest that we have experienced in recent days. And, in the specific case of Catalonia, seek synergies between radicalism and the desire for system change expressed in the 15M and in the camping trips, with the struggles against social cuts, particularly in health and education. The Plaza Catalunya campsite has already become a meeting point, a powerful magnet, for many of the most dynamic fighting sectors. It is about turning it into a meeting point for resistance and struggles, which allows building bridges, facilitating dialogues, and strongly promoting future mobilizations. Establishing alliances between the ongoing protests, between unorganized activists, and alternative unionism, the neighborhood movement, neighborhood collectives ... is the great challenge of the coming days.
"The revolution begins here ..." we chanted yesterday in Plaza Catalunya. Well, at least what begins is a new cycle of struggles. What there is no doubt about is that, more than a decade after the rise of the anti-globalization movement and two years after the outbreak of the crisis, social protest has returned to stay.
Josep Maria Antentas, Professor of Sociology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) - Esther alive, Center for Studies on Social Movements (CEMS) of the Pompeu Fabra University (UPF) - Both are authors of Global Resistances. From Seattle to the Wall Street Crisis (Editorial Popular, 2009) and participants in the Plaza Catalunya camping trip
See online: http://esthervivas.wordpress.com/
May 20, 2011- http://www.cadtm.org/