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The #SpanishRevolution discussed at IN3, Barcelona

June 15, 2011

Quick notes in preparation for a discussion that will use an op-ed by Manuel Castells, one blog post by Pedro Silverio Moreno, and two other short pieces, as a springboard for discussion on the social movements related to 15-M and the acampadas in Spain. Special thanks once again to Alec Gershberg for getting this session under way.

Time and location: Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3), Open University of Catalonia (UOC), Open Source Room on the 7 Floor MediaTIC building, Roc Boronat 117, Barcelona. Miercoles el 15 de Junio 13h – 14:30h

1) #Wikiacampadas Es una nueva política para salir de la crisis hacia un nuevo modo de vida construido colectivamente Artículos | 28/05/2011 – 03:31h Manuel Castells Manuel Castells


  • Electoral slogans rang hollow as Spain approached 22 May municipal elections; new platforms emerged from the internet to demand an ‘ethical revolution’ that will end the present two-party system and its subordination to global corporate capitalism, incl. and Democracia Real Ya
  • Not the usual suspects, see Flickr photos on for examples of diversity
  • Leaderless movement – those who tried to stick out their head quickly de-authorised by the camp; each person represents his or herself
  • Intense debates, dynamic organisation around thematic, autonomous committees coordinated through an inter-committee whose members rotate
  • After the elections, the movement became more widespread, concrete and deep. Increased attention paid to elaborating concrete objectives, e.g. AcampadaSol: to strip political class of its privileges; better distribution of available work; no increase of retirement age whilst there is youth unemployment; right to a home…
  • Alongside these concrete goals there is utopianism, but what’s really transformative is the process not the product [my emphasis]
  • Those who play down these wikicamps don’t yet understand their depth; Spaniards have discovered new ways of organisation, participation and mobilisation that cannot be contained within traditional institutions.

2) Understanding ‘Spanishrevolution’ Pedro Silverio Moreno, 23 May 2011

  • Parallels between Spanish and Arab uprisings overstated – key difference is that the aim in Spain is a more participatory and direct democracy
  • Since financial collapse Spanish people looking for alternatives to present two-party system
  • Roots of 15-M movement in anti-piracy legislation (Ley Sinde) which Wikileaks revealed to have been cooked up by the US Embassy and Spain’s culture minister
  • Democracia Real Ya initially dismissed by mainstream media and major parties
  • Camps’ organisation is striking: akin to kibbutzim – communitarian sharing + consensual agreement
  • Slogans not directed at any political leader in particular but rather focussed on lack of citizen participation in political decision-making and ‘market tyranny over the entire political class’ [my emphasis].
  • Peaceful movement
  • Big challenge: ‘what demands to cohere around’.
  • Conservative Party (PP) wrong if they think protests targetted PM Zapatero, not entire system.

3) Austerity in southern Europe. Spain’s cry of pain: How to get the protesters out of the plazas and into jobs, May 26th 2011, The Economist | from the print edition

  • Better parallel than Arab spring or May 1968 in Paris: anti-political protests in Argentina 2001-2: “kick all the bums out” (que se vayan todos).
  • Protests may prevent politicians from thankless job of saving Spain from economic stagnation and payment default
  • Protests more a mood than a message
  • Two main strands to discontent that politicians should heed: (a) politicians and media out of touch and self-interested; electoral reform needed; (b) two-tier labour market bolstered by trade unions is fine for those with permanent jobs but leaves youth and jobless out in the plazas.
  • Zapatero and likely successor, Rajoy, need bold, export-driven way out of economic morass, or the protestors will be back

4) lyrics to the song “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” by the recently deceased Gil Scott-Heron:

Wikipedia: “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” is a poem and song by Gil Scott-Heron. Scott-Heron first recorded it for his 1970 album Small Talk at 125th and Lenox,…. In 2010, the New Statesman listed it as one of the “Top 20 Political Songs”.[1]

You will not be able to stay home, brother.
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and drop out.
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip,
Skip out for beer during commercials
Because the revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be televised…

Quick comments

  • I find myself facing epistemic schizophrenia over the #SpanishRevolution: on the one hand, having had direct contact with the movement I have become a political zombie – i.e. I have joined thousands of other who were until recently politically dead and today have taken the squares and the hashtags not quite knowing where all this is leading, but sensing it is crucially important; on the other hand, my older, more detached, critical and academic self takes a more sceptical view of these developments – all this is all very well, but what will it change? And aren’t the Nordic countries already there, having found a sustainable mixed model with a vigorous market economy and a strong welfare system?
  • The piece by Castells fits in nicely with that first persona, whilst the Economist text connects with the second persona.
  • Putting these concerns aside for a moment, I concur with Castells that the processes and practices that protestors have already developed are very important in their own right, they are veritable techno-political laboratories that herald present-day and future changes. I have been able to participate in some of these practices (e.g. sharing information and collaborating via Facebook as well as free software platforms) and can vouch for their speed and effectiveness, e.g. when collaboratively putting together a directory of activist groups as the 15 May demo approached, or when improving the English translation of the Democracy Real Ya manifesto.
  • The 15M/acampadas movement has its own logic (or set of logics), its own momentum, techno-political tools, practices, leadership (yes, leadership), followership, etc. – and these do not map nicely onto Spain’s existing political culture (and indeed that of other states). An ethnographic and historical reconstruction of the movement since its inception in the first half of 2011 should ‘follow the movement’ and seek to understand it on its own terms, not those of the extant political system. If there is one thing we’re sure about is that this particular historical moment is not one of ‘political business as usual’ in Spain.

Must go now – hope to add some post-discussion notes later tonight or tomorrow.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 16, 2011 9:40 am

    See also A few selective notes on Castells, Manuel (2006) Observatorio global: crónicas de principios de siglo. Barcelona: La Vanguardia Ediciones.:

  2. June 18, 2011 4:50 pm

    Very interesting, John, please give us an update. Interesting label that of “epistemic schizophrenia”. It synthesizes well the dilemmas and choices facing diverse roles and identities that researchers and academics are confronted with. How lucky you were in Barcelona when all of these movement started to surface on the streets. Mercedes


  1. ‘tomalaplaza’: topologías políticas para un experimento de democracia – Adolfo Estalella

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