MAY 15, 2011, Madrid and 57 other Spanish cities ”â thousands of people of all generations gather in the central plazas to form a new, internet-driven, movement calling for “democracia real YA”Â or “real democracy now”Â. The amorphous, leaderless masses call themselves Los Indignados, or the Indignant. They declare: “We are not goods in the hands of politicians and bankers”Â and spend four weeks camped out in squares gradually finding consensus in the fairest and most democratic way they can.
Their aim? A global bloodless revolution brought about by the irresistible rise of the populus against the elite few, and the political rulers that propagate austerity for the poor and increasing wealth for the rich. Will they achieve it? Watch this space”Â¦
Almost 10 years ago, as we watched the second plane slam into the World Trade Center on the live news channel, one of my fellow journos in an English provincial newspaper office exclaimed, to murmurs of assent around the newsroom: “Those anti-capitalists have gone too far this time!”Â
Of course, within hours of the attacks, the US government had claimed with certainty that the culprit was Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaida. Exactly a century before – on September 11, 1901 – the arrest of anarchist Emma Goldman (she of “if I can’t dance, it’s not my revolution”Â fame) was on the front pages, falsely accused of the attempted assassination of President McKinley. I wonder how many initially believed that this strike on one of the most potent symbols of globalisation was a magnified return a century on to ”Ëpropaganda by the deed’ – the modus operandi of a few which sadly led to the anarchist movement being forever tarnished with a violent image ”â despite the best efforts of Crass.
I’ve never subscribed to any specific 9/11 conspiracy theory, although there remain so many unanswered questions. Was it just coincidence that the towers were struck as the anti-globalisation movement was gaining real traction, that author-philosophers Naomi Klein and Noam Chomsky were propelled to peak-time fame, as cities where world leaders gathered were besieged by tens of thousands of protestors denied the democratic right to oppose neoliberalism through the ballot box?
As the new millennium beckoned, in late 1999 the police battled 40,000 demonstrators against the World Trade Organization conference in Seattle, and five months later 15,000 protested against the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Washington DC. Then in November 2000, George W Bush was widely believed to have stolen the election from the hapless Al Gore.
Launching their “war on terror”Â, Bush and his poodle Tony Blair declared “you’re either with us or against us”Â, swiftly switching the agenda from this perilous threat to mammon and the power elite to a fundamentalist religious crusade, largely diverting anti-capitalists in a fruitless protest against illegal wars. On the one hand, our political leaders ratcheted up the fear factor as an effective means of state control while the other unseen hand waived any restrictions that might prevent the corporations and financial institutions from getting all the wealth.
But even the most gung-ho media had war fatigue by 2008, when Iceland suddenly ”â and seemingly without warning ”â was plunged into a $100bn bankruptcy. After 14 weeks of concerted protests, the Icelandic Government was forced to resign in February 2009. From December 2008, Greece was also ablaze with more widespread riots sparked by the police killing of a teenage anarchist, lighting a fuse of dissent in the cradle of democracy.
Madrid set a precedent for the anti-capitalist movement, as in 1994 an ad-hoc coalition protested the 50th anniversary celebrations of the IMF and World Bank, under the slogan “50 years is enough”Â. Los Indignados, a logical development, emerged 17 years later on the eve of the latest election. But it was inspired by the Arab Spring.
Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, Algeria, Jordan and Morocco scarcely even had the pretence of a democracy when the previously disempowered rose up like dominoes in reverse from December onwards. None of the revolutions are yet complete ”â Egypt is kicking off again as the people realise the military junta aren’t really a change of the old guard, while oil-rich Libya is now crawling with NATO wannabe regime-changers ”â an emerging idea for a democratic land mass without borders is still a way off.
But throughout Europe and the Americas too, there is no real democracy. The same scenario, to varying degrees, is holding the fort in every supposedly “free country”Â. With occasional ineffectual kingmakers (the LibDems in the UK, Labour and formerly the Greens in Ireland, for example) two political parties hold the key. Both offer only slight variations on the same flawed system, elected by a minority as the disengaged masses stay at home; the party typically founded on socialist principles has sold out to capitalism, corporations and bankers, paving the way for the more right-wing party to gain power ”â with no mandate from the majority.
Some 90 years after the right to vote was granted to all (or most) men and women, the system ensures there is no one actually worth voting for. Here in Britain, a traitorous Labour Party leader castigates workers for having the temerity to strike for their rights, and fails to come up with any other option except unnecessary misery on most of the people, while companies steal the essential public assets from under his nose.
In Greece and Spain, where the economic situation is marginally more desperate than here, a mass movement less than two months old has bubbled up from the streets and is demanding change. It was driven by young people, many of them students or unemployed, but they have been joined by parents, grandparents, community stalwarts and academics.
The Indignant’s united aim is to bring politics back to its literal meaning – of the people. They’re not going away. And it’s about time we joined them. How much longer are we going to put up with this closed-shop hegemony that pretends to offer choice, which in turn is largely in thrall to the Euro superstate which nobody but those at the very top sanctioned?
People outside the political-party system are getting together to find a new way forward, holding assemblies where everyone present is entitled to vote on proposals put forward by the people. And in some cities, such as Madrid, assemblies have now left the squares and moved district by district.
The revolution is scarcely being televised ”â only on the occasions where there’s a battle.
In Athens, as the government, blackmailed by threats from the stockmarkets and the IMF, voted to screw the people and sell off their services, the police let loose every bit of ammunition they’ve got except bullets (unlike in Syria and Libya, mass slaughter would be a step too far). And whether or not those lobbing bricks at the state machinery are agent provocateurs or genuinely enraged citizens, violence will get them nowhere. To illustrate my point, I give you the Dead Kennedys:
Even if it’s aimed at the enemy, the brick-thrower is taking away someone’s freedom. And besides, it’s far easier to demonise a good cause and, let’s face it, David beating Goliath was only a fable. Who gained more public support in London’s March protests ”â the frenzied looting of the black bloc or the peaceful and creative occupation of Fortnum & Mason by UKUncut. The Indignant’s Barcelona camp resisted the police’s violence peacefully, and they won the day: within hours of the camp being dismantled, it was rebuilt with the support of thousands of others.
No doubt many will continue to argue that capitalism is here to stay ”â and that a peaceful anarchistic-socialist transformation, resulting in a genuine democracy from the bottom-up rather than top-down, is impossible. Spain did it in 1936 (only to be crushed by a combination of Stalin and Franco ”â read George Orwell’s Homage To Catalonia for more details or watch a documentary).
Here in Britain, The Chartists’ movement of the 1830s for votes for all men, and the Suffragettes of the 1900s for women was just the start. If you’ll excuse us ye apathetic pessimist gripers, we have some unfinished business to attend to”Â¦