By Tim Hardy
We need no promise of a happy ending to justify our rejection of a world we feel to be wrong.
John Holloway, Change the World Without Taking Power
One repeated and misguided criticism of the extraordinary Spanish Democracia Real Ya protests that have continued all week and of the solidarity demonstrations that are taking place in cities around the world is that they are not political. What this accusation boils down to is the fact that the demonstrations are not party political – but that is precisely the point.
Of course, our frivolous corporate media, more interested in the sexual antics of athletes than in analysis or in investigative journalism, is only too happy to relegate the story to a semi-racist footnote about exuberant young Latins. The good-natured, festive spirit of the demonstrators is used as further proof that their demands are not really serious. This fits into a narrative that is beloved of politicians, one in which they are the hard-headed realists and everyone else a starry-eyed idealist who needs to grow up.
A practical scheme, says Oscar Wilde, is either one already in existence, or a scheme that could be carried out under the existing conditions; but it is exactly the existing conditions that one objects to, and any scheme that could accept these conditions is wrong and foolish.
Emma Goldman, Anarchism: What it Really Stands For
We must be practical, we are told. We must be reasonable. Ideology disguises itself as common sense. This is capitalist realism: the limits that are placed upon the ways of living we might imagine.
But is this world we are forced to live in reasonable?
Is it reasonable that the UK’s young were seduced into voting for a party that promised to abolish tuition fees who then turned around and tripled them? Is it reasonable that our government is giving away billions of pounds in corporation tax cuts while pretending there is no money for education, for the disabled, for healthcare or pensions? Is it reasonable that rather than help the millions locked out of the housing market, the government refuses to increase protection for private tenants, is trying to raise the cost of social housing for tenants to meet market rates and is aiming to “level the playing field between investors and owner-occupiers” making it easier for parasitic speculators to drive up the price of housing now that ordinary people cannot continue to inflate the value of asset bubbles that might once have been considered homes?
Forget being reasonable. Reasonable isn’t getting us anywhere.
The demonstrators have had enough of a political system that fails to represent them, one that restricts their power to expressing a preference every few years for one identikit professional politician or another. This is a far more radical politics. This is a crisis of confidence in democracy under capitalism when the failure of the free-markets is being used as an excuse to extend their poisonous reach.
The increasing intensity of the crisis has made this model of politics blow up. It has shown clearly that the current politicians use the legitimacy which the voting box grants them in order to make citizens ever more impotent against the demands and requirements of a global capitalist class which the politicians either do not know how to or do not want to tame.
Communique from Universidad Nomada Regarding Events in Spain
The dream of the left is a world based on the mutual recognition of human dignity, a world of equality. This dream is constantly frustrated when those who attain office with the stated aim of implementing it fail to do so. As John Holloway notes, the quest for power with the aim of transforming society sets us up for perpetual disappointment: attempting to conquer power merely extends the field of power relations into the struggle against power and the movement becomes corrupted from the outset.
A revolutionary movement becomes puritanical when it sets as its goal the conquest of power and represses frivolity and anything else that does not contribute to that end. The laughter, singing and dancing at the Spanish protests, far from being a sign that these protests can be ignored, is on the contrary a sign of just how serious a challenge they are. They don’t hope to seize power. They seek instead to transform existing power relations. As with the university occupations and the occupations in Wisconsin, this is not just a demonstration to be witnessed, a public gesture of dissent, but instead it is a chance for the participants to directly experience the possibility of a better world through participating in assemblies and consensus decision-making.
No wonder they have caught the imagination of people and given hope to thousands around the world.
Many have noted the connections between the spirit of these protesters and those who go out to demonstrate with UK Uncut, a movement repeatedly dismissed as unrealistic until its demands could be ignored no longer prompting the state to use politicised policing to try to shut it down.
Conversations are beginning in London between the solidarity protesters outside the Spanish embassy and with those involved in the People’s Assembly network including members of the Campaign for Real Democracy. An open organising assembly is planned for tomorrow night to discuss ways in which these movements might come together to support industrial action on June 30th. London-based protesters who have been involved with UK Uncut will be warmly welcomed as will those who have taken part directly or indirectly in actions and discussions with Arts Against Cuts or anyone else sympathetic to the goals and tactics of these various groups and the merely curious.
Something beautiful is happening. It’s time to be unrealistic and look beyond the old solutions. It’s time to try something new.