Real Democracy, Yes!
A Democracy Movement is forming
Debating people in the Puerta del Sol Square,
Madrid, May 2011 Photo
In Spain today, thousands,
tens of thousands, IN MANY CITIES, have taken to the streets. Since May
15th, they are coming every day to the central squares. Others, and there
are thousands of them, are remaining there day and night. They have pitched
their tents on the Puerta del Sol Square in Madrid, on the Catalonia Square
in Barcelona. They are cooking their meals in the morning, at lunch time
and in the evening. And, more importantly, they are talking to each
other. They are speaking their mind, talking about what is wrong in society.
It is good to exchange thoughts
about things that concern us. And they are thinking, thinking hard,
about the problems we all should be reflecting.(1)
Or shouldn’t we? – BEING HUMAN BEINGS,
being able to think and feel, endowed with a sense of justice, able to
be kind, able to offer help to others, to care…, we all know,
deep inside, that we should.
Yes, they do what we should be doing:
they think and discuss public matters: the ‘res publica,’ that is.
The common good and the problems we, all of us, face today. Which is, after
all, that which is at the heart of every republic.
They, these young, middle aged and
old citizens – girls and boys, women and men, do this – rather than hoping
for answers from so-called experts and politicians who have only made matters
worse, as everybody had so many chances to see.
Often they form many small discussion
groups, debating issues. Then again they form assemblies (assembleas) that
incorporate all those who are present in the square. They take votes. And
they have an important democratic ethics at heart: They don’t seek to marginalize
and outvote others. They seek to achieve a consensus. If nothing better
can be attained, a minimal consensus.(2)
are not sectarian, not bent to split. They don’t want to exclude people.
They invite you and me to join in. In fact, after occupaying the Puerta
del Sol Square and debating issues for ten days in a row, some of the people
there declared that they feel tired and would be glad if more people joined
them, offering their input in the form of “ideas, strength,
enthusiasm and creativity.”(3)
Their website also said, “[W]e need people with fresh ideas like you.”(4)
They have so much trust in the fairness
and in the good will of you and me, of ordinary people. In the capacity
of all of us to think, to be fair, to overcome bias. To get to the core
of the problems that confront you and me, society, the planet.
Distrust of parties and politicians
But they distrust politicians and
parties. Apparently, in many if not most of them, skepticism abounds. Regarding
all parties: left, right, and center.
Probably few of them participated
in the local elections that took place in Spain, on May 22, 2011. They
are, above all, disillusioned with the two big “popular” parties of Spain,
two parties that can best be likened to the Republicans and Democrats in
the U.S., to the Conservatives and the Labor Party in Britain, to the Christian
Democrats and the Social Democrats in Germany. These self-proclaimed “popular”
parties are known in Spain as the PP and the PSOE. The PP or Partido
Popular is a neo-liberal “Conservative” party, and the PSOE is a “Social-Democratic”
party that has succumbed to the “necessities of globalization” and the
forces of the financial market, and that in effect is just as neo-liberal.
In many ways, people can’t see what difference it makes if they vote for
the one or the other, so similar are their political recipes in the face
of the present crisis.
And so, it is a fair bet that many
of those who today are are out in the street, actively debating the public
issues that matter, have preferred to either abstain or to actually vote
but cast empty ballots in protest, in the recent nationwide elections of
mayors and city councils that took place on May 22.(5)
And yet the fact that most may have
abstained does not mean that they turn their back on democracy or elections.
On the contrary, they take it seriously. They are far from being apathetic.
They are committed to the goal of a democratic society that empowers all
of us. Yes, these people form a real DEMOCRACY MOVEMENT. They
are demanding “real democracy, yes”. These words, in Spanish, Democracia
real, ya!, have become something like a name and watchword of the M-15
or May 15th movement that has emerged and that continues to grow. emerging
as a challenging, thought-provoking, refreshing force in Spanish society.
We all know that abstentionism during
elections is a trend in North America and Europe. As a result of prolonged
disechantment with the political process, abstention is significant in
most if not all Western societies. During the regional elections in Bremen,
Germany, for instance, that also took place quite recently, only 54 per
cent of the electorate cast a ballot.
In Spain, on May 22, 2011,
thirty three per cent of the electorate abstained.
Two per cent cast empty ballots
and one per cent cast voided ballots. (A ballot is voided if you scrawl
anything, say, an invective, all across it.)
The two “major” parties, the PP
and the PSOE, received very little support. The opposition PP was
preferred this time but attracted a mere 24 per cent of the electorate
and the governing PSOE attained a result that, due to its austerity measures,
was even worse: just 18 per cent. Which shows how unrepresentative they
After all, the bloc of non-voters
is not staying home without a cause. They are disillusioned, tired of it
all, fed up, and many of them may be longing for an alternative that they
think does not exist. At least, they seem to think, it doesn’t exist on
that little piece of paper, the ballot paper that lists the parties and
The democratic process in many countries
is also negatively affected by the electoral system. In Spain, just as
in the U.S., in Britain or France, the small parties are not exactly favored
by the election law (forgive this ironic remark). At the recent elections
in Spain, all the small parties taken together OBTAINED 22 per cent. In
other words, their total is better than that of the PSOE. But while the
PSOE and the PP get the bulk of the seats in parliament, the total number
of delegates of the small parties does not reflect the 22 per cent attained;
it is insignificant. Would they have gained more votes if sympathizers
had thought that voting for them would have made a difference? Hard to
At any rate, quite a few voters
(and especially young and politically aware voters) who opted for small
parties rightly feel that they are not represented in parliament in a manner
that they think is fair. In fact, they and the non-voters plus casters
of empty or void ballots form a bloc that comprises 58 per cent of the
electorate (22 plus 36 per cent). 58 per cent of Spain’s adult citizens,
that’s a lot. 58 per cent of the adult population, if we may for a moment
disregard the disempowered immigrants that are not allowed to vote!
More than 58 per cent, if we focus on the entire population – including
immigrants without citizen status! And they are all factually disempowered
by the electoral law. They are condemned to be mere onlookers, prey, without
a noticable influence on the political game to the extent that this game
is played in parliament. And this because, due to the electoral system,
they are represented by very few or no delegates.
But what about the rest, and especially
those who voted for the governing party? What does the fact that they are
represented by a party that has won a considerable number of seats in parliament
mean to them?
In fact, many find out that party
leaders and elected candidates of a party are not bound to loyally fulfill
election promises. Once they are voted into office, candidates often are
more loyal to the party leadership than they are to their constituents,
especially if the latter are “small people,” ordinary folks rather than
“important” bankers, industrialists, and so on.
So irritation about the undemocratic
effects of the institutional, parlamentary political process is very understandable.
But because the power and influence of the leadership of the PP and PSOE
are at stake, very little change can be expected without massive pressure
from the woman and man in the street. And that is to say, without mass
protests by ordinary citizens.
Committed to Democracy
The movement that took off in May
2011 is very much concerned with all this. Yes, most of those involved
express indignation when they talk about politicians and parties and their
BUT ONE THING WE CAN SAY FOR SURE:
DISILLUSIONMENT WITH PARTIES AND ELECTIONS AS SUCH IS NOT TOTAL AMONG
THOSE WHO TAKE TO THE STREETS TODAY.
In fact, all those involved in the
movement that took to the streets express a strong commitment to democracy.
They take it seriously. And for that very reason, they hope to start a
debate that will help to make present democracies more democratic.
Yes, most of them may have abstained
in May. They may not have cared anymore, today, whether the PP or the PSOE
wins. We also have no indications that they are enthusiastic supporters
of regional, autonomist parties. Or the Greens. Or the IU, the left party.
They don’t seem to believe in the trustworthiness of most of those
professionally involved in these parties. They seem to fear their supposed
pragmatism, which they take as a cover for a very real willingness to sacrifice
goals, ideals, principles and one’s integrity to the exigencies of a political
game which revolves around questions like, “How do I attain power?” “What
is necessary to avoid loss of power?” If any loyalties, to any of
these parties, whether big or small, still exist in some of them, they
have been pushed into the background.
What they have at heart is not parties,
not politicians, but citizens. Themselves and you and me.
Yes, that’s so remarkable about
this movement. They have us at heart, all those who are factually, to a
greater or lesser extent, disempowered. Not listened to, truthfully. Used,
as voters, and forgotten about once we have voted. Shoved aside, because
leading politicians seem to think that we will have forgotten about it
when the next election campaign is under way. And that we will choose them,
will choose the one major ticket or the other, thus again and again opting
for the ‘lesser evil.’ – Yes, apparently a lot of politicians can
live with that. And the political leadership of the two ‘major’ parties
doesn’t really care terribly much about the fact that 30 or 40 per cent
of the voting age, enfranchised population abstain. They just care for
a majority of valid votes, a majority of seats, and the influence it gives
them. – Something like this must be the analysis of those who ask for “real
democracy,” for a better, fairer democratic process today.
AFTER ALL, THEY ARE DEMANING
Reform of the election law: Elections
that would be more representative of the public will, and that would not
leave the majority of the people factually unrepresented.
This is the first of four main points
(cuatro lineas) that have been laid down in the plenary sessions
all over the country in this regard, describing the main goals of the Real
Democracy Yes Movement.
But, clearly connected with their
quest for a less fictious, no longer disempowering democracy, this first
demand which takes the form of an election law reform proposal is
intimately linked with another demand, that “effective mechanisms of citizen
participation are developed”.(7)
The 2nd point concerns the necessary
fight against corruption and the quest for “total political transparency”.(8)
As for transparency, this, interestingly,
is a very old democratic demand. In the democratic revolution of 1848,
many revolutionaries sharply denounced secret diplomacy (as advocated by
Metternich), which is also a practice that Kissinger came to admire. Today,
almost everything is kept secret in Western democracies.(9)
The 3rd point concerns a more effective
separation of “public powers”.(10)
And the 4th point aims at the realization
of “mechanisms of citizens control” which would reflect the effective necessity
of political responsibility.
Doesn’t that mean that the elected
representatives have to face our questions? When we ask for evidence, they
would have to point out in detail how they have fulfilled their election
promises. And being “responsible,” they would have to face sanctions, including
immediate recall, if they fail to do so.(11)
These four points are described
by those involved in the public deliberation process as the expression
of a “minimal consensus” reached in the assemblies. Being convinced
that the concerns thus expressed are “representative” of the grievances
frequently felt and uttered by Spain’s citizens, they have made them heard.
And they hope that the debate will be continued, on an even wider scale.(12)
Of course there are also more specific
demands, and they concern many questions:
- high unemployment;
- even higher unemployment among
younger people (in the age bracket between 16 [?] and 26 the rate is 45
- the PSOE government’s attack on
the level of pensions in the context of “austerity measures”; and
- the determiniation of the PSOE
government (which is under pressure from the IMF and the European Commission)
to raise the retirement age.(13)
- Finally, above all, ecological
concerns that lead to a plea for a sustainable way of producing and consuming.(14)
In fact, many of these concerns
are shared by people of the traditional left, especially in the CCOO.(15)
But the leaders of the CCOO and the IU, sensing their relatively weak position,
have again and again hesitated to criticize Zapatero too harshly,
which most young people in the streets don’t understand and which they
see as a form of betrayal.
Was it sensible to abstain?
A desire to change the present democratic
system is obvious in the movement that formed. A good aim. How can it be
attained? Will the street protests grow in number, and will that in the
There are many open questions. There
is another question, more immediate and perhaps not unrelated to the others,
that should perhaps be reflected:
Was it sensible to abstain?
When you consider how party politics
can be divisive, it is clear that to push loyalties to parties – whether
the Greens, Autonomists, the IU, the PSOE or the PP – into the foreground
could only have damaged the quest to find common ground, as to how the
democratic process can be turned into something that is more democratic
than it is at present.
Also, we should remember that the
governing PSOE, under pressure from the European Commission, from the IMF,
from last not least the Conservative German government, reneged on its
election promises to defend the socio-economic rights of the working people
and the small self-employed folks, the less well-off professionals, the
young, the aged, and so on.
The leaders of the PSOE were recognized
for what they are: Political representatives who have what they call
“the economy” in mind. In this they are very much like their “competitors”,
the leaders of the PP. And the “economy,” mind you, requires – in the eyes
of those who are at the levers – that wage levels are pushed down, that
the labor market becomes what they call “flexible”, a lot more “flexible”,
in fact. Which implies a dismantling of rights that were once defined in
order to protect working people. The “economy” (therefore, those who run
it, who own it, who derive direct profit from it) also demands that pensions
are curtailed, that the age of retirement is lifted to 67, perhaps 70.
This is what they tell us.
Antagonizing the people, seeing
that a democracy movement is forming, that they lose percentage points
in the election, the PSOE leadership naturally is nervous. Are you
really surprised that they sent in the “Mossas” and the “Guardia” to beat
up peaceful people who had taken to the streets? Any group in power, aware
deep down in their hearts and minds that their legitimacy is dwindling,
would have reacted like that. The PP leadership perhaps without the qualms
that people like Zapatero may have felt.
When you see today the videos showing
the violent attacks of special riot police and Guardia Civil units on peaceful
people demanding REAL DEMOCRACY that occurred in Barcelona on May 27, 2011,
you can not blame the folks in the streets that they did not vote,
5 days earlier, for the supposedly “progressive” politicians who ordered
such an unprovoked attack. Nor for the “Conservatives” who decry them…
And yet… Is an emotional judgement
such as indignation felt vis-à-vis the political ‘caste’ sufficient
to justify abstentionism? What does reason tell us?
Noam Chomsky said something interesting
in a recent talk on “Democracy Now”. He basically argued against abstention
during elections, at least in the present U.S. context.
He seemed to say that given the
choice of voting for Obama or Palin, he would think that to help obtain
an election victory of Obama, rather than contributing to his defeat by
abstaining, would matter.
Because with Palin, things would
be still worse.
Yes, he might be right. Who knows.
Chomsky added something important,
however. He said that by voting for Obama you may take a rational and pragmatic
step – “but don’t expect anything.” He repeated these last words; they
were they key point of his message.
Perhaps we have a better chance
to defend our rights under Obama, to work for a better world under his
administration, perhaps they don’t place quite as many obstacles in our
way – “but don’t expect anything” POSITIVE from them. To achieve something
POSITIVE is our task. Don’t look to the politicians. Don’t look to the
Democratic Party or the Republican Party.
To some extent, the people in the
STREETS AND PLAZAS of Alicante, Barcelona, Córdoba,
La Coruña, Las Palmas, Lleida, Madrid, Murcia, Oviedo,
Sevilla, Valencia, Valladolid, Vigo, Zaragoza etc. – most of
whom may never have heard of Chomsky – seem to view things in a similar
Is it not apparent that we can say
about most of them that they don’t expect much anymore?
But it seems that they draw a different
They don’t vote.
Whether that conclusion is rational
should be reflected, again and again. And perhaps, there exists no answer
that is permanently valid. Perhaps much depends on the concrete political
At any rate, no matter who we might
vote for, Chomsky is probably right when he’s warning us: Don’t expect
too much. Not even from politicians who seem closer to our ideals, our
hopes, our endeavours.
It’s up to US to say YES, WE CAN
BRING CHANGE. And it is left to us to fill these words with real content,
rather than be content to broadcast an empty phrase, as Obama and his crew
of advisers did.
The Spreading Wave of Hope, and
the Perils Involved in ‘Mediation’
We have for long ducked or shrugged
our shoulders. Most of us, that is. FEELING AND KNOWING RATIONALLY THAT
THINGS WERE NOT THE WAY THEY SHOULD BE: but except for a small number of
political thinkers and youthful activists at the margins of society, we
all thought: “What can we do? NOTHING.”
O yes, injustice thrived on this
humus of despair, disillusionment and apathy. It seems that the political
sphere has its ‘conjunctures’, its cycles, its ups and downs, very much
like the economy.
At the end of the 1960s, around
the world almost, their was a tide, a crest, a wave of protest and commitment.
It had one significant shortcoming.
In many countries, to a large extent, it was a youth movement, a youth
revolt. In the U.S., all through the 1960s, THE AWAKENING OF A CERTAIN
PERCENTAGE OF YOUNG PEOPLE WENT HAND IN HAND WITH THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT,
the movement of Americans of African descent. There was hope and strength
in that link. And it is a pity that somehow it did not develop further.
But the greatest hindrance to democratic change at the time was the failure
to form a link with labor, and that means to a large extent with unionized
It was not primarily the fault of
young people asking for change, or of Afro-Americans. The labor leadership
was often conservative and perhaps in part corrupt. And in the 1960s, prior
to the deepening symptoms of economic crisis that appeared since the mid
70s, a large part of the U.S. working class was not ready to apprehend
the fact that it, too, was disempowered. They compared their situation
with the Great Depression, the War Years and the immediate post-war years,
and they saw themselves as “well taken care of”; they never had it that
good, many thought. Well, that was a temporary situation and a bottom,
an illusion. Today, with high unemployment, divisive competition for jobs,
and the stress implied in difficulties to make ends meet, it is anxiety
and loss of hope, rather than unwarranted over-confidence, that disarms
them and lets them succumb to what is not unavoidable. The majority of
them still don’t fight for their rights, even though there are more and
more examples of resistance and growing courage.
What is the situation like, in Spain?
It is obvious that here, too, courage has returned.
When you listed to the PEOPLE out
in the street, all those who are debating in the big central squares of
so many towns in SPAIN, it becomes apparent that they were (and still are)
obviously inspired by THE MILLIONS that took to the streets in ALEXANDRIA,
in CAIRO, in PORT SUEZ and in other places in Egypt. They were inspired
by several hundred thousand people crowding the TAHIR SQUARE every Friday
night for weeks. They were inspired by a real DEMOCRACY MOVEMENT in Egypt
and in Tunisia that erupted in the beginning of this year.
Incidentally, a similar DEMOCRACY
MOVEMENT evolved in 2010, on a smaller scale, in the German South West,
centered in STUTTGART – a city of modest size. There, people, protesting
against an arrogant state government (headed by Mr. Mappus, then the prime
minister of the state of Baden-Wurttemberg), took to the street every Friday
evening, and often also on Monday night. First a few thousand, then
about 65,000. Finally one hundred and fifty thousand – which is a lot in
a town that size.
It is interesting that certain forms
developed by the protesters in STUTTGART in 2010 were inspired by protests
Obviously, protest forms watched
on television have an effect. IN STUTTGART, LARGE CROWDS WENT TO
THE STUTTGART STATE CAPITOL (THE BUILDING THAT HOUSES THE STATE PARLIAMENT),
THROWING SHOES AGAINST ITS WALLS IN CONTEMPT WHILE SHOUTING, “LIARS,
This was after a sit-in of ten-
to thirteen-year-old school kids blocking a street to protect trees in
the central public park, was brutally attacked by riot police. An elderly
engineer, in his 60s (a bystander, not a demonstrator) who was aghast and
stepped in front of the kids, gesturing to the police to turn off their
water canons, lost both of his eyes, probably for good, when the police,
obviously on purpose, directed the water canon at him with full force.
The next day, in indignation, the
number of protesters that turned out, more than doubled, from 65,000 to
150,000, you see. And that matters. Not to be intimidated. But to stand
up to the powers that seek to intimidate and that continue to disempower
us. The people who wield power and lie and cheat; people in top political
positions who all too often are so eager to enrich themselves and
their cronies. We can ANSWER their every deed, and this in a good way.
In Stuttgart, concrete local issues
merged with a general sense that citizens were effectively disempowered
by the politicians, and so pressure for participative democracy increased.
What started out as a protest against the destruction of 500 big and beautiful
trees in a public downtown park, against an undesired speculative project
of “urban renewal” and against a very expensive, multi-billion
dollar infrastructure project that would benefit the few (long distance
travellers taking a fast train that would have their travelling time cut
by a few minutes) and hurt the many (commuters in the Stuttgart region),
became a lesson in political arrogance, unprovoked police violence, and
contempt for ordinary citizens. It was, to a large extent, that lesson
which alerted many people hitherto naïve in this respect, to the deficits
of the democratic process.
The government of Mr. Mappus has
been defeated in the recent state election as a consequence. THE DEMOCRACY
MOVEMENT, however, has been split by a clever mediation process. And the
number of those actively supporting the movement in the streets has also
shrunk again because quite a few of those who have regained a belief in
the traditional political process have slipped back into passivity, into
the false security of those who think they voted for the ‘right’ party
and it brought about a change in government. But, you see, it is
not clear at all whether the GREEN PARTY that gained decisive votes in
the election will live up to expectations. Yes, that PARTY got its first
prime minister elected as a result of public indignation over the so-called
S-21 project of Mr. Mappus and German Rail Inc. and over all the brutality
and disdain which was showered on the women and men in the street. BUT
WITH POLITICIANS, you never know. Power is sweet, incomes of top politicians
are elevated. The influence they wield guarantees further elevated incomes
after they leave office. And so the temptation to be “pragmatic” – AND
AGAIN BETRAY THE PEOPLE – is enormous. The fact that the Greens were forced
to form a coalition government with the Social Democrats as their junior
partner certainly implies added difficulties when it comes to keeping their
Is the old maxime that we need
to build alliances still valid?
As for Spain, it is obvious from
the videos we can see that the democracy movement witnessed at the moment
is mainly formed by young people. Which is not surprising.
Some 45 per cent of those under twenty-six are jobless today. The
situation is about as bad in this regard as in Tunisia where the self-immolation
of a young academic who tried to survive as an unlicensed hawker triggered
the revolutionary explosion.
Yes, I see also middle aged and
older people among the people assembled on the Puerta del Sol Square or
the Catalonia Square. (Assemblies in other towns are not as obviously featured
on the internet, by way of videos.) But the young form the overwhelming
majority. This is not in itself bad. The young are the future. They have
that élan; and the jobless as well as college kids have more time
and energy reserves than most working people.
But in Cairo, the ‘Egyptian revolution’
that was made by people on the Tahir Square – and they were hundreds of
thousands, in the critical days millions – was presaged by a series of
illegal strikes and the formation of an officially unrecognized union,
in the years before the social eruption in early 2011. That was perhaps
decisive in some respects. The link between the workers’ movement and the
youth movement existed in February. The democracy movement incorporates
When I see those thousands of
young people with their posters and their slogans that attest to their
courage and their beautiful, spontaneous imagination and, above all, their
intelligence, pass in front of the C.G.T. building, shouting “traidores,
traidores!” (traitors, traitors!) I cannot help feeling sadness.(16)
because, in all likelihood, the union leadership values their close links
to the governing PSOE leaders more highly than the possibility to
link with the Democracy real, ya! movement. For the good of Spain, of its
disempowered citizens, and for the good of all workers and of course, all
organized workers, regardless of whether they are U.G.T. or C.G.T. members,
or affiliated to the Comisiones obreras (CCOO). Sadness also because young
people often tend to be so uncompromising and so idealistic that they don’t
see they also have to make a step in the direction of the Others, in order
to show and produce good will. This does not mean that they have to compromise
themselves, that they have to betray their insights and goals. It merely
means that one cannot expect too much, at once, from the other side. That
one tries to understand their point of view. Speaking of traitors is perhaps
understandable but not helpful. It would be better to gauge which of the
demands and goals that surface in the democracy movement, the C.G.T. activists
and their leaders would be prepared to support. IN THE ASSEMBLIES, AMONG
THEMSELVES, THESE YOUNG PEOPLE SEEK TO PRACTICE TOLERANCE, PATIENCE, CAREFUL
LISTENING TO OTHERS: THEY ARE ACCEPTING THE COEXISTENCE OF DIFFERENT POINTS
OF VIEW. AND CONSENSUS MATTERS. Why can we not attempt to find common ground
with as many committed activists and middle or higher level delegates in
the unions, as possible? And even in certain parties? A pluralism within
the ecological and progressive spectrum (reaching from the Greens and the
CCOO, the IU, immigrant organizations, rebellious tendencies in the PSOE
to Catholic progressives, attached for instance to Justicia y Paz) and
effective cooperation of progressive forces would not be a bad thing for
the democracy movement, would it? Being inclusive, include them too, without
expecting too much. Without expecting, above all, a complete identity of
their and our analysis of the situation, and a complete identity of
goals and hopes.(17)
But perhaps the young people are
wiser than I am, in not aiming at a “progressive” coalition but a movement
of all the disempowered. After all, many voters who prefer the PP are disempowered,
too. And no one should proclaim that, intrinsically, they can never feel
the urge to join a campaign that will, sooner or later, achieve a
much more democratic, that is to say, truly participative, real democracy.
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(1) Apparently this matters very much to those
who are assembled on the many central squares of Spain’s cities. It is
not enough to reflect about the problems of our society in your study.
It is not enough to debate them when sitting with friends and family members
at the kitchen table. We should meet and exchange ideas, we should debate
and come to erstwhile, provisional, tentative conclusions while meeting
in the streets, thousands of us, concerned about an inadequate democracy,
an unjust society, an endangered planet. We should fill Times Square, like
those who assembled on Tahir Square or at the Plaza del Puerta del
Sol. Only by encountering each other, as strangers who are friends and
fellow beings, searching for answers, only by bringing about a great, shared
process of reflection, of brainstorming, patiently listening, calmly thinking,
thoughtfully responding, will it be possible for the people to fill the
gap that so many politicians and experts have been unable or unwilling
to fill. We can tackle the essential questions they have skirted. We can
correct their judgement where it has been wrong, short-sighted, driven
by their need or desire to give in to special interest groups, to lobbyists
working for those who care more about dividends and tax cuts for the few
than about the “family of man” (as Steichen once called it). “Animamos
a todo el mundo a que venga a Sol a reflexionar de forma colectiva”, the
people on the Puerta del Sol Square tell us. (“«Toma la Plaza»
define las cuatro líneas principales del movimiento de Sol”, in:
La Razon, May 26, 2011, http://www.larazon.es/noticia/10073-los-acampados-de-sol-reducen-sus-
Yes, let’s reflect the public cause, the res
publica together, let’s begin, let’s make it a common and shared endeavour.
(2) Consenso de mínimos: Cf. “«Toma
la Plaza» define las cuatro líneas principales del movimiento
de Sol”, in: La Razon, May 26, 2011, http://www.larazon.es/noticia/10073-los-
(3) “[M]uchos de los acampados de la Puerta del
Sol han reconocido que están "cansados" y que necesitan "ideas,
fuerza, entusiasmo y creatividad" para no dejar "que el Sol se apague".”
(“La Acampada de Sol elabora una hoja de ruta para seguir adelante”, in:
La Vangardia, May 26, 2011, http://www.lavanguardia.com/politica/elecciones-2011/20110526/54161641906/
(4) “[N]ecesitamos gente con ideas frescas como
(5)“CCOO cree que la elevada abstención
y del voto en blanco y nulo son consecuencia de las movilizaciones ciudadanas
y pide un nuevo escenario económico, político y social. ”
(Diario Informacion, el periódico de la provincia de Alicante,
May 26, 2011, http://www.diarioinformacion.com/ )
(6) “las elecciones del 22-M han penalizado al
PSOE por renunciar a aplicar su programa social, "lo que ha beneficiado
mayoritariamente a la derecha política".”(“CCOO pide tras el 22-M
una nueva ofensiva contra la crisis”, in: Diario Informacion, el
periódico de la provincia de Alicante, May 26, 2011,
(7) 1st point: “Reformar la ley electoral
encaminada a una democracia más representativa y de proporcionalidad
real y con el objetivo adicional de desarrollar mecanismos efectivos de
participación ciudadana.” ( “La Acampada de Sol elabora una hoja
de ruta para seguir adelante”, in: La Vangardia, May 26, 2011,
(8) “Luchar contra la corrupción mediante
normas orientadas a una total transparencia política.” (Ibidem)
(9) Under Delors, a document of the European Commission
was leaked to the press that laid down the Commissions view regarding transparency:
“Too much information can sometimes amount to disinformation.” In Berlin,
even the documents signed by Veolia and the Berlin Senate concerning the
privatization of the Berlin water works were kept secret. The people pushed
for a referendum in order to find out the details of the deal. Whenever
big projects are under way, they are kept secret until the last minute,
so that public resistance doesn’t have much time to form. When the plans
are made public, so that those directly concerned can file objections,
they cannot be inspected in the late afternoon when working people have
left office or the factiory and would have time to inspect them. The same
holds true for public sessions: who can attend them at 9 or 10 in the morning?
(10) “Plantear una separación efectiva
de los poderes públicos.” (Ibidem)
(11) “Crear mecanismos de control ciudadano para
la exigencia efectiva de responsabilidad política.” (Ibidem)
(12) Noelia, a speaker of those assembled,
was quoted in the daily La Razon as saying that there exists a “consenso
de mínimos para debatir sobre cuatro líneas que […] se consideran
representativas de la indignación ciudadana”. ( “«Toma
la Plaza» define las cuatro líneas principales del movimiento
de Sol”, in: La Razon, May 26, 2011,
sus-reivindicaciones-a-cuatro) The four points
actually summarize the demands considered as central, with regard to the
quest for a more ‘real’ democracy’.
(13) “"Animamos a todo el mundo a que venga a
Sol a reflexionar de forma colectiva sobre recortes de las pensiones [the
announced cut in retirement pensions], la reforma laboral [the so-called
reform that curtails rights of workers that were already insufficiently
protected by capitalist labor laws] y el retraso a la jubilación"
[ the legislation concerning the age of retirement, which foresees, in
several countries of the European Union, that workers will retire
at 67, and soon perhaps at 69 or 70 – a consequence of a general and concerted
attack of the European Commission and the TNCs on the ordinary woman and
man in the street] ha explicado una de las portavoces del movimiento 'Toma
la Plaza', Noelia, quien además ha manifestado que esperan que acuda
(“«Toma la Plaza» define las cuatro
líneas principales del movimiento de Sol”, in: La Razon, May 26,
(14) Among the supporters of the Real Democracy,
Yes! Movement, a spirit of distrust exists not only with regard to a partitocracia
(“party-cracy”; rule of parties and their leaders over the people) that
is deciphered as undemocratic because it disempowers ordinary citizens.
Criticism is also targeted at big business and the dynamics of globalization
it has unleashed in a way that threatens the planet. On Youtube thelocalxxx
writes for instance:
“Las multinacionales son las que gobiernan el
mundo la globalización realmente consiste en eso en que cuatro ricos
se repartan las riquezas sin que les importe destruir el planeta, matar
de hambre al tercer mundo o esclavizar a las naciones ricas. La democracia
[ as it exists today in most countries ] es una gran mafia.”
(“JOSÉ LUIS SAMPEDRO SE SUMA AL #15M DE
DEMOCRACIA REAL YA”, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yyOp8IRxgoo&feature=related)
(15) En un comunicado, CCOO anuncia que el sindicato
ha elaborado un manifiesto con cinco ejes de actuación ante la insostenible
tasa de desempleo, la persistencia de la crisis y la aplicación
de medidas centradas "sólo" en reducir el déficit público.
(“CCOO pide tras el 22-M una nueva ofensiva contra la crisis”, in:
Diario Informacion, el periódico de la provincia de Alicante,
May 26, 2011,
(16) In a video shown on Youtube we can see demonstrators
passing in front of the trade union headquarter of the C.G.T. in Barcelona,
shouting Traidores! Traidores! Suddenly a huge white canvas is lowered
from a rooftop, covering the front of an adjacent office building. In big
letters, it says, CCOO and U.G.T. a la mierda! - Referring to the
CCOO and U.G.T., one reader comments in Diario Información “Fuera
sindicalistas zapateristas!” Another reader’s comment published by
the same online issue of Diario Información states his reason for
rejecting these unions quite bluntly: “el 15-M también está
contra ellos, contra la pseudo-defensa de los trabajadores.” (“CCOO pide
tras el 22-M una nueva ofensiva contra la crisis”, in: Diario Informacion,
el periódico de la provincia de Alicante, May 26, 2011,
(17) In fact, the Comisiones obreras (CCOO) are
among those who are supportive of all the young and old people who take
to the street and who have formed the new Democracia real ya! movement.
They think that the new offensive for socio-economic right in Spain has
got a large boost thanks to the movement: “la nueva ofensiva social también
se debe al impacto de las movilizaciones de la plataforma de indignados
del 15-M en la Puerta del Sol [en Madrid] y en muchas ciudades españolas,
"que han expresado su rechazo a la ausencia de expectativas de futuro".”
(“CCOO pide tras el 22-M una nueva ofensiva contra la crisis”, in:
Diario Informacion, el periódico de la provincia de Alicante,
May 26, 2011,
Democracy real YA!
Democracia real YA!
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