Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Webliography for Municipalism


My text for the Llano del Rio group's web page summarizes a year of research on the municipalist movement in Spain into an online reading guide....



Writer Alan Moore gifted Llano Del Rio with this fabulous annotated reading list contextualizing the broad movement, and theoretical basis of, municipalism with a thought-line specific to Los Angeles. Moore is an independent scholar of the global autonomous movements, the author of (among other things) “Art Gangs: Protest and Counterculture in New York City,” and “Occupation Culture: Art Squatting in the City from Below.” As a young man in Manhattan in the 1970s his editor at Artforum, John Coplans, said “your beat is the underground.”

Municipalism as I know it, and blogged its later meetings on Occupations & Properties, is an electoral movement in Spain that grew out of the popular assemblies of the 15M movement (named for the camp in Madrid’s Sol square on May 15, 2011). These sprang up nationwide during an election season. They not only took the streets, they camped, months before Occupy Wall Street. (Details at: 15Mpedia.org, including recent issues of the newspaper madrid15M). The elections brought the right wing to power, and years of street demonstrations against austerity measures. The mareas – waves of protestors with specific issues, identified by color (e.g., marea blanca for health workers) – coalesced into electoral platforms around Spain.

Housing is part of everyone’s bare life. Getting evicted is the inflection point for many people’s activism. I was in a show in Berlin on gentrification in 2017. There I talked with Fred Dewey, who ran Beyond Baroque in LA, and was deep into the Neighborhood Council movement in 2002. He wrote The School of Public Life (Errant Bodies/Doormats, 2015), a tiny book of provocative essays on the matter of being face to face, and exercising citizen power. Fred is a student of Hannah Arendt. He loves Ultra-red, the sound art group that’s been long active in LA, recently with some in Defend Boyle Heights. Ultra-red teaches in Europe. If a bibliography can be about books not read, then I like one they pimped: The Force of Listening, by Lucia Farinati & Claudia Firth (Errant Bodies/Doormats, 2017). The Ultra-red gentrification project was called “School of Echoes.” Listening is how one conducts effective assemblies and builds circles of solidarity. It’s worth a study. Bighead blabbermouths like me can always write – even write about what they heard while listening.

In Spain the movement of the evicted is called PAH. A leader was Ada Colau, elected in 2015 as mayor of Barcelona. Quite an achievement for a former squatter – but that’s an aspect of Spanish politics that is alien to USA (although you could look to SF in the ’80s and ’90s to find… a lot of activists who had to move away). Colau and Adrià Alemany wrote Vidas Hipotecadas in 2012, translated as Mortgaged Lives by Michelle Teran for the Journal of Aestehtics & Protest. (She also made a 40-minute film which streams on the Aesthetics & Protest website.) The effects of listening in PAH assemblies is strong: “Each week you cry after these meetings with the [indebted] homeowners, but not just with their pain. There is joy, too, because every week there are problems that get resolved. It is a very beautiful thing” (quoted on the Journal Of Aesthetics & Protest website).

I’d call PAH the spine of Spanish municipalism. Why? Because they do direct action in urban space. They open places for living and for meeting. Here I’ll stick my work, developed with the SqEK group of squatting researchers: the zine House Magic ( 2009-16), my book, Occupation Culture: Art & Squatting in the City from Below (Minor Compositions, 2015), and our anthology Making Room: Cultural Production in Occupied Spaces, Moore and Alan Smart (JoAAP, 2015), both online as PDFs. Those books, and many others edited by SqEK describe a movement blacked out for decades in US media. Wonder why. It’s hard to organize if you’ve got nowhere to live and nowhere to meet. Can’t pay? Organize your ass out of here, why doncha?

Back to voting which is still legal, more or less. The best basic explanation of the Spanish electoral municipalist movement is provided by the Municipal Recipes website, with its 30 min. video of key activists, cooking a meal and explaining their program. (The Guerrilla Translation group also posts the video, and glosses it with the magnificent illustration by Maria Castelló Solbés; an interview with the graphic designers is in the Lumpen Magazine issue on municipalism 2017; there they express some later misgivings; for example about including Italy’s 5-Star.) Ostensibly municipalist platforms (slates of candidates) control numerous cities in Spain today, including Madrid and Barcelona, the biggest. The most radical – with elected governments that word must be used advisedly – is fronted by Ada Colau. Barcelona En Comú is evangelistic. The key voice of the platform in English is the one-time Brit, Kate Shea Baird, who does communications: social networks and translation. She posts on Open Democracy, Medium, Red Pepper, CTXT, Roar, etc. She is a politóloga who studied at Oxford.

Baird was a key organizer of the Fearless Cities conference in Barcelona in June of ’17. (I attended, and blogged it at Occupations & Properties. Barcelona En Comú’s YouTube channel has many conference streams.) Baird’s writing is excellent as an intro to municipalist ideas. For me the best is with Laura Roth for Roarmag.org: “Left-wing populism and the feminization of politics,” from January of ’17, and “Municipalism and the Feminization of Politics” for Roar‘s “City Rises” issue, Summer ’17. It’s important to understand that municipalism is a feminist project – it is politics stripped of the habitus of macho power – imperative command, closed doors, repression, opaque bureaucracy, exclusions. It is a rough ride to center citizens’ voices, care and environmentalism in your politics. You get called a communist witch.

I don’t think Americans appreciate the repression they live with and what it will take to break out of it. Mientras the white settlers have taken up the Comanchero role of fake Indians, and are riding around the wagon train of our futurity. Tania Bruguera said “It’s not just buildings structures and circles of solidarity, it’s how do these circles and structures of solidarity protect themselves?” (from “The Artist as Activist: Tania Bruguera in Conversation with Claire Bishop,” YouTube, 2016). European activists have a lot more of what Huck Finn called “sand,” and don’t think it’s ’cause Spanish and German cops are so soft; they charge, use their sticks, and shoot people (with “non-lethal” rounds).

But it’s true they don’t often murder people in cold blood, that’s real terror. Which brings us to the major municipalist movement in USA, Cooperation Jackson, which has inspired many a Black Lives Matter activist. The Rosa Luxemburg foundation in NYC has posted the pamphlet “Casting Shadows: Chokwe Lumumba and the Struggle for Racial Justice and Economic Democracy in Jackson, Mississippi,” by Kali Akuno (27 pp., 2015). This is a deep-rooted program, dating to Black Panther times. Yes, the South votes red, but that’s the white settler slavers’ government setup. Laura Flanders recently reported on the Southern Movement Assembly. Reverend William Barber is fronting a new Poor People’s Campaign. There’s a lot going on, and transversality is the key. The most impressive activists I met in Barcelona at “Fearless Cities” were Black Lives Matter vets. Today’s promoted t-shirt ad has: “Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you’re a man, you take it” – Malcolm X. Okay for Gary Cooper days, except the BLM activists I met in BCN were all women! Filming a cop shooting your lover in the car – that’s sand.

Rosa Luxemburg foundation also posted the PDF of Vicente Rubio-Pueyo’s “Municipalism in Spain. From Barcelona to Madrid, and Beyond” (24 pp. 2017). It’s important to note that municipalism is broad-based. Barcelona’s platform in Catalonia fronts hard, but they have other problems today. The MAC meetings (Muncipalismo, Autogobierno y Contrapoder) include activists from all over Spain. There have been four meetings so far. (Note: there is no central source for MAC. Search it at YouTube. Also remember the MAC in Euskadi, Basque country, is MAK.) The idea is in the conference title – autonomous self-organization and counter-power are integral parts of the municipalist idea. They are a point of leverage. (Squatted social centers are so important here.) Without a foot in the movements, your electoral candidates simply drift off into business as usual.

A main area of focus for Cooperation Jackson – it’s in its name – is development of worker co-ops with city government help. Common ownership of businesses is known in Europe through famous examples like the UK’s Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers (1844) and the Spanish Mondragon Corporation of the mid-1950s. Anarchists prefer worker collectives without hierarchical management. Baltimore has a great one; a kingpin in that now works for the NGO Democracy Collaborative, which promotes co-ops. A broad-scale economy buffered against hyper-capitalist tides is essential for enhancing democracy. Wage slaves cannot be free. There’s a lot on this. Recently I’d recommend following Nathan Schneider, a Nation Magazine writer (sadly much is gated). There’s his forthcoming Everything for Everyone: The Radical Tradition that Is Shaping the Next Economy (Nation Books, USA). He also edited Ours to Hack and to Own: The Rise of Platform Cooperativism, a New Vision for the Future of Work and a Fairer Internet with Trebor Scholz. Scholz organized the conference series “The Politics of Digital Culture,” much of which is online in streams.

Scholz’s background is hacker theory. His ideas feed into the wave of contemporary “techno-politics,” which has the most traction in Europe. (Trebor is German. In the USA, big media worries about Russkies hacking our white settler voting machines.) I attended and blogged the November ’17 Democratic Cities participation technologies festival in Madrid last fall. I struggled to absorb the dope on things like “Consul, the largest platform in the world based on Ruby on Rails. Free software for participation in politics.” (Again, much of this is streamed on YouTube.) This shit is deep, and revolutionary. It’s not Uber or AirBnB “sharing” economy BS, but true tech utopistics. I cannot refference y’all a source for the hacking stuff. The ideas and examples behind this technological research are laid out very well in Michael Menser’s We Decide! Theories and Cases in Participatory Democracy (Temple University, 2018) for a full dress rundown on the theory and history of “PD.” Menser’s sympathies are Occupy Wallstreet and anarchist, and he has chapters like “Participatory Budgeting, Democratic Theory, and the Disarticulation of the State” which tickled me. This must come to pass….

For eggheads, one bulkier read could be Michael Hardt and Author Antonio Negri’s Assembly (Oxford U., 2017), which turns some ancient political theory assumptions around. Expensive in hardback, yeah, but perfect for discussion groups and somewhat smoother than the earlier books. Find the pirate PDF….

Monday, March 12, 2018

Clochards – Rough Sleepers in “The Other Paris”


Today I am stealing from Luc Sante's book “The Other Paris” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015). Sante includes a note on the homeless, “rough sleepers” and squatters of that city in the 19th and early 20th century. Here is an extensive quote from his fascinating and expertly sourced book:

Anonymous 1954 photo of clochards in Paris; from the Flickr page of Jean Paul Margnac


Luc Sante begins discussing Jean Renoir's 1932 film “Boudu Saved from Drowning,”

“in which a bookseller rescues from the Seine an uncivilized free spirit named Boudu, who proceeds to call down chaos upon the bookseller's tidy existence. Boudu, large, hairy, and inarticulate, was probably intended (by René Fauchois, the playwright on whose work the movie is based), as a child of nature out of Rousseau, but the way Michel Simon plays him leaves little doubt as to his social category: even though he doesn't seem to be a drunk, he is inescapably a clochard.
“This word, the first published use of which was apparently by Aristide Bruant in 1895, derives from cloche (bell) and signifies a bum or hobo. There are various theories as to its etymology: that it comes from an argot term for 'limping'; that it alludes to the bell announcing the official end of marketplace hours, when scavengers were free to collect unsold produce [gleaning]; that it evokes beggars who rang bells to accompany their pleas; that it summons a memory of when the post of bell ringer at various churches was given to the neediest member of the congregation. My favorite, though is Jane-Paul Clébert's, that the cloche is the sky, and all who sleep under it are its children.
“A North African immigrant who became a clochard explained to Robert Giraud [Les vins des rue, 1983/'55] in the early 1950s that:
“'it's easy to become a clochard in Paris. One day you put on a jacket and you say, that's my shirt, and then you put on another jacket and this time you say, that's my jacket, and then you slip on a third – my overcoast. After that you go sit on the quais and you meet other guys like you, also clochards, and with them you smoke some butts and you drink some liters. At night you sleep under the bridges or on top of the sand heaps. When winter comes the clochards die like flies, because it's cold and they don't have on enough jackets, but that's how it goes. In spring others will come and the cycle will start all over again.'”
“The clochard drinks and sleeps, and scrounges or begs or steals or sells junk on Sundays at Sant-Médard or works up schemes or sometimes takes on labor at Les Halles or on the docks. There were old clochards and young ones, mostly men and a few women, quite a few couples – Giraud met a man and a woman who'd been bumming together for 27 years. For that matter he met a grandmother, father, and son, all clochards and happily drinking together. Some were lifers, at it since they were kids. Others had had previous lives, real or imagined. This one claimed he'd been a professor of philosophy, that one was a retired librarian from the Bibliotheque Nationale, another had spent 40 years in the Bats d'Af (the Battalions d'Infanterie Legere d'Afrique, the disciplinary corps) and had the tattoos to prove it.
“They slept on the quais – those by the Gare d'Austerlitz were particularly commodious and reasonably untroubled, and enteprising clochards built shelters out of crates and planks and maybe car parts. Or in decent weather sometimes they camped in vacant lots. Or else they slept in abandoned houses or sheds in courtyards or maybe empty attics in otherwise occupied houses. If you were bold and discreet you might climb up to the top story of some apartment buildings and start trying doors – you had a good chance of eventually happening upon an unused storeroom. There were innumerable places to sleep with reasonable protection from the weather, but you had to really want it. “All those hideouts are impossible for the ordinary piker down below to find, pounding th epavements with his nose in the air. You have to have a vital need, be obsessed with the idea of four walls and a roof, of a shelter from the elements, at the same time that you are categorically refusing to be jammed in with others in a barracks.” Giraud observed that “a sleeping clochard always looks like a corpse, ideally a headless corpse. Before checking out, as a matter of protection, he wraps his head in a newspaper or a rag, or hikes up his jacket or coat or shirt, whatever he has on. The ostrich, also a biped, does the same.” The alternative, for the desperate or in times of police crackdowns, was called refiles la comete, “to retrace the path of the comet” – that is, to keep walking all night....

– Luc Sante. The Other Paris (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015).



Sunday, November 19, 2017

Boss Ladies – The Leaders of Municipalist Democracy


Photographers in Teatro Espanol, awaiting the mayors' arrival onstage

My last post, “Technopolitics: An Idiosyncratic Introduction” is not so bad as I re-read it. My head is expanding fast on this stuff. I've just finished the public events at the CID – “Collective Intelligence for Democracy”, The events I attended were just the tail end of more than a week of work by politicos and hackers in Madrid on democratic cities in concept and practice.
In a nutshell, this is the start of a democratic politics beyond representation – beyond congresses and parliaments, peopled by the “elect,” our best and brightest (or by now our most cleverly bought and best at being bogus). How do we do that? Through crowd-sourcing internet interfaces and artificial intelligence, for strong starters.
The ideology behind it is the commons.

A Short Philological Discursus on Ideology

Commons? What's that? Sorry for the philological digression here... but it's interesting. Google dictionary has one definition, and Wikipedia another. Let's start with the one I mean: "The commons is the cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth. These resources are held in common, not owned privately." (They don't mention land itself, nor the emergent commons of information, but – take what we can get right now.)
For Google's new dictionary function, what pops up for “commons” is: "1. short for House of Commons. 2. land or resources belonging to or affecting the whole of a community.” Example: “the mismanagement of a commons." Perhaps dear reader can see the problem here?
Yes. It's control of information resources by a major capitalist corporation with vested ideological interests. Commons is not the English example of representative government – a system introduced to sublate direct democracy, agora or town meeting style, back into elite control.
Nor is it typically mismanaged, as the usage example has it. That's a fallacy of classical (i.e. capitalist) economics – we'd best call it a lie – that has been debunked by David Graeber.

The Mayors' Introduction

The mayors of Madrid and Barcelona spoke together at “Collective Intelligence for Democracy”. The lush jewel box of the Teatro Español was jammed by media jostling with their cameras as Ada Colau and Manuela Carmena took the stage. They trooped out en masse as the event began. Corporate media does not care about the issues the mayors wanted to discuss.
Ada Colau was on Spanish TV that night being grilled about Catalonia, the current total obsession.
The following text is from notes on the simultaneous earphone translation to English.
Pablo Soto, Madrid's wheelchair-bound counselor for citizen participation, transparency and open government, intro'd the mayors as two people who embody new forms of leadership. Politicians change their views on citizen participation when they see its power, he said. But these are two mayors who have never changed their mind. They've been in on it from the beginning.


Pablo Soto
Manuela Carmena was exhortatory. “This new democracy is going to have extraordinarry importance. It's going to change everything. It's changing history. The core of the change is rooted in the cities.” They are looking more and more to the green aspect, to become sustainable and to be more linked to the countryside.
Ada Colau proclaimed her love for Madrid. Even as “the big governments quarrel among each other we in the cities love each other.” (She refers there to the Catalonian crisis and the federal police intervention and termination of local rule in that province.) Democracy was born in the cities in Athens. “Since it is a government of the people, the people must be the main actors. We've had lots of experience where the people are not really in power.”
“Democracy needs proximity or it doesn't work. In the city, the problems that affect you every day have to be managed. We are in the place of proximity where it is easier to have innovative participatory experiences.” Nation states and the European level of government are more remote, and closer to non-democratic powers like banks. So “we have this crisis of formal democracy.”
Powers far away govern our citizens from above. “If you don't love you don't care for democracy. It doesn't make sense.”

Century of Wars or Century of Democracy?

Pablo Soto: Many say the 20th century will be remembered as a century of terrible wars, and the nuclear bomb. But I see it as the century of democracy. “When it started you didn't have universal suffrage. Now it is the global standard,” with some exceptions. For the future, “the power of interconnected society will be the big advance of this century.”


Manuela on the Madrid metro
Manuela Carmena: I think these participation processes are going to reform the structure of the institutions. Specifically they are reforming the world of law. I am really interested in crowd law. Today we have important tools to develop this collaborative law. “It's like a fruit born from participation.”
This points to the fact that most of the citizens feel better that they have a say about what is going to happen in the city. Through analyzing the responses of people on the city web page Decide Madrid, we can see that people “don't feel insecure anymore that they don't know the law.” (Mayor Carmena is a retired judge.)
Ada Colau: I'm excited about this being the century of women. {Big applause.] I was so happy to see those thousands of people on the streets against rape culture. [She refers to a notorious case of gang rape in San Fermin during the running of the bulls.] “We are equal before the law, but in the case of women we are living in a patriarchy, and that is still to be won. Feminism and democracy go hand in hand,” a feminism of the cities.
“Real democracy can only be bottom up.” This conference is about network democracy which is about horizontality.

(At this point, a woman came along the aisle with her tiny child, and pointed to the two mayors onstage.)
Colau continued: We should not keep this difference between inside the institutions and the outside. They should be transparent. We publish our accounts, our mailboxes and the public agenda. These are changes that are here to stay when we leave government. Future governments won't dare to change them.
Ada Colau also remembers those who are, like me, digitally challenged. It is a challenge to “give power to the citizens from micro-processees in the neighborhood to the city level. We need hybrid forms to combine with the digital participation, because many people can't make it to interact digitally. There is inequalty of access. We have “lots of work to do to make our dreams true.”
Manuela Carmena continued: “The most important thing about the arrival of women into the public sphere is the arrival of women's culture.” If you wonder how we are going to improve integration, reduce inequality, all those “hows” – “women are practical. They ask, What can we do about that?”
Institutions must have porosity, and hence they must be transparent. As leaders we must be accountable, to say, We did this right, we did this wrong. “This new way of unerstanding democracy is going to erode many things.” Now there is no habit of being accountable. There is no evaluation of public policies. The media is not ready for those exercises in evalueation.
“When democracy becomes massive it has to change institutions forcefuly and necessarily,” she said. “We are heading into a fascinating world.” Technology is helping us a lot to lead in the 21st century to develop more empathy, and to amplify fundamental principles of humanity.

Beyond Participation – “Responsibilization”

Pablo asked: Here, with our international collaborators, we are starting to generate a dfferent culture of democracy. How can we convince others that laws should be created by the citizenry?
Ada Colau: We are seeing a generalized crisis in Europe as institutions which are far away are obeying other mandates, not the people. You must say that globally there is a weakening of the 20th century forms that were a step forward like the United Nations, the European Union. Now there is a global crisis of governance. We are seeing a resurgence of the extreme right we did not think we'd see again. There are the seeds of terrible dangers.
But the time of crisis is a time of opportunity. The horizon is open – the future is unwritten. We are sure that we can give the leading role to citizens if the citizens believe it.
We have only the force of the people. We don't have the media. We don't have the banks. We have only the force of the people to enlarge democracy.
Participation is not just about opinion. It's also about co-responsibilization. We need maximum commitment to the commons, to the planet, to defend those. That's the only force we have. The force of the people is not simple. Its magic comes from responsibility.
History proves that hummanity evolves because of collaboration. That is how humanity has achieved further development. The far right has infiltrated its ideas of social darwinism, of the war of all against all. But that's not true. We reached this level because of optimism.
That was the inspiring part.


Medialab Prado workshop: collective intelligence for democracy (2016)
For this writer, the public events of the Democratic Cities conference in Madrid have been revelatory. The experience has layered onto my previous attendance at the TransEurope Festival, the MAC 3 conference of municipalists, and the “Fearless Cities” conference in Barcelona. A secret army of theoreticians, hackers, activists, and a new generation of elected politicians have been building this alternative world only in the last few years. It's the future of democracy and the machinery of municipalism. And soon, with luck and persistence, we will all go there – without a rocket ship.

MORE SOON

LINKS

The event includes CONSULCon'17 (that was specialist work on participation software), and Democratic Cities: International Conference and Collective Intelligence for Democracy,
http://democratic-cities.cc/

This pretty, short animation (3:46( uses water as the example of commons
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7jaSjkd0jM

23 minutes of historian Peter Linebaugh explaining what "commons" is all about -- the Magna Carta. Weirdly, it's 1:33 minutes in:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSF3m_Uav6Y

Pablo Soto Bravo
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pablo_Soto

This “crowd law” stuff is truly brand new. CrowdLaw – Online Public Participation in Lawmaking. Using public engagement to improve the quality, effectiveness and legitimacy of the lawmaking process. Developed in Madrid draft version 1.0 of the report (dated October 12, 2017)
https://crowd.law/

And this just jumped up this week, as if on call from Mayor Carmena:
Crowd.Law
http://thegovlab.org/crowd-law/

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Technopolitics – An Idiosyncratic Introduction


I promised to write “next” on “Technopolitics and Social Centers.” Those are the hardest parts to explain of all the Spanish-language conference events I have been attending lately.
They are also the least reported.

This time I'll tackle the technopolitics. This basically amounts to using the internet to build platforms – interactive websites – to change government, to make it more transparent, more responsive, more honest, and, finally, more truly democratic.
The chief hacker in charge of civic platforms in Taiwan, Audrey Tang offers a good English-language introduction in about 20 minutes. (All links in the text are below this blog post [saves the fingers]). S/he comes from the electorally successful Occupy movement in that country. There was no police violence in all of that, so nobody heard about it. “Media doesn't like that peaceful resolution stuff. So it moves on to the fighting,” Tang said. “Democracy is not just voting. Voting is just the entry level of the game.” S/he is working to “upgrade democracy in Taiwan,” building platforms of engaging citizens in bottom-up policy development, and a digital media channel to engage politicians directly.
Tang was here in Madrid in 2016 at the Collective Intelligence for Democracy conference at Medialab. That's going on again now, as I write. A convocation of vetted hackers are working on these platforms in the center of this city, across the plaza from the occupied social center La Ingobernable.
(Actually, La Ingob had their own “Hackmeeting 2017” at the same time as MAC3 in October. I've no idea what they were working on. But the local gang is up there in the occupied social center pretty much every night, burning the midnight oil on something...) The Madrid Medialab's bi-lingual Intelligencia Colectiva Para La Democracia conference is “two weeks of collaborative work, multidisciplinary teams around projects related to democracy, citizen participation and the tools and methodologies that facilitate these processes.”
It climaxes with public events – a series of talks by different luminares, including media theorist and ex-punk pirate radio guy Richard Barbrook, and the mayors of Madrid and Barcelona.
Honestly, this is really geek stuff. And, like most of what Medialab does, it's over my head. But the implications of all this development are indeed revolutionary. Even though most of it is till in beta (in development), it is being used all over Spain, and, clearly in Taiwan.
It's important to note that this isn't “smart city,” using digital technology to enable managers to manage more efficiently. It isn't internet entrepreneurship training. And it isn't about voting in elections. This is a total re-imagining of what it means to govern in democracies.


Taller de Tecnopolítica posted to Twitter by Ourense en Comun
The MAC3 Workshop in A Coruna

My closest exposure to all this was at the MAC3 conference in A Coruna, in the workshop on technopolitics. Several Spanish hackers presented their platforms and their features, which are all in operation in governments today. (In this account, I'll skip the usual moaning and groaning about my low level of Spanish and the social exclusion an old person feels in an event dominated by the young. I plunged on, and do continue despite all that. But it is still the grain of salt dear reader must hold in mind.)
The workshop leader introduced, saying that technopolitical work is “more transversal” than meetings and assemblies, which tend to attract people who are already activist.
It is the program of capital, he said, to conquer and privatize critical infrastructure, including online. Our capacity to organize depends upon these infrastructures. Added to this is control of our own digital identities. As well, the militarization of technology is underway. Drones, robots, and mass surveillance are only a part of it. Like food production, the web is controlled by five companies, Google (now a unit of Alphabet), Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft.
(E.g.: Video from the recent “Peoples' Disruption” meeting on platform cooperativism was posted by its host the New School to their Facebook page; only a week later it is already deeply buried in the endless stream of university publicity.)
Counterposed to this is the ideal of a transparent media, exemplified by WikiPedia. (There is also a 15Mpedia, which concentrates on the Spanish movements.) It is through this transparent media that we can do important things like monitor our physical environment, and transversally coordinate the municipalist movements.
A second speaker talked about how municipalist platforms have a different view of the “smart city,” a discourse that dominated architectural theory in the late '90s, and by now has become a major paradigm of urban policy, planning, and development. This is not going without criticism. Municipalists are introducing proposals in every city in which they are active.
Presentations then began. First up was Agora the platform of participation of Ganemos Jerez. (That's a city in the province of Cádiz in the autonomous community of Andalusia.) This is an online space of citizen participation. It includes voting and process, which could be an invitation to participate in a workshop. It also solicits agreement (or not) on political initiatives, like alliances of the Ganemos electoral platform with the political parties Podemos or PSOE (Socialists/liberals). He showed proposals from citizens which were active on the website, some 25-30. One proposal he liked was for a school of critical citizenship.
Privatized consumer electricity is a big issue. It accounts for many citizens' sub-proposals. (The necessity to “re-municipalize” public services privatized by right-wing city governments, and how to do that was a major theme in the MAC3 conference.)
Inter-city connections are needed to make a strong technopolitical group. The methodology of participation itself is political. In smaller cities there are fewer activists, and it is harder to launch and sustain a group. These folks especially need connections to larger operations.
A presenter gave an overview of the Decidim platform used by Barcelona en Comu, the city council of Barcelona headed by Ada Colau. (He promised to send me the link, but didn't; what I found through search is in the “Links” below.) Decidim – (which I have also read is based on Consul, developed in Madrid – ah, Catalonian pride!) – is developed and maintained by “a productive ecosystem” of hackers, citizens and others working as meta.decidim. At the moment of our briefing, Decidim had 27,000 participants, 12K proposals, 14K “processes,” 1.6K “results,” and 36 projects underway with the city.
Decidim is “a guarantee of democratic quality” as well as privacy and security for citizen participants. It is used by 12 cities now – Pamplona, one in France, and all the rest in Catalonia.
An open question is what role Decidim played in the recent independence bid. In any event, the whole mishegos has certainly obscured the positive developments in innovative governance in Catalonia. I have never seen any of this covered on Spanish television. (Unsurprising, that; dinosaurs don't like mammals.)


network cloud of the French "Nuit Debout" movement
Big Conference, Big Talk

These guys (nearly all) are geeks, working for municipal governments in Spain. The big ideas come out at the conferences from the muck-a-mucks and little cheeses that give formal presentations. As I wrote above, I'm going to one of these in Madrid very soon. But in preparing this post I stumbled upon Heather Marsh speaking at the 2016 Medialab conference.
This “internet activist, programmer and philosopher” is trying to build “trust networks” within “network commons” to counteract the companies which are “are nothing more than gated wells of our personal data,” or “walled gardens.” She says, “Because of all this control of our data, and our minds and our actions and our relationships” we are all “being funnelled into this really ridiculous asinine infantile world where all we're getting out of Silicon Valley are dating apps, and Facebook and - who here is bored? There's other things that I'd rather be doing, like looking at our governance... and those applications aren't being built for us.”
At least not by capitalized private enterprise.
And in New York, the recently concluded third conference on Platform Cooperativism called "the People's Disruption” intends to bolster the challenge to the aforementioned “fearful five” platform monopolies.
There's a great deal more to be said about technopolitics, of course, and many folks working wholeheartedly on that. As the internet is gradually taken away from us, just as radio and television in their turn were privatized – (does anyone even remember the “equal time” provision on U.S. television anymore?) – it becomes increasingly necessary to defend what remains of its open nature.

LINKS:

Audrey Tang: Stories from the Future of Democracy
Tang is a high-powered Chinese hacker, and presently "Digital Minister" -- or a minister without portfolio, in Taiwan's government
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxMxg4ct-D8
You can also see his 2 hour talk on “Digital Innovation in Public Service Transformation at Medialab-Prado”


Hackmeeting 2017 en Madrid
https://hacklab.ingobernable.net/2017/10/09/hackmeeting-2017-en-madrid/

Collective inteligence for democracy
http://medialab-prado.es/article/collective-intelligence-for-democracy-2017

There's hours and hours of videos from the 2016 conference on the subject, in both Spanish and English, which come up on this search:
"Medialab Intelligencia Colectiva Para La Democracia"

Farhad Manjoo, “Tech’s ‘Frightful 5’ Will Dominate Digital Life for Foreseeable Future,” New York Times, January 20, 2016
https://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/21/technology/techs-frightful-5-will-dominate-digital-life-for-foreseeable-future.html

Agora – Plataforma de participación de Ganemos Jerez
http://www.ganemosjerez.es/2016/04/23/plataforma-de-participacion/

A school for critical citizenship. I like that too. Here's one proposed for Egypt:
Maha Bali, "Critical citizenship for critical times," April 14, 2014
https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/maha-bali/critical-citizenship-for-critical-times

Re. Decidim, there are these two presentations on Slideshare, explaining "BCN DIGITAL/ Barcelona: Collaborative policies for the collaborative Economy," published in March '17 by Alvaro Porro (Barcelona Activa) i Mayo Fuster (IN3)
https://www.slideshare.net/Barcelona_cat/bcn-digital-barcelona-collaborative-policies-for-the-collaborative-economy
and this: "Discussions and decisions on Decidim Barcelona" from April '17 by Pablo Aragon
https://www.slideshare.net/elaragon/discussions-and-decisions-on-decidim-barcelona

Heather Marsh speaking at “Inteligencia Colectiva para la Democracia. Sábado 19. Tarde”; She says the quoted words around the 39 minute mark.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J5g67AE4jSU
Heather Marsh: "Rethinking the moats and mountains"
https://georgiebc.wordpress.com/category/code-will-rule/
her project, Getgee:
http://www.getgee.xyz/

The People’s Disruption: Platform Co-ops for Global Challenges
https://platform.coop/2017
Link for all video including breakouts
http://isoc-ny.org/p2/platform-coop-2017


Equal-time rule
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equal-time_rule
Geez!, could this still be law? I can't imagine that it is...

Friday, November 3, 2017

Reading Matter – Transeuropa 2017 in Madrid


Summary: This blog post is mainly about the printed paper reader published in advance of the recent Transeuropea festival in Madrid. (PDF available; see links below.) Described as an artistic, cultural and political event, it was my first dip into the hazy, crazy world of EU-funded get-togethers for an “alternative Europe.” This time the TE Fest people were partnering with the muncipalist city council government Ahora Madrid, and the European Commons Assembly. To save my weary fingers, links are pasted below.


How to write about these things? I'm blogging, so I express insecurities, and throw in gonzo bits and cracks. I don't have to make sense of it all. I want it to be interesting... This writing now is about these meetings, encounters, conferences. Everyone there is doing something. They are not on their personal path of best advantage. These events are evidence that folks are moving towards and in a generalized positive human future. It is, I truly hope, the drifting vector of the 'general intellect,' be that political or social or, well, only art.
During my weekly short eviction for flat-cleaning, I sit in the Centro Centro of Madrid, the exhibition and workplace of the city hall. From time to time, I hear the groaning sounds of the “Charivari” exhibition on political noise as the show disgorges a group of visitors. I feel so lucky to be here in this ample public building with beautiful light and internet for free. I wonder what to write, of my experiences here in participation city. With Transeuropa festival, I am moving decisively into NGO-land. So this isn't about squatting – or urban development from below, gentrification and the like, which is what this “Occupations & Properties” blog has been about for eight years. And it isn't about artists' collectives, which is what another long-neglected blog based on my 2012 book “Art Gangs” is about.

The Municipalist Submarine Rises from the Sea
I was so psyched for the Transeuropa 2017 festival! I burbled on about it at the English happy hour at the La Ingobernable squat. The newsprint publication, which appeared a couple of weeks in advance, was wonderful, shot through with enticing formulations and revelatory ideas.
The introductory text by the director declared that the festival was to be about “going beyond the nation state.” At the same time, this “can mean renewed autonomy at local levels.” That's the strategy – the “bet,” in Pablo Carmona's formulation – of the municipalist movement.
The three themes of the festival, in addition to understanding a transnationalism advanced by flying in folks from around Europe (including one of our SqEK colleagues), were “Europe as a refuge,” i.e., engaging the crises of refugee and migrant flows into Europe; “the Commons,” exploring ideas and practices of this powerful emergent political and social paradigm; and third, “cities of change” – the new municipalism. That's my meat, as I've been blogging the MAC 3 conference of Spanish municipal platforms on this blog for a month now.
Their newspaper promised a kind of wedding cake of artistic and political futurism. As it turned out we were delivered a tray of cookies and some piles of crumbs. But there were some tasty bits in there!
At one point during the opening session I ran into Georg from Hablarenarte who said the TE people had wanted to hold the conference in Barcelona. Maybe that would have been better, he said. God no!, I cried. That place is a political tire fire now. You're much better off in Madrid, where at least the municipalist program is running fairly smoothly (if invisibly).
The festival kickoff saw a rather despairing intro talk by a German quite traumatized by the rise of the nationalist right in the east, the “illiberal” democracies – and a short video showing handfuls of people waving at the camera in a plethora of European cities large and mostly smaller. Argh, sez me. This isn't how you start a conference! You don't 'share your concerns.' You just intro the big cheese, who tells you what you should be thinking about and working on. I ran away.

Madrid is a Democracy Lab
But I came back the next day... But first, to return to the newspaper – it included an abridged version of Bernardo Gutiérrez' text published on the Open Democracy media platform “Madrid as a democracy lab” (July '17). He has just released a book, Pasado mañana. Viaje a la España del cambio (Arpa Editores), which I am trudging through, full of accounts of the interesting things that are being done in Spain now.
Now Bernardo is working at Medialab, a radical city-funded media center which was a partner in the festival, and the site of the somewhat concurrent European Commons Assembly. Some TE Fest action was happening in the Medialab, and a lot more across the plaza in La Ingobernable. (This partnering of adjacent places, one city-funded, the other an illegal occupation is in itself somewhat jaw-dropping.) The Commons Assembly is a recently formed grojup. There's more about it in the newspaper, but I did attend one brief session. People were sitting in a circle talking about their concerns, then they stepped back and let others come up and talk. All of it was thought-provoking, very orderly and well-behaved – a serious and intelligent group of folks. I'd no idea this was happening, and couldn't really open up to it all, since I was already booked into the TE Fest. But I digress.

Bernardo's text introduces Pablo Soto's concept of disintermediation, which is the political process of “removing intermediaries from representative politics” and “getting citizens to make their own decisions.” That this is a technical question is what concerns Medialab. Soto, a longtime hacker with the peer-to-peer movement, now works for the city government of Madrid, precariously controlled by an alliance of municipalist political parties. (It was for years in the hands of the right-wing PP, which resulted in some spectacular corruption trials.) Soto is managing the Decide Madrid citizen participation e-platform, which is already being used for “binding urban planning consultations.” This means in effect citizens get to vote on fully articulated proposals.
The Imagina Madrid program at another TE Fest partner, Intermediae, opened the proposal process to the public. (In fact, to make a fully articulated architectural development proposal is specialists' business, so “public” means merely an expanded field of experts; but that's something different than a closed bid process, for sure.)
Bernardo's text goes on to describe the “forceful decentralization policy” of the Madrid city government. This started some years ago, even under the PP mayoralty, as Intermediae took over cultural budgets in the city's peripheral barrios, and started to hire architecture collectives like Basurama, Zuloark and Todo por la Praxis to do citizen activation projects.
The city also handed out empty buildings to citizen groups to self-organize as social centers, thus in effect officializing a long-time current of “citizen protagonism” – Madrid's squatting movement.
The one squatting collective that was disappointed in its desire for a social center was the Patio Maravillas (covered numerous times in this blog in years past). They wanted a space in the center, and the city hall just wouldn't allow that. Finally they took one: La Ingobernable. And it fits right in.

Time of Monsters
Back to the paper. The article, written by two “advocacy coordinators,” Troncoso and Utratel called “Commons in the Time of Monsters: How P2P Politics Can Change the World, One City at a Time,” is the best rundown of the city-hacking change machine that is commons-based municipalism.
“The old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born. Now is the time of monsters.” (May be Gramsci.) This time, a century later, we can zap them with our rayguns – “commons enabling, aka P2P (peer-to-peer, person-to-person, people-to-people) technologies... [which] enable small group dynamics at higher levels of complexity, and enable the reclamation of power.”
Yes, “power concedes nothing without a demand,” and the plan here is to weaponize demand, an unanswerable RFS attack on the power structure as it is, with its mazes of bureaucratic offices and blizzards of paperwork. “RFS” – that's a Request for Services attack/demand, to signal this new kind of online activism. (Not the negative disruptive DDoS or Distributed Denial of Service attack, which is what the current state bureaucracy sadly amounts to in much of its day-to-day operation.)
The beast fights back. The “activists-turned-political representatives” of Spain's municipalist platforms, write Troncoso and Utratel, “face an unwaveringly hostile media environment, which exaggerates their blunders (or invents them when convenient) while burying their achievements.”
They go on to discuss the “Partner State” idea, which includes the “promotion of real, needs-oriented entrepreneurship... bottom-up productive infrastructures” like coops and renewables, and – here's the key, which puts this all squarely into “Occupations & Properties” territory – programs to “allow commoners to repurpose or take over unused or underutilized public buildings for social ends, which giving legal recognition ot the act of commoning, whether through copyleft-inspired property-law hacks or through a longer process of gradually institutionalising commons practices.”
So squatting has a new name – commonsing. And as I learned at MAC3, there are already developed protocols for the process of evaluating and legally recognizing squatted spaces. And they are not only the idealized protocols evolved by artist Adelita Husni-Bey. They are being put into practice in Naples, as we shall see below.

“Renewed Political Force”
A text from the muckamucks in the European Commons Assembly outlines the “why” and the “what.” While the municipalists don't seem to focus much now on citizens assemblies, and the U.S. ones for sure don't care – this recently-formed bunch is all about that. And “that” is where popular power begins. “On the streets,” okay, but with thoughtful, civil citizens deliberating together on the matters that concern them. It's from there to action, personal, collective, and political.
Bloeman and Leonard write, in “For a Renewed Political Force in Europe,” that relentless markets, growth, comoodification, “extractive relationship with nature” blah blah blah have broken down social cohesion. That's what they start with. They applaud and support local initiatives to make community wifi, co-housing, community land trusts, and workers' co-ops. Their brief in the Madrid meeting was to go “beyond ideational affiliation,” and grow their movement. The emphasis was on “production” – political production around the commons. What could that mean? I don't know, 'cause I didn't make any of the breakouts. I was busy with the TE Fest.
The newspaper foregrounded migrant rights – “The Cities Want Them In!” came from the book Shifting Baselines of Europe. (That title's actually a creepy concept; the example is fishermen who don't notice that the fish are getting smaller and less numerous since they are invested in a “baseline shift”; it's a fancy name for gettinig used to the unfolding disaster.) While I didn't follow this line closely, we had a breakout (which I'll describe) wherein I met a refugee from conflict Africa. I realized that there is a difference in advocating for refugees and for economic migrants. They are mixed together in the waves trying to get into Europe, but the bureaucracy favors one over the other. (I'll be addressing these questions in a forthcoming essay on the union of manteros – blanket-sellers from Senegal – in Madrid.)
It's a theme struck strongly by the radical mayor of Naples, Luigi de Magistris. “Naples was the first Italian city to establish a 'Department of the Commons' and the first to change the municipal statute by inserting the commons as one of the interests to be protected and recognised as the functional exercise of fundamental rights of the person.” (That's from another interview, “In Naples we are all illegal or no-one is.”)
The Naples protocol for legalizing occupied social centers as “social commons” was studied in A Coruna at MAC3 in a late session which I haven't gotten around to blogging yet!
De Magistris describes the “absolute novelty” of a new way of working together between city government and social movements. “How does this happen? Through direct contact, open meetings, popular assemblies in the neighborhoods, observatories, and by keeping a direct relation with social centres and spaces of activism and active citizenship.”
Naples is a refuge city – in “the vanguard of a new 'diplomacy from below' working for a Mediterranean of peace and not war.”

Theory of Nomadism
There is another interview in there with Roi Braidotti “On Nomadism.” It's always great to hear academics wrap up all the politics into conceptual categories. Because that's really the job with municipalist politics, and post-nationalism of course, is to think all sorts of things that before have been only peacenik hippie dreams into place as government policy.
She has written three books on recent subjective transformations, and finally proposes post-identitarian nomadic subjects who are delinked from ethnicity. This breaks down to a proposal for “flexible citizenship,” a “temporary, interim citizenship.” Immigrants denied papers in Spain certainly need this. How do we do it if the government won't?
How can we “postulate citizenship on participation, on belonging, on taxation, on being there... allowing people without countries, stateless people, to be citizens”? Legal minds are working on this.
Finally, on the climate crisis she notes: “We need to be able to think for future generations who cannot do anything for us. The future per definition, cannot be reciprocal, so we should exit the Kantian morality” – which governs modern political arrangements since the 18th century – “'I do that for you, you do that for me'... No! You do that for the love of humanity, because if we don't do that, there is not going to be a humanity!” We must give up the idea of reciprocity, the soul of compromise, as the engine of our politics.
Easy to say, but harder to say clearly.
The TE Fest put great store in culture as a vehicle to “break walls and create bridges from the ruins of xenophobia and hate spaeeches.” Indeed. How to escape from our political habits? From what Reich called the “emotional contagion” encoded even in our bodily behaviors of anger, frustration, and the social media escape from an actual public sphere already in tatters?
There's a good deal more in this little newspaper – on Turkey, Syrian refugees, feminism in politics. But that's a good start.

NEXT: Well, we'll just have to see.

LINKS


Transeuropa 2017 – Convergent Spaces
https://transeuropafestival.eu/es/

Ahora Madrid
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahora_Madrid

European Commons Assembly
https://europeancommonsassembly.eu/

“Charivari” exhibition on political noise as the show disgorges a group of visitors.
http://www.centrocentro.org/centro/exposicion_ficha/243

La Ingobernable – Centro Social de Comunes Urbanos
https://ingobernable.net/

The texts under discussion are all in these PDFs:
The journal of the Transeuropa Festival in English and in Spanish, La revista de Transeuropa Festival
https://transeuropafestival.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Transeuropa2017-english.pdf

Bernardo Gutiérrez , ?Madrid as a democracy lab,” 10 July 2017
An exuberant ecosystem of citizen practices and self-managed spaces has turned Madrid into an international reference of the urban commons. (also in Español y Português)
https://www.opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/bernardo-guti-rrez/madrid-as-democracy-lab

Stacco Troncoso andAnn Marie Utratel . "Commons in the Time of Monsters: How P2P Politics Can Change the World, One City at a Time,” June, 2017 at:
http://commonstransition.org/commons-time-monsters/
This article expands on themes showcased on Commons Transition and P2P: a Primer, a short publication from the P2P Foundation and the Transnational Institute examining the potential of commons-based peer production to radically re-imagine our economies, politics and relationship with nature. (Download.)

Monday, October 23, 2017

Not “Seeing like a State” and a talk about Our Press at MAC 3 (4th post)


"Mutaciones, Proyecciones, Alternativas y Confluencias 15M" (2014) legible at: http://autoconsulta.org/mutaciones.php

Preliminary theoretical excursus:
In a review of recent books on the Anthropocene, Benjamin Kunkel writes: “No collective actor can be conjured from a name, and the literature of the Anthropocene so far fails to identify any historical process that might combine with moral exhortation to produce a borderless social movement in which human beings throughout the world effect their ecological solidarity as a political force.” Who could this “collective actor” be? A Comintern? An NGO? (Greenpeace is pretty good.) Apparently, a decentred movement is not good enough. Is it disingenuous to believe in a leaderless global movement?
Not according to Amador Fernández-Savater. Rather than thinking like 1919, he emphasizes the "everyday places of experience" we each inhabit within the present planet-destroying processes of hyper capitalism. “Neoliberalism is in fact a co-production." This is not a personal responsibility one small step argument. For Fernández-Savater it's another stage of politics, a part in a "multilayered and multichanneled revolution." The change we want to see follows “'a strategy without strategists'. No one directs it according to a plan, they are practices that multiply and spread by imprinting, via intensification, a new global direction to reality, effects 'without an author'.”
Amador Fernández-Savater; standing before what looks like a plastic ribbon divider at CSA Tabacalera

Still, there is that anxiety, like that behind Kunkel's text. That same anxiety had me carrying a small UN flag during one of the first marches in NYC after 9/11. I strongly felt this now weird-seeming delusion that a conclave of nationalistically self-interested monkeys would somehow put in the fix, and restrain the enraged gorilla. Ha.
The municipalist idea runs against the grain of statist anxiety. That is the fear that localist movements will destabilize the nation state, and with it the global order. It is why the Catalan independence ruckus has unnerved so many. There are good reasons to try to cut free of stifling federalist regimes entrained to the neoliberal order. And indeed there are translocal municipal movements, networking more and more each day, which are dedicated to the radical participation of citizens — or simply inhabitants, regardless of legal status. The activists of municipalism argue that the global challenges of corporate and state domination depend on “local anchors” that can be contested. (I paraphrase Romy Krämer's report on the June '17 “Fearless Cities” meet in Barcelona which I attended and blogged here.)

How? Listen....
As is clear from the above, to do effective political work now it is important to change habits of mind, habits that bind us to older formations, which like waterlogged wreckage from the totalizing shipwreck we are in the middle of, are dragging us down into the suffocating deeps of nowhere.
Changing habits of mind, finding the new place from which to move politically, begins with listening to what others have to say, to what they feel is important. It probably means listening to those with whom you disagree, including those you don't even want to hear. Listening is a skill refined by the political audio art sound collective Ultra-red. They have published on this: “Some theses on militant sound investigation, or, listening for a change” (2008).
Here it is certain that the most careful political work being done on intersubjectivities is by feminists. The agenda of the feminist meetings at MAC 3 are described in this text on “Municipalisms, economies and feminism” – they are all plural. We are many and all different.
Ultra-red, "What is the Sound of Freedom?" at the Whitney Museum NYC in 2012

Back to the Meetings
The journalism group met at the headquarters of Marea Atlantica. It's a lovely modernist glass-cube building overlooking the Plaza of Humor – which is exactly what it sounds. We looked down from the second floor meeting room on a concrete plaza inscribed with cartoon characters, historical caricatures, and the like. The plaza features comical bronze busts, and two granite benches with carved figures of Galicia's most famous caricaturists sprawled on them.
A mini-bookshop was set up in the lobby, with books and DVDs. I noted many familiar authors: four volumes of Emanuel Wallenstein's treatise on world systems, essays by Rosa Luxembourg, works by David Harvey, bell hooks, Angela Davis, Silvia Federici, Yanis Varoufakis – and DVDs of the Yes Men, the French TAV occupation, the Danish “youth house” squat Ungdomshuset, one on the Sanfermines of 1978, a violent police riot in Pamplona during the transition period, etc.
Locations, libraries and artworks I can describe. With the conference talks I get only the gist of it. Basically the meet was was concerned with the communications efforts made in support of the municipalist candidatures and platforms.
Seated granite artist at Plaza de Humor

Media workers in several cities spoke of their experiences and perceptions.The moderator was from El Salto periodical. Issues of the magazine covered the book table, and this successor to the periodical Diagonal was a frequent reference in the talks. It is the Spanish left media, especially for this movement. The question concerned precisely media strategy for the short, medium and long term. Elections are coming up in 2019, and several of the municipalist platforms have experienced big lossses. They have many enemies – not onlyt he right wing, which pounces on every mistake the munis make (and being young, ideological, and inexperienced in electoral politics they make many), and generalize them as characteristic of the movement itself. (One young elected's anti-clerical call for an end to public subsidies for the centuries-old religious processions in one city is a classic example, and provided the right with dirt for a year.) But the munis also face opposition from the PSOE (socialists, i.e. liberals) and IU (united left), potential allies. They are all competing for votes, and the state resources that come with them.
The moderator was from El Salto – I recalled him from another Instituto DM meeting recently in San Fernando de Henares, where the town is confronting the imminent opening of an enormous garbage dump (a macrovertedero). He described the workshop as a continuation of the work from MAK 2, in Pamplona. “We are a diverse group, from places big and small, and all looking forward to the 2019 elections.”
The audience was about 30, but swelled in time to 40. Not all were journalists – many were interested political activists. Ana from Madrid described her group as volunteers, sort of autonomous, basically promoting positive things about Ahora Madrid, doing publicity and defending them when they are attacked. They also do “electoral marketing.” This kind of media unit seems almost quaint compared to the phalanxes of 'high-powered media consultants' in the USA, the technicians who engineer our elections.
Hector of Sevilla described the problem of being “invisibilized” by large media groups. “We use humor in short videos,” he said, emulating the U.S. Yes Men. (Their strategy is imposture of government and corporate spokespeople.) These videos make fun of the false statements of politicians and newspapers. They rely on alternative media like Diagonal, and now El Salto for information.
Sante of Ahora Málaga, the home of the Casa Invisible social center, reported that the PP right-wing mayor is “adored.” They try then to point to the many incidents of corruption and conflicts of interest. The turistification of the city and the expulsion of residents from social housing is an enormous problem in Málaga, even more than in Barcelona. The tenants have mounted a strong campaign. Ahora Málaga prints a paper which lampoons the format of another. Many experts, architects and such, want to write for them. A man from Pamplona in Basque country where the party Bildu is in control reported that they started a blog with various lines of work. They try to articulate positions and start “communicative structures.”
A Barcelona man spoke of their use of social media. Twitter, Facebook, memes on WhatsApp – “we experiment a lot.” Their enemies, of course, have more money, and use the micro-targeting techniques on social media which were so successful in the Trump campaign. They are also experimenting with “deliberative platforms” – the subject of technopolitics will be discussed in tomorrow's meeting. (As I wrote, HackFest 2017 was underway in La Ingobernable social center in Madrid [#Hackmeeting17], and Medialab Prado is getting ready for a weeks-long vetted workshop on exactly this kind of citizen participation platforms.) With these platforms, he said, citizens can create counter-power, and engage in citizen journalism.
After a coffee break, one man laid out statistics on media viewership so – where people get their information – so that we may understand “the machine that confronts us.” A woman from Santander, where the munis are very much in the minority, said they rely on concrete actions like discussions and book talks as tools of mobilization in a kind of cultural intellectual campaign.
Another man quoted revered Galician experimental writer Valle-Inclan, and said it was better to experiment and risk failure than simply to lament the lack of money to implement conventional strategies. The Basque man regretted the lack of self-esteem in the discussion. “We have done well so far.” Sante said early mistakes, like nominating our friends for electoral office, and stupid statements, provided fuel for enemies, and will haunt the movement well into the future.

Next: Technopolitics and Social Centers

LINKS

Benjamin Kunkel, “The Capitalocene” London Review of Books, 2 March 2017

Notes for a Non-Statocentric Politics by Amador Fernández-Savater • 21 April 2014
http://criticallegalthinking.com/2014/04/21/notes-non-statocentric-politics/

Romy Krämer, “The Birth of a Translocal Movement,” n.d., posted June 2017
http://guerrillafoundation.org/birth-translocal-movement-new-municipalism-fearless-cities-conference/

Ultra-red, “Five Protocols for Organized Listening,” 2012
https://archive.org/details/UltraRedFiveProtocols

Ultra-red, “Some theses on militant sound investigation, or, listening for a change,” 2008
https://inthemiddleofthewhirlwind.wordpress.com/some-theses-on-militant-sound-investigationor-listening-for-a-change/

“Municipalisms, economies and feminism” – in Spanish: Coordinadora en Clave Feminista MAC3, "Municipalismo, economía y feminismos," October 2017
https://www.elsaltodiario.com/palabras-en-movimiento/municipalismo-econom%C3%ADa-feminismos#

Friday, October 20, 2017

MAC 3 -- A Game of Cards (3rd post)


"Take back the economy" -- The Plan as per the Hidra collective (posted at http://lahidra.net/nociones-comunes-barcelona/)

Before look at the first full day of MAC3, I must confess I was confused. How can a meeting of political party operatives and elected officials be about “counter-power”? Aren't they in power, and supposed to be figuring out how to use it? Aren't the people out of power, the activists, squatters, general masses of the unwashed beating at the gates and yelling at them to do something? Aren't the folks in government always telling activists, Well, it's complex, you don't understand how things work, we can't do what you want now, I have to go to lunch now with important people, etc.... Are you also confused?
In a March '17 interview, Pablo Carmona of the Ganemos Madrid list author of The Municipalist Wager, and a key theorist of the movement explained. The concepts may seem hard for USAians to grasp...

Interviewer: It is not always clear what municipalism is....

Pablo Carmona: ...Municipalism has a strong libertarian matrix, it does not think of conquering power to change things, but to change things, power has to be elsewhere. Its objective is to disperse power and to challenge the existing institutional mechanism....


According to Pablo, “the wave of institutional participation that is opening up in many parts of the country largely has the mission of dissolving or de-structuring the Spanish power system” which is entrenched in precisely these institutional arrangements.
That is to say, everything is not all right. The constitutional order of 1978 is “damaged.” (Imagine the state of the 1789 product!) As the 15M movement of 2011 moved forward, they found it was “a good time to rearm the old tool of Libertarian Municipalism.”

Pablo Carmona in his natural habitat, bookstore Traficante de Suenos
(Fashion- able hoodie is actually kind of dress-up for Spanish left politicians.)


The social movements (that's like the PAH, the squatted social centers, feminists, sin papeles, ecologists, etc.) are incapable of dissolving the institutional structure and building a new one – i.e., of effecting a revolutionary transition that would have the character of a union, not of labor but of the social itself. So they decided to enter politics on the municipal level, We wanted to “deprivatize politics and launch it into society.”
“That is why we attach such great importance to linking institutional participation and the movements, which linkage has not been collaborative. Many times that [idea] is not understood. 'How, if you are part of the movements, do you always say that the movements have to be a counter-power?' Because we understand that the relationship, even when we have talked about that idea of a party-movement, has to be an antagonistic relationship. That is, it would be a mistake to fall back into the [habits of] social democratic Europe, where many social movements or organized civil society are subordinated, co-opted or financed under the institutional wing.” That's why they cheerfully participate in critical debates about the city council initiated by the social movements, even when they are against them. “Many of our colleagues see it as a rupture, as a betrayal, but we think it is the diversity necessary for this system of antagonisms and counterpowers not to make the social sphere decapitalize and lose its value and meaning.” That “capital” is the valor and energy of the social movements.
[The above is a tweaked machine translation. The original: “nosotros pensamos que es la diversidad necesaria para que ese sistema de antagonismos y de contrapoderes no haga que el ámbito de lo social se descapitalice y pierda valor y sentido.”]

“To the Tables!”
We arrived for the MAC at a regular civic center. Old people and youngsters drifted about. There's also a library upstairs. We were herded into two rooms with card tables, and seated in small groups. On each table was a pile of cards. I had a nice chat with Leilla of Barcelona en Comú (she's a roommate of Kate Shea Baird, la jefa of BCNenC's international committee). I showed her the Lumpen magazine from Chicago which had my lovely article on the municipalist movement in it. She smiled and nodded her head politely. Then the horror began....
The cards were dealt out. I had a 10 of clubs. Leilla had an ace. It was explained to us what we were to do. I thought it was about coming up with ideas about how to build the movement, from its past, its present, and its future – I wrote my bright ideas on the table... but I was wrong. It was much much more specific. I had just made the clean paper dirty.

The job was to consider how the municipalist movements could effect change on different levels of governance. The “clubs” had the level of European Union. Discussion began. The EU maintains human rights, but it also oppresses, sell weapons, and maintains borders (“Fortress Europe”). A principal in the DM Institute began to outline how the rules of the EU on economic policy, laid out in Brussels, control finance, tourism, the real estate market, and create limits to municipalism. He rattled rapidly on, interminably, uninterruptibly... I was soon swamped, and couldn't get a thing from his talk. We shuffled again, and this time I drew a 2. That was more appropriate!, since I was by now swamped and sinking. Another guy from Marea Atlantica said something about markets. Water was washing over the bow. Finally we were to write the key points of our talk onto the paper covering the table.
I was not the only person not talking. At our table were two women of color. They were from Territorio Domestico, an activist group working with domestic and care workers. Many of these are migrants, and some undocumented. They also seemed lost in the blizzard of talk, but at least they understood the language! At length, one of them spoke about the importance of the stories of individual lives.


After the first intensive discussion and the summary written out by Lilliana of Barcelona en Comu, we were moved to another table and dealt a new hand of cards from a different suit, i.e., . We then launched into a short discussion of the written textual consideration that we saw the previous group had left on the table. We wrote a response. There followed another move, short discussion, another response. We were ordered then to move into the adjacent room, where another large group at several tables were doing the same thing. I shouldn't say “we,” because at some point along the way I staggered from the room....
Although it blew my fuses, it really was a great game!, a wonderful way of getting everyone thinking strategically. In they end, they have a lot of raw material for a strategic document or a manifesto – fodder to chew on for future meetings. The document that came out of the MAC1 in 2016, while it was called a manifesto, was a text that “brings together several lines of discussion that emerged in the workshops and working spaces” of MAC1.

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Many tweets came from this extended card game exercise – e.g.,
We are remixed again to discuss the 2nd question: achievements and challenges of the municipalist movement. We are still at the top in # Mac3...

...and, Fundación Comunes Retweeted La Hidra Cooperativa‏ @LahidraCoop “Organizar red municipalista a escala europea es el gran reto contra políticas austericidas y estrategias de control estado-céntricas #mac3” via Bing x-lation: “Organize municipal network at European level is the great challenge against policies austericidas [austerity-cide!] and #mac3 state-centric control strategies”. Those are two gangs who really understood what was going on.
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Curiously in the MAC1 statement there is a strong emphasis on migrant rights. The sin papeles, or sans papiers, the undocumented, are severely disadvantaged throughout Europe, whether they be refugees or economic migrants. While there is no Joe Arpaio or Jeff Sessions' DOJ hunting them down, they can be detained and deported, and are regularly fined for trying to work or sell things. MAC3 did not have much discussion of the issues of the undocumented. Mainly I'll guess this is because they are super-poor, working all the time as they can, and even if funded can't travel on airplanes which have ID checks.
Territorio Domestico in a small session at MAC3

I sat in the lobby at the kids' table and typed up some notes, looked at tweets. I was feeling pretty low, facing a three hour lunch break with no one to talk to. Along came Alejandra from Medialab Prado in Madrid. She had helped with the Lumpen article, and she is is actually bilingual. We chatted, and then she also was off. On my cel, Malena said, “Go enjoy A Coruña. It's a beautiful city.” With I did. Wandering into the Museo de Bellas Artes, which is a mortuarial place full of bad art of the ages. I was not much cheered up.
Still, I could go back to the apartment, lunch with my host at a crowded tapas bar, take a nap and still make the session on journalism in the afternoon.


NEXT: Journalism, propaganda, and online voting

LINKS


Entrevista a Pablo Carmona, Ganemos Madrid: "No es como lo habíamos imaginado hace dos años" 05/07/2017 | Marcos Ancelovici y Montserrat Emperador Badimon
http://vientosur.info/spip.php?article12759

Lumpen magazine from Chicago which has my lovely article on the municipalism, called “How to Do”
http://www.lumpenmagazine.org/how-to-do-now/

Territorio Domestico
http://territoriodomestico.net/

Link is to a short video of a 2010 demonstration organized by Territorio Domestico in Lavapies, Madrid. "Without us the world doesn't move." The prop being pushed was part of an exhibition, 'Principio Potosi" at the Reina Sofia museum https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUTW6clGcRM

The Municipalist Manifesto, 2016
http://eipcp.net/transversal/0916/manifesto/en


A Coruna from above