From Spain, with love: M-15 activists write to their J14 friends

The following is a letter that activists from the M-15 social protests movement in Spain wrote to their friends in J14

From Spain, with love: M-15 activists write to their J14 friends
Demonstration in Madrid, Spain 2011 (photo: wikimedia commons)

An open letter from the M15 movement in Spain to the J14 movement in Israel: You will only be free when you decide to be free.

When we see the assemblies of Kiryat Shmona, we see the assemblies in Granada. When we talk about the tents in Haifa, we talk about the tents in Barcelona. When we see the crowds taking to the streets in Tel-Aviv, it’s the crowds of Madrid who do it.

Different names for the same movement that jumps from one country to another bringing a wave of change to the world. It’s not an organization that goes international, it’s not a political party, it’s a new way of doing politics, it’s a new way to face the world. But like all the new ways of thinking that changed the world in history, it takes time until it reaches everybody, and has to coexist with the old ways during some years. We see this clash between the new and the old in the Israeli movement, and we would like to share with you our perspective about where the strength of this new revolution lies. If there is something here that you think could be useful for you, we would be much more than pleased. It’s a “copyleft” revolution, so just take it, use it, improve it, and share it:

– A leaderless movement.

We live in a world in which we vote for those who are going to decide about our countries instead of us, where we choose who to give our money to, to invest in things that we didn’t choose, and we choose to pay the media who is going to tell us what to think. Someone is always making the decisions instead of us, and it looks like every time they do it is not to make our lives better. The idea of trying to fight against this situation by choosing leaders who are going to tell the powers what we want is just the same old mistake that we have been making over and over again. And if Daphni Leef, Stav Shaffir or any other keep appearing in the media again and again, accepting the label “leaders”, and talking in the name of the people of the movement, that means that they don’t understand a single word of this new revolution. The best we can do is just to ignore them and focus our energy in the new ways that are the only thing that is going to be able to change the world. In Spain, in USA, in UK, and in many other countries, and also in many parts of Israel, we have understood this to mean self-organization and horizontality. A movement where each of us is a leader, a movement where each voice is heard, where nobody talks in the name of the others, where nobody says that he represents the others. And what is much more important: a movement where through all this diversity and different points of view we find common ideas that unite all of us and let us discover the real strength of “the 99%”.

In order to put this in practice, in Spain we organize ourselves through assemblies: we meet in the streets, sit together, and each person talks and shares his points of view about the topic we want to discuss. An open space where everybody is invited to join, and through debate we think together of new ideas and solutions, usually different than the ones that we brought with us before the debate, and that suit much better the different opinions of the people.



We have thematic and general assemblies, where we all try to meet to debate all together the most important issues; and also we try to have assemblies in all neighborhoods, so everybody can join the debates. Hundreds of assemblies where we debate, learn, propose actions, organize ourselves, or just find other people who think like us to start projects. Hundreds of assemblies and each one has its own voice. Sometimes the voices agree, and then we can launch large common actions and proposals, sometimes they don’t and then we launch multiple actions. We try to find the real will of the people instead of silencing it or hiding it behind leaders’ voices, and we discover that the common sense, and the idea of living lives with dignity and sharing the world is much more widely spread and common than what the politicians try to make us believe. At the end it’s not so different what the 99% wants.

If at any time we want somebody to talk in the media about what an assembly proposed, an action that is going to be launched, etc, it’s always different people who speak. And we try to rotate as well in any position in the movement that can represent power in any way.

Is not only that this leaderless system is the only democratic option, and the only one that truly represents reality, it is also the most effective one. If you have leaders, they can become corrupted or they can be attacked by the powers. A system with no heads is impossible to dismantle, except if everybody decides that’s what they want.

– Leaving aside the labels and identities that do not let us move forward.

The old way of being in the world is first of all to choose a set of labels that define you and distinguish yourself from the others: left-winger, conservative, Israeli, Palestinian, Jew, etc. Once the set is chosen, life is much easier. You just have to think and repeat the same things that the leaders of your party, community, etc say. There is no place for real debates, no place to let the ideas evolve and change, no place to truly understand what the others think. Now it’s just a matter of fighting between the different labels and seeing if we can make the others disappear or at least make them understand the truth, that is, of course, exactly what we think. The new way is much more difficult: we start defining ourselves as persons. [], and we let the ideas be the only objects of the debate. Of course our ideas could be labeled as right-winger, Marxist, democratic, religious, secular or any other label, the key is just to put the label in a secondary plane, in order to make the debate possible.

Do you think that sticking to labels, identities and parties helps solve the problems? Do you think that what happens in the Parliament is a real debate? Do you think that the people from one party, after hearing another party’s opinions, can just change their minds? Is that the system we want to trust in? Did the fight between ideologies at any time in history build a better world for all of us? Then, let’s try something new.

Our political system in Spain has been reduced to a two-party system, where talk about politics means just to choose one of the two sides in few dividing issues that the politicians and the media set as the ones that deserve to be talked about. After the 15th of May we discovered some important things: There are always millions of different possible answers to the problems, we have to learn to avoid false dichotomies that show the reality as black and white. Even when sometimes the wedge issues are very important, when we ask the people what they want to talk about, we discover that many times their priorities are totally different. Usually very strong identities have been constructed around the common answers to the wedge issues, making these debates especially difficult to resolve. Sometimes it’s much more fruitful to set aside these issues for a moment and focus in other issues, and then, by understanding each other through other debates, or by facing the issues from a different starting point, we can find the answer to these dividing questions.
Talk about what you want, when you want to talk about it and stay away from forced dichotomies.

– How radical is being non-violent.

In Spain there has always been people trying to use violence to change the world. After each demonstration, there has always been a small minority of people burning garbage cans, breaking bank windows, or throwing things at the police. The M15 movement is the first massive movement that is absolutely non-violent, and we discovered with joy that it is the most effective thing that we have ever done: Being non-violent means many more people join the movement, the actions and the demonstrations: old people, young, immigrants, whole families,… and thus we are stronger. Since we are non-violent, the media and the politicians can’t just label us as violent provocateurs and avoid talking about the things that we want to change, they can’t just put the focus on the violence. When we are violent, our enemy becomes the police, and then it’s just people from the bottom fighting people from the bottom. That is total nonsense, and has nothing to do with the ones that we are really fighting against. When we use violence, the police answered by being more violent with us, and then we answered again with more violence, falling in a loop from which it is really hard to escape.

Being non-violent doesn’t mean that we don’t use the force of our bodies, but we use it in a non-violent way. We can close with our body the entrance of the Parliament, we can block the way of the car of a banker, etc, but always with our hands tight to our bodies, and without anger in our faces. We show that we are not afraid, that we are going to risk our integrity or our safety in a fight for a better world, and that is what makes us really dangerous.

It looks like in Israel the violence has not been so widely used as in other countries, but you could start using it now, since you are starting to feel and understand the strength of the crowd, when thousands of people join together. You still have the opportunity not to fall into this dangerous loop. We hope you can take advantage of your non-violent strength.

Recovering the words “politics” and “public” that they stole from us.

The words define our reality and therefore affect our behavior in society. For a long time, the terms “politics” and “public” have been understood as the interactions and spaces in the society that are regulated through the government and the Parliament. Thus we, the common citizens, have been excluded from all decisions. Politics is what the politicians do in Parliament, so if you want to do politics join a party; and if you want to use the public resources ask the authorities.

With the emergence of the M15 movement, we recovered the use of these words. As soon as we understood that “public” doesn’t mean the property of the government but the property of all of us, we rediscovered the use of the public goods. Since the 15th of May thousands of people camp, meet, debate and demonstrate in the public space without asking permission for any of these actions. The legitimacy of doing what we know is right is something that cannot be stopped.

We meet and think about how our society should be organized, how the wealth should be distributed, how our countries can be a better place for all of us. That is the real meaning of the term “politics”. And we care about it thousands times more than what the “professional politicians” do; we use our free time and our resources to meet, talk and try to organize the change, nobody pays us, it’s not about winning elections, it’s just about caring about the world, we should be proud of using the word “politics”. It’s not just about understanding what real politics means, it’s understanding that politics belongs to us, the citizens, this is where the sovereignty resides, it’s we who have to decide in which society we want to live, and if at any moment we decide to channel our will through the Parliament, they are there just to serve and obey us. It’s not anymore about begging them to change things so we can live a little bit better, the only legitimate power resides in us, and when we understood this, we started to be free. And since we are free, the future is for the first time open to be changed. Before the 15th of May, we lived buried in skepticism and cynicism. Nothing could be changed, nothing could be done. If you watched any session of Parliament you felt no emotion at all, because the future looked closed, already decided. No real debate between the groups, the words were dead, there was no possibility to change positions, not a chance for a real interchange of ideas. You knew since the first minute what was going to be said and decided. That cannot be called “politics”. Now, after the 15th of May, we know what politics means, and that it’s just us who have to decide.

In Israel it looks like there is still fear to use the term “politics”. The idea that “politics” is only what happens in Parliament still prevails, and therefore limits what the movement can do. The government and the media keep repeating it in order to keep you out of the game. We urge you to stop letting them control the future. You don’t have to beg for anything, the power is in your hands. And from the moment you understand that, you will begin to be free.

CC by-sa 3.0

* It should be understood that in the M15 movement each person talks only for himself. Nobody represents the whole movement, and that is where our strength lies. This open letter is written just by some people who took part in the M15 movement, and only represent their ideas. The people who wrote it don’t matter, let the ideas speak instead of the people and their names. As we said, if there is something here that you think could be useful for you, we would be much more than pleased. It’s a copyleft revolution, so just take it, use it, improve it, and share it.