After 15th May, a challenge: reinventing democracy

– TRANSLATION – Original source (Spanish) at DESPUÉS DEL 15M, un reto: reinventar la democracia (

During these days events have gone fast, and we haven’t have much time to assimilate everything. The camp out and the assemblies here at Puerta del Sol, have allowed many of us to find ourselves, to talk and imagine the capacity of so many minds and bodies working together. When politics awakens, when you are able to step outside the farce that represents what we call democracy, new horizons and objectives, that seem impossible, open up. This is why we are proposing some ideas that can help us understand, between all of us, the importance of what has been achieved up until now, and the magnitude of what lies ahead.

1. The hymn that has been sung the most is “they call it democracy, but it’s not”. This is because, first of all, democracy means a form of government where people can participate directly in public affairs. When you identify democracy with the summoning of elections, with a Constitution, with the right of representation, it becomes equivalent to institutions that can be completely empty. Simply, talking about democracy means talking about debate and active citizenship in public affairs before elections, laws and delegation of responsibilities to political agents. Because of this, it is fair to say that democracy is an act that is much more present in the Puerta del Sol than in actual Spanish institutions, electoral fights and political slogans.

The institutional reform that we could come to propose, our revolution, to call it something, would not have to be one that plans to make the electoral law a more proportional one, or jailing corrupt politicians and bankers. Even though these could  and should be included, our reform implies recovering public power for direct participation, with referendums, democratic control of common resources and new ways of deciding with the help of technology.

2. There is no democracy without equality and freedom. When limited to consumer choice between two brands, that even though they appear different in the end they are the same thing, something that happens with the major political parties (PP – PSOE), the idea of democracy is a ghost. But it is even more pathetic and false when the democratic institutions these parties control are under the yoke of a few. The crisis we have faced the past years has taught us that politics in Spain is at the will of market forces: first it is necessary to guarantee the investor’s benefits and only then (in the long term) comes the well-being of the population; it is more important to rescue financial institutions than to maintain or strengthen social rights, for example. The absence of equality and freedom is perfectly visible in our society today: it can be seen in the exercise of a law that is not the same for everyone, in the use of debt as a mechanism to maintain life under control with ever falling salaries. Even here, in the camp and the protests: how many illegal immigrants can participate without fear of arrest? What kind of freedom is left for a life chained to mortgage payments, that because of Spanish law you will still have to pay even after being evicted?

This is already a declaration of our intentions. Our struggle can be defined in simple words: we want equality and freedom so it is possible to have a truly democratic society, because without these basic ingredients it is impossible. To achieve this we need not only prosecute corruption but also guarantee the things that permit a minimum of equality and freedom, for example, liberty for immigrants to move freely and not be the object of permanent harassment. The freedom to declare yourself bankrupt when you can no longer pay mortgage. Equality too, but the type achieved through education generated and managed by everybody (no more public money for private institutions);the kind achieved with equal access to health care and the right to be autonomous (nurseries or honest pensions. And above all, equality of conditions for a worthy life that can only be achieved by sharing resources equally or controlling speculative rents. In this way nobody should face the misery of unemployment or the brutal exploitation of life.

3. These past days have taught us important lessons: legitimation and consensus that forces the right to think and to participate politically in the hands of professionals is as fragile as a house of cards. It took terns of thousands of people on the streets with a clear message to provoke, first  the unrest and disbelief, and then the hysteric reaction of politicians and media. Today, yesterday and surely tomorrow, many newspapers like El Pais and other Prisa group journalists have invited us to think about the danger of shouting out that “there is no democracy”. They have thrown at us their defensive arguments about the institutional state of affairs, making us believe that we must choose between “parlamentarism or totalitarianism”. Without a doubt these great conquests of the democratic transition in our country are forgetting the most important fact, that these institutions are worthless if the laws they uphold are only useful for maintaining the interests of a select few. They also forget that democracy should be, above all, a daily exercise for every citizen.

Many financial, political and media agents have been invaded by the fear that the system will finally be seen for what it is, that the big business of political representation will finally be naked and shown as a simple business in the hands of charlatans on the payroll of corporate interests. The political parties, recently displaced, for the first time, from the center of the political spotlight have reacted trying to assimilate the new situation. Their position has moved between the incipient attack from the new right and their media to a movement to which they don’t have or never will have any possibility of belonging, to the pathetic attempts of left wing groups to incorporate the movement into their agenda. This type of action will always fail because it is precisely because of it that the protests have been called for. Against the general lack of orientation of institutions, the 15M movement has already achieved a first victory: that is, that instead of having to stand another dull election campaign, full of inept candidates and political programs, where nothing really important is ever talked about, the whole political spectrum has been made to take a stance towards the proposals and the issues raised by our movement: What is democracy? Who has social rights? Who has rights over common riches?

The road that is left to walk after the 22nd, after the elections that, we insist, will not make any substantial changes, will be long. After the temporary camp at Sol we will have to put our intelligence and our imagination to the the task of opening up spaces where real politics can be made, the type of action that can produce changes in the life we live in society.


1 Comment


One response to “After 15th May, a challenge: reinventing democracy

  1. Pingback: P2P Foundation » Blog Archive » Constructing, living, and demanding Participatory Democracy in the #spanishrevolution Camps

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