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July 8, 2014
July 8, 2014

Spain: “Without a large mobilisation and social counter power we will neither win nor have democracy”

Author: Àlex Romaguera Translator: Susana García
Source: La Directa  Categories: Dialogues, On the crisis
This article is also available in: caeleshr
Spain: “Without a large mobilisation and social counter power we will neither win nor have democracy”

Since its presentation, on the 26th of June, ‘Guanyem Barcelona’ (Let’s win Barcelona) has already collected 12,000 signatures in support of an initiative that aspires to break from Barcelona’s current model and instead assign the city to serve of the basic needs of the majority. Even though promoters of the project have barely brought the proposal to the neighbourhoods and drawn new alliances, its rise has already stimulated the Catalan political scene. Among the visible faces of ‘Guanyem Barcelona’ Ada Colau particularly stands out after her contribution to the Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (PAH) (Platform of Mortgage Victims). The PAH engages a generation that is concerned with connecting old and new social struggles and aims to regenerate democracy and transform urban life through the city’s institutions.

A.R.: ‘Guanyem Barcelona’ was launched two weeks ago. How would you assess all the support it has received? 

A.C.: We are very satisfied. First of all because of the attendance of more than 2,000 people, which was beyond our expectations, and then because the feeling of hope has been confirmed by a deluge of messages from people wanting to participate. This is something that we especially appreciate because ‘Guanyem Barcelona’ does not claim to be a pact between political parties but a space capable of bringing together people who are not politically organised.

A.R.:  You have also caused the redefinition of political actors.  Does this indicate the potential of the proposal?

A.C.: It shows that we are already winning. All parties have expressed their opinions and they acknowledge that the hypothesis of ‘Guanyem Barcelona’ responds to the demands of the majority for a wide convergence in terms of goals.  As a result, the political dialogue is changing.

In this sense, one of the ERC candidates for the Mayor’s Office of Barcelona, Oriol Amorós, has presented ‘Sumamos Barcelona’ (We are Barcelona) with the objective of attracting disenchanted groups. The only alternative for ERC is to define themselves because they cannot reproduce the discourse of ‘Guanyem Barcelona’ and then come into an agreement with Convergència i Unió. They either agree with the old regime or they support the new ways of doing politics according to the demands of the citizens.

A.R.: The launch of ‘Guanyem Barcelona’ has brought together all sorts of parties and movements that feel inspired by the proposal. How will such a heterogeneous space be put together?

A.C.: So far we have created a small document of demands that contains a convergence of the desires expressed by many social groups.  On the one hand, the need for a democratic regeneration with an ethical contract that includes a cap on managerial and senior public office salaries, a fiscal control of the accounts or mechanisms of political participation. And on the other hand, social and economic measures that emanate from the state of emergency or the “war without bullets” in which we find ourselves now and in which some elites accumulate more and more wealth at the expense of the majority of the population.

A.R.: Having diagnosed this, what is the challenge?

From now on, we have to talk with everyone who wants to collaborate in order to define further steps. However, it is clear to us that convergence must be based on an alliance that will produce a ground-breaking and anti-regime candidacy that will democratise Barcelona in the wider sense of the term. That is, to deepen democracy and to guarantee access to basic rights such as housing, education, and public transport. We know that articulating these goals will not be easy because there are very different political traditions. But if we are already doing it on the streets, we have to be able to do it in the institutions. That is the challenge.

A.R.: The CUP has been setting up spaces such ‘Encuentro por la Unidad Popular’ (Encounter for the Unity of the people) where this need for movement and social struggles in the city is dealt with. What needs to be said to them?

A.C.: We believe that ‘Guanyem Barcelona’ has two specific characteristics. On the one hand, it emerges from a citizen platform which is neither partisan nor politically orientated and which allows it to advance this convergence. The strategy of CUP, despite the fact that its practices are more advanced than the rest of the parties, is to accumulate forces through municipal action. Therefore, alike ‘Podemos’, ‘Proceso Constituyente’ and other parties, it cannot be the spearhead of this convergence because, within the party system, it is seen as one more rival. Let alone, these parties only think about broadening their representation, while ‘Guanyem Barcelona’ wants and aims at winning.

A.R.: ICV is the other actor upon which everybody has their eyes because it has also stated that it will join ‘Guanyem Barcelona’. What do you think?

A.C.: ICV has been an accomplice in the very negative governance of Barcelona. However, many of its political affiliates are found in the already existing spaces of convergence where a real change is happening in political discourse. Therefore, what matters are not the declarations but the objectives and action. Will it  [ICV] be willing to confront La Caixa or whoever else is needed for the municipalisation of the water system and to be subjected to fiscal supervision and control of the salaries, as ‘Guanyem Barcelona’ proposes? They must demonstrate it. Anyway, more than the logic of reproaches, I am in favour of focusing on common goals that we can share.

A.R.: Is this a one-of–a kind opportunity?

A.C.: Without a doubt, we are in an unprecedented neoliberal offensive which threatens the lives of many people. And ‘Guanyem Barcelona’ has many strengths: it is largely progressive; it has experienced great innovations, and has neighbourhoods leading in social conquests. A DNA that proves that, far from being suicide, transformation is possible.

A.R.: From some sectors it is considered that the “left-right” discourse is made obsolete by the relation between “those at the bottom” and “those at the top”.  Could this make ‘Guanyem Barcelona’ draw liberal or less progressive sectors?


A.C.: As far as electoral labels go, being “left-wing” or “right-wing” is not useful anymore because the PSC, which has represented the left, is no longer left after adopting clearly neoliberal policies.  Anyway, even though democracy and human rights –and not “being left-wing”– is the only flag that can unite people nowadays, ‘Guanyem Barcelona’ wants to avoid generic declarations and focus on concrete goals and measures that are possible in the municipal scope. For example, council water management, tourism reorientation, penalisation of empty houses that are in the hands of banks and state agencies, capping salaries and office terms, or binding referendums on the city issues.

A.R.: Does Barcelona have to be deconstructed in order to construct a radical new one?

A.C.: This is something neighbouring networks fighting against the touristic model or the privatisation of Barcelona have already contemplated. Therefore, we are not starting from scratch. And for a while now, a new Barcelona is being built through cooperative experiments of social economy or the self- managed spaces like the Ateneo Popular of Nou Barris or Can Batlló. This other Barcelona already exists and demonstrates that, with a few measures, we could achieve great transformations that would benefit citizens on the whole.

A.R.: To what extent could the independence process affect your dynamic?

A.C.: We are in favour of the right to decide, but for real and not like the CiU, that never applied it. We will do everything in our power to vote on N-9, resorting to civil disobedience if needed, but incorporating other urgent debates. After all, health care or quality public education are fundamental rights. These are issues about which we can do more with the resources we already have. We work in order to be able to decide these rights.

A.R.: If ‘Guanyem Barcelona’ finally runs for the municipal election and obtains seven councillors, far from the twenty two that give absolute majority, will it be a victory?

A.C.: ‘Guanyem Barcelona’ has already provoked many parties to commit to our demands, which can truly alter public policies and, in the long run, create the new hegemony at which we are aiming. But we cannot make the mistake of measuring victory only in electoral terms. Even though we aim at winning in numbers, victory will not come by obtaining 22 councillors, given that the lobbies will try to get in the way of big economic changes. We will only succeed if we manage, as of right now, to activate a large citizen mobilisation. These large-scale mobilisations are a social counter-power that without, we will neither win nor will there be democracy.

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