#Referendumya Day 2: Making Working Groups and Police Intimidation

“In order for the law to be written on bodies, an apparatus is required that can mediate the relation between the former and the latter. From the. instruments of scarification, tatooing, and primitive initiation to those of penal justice, tools work on the body. Formerly the tool was a flint knife or a needle. Today the instruments range from the police­ man’s billyclub to handcuffs and the box reserved for the accused in the courtroom.” —Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life

Police taking names.

Police taking names.

On Tuesday, 3 June,  a couple of thousand people showed up at the Puerta de Sol for the second day of #referendumya.  After the “asameblea de los mayores” (Senior citizen assembly), the general assembly started off.  There was noticeable tension between the two, as the general assembly seemed ready for more action, and less talking.

After the call for anyone who wanted to speak, a noticeable trend emerged where participants discussed having a new Republic without capitalism—which probably seems impossible to the average reader, quite frankly. How to imagine “a world without capitalism” in itself is beyond the imagination of most Europeans inundated with corporate sponsorship, that negotiate their lives through private banks and industry. Money is how we (literally) value the world.  What would a new system be?

Once discussions started breaking down into all the problems of the world, a new consensus emerged… the need to use the methods of 15-M, but to also learn the lessons that ultimately failed 15-M—stay focused. For this group of activists, priority one must be getting a referendum on the table that asks Spaniards whether or not they want to keep the monarchy. Only after constitutional changes to restrict hierarchical (patriarchal) structure can these other issues be addressed.

To do this, participants agreed that they also need to get the participants making moves in their neighbourhoods, schools, and work place. It is only then that the question of whether or not to move to a Third Spanish Republic could be discussed. The working groups are: Referendum and Communication, mobilisation, and networks (to connect to individual neighbourhoods).

To understand the potential of many of these movements (Occupy, 15-M, etc), one must understand the anarchist movement more generally.  Spain is undoubtably the country in the world in which anarchism has had the most popular appeal (for a mostly accurate reference to Spanish anarchism, see the Wikipedia page).  Anarchists have been active in the public life of Spain since the late 19th century, fought and lost the Spanish Civil War, and waited decades in hiding under the dictatorship.

Based upon an anarchist horizontal (as opposed to vertical) power structure, #assembleaya wants to continue with standard (at this point) anarchist structures that don’t have leaders, but organisers and facilitators that run working groups, based upon affinity.  A participant can join whatever group they want to.  These groups then work to create proposals. Any proposals made are not made by majority vote, but rather consensus—a higher standard.  After a proposal is then taken to the general assembly.  At the general assembly the proposals are put up for another vote, also based on consensus. It is only then that an action can be taken. Surprisingly, once one is used to the structure, it can move rather quickly.

Unlike 15-M, or Occupy Wall Street for that matter, all organisation (working groups) for this movement are centred around how to get a single referendum passed. This is particularly notable in terms of what French philosopher Michel de Certeau would distinguish as an emerging strategy by the participants in the movement.  Strategies are always marked by an assertion of power. Unlike 15-M, participants are not talking about tactics to subvert authority; instead, they are planning on using a strategy to move toward a second democratic transition, as it were.

Breaking off into working groups, the primarily young participants created three circles of people sitting cross-legged, discussing the best ways to communicate the message, reachout to neighbourhoods, and to mobilise. Curiously, shortly after the working groups started, dozens of Spanish police officers began to surround the groups of young people.  Slowly, with utmost formality, the officers began to ask the participants for their “DNI”—Spanish identification cards.  They took these cards, and started creating lists of all the participants. This was meant to both intimated them, and to activate the all seeing “panopticon” that Michel Foucault warns of.

Despite this intimidation tactic, which ultimately forms into a state strategy to “know who the enemy is”, the seeds were planted.  Already, later that night a new website emerged from the Referendum and Communication group: www.referendumya.org.  It seems to be that we are off to a good start.

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