Talking to one of the vets of these autonomous movements in Iberia, during our visit to Terrassa and Ateneu Candela. Through a great conversation late at night about his personal itineraries, we learned lot.
The end of the Transition: During the transition period there was a strong radical Left. Many of the organizations of that period continue on well into the 80’s and early 90’s (a few still exist though heavily transformed or reduced in number). Two principal organizations fuse some time in the mid-80’s. This and other like organizations immerse themselves in social movements struggles- they aren’t really electoral structures though may be organized as a rad left party. It was in particular at the end of the 80’s that Herreros puts the transformation. The non-submission/antimilitary movement was going on (draft dodging, direct action, etc) and university struggles were still quite strong. Due to some failures in achieving a victory or some other sort of analysis, many of the leaders of Liberacion make the decision basically abandon a lot of the more streety movement stuff and integrate as part of Izquierda Unida (United Left party- the main leftist party in the Spanish state- which it should be mentioned interestingly was born originally as way to give voice to and strengthen forms of popular struggle [at least some saw it that way], in particular it was born after the powerful anti-NATO movement that organized across the country. IU incorporated the PCE [Spanish Communist Party].
Many of the younger militants at that time disagree with the strategy of abandoning the street. They think there is something innovative and potent going on in the movements afoot at the time- and continue to struggle with these. Another Transition (for movements): mobilizations occur around the Olympics in Barcelona- not huge but some networks are formed. In a book by Ramon Fernandez Duran called something like “Nuevo Desorden Mundial” (New World Disorder) comes out that talks about things like networked struggle, new technologies, global economy, etc.- a huge eye-opener for young militants in Barcelona (and the country it seems). It should be mentioned that Duran seems to be something of a key intellectual of social movements in the country- his stuff circulates well and has been read by many militants there- it’s kind of hard to miss his stuff. Right around that time, as unemployment is thrashing the society (20% overall during those years). Platforms and networks of the unemployed are forming all over- some of which will become one of the first non-party or union based European militant networks- the Marches of the Unemployed. A march is launched from Valencia to Madrid of unemployed and other movements in solidarity (this may have coincided with an EC/EU summit in Madrid). During that march, the Barcelona folks come into contact with people from Valencia and Madrid, who had founded some of the first recent squatted social centers. Squats had existed previously but those two (Madrid and Valencia) were some of the first in recent memory to have the explicit goal of being a social center. Upon returning from these mobilizations- the Barcelona group says we got to get our act together! The plans for squatting a social center get under way and soon they got one- though then the problem is eviction. Around the same time as this, and only a year or so after the book of Duran and the rest-, emerges the Zapatista rebellion. Very quickly the Collectiu en Solidaritat amb la Revolucio Zapatista forms in Barcelona- and this collective picks up on the innovativeness of the revolt and provides lots of info for people locally as well as organizing some of the first delegations to go to Chiapas. This was another key moment in the development of current autonomy in Iberia- the idea of rejecting state power too was a smack in the face to the radical left from the transition period, but was very appealing to the new generations. There is also the meeting of the IMF-WB in Madrid. Protests are launched and well-attended- but more significantly it was probably the first time that there was mass exposure to the use of internet as an activist tool. The Nodo50 network is formed (as the network fighting the 50 years of the Bank) and becomes and internet portal for social movements since then- still going strong 13 years later. This is the first opening of a new form of mass activist communication. A powerful squatting movement begins (mid-late 90‘s throughout the area of the province of Barcelona- an unclear but large number of squats and social centers are opened. A very vibrant counterculture begins that is very extensive- large marches in the tens of thousands come out to defend squatted social spaces; even in a small city like Terrasa pro-squatting demonstrations could number 3-4-5,000 people. New ideas of politics- zapatismo, autonomy are running amok. But by the end of the 90’s-2000 things are changing and the focus is heading elsewhere. As the squatting movement is getting bogged down in a repression cycle, a new effort on cancellation of third world debt takes off.
Coming out of a radicalization of the 0.7% movements (to get 0.7% of the public budget dedicated towards development or something like that)- a new movement asks directly for debt cancellation- but they are also very influenced by the Zapatistas- and use network forms of mobilizing, autonomous actions, disobedience etc. The RCADE organize the popular consulta in Catalunya (and elsewhere) modeled on the Zapatista consultation in Mexico. This popular referendum was on debt cancellation and was organized parallel to an official election- often with activist running with their tables as police chased them away form election stations. This consulta has enormous reach and impact and teaches the squat scene (or some of them) once and for all that the ideas they were working on are out in the open and they need to listen to other organizing efforts going on out there
At this point the global movement is starting to land in Spain- preparations for Prague and Nice, and especially the mobilizing for the Barcelona summit of the WB ABCDE. This was a new phase of confluence- multiplication of groups and analyses and an approach marked by what our conversation companion’ called as “listening Ã¢â‚¬Â, especially on the part of his crowd (though sometimes he asks if they listened so much and every opinion was sooo ok that no one dared answer back maybe they should have spoken as well). And so, the EU campaign, anti-war mobilizing- Aznar and 11-M, lots of powerful mobilizing was going on- but the creativity and initiative seemed to be on the wane. There was a search for new tools- ideas- how to mobilize in a new context, etc. Precarity became one of the main foci- and a new turn in the idea of social center was under way— and thus the Ateneu Candela (not squatted) a much more open and interactive space- less countercultural, less identitarian. Precarity became a new focus in order to mobilize around these new figures (temp work, youth migrants, etc.) that were not being addressed by other (whether public institutions, unions, parties, or other activists). EuroMayday, the precWebring, and now the ODS (Oficinas de Derechos Sociales)- a “political hypothesis that needs to be tested”