Collective action and new political spaces

The 15-M Movement meant a rupture in the way social and policy questions which affect the lives of people were shared publicly. The first camp outs and assemblies gave way to a collective action that went further than the typical protest formulas. The square was the meeting place to listen and recognise problems common to a great majority, with the participation of many people without prior political experience. The strength of the 15M Movement did not precisely come from activism but rather everyday people who felt threatened by something new and different, difficult to classify and label. In fact, many social movement activists admitted to feeling disoriented.

The encounters in the square weaved a mutual understanding between strangers, before the clear potential of the collective as a generator of change. The Sol square quickly gave way to self-managed coordination which connected in-person networks and squares with other distant ones and the entire process took on a global dimension.

The organisational fabric of the 15M itself searched to enable participation which was inclusive, horizontal, distributed and interconnected. Commissions linked to specific subjects appeared. The questions and proposals addressed were shared and agreed to in assemblies and later they were shared by means of the Internet, mainly social networks. The interested people who attended studied the way to collaborate by providing their knowledge and abilities to the coordination spaces. Massive participation in assemblies was done in turns. Codes unique to the 15M were created such as using their hands to communicate without interruption. The key being dialogue, respect for the diversity of opinions and non-violence.

But beyond generating an organisational structure, 15M has created a new social climate which has given confidence back the collective and the capacity to change things. At Sol the climate was of happiness before the unusual scene of cooperation in an individualised and competitive society. The revolutions in the Arab world and also the victory against bankers and leaders in Iceland are examples with a very clear message: "Yes we can".

The 15M has questioned the official reality which occupies the traditional daily media slots where it is presupposed that people can do little or nothing in the global crisis situation, except for assuming that it is a crude reality that is given: That's the way it is. Nevertheless, the 15M has allowed the weight of this reality to be lifted and draw up a new map of what is possible. It has made many people feel capable of creating another reality. It has opened the spectrum of what can be seen, thought, felt, expressed and done. Like it is possible to think and make policy without being an member of a party or even an activist of a social movement. The use of the Internet and the Net is already routine and is also used to collectively construct another point of view of reality. The identification between democracy and capitalism has been questioned. The reality of the once invisible evictions is now visible by everyone. 15M opened these new roadmaps. The macro situation continues to be the same but now it can be seen from other points. That has generated happiness, a new emotional climate.

The 15M has also made intelligent use of non-violence and non-violent civil disobedience as a tactic typical of social change movements to generate social consensus to gain the support of the majority of society, to make it clear that the individual who uses legitimate methods is the apparatus of power. That is to say, social change always implies moments of abrupt confrontation with power because the dominant classes do not accept losing control in a peaceful manner and they defend themselves with conviction, as we have proven at different moments.

The weeks of camping out at Sol where an exceptional time but for the majority of people it is very complicated to live an exception. There was a moment in which the camp outs concentrated at central points of cities saw the need to multiply and distribute themselves throughout the city, at a local scale, to introduce themselves in the common spaces of neighbourhoods, adapting them to make them sustainable and compatible with daily life.

Without a doubt, the 15M has contributed to training the agility to multiply and coordinate mobility actions which are born from a citizen base in relation with concrete and focused subjects: The 25-S Movement with the Surround the Congress action, asking for the resignation of the Government and a constitutional process; 15 October 2011 Global Protests for a new economic model; and several citizen demonstrations: Marea Blanca, in defence of public health; Marea Verde, in defence of public education; Marea Roja, citizen movement of unemployed; LA PAH, Platform for those Affected by Mortgages; Marea Naranja, in defence of social services, etc.

Different initiatives have brought 15M closer to everyday life. Some people involved in music, cinema or publishing have reconsidered their everyday jobs after 15M and have contributed something of theirs to the collective. That is how the Robo, 15M.cc and Bookcamping projects emerged, among others. People whose daily work is anonymous also passed by the squares: teachers, nurses, social workers, psychologists, IT workers, students and journalists. It is relevant to ask in which way their vision, experience and their place in the world has changed after their encounter with 15M. Without a doubt, those little changes in people are the basis of the next wave.

Film: Libre te quiero

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  • San Sebastián Donostia 2016
  • Construyendo San Sebastián
  • Donostiako Udala. Ayuntamiento de San Sebastián
  • donostiakultura.com. San Sebastián: ciudad de la cultura
  • AIETE: Casa de la Paz y los Derechos Humanos