Friday, June 10, 2011

Barcelona, Spring 2011: Chronology of An Unexpected Event


September 29, 2010: The major labor unions, CCOO and UGT, along with the anticapitalist CGT, the anarcho-syndicalist CNT (which has multiple splits), and other small unions, hold a general strike to protest the bank bailouts and proposed austerity measures included in the Labor Reform. In many city centers and industrial zones, participation in the strike is massive. In Barcelona, the streets erupt in heavy, day-long rioting. CCOO and UGT pickets, on the contrary, tend to be symbolic and spectacular. Both organizations subsequently sign on to the Labor Reform. Before or shortly after the strike, half a dozen neighborhoods in Barcelona form neighborhood “social assemblies.”

November 28, 2010: Elections in Catalunya replace the governing Socialist Party with the rightwing Convergencia i Unió, which adopts a hardline, pro-police rhetoric.

January 27, 2011: Acting apart from the major unions, the CGT, CNTs, and COS (a left Catalan coordination of syndicates) hold a general strike in Catalunya, which is also called for in Euskadi and other parts of the Spanish state. The strike coincides with the approval of the Labor Reform, supported by the major unions and the Socialist Party (which has led the government in Madrid since 2004). In certain cities, the strike receives substantial support in the transport and manufacturing sectors, but generally achieves little participation. In Barcelona, burning barricades, sabotages, pickets, and contentious protests win a combative visibility for the strike.

May 1, 2011: In Barcelona, the anticapitalist Mayday protest, supported by the CNTs, CGT, COS, socialist indepes (Catalan independence activists), and informal or “black bloc” anarchists, leads thousands of people into the emblematic rich neighborhood, Sarrià, where protestors burn dumpsters and luxury cars, smash up approximately a hundred banks, fashion stores, and car dealerships, cover the walls in spray-painted slogans, and throw bottles and paint bombs at police before being dispersed in a heavy charge. The mood is exultant. The weeks before and after are marked by especially high quantities of sabotage and attacks.

#Revolution Breaks Out:

Sunday, May 15: A recently formed platform centered in Madrid, Democracia Real Ya or “Real Democracy Now” (DRY), holds simultaneous protests in dozens of cities throughout the Spanish state, convened via Facebook, Twitter, Indymedia and various activist listservs. That night, the idea is spread via Twitter to camp out in Puerta del Sol, a central Madrid plaza, modeling on the Tahrir Square occupation in Egypt. In other cities, occupations also begin in central plazas that night or the next night.

Monday, May 16: In the evening, eighty to a hundred people begin an encampment in Plaça Catalunya, the symbolic center of Barcelona, which in the last decade has become almost exclusively a tourist zone. As in other cities, the occupation organizes itself with a general assembly. A small number of anarchists are participating. In the meeting, they argue down the proposal to sign on to the Real Democracy Now manifesto from Madrid. Many other people also express the need for the Barcelona encampment to develop independently. It is decided the encampment will release no unitary manifestos that attempt to speak for all participants. Notwithstanding, principles of unity already authored by the DRY activists—non-party assembly decision-making, nonviolence, and unity among los indignados, “the indignant”—are successfully imposed.

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