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Reports (including mirror of BCN 2002 reports)
Barcelona 2001, a personal account and analysis.
Following the cancellation of the World Bank conference, Barcelona 2001 presented a great opportunity for the 'anti-capitalist movement' to concentrate on constructive alternatives to capitalism, to focus on our ability and intent to make revolutionary social change. However, the potential of the situation was only partially realised for a number of reasons.
"10,000 carnivals and scarcely one strike"
That there needed to be a debate over whether actions should continue after the World Bank's cancellation suggests there is a lack of substance to our one day spectaculars. 'Anti-capitalism' has become the ultimate single issue campaign, militant lobbying of governments for their own abolition is the final absurdity of a politics which is unable to break with patterns of dissent congruent with the political system. The difficult and tiresome process of building alternative structures which may eventually allow people to run society for ourselves receives much less attention than the orgy of spectacular and flamboyant mass actions. Workplace and community organising just isn't sexy. The dominance of protest politics is evident in most of the major organs of the western 'anti-capitalist' movement, in indymedia as well as European Peoples' Global Action (PGA). For example, during their time as European PGA convenors, Ya Basta!'s creative tactics for street confrontation have won them global fame, but how many people have taken even a cursory glance at their very dubious politics?
"Another World is Possible"
In this context, what happened in Barcelona was an important development. We concentrated on the positive, on the creation of another world through popular self activity. As in London on June the 18th, 1999, there was a mass action without a meeting to protest. Hopefully, Barcelona 2001 can be a step towards relieving the 'anti-capitalist' movement of its burdenous protest mentality.
Despite an abundance of hangovers from the Sant Joan night festivities, there was something unusually empowering and positive in the procession down Paseig De Gracia and into Plaça Catalunya. The 40,000 strong crowd was a mass of jugglers, bands, flags and costumes, a coffin (for capitalism I hope), a cardboard 'TV camera for Africa', and banners proclaiming everything from "no World Bank" to "the revolution is today". And right at the front, in massive letters, "another world is possible". Small teams of masked up men and women engaged in property damage as we progressed and this escalated until the symbols of the old world were being thoroughly fucked over. The veneer of the legitimacy of business was destroyed with their signs, the pretence of the inevitability of capitalism shattered along with shop fronts and everywhere graffiti proclaimed the crimes of their old world and our revolutionary alternatives. We should perhaps offer our thanks to the police who, evidently fearing imminent revolution, switched sides and helped smash shit up. Arriving in Plaça Catalunya, the atmosphere was very relaxed but confident, we seemed to be in control of the massive square and the surrounding area, it felt as though, under the blistering sun, we were winning. The illusion was very brief.
The organisers had been determined that Sunday's events would pass off without
any trouble. They had applied for permits and when I asked at the convergence
centre if they could suggest a lawyer I was told it wasn't necessary as Sunday's
events were legal and there would be no arrests. We have to remember that the
law is a device used by the state to ensure the continuation of the existing
social order. Sometimes we need to use legal device to protect ourselves against
the law, but it is a mistake to rely on the law to protect us against the other
devices of state control. This was beautifully illustrated in Plaça Catalunya.
Agent Provocateurs staged a scuffle in front of riot police and this provided an excuse for the police to attack the crowd with an extreme degree of force. Firing rubber bullets and wielding big sticks they were able to clear the square in a matter of minutes. In every direction people stampeded trying to escape the violence, parents ran with terrified children, people dived into bars, others tried to erect barricades. During this rout the police were able to injure scores of people including a tourist they apparently shot with a rubber bullet.
We returned to Plaça Catalunya and found it filled with riot police. People were holding up bloodied clothes while others were being loaded into ambulances. The police looked very satisfied with their work but they really hadn't done anything to be particularly proud of.
We joined a group that was pressing against police lines at one entrance to the square. People raised their hands and went very close to the police to try and stop them firing rubber bullets. In this way they were able to push the lines back while on the other side of the square the police came under fire from bottles. The celebrations were short lived, however, and a fresh line of riot police turned up and started beating those at the front of the crowd. Some brave people sat down or lay down in front of the police but they were hit until they had to move.
After a while we took a breather in a bar. One thing that was very strange compared to the UK was that even amidst police charges, Barcelona continued as normal, bars stayed open, often with people sitting at tables outside. We decided to head to Universitat where an anarchist demonstration had been planned for 4.00pm. On the way there we met a comrade who told us that the gathering had been attacked with great force and dispersed before the demonstration had even began. In light of this, we instead attended an open air meeting that was to discuss what has happened and what we should do next. The meeting, of perhaps 100 people, took place in a confined space with no escape routes. We didn't think it was a good place to meet given the police behaviour so we left and headed up to Universitat. We think this meeting was attacked very violently after we had left so we regret not making our concerns more vocal although it is difficult when you do not speak the language. The police spent the rest of the afternoon attacking and dispersing any sizeable gathering of people.
During the disturbances on Sunday, properties damaged included Deutsche Bank, Banco De Santander, Caja madrid, Halifax, Yanko, BBVA, Ibercaja, Cymbeline, Pronovias, Chanel, Armani, Caixa de Terrassa, Mango, Marella, La Caixa, Banco Pastor, Banc Sabadell, Zara, Furest, Mango (another one), Dunkin Donuts, Gonzalo, Comella, Burger King and Swatch as well as various public furniture etc. Unforunately, there were scores injured and dozens arrested.
In reflection, I think it is a mistake for anyone to ever organise a strictly
legal/ non-violent event. That is certainly not to say that every action needs
to kick off, rather it is to recognise that no group can, or should, control
what happens during an action. This could be because the police may choose to
create an excuse to attack as happened in Barcelona, but equally it could be
because the crowd spontaneously takes the offensive against the symbols of the
system we hate. Our revolution will be built on passion not discipline.
In organising a non-confrontational action our concern should be that those who do not want to be involved in a physical confrontation, do not have to be, while others, should the need arise, are able to defend themselves, other participants, and members of the public who get caught in the area. In Barcelona on Sunday, those who didn't want to be involved in a physical confrontation got attacked by the police while those who might have been prepared to defend themselves and others from police attacks were left in an impossible situation - in a grid of wide streets without bottles, sticks, stones, shields, masks, padding, cobbles or an organised confrontational block. Big people with riot gear, big sticks and big guns against littler people with their bare hands doesn't make for a very good fight.
The Spanish police are ready to use a level of violence in public order situations that exceeds that employed by most police forces in the richer countries. They really are a violent bunch. Also, a surprising number of them resemble the bloke out of the village people. More importantly, they are some of the stupidest fuckers I have ever encountered. This was brilliantly demonstrated by their agents provocateurs who wandered around their uniformed mates and sometimes didn't even manage to conceal their earpieces. It's a miracle these clowns remembered to take their badges off. And so the press broke the long conspiracy of silence that had surrounded the Spanish police's use of agent provocateurs and pictured Barcelona's finest involved in various illegal acts.
The police being exposed in the media as having started the trouble before
attacking the crowd very violently is, of course, every liberal's dream. At
some point on Sunday the leadership decided to cancel Monday's action. It is
possible that one of the reasons for this was that if we turned up prepared
for a physical confrontation and caused a lot of trouble, the police tactics
of the day before would seem more justified. Who needs direct action when you
can get sympathetic press coverage? One day we will learn that we do not need
to convince people that the police are violent bastards because, believe it
or not, the police don't reserve their violence for political activists. We
need to demonstrate that we can do something about these sort of problems and
cancelling our actions doesn't help us to achieve this.
Regardless of the reasons, any decision to cancel the action should have been made by the collective (all the participants on the actions) not by a totally unaccountable group. It is very alienating to be unable to participate in the decision making process at an event you feel you are part of.
On Sunday night we were able to gather back in Plaça Catalunya. It was good
to be able to regroup despite the events of the afternoon and the mood improved
significantly as first the samba band entered the square and then a sound system.
As some danced around the sound system others made their way to the jail where
those arrested during the afternoon were being held. At about 11.30 pm the samba
band began to lead people out of the square. It was quite tense for a bit as
there were only a few hundred of us and we were followed by swarms of police
vans, but we left them behind by heading down into the metro station. Every
staircase and every landing was filled with people chanting, dancing, shouting
and clapping to the samba music that echoed powerfully around the station. The
security guard looked bemused as we danced over the turnstiles packing every
carriage on the train. It was very empowering.
We got off near the jail and joined those already outside. Loads of food and wine was available which was a great organisational effort. Some people tried to get a little sleep while others resolved to make more noise- clapping, chanting and playing instruments. Hopefully this raised the spirits of our imprisoned comrades.
At 8.30 on Monday morning, the helicopter that had circled relentlessly on
Sunday took to the air once more. At 9.00am, oblivious to the events cancellation,
I turned up to Universitat ready to take on the stock exchange. However, by
9.30, there were still only about 100 people standing around with banners and
watched over by four vans of riot police so we headed into the convergence centre
where there was to be an assembly. This took an age to get started and was then
dominated by discussion of making legal claims against the police and holding
a press conference. You could see the frustration on the faces of many who would
rather have been participating in Direct Action than listening to the leadership
respond to every agenda except that of self-activity. Eventually, the idea of
a street action on that day was raised and this was immediately met with a very
positive reception. In a little over an hour there were about two thousand of
us assembled outside, including about one hundred of the best equipped white
overalls I've ever seen. Very slowly we progressed, led by the samba band, to
near the stock exchange. There was a bit of a stand-off but eventually we were
able to surround the exchange, although our reduced numbers and the huge presence
of tooled up riot police made any attack on the building unwise. There was celebrating,
dancing and a naked protester. It was a totally different situation from the
previous day and partly this was because this time we had come prepared for
physical confrontation. About this time a small group broke away and we travelled
some distance to a side street where we painted slogans against the police and
for revolution. We were soon confronted by irate citizens and, fearing they
might have called the police, we left the area quickly. We split up and I rejoined
the carnival where people danced in a fountain spraying water over the crowd,
it was a celebratory atmosphere.
The white overalls left us in order to remove their protection. We had seen a little glimpse of what the people on the street were capable of and it is impossible not to conclude that we were held back by a unofficial leadership preoccupied with the media and the legal system. If our actions are not to be frustrated repeatedly by self appointed leaders then we have to work harder to challenge implicit power structures and demand that those in powerful positions (i.e. those with most resources, most contacts, most time etc.) are forced to behave in accordance with the ideals and desires of the participants in the event and do not, as has happened too often (INPEG in Prague, for example) repress and distort the struggles of thousands in accordance with their personal liberal reformist agendas.
On a slightly similar note, there were, apparently, many groups who, objecting to the liberal ethos of the organising group, dropped out of the weekends events. I think these groups could perhaps have been more constructive in articulating their objections and challenging those aspects of the organising they disagreed with. On the long road to revolution we will have to overcome reformist, authoritarian and counter revolutionary elements that attach themselves to our movement, now is the time to challenge them.
The carnival, led by the samba band (who were inspirational throughout the actions) meandered through the centre of Barcelona and ended up by another building where prisoners were being held. We waited on one side of the building where banners had been hung describing the police as fascists and demanding the release of the arrested. Graffiti was sprayed - "No World Bank", "police rob banks" and "another world is possible". The actions were ending as positively as they had began. On the other side of the building hundreds awaited the release of those arrested on the Sunday while other groups set off to embark on autonomous actions.
Another world is possible but we have a great deal of work to do if we are to create it. We must develop and articulate our critiques of the leaderships that, if left unchallenged will inevitably hijack our struggles and can only hinder our ability to make revolutionary social change. We have to direct the energy which occasionally comes together in one day spectaculars into everyday social struggles and, above all else, we absolutely must escape the protest mentality that has come to plague too many of our struggles. If the uprising in Barcelona helps in any of these directions it will have been a success.
frontline event reports (Monday 25th 2001 late)
Barcelona, J25, the action that's for something. For what? We'll decide when we get there.
We’re not the organisers of j25 and we don’t speak for them, so who are we?
On Monday: "Those on strike poured into the streets in protest, trams were overturned, communications cut and troop trains held up by women sitting on the rails. The Anarchist Anselmo Lorenzo wrote to a friend saying: "what is happening here is amazing. A social revolution has broken out in Barcelona and it has been started by the people. No one has instigated it. No one has led it. Neither liberals, nor Catalan Nationalists, nor Republicans, nor Socialists, nor Anarchists. By Tuesday Barcelona was in the hands of the people, by Thursday the army and the police had mounted a counter-attack and barricades were thrown up in the streets to stop them. Behind the barricades there was mass looting. However by the end of the week the government had regained control."
Okay, the description comes from 1909 but they should be able to reuse it.
Of all the towns in all the world
J25 in Barcelona always seemed promising. It’s true that opposing meetings has been getting a bit habitual, increasingly pointless even, but Barcelona was always a special venue. Perhaps for historical reasons, Catalonia continues to be a hotbed of revolutionary activity, as protest net put it: "the activists in Barcelona rock"
Doing what we can changes nothing, we need to do what we can’t!
But since the World Bank woosed out with this slightly weird statement, J25 has taken on new significance. The most obvious reason why we should be going there in our thousands is because they don’t want us to! Let’s face it, Wolfensohn didn’t check out a few web sites and decide not to bother, the World Bank were advised by the police that the political situation was too volatile, that they would be unable to hold their meeting, that the authorities would be unable to prevent control of the streets falling to the people.
This protest movement we must leave…
When the news broke that the World Bank had shit themselves was just breaking, a group of UK fast food workers issued a call for increased mobilisation. It struck a bit of a chord and got translated into lots of languages. It also summed up another reason why J25 is special. J25 might have started as another reactive protest but now it has the opportunity to become something much more. For the first time in too long we will see a huge international gathering, in the most symbolic of places, which isn’t a protest against one branch of state or capital, but is a massive, defiant celebration of our ability to change the world. At the European PGA meeting in Milan earlier this year, the need to stop reacting and start trying to create something positive was articulated incessantly. J25 is our chance to make a massive, positive, international uprising that exemplifies and celebrates the daily struggles through which we will realise a new society. Not a protest; an insurrection!
Holiday with purpose…
Barcelona is a beautiful city, the sun always shines, the architecture’s magnificent, the beer’s not as cheap as in Prague but then Prague never had a sandy beach. If you want to hook up with us then we’ll be the pasty Brits paddling in the med.. Sorry, I forgot about martyrdom, lets do an action in Milton Keynes.
Not convinced? Still want more reasons?
Barcelona has cobbled streets.
The Trots are sending their members on a coach ride with a fag break in Genoa.
It is POSSIBLE the police numbers will be lower since their global bosses aren’t turning up any more.
Because of the geography of the French border all the internationals will hopefully get in this time.
This action is expected to be numerically stronger than Prague and, as well as a mass of NVDA, to have a greater number of militant activists.
OK so what’s the plan?
Well there was an original call to action and the plan was…
But then the World bank woosed out and now the plan is:
June 16-22 a mass of local outreach actions, meetings and agitations right across the Spanish State.
June 22-23 a counter conference which is promised to be better than the one in Prague which was a lot of tedious liberal academic wank. (bring FM radio to hear english translation)
June 24th massive, massive united demonstration. Trial of the World Bank, creation of an autonomous space, overnight occupation.
Anarchist Demonstration against globalisation, Sunday 24th June, 16.00 @ Plaça Universitat
Morning of June 25th 'visit' the stock exchange.
information on 'libertarian events' being organised by the Anarchist coordinating group CACG
Full programme of 'official' events with times and meeting places
Details of the 'official' counter conference programme
information for contacting the campaign in Barcelona
list of local events preceding J25 Barcelona ('Spanish'/ Catalan)
Revolutions are usually proceeded by failed attempts and temporary experiments. It remains to be seen if J25 marks an attempt at such an experiment, but one more point must be made. Ten years ago they said we had reached the end of history, now we’re talking about practising revolutionary insurgency… history has a long way to go.
We call on those ‘anti-capitalists’ in the UK and elsewhere who believe in more than militant lobbying, who believe passionately in the possibility of revolution, who are no longer content to respond to the agenda of capital and who want to destroy but also to create, to converge on Barcelona and help make J25 the most radical event our nascent rebellion has seen to date.
J25- Could the real anti-capitalist movement please stand up.
Our comrades in the Spanish State organised accommodation for 10 000
Travel info we know off (send us more)
Travel to Barcelona (outside link)
The Spanish Police (outside link)
European Activists 2
1 North American Activists
(successful abortions of meetings)
Reports of j25 as they came in
who are we?
This Protest Movement We Must Leave
"the activists in Barcelona rock"
Brief history of the region
call for increased mobilisation
Llamamiento para incrementar la movilización en Barcelona este mes de junio.
Un appel pour une mobilisation accru à Barcelone en juin
Die Protestbewegung, die wir hinter uns lassen müssen.
Aufruf zur Mobilisierung fuer Barcelona
useful phases (and soon rough guide to a stay in barcelona)
On way to stock exchange on Mon: