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//Que No Nos Representan - Notes from the Spanish Revolution// - Igor Stokfiszewski

Que No Nos Representan - Notes from the Spanish Revolution - Igor Stokfiszewski

One has to keep trying to explain why the contemporary world, which is terrible, is but a moment in the long historical development; why hope has always been one of the dominant forces in revolutions and uprisings, and also that I continue to be convinced that hope is my concept for the future.

Jean-Paul Sartre

[…] one has to become involved, on one’s own responsibility as an individual.

Stéphane Hessel

 

Usually, the 15 May 2011 is assumed to have been the beginning of the Spanish revolution – the day when in all of the Kingdom of Spain’s principal cities such as Madrid, Barcelona and Granada  (as well as in smaller towns, eg Santiago de Compostela), under the slogan ‘We are not commodities in the hands of politicians and bankers!’, there marched an estimated 100 – 130 thousand, the demonstrations organised using the website Democracia Real Ya! (Real Democracy Now!). However, one should look for the actual beginning of the Spanish revolution in the events which took place three years earlier.

In the autumn of 2008, a speculative bubble burst in the USA, pricked by the crash in the property market, caused by a dramatic rise in prices (which had brought the market to a halt), in turn due to massive numbers of Americans buying properties, a trend set off by very low interest rates as well as too liberal criteria of granting mortgages by banks. All this led to the greatest world economic crisis in over 70 years. Financial institutions started to collapse, financial markets on all the continents started to wobble, and the governments of the countries threatened with the crisis took preventative steps, pumping gigantic amounts of public money into saving their economies. At the expense of their citizens.

The crisis invaded Spain, bringing a rise in unemployment to the highest level in the euro zone (21,3%). By March 2011, an estimated 5 million adults had lost their jobs. Among the young, the level reached an unimaginable 43% plus, unheard of anywhere else in the European Union.

In September 2010, the socialist government of Prime Minister José Luis Zapatero adopted a plan to rescue the labour market by its gradual liberalisation. In response, the largest trade unions called a general strike on 29 September. However, the government continued with the free-market economic reforms and, in January 2011, by an act of parliament, raised the pension age from 65 to 67. This time, it did this in consultation with trade unions. On 27 January, the smaller trade unions, with anarcho-syndicalist origins, called a strike, which spread through the regions of Galicia, Catalonia and the Basque country. The majority of Spanish society also objected to the rasing of the pension age.

In the same month, on the Spanish social media Facebook and Twitter, the webpage Democracia Real Ya! was launched, to which some 200 organisations signed up. It called for mass participation in street demos announced for 15 May 2011. The page has been an informative and organisational medium; a vehicle for groups swapping information, giving run-downs on social and political events as well as providing a platform for lively liaision between activists from various centres in Spain and in the world. Democracia Real Ya! is not, strictly speaking, an organisation, but, rather, a loosely-knit association of activists, political parties and trade unions.

In February 2011, the Zapatero government, with backing from the conservative Partido Popular, pushed through parliament an act limiting the freedom of use of the Internet in connection with the breaking copyright laws by users. The act was aimed at the websites which, in the meantime, had become the medium of the self-organisation of the movement, and was soon to trigger the Spanish revolution.

On 7 April, a dress rehearsal for the events of the 15 May took place: a demonstration called by the association Juventud Sin Futuro (Youth Without a Future), joined in Madrid by some 5 000 participants. Additionally, on the 13 May, in Murcia, the Democracia Real Ya! activists occupied one of the local banks.

The 15 of May 2011 saw the previously publicised events spreading to more than fifty Spanish cities. In Madrid alone, 20 to 50 000 of participants gathered, according to various estimates. The march, which proceeded along the Spanish capital’s main street, from the Plaza de Cibeles in the direction of Puerta del Sol, Madrid’s central square, blocked La Gran Vía and ended with a peaceful, sit-in protest in Callao. In response to the occupation of the highway, the police began forcibly to remove the demonstrators, which led to upheaval, arrests, the smashing shops and setting of rubbish bins on fire. There were injuries amongst both the protesters and the police. In spite of the police intervention, a group of approximately 100 people managed to get through to the Puerta del Sol and then decided not to end the demonstration, as had been planned previously, but to remain in the square. The brutal conduct of the guardians of the law provoked the Spanish citizens to begin the occupation of the Puerta del Sol.

A day later, more joined the group at the square and the decision was taken to remain there until the day of the local council elections on the 22 May. At the same time, about 200 people began to occupy the Plaça Catalunya in Barcelona, and – for the first time ever – the tag #spanishrevolution appeared on Twitter.

The day of the 17 of May turned out to be the turning point of the Spanish revolution, when, at dawn, the police marched into the Puerta del Sol and began brutally to clear the camp. Eye witnesses spread information about the police action by the means of the Democracia Real Ya! website as well as other social websites, with the result, that mass waves of demonstrators began to flow towards the central square of the kingdom’s capital and towards the city centres of many Spanish cities. That day, some 12 000 gathered in the Puerta del Sol and by popular decree, made the decision to continue with a permanent occupation of the square, to organise infrastructure to support a continuing protest and to select citizens’ committees to discuss various aspects of social life and be responsible for particular activities. The construction of the camp began; the foundation of the basis of action to achieve a new social and political order. Similar camps appeared in other Spanish locations, and the citizens of the European Union began a solidarity campaign, demonstrating their support for the Spanish revolution in front of Spanish embassies in their respective countries. The Spanish revolution became a fact – one which, from 18 May, was broadcast by all the world media.

My personal involvement in the Spanish events goes back to 22 July 2011, when, on behalf of the Berlin Biennale, I found myself in Madrid, in order to make contact with the activists of Democracia Real Ya! and other organisations linked through the movement which, in the meantime, had become known as the 15 of May Movement – or the Movement of the Outraged, in allusion to the title of the book by the French legend of the anti Nazi movement Stéphane Hessel – Time for Outrage – and in order to explore the possibility for collaboration between Spanish activists and the Berlin Biennale.

This was the period, during which the second act of the Spanish revolution took place. Towards Madrid, from all directions, marches of the Outraged were flowing, to join into a 30 000-plus strong march through the city on the 24 July.

The third act is still going on. This is the March on Brussels, which is to gather tens of thousands of demonstrators in the Belgian capital, the seat of the European Parliament, on the 15 October. I hope to be there, just as much as I was present at the first important leg of the March, on the 17 September in Paris.

These reflections have been made in the heat of the moment, on the basis of having been to Madrid and Paris. Their somewhat disorganised character is a result of the dynamic of the Spanish (and, taking into account the escalation of the range of the protests, which currently have engulfed not only Europe, but also the United States – also intercontinental) revolution. I made these notes in order to capture the specific character of the events from the point of view of their exceptional social and political effectiveness in comparison with many political gestures which we have witnessed during the past decade. It is a fact that not only have the events in Spain caused the government of José Luis Zapatero to fall, not only have they undermined the Spanish two-party system, but also – through social pressure – they have made politicians revise the legislation which had been supposed to be the basis of the free market economic reform, with a view towards curbing its damaging effects on citizens, introducing legislation to protect the poorest groups of society from the greed of the financial institutions and towards legislation to ensure a greater transparency in public life, which would guarantee the reduction of corruption, an endemic and on-going phenomenon in Spanish politics.

The revolution has shaken the basis of the neo-liberal consensus in Spain, proving that not only is it possible to oppose the domination of capital over the will of the people but it is also possible to implement such opposition effectively. Perhaps the Spanish revolution provides useful pointers which allow us to find out how people, united via Internet websites, have been able to put a question mark over the predominance of capital and free market representative democracy.

Who is the subject of the Spanish revolutionary events?

They are educated young people, 25 to 40, who could be described as the ‘precariat’ – a creative middle class (frequently, artists) with a precarious job situation (employed on ‘junk contracts’), who use new technology to communicate; not necessarily with social awareness (which many only acquired during the events of the Spanish revolution) and not necessarily previously active as citizens, although the core of the initiators of the revolution, united on the Democracia Real Ya! website, is indubitably possessed of a high degree of social awareness and the activist temperament. It was they who first fell victim to the economic crisis and began to demonstrate when faced with a threat to their own economic interests and lifestyle.

Does all this mean that the Spanish revolution speaks on behalf of the interests of the educated middle class?

No. In time, the economic crisis has affected all social strata (apart from the richest). Those who started the revolution, originating from the educated middle class, have managed to avoid a situation where the movement’s reach might become curtailed in the sense of not being representative of all social groups: 1) They proposed an improvement programme for the economic situation, bypassing the issues of culture, cultural mores or ideology, which refer to different symbolic capital, habitus and lifestyle. The Spanish revolution is post-cultural. The postulates formulated by Democracia Real Ya! concerned unemployment, problems with finding accommodation, the quality of public services, the tax system or the reduction of military expenditure. These problems related equally to all age groups, social strata and cultural identities. To make myself perfectly clear: whereas I do maintain that the future of effective mass action against the prevailing status quo lies in flying the flag of economic demands, which necessitates the end of cultural warfare through sound subjectification of others and really listening to them; nevertheless, at the same time, I am aware that to give up cultural (religious, ethnic, gender and sexual) identification in favour of economic demands in Spain had been made possible also thanks to the profoundly emancipating social reforms carried out by the Zapatero government (of which the most important were the liberalisation of the abortion law and the legalisation of partnerships). This shows how necessary it is to continue to pressurise for similar reforms also in other countries. 2) The Spanish revolution bears the hallmark of leftwing populism. It is not an intellectual argument devoted to the conditions under which it would be possible to change the economic and political paradigm, but it is the practice of simple, powerful communications, directed at the performative: ‘Bankers in Jail!’, ‘Politicians Are Thieves!’, ‘Give Back Our Dignity and Our Money!’. However, these slogans correspond not only with the need to include in the revolutionary maelstrom as many subjects who identify with it as possible, but they also hit the nail on the head. The first slogan points at those guilty of bringing about the economic crisis, who have not been punished for their crimes. Although it is possible to take issue with collective responsibility, without a doubt, it is the bankers who have been the culprits of the Spanish social implosion, and prison would be a just punishment for their wrongdoing. The second slogan refers to the very high level of corruption amongst Spanish leaders and to the scandals connected with the defrauding of public funds, a very real problem for the political elites. It is unfortunately the case that many politicians in the Kingdom of Spain are, indeed, thieves. 3) Those who began the revolution focused on creating conditions for achieving political subjectivity by all groups, hitherto deprived of it. For this reason, a platform is the universal organisational unit of the Spanish revolution. Democracia Real Ya! is a network structure which makes it possible for anyone to propose their own proposals and publish records or information about their own actions. In reality, the Puerta del Sol is also a platform for a subjective expression of one’s political proposals. The square is equipped with infrastructure organised by the activists of the 15 of May Movement, which enables every individual to arrive with their own banner, slogan or message and to express their own demands, regardless of their social class or ideology. Demonstrations are organised along similar lines (hence, their mass character). Activists ensure official permits for the demo to march and the basic safety net such as food and drink, first aid facilities and information points, but the content of the demo is independent of such facilities. It is fulfilled through the platform being used by particular groups or individuals who seek political subjectivation.

Collective and individual, existential and political, subjectivation is a baseline value which serves to gauge the course of the Spanish revolution. For instance, in the matter of elections, the Democracia Real Ya! activists say, ‘We don’t tell people who they should vote for, we say to them: that’s how many voting stations have registered, that’s where you will find info about their programmes, get to know them, and then vote for the one that you like the most.’ One of the chief rallying cries of the Spanish revolution is, ‘You don’t represent us, we represent ourselves!’ – which indicates a lack of faith in transferring political representation to social representatives and a desire to return democracy towards direct voting, in which everyone decides for themselves what he is for and against. Paradoxically, it is the very subjectivation – which is a response to the individual’s alienation from his work, thoughts and emotions, alienation of a political class from society and alienation of the society from politics – that ensures the progressive character of the Spanish revolution. Conservatives, typically, kowtow to anything transcendental, external to the subject – tradition, institution, custom, God personified in hierarchical religious institutions or law, represented by a father figure (judge, politician, priest).

Subjectivation is fundamentally alien to conservatism, hence making the Spanish revolution a platform for subjective expression safeguards its progressive character. Regardless of the opinions held by the platform or by an individual, the desire for individual or political subjectivation is essentially progressive.

***

Does the Spanish revolution propose any systemic solutions which would address the lack of political subjectivation of individuals and groups due to the crisis of representative democracy?

Most certainly. Political solutions which have accompanied the Spanish events have the characteristics of direct democracy, based on the system of civic assembly, accessible to all, during which decisions are taken by a majority on the basis ‘one person one vote.’ The general assembly is the highest organ of decision making and it meets regularly in different cities, usually organised via social websites and called in the same way.

Civic assemblies have their own stage rules. Those who want to take part sit in a cicle in the square. Anyone can get up, walk over to the central meeting point, reach out for the mike (some assemblies are small enough not to require amplification) and start speaking. If others agree with the speaker, they show this by raising both hands and making a gesture similar to putting lightbulbs in (they call it ‘making suns’); if they don’t agree, they cross their arms across their chest with their fists clenched. If the speaker rambles, goes on too long or says things which cause the participants of the meeting to disagree, they indicate their protest by the hand signal used by basketball referees to mean ‘change over’: they place both forearms parallel to each other and to the floor, then rotate their arms over one another a few times with their fists clenched. The change over signal is one of the performative symbols of the Spanish revolution. If the speaker carries on nevertheless, someone else has to get up and take over, and the applause he receives usually manages to cool the eristic fervour of the preceding speaker.

The resolutions passed at particular assemblies are recorded and passed on to the higher decision-making gatherings. Moreover, at the city level, the participants in the Spanish revolution are divided into committees (which debate and propose resolutions in the areas of culture, education, health service, law, economy etc), which formulate proposals through voting in open meetings of the committee members (anyone who wants to be a committee member can, as long as they are prepared actively to take part in its work) with citizen participation and pass them on for further voting to higher decision-making gatherings.

The organisational structure of the 15 May Movement can be seen clearly in the urban layout of the occupied squares, where there are tents set up to correspond with particular committees, and additionally, there is a first aid-medical tent, kitchen, an info tent and (very important, this) the audio-visual tent, in which the computers are located – the constant tool of the activists, who co-ordinate the revolution via the Internet, radio receivers and transmitters and live streaming equipment for live transmissions of the goings-on at the square. Thanks to such organisation and equipment, every local action can have global reach.

***

The issue of direct democracy brings up the question of the leadership of the Spanish revolution. Because the platform Democracia Real Ya! is the most general framework for the activities in Spain, according to the media reports in the spring of 2011, it is those who had launched the platform that were earmarked for the role of the leaders of the revolution. The media named those behind the organisation of the May protests as Fabio Gándara, Eric Pérez and one, anonymous, other. And Carlos Paredes, Paco López, Aída Sánchez and – again – Fabio Gándara became the revolution’s press officers. At the same time, as the 15 May Movement kept growing, and the revolution spreading outside of Madrid and beyond Spain, the question of the assumed leadership receded into a secondary place in relation to the high visibility of the numerous popular assemblies as the decision-making revolutionary units. Likewise, the Marches of the Outraged – those, which in July reached Madrid, and those, which started off towards Brussels – have their, constantly changing, and often anonymous, leaders. Moreover – because of the Internet communication between the participants – the co-ordinators and the activists are known mostly by their cyberspace handles. There are many practices which aim to minimise the matter of the leadership of the revolution. It is standard practice that, each time, different people are selected for direct contact with external bodies – for instance, with foreign activists, who want to get in touch with the Movement. Typically, talks take place in the presence of witnesses, and the delegates tend to see themselves solely as channels of transmission between the civic assemblies and the external world. Whoever wishes to contribute any kind of content (a postulate, a query, a proposal) to the Spanish revolution, can contact any of its activists via one of the numerous Internet communities, but the activist contacted will still have to raise the matter at the next assembly.

The practice of diluting the leadership stems from a focus on the subjectivation of everyone who wants to take part in the Spanish revolution, but it has also two practical aims. 1) With the premise, that the revolution is to become a mass, and an international, movement, handing the intitiative over to anonymous activists discourages the blocking of the spreading of demonstrations and protests.  The decision-making system based on civic assemblies protects it from the political whims of local leaders, and the universal character of the most important proposals of the revolution, which allude to the matter of the crisis of representative democracy and the inhuman character of capitalism, reduces the danger that conflicting demands will be put forward in different local centres. 2) The diluted leadership protects the revolution from losing its impact, should the security forces intervene and arrest the leaders. Even if all the individuals known by their names and surnames were to find themselves in jail, this would in no way affect the course of the revolution.

In the final analysis, there also exists a sort of ethical inclination on part of the assumed leaders to acquiesce in abdicating their role as leaders of the Spanish events, which stems from their awareness of the high stakes involved – bringing about a change in the political and economic system – and of the high quality of the communal bond which means that the role of an individual leader loses its appeal somewhat in view of the beauty of the continuous experience of the community praxis.

I experienced this myself while spending time with Fabio Gándara, whose evident joy at the vitality of the political gathering at the Puerta del Sol clearly put into shade whether he was, or wasn’t, one of the gathering’s movers and shakers.

***

Live streaming, mentioned before, has another function apart from the purely informative, as do the incessant making and placing on the Internet of films recording the revolutionary events. This is to keep in check the behaviour of the security guards and the participants of the demonstration. These tactics have been influenced by the participants of the Arab Spring who, fearing the relentlessness of the army, employed recording and live Internet transmissions as a protective shield to prevent police aggression.

***

This is not the only leaf the Spanish rebels have taken out of the book of their southern neighbours from Tunisia, Egypt, Syria or Libya, since – and those who began the Spanish events talk about this openly – their revolution had been inspired by the success of the democratic revolt in the Arab countries. What’s more – there are direct links between the Spanish activists and the leaders of the Arab revolution, who lent their presence to the May protests in Madrid. Revolution is arriving from the south and spreading over larger and larger sweep of Europe. The Spanish act has followed the North African one.

The relation between both drives obliges one to view the political situation in Spain from a different perspective. I will throw light on this by relating an event, which I witnessed. During the July demonstrations in Madrid, a banger exploded amongst those gathered in the square in front of the Atocha railway station, where one of the marches towards the Puerta del Sol was about to start. Startled, as a knee-jerk reaction, I immediately thought that the mass character of the Madrid protests was crying out for an attack by Islamic terrorists. And it was then that, in a flash, I comprehened two truths – there is absolutely no way that such an attack could occur during the Spanish revolution, and secondly – that for almost a decade the Arabs have been influencing the Spanish politics. How can one explain this? The socialist government of the Prime Minister José Luis Zapatero had risen to power not thanks to the Spaniards themselves, but to the Islamic terrorists, who on the 11 March 2004 set off bombs in the Madrid underground. These events led to political turmoil and the overthrow of the People’s Party government. Those attacks had been aimed at the Western capitalism and the pro-American politics of the Spanish neocons. Ever since, the kingdom of Spain has been living in the shadow of the terrorist threat. As for Zapatero, he ha been confronted with the inevitability of having to reduce the negative effects of the capitalist economy and capitalist lifestyle. In fact, the pro-market reforms, which he had been forced into, brought back the danger of an Islamist intervention. It was only the anti-government action of the Outraged that has again made such a threat less likely.

The Arab Spring and the Spanish revolution have two basic parallels. In both cases, the essence of the demands is the political subjectivation of society in contrast to the alienation of the ruling elite (dictators, in the case of the Arab countries, and the alternately ruling two main political parties, in the case of Spain) and, in both instances, the enemy is the Western model of capitalism red-in-tooth-and-claw, which generates poverty and insecurity: in the Arab countries, because of its hitherto policy of collaborating with their dictators; in Spain, because of forcing through the deregulation of the labour market as an antidote to the economic crisis. Those analysts who perceive the Arab revolt as a threat of the looming victory of anti-Western Islamism are wrong. The Arab democrats are, nevertheless, anti-Western because of the hostile character of the economy and the representative political system. One way or another, the Arab uprisings have had an anti-Western stance. As an additional aside, either the political subjectivation of societies where it has been possible to bring down dictators is an absolute and the ultimate value, even if there are Islamists among those so subjectivated – or Western liberal thought has hit the buffers Over to you, liberals – which would you rather have?

***

The Spanish revolution has a peaceful programme.

Although violent incidents or instances of destruction of property do occur, which is inevitable with rebellion on such a mass scale, the essential character of the Spanish revolution is peaceful.

This is so for a number of reasons. 1. The Spanish revolution sets out to reshape the interpersonal relations, which should not be constructed on the basis of competition, suspicion, aggression or the hatred generated by the neoliberal philosophy of man and by the capitalist reality. This is only possible with an unconditional abandonment of all use of force. 2. Because the Outraged are in the same predicament, they share a common aim and they occupy a common space (both socially and in a physical sense), the intensity of the communal bond, which counteracts any inclination towards violence, guarantees a peaceful course of events. 3. There also exist practical consequences of the avoidance of political aggression. The peaceful character of the mass demonstrations incapacitates the security services, which lack a pretext for intervention, and – should they nevertheless decide to intervene – will appear themselves to be provocative, which will expose the ruthlessness of the ‘naked might’ of the State, which stands, guarding capital. This would expose a stark contrast to the peaceful stance of the protesters.

The peaceful character of the revolution also disarms the politicians insofar as they are no longer able to discredit the demonstrators by calling them ‘hooligans’ or present the demonstrations as thuggish excesses, which would turn society at large against the demonstrators (as happened in London). The 15 May Movement has the backing of some 80% of Spaniards.

The peaceful character of the Spanish events stems not merely from the gentle inclination of the activists. It is a result of performative work. An event in which I participated will highlight one of its practices. One night in July, we were standing outside the building of the Spanish parliament in Madrid, shouting anti-capitalist and antigovernment slogans: ‘Que no! Que no! Que no nos representan!’ (You don’t represent us!). We were facing a line of the police ranks, separated from us by metal barriers. The frustration and aggression amongst the demonstrators was increasing palpably. When the tension reached its peak, someone in the crowd shouted, ‘Let’s sit down!’ – and, suddenly, a few thousand of those present in front of the parliament stopped talking and sat down; on pavements, on the streets, in the square… Silence fell. After a moment, the first whispers could be heard, then conversation and laughter. The tension had been defused.

After three or four minutes, the crowd rose again and went back to shouting out slogans. We will keep sitting down like this lots of times, whenever even a whiff of negative tension appears.

***

There is another practice which enables the Spanish revolution to maintain its peaceful character. This is the performatics of the carnival.

The Spanish revolution is all-singing, all-dancing, colourful, accompanied by the drumming of paraphrases of well-known tunes or various jolly songs played on a multitude of instruments. Even the revolutionary slogans sometimes adopt the form of children’s nursery rhymes, accompanied by dancing steps. One example is the song where in answer to the question ‘where has all the capital gone’, the participants jump left and right, back and forth, singing playfully ‘perhaps here, perhaps there’.

The demos are accompanied by performances by jugglers. One of the trademark images of the Spanish revolution are face masks showing a smiling joker from the pack of cards. Some participants have their faces painted with multicoloured paint or felt tip pens and the banners with anti-capitalist slogans and political proposals are examples of top quality propaganda posters. It is clear, that during each manifestation, and in every occupied square, artists are actively involved. But art is not used to beautify the revolution or to make it more aesthetic. It is the tool of information, persuasion, explanation using the accessible visual idiom, which is far more effective than writing, or meandering political proposals or social strategies. Art is an integral part of the revolution, because artists are its integral part, who have participated in bringing it about. Art is no mere appendix or a supplement to the political activity, it is politics tout court.

The performatics of the carnival, as much as the directness and clarity of many of the slogans on the demonstrators’ banners, accounts for the hallmark of leftwing populism, which accompanies the Spanish revolution, or even – which is the very force which powers it, which draws in the social masses to take part in the actions of the Outraged.

But, as is the case with the peaceful course of the demonstrations,  the carnival atmosphere also has a political dimension. This will be apparent from the following situation. When we were marching along Madrid’s main thoroughfare in the direction of the Puerta del Sol, and a police helicopter came to hover over our heads, filming the march, suddenly, the marching crowd turned with their backs towards the direction of the march and, laughing away, started to march backwards. As a result, in the police photos, it looks as if the demonstration was going in the opposite direction or – since not all participants turned round – as if it was going in both directions at once. The symbolic significance of marching backwards in ironic reference to the activities of capitalism and representative democracy is yet another significance superimposed by this carnival, yet practical, gesture.

However, the carnival within the Spanish revolution does not mean lowering the tone of politics, deconstructing its seriousness or ironising about social problems. It serves to liberate individual expression, opening up the possibility of achieving one’s own subjectivation; it improves the quality of communal bonds through laughter and play and, ultimately – it helps maintain the peaceful character of the revolution, defusing the tension which arises out of the difficult living situation of the protesters and their growing indignation. The carnival serves to maintain the political discipline and political expression, given to concrete political proposals addressed to political elites.

Amongst the revolutionaries there stands out a group (mostly males) of those, whose body build, hairstyles, gestures and images on their faces and torsos hint at the aesthetics of carnival ‘baddies’: devils, warriors, ‘barbarians’. Mostly, they hail from the ranks of the homeless – impoverished artists, anarchist activists, often squatters, who have found themselves without a roof over their heads and who are accustomed to bad weather conditions, discomfort, eating scraps and organising life with the help of whatever comes to hand.

It is they who constitute a large chunk of those marching towards Brussels, because marching itself requires a lot of physical effort and psychological resilience, which those individuals seem to possess in abundance. Their communal spirit is striking, exposing the volcano of outrage which slumbers under the superficial carnival of the Spanish revolution, which, at any time, is capable of exploding with the lava of untamed aggression. The smell of marijuana, which accompanies the Spanish protest and which is generally associated with entertainment and relaxation rather than with anything else, trails behind the ‘barbarians’, evoking magic, the forces of hell and supernatural powers. Drums, facial war paint, long hair with feather headdresses, banners, pendants, black robes – all these are the attributes of the Spanish revolution, which can at any time become its symbolic representation.

To be continued ...