A short article about the recent riots in Barcelona after the city attempted to enforce an eviction order and demolish a popular social center in the neighborhood of Sants known as “Can Vies”, in which the authors observe that, “The total domination of Capital demands a kind of urban space that is managed like a business and pacified like a prison. Within this space there is no room for neighborhood assemblies, or ways of life at the margins of the market economy. In this space, the framework cannot be more authoritarian, and politics is not distinguished from social control. In a world that is heading towards totalitarianism, political management is repression.”
When the force of reason is subjected by the reason of force, no one is entitled to speak of law or of rights. In this situation the law is arbitrary and its application is not undertaken by a legal state, but by an abusive state where the government’s monopoly of violence is placed at the service of privileged interests. In this case resistance against the abuse is legitimate; furthermore, the right to resist and to engage in self-defense is the only real right. Thus, from the point of view of liberty, dignity and reason, the real sources of rights, the protest against the demolition of the occupied and self-managed space of Can Vies, in the Sants neighborhood, cannot be more justified. Its demolition was not a pretext for the intolerable violence of itinerate minorities who “took advantage of grievances”, as the authorities (and the UGT police trade union) claim; it was simply a display of institutional, gratuitous and savage barbarism, as usual.
The metropolis known as Barcelona is not an extended settlement organized by a community of residents, as it was when it was founded; nor is it an industrial city full of factory workers as it was in the past; Barcelona, with its enormous overcrowded population, is merely an open and peaceful space for consumers, where all human movement must be regulated and controlled in order to guarantee its transparency and smooth operation. Those who run Barcelona are not its residents, but a political and financial, vertical and authoritarian, parasitic and usurping caste, which has made the management of the urban space its privileged way of life. What matters to these leaders is the “Barcelona trademark”, that is, that the municipality should convey a polished and tranquil image, like that of a shopping mall or a theme park, which is good for business, sales, commodified leisure and tourism. It is obvious that the spectacle of a consumable Barcelona requires a space without contradictions or ambiguities, completely subjected and at the service of the buyer.
The new urban model cannot allow for the existence of truly public spaces, without mediations or barriers, and much less for horizontally managed places: everything must function like a hierarchical and monitored stage set, where technologies, ordinances, urban real estate and urbanism are at the service of rapacious elites. The exercise of authority in these conditions is basically a police operation; in this stage, politics is conflated with repression: management, surveillance and order are the same thing, which is why the government operates above all from the Ministry of Public Order. Politics is therefore not the affair of the politicians, but of the implacable security forces. All the political and social problems that this aberrant model of the city constantly provokes will never be recognized as such, since the population does not have any right to complain about this best of all possible worlds. The only response of the ruling power that has hijacked the popular rights of decision-making is violence.
It is clear that in the affair of Can Vies, the municipal authorities never had any intention of offering alternatives that were not circumscribed within the bounds of the official bureaucracy, and that at every meeting all they did was engage in manipulation and lying, because by proposing an unacceptable space under government control what they really sought to do was to abolish the free space that Can Vies originally constituted. The disproportionate show of police force deployed to carry out the eviction proves this. They did not count on Can Vies receiving either the support of other collectives or help from the residents of the city center. Nor did they expect the solidarity of other neighborhoods, since the operation took place at dawn. This is why the forces of unjust order were at first caught by surprise. Where was the ultrasonic cannon and why didn’t they open fire with their “sticky foam” projectiles? This is what the representative of the police trade union, the SMT-CCOO, asked, since it must be pointed out that the repression was carried out by paid mercenaries working under the terms of a collective bargaining agreement that authorized the use of FOAM projectiles, and what the trade unions are interested in is to see to it that the operation is properly carried out, without any risk to their members. Everyone has seen the response. An almost military style occupation of the neighborhood, indiscriminate police violence, arrests and injuries….
All the media efforts of Mayor Trias, the Minister of Public Order Espadaler and the city councilor representing the Sants-Montjuïc district, Jordi Martí, have been devoted, first of all, to defending the violent action of the police, “defender of property rights” and “executor of a clear ruling of the Supreme Court”. In fact, they did not offer too many explanations: “it would not be good for us if the police had to justify their actions” (Espadaler); “the security forces were right. When the police do something they have a reason” (Trias). Secondly, their efforts were also intended to present the protests as the work of violent infiltrated groups, with the idea of dividing the protestors between pacifists and “anti-system” radicals, in order to “find formulas of consensus” with the former and to crush and imprison the latter. This is an old political tactic that is trotted out whenever force has not yielded all the desired results. The demagogy of the leaders is contemptible but that is the way they are. We must not blame the authorities for a lack of subtlety, when the only shortcoming they need is a lack of scruples!
Thus, we are not facing an unusual isolated event, within a perfect democratic framework, where everyone has a voice and a chance to make themselves heard. In reality, the iniquity of the authorities and the brutality of the police forces will become increasingly more common if the population does not resign itself to doing what it is told to do. Because the population is never right, it is not sovereign, since it has no force, or, more accurately, it does not have the monopoly on force that the law of domination grants to those who govern it. The total domination of Capital demands a kind of urban space that is managed like a business and pacified like a prison. Within this space there is no room for neighborhood assemblies, or ways of life at the margins of the market economy. In this space, the framework cannot be more authoritarian, and politics is not distinguished from social control. In a world that is heading towards totalitarianism, political management is repression.
Can Vies was a stumbling block for power in Barcelona. It seems that it will not be overcome easily. The resistance to the demolition has been exemplary in many respects, which proves that there are people who have not adapted to the servile behavior that is demanded of them. This is a reason for cheer. And since there must be no lack of stumbling blocks (today there are vast numbers of them), we are confident that in the near future there will be many more!
The struggle continues. Cheers to Can Vies!
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
This collective text, written by the members of the Revista Argelaga collective, was translated in May 2014 from the Spanish translation provided by Miguel Amorós. The original Catalan text, as well as French and Galician translations of the original text, may be viewed online at the website of Revista Argelaga: http://argelaga.wordpress.com/.