A short article by the editors of the Barcelona journal, Revista Argelaga, on the significance of the riots in Burgos, Spain, that took place in January, 2014.
Dies Irae – The Gamonal Syndrome – Revista Argelaga
The construction mafia and the Spanish partocracy that serves as its political enforcer have experienced a considerable setback in Gamonal, where they were defied more boldly and more forcefully, and in a more exemplary manner, than in any other neighborhood in any other conurbation. The trash bins had been burning for a long time without power yielding even one inch in its corruption and arrogance, but this time the hands that set them on fire came from an enraged community of neighbors, rather than from a handful of rebel urban irregulars. A community constituted in the conflict and fortified over the course of its development is not easy to defeat, because it really represents the “public interest” against its usurpers, but, given the similarity of the social conditions that prevail in the peripheries of the urban areas, it is likely enough that its example will spread, which is why it was not at all strange that the ruling class preferred to retreat rather than plunge headlong into a conflict that was not to its advantage. The general interests of domination prevailed over the spurious profits of a few individual capitalists; local corruption and the private business deals conducted under the cover of city hall will have to wait for better times, at least in Burgos.
The Gamonal revolt did not erupt only in response to a simple urban rehabilitation project that posed a threat to the neighborhood and was scandalously profitable for the local political boss who controlled the politics of Burgos and the regional communications media. The pay-to-park underground parking lot was the spark that ignited a fire whose fuel had been previously stacked by an atrocious urbanism with forty years of impunity behind it. This urbanism, having hierarchically determined a notorious space of high-rise housing projects divided by dreary boulevards that regulate the motorized access of the population, at the same time that it filled the pockets of the real estate speculators and lying politicians, imposed living conditions that get worse the farther away from downtown you go. The industrialization of life increases based on the distance from the offices where the local bosses made their unilateral decisions that made the lives of their neighbors worse. But it is hard to accept a way of life that resembles that of a domestic animal in its stable, dependent on transport and money, a way of life that is definitely irrational and inhuman, and even more so in an environment of precarious jobs, unemployment and urban decay like the present one. Sometimes resignation is not enough to suppress the rage of a local resident who knows that he does not count in the calculations of those who profit from his survival as a slave, and then, one more insult that is in itself nothing of major importance overflows the container of his patience. The day of wrath comes and then popular indignation rises up against political-speculative imperatives. The street battle was the immediate consequence, since such imperatives in the last extremity often take the form of the forces of order. But what was really admirable about Gamonal, is the fact that taking to the streets favored the accession to consciousness: the community of neighbors really emerged at that moment.
The Gamonal revolt was a revolt against the proletarianization of life and social injustice, a rejection of the industrial, uprooted and solitary model of life. The communitarian spirit that was born from the conflict transcended the immediate demands of the movement; what the neighbors are really demanding, although still in an intuitive way, is the right to the city—to equality, to public assembly, to the self-management of the neighborhood, to self-managed provisioning, to self-defense, to the right of unrestricted movement, to the agora—a right buried under a sea of architecture where the powerless poor are dying in a flood of private automobiles; a right which is today inseparable from the right to revolt and the barricade. There are many places like Gamonal in the capitalist world; all the conurbations are certainly Gamonalized, since they recreate the same degrading conditions that perennially incite revolt. All that is necessary is just one more abuse for it to explode: it could be the eviction of a self-managed social center (Hamburg, January 7, 2014), an increase in the price of bus fare (Sao Paulo, June and October 2013), police brutality during a protest against the destruction of a public park (Ankara, May 28, 2013), the death of a sick old man in an immigrant neighborhood (Stockholm, May 23, 2013), the death at the hands of the police of a young black man in a poor neighborhood (Tottenham, London, August 9, 2011), etc., etc. The truth that all these struggles discovered is that in the community of neighbors the authentic social nature of the human being is crystallized, but this can only be fully realized in the absence of capitalism and the state. In order for community to exist it must be affirmed against both; this is why, in its first moments, it displays itself as negative and violent. It is only defending itself from State/Capital and trying to fight back.
The social war, because it involves an authentic war between the ruling class and the ruled population, will not only be urban, since the main antagonisms are manifested with greater profundity in the territory, where the peasant community must reconstitute itself and make the territory habitable. Nevertheless, hostilities will commence in the cities, since it is there that the masses are still concentrated, who, by transforming themselves into a conscious collective subject, that is, into the community of neighbors, will be capable of confronting the attacks of the oppressive order with guarantees of success. It is from the urban neighborhoods that the guerrillas will come, who will spread throughout the territory, which will be the site of the final stage of the social battles that the world must wage. And precisely for the purpose of aborting any such movements, governments are preparing measures for a generalized security state, whether in the form of plans, laws and statutes against the internal “enemy” (the legislation extending the FIES regime, the reform of the Penal Code, the Law of Civil Security, the National Plan for Critical Infrastructure…), or in the form of specialized police forces, whether state or private, with which the seeds of desolation can be sown throughout the countryside and the urban neighborhoods, not to speak of the continuous expansion of the spaces set aside for the violation of human rights like the immigrant internment centers or prisons for children. Gamonal is only the beginning; the victory of freedom will not be easy.
From Revista Argelaga
February 2, 2014
Translated from a copy of the Spanish original provided by Revista Argelaga in February 2014.