A report from Barcelona (published May 24, 2016) on the eviction of squatters from an expropriated former bank that was being used as a libertarian social center, the role of the City Government led by the former indignado, now Mayor, Ada Colau, in the affair, the resistance mounted by the social center’s supporters, and the political implications of the fact that Colau’s party, Barcelona en Comú (“Barcelona in Common”), despite her reassurances to the contrary, has now become a responsible party to repression and is providing a fig-leaf for a slowly intensifying “strategy of tension” that heralds further authoritarian developments for Spain.
The Expropriated Bank of Gràcia: One More Step Forward in the Strategy of Tension – Argelaga
For the last few years the Generalitat has been waging a war on the libertarian milieu, especially the occupied social centers, a war that tends to manipulate public opinion and justify any and every repressive measure, although it sometimes has to use judges and public prosecutors to patch up the bloody consequences that cannot be swept under the rug. We are not just referring to Ester Quintana’s eye, or the death of Juan Andrés Benítez. We have been apprised of attempts to infiltrate groups and to buy the cooperation of militants, police frame-ups involving fake conspiracies, arrests of alleged terrorist perpetrators of imaginary bombings, and other maneuvers of disinformation. Yesterday, May 23, 2016, we witnessed a provocation in the form of an eviction carried out by the riot cops against the Banc Expropiat in the Gràcia neighborhood, followed by violent police attacks that left more than a dozen people injured by beatings and non-lethal crowd-control projectiles.1 This is known as the strategy of tension, a tactic employed by the ruling classes for the purpose of disorganizing a social movement that has proven refractory to the dominant institutions in the latters’ own backyard, since what the ruling classes seek is the total control of the neighborhoods and the people of the Catalonian capital. The official Catalonia of the industrial and financial oligarchy wants to be the only real Catalonia.
As a sign of these times of accelerated decomposition of the ruling politics, the new allies upon which capitalism is relying in Catalonia do not come from the ranks of the old parties, which have gone down in the flames of corruption scandals and have been discredited by virtue of their relentless devotion to the interests of the existing power structure. Now this role has been taken over by veterans of the social movements, who have made the transition to politics by embedding themselves in civil society parties and electoral alliances. This became all too clear from almost the very first moment they walked through the doors of the Catalonian parliament and the Barcelona City Hall. The recent agreement with the PSC in the Barcelona city government illustrates the sufficient convergence of interests between Barcelona en Comú and one of the parties that is most representative of the forces that really call the shots in Barcelona, and which is furthermore the author of the fascist municipal ordinances that still hold sway over life in its streets and parks. The representatives of the civil society parties are being dragged into positions that no one would have previously believed possible. We have thus witnessed the “understanding” reached by the Mayor of Barcelona with the Urban Guard, one of the worst police forces in the world, by way of Colau’s “energetic condemnation” of the attack carried out by an undocumented mantero [a street vendor who sells cheap imitations of name-brand merchandise—Translator’s note] on a policeman who was harassing him, and Colau also said the City Government would cooperate with the prosecution against this “dangerous” street vendor who is today unjustly imprisoned. This about-face performed by Barcelona en Comú has now been manifested in the City’s treatment of the occupied social centers which have refused to negotiate the terms of their evictions and to allow mediation by city councilmen. Yesterday it was the Transformadors social center; today it is the Banc Expropiat. It seems that Colau, “the defender of the common good”, does not need to buy social peace the way Trias did, by paying the rent, nor does she have to once again voice the refrain, “Run, run”, now that she has a slick media persona that depicts her fake love for her neighbor and builds a deceitful image of a sincere, politically engaged person.
The squats do not want do go anywhere; in any case, if anyone is to be sent packing, it is Antartic Vintage SL, the company that owns the premises of the Banc Expropriat. So, the Department of Public Order of the Generalitat has not let a chance to administer a good thrashing to the occupiers to slip through its fingers and has sent the riot cops to the Banc Expropiat to guarantee that business can be conducted in good order. Colau, for whom the affair was “private business”, also took advantage of the opportunity to characterize the response of the people to police aggression as “totally unjustifiable” “mob actions”. No doubt, in her view, the truncheons of the riot cops and the rubber bullets seemed more appropriate for the “men and women who live in the Gràcia neighborhood”. A magnificent example of fulfilling the “expectations” of those who voted for her.
It is understandable that the other civil society party, the CUP, senses a certain dismay on the part of what they consider to be their electoral constituency in the face of the televised “brutal repression”, which is why this party declared its support, in the most opportunist fashion, for the demonstrators. The CUP not only conferred legitimacy on the Parliament which is a holdover from the past, a creation of a pact with franquismo, but even proclaimed that this Parliament embodied the “voice of the Catalonian people”. A voice that is expressed in its majority in the language of the Democratic Convergence of Catalonia, the main party of the oligarchy in the Principality. The collaboration of the CUP in the comedy of the convergent independence movement made a government of the Catalonian right wing possible, which ended up sending the riot cops to Gràcia. And now this same party is complaining about the violence that would not have been possible without its votes. By collaborating with the Convergence, the CUP is actually working for interests that are elsewhere represented by the PP. When politics is pure hypocrisy, its spectacle is pure bullshit. What lies behind it all is an increasingly more harsh authoritarianism. After the civil society movement cleared the streets of what were called, with quite a bit of exaggeration, social movements, and after the return of Franco-era policies of public order, the squats are all that is left to be forced into line.
The squats are the nightmare of the bureaucrats who think that they have the right to make decisions about the lives of others and that nothing should be beyond their control; the refractory example of the squats can change people who vote into people who fight, in Barcelona and everywhere else. The political leaders know: evictions mean riots.
WITH OR WITHOUT BALACLAVAS, THE BANK WILL BE DEFENDED! FREE THE IMPRISONED STREET VENDOR!
Argelaga, May 24, 2016
Translated on May 28, 2016 from the Spanish text obtained online at: https://argelaga.wordpress.com/2016/05/24/banc-expropriat/
- 1 English translations of communiqués issued by the supporters of the Banc Expropiat are available at the website of Squatnet: https://en.squat.net/.