(en castellano: aqui)
After the climate camp experiences that I related in these posts, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 there was no other option when the occupy movement happened but to visit St Paul. It was exciting, however when I went back to the internet and read about what had happened in Spain, it seemed truly dull in comparison.
In Spain many things happened, among others, a political party was born out of the occupation. A political party with a real chance to get representatives in the institutions of power.
Now I am in Spain. In a very little village. Or not so little. Whenever there are events, they still need to be announced in printed posters that get stuck on walls on important streets. One such this was ‘Asamblea Ciudadana’, or Citizens’ Assembly, announcing their first meeting. I did not go to that one. Their information was on a facebook page. Urgh.
But I did wonder, I started to look for posters of the party I was most excited about, and I didn’t find any. It turned out Podemos was not going to present a candidature for towns.
Then one day, in the town main square, I saw this big table with people at it; they seemed to be gathering signatures. They were not. They were gathering votes. They were presenting their internal list publicly, inviting any and every passers by to vote for the person they thought best for the head of the list of this newly formed party, and from these votes they were going to draw up their list.
I asked them if they were Podemos. ‘Some of them are. Others are from other leftist parties. But I’m not from any party. This is a coalition, of people who just generally want things done differently here’.
I said I had noticed the posters and I had wanted to go to the announced meeting, but between the page being on facebook and the name looking like anything from a radical left to a radical right wing party, it had put me off. I was warmly invited to go to any meeting – it turned out that in fact they were meeting every single week.
So for a few weeks, I went to their meetings. Because of other commitments I always arrived late, but I always felt welcome. In the first meeting I went they were deciding the look of the electoral advertising posters, in the second they decided the slogan, in the third they fine-tuned the program. I gave some ideas that looked welcome, I think they were taken into account but I never got the time to check really. I tried to give an outsider perspective as in ‘look I have no idea what you mean by this, maybe an additional word or an explanation…? they looked thankful.
‘They’ were never more than ten, some times fewer, in the five or so meetings I went to. There were comments about official candidates not coming to all meetings, but then not all twenty or so of them were necessary, and it was not compulsory.
In one of the meetings, representatives from an association of mentally ill and disabled people came, making requests for when this party would be elected. I felt it was surreal, and so seemed to feel the main candidate, who reminded us a few times that they were not even in the Council yet.
In another of the meetings there was the comment ‘if the worst comes to worst and we only get one elected councillor …’ and then came the assurance that, judging from the support received, it may be more.
Then the elections came. And this Assembly got a real chance of getting its candidate elected as major, with one or two pacts with other parties.
And then the weekly meeting came, and I thought a few more people than usual would be there. Fifty people were there for the first meeting after the election. Fifty. 50.
As usual I arrived late, and it was so late and hot a lady was leaving. I asked her if the issue of the local, annual festivities had been raised. She said no.
I saw some familiar faces now. The allotment neighbour. An old friend’s dad. The social worker. People I had never seen in the squalid meetings I had attended – it would have been a joy to see them back then, when I kept coming without knowing any one. But now they were here, and it was joyful too. Still so very funny. 50!
The main candidate, now firmly and generally believed to be the upcoming major, was taking the last questions after discussing the pacts that were going to be made to form a majority.
The presiding table took a few questions before I raised my hand. I didn’t notice that the other people were addressed by their names, but I certainly was (yeah the major knows me, ha-ha – because you have no idea, but I have been coming to quite so many of these meetings, the major knows me – ha-ha)
“Thanks. We have seen for 40 years, the major walk next to the priest in the summer processions (laughs and comments). I would like to start considering, for the new major, is going or not going to those processions, is it going to be a personal decision, or a collective decision?”
“I am receiving lots of pressure … My mum wants me to go”
A lot more laughs, then serious talk. My allotment neighbour says to me at a moment when every one is talking, that going to a procession is something personal. “No. If he goes to the procession at the end of it, with the rest of the people and his mum, it is personal. If he goes right next to the priest, with the rest of the religious and political authorities (yes here the police chiefs also go in the procession next to the priest, guns and all), then it is not personal”. Another woman who came to the meeting earlier so she is sitting down on a chair, nods.
Hell has broken loose and some at the head table look at me. I mouth ‘ sorry’ but then remind myself that I tend to have this effect in meetings.
“Ana I believe you said you had two questions”
(See??? the major Does Know. My. Name. Ha. Ha.)
I ask all elected candidates to keep a diary. Which they can publish in a free blog. I see their faces change and remark quickly that they can keep it private, but please keep a diary at least for yourselves, because when you want to be transparent, and if you want to relate to any past event, trying to remember can be a torture. The main candidate makes another note.
When the meeting broke, I just ran away. The only people I would have liked talking to were now at the main table, and if there was going to be any socialising every one was going to want to talk to them. And I have never been good at this kind of competition.