Yes We Camp
= hashtag for the Protest Camps in Spain
"“Yes We Camp,” one of the witty twitter hashtags of Spain’s 15 May movement, sums things up well. Inspired by the Arab Spring, galvanized by crisis, unemployment and austerity, fed up with the ineffective, corrupt, and often misanthropic political process, we are leaving our homes and moving to the street. In a blend of last-chance desperation and optimistic empowerment, we are building autonomous, totally democratic camps in city centers across the world. In these camps total inclusive democracy is praxis, everything is shared, and we build revolutionary consciousness everyday.
Perhaps no country is better suited to the radical democratic camps than Spain. A relatively young democracy, Spain has a rich political history of autonomous revolt and a strong cultural tradition of shared outdoor space. With unemployment hovering around 25 percent, and youth unemployment above 40 percent, a decade long housing bubble as dramatic as that in the US, and a series of dramatic cuts to social services being pushed by the EU and the ‘socialist’ Zapatero government, Los Indignados have over 60 percent popular support. I’ve discussed the history of the movement and life in the camps for Shareable before, but I’d like to zero in on the political methods and practices I witnessed (and took part in, to a limited extent) in Barcelona’s Placa Catalunya.
The camp is fundamentally organized around the principle of the General Assembly. If you’ve been in any kind of leftist meeting you have an idea of how it works: someone volunteers to be meeting facilitator, and people raise their hands to get on the ‘stack’. The facilitator calls on people in the order they volunteered, and only one person speaks at a time. They seek consensus rather than majority rule: all of the meetings I witnessed ended with dissenters agreeing to proposals and accepting the decision of the group. In a majority vote, voters are presented with a yes/no question and 51 percent carries the day, but in General Assembly proposals are built during conversation and debate, and as such actually reflect the desires of the group as a whole.
Everything is shared: decision making, food, labor, information, experience, resources, cigarettes. Placa Catalunya has a free kitchen, daily teach-ins, meeting schedules, public art spaces, a play space for kids, free movie screenings, and much more.
The camps also serve as action and information centers: people form actions large and small from the centralized point, allowing for a fluidity and speed of organization unavailable to other forms of organization. It also allows for simple scalability of involvement: core revolutionaries sleep and live in the camp, some people spend a couple days a week there, others only show up for major protests. This improvisational form of occupation creates a strong but fluid movement open to all and run by the people.
This is a practice of total democracy, of real, revolutionary tolerance. Los Indignados are 100 percent against violence, but they define violence to include homelessness, unemployment, hate speech and other forms of injustice. To quote the popular chant: this is what democracy looks like!
Similarly organized camps can be found throughout Spain, in Athens, and of course Egypt and Tunisia. Smaller camps have been springing up all over the world: England, Iceland, Italy, and France, throughout South America, even some in Japan and South Korea." (http://www.shareable.net/blog/yes-we-camp-a-global-fight-for-radical-democracy)