Monthly Archives: May 2011

Protest Camp, Plaça Catalunya, Barcelona #acampadabcn

Plaça Catalunya #acampadabcnFood commission, Plaça Catalunya #acampadabcnDeclaration of protest, Plaça Catalunya #acampadabcnPlaça Catalunya #acampadabcn"We've lost our fear" Plaça Catalunya #acampadabcn"Plaça Tahrir" Plaça Catalunya #acampadabcn
Capitalisme a la mierda Plaça Catalunya #acampadabcnCCOO a la mierda Plaça Catalunya #acampadabcnTourists still able to enjoy Plaça Catalunya #acampadabcn

I had the chance to spend a little time in the protest camp in Plaça Catalunya in Barcelona today. I’m no good at estimating the size of crowds but there were many more people around today than there were yesterday. Here are some snaps I took with my phone.

Spain: Youth in revolt?

Many people who live in Spain, as well as lots of observers outside the country, have been asking the same question for the last few months: where are the young people?

With youth unemployment as high as 46% and the PSOE (‘Socialist’) government using the economic crisis as an excuse to force through radical changes to the country’s social framework, why weren’t Spanish youths protesting on the street? The clues to the answer lay in the failure of September’s general strike. Young people weren’t interested. This lack of interest in officially organised and accepted methods of protest (the strike was organised by major trade unions, generally seen to be partners of the PSOE) wasn’t the same as apathy, though it did initially appear similar.

The events of the last couple of days in Madrid, then, are heartening. Thousands of young people, using Facebook and Twitter to organise followers there bought them here, converged on the capital’s iconic Puerta del Sol square and protested against the lack of real democracy, the spending cuts, the incredibly high youth unemployment (higher than in many of the north African countries where revolutions were fuelled by similar complaints), new copyright laws, and much more. Hundreds have also camped out in Barcelona’s Plaça de Catalunya, mingling with bemused tourists and surrounded by itchy-looking Mossos d’Esquadra (Catalan police with a reputation for enjoying beating-up students and anarchists). The protest camps are organised: popular commissions have been established to distribute information, food, blankets, legal advice.

The Spanish political establishment, focused only on this weekend’s municipal elections, was taken by surprise. Its response has been telling: Barcelona city hall switched-off the city’s webcam of Plaça Catalunya. Then the Junta Electoral, Spain’s elections commission, noted that the protest camps would have to be cleared because they are in breach of Spain’s electoral law. The PSOE (PSC in Catalonia) has tried to make it sound like they sympathise with the protestors, Barcelona’s mayor bemoaning “international speculators and the damage they do” (the same speculators he sees it has his job to entice into our city). In Madrid, the police have moved to close access to the protest camp apparently in preparation to fulfill the Junta Electoral’s controversial and unpopular judgement.

What will happen over the weekend remains unclear. It is likely that the police will attempt to clear both camps. If they only clear Madrid’s, then Barcelona’s might grow. Whatever happens, it would be wrong to continue to ask why Spain’s youth has done nothing to oppose the country’s corrupt politics. The kids are on the streets. And they want radical change.

Catalan PP continues its xenophobic campaign

This morning on Els Matins, Barcelona mayoral candidate for the PPC (Catalan PP), Alberto Fernández, made it clear that his party is committed to the xenophobic campaign line it has been pursuing for some time here.

After declaring that “Yes“, he has “‘prejudices’ against immigrants” (‘nouvinguts’ or ‘newcomers’ in Catalan, a word which sounds nicer but is generally used in the same reactionary arguments), Fernández went on to insist that “immigrants should comply with the law that we ourselves comply with“. He also said that immigrants who need to apply for or renew their papers should have to go to the city hall and obatain a document to prove they “have no obstacles [sic] with anyone“, and that immigrants “who come to Catalonia to commit crime should be expelled“. Then he went on to claim that Barcelona has become “the capital of antisocial behaviour and crime” which should be dealt with via “a firm hand“.

If you’ve been following the language of the PP in Catalonia, none of this should come as a surprise. But that doesn’t make any of it less disgusting. Of course, we expect the hard right to be thoroughly unpleasant. And that’s why they should be opposed. That said, the two quotes which most got my attention were the ones about complying with the law and coming here to commit crime.

When Fernández says that immigrants should comply with the law, same as anyone else, that isn’t what he is saying. What he’s saying is “immigrants commit loads of crimes and they get away scot free”. I shouldn’t need to point out that the Generalitat has already changed the law concerning petty crime to make it easier to convict bag thieves on the Metro and the Rambles. But how many immigrants are bag thieves anyway? How many steal copper? And is he really talking about immigrants? I’m an immigrant in Catalonia. There are lots of other UK, Italian, French, German and Dutch immigrants here. Does he include them when he says “immigrants”, or does he just mean “immigrants from outside the EU”.

If you read the Shite Press in BCN (pretty much the only press available here), you may have noticed a generally accepted dichotomy between ‘comunitarios’ (‘EU citizens’) and ‘inmigrantes’ (‘immigrants’). What I’ve found hard to understand is that Romanians are often listed with the immigrants, even though they’re EU citizens. Because if, as I suspect, Fernández is talking about non-EU citizens except Romanians, then I think we’re on the verge of spotting where his real prejudice lies. But if, on the other hand, he means to include the French suspect in the Drassanes murder case then perhaps he means to include me in his use of ‘immigrants’. Which he almost certainly is not doing.

As to the immigrants who come here to commit crime, well there probably are a few. There are probably also Spaniards from elsewhere in Spain who come here to commit crime, and Catalans who live here to commit crime. The problem is: how do you prove that someone has come here to commit crime? You obviously can’t. The only thing he can mean is that immigrants who commit a crime should be expelled. And that leads us to the issue of definitions again.

If, as must happen, an immigrant commits a crime here without having come here with the express intention of committing that crime, that immigrant should not be expelled. Actually, Fernández didn’t say this, and it’s not logically safe to give him the benefit of the doubt here. No, he almost certainly means that any immigrant who commits any crime should be expelled.

And not once does he or that idiot Cuní state the percentage of crimes committed by immigrants, or the percentage of immigrants who commit crimes, or how those figures compare with people born here. So what we’re left with is the clear implication that immigrants and crime are somehow inextricably linked and that the best thing for it is expulsion and special treatment.

Don’t vote for the PP.

Osama bin Laden and the power of nightmares

A couple of days ago, I read what in retrospect was a fortuitously timed article on After detailing Osama bin Laden’s escape from Tora Bora, Tim Lister ended by noting that OBL probably wasn’t hiding in the ‘tribal’ area on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border at all. He reckoned that the fugitive might be holed-up in the wilds of Kunar, a remote zone that includes places where “no man has set foot”. Lister was, as we know today, only half right. Osama bin Laden was actually hiding near Islamabad in what seems to have been relative comfort. He was shot dead last night by US special forces.

So the era of bin Laden at #1 on the FBI’s most wanted list (he was already there when the September 11th 2001 attacks happened), is over. I can’t help but feel that it makes little difference now. Because America has already accepted mortal head wounds as ‘justice’, permanent internment camps as ‘security’, and permanent war as normality.

Adam Curtis’s film “The Power of Nightmares” dealt with the twin forces of militant Islamism and neo-conservatism that ended up shaping much of the current geopolitical landscape. Together (and they must always be taken together, for they needed each other desperately), they succeeded in causing probably over a million deaths, most of which occurred in the middle-east. If you haven’t seen it yet, I recommend that you try to get hold of a copy. UPDATE: As Erik points out in the comments below, the film is available to watch or download for free at the Internet Archive.

If all this is making you nostalgic for the days of “Get this!” Iberian Notes, check out this online novel which features a familiar-sounding character. It’s eerie.

More national policy soon. Until then, sleep well: they haven’t invented their new nightmare yet.