Is there any series of protests going on anywhere in the world right now that is as inspiring as the militant, non-violent anti-austerity drive by Mayor Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo of Marinaleda, Spain?
Sánchez Gordillo’s tactically bold initiative has a back-to-the-basics flavor that the global left sorely needs. Austerity means that the people suffer; therefore the people will step in and just start taking what we need. Enough of this shit.
They are literally doing this: With support from union leaders, the mayor has marched on supermarkets, taken shopping carts full of food, then walked out without paying, and donated the goods to food banks for the poor. He’s now on the march across Andalucia with 500 supporters, raiding supermarkets along the way, and yesterday occupying a branch of Banco Santander. Here is what he says:
We are going to occupy all of the banks and supermarkets we are able to in Andalucia. The robbers who have caused this crisis must pay the consequences for what they have done.
You really can’t find a more clarifying tactic and message than that. And indeed, the right-wingers — who are calling for the mayor to be removed from his seat in Andalucia’s regional parliament — are responding in exactly the way you’d expect:
“One can’t be Robin Hood and at the same time earning a salary as the sheriff of Nottingham,” said Alfonso Alonso, parliamentary spokesman for the ruling PP in Spain’s parliament.
So the conservatives are now coming right out and saying that they identify with the Sheriff of Nottingham. Meanwhile the social democrats (PSOE) are unsure what to do. The mayor (who is from the communist-led Izquierda Unida, or United Left) has hit upon a game-changer even though his party is (currently) in a small minority.
While these actions risk arrest and jail time for those involved, they do remain symbolic, and they’re only one inspiring component for some badly-needed systematic organizing. But there is nothing like a helping of tactical audacity to open up some new possibilities.
If we’d had even one politician in the United States when our own version of this crisis hit four years ago, it would have been electrifying. Even if we could find one to do it now — and a well-organized union or similar mass organization to do the leg work and take the arrests — it probably wouldn’t be the right moment. But the battle over the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the rich, which will occur at the end of this year — and in the middle of the holiday season — could present an opportunity. What could we do when the time comes?