For The Baffler, Steve Rushton explores the emergence in the past few years of radical democracy at multiple levels of Spanish life, from Catalan independence, to networked democracy, radical municipalism, and squatted autonomous spaces. Rushton suggests that these developments in Spain represents possibly the most promising alternative to neoliberal capitalist governance in Europe. An excerpt:
The ethos of cooperatives, organizations that are not-for-profit, autonomous, and democratically run, is mirrored in the casals. This translates as “house” in Catalan, and refers to a network of self-managed local spaces where people can socialize, buy meals at good value, find social support, and organize. Casals and cooperatives connect back to the Spanish Civil War, when shops, bars, and factories were collectivized, as George Orwell describes in Homage to Catalonia. In Spain’s White Terror, Franco destroyed these buildings, but did not extinguish the idea. Across the whole Spanish state, particularly in Catalonia, there are many autonomous spaces: some squatted buildings house evicted families, while other self-managed projects provide a safe space for women’s groups. These were places where contemporary movements including 15M could ferment. I hear casals form the roots of the CUP.
“On a planet with limited resources, how can we keep growing?” asks Fulvia Ferri in Can Masdeu, an abandoned leprosy hospital that was transformed in 2001 into an eco-village with alternative technologies and now hosts political meetings. The four-story former hospital is built into a steep slope overlooking large grounds, at the end of a dusty track, with Barcelona below and the Catalan coastal mountain range above. With local allotments and communal growing areas, the gardens are a vibrant green patch of Collserola National Park.
For Ferri, who runs workshops on de-growth, Can Masdeu not only shows you can live differently; it also shows, on the edge of Barcelona, how we can re-think the city for a progressive future. She points out that humanity cannot simply spread out.
Image: Pablo Iglesias of Podemos. Via The Baffler.