Ada Colau loses the mayor’s office in Barcelona. Municipalism cannot surrender

27.05.2019 - Barcelona, Spain - Raquel Paricio

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Ada Colau loses the mayor’s office in Barcelona. Municipalism cannot surrender

A strong woman, Ada Colau, has demonstrated with her party “Barcelona en Comú”, to be able to lead surely the most progressive social policies of democracy not only in Barcelona but comparatively in all the Spanish State. It emerged from social movements, specifically from the struggle for the right to housing and has come to lead the mayor’s office of one of the most attractive cities in the world. The first woman mayor of the city, who did not come from the families that always held power, who has defended public rights, such as education and the right to basic services, such as housing and public energy, who has reached out to immigrants, who has confronted lobbies, this mayoress so dear to some and so despised by many, has not managed to renew her position by some 4,000 votes.

Ernest Maragall, the representative for Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) his opponent and with whom she has clashed in the last weeks of the campaign, has surpassed her in votes, but not in councillors. Both remain with 10 councillors (Colau loses 1) and Maragall for the first time gets the mayor’s office in Barcelona giving an electoral victory to ERC not obtained since 1939. Ernest Maragall, brother of the much-applauded former mayor and former president Pascual Maragall, puts the freedom of political prisoners as his flag, and this has been the great municipalist winner in Catalonia: the pro-independence left has made a fuss and faces none of the repression of the Spanish state.
But with this premise as the driving force, ordinary citizens lose their rights to public services. Esquerra Republicana’s policies are not left-wing. They are not. Some journalists have been in charge of making visible the past of Ernest Maragall’s highly neoliberal policies (Spanish) https://www.elcritic.cat/reportatges/el-passat-contradictori-dernest-maragall-25595 even so the citizens have lifted it up to the mayor’s office.

In few media controlled by the power we have been able to see a defense to Ada Colau, but surprisingly, even the most contras, gave him a space of honour in the hands of journalist Jordi Évole (Spanish) https://www.lavanguardia.com/opinion/20190518/462299589857/colau-y-los-principes-destronados.html
It has been four years where the mountain that confronted the team of the Commons was climbed without pause, with tenacity and with all the politicians against. In informal talks with different members of his team, they admitted to feeling lost when they arrived at the Town Hall. The offices of the big house looked like a labyrinth and the contacts and the doors where to snack were a secret. Where are the toilets? The deputy mayor jokingly explains. But none of it has been an impediment to carrying forward his purpose of offering a new chapter in city and international politics, a model in which to refer to the world.

The change of the Commons has gone beyond a list of things done, confronted by what remains to be done and the tasks of 50 years are not resolved in 4 years. It goes further because it has been a demonstration effect of how the citizenship that did not come from the same families as always, could also access power to defend the rights of the majority of the families, the ones that nobody defended. And because in its progressive ideas the municipalist movement, woven internationally, has been born to grow as a political force against fear, against the advance of the far-right. (Spanish) https://www.pressenza.com/es/2018/05/las-politicas-de-barcelona-inspiran-cambios-en-vivienda-y-feminismo-alrededor-del-mundo/
The global municipalist movement, which held its first meeting in Barcelona in 2017 under the name: Fearless Cities, created a series of proposals, gathered in a municipalist action guide that emerge from the analysis of the contemporary moment where fear and insecurity are becoming hatred; where inequalities are increasing. ( Spanish) https://www.pressenza.com/es/2017/06/jorge-sharp-truco-esta-no-mirarse-ombligo-convocar-la-gente/

“We live in an exceptional moment in history. The western dream of progress is breaking and everything changes at a vertiginous speed” says the activist and ecofeminist researcher Yayo Herrero, who with many other statements in the book published “Cities without fear”, shows feminist policies, the rise in the 21st century of cities against the empires of the nineteenth century and the nation states of the twentieth century.

“Fascism knocks on the door, hoping to seize the spoils of frustration. It has been like this for as long as we can remember. Always. Iago Martínez, chief of staff of A Corunha’s mayor’s office, will say.

Libertarian municipalism arises from the voice of journalist and writer Debbie Bookchin, recovering it from her father, municipal theorist and socialist Murray Bookchin in the 1960s, with his dilemma: “How do we build a more egalitarian society? “What kind of political organization is best to counter the power of the state?”…. Murray was convinced that municipalism offered a third way out of the deadlock reached by Marxist and anarchist traditions. That radical change would never be achieved by the vote at the polls.
In Boochin’s words, “Municipalism wonders: what does it mean to be a human being? What does it mean to live in freedom? How do we organize society in ways that propose mutual aid, care and cooperation?

The municipalist movement builds for the city but its horizons are much more open, large and inclusive. Until now Deputy Mayor Gerardo Pisarello told us, we are the only force capable of stopping the far-right:  “We are the alternative to the rise of the extreme right” (English)  https://www.pressenza.com/es/2018/02/encuentro-hirsch-pisarello-somos-la-alternativa-al-ascenso-la-extrema-derecha/ 
In these tense days of campaigning everything comes to light, Ada has made it very clear: “What have we done in 4 years? And you in 50?
Of course Barcelona has problems! Are we aware of the legacy left to us by previous city councils?
The strategy of a political change cannot be measured only by the number of kilometres of bicycle lanes built (which, if that were the case, Ada would have won again), but by the social model we want to achieve.
In short, the main actions of the government of the Commons have been:
– To define oneself as a “No to fear” policy in a network with numerous international mayors.
– Constant defence of immigrants’ rights (welcome, support for rescue in the Mediterranean)
– Support for those affected by the criminal violence of the 1-O and defense for the same cause of the Republic and the right to decide
– Challenging lobbies
– Prevent more than 7000 evictions
– Put gender policies in the central debate. Define the city as a feminist city, creating a political agency to help it, as well as the creation of the center for LGBT rights.
– To put the problem of pollution as one of the pillars to be solved.
– Municipalisation of services (such as free dentist)
– Creation of the largest municipal electric operator in the State.
– Public management of water has been considered.
– Defend public education with numerous actions
– They have passed the law that 30% of social housing built by private individuals should be protected social housing.
– 5000 illegal tourist apartments have been closed
– More than 70 million tax frauds have been detected in large companies that did not pay taxes.
– • ….

And this has been the beginning of something that hasn’t been done in 50 years. But for many it has been insufficient and no factual power will recognize the merit of the Commons. They have had the means to constantly attack the mayoress, to show her most improvised face in the photos, to attack her with fakes or clever twists in forms and content.
The support of the local left has not existed. So the international progressive intellectual left, with more than 200 personalities has come to support or send their messages of solidarity: the journalist and writer Naomi Klein; the former president of Brazil Dilma Rousself; the philosopher Noam Chomsky; the mayor of New York Bill de Blasio; the politician and state senator Bernie Sanders and a long etcetera.

The door to progress remained open and had its demonstration effect. Let us hope that policies made for the people do not lose their strength and their struggle to continue building. Let us hope that the new results in the Spanish elections do not follow the fearsome path without return on the action of fear, on the repression of liberties and on the hope of a human being who can ascend on the path of inspiration.

 

Translation Pressenza London

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