Radical media, politics and culture.

Marta Malo, "Sol, or When the Impossible Becomes Unstoppable"

Sol, or When the Impossible Becomes Unstoppable
Marta Malo

Write to orient oneself, at the velocity imposed by the moment. Between poetics and theory, write to offer something to the confabulation of the world, to contribute, from inside, to the creation of the square, to prolong the event which is Sol. Because yes, Sol has been an event: one of those unexpected occurrences that redraws the map and reopen the horizon of the possible.

In the demonstration the 15th of May, overflowing with joy at the size of the demonstration and its fresh atmosphere, a Radio Mobile Unit interviewed some of those present. “What does the future look like to you?” Despite all the energy circulating, many of the interviews were clearly pessimistic: “It looks grim.” On Monday, when news of the camp in Sol started to blow like gunpowder in the social networks, in a list for exchanging goods and services someone wrote: “What does it matter if some people are camping, as long as others are shopping at the department store next door?” It does matter, because this wasn’t just any camp: the bold gesture of a few became a signal to the many: it was “now or never” and the hunger for doing was set loose, the hunger to speak.

One graffiti read: “The impossible becomes unstoppable.” There is no better description of the event that is Sol. Generosity is deployed, smiles everywhere, groups of friends decide to “go to the square together.” Others, no longer strangers to each other, have become companions in a common movement, the square as an irresistible magnet… One afternoon, the son of some friends, just a year and a half old, started shouting “Sol! Sol!”: we had walked away from the square and he was looking for that Sol which has so affected all of us these days. Ten days ago no one could have imagined that Sol could be anything but the touristic and commercial center of a European capital city.

Sol, not as a geographic place but as an unexpected event, has come along to shatter two of the pillars upon which the state of things was based: on the one hand, it broke the consensus established after the Transition, according to which the current party system is the best system of government imaginable, and to question that is to open the doors to chaos and the darkness of dictatorship (against the “We must not fall into the temptation of questioning the present democratic system” of the commentator Angels Barceló, the movement insists: “They call it democracy but it isn’t.”) On the other hand, it rejects the interpretation of the crisis that makes it seem a meteorological accident, faced with which there is no choice but to tighten our belts. Against the political management of the economic crisis, the square shouts: “They aren’t bail-outs, they’re blackmail!” and points to those responsible, the governing politicians and bankers.

Excited, unable to believe that in fact “something is moving,” anxious to discredit it before it has the capacity to make a real impact, the politicians throw back to the square the blackmail of “alternatives”: “You say no, but you don’t have any proposals.” What they don’t know is that, for generations with no future, uncertainty about what is to come is an everyday matter, and Sol allows us, at least, to live this uncertainty together with others.

It seemed clear that the effect of the Sol-event, and in general, the May 15th movement, was not going to do anything but deepen the already existing electoral tendencies: and indeed, the debacle of the Socialist party has been resounding, even in cities already governed by the Popular party, like Madrid. Now what?

The camps (not just the one in Sol, but the ones set up in so many cities) continue. One friend said: “It’s not a matter of taking the street anymore, it’s a matter of making the square.” Based on that intuition, I’ll throw out an hypothesis: the square is only created by insisting, digging deeper into those elements which made it possible: the critique of political power (“Real democracy now!”) and its management of economic power (“The crisis should be paid for by those responsible for it!”) as a minimal common denominator; the cooperation of many as a practical force which makes the square real and tangible, which makes this minimal common denominator not only habitable but delightful, something which makes it worth pushing for. Against the (self)representation of the thousands of pre-existing collectives and struggles, with the corresponding risk of Balkanizing the square, the Sol-event invites us to look for a point of connection, a place from which we can contribute to this common, starting from who we are – of course – but also from a commitment to that which brings us together.

Not only that. May 15th confirms the force of that unpredictable actor, which we might call “Pass it along!”, because it self-organizes with this simple and proliferating phrase. “Pass it along!” has a genealogy: from the mobilizations against the war, March 13th, V de Vivienda. With no structure beyond the networks of friends and social cooperation, without big organizations or programs, with simple, direct slogans, reacting against an external event that serves to bring people together, marking time, making it urgent to go into the streets (the war, the bombings of March 11th, the elections…). From its first appearance, many are those who have attempted to make use of it, circulating various dates on the internet, but “pass it along” is a skittish actor, particularly for organized groups. Child of decades of political demobilization and non-affiliation, it insists on the power of “people”, “persons”. It is only interested, we might say, in peer-to-peer calls for action.

One boy who arrived from Bilbao at the camp in Sol after days of being fascinated with what was happening there, was asked: “Now what?” He responded: “We don’t have to be afraid of the camps losing steam. Sometimes activists, when they get excited about something, pour themselves into the thing and they exhaust it, like an overprotective mother with her child. I am not an activist, I will leave here and go back to my life, and when another thing comes up, I’ll reappear.” “Pass it along” appears and disappears. How to contribute without overwhelming. How to inhabit the (predictable) diastole of the movement without heartbreak. How to learn to come together as a part, a tiny part, but a part nonetheless, of this unpredictable actor. Questions which Sol leaves on the table.

Some Argentinian friends insist: “This is all very interesting, but it is not like 2001 in Argentina. In 2001 who took over the city were the most dispossessed by the crisis. Here it is not that, we barely see signs of the crisis.” It is not interesting to think about a movement in terms of “what it is lacking,” but it is important to think about how Sol effects those most hard-hit by the economic crisis: those who have lost their homes, the chronically unemployed, those who have been definitively pushed into the informal economy, those who don’t have papers and have no hope of regularizing their situation for lack of a contract, or those who have lost their papers because they couldn’t pay the social security… those social terrains most penetrated by “social intervention,” most effected by political dis-affiliation… they are the great unknown in this new phase which Sol ushers in. How will they involve themselves?

There is a long way to go, but the paralysis has ended. We can smile.