Ada Colau. Citizenry. The PAH: from the ILP to the ‘escraches’
We are living the end of a regime, kidnapped by corrupt political en economic leaders. And the regime needs a renovation. How?
How do we rethink social organizations? There is no regeneration of democracy without a strong and well organized civil society. The solution, if any, is not expected from the institutions that corrupted democracy from within. Only a watching and alert civil society will enforce the correct government, as power naturally tends towards corruption.
This social organization, besides its role to watch the power, needs also new forms. Because most organizations nowadays have not aged very well. This includes political parties but also labour unions and NGOs: organizations that were very useful when they were created but that have become useless to provide answers for today’s problems.
The problem is that we [Spaniards] have not been educated into Democracy. We have always been told not to participate in politics. We need to be critical against corrupt institutions, but also self-critical with ourselves and our not-being involved with politics.
And empowerment is the word, the way to do politics (again), to win back for the citizenry the agoras, the squares, the collective discourse, etc.
Back in 2008, before the government and the population in general realized the problem of the housing speculation in Spain, the Plataforma d’Afectats de la Hipoteca (PAH, Platform for people affected by their mortgage) was created to weave a network of people with a common interest. The worst error then was staying in “maximalism”: remaning on the theoretical approach, on the macro approach, on raising awareness on the issue of evictions and personal debt… but not going into action, addressing specific issues, very concrete problems.
The new initiatives of the PAH then attacked several issues in the short, medium and long run, with plural strategies that would address both the macro and the micro levels, the economic crisis and the individual drama of a given citizen, etc.
The Platform succeeded in mobilizing people that had no experience in being mobilized and that did not even had the will to do it: instead of angry people aiming to fight for their rights, the Platform found devastated people being stigmatized by the society. The Platform provided a new mindset, a new context, and a new strategy to overcome the problem: instead of lamenting oneself, fighting for one’s legitimate rights.
Another success was empowering people: it is you that will solve your problems, not anyone else, not the Platform. But the PAH will empower you so that you are able to solve your own problems: no one will defend your case better than yourself. But by oneself does not mean alone, but, on the contrary, collectively and, above all, in a shared way.
All this activity has been done with almost no resources. The person that becomes empowered is reborn and helps others to go through the same process.
High level politics can be done with almost no money.
A last resource for activism is civil disobedience. If a law is unjust, it is not only fair but a duty to fight the law back by disobeying it.
Besides civil disobedience, and in parallel, the mainstream way was also taken, by means of a popular legislative initiative. Of course no practical success came out of it, but two major successes came out of it: raising huge awareness on the topic and de-legitimizing the ones in the Parliament that were proven to be useless to citizen problems even if those were channelled within the system itself.
The main challenge is how to substitute the old mechanisms and institutions with new ones. There is a need for some form of organization: participative, non-hierarchical, democratic… but a form of organization in any case.
Q: changes, but towards which way? what scenario can be envisioned? Ada Colau: the horizon is not clear and, above all, we should not rush it. What is clear is that we have to open processes of debate and processes to design this new scenarios. And do not delegate these processes but, instead, be ourselves the main actors. Some urgent initiatives or issues to be addressed is fighting corruption, sanitizing institutions by changing their design (by changing the regulatory framework that shape them), etc.
Q: how do we design the communication strategy? what kind? Ada Colau: this is very difficult because mainstream media react depending on many factors. On the other hand, media tend to identify the movement with one spokesman or visible head. Thus, even if the movement plans a decentralized strategy based on a collective message, while the identification with a specific spokesman works for the movement, ok with it.
Arnau Monterde: how does the movement replicate? Ada Colau: empowerment is without any doubt the most important part of it. Notwithstanding, replication has been an issue from the very beginning: the movement should be able to be replicated, de-localized, decentralized, so that it became sustainable and could grow. Information, procedures, etc. have always been shared and socialized. The movement has taught not only the end users or the members, but also the professionals have been retaught in new ways of sharing their expertise and provide advice openly.
Ismael Peña-López: what is the legitimacy of a Platform such as the PAH to speak with other institutions? Ada Colau: first of all, elections have been proved not to legitimate parties, especially when they do not carry out their own political programmes. On the other hand, anyone can represent the defence of human rights: what the PAH does is to remember that human rights cannot be violated, and asking for respect for the human rights is a duty for everyone.
Institutions of the Post-democracy: globalization, empowerment and governance (2013)
If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:
Peña-López, I. (2013) “PostDem (VI). Ada Colau: citizenry. The PAH: from the ILP to the ‘escraches’” In ICTlogy,
#118, July 2013. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
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