Dramatic and inspiring things have been happening in Spain since the toughest years of the crisis: mass square occupations, riots with majority public support, activists stopping evictions and going on to run town halls, a new left shaking up party politics, a women's strike,... Most dramatically the world watched a major standoff between the state and 2 million peaceful voters in the Catalan referendum.
In most countries the main political result of the crisis has been the rise of the hard right. Why exactly was Spain "different"? And how have the new projects fared in tackling the social and democratic crisis?
Developments south of the Pyrenees sometimes have been confusing for observers. For instance, key movements (including the Indignados, grassroots housing platforms, and the Catalan Committees for the Defence of the Republic) have different forms and practices to those of traditional unions and single-issue campaigns.
Many people outside Catalonia are unsure about how progressive independence is, or why two million people were willing to disobey the state, only for the movement to stall and start arguing among itself.
Outside Spain the new Podemos political organisation has been a source of attention and, sometimes, confusion. Leftists have asked whether they should identify with an organisation calling itself "patriotic" and not left-wing? Others have suggested that its "left populism" is most effective political approach in the current period. In either case how do we account for the meteoric rise and then decline of the organisation, and its later turn towards alliance with social-democracy?
Many radicals internationally have been most inspired by the municipal platforms that took over four of the five biggest town halls in Spain, after mass participation in creating the organisations and their campaigns. Yet little is known about their record in government: achievements, shortcomings, obstacles, and transformed relations with the social movements that gave birth to them. For instance why do many Catalans believe the 'new politics' failed the test of the referendum?
There are also questions about why a recent return to mass struggle (by pensioners and the residents of Murcia, as well as women and Catalans) has been accompanied by a rise in support for the right as a whole, and in particular the new Ciudadanos party. And why is it precisely now that seven years of conservative government suddenly has come to an end?
This book wishes to contribute to answering these questions and many others by looking carefully and critically at different "wagers" against the status quo, which some writers have described as part of a "cycle" beginning with the 2011 square occupations.
It will aim to provide an accessible account for people new to contemporary Spanish politics and a comprehensive account for those familiar with some political or social movements. It will end by joining debates that have been taking place in Catalonia and Spain on the different projects activists have developed, hopefully in a way that helps those doing or considering doing similar undertakings elsewhere in the world.
Researching the book
To prepare the book I firstly interviewed key participants in the new movements and political organisations:
• Ada Colau, Mayor of Barcelona / PAH housing platform
• Oscar Reina, Andalusian Workers’ Union (SAT)
• Liz Castro, Catalan National Assembly
• Pau Llonch, Committees for the Defence of the Republic
• Isidro López, libertarian writer
• Juan-Carlos Monedero, TV analyst
• Natàlia Sánchez, CUP MP
• Rommy Arce, Ahora Madrid councillor
• Silvia Salamanca, Marches for Dignity / Coal Women
• Miguel Urbán, Anticapitalistas / Podemos MEP
• José Tèllez, ex-Deputy Mayor of Badalona / CUP
• Tania Sánchez, Podemos Madrid MP / ex-United Left
• Jesús Rodríguez, alternative journalist
• Albano-Dante Fachin, ex Podemos Catalonia general secretary
I also am building on an unpublished Open University study I did on the Indignados, Podemos and the crisis of 'politics', and developing my writing – particularly on Catalonia – for the magazines Jacobin, New Internationalist and The Ecologist, as well as for books, blogs and Spanish-language publications. Lastly I have been surveying the much untranslated impressive Spanish and Catalan-language writing on the topics to be included in the book.
Introduction: “they don’t represent us”
Part I: Crisis, new movements and protest
“Nothing will be the same again” (15-M)
“Sí se puede” (A wave of social struggle)
“Regime crisis” (The party-political, institutional and territorial crises)
“We are a nation” (The Catalan labyrinth)
Part II: The new politics
“People versus the caste” (The early Podemos)
“The electoral war machine” (The failure of left populism)
“The town halls of change” (The municipalist challenge)
Part III: Catalonia’s hot autumn
“We will vote” (How the people beat the State)
“Occupation forces out” (Catalonia intervened)
Part IV: Reflections on a wave of hope
On the “15-M cycle”
Why Laclau was the wrong theory
On “occupying the institutions”
On “national” and “social” struggles
Conclusions: from outrage to emancipation
About the author
I am a researcher and writer on Catalan and Spanish politics. I have authored widely-shared Opinion pieces for The Guardian, and been interviewed by BBC Radio 4, CNN, Sky, Al Jazeera and Telesur. I have been involved with social movements and the left in Catalonia and Madrid since the mid-90s.
What would the money be for
The book, for which I have a contract with the great Verso Books, must be completed within only a few months. To be able to meet that deadline I require financial support to work full time on the project.
To transcribe all of the interviews I would need to hire an assistant.
I am now writing the book and transcribing remaining interviews.
A complete manuscript must be handed in by November.
The book will be published and publicly available in September 2019.
Rewards will be sent out and presentations organised by the end of October 2019.
What others say about my writing
QUIM ARRUFAT, ex-Catalan MP:
"One of the most attentive international observers – with an analytical yet engaged left perspective – of the Catalan independence process. I’m sure his book will be a reference point in Catalonia and – particularly – beyond."
TARIQ ALI, author of The Extreme Centre, on my Left Flank articles:
“The most useful analysis on the origins and political approach of Podemos.”
JANE MCALEVEY, US union activist and author:
“There's no one better than Luke Stobart to help us understand what has been taking place in Catalonia and Spain. For years he has been offering sharp, critical, and insightful analysis of complex and dynamic movements.”
On the publishers
Verso Books is the largest independent, radical publishing house in the English-speaking world, publishing one hundred books a year. Verso has published landmark books by Tariq Ali, Chantal Mouffe and Ernesto Laclau, Judith Butler, Noam Chomsky, Mike Davis, David Harvey, Eric Hobsbawm, Edward Said, Ellen Meiksins Wood, and Slavoj Žižek. Its books are translated into dozens of languages worldwide.
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