By Marianne Maeckelbergh
Barcelona, Spain, November 2011-The streets of Barcelona appear deceptively calm at first sight. Fashionable people stroll the streets, shopping bags in hand, while others stop to drink a glass of wine at a sidewalk cafe. These luxurious images project a sense of prosperity onto the streets of Barcelona, but underneath the surface, a struggle rages. The 15 May Movement that captured the global imaginary just six months ago and encouraged people all across the world to occupy public space and hold massive democratic assemblies is no longer limited to the central square. Now, they are everywhere.
Across the city less complacent images abound. Everywhere there are posters and banners that declare: “Democracy is a farce”; “Democracy is Hypocrisy”; “No One Represents Us”; “Active Abstention”; “All Power to the People: Don’t Vote!”; “Democracy is a Grand Circus”; and “Our Elections: Actions”. Two growing trends are visible here in Barcelona that certainly resonate elsewhere. First, people seem to take for granted the idea that voting and electoral politics actually bears little relationship to democracy. Second, there is an evolution in the tactic of occupation – expanding from public squares to buildings, hospitals and universities.