Let’s win back Barcelona/Guanyem Barcelona

Original manifesto of Barcelona En Comú, launched in June 2014 as ‘Guanyem Barcelona’

We are living in a time of profound changes. Taking advantage of the economic crisis, the economic powers that be have launched an open offensive against the rights and social conquests of the majority of the population. However, the longing for real democracy is ever stronger in the town squares, on the streets, online, as well as at the ballot box.

In recent years, numerous social movements and citizen initiatives have denounced the scam we’re suffering and have demonstrated the inability of old-school politics to respond to people’s needs. But these initiatives have often come up against the arrogance of elites who feel immune to punishment, who won’t correct their mistakes, and who now want to impose a second Transición on us so that nothing changes.

We can’t afford another institutional blockade from above that leaves us without a future. We need to strengthen, more than ever, the social fabric and spaces for citizens to self-organize. But the time has also come to take back the institutions and put them at the service of the majority and of the common good.

To show that we are capable of doing things differently, we need to take one step at a time. The first step is to start with what we know first-hand: the municipal level, our city, our neighbourhoods.

Barcelona is the ideal place to push for this much-needed democratic rebellion. Firstly, because it already has a network of associations and activists that is capable of carrying out ambitious projects for change. Secondly, because a democratic rebellion in Barcelona would not just be a local phenomenon. It would connect with many related grassroots initiatives which aim to break away from the current political and financial system, starting from below. In Catalonia, in Spain as a whole, and in Europe.

Because we believe in the right of citizens to decide their own future, we want to decide, here and now, on what the Barcelona we need and yearn for should look like.

We want a city that fosters the honesty of those who govern it and which prevents the mafia-like collusion between politics and money. We must end the accumulation of political positions, limit salaries and terms of office, encourage transparent agendas, and establish effective mechanisms to hold public officials to account. We want a new ethical contract between citizens and representatives.

We need to find a way to stop and reverse the insulting inequalities that have emerged in recent years. We want a city without evictions or malnutrition, where people aren’t condemned to live without electricity or to put up with abusive increases in the price of public transport. Access to housing, education, healthcare and a basic income should be rights that are guaranteed for all, not privileges that only a minority can afford.

We want a genuine metropolitan democracy, which forces political representatives to obey while they lead. A decentralized democracy with direct elections of councilmen and women in each district’s, with oversight of budgets, in which citizen initiatives and binding referendums are used to make shared, legitimate decisions.

We need a Barcelona that is welcoming but also willing to stand up to powerful lobbies from the financial, real estate and tourism sectors. We need institutions that promote the social economy and the creation of sustainable jobs. Public procurement must meet social justice and environmental criteria.

We do not want a city that sells its urban heritage to the highest bidder. We want institutions that take back democratic control over the water supply, that implement fiscal and city planning measures that put an end to land speculation and promote environmentally sustainable energy and transport policies.

Many of these initiatives are supported, and have been for some time, by social, neighbourhood and union movements as well as by various political organizations. But we won’t be able to achieve them without the involvement of broad sectors of society.

Rescuing democracy from the powers that are holding it hostage is a difficult and ambitious, yet thrilling, challenge. It requires creating new tools for social and political action that connect organized citizens with those who are beginning to mobilize. People who have been campaigning for some time and those who feel cheated and are longing to get excited about a common project.

That’s why we are launching this citizen platform. To build a joint candidacy that represents the majority, with the aim to win. A candidacy that excites, that is based in neighbourhoods, workplaces, the cultural community, and that allows us to transform institutions for the benefit of the people.

We don’t want a coalition or an alphabet soup of political parties. We want to avoid the old logic of parties and build a new space that, while respecting the identity of everyone involved, are more than the sum of the parts that make it up. We believe that our city has what it takes to make this possible.

There’s no magic formula to solve the difficulties we will come up against on the way. We will have to ask questions as we move forward, and we shouldn’t be afraid to do so. Our most successful experiences show us that, if we organize around specific objectives and practices, we can reach goals that may have seemed impossible.

While the economic crisis has been tough, a historic opportunity has opened up that we can’t and won’t let pass by. We are living in an exceptional time that demands brave, creative initiatives. If we are able to imagine a different city, we will have the power to transform it.

We invite you to think about this with us on June 26th. For us, for those who have tried before us and for those who are yet to come. It’s time to prove that it’s possible to build a different city. It’s time to win back Barcelona.