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Countering “Spontaneity Theses” in Explaining Mobilization: Tracing Movement Continuity from the GJM to the Spanish Indignados

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by Cristina Flesher Fominaya
ECIA Fellow
17 May 2013 at University of Windsor, Canada

Much has been made of the ability of Spanish Indignados activists to manage deliberative consensus based assemblies of up to 5000 participants. Research on movement learning processes demonstrates that these abilities cannot be convincingly explained by commitment to principles or by transnational diffusion processes leading to the wholesale ‘adoption’ of practices. In fact, the effective management of large deliberative assemblies has been a key challenge of social movements in Spain over the past two decades, and the adoption of deliberative techniques has been slow and arduous, not least because of resistance from institutional left actors and the strong influence of institutional left actors on social movement cultural practices (Flesher Fominaya 2005, 2007, 2010). The development of movement cultural practices over time within autonomous social movement spaces, and the deliberate definition of the Indignados as autonomous spaces in which institutional left groups/organizations were not welcome, therefore, are key factors behind the “spontaneous” ability of the Indignados assemblies to work effectively. I will build on my earlier work on autonomous social movements in Madrid active during the global justice movement to argue that claims for the innovative nature of the Indignados radical insistence of autonomy from political parties and trade unions is not a new feature of Spanish political culture as has been argued, but in fact represents an evolution and development of features of autonomous movements in Spain since the 1980s.