INTERVIEW: SPANISH CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTION MOVEMENT
CAN BAŞKENT - CTHUCHI ZAMARRA de VILLANUEVA
Spanish CO movement has rather a fascinating story. Can you tell a bit about it? For instance, what was the motivating factors behind the spanish CO movement and its political connections with Spanish Civil War, or even with the Napoleon era?
There is a long tradition of antimilitarism in Spain, coming from the middle of XIX century and the strength anarchist movement at that time. There was a big movement against military service in time of never-ending wars with a very high percentage of casulaties. But it is not until Franco's death when nonviolence and antimilitarism join together in the CO Movement, the MOC.
You are from MOC. Can you tell a bit about the history of MOC?
The history of MOC started even before Franco’s death in 1975, when nonviolent Christian activists met with anarchist activists in the antifascist movement. All started when Pepe Beunza began his training in order to refuse the military service in a country under a decadent military dictatorship. He was in prison for three years and started an antimilitarist and nonviolent movement that in the middle 70s grew up to reach a national scope achieving to put together all the conscientious objection groups. In the first years there where no law about conscientious objection and we were able to develop a civil disobedience strategy to face it when it come. Finally a law was approved in 1989 and we started a big movement of total conscientious objection, refusing the military service and the alternative civil service, so we were called "insumisos" (disobedient). We had more than fifteen thousand people involved in civil disobedience acts, with more than one thousand people in prisons. That created a huge solidarity movement and (together with nonviolent direct actions) extended the nonviolent way to do the things to other social movemens. Finally conscription ended in 2000 and we have now a very imaginative antimilitarist movement which had developed many actions and campaigns.
What do you think were the essential parts of the CO movement in Spain which brought along "success"?
The supporting network was a key, but also of course the bad reputation of the army after forty years of dictatorship. Also, it was very important the performance of nonviolent direct action that showed to the unrest people differents ways to do struggle.
After a long and difficult struggle, the Spanish movement gained the right to CO. So, what is yours next goal?
The right to CO was included in the constitution of 1978, our aim was therefore never to get the right of CO, but the demilitarization of society, not only the removal of military expenditure and faculties but also values and principles kept inside the social relationships. So we reached to finish military service but militarization on society has risen again, so we still have a lot of work in front of us, even against the leftists groups that claim for a strong army to face American imperialism (forgetting European imperialism, of course).
Insumision Total movement went well beyond the usual CO demands. They refused the state oppression on individuals for instance. What are your comments on that?
Insumision was a strategy to take to the society the critics on militarization, because in doing the civil service we were also being part of the war efforts and the army. This kind of analysis focuses in the means of the domination, refusing to create another kind of domination and expecting to create true democratic ways to make decisions even in wide societies. This is a difficult way but it is the only way.
Antimilitarist movement has strong ties with nonviolence movement and philosophy. So, in particular what is the role of nonviolence in your struggle?
From the Pepe Beunza´s time we were performing nonviolent direct actions to reach the media, but our criticism to the military is a nonviolent critic, in the way that we want the abolition of violence of society, so the only effective way is struggling in a nonviolent way. Since the seventies, we have been training other activists of the Spanish social movement to perform nonviolent actions, to develop nonviolent campaigns, civil disobedience and also we support nonviolent movements in countries in war, especially in Palestine and Colombia.
Then, what are your ties with anarchist movement in Spain? I also assume plenty of cooperation and solidarity between two groups?
Nowadays there is nothing like an anarchist movement although there are several anarchist unions. There are also several libertarian movements, as ours, that keep the heritage of the CNT of the 30’s and we are used to collaborate together in many cases: ecologist, antifascists, squatters, ... we all form an anticapitalist libertarian front. Our usual differences come from the discussion about the legitimate use of violence in the struggle, that we refuse. Of course we have many problems with communist groups that defend military dictatorships and a violent revolution, that fight is not ours. Anyway, there is a big crisis inside all the social movements which are far away from a consumerist society, that only think in soccer and parties. Now the fear of the immigrants is developing racism and xenophobia all around the country.
What is MOC's position on Basque and Catalan movements?
We have a consensus in the refusal of violence and refusal of nationalism (the Spanish, the Basque, the Catala, the Galego, the Canarian and others separatist movements). So the MOC groups in the Basque country and Catalonia have had problems with both the Spanish natioanlists and the separatist social movements, but there are many people in these regions that are not nationalism who are also sick of nationalisms. In Basque Country, some people coming from MOC started nonviolent nationalist movements and in several cases they have been trialed as terrorist, when they were totally opposed to violence and were creating a new Basque movement.
We remember several creative and efficient ways of protest and resistance that have been utilized by Spanish CO movement. For instance, we read, once the activists from Insumison Total movement placed a large pile of shit in front of a military building. There was a notice saying: "if the shit were able to think, then if would be in a militarist way".. Funny isn't it? Why don't you inspire us more with some anecdots from Spanish CO movement..
Lately we use to perform all the nonviolent actions disguised, not only to create a note of humor that is essential for the nonviolent spirit, this is also that help to create group cohesion, and help also to distinguish between the people participating and not participating in the action. Even when we are doing actions that have a high level of confrontation we try to look funny, just to show we are not feeling threatened. We love dress as clowns, or with white suits (as the antinuclear or the "tutti bianchi"), football players if there is a world championship, or with the dress of the last Hollywood films. It is important to enjoy during the actions even in the most difficult situations because we have not so many activist and we can burn ourselves out if we don’t look after ourselves.
Prisoner support is always a vital part of each political movement. How did you develop the networks for prisoner support and did it work well? Each person that was about to go to prison created a supporting group with the people of their environment, that work on the logistic issues, but also deals with the parents, the MOC groups, other supporting groups, the media etc. This group is formed with people that normally don’t take part in social movements and in many cases it was their introduction to activism. From MOC we also provided training for prison, including legal issues, role playing and other items to help the people face the prison. There were a group of mothers that in some actions when the police were going to beat us, they placed themselves in the middle and said that they were not to beat their children. Of course we were proud to be rescued by ours mothers, because that meant that they could understand what we were doing, which is something very difficult sometimes.
There is, one way or the other, a connection between the CO movements in Spain and in Turkey since many years? How do you think we can imporve the solidarity and cooperation between the two movements?
I think that this a mistake to try to help the Turkish movement doing political pressure to our government, which is our main enemy, or trying to fund your groups when we have problems funding ours. I think that it is important that people from the Turkish CO movement come to Spain and share experiences, because we have many things in commons. We can also send Spanish activists to do trainings over there and in the same way share experience. I think we must have more personal contacts because it is the only way of creating emotional links, which are the ones that are going to end out in a better supporting network. To know by first hand what we did in similar situations may help not just to try to do the same thing, but to do open minds and develop new ways of doing the things, exactly like in the seventies and the eighties the European CO movements helped us.
Anything to add?
Yes, I would like to say our mates from Turkey that don’t desperate, there are many people in the world who are living (or have lived) in also very hard situations and all must stay together and create a new nonviolent culture of freedom, love and solidarity. Our challenge is to create an effective international movement, so we all must study languages and travel in order to be able to erase violence from Earth. But the main thing is not to feel alone, because we are not alone. Maybe we will be not able to see the fruits of our actions, but if we do it by the nonviolence way they will come up some day.