Mapping our current socio-political territories (Madrid – May 15, 2011) – @Deleuze Conference, Lisbon 2013

1. An unfinished historical event known as “15M”

15 May 2011 the Spanish social and political scenario started to change drastically. I will only focus in the case of Madrid, which has been the place with the most crowded and numerous protests and concentrations. However, this has been something generalized all over Spain. Data speaks for itself: only in Madrid, and during 2011 there were 1.380 demonstrations; in 2012 they increased more than the 100%, with 3.419. This means more than 10 demonstrations per day. Between January and May of the current year, there have been 1.628. And it is raising. Analagously, in the whole country, we had around 18.500 in 2011, and 36.200 in 2012.

During the first months of 2011, many demonstrations took place in the most populated cities throughout the country. They were called by new organizations, which were disconnected from political parties, trade unions and big social movements. This situation crystalize on May 15, in a massive demonstration. That evening, and right after a clash with the police, around 50 people decided to camp at la Puerta del Sol (The Gate of the Sun). La Puerta del Sol was the finish line of the demonstration. It is the center (Km. 0) of the radial network of Spanish roads as well. And it is also the most emblematic square in Madrid. Due to that, it has an evident symbolic meaning. The day after that, many people went there in order to support the people in the occupation. Then the police tried to break the camp and it provoked that thousands of people occupied the square in a similar way as it had happened in Tunisia and Egypt, revitalizing the protests in Portugal, Greece and other countries. (IMÁGENES).

Political parties and mass media took a long time to react. The occupation of Puerta del Sol appeared first in the front page of The Washington Post than in the biggest Spanish papers. Parties and media were so confused because nobody knew how to name or how to refer to what was happening. They started asking compulsively: “Who are they?”, “What for do they ask?”. There is a very interesting example for this. You have maybe heard about this demonstrations in Spain with the name of “indignants”. Well, nobody in the squares, nobody in Puerta del Sol felt identified or represented by this adjective –that is taken from a little text, almost a pamphlet written by Stéphane Hessel.

At Puerta del Sol there were no political party, nor union trade. No flag was fluttering and no previous or well-known slogan was chorused. Social profiles gathered there were really varied, in relation with criteria such as: purchasing power, cultural capital, age or job situation. May 15 demonstration was not called because a specific political event, nor because of the promulgation of a specific law. On the other hand, media tried to find responsabilities in some political parties and some social movements, but it was not the case They also tried to find leaders and representatives among the square, but they did not find them –the spokesperson role changed every few days. So we have this: no political parties, union trades or social movements provoking nor mantaining the occupation; no symbols, no flags, no institutionalization; no leaders. These are, in my opinion, the main characteristics of this event, which however is not finished. The occupation of Puerta del Sol last until June 12, 2011 –around a month. And almost every social mobilization  since then has reclaimed the name of 15M, the abbreviation for May 15. I will use this abbreviation -15M- to refer to this event, this situation.

Due to the presence of all the ingredients which we have just pointed out, it is interesting to analize this event in terms of Deleuze and Guattari’s program of pragmatics, developed in Capitalism and Schizophrenia, and specifically in A Thousand Plateaus. What started happening is not reducible to a social movement, neither implies the return of the classic labor movement. We are going to analize 15M in terms of assemblage, asking what they do and what they say. And we will precisely focus on the question of territory in order to understand the differences between 15M and the social movements.

2. First concrete rule: 15M and the territorial assemblage of social movements

2.1. What is it said? What is it done? Regarding the slogan “The revolution will be feminist or won’t be”

So, we are not going to thematize 15M as a “war machine”. We are not  going to focus on its resistance against Capitalism or the Spanish State or whatsoever. We are going to  think of this event firstly in terms of the territorial assemblages. Every assemblage articulates content and expression, that is to say, every assemblage answers to the questions: “What is it said?” (expression), “What is it done?” (content). This two questions constitute the first concrete rule of every assemblage (MM, 514). [[[“The concrete rules of assemblage thus operate along these two axes: On the one hand, what is the territoriality of the assemblage, what is the regime of signs and the pragmatic system? On the other hand, what are the cutting edges of deterritorialization, and what abstract machines do they effectuate?” (MP 550).

We are going to start with what was said in Madrid on May 15 and so on. As we are in the alloplastic strata, expression has to be treated as language. However, we will not consider expression as a “regime of sign” based on significance. (mm3) We are not interested in what it is said in its correspondence with a denoted reference. We are going to treat expression as a collective assemblage of enunciation, that is to say, we are considering language in relation with actions and power. We have to situate ourselves on the performative field that acts as its base.

Having said that, let’s directly answer the question “What was it said?”;  What was it said in Madrid, in the occupation of Puerta del Sol? During the first two weeks, the square was filled wit lots of banners, for example [“no somos mercancía en manos de politicos y banqueros”; “people of Europe, rise up!” or “Nobody expects the Spanish Revolution”] (IMAGEN). I have said this before, bit I need to insist on it: the language used in those banners did not belong to any party, trade union or social movement. There were no flag, standard or emblem. In fact, some people from the Communist Party started handing out propaganda flyers and the people in the square kicked them out. The occupation was defining itself as nonpartisan and disconnected with union trades.

Many militants came to the square from specific social movements. The point is that some of them started to differentiate themselves among the rest of the occupiers. We are going to focus on a big group of feminist militants or activists. They built a tent in the square in order to centralize their work and to be gathered. And during these first days they hanged a big banner where you could read: “Revolution will be feminist or won’t be” (IMAGEN de la entrada de metro). They tried to put a bigger one, hanging from the front of a building which faced the square. (IMAGEN LOREAL).

What happened? Anyone can guess? People started shouting, asking to pick up that big banner. And finally the banner was picked up. How can we understand this?

There is an immediate and reasonable solution that was, by the way, the mayority interpretation: Spanish people are still dominated by male chauvinism and heteronormativism; they have not understood the fight of feminism, or they even do not agree with it. Well, I think it is true, but only partially. There is a lot to do in order to make the Spanish society aware of this fight. However, I think there is another way to see it that is also true and not incompatible. I think that people who claimed for the withdrawal of the banner were resisting against something else. They were resisting against a highly territorialized social movement as it could be militant feminism. They were resisting against an overcoded and excluding discourse. A discourse that presents itself as yet constituted, unappealable, indisputable  and “closed on itselt”. They were resisting against an imposition of symbols and slogans which did not belong to them. More generally, they were refusing the mobilizing structures of the social movements. And here my main hypothesis I wanted to present: 15M is deterritorizing the social movements, is creating a line of flight for the classic ways of political organization.

In order to discuss this hypothesis, we should start by analizing this confrontation with feminist militants in terms of the collective assemblage of enunciation.

The big feminist banner was a collective assemblage of enunciation. Every collective assemblage of enunciation is funded with a “slogan” (MM 84). In other words: it is funded by the relation of what is said in the banner (“The Revolution will be feminist or won’t be”) with “implicit presuppositions, in other words, to speech acts that are, and can only be, accomplished in the statement” (MP, 79). ¿What does it mean “speech acts” in this specific context? Deleuze and Guattari used a stoic model. A collective assemblage of enunciation is a redundant complex of acts and statements which accomplish these acts. The act is an incorporeal effect attributed to bodies, to contents, according to a principle of “reciprocal supposition” between machinic assemblages and collective assemblages of enunciation.

In order to explain this, Deleuze and Guattari refered to a Ducrot’s example: the example of the judge’s sentence that transforms the accused into a convict. They say that “what takes place beforehand (the crime of which someone is accused), and what takes place after (the carrying out of the penalty), are actions-passions affecting bodies (the body of the property, the body of the victim, the body of the convict, the body of the prison); but the transformation of the accused into a convict is a pure instantaneous act or incorporeal attribute that is the expressed of the judge’s sentence” (MP 79, 80). Analogoulsy, there is a corporal level, where we can discuss what the feminist militants did during the occupation, the actions and passions of those bodies, like building up a tent, constituting themselves as a commission and act as a unitary group, setting relations of power with other groups at the occupation, etc. With these actions they changed the occupation, they made it “more feminist”. On the other hand, and differently, they said “The Revolution will be feminist or won’t be”, they wrote it in a big banner and hanged it up over a building. That expression took part in the contents, in the actions in the sense of “anticipate them or move them back, slow them down or speed them up, separate or combine them, delimit them in a different way” (MP, 86).

That is how acts and statements, content and expression are linked according with the first concrete rule of the territorial assemblage. In this case, a characteristic territorial assemblage of social movements. The attempted incorporeal effect sought by the feminist’s banner was to convert 15M into a social movement. With the banner, feminist militants wanted to legitimate not only their presence in the occupation, but also their forms of organizations, their political program, their structures of mobilizations, etc. And all these ingredients belong to the social movements’ characteristic territory.

If the banner had stayed in the square, it would have implied the rigid assignment of a code. But the occupiers did not want to be subjected to that code. In deleuzean words: social movements constitute a Major Language. It implies a constant of content or expression, a homogeneous system (CITA).

“Banner”, or “poster”, “placard” is precisely a technical word in A Thousand Plateaus. It is a fundamental concept for the territoriality of any assemblage. An assemblage is always tetravalent. On one hand, an assemblage is always machinic and collective of enunciation. On the other hand, it has territorial parts and lines of deterritorialization. We have just analize the event of the banner in terms of a collective assemblage of enunciation. Let’s now analize it in its territoriality, considering the feminist banner as a “banner” in the technical sense used by Deleuze and Guattari.

2.2. What is this assemblage’s territory? Regarding the poster: “Revolution will be feminist or won’t be”

An assemblage’s territory is constituted by codifying the milieu which compose it. The elements are organized in a certain manner. An assemblage and its territory appear at the same time. In order to territorialize, one element has to emancipate itself from the milieu. In the beginning, this element could be exclusively functional, but in order to create territory, it becomes expressive. An element becomes signature, “a milieu component becomes quality and property”. And such signature is in first place artistic, appears as a “banner”, as a “poster”, “placard”, or “standard”. [From here, I will use “banner” for the actual banner hanged by the feminist militants and “poster” for the technical word].

“As Lorenz says, coral fish are posters. The expressive is primary in relation to the possessive; expressive qualities, or matters of expression, are necessarily appropriative and constitute a having more profound than being.  Not in the sense that these qualities belong to a subject, but in the sense that they delineate a territory that will belong to the subject that carries or produces them. These qualities are signatures, but the signature, the proper name, is not the constituted mark of a subject, but the constituting mark of a domain, an abode” (MP 316); a territory. Signature and poster are territory marks.

Following the previous argumentation, we would say that social movements, and concretely feminism, that is our case, they were not able to territorialize the occupation of Puerta del Sol. And they were not able to territorialize the occupation because they could not convert the banner into a “poster”. They had to take it away. “The territory is not primary in relation to the qualitative mark; it is the mark that makes the territory” (MP 315).

If they had territorialized the occupation, it would have become a big meeting of social movements, a big World Social Forum. But 15M has not been that, and it is not that nowadays.  If feminist militants had capitalized the occupation into his particular territorial assemblage, they would have defined an “exterior milieu”, a limit for their domain in order to maintain themselves as a differentiated movement. They actually defined an “interior milieu” of impulses. However, they did not achieve to create an intermediate milieu. In other words: they did not achieve to make an infra-assemblage (the constitution of the property) because they were not able to reach an intra-assemblage. In an intra-assemblage “counterpoints” are produced. “Counterpoints” organize the relation between the interior milieu and the exterior milieu.

In conclusion: in the occupation, social movements were not able to keep on being strictly social movements because they had to adapt themselves to the conditions of the occupation. They firstly did not wanted to adapt themselves, they rather wanted to adapt 15M to the conditions of social movements. They did not manage to do it. In fact, the social movements were desterritorialized by 15M.

There was what Deleuze and Guattari called a “component of passage” (MP 325) between the social movements and 15M. This “component of passage” is a notion implied in every deterritorialization. It works as follows: certain territorialized function passed into a deterritorialized assemblage. We are still referring to feminism. Wich feminist territorialized function worked as a “component of passage”? Anyone can guess? Well, it was not the assumption of a major language, such as the language of the banner, the language of the closed and definitive political program or the language of the slogan. The “component of passage” for the feminism, in its deterritorialization made by 15M happened at the level of language and at the level of specialization.

We are going to develop this point in the following and last part of the talk. Just before we should summarize a little bit what we have said until here. AQUÍ RESUMEN.

3. Second concrete rule: 15M and the deterritorialization of social movements

As we were saying, 15M desterritorialized the social movements appeared at the occupation. We will just mention the theorems of desterritorialization pointed out by Deleuze and Guattari. We will apply them to our case, the relation between 15M and a social movement (feminism), in order to check if our thesis is reasonable.

The theorems are presented in “Year Zero: Faciality” (MP 174) and …

“First theorem: One never deterritorializes alone; there are always at least two terms […]And each of the two terms reterritorializes on the other.

–“Second theorem: The fastest of two elements or movements of deterritorialization is not necessarily the most intense or most deterritorialized.

–“Third theorem: It can even be concluded from this that the least deterritorialized reterritorializes on the most deterritorialized.

–Fourth theorem: It does not interest us, because introduces the notion of faciality and we have not used it.

Social movements constitute territorial assemblages. My hypothesis is that 15M drags the social movements into its deterritorialization. In our specific example with the feminists, 15M reterritorializes the social movements into a new territory, which introduces new structures of mobilization. The movement of reterritorialization is made by means of a passage component. This passage component between 15M and feminism is the use, all over the occupation of Puerta del Sol, of a more inclusive language. As you would know, in every Romance language (Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, French…) we distinguish between genders of words –specifically in noun phrases; in nouns, pronouns, adjectives, etc. When we are referring to a bunch of people and there are men and women, we always use the masculine gender for the plural. This usage of the language has been denounced by feminist movements. Well, that is one of our passage components in de deterritorialization of the social movements. Each document written at the occupation, each intervention in the assemblies started using the feminine form or other intermediate forms. Instead of “nosotros”, we started to say “nosotras” o “nosotres”.

Let’s finish with the theorems. Moreover, and according with the second theorem, the fastest term in development is not necessarily the most intense. In relation with this theorem I would say that 15M has been and still is a very slow process, but it is deeply changing the way of doing politics in Spain. At this point I would like to remind one of the most repeated slogans in the occupation: “We are going slow cause we are going far” (IMAGEN).

We could also apply the four last theorems of generalized double deterritorialization, which imply the notion of becoming. But they do not add a lot more to the first four. And, above all, we do not have enough time. We do not have time to develop how 15M operates as an abstract machine either and how it is creating a new body without organs for the Spanish political and social activity. This last point is maybe the most interesting one, but we would need 20 more minutes to develop it.


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