Another Democracy is Possible

By Quim Gil, 4 July 2003

Quim Gil took part in the creation of a ‘Trojan Horse’ for the Spanish local elections of 25 March, 2003. Here he reports on the successes and difficulties of a new ‘Coalition of the Unwilling’

Two years ago an idea came into the minds of two different groups from Barcelona, Espiral (‘Spiral’: and Motivados ( Instead of creating another website, magazine, cultural association, NGO or classical activist group, why don’t we create a legal political party?

This move would allow us to engage in the same activities as we might through a website or magazine, but when elections come, we would be able to play inside the political game by presenting candidates. In turn, that would give us the right to participate legally in political campaigns, and obtain free time for political advertising in the public radio and TV and press coverage.

Espiral set to work developing online projects with a dispersed network of people in Latin America and Spain. Motivados, meanwhile, focused on Barcelona, organising open air forums and actions. They were working to run candidates in Barcelona’s local elections when Espiral proposed a coalition of parties named ‘Otra Democracia Es Posible’ (Another Democracy Is Possible). The goal was not to win seats – we didn’t even want to win votes – but to disseminate this simple idea with the assistance of the electoral administration who were required by law to print and distribute for free our flyers to polling stations in all the areas where we ran candidates.

The coalition continues to exist solely to spread the concept that ‘another democracy is possible’. The slogan, which may sound retrograde to the average activist, nonetheless falls precisely in the conjuncture between apocalypse and integration as far as the mainstream public is concerned. The coalition would consider the action a total success were any citizen seeing the slogan in the media or ballot office to spend a few seconds thinking it through.

Having agreed on some core ideas, a website was created and the idea was announced. Two months later, thousands of people had fielded 30 candidates in major cities across Spain. All of this was done without any budget and without coverage in the mass media: email and weblogs were the main means by which to distribute the idea. Most of the people who joined the project helped by bringing in other people from their towns, in turn attracting the attention of their neighbours, and so on. A month after opening, among about a hundred mailing lists we started a process of concentration, closing those lists that couldn’t be completed and moving people to those whose candidates had a real chance of being elected. Those who joined the lists were mostly independent, possibly the kind of young and not so young people that went (some for the first time) to demonstrate against the ‘War on Iraq’ and the Spanish government’s involvement in that rather different ‘coalition’.

Many activist groups have regarded this experiment with suspicion. We have received tough critiques (and some flames) from old-school organisers. Though our principles may be quite similar, our strategy of going into the political system with legal parties, a legal coalition and real candidates have set alarm bells ringing in the minds of those accustomed to refusing any involvement whatsoever with political parties and public institutions. This is understandable and, in any case, part of the experiment.

We hope that, with the precedent of this campaign, such reluctance may at least partly be converted into sympathy in forthcoming elections. ‘Otra Democracia Es Posible’ is simply a tool for local organisations to bring their ideas and actions into the political arena during the electoral campaigns: three weeks in which the media and citizens are more open than usual to ideas about politics and democracy.

Today you won’t find an ‘elite’ or a vanguard in Otra Democracia Es Posible, a wish to take leadership or retain the ‘copyright’ of this idea. Neither is it our aim to colonise the social and political space of the emergent social movements or the failing extra-parliamentary political groups. If something like that happens, a core part of this ‘Trojan experiment’ has failed.

Quim Gil <qgil AT> is a web developer specialising in collaborative communities and online activist projects. He is a member of La Web Espiral []