Jump to Navigation

What to do against the “Ley Mordaza” in Spain?

Political Jiu-jitsu or: turning the repression against itself


On 11 December 2014 the Spanish Congress passed the so-called “Ley Mordaza” – the law on the security of the citizens – with the absolute majority of the Popular Party. So far the approval of the Senate is still requited – just a formality. The objective of this “anti-15M (Spanish indignados)” law is obvious: to limit the political space of the social movement through the criminalization of expressions of protests outside the tolerated forms.

Even though obviously the approval of the law is bad news, we should not forget the good news this implies: above all, that the powers that are think that they have to increase repression is a sign of our strength, of the power of social movements and of the weakness of the old political system. And I am not talking about the new political party Podemos (We can) – that is another topic. I am talking about social movements.

And there is more good news: the experience of social movements, and especially of movements of civil resistance, shows us that in very few cases repression achieves its objectives. As Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan say in their important article “Why Civil Resistance Works” [1]: “We argue that nonviolent resistance may have a strategic advantage over violent resistance for two reasons. First, repressing nonviolent campaigns may backfire. In backfire, an unjust act—often violent repression—recoils against its originators, often resulting in the breakdown of obedience among regime supporters, mobilization of the population against the regime, and international condemnation of the regime.

In their manual “Making Oppression Backfire” [2] Srdja Popovic and Victoria Porell write: “Similar to other tools in the activist’s kit, like picketing, public speeches and hunger strikes, capitalizing oppression is an important skill set for nonviolent activists. When oppression is preventing a movement from moving forward, there are certain measures that can be taken, allowing for your enemy’s exploitation of power to become a benefit and step towards success for you.

The important thing is to understand how repression works: the fear it generates, the objective behind the repression, and to accept that repression is part of the reality of our social struggle. When we understand how repression works we can develop effective strategies to counter it: above all to strengthen our communities, the need for empowerment, and the tactics of “political jiu-jitsu”, which serve to make repression backfire [3].

In fact, in Spain we can refer to a very good example: the movement of total objection (insumisión) in the 1990, which ended successfully: with the end of obligatory military service. During the course of this movement the state tried to increase repression – there were hundreds of imprisoned insumisos – and later when these strategy did not yield results they tried to make the repression invisible. All of this only served to strengthen the movement, and to end obligatory military service in Spain.

Today, 15 years later, they are try again the old trick of repression against social movements. We will confront it. We will work about our fears – it does not make sense to deny that we have fear, obviously we do (at least I do have my fears – of prison, of police violence. But my fears do not paralyse me) – we will empower ourselves, we will organise, we will create and strengthen our communities of resistance, so that again their attempt at repression will fail, and it will be us who will triumph. There are already some first ideas of political jiu-jitsu [4], and how we can confront repression [5]. We are surely able to develop more ideas, and more strategies. The future is ours.

Andreas Speck



[1] Chenoweth, Erica y Stephan, Maria J., Why Civil Resistance Works? The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict, International Security, Vol. 33, No. 1 (summer 2008) pages 7 a 44

[2] Popovic, Srdja and Porell, Victoria, Making Oppression Backfire, CANVAS, Belgrade, 2013, http://canvasopedia.org/images/books/mob/MOB_English_May2014.pdf

[3] See also: Brian Martin: Backfire manual: tactics against injustice (Sparsnäs, Sweden: Irene Publishing, 2012), http://www.bmartin.cc/pubs/12bfm/.

[4] Amador Fernández-Savater and Leónidas Martín Saura: Doce acciones inspiradoras para burlar la nueva Ley de Seguridad Ciudadana, El Diario, 6 December 2014, http://www.eldiario.es/interferencias/Doce-inspiradoras-Ley-Seguridad-Ciudadana_6_204439558.html

[5] Grupo de Trabajo de Administrativo de La Comisión Legal Sol: Burorresistiendo: Manual de emergencia y autodefensa contra las multas, 2014, http://delirante.nodo50.info/legal/MANUAL%20BURORRESISTIENDO.pdf

Main menu 2

Bitacoa_nos_organizamos | by Dr. Radut