As one of the members of the Portuguese Guilhotina collective, this past summer I had the pleasure of spending some time with people from the PAH (Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca which translates to Platform of Citizens Affected by Mortgages). You might have seen some videos on the Internet of the PAH in action to stop evictions in Spain, with dozens of people, sometimes hundreds, putting their bodies in front of someone’s door to stop the police from evicting them.
This is, however, only a small, albeit more visible, part of what they do. As the PAH members explained to me and many others during a trip across Portugal, a STOP evictions action only happens when all else has failed and doesn’t begin to show the enormous amount of background work that the PAH does – organizing, promoting, thinking and rethinking their tactics and strategy.
To let everyone know and learn from their experience, we have put together this video of one their presentations with everything subtitled in English for Revolution News. If you are involved in any housing struggles or organizing in general, I highly recommend you watch and share it with others who might be interested in the topic. A lot of it has to do with specifics of Spanish law, but their organizational logic shines through.
VIDEO: Sí se Puede! Organização e Métodos da PAH | Organization and methods of PAH
The video gives you the gist of it, but here are some more details I learned while traveling with them and reading some of their literature. The PAH has seen enormous growth and is aware of its revolutionary potential but also of its present limitations. Some of their documents expressly mention ideas of organizing around the class divisions that modern cities create. The PAH is proof of the potential of such ideas, as they have been able to organize large segments of the working class who were hit by the Spanish housing crisis, ranging from poorer working class people, including many immigrants, to middle class, young precarious workers and even small business owners who have been financially destroyed by the crisis and had their political priorities shift.
Common struggle has helped form a nascent class consciousness between them as they fight together for the same objectives, destroying preconceptions created by capitalism to divide working people. In the comradery of the PAH, the immigrant loses its alien status, sexism and patriarchy are weakened owing to the leading role of women, religion fades into the distant background and so forth.
Another effect of the PAH’s work is that people start to identify their real enemies, instead of fearing the boogeymen presented on TV. Even the supporters of PP or PSOE (the Spanish political duopoly in power since the transition from fascism, which is fast abandoning the political stage in disgrace amid a voter hemorrhage) change their allegiance as they see “their” parties fighting to leave them homeless in order to defend the banks ill-gained property. The PAH is an engine for helping turn society away from neoliberal forces.
This all takes time and effort, but the change is real.
However, the careful policy of escalation of the PAH, always concerned with being seen as legitimate by the largest possible number of people, means it had to restrict itself to reformist objectives, even if some of their actions are quite radical and in direct conflict with private property. They want the bulk of the society to stand by them in order to disarm the legitimacy of the repressive apparatus, and so far they’ve been able to achieve this, turning things which just a few years ago were the province of “dangerous anarchists”, such as occupations for suppressing families housing needs, into a justified and righteous cause that many people side with.
Since the difference between reformism and revolution is sometimes a matter of degree, if the PAH holds true to its ideals of housing rights for everyone willing to fight for them, it will gradually be brought more and more into conflict with capitalism. The defenders of the status quo at the Popular Party certainly recognize it as a threat, since many of the laws in the new “Gag Law” take aim at common practices of the PAH.
If you wish to learn more about the PAH or get in touch with them, be sure to drop them a line at the International Committee.