Interview with mayor Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo from Marinaleda

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Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo is the mayor of the communist utopia of Marinaleda (situated in the Southern region Andalusia), and is called by some the Spanish Robin Hood.


“Left-wing orientated ideas must be utopian, but they should not be understood as something unattainable, but as rights that through struggle can and should become reality.”


“Without hope, without utopia, there is no left-wing ideology possible. Left-wing orientated ideas must be utopian, but they should not be understood as something unattainable, but as rights that through struggle can and should become reality. We have to defend the right for work, housing, health, education and natural resources, and fight against the commercialisation of the human being who then becomes a thing that is sold, rented or destroyed when necessary. Hope and optimism is part of the left wing, and pessimism is part of the right wing.


It is enough to look at the disaster of the reality of this world, since hope and everything that human being constructs is cleverly destroyed by right-wing capitalism. For this reason, I think it is very important that utopia is a way to try it, just like they did: Ché Guevara, Mahatma Gandhi, Ignacio Ellacuría, Augusto César Sandino, Simón Bolívar, Hugo Chávez, Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Mikhail Bakunin or many anonymous others. Even Christ, who I consider the first communist, but not the falsification that religion has made of him, but the Christ who preaches a radical humanism. God is not in heaven, God is your brother and therefore he is a profound incarnation of it. If Christians would be real Christians, they would be revolutionaries. I believe that you can not be a Christian and at the same time be in power, like all the ecclesiastical hierarchies think they are.


Therefore, utopia and hope are essential, so we must undertake hopeful challenges and whip up the following generations to continue fighting together. But the fundamental issue is to end the capitalist system, because either we finish with it or it will be the other way around. The concretion of hope is needed and we need to subvert it, or we become subverters of the established “disorder” and we will be accomplices. So we can not remove that hope. We do not pursue unattainable dreams but essential elements of human beings, and all left-wing organizations need to be revolutionary, anti-capitalist and desperate to undertake this historical fascist moment. This will be the only way to make capitalism enter into crisis, if we don’t do it, we will become fascist together with it, a despiser of life and human race, of nature, also a manufacturer of war, of impunity and a criminal. We have to organise first locally, then globally. Because that is precisely where the bourgeoisie surpasses us, since it has won our battles. The most painful defeat has been the ideological one, because the class struggle continues existing, despite some theorists such as Francis Fukuyama or theoreticians from the new left-wing era who argue that there is no left wing or right wing anymore and that there are no longer social classes as if history has ended.


“The supreme art of the system is to make the slave happy with its miserable condition.”


However, class struggle still exists and takes place at three levels: economic, political and ideological. The supreme art of the system is to make the slave happy with his miserable condition, then he votes for his exploiter, imitates him, mimics the kind of life of his exploiter and submits to him in exchange for nothing. This is why I think Macron is more dangerous in France than Le Pen. I think Obama was more dangerous than Trump, despite Trump is one of the worst beasts ever. Because Obama ordered to kill leaders from the tranquility of his office. Therefore, smiley neo-liberalism is much more dangerous than the other. And landing all the above to the Spanish reality, the PSOE is more dangerous than the PP, because the PSOE is like the Trojan horse in the centre of the labour movement. They appear as a gift from the gods and when they open the doors to him, they vote for it and they come to power, believing the alternative and unity of the left has arrived, then they open the horse and they take us by surprise. I believe that social democracy is the biggest political and ideological invention of the bourgeoisie and this is the worst, because the ideas of the system in the bosom of the working class and of the leaders who call themselves ‘the left’ have done very much damage.


“I am anti-system because I believe that with a capitalist system there is no solution for the great problems of humanity.”


I am very radical because you have to get to the root. Some people fear calling themselves anti-system. I am anti-system because I believe that with a capitalist system there is no solution for  the great problems of humanity. There is no solution to the problem of unemployment, housing, environment, the control of seeds, or the poisoning of water or air, or with the control of large multinationals redirecting diseases. Rich countries and their multinational business in Europe or China keep on buying land in the poorest parts of the world such as in Africa. So either we fight that, or there won’t be a way back. And it is a placebo to believe there exists such a thing as humanitarian capitalism, because it doesn’t. The idea would be a contradiction in itself. Capitalism is anti-human. It talks about human rights, but it destroys them at the same time. So it is essential to be clear about the objective we have, accept no compromises and always point out capitalism’s contradictions. We must try to break it and urge the creation of alternatives, because as sad as it might sound, it is the problem presented by the left, the absence of a global alternative. If Brazil had played it better, with the power it represents because of their size and importance, another story was gonna be written in Latin America and in the world. It is a pity that the movement didn’t find necessary political shelter when the opportunity was given. There are left-wing workers and revolutionaries who sometimes talk passionately about Marxism and Leninism, but who at the same time play the game of the system by obeying the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. In conclusion, they serve the establishment. For all these reasons, I think you have to be radical.


“I believe property is robbery.”


But how to build a new structure? First, we would have to subvert the immense power that the state has. Its capacity of death and alienation, its control of communication and information and the fact that it can crush us at any time make it seem this idea as an impossible task, so let me remind you of the need to remain optimistic, since capitalism no longer leaves any option. In the past we lived in slavery, feudalism and now, capitalism. Of course, nationalisation of banks and energy would mean a revolutionary change and that is all a priority but also it is an agrarian reform that respects the rights of peasants and their communities. This is the great battle and the great difficulty where we would need to decide between a violent or non-violent change. At the same time we need to find a way to change human nature because we are selfish and individualistic, and the system makes us consumers, makes us the opposite of solidarity. When things are a little better and more comfortable, we forget the ugly things in the world. We only think of what we want for ourselves, and the deep entitlement of private property is terrible. In my town, we have distributed more than 350 self-constructed houses, but outsiders critise the lack of private property. I believe that property is robbery. A house should be for use and enjoyment and everyone should have the right to have it, but it shouldn’t mean you own it. That is still an unsolved issue in Brazil, France, Germany, England or even the United States.


“Housing has become a commodity, a business to speculate on and is not considered as a human right anymore.”


Housing has become a commodity, a business to speculate on and is not considered as a human right anymore. And like Leonardo Boff and Paulo Freire said: “the exploited has interiorised the exploiter” and it tends to repeat it and imitate it. Because to initiate communism, we need communists, the same with socialism, cooperativism and to become new human beings, we are the ones who have to start making changes instead of putting our own family before other’s. This would be the ethical revolution that could change us, but it is difficult for people to be able to embody it. One of the journalists who had been accompanying La Sexta studied an education in Cuba and earned very little over there and here, now he moved here, he earns a lot. It would be fair to expect him to recognise that it’s been the public resources that gave him the possibility of studying and he should put it at the service of his own people, instead of using his knowledge at the service of capitalism, which is the exploiter. The art of capitalism is that it represses you, crushes you, tramples you and you do not realise it. And when you try a different thing and set different standards, it’s still very difficult to build something. This is what it happened with our houses where people had to pay only € 15 a month rent, but as they are not afraid of being kicked out of the house, they do not pay it. So what to do? How to build options and alternatives?


Property is the fundamental weapon of capitalism and there is where they have us. That is why the things that we have achieved here through struggle are almost unique. The system, on the other hand, is not unique and that’s why they will always say that possibilities for change are non-existent. This is only to make us conservative and submissive. Marinaleda should have an international appeal on people willing to fight. People who didn’t have a home before or could hardly get by because of a lack of resources, would have to be active militants, but they are simply not. I have always said that perseverance is revolutionary and the proof is what we have done. The bourgeoisie has more class consciousness than the working class or the popular classes. They do not forget or forgive and they are still lurking to find a moment of weakness to crush you.


“If at home you have seventeen TV channels, it means you have seventeen times the voice of the master telling teh same story and spreading the same values.”


To transfer our achievements to other places, the active participation of the people is needed and as long as the organisation of the community is capable of achieving it, then hope and encouragement will be obtained to reorganise and conquer the next motivation. Because if the mobilisation that you organise has no answer, people will not participate. The battle that is undertaken will win. For example, the issue of housing, the fight against unemployment, the improvement of living conditions in all its extension, the fight against drugs, and the centre of interest of each site must be detected.


I don’t blame the people who are not fighting for our cause, though. Because that is the power of the system working in on them. If at home you have seventeen TV channels, it means you have seventeen times the voice of the master telling the same story and spreading the same values. That is, we fought against the duke but, deep down, you want to be a little duke and the system knows it. There is a huge difference between the positions that I defend and the establishment. The power of change is with the people. An unfair consequence of it is also that some of the people who fought the establishment became cooperative members and others not, but everything we achieved was for the community and with the community. But the group that has achieved work, they feel owners already and that is not right. Some are even capable of killing to get a piece of land. So then this experience turns into something not worthy. And I’ll be around to remind them how much of a mistake that is and I do not doubt that some wish I will
die soon because of this. The other day in an assembly I would have liked more people to come, but they are full of excuses.


“Hope is essential, but it must go hand in hand with consciousness.”


Hope is essential, but it must go hand in hand with consciousness. And if we start filtering essential values, we will hardly build a different world. How to build at the same time when you are being bombarded with the ‘other’ information? For example, for the establishment it is a ‘crazy idea’ that the land should belong to no one, which is what our union defends, because it is a gift of nature like water and therefore cannot be held by anyone, it has to be shared between the communities. That’s why we have to communicate a lot and stay connected. The bourgeoisie is internationally linked on many levels, for example in an economic level through the IMF (International Monetary Fund), with the world banks and also politically they stay united through the UN, militarily through NATO – by the way, is there any other organization more terrorist than NATO? It seems that they are the defenders of democracy, of peace, of Western and Christian civilization, but they are capitalist. In Greece, for example, a battle arises and you face the Troika, but you have to face its consequences too because if not, then you are not one of ours working against the enemy but worse, you are working for it and that is worse than an enemy in front of us. Because you facing an enemy is not a problem, but a friend, how can you fight against your friend? At this time I would like to multiply and defend for the whole world, but I have health problems, I can’t move around as much as I would like. Then we have moments of distraction and people also believe that they have to work with the institutions, but that is not enough for the deep change because governments are puppets of the economic power of the market. And we must keep this clear and spread it everywhere to be able to spread the word and revolutionise.


“It makes me very angry to see how people settle when there is no reason to do such a thing.”


The youth is problematic. The system has a place reserved for them and provides drugs, easy living and that makes them accomplices of the system. Only by fighting the system you would achieve a deep change. He who defends private property as a natural right, is a liar. Appropriate and expropriate while there are millions of human beings without a house, he who defends this is defending a robbery. That is why it is necessary to communicate internationally and see how we can practice revolutionary and subverting actions against the establishment. It
makes me very angry to see how people settle when there is no reason to do such a thing. This philosophy must be maintained because it would be a pity if it was lost. If it’s not me, there must be others who do it. It has been already tried in Russia, in Chile, in Venezuela, Cuba, Colombia with its guerrillas, El Salvador but at the end they ended up agreeing in the name of ‘peace’. So when we said violent or non-violent manifestations, what kind of tool should we take? For example, in Brazil Lula could have been the representation of hope for the whole world because they have more conditions than in Cuba, for example, in Brazil there is wealth.”


Interview and photos by O LIMPO Rio 2016 – SAGIKOLIBRI
Translation by Kathya Rodriguez

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