INTERVIEW: SPANISH CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTION MOVEMENT

_ Can Başkent

Spanish CO movement has rather a fascinating story. Can you tell a bit about it? For instance, what was the motivating factors behind the spanish CO movement and its political connections with Spanish Civil War, or even with the Napoleon era?
There is long tradition of antimilitarism in Spain, coming from the middle of XIX century and the strong anarchist movement, with big movements against military service in time of cronichal wars with a very high percent of casulaties. But it is not until Franco´s dead when nonviolence and antimilitarism join together in the CO Movement, the MOC.

You are from MOC. Can you tell a bit about the history of MOC?
The history of MOC started even before Franco´s dead in 1975, when Christian nonviolent activists met with anarchist activist in the antifascist movement. All started when Pepe Beuza started to train for to refuse military service in a country under a decadent military dictature. He was three years in prison and started a antimilitaris and nonviolent movemente that at the middle  70s joined in a statal movement with all the conciencious objection groups together. In the fist year there where no law about conciencious objection and we were able to develope a civil disobedience strategy to face it. Finaly the law come on 1989 and we started a big movement of total conciencious objection, refusing the military service and the alternative civil service, so we were called "insumisos" (neversurrender). We had more than fifteen thousand people perfoming civil desobedience, with more than one thousand people in prision, that created a huge solidarity movement and (whit the nonviolent direct actions) extended the nonviolent way to do the things to the others social movements. Finaly conscription ended in 2000 and we had a very strong antimilitarist movement which had developed many imaginatives actions.

What do you think were the essential parts of the CO movement in Spain which brought along "success"?
The supporting network was key, but also of course the bad reputation of the army after forty years of dictature. Also was very important the performance of nonviolent direct action that showed to the unrest people differents ways to do struggle.

After a long and difficult struggle, the Spanish movement gained the right to CO. So, what is yours next goal?
The right to CO was included in the constitution of 1978, our aim was never to get the right of CO, but was the demilitaritation of society, not only the removal of military expenditure and faculties but also values and principles kept inside the social relationships. So we reached to finish military service but militaritation on society is risen again, so we still have a lot of work, even with the leftists groups that claim for a strong army to face american imperialism (forgoting eurpean imperialism, of course)

Insumision Total movement went well beyond the usual CO demands. They refused the state oppression on individuals for instance. What are your comments on that.
Insumision what a strategy to take to the society the critics on militaritation, because  doing the civil service, we were also colaborating with the war efforts and the army. This kind of analisis that focus in the means of domination to rule, refusing to create another domination and expecting to create true democratics ways to make decision even in wide societies. This is a difficult way but it is the only way.

Antimilitarist movement has strong ties with nonviolence movement and philosophy. So, in particular what is the role of nonviolence in your struggle?
From the Pepe Beunza´s time we were performing nonviolent direct actions to reach the media, but our criticism to the military is a noviolent critic, in the way the we want the abolition of violence of society, so the only effective way is struggeling in a nonviolent way. Since the seventies, we have been training other activists of the spanish social movement to perform nonviolent action, to develope nonviolent campaings, civil desobedience and also we colaborate supporting nonviolent movements of countries in war, specially in Palestine and Colombia.

Then, what are your ties with anarchist movement in Spain? I also assume plenty of cooperation and solidarity between two groups?
Now there is no anarchist movement such that. There are several anarchist unions that still are discussing about the civil war issues. But there many libertarians movements, as ours, that kept the heritage of the CNT of the 30s and we use to colaborate together in many cases: ecologist, antifascist, squotters, antijail ... we conform a anticapitalist libertarian front. Our usual differences comes from the discussion about the legitime use of violence in the struggle, that we refuse. Of course we have many problems with communist groups that defends military dictatures and a violent revolution, theis struggle is not ours.  Anyway, there are a big crisis inside a all the social movement, which are far away from a consumist society, that only think in soccer and parties. Now the fear of the inmigrants is developing racism and xenofobia all around the country.

What is MOC's position on Basque and Catalan movements?
We have a consensus in the refusal of violence and refusal of nationalism (the spanish, the basque, the catalan, the galego, the canarian and others separatist movements). So the MOC groups in the Basque country and the Catalonia have had problems with the spanish and the separatist social movements, but there are many people in this regions that are not nationalism that are sicks of nationalisms. In Basque Country, some people coming from MOC started nonviolent nationalist movements and in several cases they have been trialed as terrorist, when they were totally opposed to violence and were creating a new basque movement.

We remember several creative and efficient ways of protest and resistance that have been utilized by Spanish CO movement. For instance, we read, once the activists from Insumison Total movement  placed a large pile of shit in front of a military building. There was a notice saying: "if the shit were able to think, then if would be in a militarist way".. Funny isn't it? Why don't you inspire us more with some anecdots from Spanish CO movement..
In the later times we use to perform all the nonviolent actions disguised not only to create a note of humour that is esential for the nonviolent spirit, this is also that help to create group cohesion, and help also to distinguish betwen the people participating and not participating in the action. Even when we are doing actions that have a high level of confrontation we try to looks funny, just to show we are not threats. We love dress as clowns, or with white suits (as the antinuclear or the "tutti biachi"), football players in there is a world championships, with the dress of the last Holywood films. It is important to enjoy during the actions even in the most difficult situations because we have not so many activist and we can burn ourselves if not to look after ones to the others.

Prisoner support is always a vital part of each political movement? How did you develop the networks for prisoner support and did it work well?
Each person that were going to go prison created a supporting group with the people of their enviropment, that work on the logistic issues for to help the people that were going to prision, but also deals with the parents, the MOC groups, other supportings groups, the media etc. This group was formed with people that don´t use to participate in social movement and in many cases it was their introction to activism. From MOC we also provided training for prision, with legal issues, role playing and other items to help the people face the prision. There were a group of mothers that in some action whene the
police were going to beat us, they put in the middle and said that they were not to beat their chilren. Of course we were proud to be rescued by ours mothers, because that mean that they were understanding what we were doing, some thin very diffucult sometimes.

There is, one way or the other, a connection between the CO  movements in Spain and in Turkey since many years? How do you think  we can imporve the solidarity and cooperation between the two movements?
I think that this a mistake to try to help the turkish movement doing political pressure to our goverment that is our main enemy or trying to fund your groups when we have problems to fund ours. I think that it is important that people from the Turkish CO movement come to spain and share experiences, because we have many think in commons. We can also send spanish activists to do trainings over there and in the same way share experience. I think we must have more personal contacts because it is the only way of creating emotional links, that are the ones that are going to permit a better supporting network. To know by the first hand what we did in similar may help not for to try to do the same thing, but yes for to open the mind and develope new ways of do the tings,
exactly like in the seventies and the eighties the european CO movements helped us.

Anything to add?
Yes, I would like to say our mates from Turkey that don´t desperate, there many people in the world are living (or have lived) also very hard situations and all must be together and create a new nonviolent culture of freedom, love and solidarity. Our challenge is to create an effective international movement, so we all must study lenguages and travel for to be able to eliminate violence from Earth, but the main thing is not to feel alone, because we are not alone. Maybe we will be not able to see the fruits of our seeds, but if we do it by the nonviolenve way they will come some day.

Can Başkent canbaskent@me.com
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