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(en) Spaine, CNT-CIT, #437: Regulate, regulate until it strangles you - La Corrala Anthropological Studies Group (ca, de, it, pt, tr)[machine translation]

Date Mon, 15 Apr 2024 09:38:00 +0300

The progressive regulation of our lives in the name of security and coexistence, to the point of suffocating us (although generally in a metaphorical way), is one of the main tools of the Rule of Law for the control of its population. We don't discover anything new. Different meanings of the same word make it very clear: "to put something in order", "to adjust the operation of a system to certain purposes". But what is that order? What purposes do they serve? These are difficult questions to answer, more than anything, because they can have several possible solutions. So let's look at some examples to see what we mean.

Regulate citizen coexistence = regulate daily life and control vulnerable groups
In 2006, municipal regulations arrived in the Spanish State that claimed to come to "regulate peaceful citizen coexistence." Yes, you are correct, we are talking about what are known as "civic ordinances", a compendium of different existing regulations with additions of practices not regulated until now. A cocktail of guidelines, prohibitions and sanctions that, more than facilitating citizen coexistence, sought a certain order in cities: transforming spaces of relationship and struggle into places of transit and consumption. A profile of citizenship was needed in accordance with the city model that they want to impose: obedient, vigilant of their neighbors, fearful, consumerist.

So yes, the regulation affects all of us in the territorial context that each regulation or law is in force. But it is true that regulation has also been used to control certain types of population. A good example would be the group of sex workers. Prostitution, as it is not an illegal practice in Spain, some of its aspects are regulated by this type of municipal regulations, which seek to control what cannot be prohibited, by controlling the spaces where this activity takes place. And we are not referring to just any space, but to public spaces. With this measure, the group of prostitutes was condemned to greater vulnerability, if possible, by being expelled to the suburbs or forced to work in brothels or in company flats. But it is also affecting other vulnerable groups, such as, for example, migrants and others who depend on public spaces to carry out their activities.

Regulate citizen security = regulate social protest
Another example of regulation that strangles is the Law for the Protection of Citizen Security, also known as the "Gag Law" and which appeared in 2015. This law set off alarm bells in many ways: it represented an attack on freedom of expression and democracy, whose greatest exponents we saw in rappers and singers sentenced to prison for the lyrics of their songs.

But, above all, it is a law against social protest, including a whole series of measures aimed at limiting the actions that different groups and social movements use as tools of struggle and pressure measures: from demonstrating without permission or not dissolving a concentration, to trying to stop an eviction, including protests in critical infrastructure, in the case of nuclear power plants, among other practices.

This law also sanctions other practices such as obstructing the performance of a public employee's duties (for example, during a picket), altering citizen security with the placement of objects in public space (whether containers, tires to cut a road...) and occupying a property against the will of an owner (case, for example, of the occupation of bank offices by groups in defense of housing). And these are just some examples, since this law affects all areas, including migrants, making direct returns possible. A Law whose repeal was promised by the so-called progressive government. From repeal it went to reform... a reform that never took place.

Those known as "civic ordinances", a cocktail of guidelines, prohibitions and sanctions, rather than facilitating citizen coexistence, seek a certain order in cities: transforming spaces of relationship and struggle into places of transit and consumption.

The bureaucratization of repression
Although the Gag Law, of a state nature, aimed more directly at the social struggle, both it and the civic ordinances of municipal application, represented the implementation of the last tool of the Rule of Law against the social struggle: the bureaucratization of the repression or "burorerepression" as Pedro Oliver Olmo called it.

This meant putting the entire administrative machinery of the State at the service of repression. We went from collective repression, based on large police devices and the use of force, to individual repression in sanction format that hits home. From then on, except on rare occasions, police forces in demonstrations and protests were reduced in number, sharing a common element: the recording of the protest by State security agents.

This led to uncovering another of the great secrets of State repression, very similar in these times to the different cases of agents infiltrating social movements. We are talking about "blacklists", illegal files of people who are militants in social struggles who, despite not having a criminal record, had their own police records for militant work. The use of these lists was evident in the appeal for fines where it was shown that people who had not been identified, even who were not at the protest site, had been proposed for sanction.

With this turn in repression, what is sought (and in some cases achieved) is the demobilization of people and the decline of social protest for fear of an economic sanction that is difficult for an ordinary person to accept.

Internalization of an increasingly regulated life
Years go by and those regulations that generated important responses among citizens end up being involuntarily integrated through the intermittent forgetfulness that comes with getting used to a certain order of things, while our attention is dynamited with a bombardment of leisure and consumption, of fake news or of parallel virtual realities.

This accelerated life, this living in an eternal present, is the perfect breeding ground for "low intensity" repression to have its best results. A subtlety in its forms that makes it slowly penetrate society to the point of strangling its freedom, without us hardly noticing. This is, perhaps, the greatest danger of inhabiting an increasingly regulated life: self-regulation. We no longer need someone to tell us what we can and cannot do: it is written! and internalized. We are the ones who end up setting limits when it comes to going out, whether to protest, to interact in spaces, to show affection or to have a drink in the park.

An order and a certain purpose
These types of regulations, protected by coexistence and citizen security, respond to a very specific purpose: the control of our bodies and our relationships, through regulating the spaces we inhabit.

Coexistence is also a space of tensions and disagreements, of conflicting visions that cannot be resolved with regulation, but with mechanisms that allow learning to confront conflicts, especially collectively. Only in this way can we counteract the advance of a regulatory entity that gains power and control, as it expands its capacity to regulate what it could not before.

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