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Slaves to Capitalism
Going Broke and Bonkers in Barcelona
by MICHAEL DICKINSON

“Wanna good shagging?” asked a voice from a doorway as I was leaving the road of my hostel, about to enter Barcelona’s main pedestrian street, Las Ramblas, one night a couple of weeks ago.

I turned and looked at the inquiree, a short plump young Spanish brunette with merry eyes.

“No thanks,” I replied.  “But why would you want to shag me?  It’s just for money, isn’t it?”

“Only twenty five euro.  Come on.  It’ll be a good shag!”  Her accent was almost Essex.

“I’m gay.”

“You’re not!  Come on.  I’ll make it twenty!”

I apologized and went on my way, sorry that people have to literally sell their bodies in order to stay alive.  I’d just spent the afternoon editing a dialogue between two workers by Communist Anarchist Errico Malatesta so my eyes were receptive to the underbelly of capitalism as I hit the street, peopled by touts advertising cheap shots at their bars, Asian gents incessantly twanging up whirly flourescent projectiles into the night sky which float down hoping you’ll buy, some selling mouth whistles which make drawn out chortling Smurfish sounds, others walking round with cans of cold beer to sell to the rich touristic ramblers and skateboarders.  Teams of young black men sell cheap fake label handbags laid out on a piece of cloth tied at the corners which they can whisk up and away as soon as the police are spotted.  Poor people beg on the sidewalk.  Others scavenge in the trash cans for thrown away food.  I was one of them, heading for the bin of a particular cafe which closes at 9 o’clock, where I’d found discarded sandwiches and croissants before.  I stopped to inspect the trashcan next to a metro subway entrance on the way.

“I want to to suck your cock,” came a plaintive invitation.

I looked up and saw a pretty young black girl, heavily made up, leaning on the wall nearby.  She repeated the request.  I declined, and voiced sympathy with her unfortunate trade.

“We all need the money isn’t it?” she shrugged.  “Slaves to capitalism.”

“One solution – revolution!” I said, then lifted my head and shouted it at the top of my voice.

“ONE SOLUTION –REVOLUTION!”

The girl ran off giggling.  I shouted it one more time, imagining what it would sound like with thousands chanting.  It was difficult to imagine it roaring from the throats of the mildly-surprised stylishly-dressed strollers.

The next day, at the invitation of an old Brixton squatting friend from the eighties, Mike Gilliland, I moved out of the bustling city and into an occupied farmhouse in the nearby forested hillsides of Collserola as a guest.  Although the original occupiers in the late 90s had initial legal problems, the town council owners lost interest in the case.   The squatters of Kan Pasqual   have now been on their site for the past 15 years with no problems from the police.

It’s a beautiful place, surrounded by silence and trees and sky and vistas.  They live with wood fires, use solar energy complimented by wind energy, water from the well and rainwater from the roof of the house. There is also a brown water river nearby which helps for watering the gardens where they grow all kinds of vegetables and fruit. They make bread once or twice a week, a portion of which they sell. They also brew beer and keep 30 chickens.  There are two friendly dogs and a playground for children. They have an extensive library, and cook and eat communally.  It was a great experience staying there, although the crouch compost toilet in the wooden out-house was a bit of an ordeal!

Walking in the woods was particularly therapeutic to me after the confinement of jail in Istanbul just a few weeks ago.  Here’s an interview of me talking about my Turkish Troubles, filmed at Kan Pasqual -  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LKSmUkDdXN0&feature=youtu.be 

Unfortunately, although it was warm and sunny for the first few days after I arrived at the farmhouse, later a storm blew up and rain and a cold spell set in, and I was like really cold man.  Cold really gets to me.  Lying half-dead under a pile of blankets, I suddenly thought I can’t stand any more of this!  I’ve got to go to Morrocco!  Sun!  Warmth!  While I’ve still got the money to get me there!

I packed my bags and announced my intention of catching a bus that day from the city centre.  After farewells to my other hospitable hosts, Mike drove me down to the railway station, himself catching the metro on the way to an English teaching job.  A busking band played ‘Imagine’ on Peruvian pipes in our carriage.  I found I’d missed the bus to Morrocco that day so metroed into town and found a hostel, vowing to go the next day.

Five days later I’m still here in Barcelona in a quandary of whether to go or not, living off the streets and watching the money peel away daily in hostel room rent, coffee, and wine, with nothing coming in.  It’s too cold to tell fortunes in the street, and when I tried it I was in the middle of a sudden swoop by a gang of plainclothes cops on a group of black bag boys, so it wasn’t very encouraging.  I’ve applied for English teaching jobs in Spain without success, while staying in my hostel room and tuning up the collection of protest songs on my website.

At this present moment of writing I have 260 euros left in the world.  The bus ticket to Marrakesh is 110 euro one way.  Should I risk it without a job to go to?  Deadline decision tomorrow morning.

What I’d really like to do if I had my way, would be to set up a little theatre company in Britain and do a tour of Socialist, Communist and Anarchist centres around the country of that ‘Dialogue between Two Workers’ by Malatesta, waking people up.

But after 26 years absence from Albion’s shores, this native’s return I guess would seem undesirable.  I believe the only way I’d be assuredly if grudgingly welcomed back is through the care of the Mental Health Act.  So let me tell you now, Mr. British Councilor, before I turn up on your doorstep ready for free repatriation to shelter in my ‘Bonny Country,’ that after what I’ve been through lately, I have got Severe Reactive Depression and Chronic Fatıgue Syndrome with knobs on!  Not to mention  Myalgic Encephalomyelitis!  No, I’m not repeating that! 

Oh, by the way, the contents of George W Bush’s 14th November  “Jews for Jesus” speech have still not been revealed.

Michael Dickinson can be contacted at his website – http://yabanji.tripod.com/index.htm