Sitting talking to Nieves and Maria in Cafe Molar, I felt the frisson of something new emerging as they talked about the extraordinary work that went in to bringing together the wide network of organisations represented by the Ahora Madrid candidate Manuela Carmena in the 24 May municipal elections.
What they described was a fundamentally different approach to politics, one that put women at the centre, incorporating them and their agendas into the process of creating a manifesto. Even though women in Spain are very active in politics, it is often presented by the media as something of a novelty, and the focus on leadership candidates can sometimes obscure grassroots reality.
Alan Badiou in his book The Rebirth of History describes those people who are present in the world, but absent from its meaning and decisions about the future, what he terms the inexistent of the world:
We shall say then that a change of the world is real when an inexistent of the world starts to exist in this same world with maximum intensity. This is exactly what people in the popular rallies in Egypt were saying and are still saying: we used not to exist, but now we exist, and we can determine the history of the country. This subjective fact is endowed with an extraordinary power. The inexistent has arisen.
This rising is the rising of existence itself; the poor have not become rich, people who were unarmed are not now armed, and so forth. Basically, nothing has changed. What has occurred is restitution of the existence of the inexistent…
Badiou was writing specifically about an uprising of the people, in this case in the context of street protests in Egypt’s Tahrir Square, but listening to Nieves and Maria, it seemed that under the radar, something revolutionary is happening, raising the possibility that one day Spain’s women will be existent – visible, and fully involved in determining the country’s history.