Tag Archives: assemblies

Two statements that have appeared amidst the gilets jaunes “movement”

“All contemporary anti-capitalist movements must abandon the self-illusion of being intrinsically opposed to capitalism; whatever such movements may emerge, they will constitute themselves in the very struggle to destroy/escape capital.  The heterogeneity of contemporary social movements also condemns all possibility of representation.  The gilets jaunes possess the virtue of self-consciously embracing this condemnation or refusal.  The question then is what is to follow.”

“Call from the Yellow Vests of Commercy to set up popular assemblies”

‘Here in Commercy, in the Meuse, we have been operating from the beginning with daily popular assemblies, where each person participates equally. We organized to block entrances to the city and service stations, and filtering road blocks. In the process, we built a cabin in the central square. We meet there every day to organize ourselves, decide next actions, interact with people, and welcome those who join the movement. We also organize “solidarity soups” to live beautiful moments  together and get to know each other. In equality.’

Jodi Dean interviewed by Alfie Bown

It gets interesting when people fight over the description of a particular crowd: is this a crowd, with some potential connection to the people struggling for freedom and equality, some connotation of the masses who are right to assemble and demand, or is it just a violent mob?  The fight over the description of the crowd is opened up by the crowd itself. A crowd amasses. Now, what does this mean? This depends on the perspective from which the crowd is viewed. From say, a conservative perspective, a perspective that fears the people, that worries about the disruptive capacity of the many, a crowd might look like a mob. From a communist perspective, this same crowd might look like the revolutionary people bringing a new Commune into being.

Luke Mergner: Review of Jodi Dean’s “Crowds and Party” (2016)

On collectives and the suspension of the individual ego:  ‘Dean judges Occupy, in which she participated, and other global protest movements to have failed. … How should the Left organize political movements to avoid the traps of neoliberal subjectivity?  Dean’s central themes are announced in the title: crowds and party. … She seems to exhort us: Look at how crowds let us transcend our individuality and difference. Look at how crowds demonstrate a collective will. … Using Occupy as her example, she argues that crowds cannot survive long enough to create real political change. … An “affective infrastructure” drives her description of the party and the romanticism that colors it. It is the ability to subsume individuals into a collective that links the crowd and the party.’

Paul Mason: “Demonstrations matter – they create the kind of power politicians despise”

People are back in the streets:  ‘Crowds of protesters form lasting connections – and their later revolts always surprise elites. … The point is not that “mass action works” – it rarely does, on its own. The point is that it’s not futile.’

Judith Butler interviewed on “Acting in Concert”

On the conditions and purposes of political action:  “For me, the crowds that matter are those that seek to assert the accountability of the state to the people it claims to represent, and to activate that popular dimension of democratic politics that has the power to legitimate or delegitimate a regime that seeks to lay claim to authoritarian control.”

Jonas Staal: “Assemblism”

The power of artists in assemblism:  “As artists, we are not in power, but through morphology we give power: we give form to power. The practice of assemblism that we can derive from [Judith Butler’s Notes Towards a Performative Theory of Assembly] opens up the possibility of a new collectivity arising from the precariat—a new Us with the potential to shatter the Us/Them divide that has brought the new authoritarian world order into being. Embedding our artistic practice within social movements, we can help formulate the new campaigns, the new symbols, and the popular poetry needed to bolster the emergence of a radical collective imaginary. In that process, we can also begin to devise the new infrastructures—the parallel parliaments, the stateless embassies, the transdemocratic unions—needed to establish the institutions that will make a new emancipatory governance a reality.  Our time as assemblists is now.”