Three themes came out of the discussion at the 1st meeting and we agreed to explore these further:
1. How People’s Assemblies come about? Can we make them happen or do we have to wait for a new movement.
2. How can they be truly representative if they are established by a small group of people in advance of a change in the political situation?
3. People’s Assemblies must become models for exciting new forms of people working together, doing politics and running an economy that meets the needs of humans and the eco-system.
Liam: Can the question of how People’s Assemblies should work be answered before doing it? Can you define it without experiencing it.
Florrie: We haven’t done enough thinking and research perhaps, but as we were talking about things arising in a revolutionary situation, would it not be better to think and plan for that now, rather than wait for it to be spontaneous – be familiar and comfortable with the idea of it so we can propose it when the situation arises. If we instigate a gathering now, what sort of gathering should it be?
Penny: We do need to prepare now and be so familiar with key ideas that we can sustain them – there will always be plenty of people who want to make a PA all about protest and even local and parliamentary elections. A more advanced concept goes beyond protest and elections to the current repressive state and models a new kind of democracy whilst supporting all people’s struggles to defend themselves.
Amelia: Is our aim to solidify a new structure? When People’s Assemblies grow into a mass movement, we see them replacing the existing state – do they then solidify into a new state?
Dave: At present we have a vote but no representation and no power. The idea of People’s Assemblies is to give the right to vote and democracy meaning again.
Penny: People’s Assemblies are going to go through many transitions, as the situation develops. But the long-term aim can’t be to solidify into a new state. We could imagine instead a global network of People’s Assemblies maturing into a society which does not require the coercive aspects of the state. A network of independent, self-organising peoples consciously planning economic and social relations that support their lives as part of a specific eco-system.
Florrie: Do we want to be here waiting for it to happen, whilst we put together our manifesto for People’s Assemblies? Or maybe we need not a manifesto but a practice – or both.
We talked about the connection with the concept of art, where something that doesn’t exist is there in imagination, but then has to be brought into being in the creative process and saw parallels between that and what we are trying to do with People’s Assemblies. We discussed whether an event could be planned that reflected this – a kind of performance event that connected activities that imagine a future democracy with people actually doing a People’s Assembly.
Liam: Whatever we do has to be both useful and experimental.
Amelia: We don’t want something that is a spectacle only – are trying to do something that must come from the people, but we are presenting it at a point when it isn’t coming from the people but from us.
Penny: But at the same time we may not be THE people, but we are people and part of this growing movement.
Florrie: It mustn’t just be a day-long event that is wrapped up and then it’s over. It would only be worthwhile if we make an honest attempt to make it real and permanent.
Liam: It’s difficult to think beyond March 26, which will perhaps open up a space for new ideas and then we can consider some kind of forum or occupation of another democratic space like this one (Free Hetherington) where we can enact democracy.
Amelia: We need to think about questions of language we use and how we describe what we are doing and how that connects to new ways of working – get a new perspective on what is possible that goes beyond where we are now.
We agreed to meet on March 31st at Free Hetherington to review what happened on the demo, to think about the Scotland elections and the idea of withholding our votes. Florrie remarked that there is an art project that with this title and agreed to research information about it. Much of tonight’s discussion, we agreed, had been about how politics connects with art.
It was agreed to post these notes on the facebook site, and also to establish a Glasgow strand on www.peoplesassemblies.org and post our notes there and invite people from other places to comment on them.