First Glasgow meeting was held at the Free Hetherington – occupied building closed by Glasgow University last year and reopened as a focus for resistance to the brutal cuts planned for the university but also for discussion, debate, arts events and collective development. Here are some notes from the meeting – discussion and comments welcome:
PEOPLE’S ASSEMBLY MEETING 08/03/11
Opening presentation Penny A World to Win:
People’s Assemblies can unite struggles against cuts and closures, support occupations and struggles against evictions whilst at the same time looking and planning forward beyond protests.
They offer an opportunity to complete the struggles of the past – from the Chartists, Suffragettes, Levellers – for democracy. And they are connected to the future because they do not simply look to the state – local government, central government – to meet demands. Rather they plan to find ways to replace the state with a new democratic way of living, being political, and in particular running the economy with a view to sustaining people’s lives and the life of the whole eco-system.
Reporting back from three smaller groups:
1. What would be the structure of the assembly?
Problems of parliament:
Could arise in people’s assemblies too
These have been prefigured at the Hetherington (women’s group, kitchen caucus, etc)
2. Can a new assembly be representative?
How to ensure non-participant / resistant groups are represented?
Where does the right to enforce decisions come from, without full representation?
3. How to protect the individual’s right to come before the assembly as an individual?
4. What type of democracy/what type of vote? Experience of the occupation (where both are used): majority vote is the easy option; consensus is tiring.
5. How and where does a people’s assembly form? Should it be spontaneous?
6. What kind of ‘representation’ is sought? Individual, class, [interest group], party.
Challenge of modelling a new vision:
-> extremes brought together
-> how to hold these opposites
Penny points to historical changes. Previously, individual not taken into account enough of the left – then a new period where the individual was all – we need to find a way of acting collectively while protecting the individual.
Concensus is problematic – it’s not necessary always to come to a consensus; it’s all right in fact to disagree forever whilst still finding a way to forward.
For the long term, what should a new democracy look like? There is a need for a [new] communal ethic.
Socialising together, working in small groups, sharing food, sharing knowledge.
Important not only to bring opinions but to listen deeply.
Use technology: web, films.
Intrinsic vs extrinsic identities.
1. How to reconcile the (necessarily?) fragmentary nature of self-organised groups with the notion of an assembly?
2. Is this the right time? Start setting up assemblies now, or wait for a revolutionary moment?
3. How is the people’s assembly conceived as a real alternative to parliamentary democracy?
4. What is the involvement (/investment) of A World to Win in this movement?
5. The Assembly idea seems to have two potentials: as a larger network of support & cooperation, but also as a laboratory for new shapes and modes of democracy. Exciting to bring these together.
Responses to group 2:
> Is this the right time?
Eastern proverb: When’s the best time to plant an apple tree? 20 yrs ago. Second best time? Now.
Work begun now (a) might bring about change in itself; (b) might be handy to have lying around later.
Egypt gives an example: organising during and post-revolution; we have the opportunity to organise legally now.
> Involvement of AWtW?
Penny: The Assemblies movement is wider than AWtW.
Tom C: what is the structure of AWtW?
Penny: Groups around particular interests (eg environment) > and send reps who form a steering group – non-hierarchical flat structure. AWtW is interested in looking at democracy. Looks at how to utilise people’s skills.
Tom C: Risk of vanguardism – entryist tactics.
Radicalisation of populations often followed by organised groups bringing in pre-formed analyses which can turn off the newly radicalised (eg students).
Penny: Post these questions on the People’s Assembly website.
Liam/Florrie: Google documents: expand these questions we’ve raised, open up discussions.
Tom C: These sorts of groups (/assemblies) are forming already under other names: GAEC, RTC etc
Keith: Ad hoc groups forming to a purpose and rapidly disbanding: could this in fact be a good structure?
Hope to move not just post-capitalism but also post-scarcity.
Space as a commodity.
Penny: Important to include eco-system in the issue of scarcity.