General Assembly – 16th June 2012
General Assembly – 16th June 2012
The Steps of St Pauls – 2pm
Weather – Sunny, with a bit of a chill in the air.
The first in a series of General Assemblies looking at creating alternatives.
Facilitators – Liz & Ben
Minutes – Jack
Liz – Hi everyone, welcome! I’m Liz, this is Ben. We’re co-facilitating this GA titled creating alternatives.
Ben . Just to give an idea of the shape of today, I’ll go through a very brief part of the SSP we have here. We agree to operate under this policy. No alcohol to be consumed during GAs. Disruption of the GAs by an individual or group will not be tolerated. Anyone is encouraged to highlight this disruption. If refusing to leave, a disruptor will not be called upon to speak.
We operate on hand signals. [goes through hand signals]
It is the task of facilitators to fold in objections to achieve consensus. There are other signals, but as we won’t need them today I won’t waste time.
We have a short introduction by John, then a sort of open mic for community groups to spend a few minutes speaking on what they do and why they do it. Afterwards we’ll head into breakout groups. We will discuss about what we heard, and what we wish to hear more of. Or things that people thing might make suitable future topics.
People may be called upon to expand further to facilitate more in the series. Then we will wrap up with shout-outs.
John – Welcome to the General assembly of the Occupy movement in London. A proposal to have a series of general assemblies about creating alternatives to the current system was brought to a recent general assembly. The proposal reached consensus, and so here we are today!
Each of us who has supported the Occupy movement, and that includes all of you now that you are here, had developed sufficient understanding of the current system to know that something was going very wrong. And we knew that, whatever the solution, it would involve people coming together to figure out what we are going to do about it.
The Occupy London Stock Exchange started here on 15th October 2011, as a protest against the exploitation by banks and corporations of the natural environment and the 99%. The first line of our Initial Statement reads, “The current system is unsustainable. It is undemocratic and unjust. We need alternatives; this is where we work towards them.”
With so much abuse, it is easy to be sad about the world. But when we come together and share our concerns and our approaches, we can improve our abilities to deal with what we face. We feel joy when we improve our abilities to deal with what we face. So let’s enjoy what we are beginning to do here today: creating alternatives to the current system, where the first alternative to the current system is coming together and talking about it.
All around the world, the Occupy movement has been holding general assemblies to bring people together. We have been organising lecture and film showings to help us develop our understanding of the current system. We have been organising a lot of protests. And we have been working on creating alternatives to the current system. That’s our approach to address the concerns we have about the power of the 1% and the damage they inflict on people and the planet.
During this series of general assemblies, we wanted people to come together and share their concerns and their approaches to addressing their concerns….
Ben – Next section, we hope to hear from people from other organisations, about the concerns they have and possible ways to generate alternatives.
[switch to megaphone, a bit of testing takes place.]
OK, everyone will have around 3 minutes . The first person to speak will be Liz.
Liz – I wanted to mark the passing of a very remarkable woman who passed this work. I just wanted to say a few words about here work. Before Occupy, I was only vaguely aware of the work of Eleanor Ostrom. I was aware that in 2009 she won the Nobel Prize for economic science. The main focus of here work was the idea that local communities around the world make a very good job of managing the natural resources around them, without the need for government. I can’t do here justice here, so encourage you to google them . Here are some words from George Por, a well known Occupier!
“When a leading light of the pioneering human spirit gets extinguished, somehow we all die. When we carry on her work for our Beloved Commons, we all live and she lives with us.”
Mark – My name is Mark Barrett. Great to be here. I’ve been asked to speak on the commons, although I am no expert. The people’s assemblies network is something I helped to set up. It’s through that I have approached the commons in a new way. Curious that the house of commons says no entrance to the general public! What I wanted to say is that assemblies themselves are commoning process. They are inclusive, egalitarian. John spoke of the figure of the commoner who cares, shares and participates, rather then dominates and controls. It’s not private, its not public but a third way. If that is the case, if it is the voice of civil society and a way to take common power one day, we work together to work out how to do that. To reform the things that don’t work, to rid of them. To bring about new things. My question is, is the commons the way to do that? If the state has its institutions, can’t we call for the institution of the commons. The commons are global. Today it is very apparent that national politics cannot take control of this global situation.
We can’t leave it to the markets either. The same logic would apply. Through localism and commons institutions we can determine our global future.
Ben – do try to keep to 3 minutes! The next person will be Tammy from Occupy Nomads.
Tammy – not a full nomad, but spend time there. This talk of going to the community is important. Make connections, find their concerns. We would speak with people. E.g. In Ion square where we recently were there were drug issues and dog fighting. This concerned the community. We were able to highlight and work on these issues. Not only can we talk of our ideas but support the local community, W try to empower communities and how they can work together in a productive way. That is what the nomads hope to achieve.
Ben Thanks Tammy, next we have Tony, from Haringey.
Tony – thought I had more than 3 minutes!. I’ve been politicking since the poll tax. I’d love a federated society, no bosses, no landlords. Working on reform through a radical approach. Working locally and nationally. The labourers take control. Healthcare federated.
Practically, we have the Haringey solidarity group. We run our own campaigns, currently around housing and welfare cuts. We tried to set up an anti-cuts campaign linking groups. We have a film group that we show once a month, radical films but very relevant. We had ordinary people sitting around discussing the virtues of armed struggle. This was amazing.
We are not activist we are a community. They are everything, all stripes. It is very difficult, but we have no other approach. We all have to work together. We have put on street festivals. In the end we convinced ordinary people to run this for 5000 on our own. It provoked such AMAZEMENT amongst the community, they found it very empowering.
Ben – Next we have Mel
Mel – Hi everyone. I want e to discuss the idea of the community bill of rights. The law subordinates community to corporate power. To change things we need to radically alter law. Suffragettes did this. We need to assert our rights over corporate power. The US has pioneered this . 15 years ago a group began this project. It is in 2 sections. The first highlights and asserts the rights of communities. Nature rights, resource rights, labour rights.
Nature has been too long ignored. The second part is based around prohibitions on corporate power. It says that if a corporation wishes to enter a community and harm it, e.g. yet another Tesco, the community can choose not to recognise their corporate person-hood. It’s much more then a legal strategy. It is about communities coming together and using the law to assert rights. In the US, it has so far been very successful. I hope to bring it here. I would love to talk further.
Ben – Next we have Ant.
Ant – I haven’t really prepared a speech. I’ve been looking at the localism act and localism generally. Basically. Localism was begun by the labour government. The coalition have taken it on. I see opportunity in this act, around community rights. Communities can bid for council contracts. E.g. Waste management, where the council would pay the community to provide this service. It could be about building houses.
There’s also the homes & communities agency, where communities can apply for funding to generate success locally. I think we should investigate and test this act, to see if there is anything we can work with.
Ben – Next, someone form the Leyton marsh campaign.
? – It’s great to be here at an Occupy meeting. We couldn’t be here at all if not for Occupy. We would have been feeble. But we made an impact. We lost our fight and it hurts to see the basketball court built on our local park. We did manage to have the toxic waste removed after the building. But it was dumped in trucks and driven through our community. If this is anything to go by there is a huge job on our hands . There has been lies and destruction and the removal of out protest rights.
We hoped to march today, but we were forced to make one person criminally responsible for the march. This is utterly unjust. We said no, but that is a defeat. We want to be on the streets. We want to call people here to take to the streets, to return to OUR marsh. On the 15th of October.
We want to do this. We invite anyone to join us.
Matt – To Leyton marsh, don’t be afraid to not give notice of a march. It is not essential.
Julie – Occupy have occasionally asked for permission.
? – We appreciate that. Leyton marsh is currently covered by 3 injunctions. It’s about people being charged with contempt of court.
? – we’ve had a journalist locked up over this already. The injunction is utterly unreasonable.
Ben – Steve! go.
Steve – I feel very lucky to be here. To be with all of you. I’ve known you a long time now. There is love and smiles and friendship. But there are so many problems. We all just all wan to be liked. People take me the wrong way. Give me a hard time. How do I deal with that What do I do? Anyway, I came here feeling slightly quite angry about a bad experience before I came. And then I sat next to George, and I saw him smile, and I could feel his genuine niceness. I don’t want to be around people not being honest, its not about being clever, its about how we behave. What we need to do with Occupy, we need to be careful
Fanny – WHY is this email list being passed around?
Vica – it’s for people who wish to be informed about future GAs.
Tina – Since returning home after OccupyLSX’s eviction. I have found in Lancashire there are 80 fracking sites being applied for. We found a shed, with a few locals, and this was the fight. This is why we need to work together, The ideas, though, were so encouraging. The meetings grew and grew and we find a hundred people at meetings now. The group is looking now at what WE can do. When we sit together, we generate ideas. It’s about the generation of systems we can use. It’s a matter of finding people who stop relying on the state and seeing what they can do.
Liz – Right, everyone can we go into breakout groups. Discuss what you wish to hear more of. The hope is to build ideas for future GAs.
Mark – is it worth mentioning before breakouts the idea of how community groups can work together.
Liz – the idea was to build towards a big picnic in August, to make visible that there isn’t a lack of dissent to the current system. There are groups working all over London. And the work they do needs highlighting.
Group 1 – Lifting from what Tony said There was discussion about a community approach, about the difference that would be encountered and the importance of patience in folding in the variety of objections. Agreement grew that time was important. But an acknowledgement that the power allayed against had not yet been successfully challenged. Groups are struggling, there needs to be a way to network. Don’t chase brands and campaigns. What began at occupy now needs to develop roots at a local level. Keep going.
We wouldn’t pick a particular area to focus on for now, but felt they complimented each other.
Group 2 – How can Occupy, political and strategically strengthen, We talked of commoning and forming relationships, of trees joining roots. We talked of working with community groups. We talked of the corporate state and labour relationship with local democracy and how we could sustain local democracy
Group 3 – Our group spoke of localism. We felt a connect between currently existing structures to help grow activities. Some f the Community Bill Of Rights could already be drawn on. We wish to hear a lot more from Haringey, you seem developed and able to present an empowered community.
Mike – We talked of the localism act and how to distort it. There is a dichotomy between the idea generation and the action. We came to a conclusion that we could exploit t he localism act to our favour, It has already been used by private forces to the same effect. There are many in Waltham forest against the council, which lead to another topic. Whether Occupy could develop a blueprint to spread to other areas. But it has to start locally. The wider it spreads the easier it gets. What we can do here at occupy is attempt to build a platform. We can’t go into a community and offer advice, though. That is the same power they have been faced with for years. The last thing we covered are that there are these series of meetings that there can be a point to build some kind of bank of ideas. We mentioned high visibility actions to bring about a sense of community. Mark suggested a series of assemblies to develop a collection of consensus politics. We really need to continue the discussion.
Mark – This meeting was called to develop all of the ideas we’ve heard. To blend and develop them in compliment of each other. Perhaps a better form of working on each of these is important.
Ben – Initially we had hoped to synthesise from the feedback somewhere to take this further.
Tina – what would be nice would be a chance to ask questions of other various groups.
Ben – are you suggesting we do this now? For 7-8 minutes?
[temp checked – vague warmth]
Liz – We have a web address, we could develop. We will develop this and share it.
Tina – where can I find a condensed version of the localism act and so on.
Cant – There are websites, online resources. Councils have resources. It’s really worth looking at the service s that councils offer on this act. Who knows what could happen? Communityrights.org is the website.
Ben any other Questions?
Peter – I don’t know the relationship between commoning and the current power of parliament.
Mark – as I understand it, commoning, is about “local body, global mind”. There are concepts of the common as well such as developed by Hardt and Negri. It’s a question of how do we make the qualities of Occupy flower at a more local level. I personally don’t know if after a successful approach we would be left with any national level power structures Occupy has the signifying feature, of a common approach.
Peter _ How do we resolve the issue say, of not in my back yard. Everyone wants wind farms, bot not near them.
Tony – If we’re going to have what we want, borders will evaporate. If everyone says no, then we have no! If you want a railway, London to Scotland and one community on the way says no, then we have to work around it. We can’t dominate the minority in that situation. I’m involved in Radical Routes, and we find this approach works, but it requires a new approach to patience. We have to take the time to think about things.
Michael – You said if each community said no, then we have no. I sympathise with anarchist principles. But I feel say, you can’t all just say for example that we have no climate change and the problem goes away.
Mark – This world we’re discussing now, will be so different, we won’t necessarily understand what we see. We’re talking about a world across communities. Tony discussed a world without borders. The reason we discuss an august 19th picnic. In 1989, there was something called the pan European picnic. On that day, authorities allowed people to cross from east to west, and it began the fall of the iron curtain.
? – The reason I came up today was to learn of Occupy, to meet the people. It’s called Occupy London, and I’d love to see it wider.
[Distracted for a moment. During it, Mark makes a proposal that the General Assembly reach consensus on organising the August picnic.
Liz – The meeting is moving away, people are drifting off. Can we leave this for another day, as the meeting is beginning to dissolve.
[meeting does indeed begin to drift off. People have begun to talk with each other in smaller groups.
I'm Andy from the School of commoning, and we have many things you can learn from on our site. We hope you will look at some of it. If interested in a study circle about developing these ideas, please come to Ye Olde London Pub just after the meeting to discuss it further
Fanny – This seems to be a place to look about where we're heading. It seemed that we should come for a discussion about where to go. We have had strategy workshops, tomorrow is another, Sunday 2-6pm at Lincoln’s Inn Fields.
Next week 15M are organising an assembly 5pm next Saturday here.
Save Leyton Marsh have been put together an event about defend the right to protest. Simon Moore, Alfie Meadows will speak. 26th June 7pm, check face book, and saveleytonmarsh.wordpress.com
[further shout-outs, battery death... meeting ends]