Riot – A form of civil disorder characterised by disorganised groups lashing out in a sudden and intense rash of violence against authority, property or people.
It is the 1st of March. The months ahead will see the next wave of neo-liberal assaults on civil society. For huge numbers of people life will become more strained and uncertain. For many life will become virtually unliveable. Unions, political parties, coalitions, activist groups and disorganised masses will all be responding in their own way. Some will seek to resist austerity at the frontline, some will seek to rally people under one banner, some will form grassroots support systems, some will riot.
Horizontalism – The creation of social structures for the equitable distribution of power. These structures function as a result of dynamic self-management, involving participation between individuals to achieve the desires of the collective whole.
For those of us who want political change but reject elitist institutions, who do not seek hegemony for ourselves, for those of us who don’t claim to have all the answers, who still see hope in the human spirit, for those of us that want real democracy the question is, how do we respond?
Any desireable political revolution must be preceded by a social revolution. People begin to see the world differently. This is accompanied by new kinds of relationships and behaviours that help to develop an emergent vision for a better society. Horizontalism, in this respect is both an end and a means. It allows people to temporarily suspend their old concepts of struggle, solidarity and power. It allows people to experience power with others not under or above others. It allows people to experience the joy of solidarity and engage directly with the task at hand.
Prefigurative Politics – Modes of political organising that strive to reflect the future society being sought by the participants.
As faith in mainstream politics hits an all time low traditional political movements can see the need to use new language and imagery. They are responding to a desire and openness to new ways of thinking, behaving and organising form below. The more this change takes place the more traditional political movements will have to change with it if they wish to survive. A tactic that has helped this social revolution spread all over the world is the “People’s Assembly”.
A participant in the Unemployed Workers Movement, Argentina –
“First we began by asking one another, and ourselves questions, and from there we began to resolve things together. It is like each day is a horizon that opens before us, and this horizon does not have any recipe or program, we begin here, without what was in the past. What we had was life, our life each day, our difficulties, problems, crisis, and what we had in our hands at the time was what we used to go looking for solutions.
This is beyond revolutionary theories, theories that we all know and have heard so often, theories that are often converted into tools of oppression and submission. The assemblies gave us the possibility of breaking with this and creating something that gives us the security that we can self-organize, and do it well, and do so far away from those that try and tell us politics must be done in a particular way.
Constructing freedom is a learning process that can only happen in practice. For me, autonomy, freedom, creativity, and happiness are all concepts that go together and are all things that both have to be practiced and learned in the practice. . This includes even my own conduct, which was often really rigid, and it was difficult for me to enjoy myself, which is something sane and that strengthens you, and if you do it collectively it is that much more so.”
Horizontal London – A vision of radical politics in London invigorated and transformed by the prolifiration of open, free, non-hierarchical assemblies in which constituencies may come together, share their concerns and practice direct democracy.
This is not a vision exclusive to the Occupy movement. The Occupy movement is one voice amongst all those who won’t settle for the world as it is. Assemblies can therefore be formed around geographical areas such as streets to entire boroughs, issues of concern from the environment to community needs, groups of people from workers to students and so on. Assemblies can be used to strengthen community relationships, they can provide education and debate, they can used to come to form agreements and take collective action.
Exactly how people hold assemblies is up to them. What matters are the intentions and consciousness behind the assembly. Assemblies are for everyone they are not exclusive in anyway. At the same time they aim to “prefigure” the world we wish to create. So they must be free from all forms of discrimination and prejudice. They are a space where people can come together in safety regardless of gender, race, sexuality, age, economic class and political ideology.
It would be foolish to suggest that People’s Assemblies are the solution to everything. Like any tactic they have inherent limitations. There will always be a need and place for organisations, unions, campaigns, ideologies, activist groups, dissenting voices and so on. The potential here is to give large numbers of people a space to exchange mutual aid and develop political power in times of imposed hardship, division and struggle. Ultimately, by definition, real democracy cannot be imposed by powerful people from above it must be built up and won from below.