THE SECRET RENDEZVOUS WITH HISTORY AND THE PRESENT
An Introduction as an Invitation to a Global Conversation
With our forthcoming book we hope to help ground what is new and beautiful in our social creation today in relationships and concepts that have been developing and evolving in Latin America over the past 20 years in particular. There are of course many similarities with preceding forms of organization, especially most recently with the globalization movement of the late 90s and early 2000s – however we are choosing to ground the discussion with movements that arose and are comprised of more “regular” people, rather than movements and groups that came about and were made up of more intentional “activists”.
Explored are concepts such as Territory, Assembly, Rupture and Popular Power, and relationships such as Horizontalism, Autogestion (self-administration), and protagonism. These forms of organization and ways of relating are described based on more than two decades of practice and experience in Latin America, from the spreading of horizontalidad with the popular rebellion in Argentina, to the concept of Territory, grounded in Bolivia and Brazil, or the construction of Popular Power in the Consejo Comunales in Venezuela and the understanding of our many diversities, creating a world in which many worlds fit, of the Zapatistas in Chiapas, Mexico.
Now onto what the new movements are doing and where newness meets history…
The Walk of the New
Kefaya! (Enough!) Is declared in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt.
In Syntagma Square in Athens, Greece they hung banners declaring, in Spanish, Ya Basta! (Enough!)
Democracía Real Ya! (Real Democracy Now!) Is the framing in Spain.
We are the 99% is announced in the US.
New Social Relationships and a New Common Language
2011 has been a year of uprisings, movements and moments – all against an economic crisis and the politics of representation. Kefaya! Ya Basta! and Enough! are shouted by millions against an untenable situation – and simultaneously they are met with Democracia Real Ya! and We are the 99%! – powerful affirmations. The use of the exclamation point reflects the passion – It is the shout of anger, the manifestation of collective power and the strength of people’s voices in the songs of joy in finding one another.
There have been numerous historical epochs where something massive and “new” sweeps the globe – moments such as the Revolutions and revolts of the mid 1800s, the massive working class struggles of the early 1900s, and the massive political and cultural shifts and anti-colonial struggles of the 1960s, to name only three. We believe we are in another significant historic epoch. This one is marked by an ever increasing global rejection of representative democracy, and simultaneously a massive coming together of people, not previously organized, using directly democratic forms to begin to reinvent ways of being together.
These global movements are connected in ways not possible in the past with the use of immediate technology, such as the internet, twitter and facebook. These new technological forms have helped for something that in Latin America is often referred to as “contagion”, a spreading of an idea in a horizontal way, more like a virus than a political program.
This should not be confused with a “social network revolution,” a description many in the media have used. The communication tools helped, but the essence and the ‘new’ in the movements is the collective construction of new social relationships – creating new territory – and the similarities of this phenomenon globally.
Also new, with the directly democratic forms, are similar global ways of speaking about this new social creation. The word horizontal for example is used in English, Spanish, Arabic and Greek, all as a way of describing aspects of these new relationships. People organize in assemblies, calling them assemblies and gatherings over terms such as
meetings – and use similar forms in these assemblies, as well as all share the experience of doing so in public space, often taking it over and occupying it – even if for only a period of time. Many of these occupied spaces then organize internal forms of conflict resolution, from the mediation group in OWS to the “security” teams in Egypt and
Greece, and a group with a very similar intention called “Respect” in Spain. To look at the images from Tahrir Square in Cairo, Syntagma Square in Athens, Zuccotti/Liberty Plaza in New York, or Puerta del Sol in Madrid, to name only a few of the thousands, is to see a very similar occupation, including everything from libraries, child care, health services, food, legal, media and art. The forms of organization and relationships created in the space, all using direct democracy are massive, growing and globally consistent – not the same of course – but so similar as to be a new global phenomenon.
Also similar globally is a reterritorialization of the movements after a few months. Since the intention of the movements in not to only change a plaza or square, but society as a whole, the plaza is more of a starting point, and over time people begin to move more and more into spheres that relate more directly to beginning to retake and control their own lives. Thus, around the world there has been a shift into neighborhoods and workplaces, to focus on local needs, yet at the same time come together to coordinate. As, for example, in Athens, where there are now a few dozen neighborhood assemblies that then come together each Sunday to have an assembly of assemblies to coordinate the resistance and refusal to pay newly imposed taxes. Or the powerful eviction preventions that are coordinated throughout Spain, based in neighborhoods and then networked regionally. In the US there is also an increase in neighborhood based organizing as well as neighborhood and city wide eviction preventions. People continue to use the plazas and squares as a place to gather, have assemblies and sometimes occupy, but the form of territorial construction is shifting – and again doing so in a way that is consistent globally.
Recuperating Language and Voice
Many words and phrases have come into common global usage through common processes of rejection and creation. While many of the words and phrases that are used in the current global movements are new for movements, or at least in their current usages, they are often, if not always, with a history and context. And in this case, the history of the ‘new’ language also emerged from movements seeking to describe what they were creating and doing in ways not previously used – again – also often drawing on words and phrases with histories – but ones that then, as now, have taken on new meanings based on the new context. The retaking and rediscovering of words and language is a part of the same process of the people finding their own voices with the new usages of direct democracy.
As people recuperate their voices, having not had them under representational forms of democracy, they find themselves as well. The movements recognize this new agency and protagonism and name it – as naming things is a powerful process in the retaking of history and life.
The claim for voice and language is a claim for real democracy.
the text above is from the introduction to the pamphlet – it does not include the next section, which is specifically on May Day – for that read the pdf file:
Happy May Day!!