Citizen Action Monitor

Make the Occupy Movement a “real threat” — Bring the Assembly meeting process to neighourhoods

No 315 Posted by fw, October 27, 2011

“[Suppose] in Barcelona they go to the city square and they have their gigantic assembly. Suppose they decide, you know what, that’s good and we should do that once a month, but in the other three weeks the assembly should be in neighbourhoods, and it should be neighbourhood people. . . . And so now what we have is local assemblies, local occupations. And what do those do? Those begin to govern. Those begin to assess the needs of the community and the needs of the local neighbourhood and to come up with demands and also just programs, policies, activities that can be undertaken without demands to begin to redesign life in those neighbourhoods. Then the movement starts to become a real threat.” Michael Albert

Michael Albert, American activist, economist, prolific author, and political theorist reflects on the positive aspects of the Occupy Movement as it has evolved so far, speculates on worst and best case scenarios and suggests that introducing the Occupy Assembly meeting process to neighbourhoods might be one way of transforming Occupy into a stable, global social movement.

Watch Albert sketch out his neighbourhood assembly scenario from his perch at the Rebellious Media Conference in London on October 8, 2011. The passage at the top of this post is from the video, Michael Albert talks about ‘Occupy Wall Street’ and beyond, which was produced by David McKnight & Yoann Le Guen. My transcript, including added subheadings, appears below the embedded video.

Michael Albert talks about ‘Occupy Wall Street’ and beyond

TRANSCRIPT

What’s positive about the Occupy Movement is people standing up and saying no to reactionary policies

In the United States, the movement that’s called Occupy Wall Street happened, but it’s no longer all there is. Around the world the last study I looked at said that there were 800 to 900 cities which were engaging in or planning occupation-type activities. That’s pretty astounding. I happened to be in Kentucky, which is one of the poorer – 7th from the bottom in terms of income status in the United States, I believe – states. It’s a southern state, and in Louisville and Lexington, the two larger cities in Kentucky, they’re doing it. They’re instituting occupations. So this phenomenon of standing up to the policies designed to get out of the crisis by enhancing those at the top, by hurting those below, this phenomenon of standing up to that – Occupy Wall Street – is spreading rapidly in the United States and around the world.

It started, in a sense, a while ago in Greece and Spain and so on, and now it’s spreading dramatically. What’s positive is partly people standing up and democratically and militantly saying no to these reactionary policies, and saying instead we should engage policies that will benefit those who are in need. So that’s positive.

The process itself is positive in that it’s bringing in wider circles of participation

It’s positive that it’s being done in a way that’s designed to bring in and incorporate wider and wider circles of participation and to not have a few early participants or a few long-time activists in these domains decide everything in advance, but instead try and bring people in, listen, hear what people desire and act on it in a movement.

We don’t know how this Occupy Movement will turn out. Worst case scenario – it could dissipate

We don’t know what’ll happen. It could dissipate. It could internally fracture as people don’t behave well or as people fail to understand the situation they’re encountering. Those are possibilities for sure. And if that happens it’ll be demoralizing. But still we’ll have seen some potential.

Best case scenario – Occupy Assemblies spread into neighbourhoods

But the other possibility is that it keeps growing. The other possibility is that these assemblies, these occupations spread further and that they begin to address the crisis – what’s called the economic crisis – by coming up with demands to solve it that really would benefit those beneath. Then you could come up with organizational steps. So, for instance, if you take something like Spain where you have huge numbers of people involved in these – you know, they’re ahead of the US in that sense, by a large margin, or Greece – huge numbers of people are involved, so in Barcelona they go to the city square and they have their gigantic assembly.

Suppose they decide, you know what, that’s good and we should do that once a month, but in the other three weeks the assembly should be in neighbourhoods, and it should be neighbourhood people. And so what we should do, we should take all those people who are in the Barcelona assembly and the people from neighbourhood one, neighbourhood two and neighbourhood three, hold assemblies in those neighbourhoods. And now start again with the effort of upping the number of people. And so now what we have is local assemblies, local occupations. And what do those do? Those begin to govern. Those begin to assess the needs of the community and the needs of the local neighbourhood and to come up with demands and also just programs, policies, activities that can be undertaken without demands to begin to redesign life in those neighbourhoods.

And people in neighbourhood assemblies are empowered to take control of their own lives

Then the movement starts to become a real threat. Then the movement is basically an instance of not just protest, not even large-scale protest, but it’s an instance of people literally starting to take control of their own lives, and starting to engage in constructive creation of new relationships and new policies. And, in addition, it could also make demands about the economy as a whole. If that kind of thing starts to happen then this phenomenon spreading around the world could be of world historic importance, could be truly profound. We’ll see.

PERSONAL OBSERVATION – Today, as global stock markets shot up in response to positive EU financial news, and a spurt in US consumer spending, I wondered what impact more good economic news might have on the Occupy Movement. I’m just old enough to recall that the initial impact of the 1973 Oil Crisis forced the Big Three US auto companies to respond to consumer demand for smaller, more fuel-efficient cars. However, within two years, sales of larger cars rebounded. If the global economy pulls out of this recession and unemployment drops, will the Occupy Movement follow the short-lived Oil Crisis trajectory with people abandoning the cause to fill job openings and to return to pre-recessionary spending habits?

One way to forestall a potential dissipation of interest might be for the Occupy Movement to proactively embrace climate change as a fundamental platform plank. After all, unbridled capitalism is a primary driver of perilous global climate change, for, in living well beyond our means, we have overshot the earth’s carrying capacity.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog, Citizen Action Monitor, may contain copyrighted material that may not have been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Such material, published without profit, is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues. It is published in accordance with the provisions of the 2004 Supreme Court of Canada ruling and its six principle criteria for evaluating fair dealing

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