A European General Assembly

Agora 99 General Assembly, photo via @dar1o

November 4,

Dear people,

Agora 99 has been concluded with a vibrant General Assembly in the Eko Social Centre of Madrid. Initially the meeting should have taken place on Puerta del Sol, but because of the rain we retreated to the giant hall next to the centre’s popular library, one of the spaces where workshops were held over the weekend.

Without a doubt, the Agora has become a success. I already had a good feeling about it at the start. And though I didn’t sit through the meetings, I saw my impressions confirmed every evening, and today during the closing assembly.

‘Great!’, you may say, ‘now what did you people agree upon? What are you going to do?’ And I would answer: I haven’t got the faintest idea.

So how come I call it a success, if I don’t even know what has been agreed?

To understand this, you have to realise that we do not represent anybody outside ourselves. We are not the movement. We cannot take decisions in anybody’s else’s name. We are a few hundred dedicated citizens who have come together to share ideas about changing the world.

The fact that we got this meeting off the ground, and that so many people participated, is a success in itself. Next to the locals, there were significant delegations from Barcelona, from the UK, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Greece, even from outside Europe.

The brainstorming sessions on subjects like debt, democracy and rights have resulted in a flood of more or less practical ideas about actions, demonstrations, dates, alternatives and civil disobedience that were put forward in today’s assembly.

The assembly lasted for most of the afternoon, and some will say that it was the “same old” weary mess that we have come to expect from large assemblies.

I didn’t see it that way. I have witnessed many assemblies – ‘farces’ would be a more accurate description – in which people only argued about what points should be on the agenda, and in what order they were supposed to be discussed. This time, at least, there was a real debate about content, and about future actions. The language was English, with simultaneous translations. And despite all the languages, and over two hundred people present, it worked out well.

Having said this, the assembly itself was the least interesting activity of the day. Much more important were the discussions ‘in the corridors’, and in other informal settings in which we got to know each other and were able to create connections.

We will all take some new ideas home with us, we will share them with others, we will develop them further, we will share them again through the network we have have built in these days, we will gain feedback, etc. This is the way things get moving. Not through a document or a declaration which was drafted by few, and then consensuated by an assembly that will only gather once.

At the end of the official events, when many people are already returning home, I get caught up in a civil disobedience workshop which unites activists from Madrid, London, Berlin and New York, aimed at coordinating actions around shared themes in each of these cardinal points of the movement. All participants here are veterans. From 15M, from OWS, from OccupyLSX, etc. Every one of us has experience on what can capture the imagination locally, and globally. Putting it all together, we will learn. We will get sharper.

 On repeated occasions it turned out that many of us already knew each other through the web. The Agora has become a success, not in the least because it gave us the opportunity to meet each other face to face, and to realise that we are more than an online social network. We are humanity, we are working towards change, and we will not be stopped.

The upcoming appointment is for next weekend in Florence, Italy. Everyone is invited.


2 Comments on “A European General Assembly”

  1. fernando teijón says:

    Estoy plenamente de acuerdo con la valoración general. Para los movimientos sociales, y en especial para el 15M, enhorabuena. El único aspecto criticable, creo que compartido por un sector de los participantes, es el excesivo peso del inglés en todas las alocuciones; en muchos casos cuando no era necesario. En este sentido hemos agradecido las intervenciones que, además del castellano, nos han permitido escuchar a numerosas personas en italiano; todo un regalo para el oido. Lástima no haber podido disfrutar del alemán, el esloveno, o el holandés. Esperemos tomar conciencia de este aspecto: la riqueza de nuestros idiomas, una muestra más de la pluralidad de nuestras asambleas. No caigamos en la lengua única; puede vehicular un reduccionismo del pensamiento, único?

    • Maybe it’s a bit ironic, but I think it’s worth to translate this comment into… English.

      “I completely agree with this general assessment. Congratulations to the social movements, and especially the 15M. The only point of criticism, which I think is shared by part of the participants, is the excessive importance of English in all communications. In many cases it wasn’t necessary. In this sense we have much appreciated the interventions which, in addition to Spanish, have allowed us to listen to lots of people speaking in Italian, a treat for the ear. Too bad I haven’t been able to enjoy German, Slovenian, or Dutch. Hopefully we will be conscient of this aspect: the richness of our languages, another example of the plurality of our assemblies. Let’s not reduce ourselves to one single language. It may lead us to reduce ourselves to one single way of thinking.”

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