Assemblies Emerging In Turkey: A Lesson In Democracy

The protesters are starting to counter-pose their own direct democracy to the sham of a democracy proposed by Erdogan’s authoritarian neoliberal state – Published on Roarmag.org, by Jerome Roos, June 19, 2013.

… Interestingly, the members of the popular assemblies in Turkey use the same hand-signs as the indignados, indicating that some of the methods were directly inspired by the real democracy protests in Spain. This, in turn, seems to confirm the idea we raised very early on in the Turkish uprising, and a claim that many Turkish activists have been making from the very start: namely that this movement is not just a local or national protest, but part of a global struggle against the subverted nature of representative capitalist democracy and for real democracy and total liberation.  

What, then, is real democracy? Obviously it’s difficult to have a straightforward answer to such a complex question, seeing that different people will interpret the idea (and the ideal) differently. It is quite easy, however, to identify what it is not. Democracy stands for the rule of the people. As a result, when corporate interests and religious delusions begin to dominate government, that is not democracy. In fact, when a small elite of elected politicians is delegated to speak on behalf of the rest, that is not the rule of the people but their representation.

The worldwide experiments with direct democracy — in the form of horizontal self-organization through popular assemblies, decentralized mutual aid networks, thematic working groups, and so on — provide a glimpse of what another world could look like. Of course, none of this is to say that the protesters have a blueprint in hand for the ideal revolutionary society; but they are actively testing and trying out different models to see how large groups of people can effectively organize themselves without hierarchical and centralized leadership.

Last year, when shooting our first ROAR documentary – Utopia on the Horizon – in Athens, we interviewed Manolis Glezos, the 90-year-old Greek WWII resistance hero who is currently an MP for the coalition of the radical left. Glezos experimented with direct democracy when he was the mayor of a village on the island of Naxos. Even though Glezos still believes that a parliament controlled by popular forces can help activists on the ground, he insists that the citizens’ revolution as such cannot proceed if the people do not organize themselves from below … //

… Still, on a more humble level — yet perhaps the most important of all — we should be careful not to fetishize direct democracy. At the end of the day, the assembly is a very simple phenomenon: it is about ordinary people craving to be heard and to have a say in their lives. Assemblies are a way to allow those who have been shut up for years to finally stand up in dignity and to speak their voice — and be heard. It is about recovering our collective sense of humanity from the rapacious claws and unrepresentive institutions of the capitalist state.

As such, the assemblies are a beautiful and crucial form of social engagement and political participation. In the future, they may well be expanded to cover more and more segments of the population. But even in these moments of elation, when we see the people taking matters into their own hands and enacting real democracy in the places where they live and work, we should stay realistic: this is only just the beginning. The capitalist state survives, and creating our own parallel society is not enough. We must self-organize, and then push our quest for autonomy outwards to eventually encapsulate all of society.

Luckily, there is hope that such radical aspirations may not just be a pipe dream. In a sign that this leaderless movement is already deregulating the violent flow of authority unleashed by the Turkish state, the increasingly desperate government is doubling down on the repression, arresting random people who were sighted at the protests or who sent out “provocative” Tweets, and even threatening to send in the army. As Oscar puts it, “the authorities still don’t understand what’s happening. They look for leaders, people to corrupt or to eliminate. But there are none. We are not an organisation, we are a world wide web. We are the people on the threshold of changing times.”
(full text with 7 photos of assemblies and including many hyper-links).

Links:

Washington vs. Edward Snowden, Update
, on SteveLendmanBlog, by Stephen Lendman, June 24, 2013, including the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region’s (HKSAR) press release, June 23, 2013;

Stasi in the White House, on Intrepid Report, by Paul Craig Roberts, June 24, 2013;

UK tapping Europe’s data flows is like Hollywood nightmare – Germany, on Russia Today RT, June 23, 2013;

Texas lawmakers debate closing nearly all the state’s abortion clinics, on Raw Story,by Stephen C. Webster, June 23, 2013;

The Raw Campaign: An Interview with Jonty Whittleton, on nourishing the planet, by Carol Dreibelbis, June 11, 2013;

The Question of Strategy: Part 2, on Counterfire, by Alex Snowdon, June 13, 2013: In the second part of the review of Socialist Register 2013: The Question of Strategy, the strengths and weaknesses of campaigning strategies are discussed, from Occupy to the People’s Assembly.

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