Popular assembly

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A popular assembly (or people's assembly) is a gathering called to address issues of importance to participants. Assemblies tend to be freely open to participation and operate by direct democracy. Some assemblies are of people from a location, some from a given workplace, industry or educational establishment others are called to address a specific issue.

The term is often used to describe gatherings that address, what participants feel are, the effects of a democratic deficit in representative democratic systems.[1] Sometimes assemblies are created to form an alternative power structure, other times they work with other forms of government.

As a government[edit]

Ancient Greece[edit]

Athens[edit]

In Athenian democracy the Ecclesia was the assembly of all male citizens. Citizens who did not engage politically were called ἰδιώτης (idiōtēs), meaning a private person, a person who is not actively interested in politics; such characters were talked about with contempt and the word eventually transformed to its modern form - idiot.

Modern times[edit]

New England[edit]

The town meeting is the traditional governing body of the New England town, which in its traditional form is open to all adult residents to discuss and vote on the major issues of town government. It was founded in the colonial era as an outgrowth of church meetings, which then became secularized as a purely governmental meeting.[2] Although larger towns have since moved to more representative forms of government, it is still widely practiced in smaller and more rural communities.

The similarly named town hall meeting, where politicians meet with their constituents and discuss issues, is named after and meant to resemble the town meeting.

Examples[edit]

Argentine economic crisis (1999–2002)[edit]

During the Argentine economic crisis (1999–2002) many Argentinian citizens started engaging and organising their actions through assemblies.

After closure, the Chilvert printing press was occupied by workers who organised through an assembly. Within weeks of being reopened as a workers cooperative Chilvert printed a book called Que son las Asembleas Populares? or What are the Popular Assemblies?,[3] a collection of articles written by renowned intellectuals Miguel Bonasso, Stella Calloni and Rafael Bielsa as well as workers and participants in the assemblies.

As with other workplaces,[4] the print factory was saved from closure by the actions of a popular assembly. The military and police were blocked from entering the factory after the popular assembly of Pompeya called on barrio residents to protect the workplace. Individual police officers expressed their support for the workers and the popular assembly and successfully petitioned the judge to rescind his order to seize the factory.

The assemblies movement is reported to have spiked in power rapidly and fallen from any major significance within months. It is reported[5] that Grigera summing up his analysis of the asambleas states

'no matter how progressive or 'advanced' the social relationships, forms of decision-making and activities of asambleas are said to be, their small scale, lack of influence and flawed coordination between themselves and other movements render this movement unable to overcome very narrow limitations.'

Cherán (2011 - Present)[edit]

The town of Cherán in Mexico saw armed citizens kick out the corrupt police, drug cartels, and mayor in 2011. Since then they have adopted a system of popular assemblies to govern the town, which is somewhat independent of the central government.[6]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "BEYOND INSURRECTION. ARGENTINA AND NEW INTERNATIONALISM|Ana c. Dinerstein|The Commoner N.5 Autumn 2002" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 May 2013. Retrieved 27 January 2011.
  2. ^ "New England Town Meetings". community.weber.edu. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  3. ^ "Throw them all out" Argentina's grassroots rebellion|Roger Burbach|Spotlight|2 July 2002
  4. ^ The Argentine rebellion|Roger Burbach|Spotlight|21 February 2002
  5. ^ Debating the lessons of the Argentine Insurrection |Joe Craig|12 May 2006
  6. ^ Cárdenas, Lourdes. "Life Without Politicians: A Mexican Indigenous Community Finds Its Own Way". Truthout. Retrieved 7 May 2020.

External links[edit]

Videos[edit]