Source: Open Democracy
New social movements are different. Instead of asking for alternatives, they are bringing them to life.
“The greatest problem we have is that we can’t imagine any alternative. And that is the challenge: to invent, create and think as if we were living just after the collapse, if there is a collapse of capitalism, and how we will organize.” Ana, Observatorio Metropolitano and 15M, Madrid.
For the past ten years I have been travelling the world and talking with people like Ana, who are creating new social movements that challenge our conceptions of collective action. I lived in Argentina after the 2001 economic crisis and recorded an oral history of the rebellion that followed. I spent time with self-organized water users’ groups in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and with Occupy throughout the USA. And I worked with neighborhood assemblies in Greece and Spain, as well as with housing defense groups in the USA and Germany.
None of these examples are traditional social movements that formulate demands and then make claims on the institutions that are supposed to implement them, an approach that often placates the movement and leads only to temporary gains. Instead, these are much deeper attempts to reclaim our relationships to one another, and to reinvent ways of being that are rooted in horizontal solidarity, sharing, democracy and love.
“I guess for me I am a firm believer in the power of direct action and basically creating conditions where one would force the state to come to the negotiating table, and consequently making these changes, rather than the framework of demands which is perhaps a slightly less passive form of begging or petitioning, which I think often re-legitimizes the power of the state.” Matt, Occupy Wall Street, New York.
Matt’s observation summarizes what – for many critics – constitutes a weakness of these new movements, but which they see as a strength: they don’t attempt to sway public opinion or influence government policy, and they aren’t organized around a formal program. Rather than demanding a future which they know will never be given to them by others, their goal is to create their own futures together.