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was recently sat in a large gymnasium, towards the outskirts of Nice, with individuals of occupy movements from across the world. We were there for the counter-G20 summit, and had been invited to “occupy” an open space and use it to link up and discuss. As we sat in a big circle and faced each other, it became apparent that we would need some form of process in order to interact. A fantastic team of translators helped with linguistic barriers, but we had no collective basis for facilitating and making decisions in the meeting. What followed was an hour of debate over which hand signals to use during the meeting (the wavy hands in agreement being the most universally accepted), and a lengthy discussion on the best way to carry out our meeting.
The above scenario brought us into very familiar territory for those in the occupy movement: “meetings about meetings” or, if you are really unlucky, “meetings about meetings about meetings”. The failure of democracy, both political and economic, that has been so widely experienced by those occupying has lead to a very strong emphasis on non‐hierarchical and participatory politics in the movement. The act of occupation has been a crucial tactic to open up space for democratic experimentation. By collectively occupying a space there are no guests; we are all hosts. This means we must take responsibility for our space, and find a way of organising ourselves that is acceptable to all.
At the heart of the occupy movement’s process is the General Assembly (the “GA”), in which decisions about the group are made, and we express our thoughts to the world around us. For many, the GA will be on the back of a long process of discussions in working groups, and endless meetings about wordings of statements. The decision—making process of the GA is non—hierarchical, and seeks consensus amongst occupiers, finding common ground amongst the diverse collective. It can therefore appear slow, and very drawn out.
Sitting in Nice, after an hour discussing hand signals, it became apparent that we all had very different ways of doing our occupy politics. Our particular sociopolitical experiences had shaped our understandings of how we should be engaging with one another (e.g. should we all be allowed to speak, or do we need time constraints and cut off points?). What we all shared, however, was a strong commitment to the process of our politics. It is not the destination that drives us, but the path that takes us there. And it is a path that we make by walking on it, constantly (re)making it in the process.