The voices of Nuit Debout are many. If by political or social movement is meant a consistent, unified, centralised and programed force, then Nuit Debout is not one. It is rather a space, a confluence, a threshold of and for initiatives, agencies, projects. The “general assemblies” of the squares should aspire to no more than that, to be but the condition for that confluence. Anything more than that is to transform the assemblies into embryonic sovereignties which will demand exclusions while including, which will generate leaderships and corresponding policing, which will gate and close the threshold.
By the authorities, all will be done to undermine and destroy these spaces. By those who pass through them, mistakes will be made in the name of organisation, peaceful disobedience, program. What is fundamental is that the assemblies not become sovereign, that they remain open points of passage, for which no “movement” is responsible. The assemblies must function through seduction and resonance: they will attract those who struggle against existing social relations, giving to them courage, strength, knowledge. They will repel those for whom such freedom and generosity are frightful or an anathema to their self-interest.
We share below one of the many anonymous voices of Nuit Debout, in the form of a petition authored by “Camille Delaplace”, To join the Nuits Debout to directly explore what holds us together (Change.org) …
It is not a movement, it is a space. A square, literally, that is at the same time an urban interstitial, without buildings or cars, an emptiness, an availability, where the unrealised may come. This emptiness, we have not had to create it around us. We have all lived in it for a longtime now. It is the emptiness of legitimacy within which almost all of the collective decisions are taken today.
Emptiness of political power, of course, where speech sounds as hollow as a tree long since dead, but which, with Hollande and Vals in France, has reached an almost unprecedented level of perfection of inanity
Empitness of economic power also, which since 2008 the destructive inefficiency of the markets has been brought into the light of day, plunging whole continents into misery and chaos for the benefit of a minority of some few thousand mega-exploiters.
Emptiness of geopolitical and military power, from the moment that the american power along with its european cronies sat on the principle of international legality which they nevertheless dangled before us at the fall of the Berlin Wall, confirming afterwards, in Iraq and elsewhere, that there would be but one law in their brutalised world: the law of the most armed.
Emptiness of media power, that essentially manages an obedient and precarious class, depressed by imposed formats, the empire of publicity and the control of owners who are none other than the grand capitalists of the moment.
Emptiness of intellectual power as well, represented by a minuscule myriad made up essentially of old, white men, always the same, moving in a circle, from television show to newspaper columns, to give to their fears and their hatreds the form of “opinions”.
In fact, it is the whole of our civilisation, industrial civilisation, that has lost its legitimacy and which turns from now on itself in a distressful emptiness. The vain promise of a continuous progress has run up against the announcement of global warming, among other names for the global ecological crisis. They promised us the emancipation of men/women, but they forgot one detail: that it deploys itself on one planet, the Earth, there is but one, and many would be needed to generalise the industrial mode of life to all humans. It is known that we cannot continue this way, but it is not known how to stop. They are right, those who say that it has become easier to envisage the end of the world than the end of capitalism.
The king is naked, as in the fable. With our hallucinated eyes, we have seen our leaders betray casually and with a smile all their mandates, our bankers ruin peoples with elegant gestures then pillage them in the name of the general interest, our military export war with the airs of the virtuous in the name of peace, our payed experts accuse their colleagues of lying if they speak of global warming or the dangers of industry, our intellectuals reconstruct racist discourse in the name of debate.
We needed a square, just a square, a space for us to gather in order to reconstruct, in thought and action, what makes us go together. It was sufficient to decide for all of a sudden, on the night of the 31st of March, everything to become possible. It was from here, from these cold and humid stones, that we will begin to act together.
We begin from nothing: a simple open quadrilateral between buildings. And from there we will see if something like a capacity for collective action can be reconstructed.
We will never demonstrate so effectively the inanity of those who pretend to take decisions in our place than by constructing an alternative and parallel collective. A single and common process of destitution and constitution – this is what is at stake in the Nuits Debout.
Anyone can come. Without a mandate, without a title, without a diploma: the square is a generic space where the equal capacity of each can be exercised. Each, according to their availability, to their desire, can stop there, participate in this or that part of the collective process, leave, return. The square is a space of initiative. There is no program, no structure: everything is decided in the square, the structures are born progressively, like delicate crystalisations on the surface of an agitated water. There is no centre, but a middle – so many signs of convergence of our diverse lines that concretely shape an environment where we experience what we can together.
It is necessary to come to feel, what can perhaps finally be rediscovered, the immediacy of the political. It is necessary to come and see these “general assemblies” made up of a seated crowd that does not cease to grow as the night continues, with each limit of the circle formed by people standing sitting in turn, literally opening up the horizon. It is necessary to come to see these actions decided upon and suddenly carried out, in the very heart of the assembly, as if the square were a strange body from which, time to time, active organs detach themselves. That someone speaks to signal an eviction taking place, and 50 people get up to give help. That refugees take the microphone to speak of certain difficulties and 10 or 80 people set themselves aside to resolve some part of the problem. That someone tells of secondary school students under arrest and 100 people rise to protest before the police station where they are held. Other decide, in workshops, the lay the bases of what could be a new constituent text, they will meet tomorrow. Those who leave do so with the applause of those who stay behind, who will perhaps decide to leave in turn a few moments later. There is no problem: there always remain enough people in the square because we are larger than it. Perhaps, soon, it will be necessary to migrate to another, like the swarms of bees that divide themselves.
We do not know where this is going, but we know that it is new and intense, we know that it is the first time in a long time that the emptiness where we live is finally exposed by an active and resolute process of collective creation. Everyday, they clear us out. The cops disperse the last groups in the early morning, excavators destroy the few solid things that had been constructed, the cleaning trucks efface our traces. We do not fight back. We leave. But everyday, we come back. With our tarpaulins, with our tents, with our wooden pallets, with our bits of boxes, with are fragments of texts always longer, with our experience, with our progress. Day after day, despite the rain, despite the harassment from the police, despite the disbelief, something is constructed. Those who prohibited pitching our tents in the squares did not understand that we will leave them in their spirit and in that of their children. We will always come back.
We invite everyone who thinks that there is a need to re-found together, by word and by action, what holds us together.
(Commentary and discussion around Nuit Debout continues to multiply. Two recent articles in english are worth citing: Marisa Holmes, “The Spirit of Occupy Lives on in France’s Emerging Direct Democracy Movement”, Truth Out, 15/04/2016; Marina Sitrin, “‘Soon we will be millions’: from Paris with love and lessons”, Roarmag, 16/04/2014).