Nuit Debout: Resonances of rebellion

“This must be a perfect mini-society,” a member of the gardening committee told the crowd. A poetry committee has been set up to document and create the movement’s slogans. “Every movement needs its artistic and literary element,” said the poet who proposed it.

the guardian 08/04/2016

From its first night on the 31st of March, the “Nuit Debout” (stand up/rise up, at night) protests in france have spread from Paris’ Place de la Republique to over forty cities in the country, and beyond (e.g. Brussels, Berlin, ValenciaLisbon), while mass protests against reforms to the labour code continue.  The echoes of earlier occupation movements resonate, from Tahrir to Gezi Park, in form and substance: the occupation of city squares, the organisation of horizontal assemblies, working groups and thematic commissions, self-organisation of the needs of the occupiers, the refusal of all political representation by parties or labour unions, the absence of any identifiable leadership or of demands made upon public authorities … in sum, a politics of affirmation, self-creation, rather than of opposition to established powers; a politics of autonomy instead of a call on existing powers to respond to unsatisfied social needs.

In the first general statement to come out of the movement, this tenor remains:

Nuit Debout’s call, place de la République
Paris, 8th April 2016

Everywhere in Europe, #40mars (9th of april)
Rise Up together

Since 31 March, we are settled on Republic square (in Paris) and on many other places everywhere throughout France.

Our mobilisation was initially aimed at protesting against the French Labour Law. This reform is not an isolated case, since it comes as a new piece in the austerity measures which already affected our European neighbours and which will have the same effects as the Italian Job Acts or the Reforma Laboral in Spain. This concretely means more layoffs, more precarity, growing inequalities and the shaping of private interests. We refuse to suffer this shock strategy, notably imposed in the context of an authoritarian state of emergency.

The debates taking place in the assemblies on Republic square prove that the general exasperation goes way beyond the Labour Law and opens a more global issue: the reconsideration of a social and political system stuck into a deep crisis and on its way out. We will not be the ones crying because of its end.

This movement was not born and will not die in Paris. From the Arab Spring to the 15M Movement, from Tahrir Square to Gezi park, Republic square and the plenty of other places occupied tonight in France are depicting the same angers, the same hopes and the same conviction: the need for a new society, where Democracy, Dignity and Liberty would not be hollow shells.

Supporting testimonies received from abroad warm us and strengthen our commitment. This movement is yours too. It has no limit, no border and it belongs to all of those who wish to be part of it. We are thousands, but we can be millions. Together, standing, awake. Let’s rise up together.

The #40mars (9 of april), organise your #Nuitdebout

Press contact: [email protected]


It would of course be naive at this point to celebrate the movement as the beginning of a revolution (as if everyone knows what that is), but equally foolish to dismiss it as yet another ephemeral disturbance of a dying middle class, threatened with disappearance at the first signs of the State’s teeth and unrestrained capitalism.

French leftist political parties – even the socialist party – have tried in various ways to pacify events; efforts to assimilate the movement to spain’s 15M (in a terribly reductive and ultimately false reading), with the ambition of tying it to the creation of a Podemos-like political party are everywhere to be heard; the movement is itself not homogeneous, and thus is run through with currents and tendencies which pretend in no way to be radically anti-capitalist; the over emphasis on a language of citizenship, new constituent political authority, counter-hegemony, draped in practices of “direct democracy” may augur ill for any radically autonomous politics.  But then no ideological or practical uniformity can be expected in any moment of rebellion, today or in the past.  And what the Place de la Republique  and the other occupied squares of france have become above all are spaces of convergence of struggle/creation, spaces of encounter uncontrolled by State and corporate authorities, where commonalities are encountered and made, and inevitably thrown up against/beyond existing realities of oppression.

For the Nuit Debout, time has stopped, the month of March is now without end; for as with all moments of rebellion-creation, events explode the regular sequence of time, sever the moment from the manageable sequence of normal and controllable pasts-presents and futures, thus opening the moment to the infinite possibilities of invention.

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