New social movements based on open assemblies is emerging in ever more places in Europe and North America as a response to bank bailouts, unemployment, austerity measures and growing economic inequalities. This is not the first time in history that assembly movements have appeared, and there is a great deal to be learned from the gains and mistakes of such past experiences.
One of the most recent instances appeared in Argentina in what has been called the first rebellion against neoliberalism in the 21st century. The people’s assemblies in Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires and other cities have been described in earlier articles on New Compass, including Popular Assemblies in Revolts and Revolutions, From Argentina to Wall Street and Is Power Always bad?.
However, there is a lack of literature in English that evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of the assembly movement in Argentina. Even fewer publications have dealt with why the movement failed and eventually disappeared. One rare exception from this is – surprisingly enough – a bachelor thesis written by Mariah Thompson at the University of Oregon in 2010. This thesis, is called The Disappearance of the Neighborhood Assembly Movement in Buenos Aires – Argentina 2001-2004: A Phase of Demobilization?.
I have chosen to write a short review of Thompson’s thesis, because I think the lessons learned in Argentina may be valueable for the assembly movements emerging around the world. If we are going to succeed in our struggle for “real democracy,” we have to learn from the success’ and failures of past movements with similar ambitions.
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