“The Counter-Insurrection Is Failing”

Adrian Wohlleben

The largest uprising in France since 1968 continues to gain momentum. Participants in Paris and Rouen speak to Adrian Wohlleben about the unfolding dynamic.

PARIS

What’s the situation right now?

The Yellow Jackets are stronger than ever.

Can you give us a quick rundown of the past few weeks in Paris?

On December 22, a demo descended from Montmartre toward the Champs-Elysées, cleverly finessed its way through police lines, and rioted. In spite of this tactical victory, the official numbers for that day were counted very low, and people tended to believe the numbers put out by the state and its media, even though they weren’t true. There was supposed to be a demo for the New Year, but there were too many tourists, and it was drowned out by thousands of people on the Champs-Elysée that day. This led the politicians to arrogantly claim that the movement was dying, that its numbers were dwindling, and so on. But the intensity of the mobilization on the January 5 surprised everyone. It was a new peak of violence, with intense clashes in the ritzy neighborhood of St. Germain—a Christmas Market was broken up and repurposed into barricades, the famous boxer Christophe Dettinger beat up a cop on a bridge next to the National Assembly, etc. The police apparatus failed, but there were also many, many injured.

In the organizing leading up to the demonstration on Saturday, January 12, a sort of split emerged within the Yellow Jackets. One side called for people to descend on Bourges, which is in the exact middle of France, with the idea of gathering everyone together in one spot, while the others called for people to return to Paris again. Happily, many went to both: eight thousand people turned up in Bourges, where a riot took place, while twenty thousand people came out in Paris. The official numbers say that January 12 was the biggest numbers for the movement yet (ten thousand people came out in Toulouse, for example).

In Paris, the January 12 demo was set up in the fashion of a classic union march from point A to point B, with the route announced in advance. The state loves demos like this. It was to start at Bercy and end at Étoile. The police kept a low profile during most of the demo, and placed all their forces at the Place de L’Étoile. When the demo was supposed to disperse, cops blocked all exits except one. There were too many people, and the one exit was too small for people to get out, as it was blocked by people entering the space. Police ferociously attacked the crowd, shooting, teargassing, and beating countless people. The level of repression has been very intimidating. Three wild demos took off from outside the kettle and marched until late, which is good. But in these demos, too, honestly many people were afraid. The marches did make it back to Champs-Elysées, and rioted a bit with something like two thousand people, but there’s only so much that is possible against tanks and water cannons. The same thing was repeated later in the evening, near Galerie Lafayette. Elsewhere that day, a fireman in Bordeaux caught a flashball to the back of the head and is in a coma right now. And yet, in spite of the best efforts of police to intimidate the crowds, from Bourges to Bourdeaux, from Toulouse to Paris and Rouen, Yellow Jackets rioted all day until late in the evening, highways were blocked, and toll booths taken over.

It sounds like the police are working across purposes. On the one hand, they want things to fall back into the union style A-to-B march, but on the other hand, they attack people when they arrive at the terminus, either on purpose or by bungling things and panicking, so people won’t be willing to follow the march to its destination.

Exactly. Another noteworthy thing is that was there was a volunteer “march marshal” service (service de l’ordre) for the demo comprised of maybe eighty people. In addition to being fairly unconvincing to begin with, two of its leaders were later discovered to be well-known fascists. They have since been outed, and the marshals denounced online. So this element of the conventional “protest apparatus” is also having trouble reconstituting itself.

Do you have any sense of what’s happening in the near-hinterland, at the roundabouts in smaller towns?

I was briefly at a roundabout near Rouen (the Rond-point des vaches). It was great. There were around forty people, who were determined to stay there till the end. Here in Paris, there are Yellow Vests in the neighborhood of Belleville who block the intersection outside the Belleville Metro stop every Monday and Thursday from 6 to 8pm. It’s mostly normal people, not leftists, and feels pretty cool.

There have also been blockades again over the past two days in at least three different Amazon distribution facilities across France. In Paris there were blockades of Geodis distribution facility in Gennevilliers, in the suburbs of Paris. Such blockades have happened in the past near Paris, but usually they concluded at the end of a single day. This time they seem to be lasting longer. So, we’ll see.

What happened with this “great debate” that Macron staged?

There are two things. Macron had the first of his little town hall meetings with local mayors in a tiny village last week. The police banned the wearing of yellow vests, brought out water cannons, and kettled basically the whole damn town. I heard Macron even arrived by air [laughs], I’m not sure. It is worth saying that prior to this new “debate,” the government refused to budge from its official position or entertain any questioning of their neoliberal program of reforms. Now they appear to be cracking a bit. And, as if to spice up the debate, they threw in a series of questions about immigration, perhaps hoping to draw attention to this shitty question. Fortunately, no one is buying it. Only half of the anticipated six hundred mayors even showed up for the meeting! It means that the process is already failing straight out of the gates, and that Macron continues to inspire little confidence.

What did the press say about the day?

The press celebrated it, saying Macron spoke for seven hours, and “made a good effort.” Yellow Vests didn’t buy it.

So it didn’t neutralize the movement?

Not at all. Macron wrote a letter to the French people, asking what people want to talk about, and so on. But the leaders of the movement responded that they only want two things: his resignation and the citizen’s referendum.

What do you think about the “citizen’s referendum” that some Yellow Vests are calling for, the Référendum d’initiative Citoyenne (RIC)?

Many of my friends are dismissing it as a symptom of classical “constituent” politics, a re-territorialization of state law. I disagree. I think it has some interesting destituent possibilities. [Editor’s note: Constituent politics, in this definition, constitutes a new political order, while destituent power deposes the existing order without substituting a new one in its place.] When many people think about the RIC, they imagine having the power to depose the president, to depose infrastructure, etc. It’s true that it also has a constituent (or “instituent”) side, since it would in principle allow people to institute representatives, fix mandates for them, and recall them, as well. So, it’s like a “more direct” democracy, in this sense. You elect people for specific tasks or functions, then you can recall them—but much more fluidly than at present. It could potentially offer a lot more power to people, or at least, this is its appeal. Many of the Yellow Jackets are for this, it’s really popular. I think it’s important not to stubbornly boycott the RIC, nor to just dismiss it in a sectarian manner. The RIC has allowed people to imagine how they might begin asking questions from a local level, from where they’re at. It’s interesting as a starting point.

On the one hand, the RIC is supposed to be an effort to restore democracy. It’s supposed to be about wanting “to decide for ourselves,” in principle anyway. But everyone more or less knows that Macron will never cede to this demand, so one could also see it as a way of digging in for the long term, as an “impossible demand”—the sort of demand we could make in order to prolong and widen the antagonism.

Finally, it’s worth noting that, as a demand, the RIC has the benefit of working to prevent particular political differences or subjects from splitting the movement. Certainly, if the demand were achieved and folks actually began to talk about what they would vote for, it would likely be divisive. But for now, the opposite is the case.

What are politicians saying about it?

Part of the distrust about the RIC is due to the fact of its having previously been championed by Étienne Chouard, a spokesperson of the far right. He’s able to speak about it in a neutral and technical tone, so some people do not detect the far right positions beneath the surface. Chouard started to defend RIC after 2005, when the government proposed a referendum to ask whether or not the people wanted a European Union constitution. When the idea was voted down by a wide majority of people, the government attempted to ignore the results and pretended it had only been a consultation of the people, rather than a binding decision. It was at this point that Chouard started to push his RIC platform, which had previously been shared by anarchist and other leftists. This included Melanchon himself, who has defended it from the very beginning, and is today one of the few who still does. The press have criticized Melanchon for supporting it, saying “look he’s become an ultra-leftist, he’s abandoned democracy!”

There is also the Swiss case. There, the RIC has been placed in the service of racist and xenophobic agendas. Part of the distrust of the RIC stems from this example. In my opinion, things are not the same in France. I have confidence in the intelligence of the majority of the Yellow Jackets. For two months I have been talking with people here and there in demos and at roundabouts, and I didn’t pick up on any of the same ethos. Switzerland, the wealthiest country of Europe, is a pacified nightmare, with a very low level of struggle. People stay more or less the same, playing out their little loops, and hardly engage with others, never meeting new people, never occupying things and confronting the brutality of the police, never creating new situations where it would become possible to change themselves and connect to ideas that might challenge them.

Is there any other hegemonic discourse that’s emerged among the Yellow Jackets, besides this demand for the RIC?

No.

How does the Yellow Jacket’s form of populism differ from the electoral versions we’ve seen in Spain and Greece over the past six years?

The Yellow Jackets enjoy a much much larger base than these parties. And whereas populist movements in Spain and Greece emerged out of elections, the populism of the Yellow Jackets surfaces directly in and through struggle. Finally, unlike these electoral parties, the Yellow Vests seek to elect themselves, rather any political party (this is the ultimate meaning of the RIC).

What are your friends saying against the RIC?

Either that it’s counter-insurrectionary, or that it’s a passing phase. It’s not a passing phase, though. Is it a counter-insurrection? In the long-run, maybe it is. But presently, the real counter-insurrection we face is in the way the demos are being policed, the way the state tries (unsuccessfully) to split the demo into “violent and nonviolent” protesters, and convince people to restore the normal leftist rituals of protest. But clearly the counter-insurrection is failing, as the only violence that people want to talk about in the press is that of the police repression.

Any specific news from other cities?

In Bordeaux there were crews of fascists chased out of the demo last weekend, which was widely supported by folks in the movement. Contrary to what people are saying, I don’t think the fascist ethos is hegemonic at all. There are small elements that try to propagate a particularity within the Yellow Vests, but they’re still extremely small. Overall, they aren’t able to speak in the name of the movement because the movement is “apolitical,” or anti-partisan in the sense of being against all political parties. One of the only fascists who is able to achieve any hegemonic influence is Alain Soral, who is with the Égalité et Réconciliation party (Equality and Reconciliation), which incorporates elements from working class leftism with right-wing values. He’s an anti-Semite, and pro-Islam. He’ll say things like, “the Muslim workers are the real oppressed class in France,” and he is one of the few of his ilk whose speeches attempt to link the marginalized metropolitan suburbs and the poor whites in the countryside. He uses a conspiracy theory discourse about “secret elites,” among other tactics. He has recently been pushing the symbol of the “pineapple,” which is an anti-semitic symbol created by right wing comedian Dieudonné, and he is attempting to brand the Yellow Jackets with it. We’ve gotten into some arguments with these people in the streets lately. The trouble is that chasing them out paradoxically makes them stronger, since it gives them attention. So it’s complicated. How can we stop the spread of this “pineapple” without ourselves “constituting” these people as a distinct hegemonic subject? This will be an important tactical question over in the coming weeks.

Is it still the case that the majority of the participants are coming from outside cities? If so, why aren’t people in the city feeling convinced to join them?

Yes, it’s overwhelmingly people from the countryside coming to riot.. The weird thing is that for some people, the metropolitan form of life seems to inhibit the spread of the Yellow Jacket ethos. I’ve heard some people in the city centers say they don’t relate to the social pressure that defined the Yellow Jacket movement, saying things like “we don’t have cars, we’re not rich.” It’s strange, but the split between countryside and city is in some ways more politically important right now than the gap between rich and poor— at least, somehow it’s felt that way. But this may be truer of Paris than of medium or small cities.

On the other hand, people from the suburbs do come downtown and fight with the Yellow Jackets, and many feel attached to the movement. Not only is it tactically appealing to them to riot and fight the cops, but the broad social demands of the Yellow Jackets make sense to them. For many of these folks, it’s probably important that the struggle has a national reach, in contrast to the cortège de tête in 2016, which was a largely Parisian phenomenon.

What does it make sense for revolutionaries to do right now?

We’re back in the rearguard! We have no initiative, or hardly any. The only initiative we have is tactical, like when we determine that a crowd should go right instead of left in the streets. People can sense who has tactical intelligence in the streets, and as a result, those who don’t know the city will naturally defer to those who move more confidently. It’s only logical. But the Yellow Jacket folks aren’t reading theory journals. They don’t use theory, they don’t like to talk about politics using broad terminology, with grand projections and lots of theoretical references.

Will we need to speak as revolutionaries again soon?

Yes, with the RIC. But will need to speak clearly, in plain terms, and referencing history. For instance, there is an interesting culture that has developed here, in which people write things on the backs of their yellow jackets. Many people write dates on their jacket, or things about the RIC. A typical Yellow Jacket might write something like 1789-1968-2018, or some other dates. So while many people assert that this is a movement without any clear vision of the future, which is partly true, its participants are not utopian at all. Many have a clear historical framework, and the French revolution figures heavily in this. Speaking with people in an historical way is really important. As revolutionaries, our history overlaps with theirs in important moments, and it’s not uncommon to see 1871 among the other dates scrawled in black marker on the back of a yellow jacket.

All this talk about the French Revolution is not entirely misplaced, after all. Our situation does indeed bear certain resemblances. Just think of the 1788–1789 cahiers de doléances, which were notebooks where complaints were lodged about perceived injustices in society. The king could not grasp what was really at stake. The cahier de doléances were intended to be brought out during the big national dialogue with all the locally elected officials, referred to as the “état généraux” at the time. The dialogue failed in 1789 because of a conflict over representation: both the king and the nobles wanted to vote by “tiers,” whereas the Third Estate, which represented the people (95 percent of society), wanted a single person to get a single vote. Of course, the king couldn’t allow that, since the deputies of the Third Estate were twice the number of both the nobility and church, by far the majority. By forcing the vote to go by tiers, the king ensured that even if the Third Estate held the majority, they would be reduced to being on an even par with the nobility (who represented 1 percent of the population). You can sense the same tension with the RIC! If I were to make a historical analogy, I would venture to say we are in November 1788 at the moment the king prepares himself for the état généraux while still attempting to work with the elites to crush the various risings of the time.

Rouen

Can you tell us bit about the dynamic of struggle where you are, in Rouen, and in Normandy more generally?

It’s worth explaining how Rouen became a focal point for the Yellow Jackets sequence. In December, the police succeeded in diminishing the size of demonstrations in Paris by means of a massive wave of repression, which took a number of forms. More than two thousand five hundred people were arrested across the country in a single day (one thousand five hundred in Paris alone), which is more than were arrested in movements during all of last year. Police would stop or detain trains and buses destined for Paris, set up checkpoints to search cars on the freeway, and so on. All of this made it extremely complicated for people to get to Paris from elsewhere, including from around here. The riposte from the Yellow Jackets was to decenter the Saturday demonstrations. Instead of everyone concentrating exclusively in Paris, actions would be coordinated in fourteen cities across France. This proposal was posted on Facebook along with a map that included Bordeaux, Toulouse, and Rouen. So, in terms of how Rouen became the epicenter of rioting in the Northwest of France, this was one factor—people weren’t able to get to Paris.

The second thing that helps account for the spike in demos, particularly as of late, is the success the police have had recently in neutralizing the blockades issuing from the roundabouts. People still gather and get organized at the roundabouts, but they have been prevented from blocking roads. As a result, the offensive energies of the movement have been increasingly focused onto the Saturday demonstrations. I would also add that for many of us, the police repression of the roundabouts came as something of a revelation as to the size and scale of the movement. It wasn’t until the police said, “We’ve evicted the first 200 roundabouts” that we realized there were more than a thousand roundabouts around the country presently being occupied. The Yellow Jackets themselves simply hadn’t grasped the scale of what was going on.

What has the energy been like on the weekend demonstrations lately? Are the demonstrations growing or dwindling?

Every Saturday since the beginning of January there have been a thousand more people than the week before. Around Christmas, there were maybe two thousand people in the streets; last week it was closer to eight thousand in Rouen alone. This has been a really surprising development. Of these, I would say roughly 20 percent of people in the streets here are actually from Rouen. Folks are coming from all over Normandy, from the outer Paris region, from the north of France, from everywhere within a 100 km radius.

What are the roundabouts like, and why are they important?

I’ll take the example of the Rond-point des vaches, since it’s here in Rouen. The folks occupying it have spontaneously formed themselves into two teams or shifts. A daytime team arrives around 6 a.m. and stay all day. They don’t block traffic per se, but they only allow a slow trickle through at a time, like three or four cars a minute. This filtering effect ends up being fairly disruptive. At the same time, people eat, talk, and spend time together. Probably 40 percent of this shift is retired folks. They have this kind of time to spend and decide to throw themselves into the struggle. Normally, these are people who don’t talk to one another, who live their separate existences. Through the roundabouts, these people have discovered that they share the same miseries, have the same trouble paying bills, and share a similar hatred of elected officials. For many, they see what they’re doing as something that will benefit their children, so that they can have a richer and more dignified life.

It’s extremely common to have strategic discussions at the roundabouts. You can hear people mulling over questions like, “What should we block? What would be effective? What would have the most impact, cause the most damage?” It’s worth noting that in the countryside, and particularly among workers, there is an instinctive intelligence around what sorts of companies and sites are important to the functioning of this world. In Rouen, in December, Yellow Jackets would go block different sites almost every night. It wasn’t massive, but two to three hundred people would show up, and it was very consistent. The unions could never manage something with this much economic impact over such a length of time. It was really a ton of money that was lost. Of course, it is difficult to maintain a rhythm like this, and after weeks of these actions, an understandable exhaustion kicked in, and the blockades have diminished somewhat.

The other team is the night team, which consists of people who are much more desperately poor, quite a bit crazier, and more reckless. They would completely block the roundabouts without letting anything through, and occasionally light huge fires. This draws more police repression than the daytime shift, and it’s true that the day shift has some resentment of the night shift, almost seeing them like “rioters” or hooligans. But, some of the most incredible actions have taken place at night. A huge electronics store near the Rond-point des vaches was looted by a mere few dozen people, with everyone avoiding arrest. I never expected to see anything like this in Rouen.

Can I ask a bit about this tension? Did fights, snitching, things like that take place?

Yes, there were some tensions, and a bit of dry snitching, or lack of solidarity at least. For instance, when the police came to attack the roundabout, the day shift wouldn’t stick up for the night shift, and would even throw them under the bus. It’s not like they called the police (it happened once, maybe), or fought them directly, but the solidarity was a lot more tentative. It was not always great.

Can you talk about the cabins that people have built on the roundabouts? Did that happen in Rouen?

At the beginning of December, we began pushing for a cabin to be built in the middle of the roundabout. It’s funny, when we first began to talk about it with people no one really cared or paid any attention. But when we showed up with stacks of pallets and drills all the workers got super pumped, and literally took the tools out of our hands. Soon we were rapidly constructing what came to be dubbed the “yellow cabin,” where food, texts, and other supplies were henceforth stored. Everyone was super proud of this place that they had built together.

The roundabouts near us were evicted dozens of times. It happened all the time, usually at night. But once the cabin in our roundabout was built, the threat of police destroying it drove people completely crazy. They really got furious. People would build enormous fires in the roads that lead to the roundabout, so as to block all the traffic from getting there, including police. They convinced truckers to park their lorries sideways in the road to block police from entering. This way, it would take the cops a full hour to get there for an eviction. The cabin would always be destroyed in the end, but the blockades bought time and allowed more people to rally. It was tactically very smart.

What was the attitude toward police, and did this change over time? Would people fight them during the evictions?

Initially, many Yellow Jackets didn’t see the police as a threat or an enemy. You know, for the most part, the folks in this movement aren’t political people. Initially, many people actually thought the police would support them, since in some cases they come from the same demographic or have a common background. When the police first came to evict them, they would sort of just hang around and refuse to move, thinking the cops were with them. When police instead beat them up, they quickly learned the truth. The realization didn’t change their tactics that much, though. The police would come to evict them, and they would still refuse to leave, but they didn’t exactly fight the police. What mattered was that they simply kept coming back, week after week. In fact, the yellow cabin was rebuilt half a dozen times between Dec 15 and January 1.

In terms of the attitude toward police, the early demonstrations in Paris were also significant. As you’ll no doubt recall, they were massive. People all over France watched the state wield extreme violence against the movement, they watched police toss explosive grenades at their friends and neighbors, permanently mutilating dozens of them. This changed a lot of people’s minds.

What happened after Christmas? How did the movement come back?

Although it was totally unrelated to the Yellow Jacket movement, the ISIS terror attack in Strasbourg nonetheless discouraged some people. And of course, the holidays took their usual toll on the mobilization. However, both in Paris and here in Rouen, the December 29 demo really surprised everyone. It was covered nonstop on TV and radio, which presented constant speculation about “whether the movement will return.” This amped people up.

As I mentioned earlier, since January the offensive face of the movement has been more concentrated on the Saturday demonstrations. People still gather and spend time together at the roundabouts, but less so than in December. Around France, many occupations moved their cabins from the roundabouts to privately owned or less-contestable land in order to have a more reliable place to meet. It’s hard to say how often this has happened, but it seems like quite a bit.

The thing is, the people who are coming out to the Saturday demos are the same people who you find at the roundabouts. I checked, and friends in Bordeaux said it’s the same there: maybe 10 percent of those doing the rioting are locals, with the other rioters coming in from outside the city, and then leaving.

Could this help to explain the intensity of the offensive actions?

I think it’s true that many in the hinterland don’t identify with those in the cities. They see cities as wealthy areas that no one goes to except to pay fines and taxes. As a result, they’re quite happy to see them smashed and destroyed.

Has there been much self-policing at the Saturday demonstrations?

During demos, there are still some people who oppose property destruction now and then, as is usual, but afterwards most of them are happy that it happened. It’s weird. For instance, on January 6, people lit a huge fire in front of the gates to the courtyard of the Bank of France in Rouen. There was some disagreement about it initially, but then someone just whipped out a flare and lit up a pile of trash cans (it never spread to the building as some had feared it would). In spite of this disagreement in the moment, when media spoke more about Rouen than Paris the next day, people got super pumped. The net effect was that it fired lots of people up, and helped to convince more to come back the following weekend. It’s the same with Christophe Dettinger, the boxer who fought a cop in Paris: people probably wouldn’t have endorsed it in principle if you asked them beforehand, but once it happened, everyone supported Dettinger and raised tons of money for him.

Has any leadership structure emerged in these Saturday demonstrations?

There is almost no formal organization in these demonstrations. Every Saturday begins at 10am, and it ends (I’m not kidding) eight hours later. There’s no plan. It’s crazy. The marches go all over, with no leadership or plan. But there are crews who are coming much more prepared, and their tactical intelligence is developing. In Rouen, the cops continually attempt to push us onto the Left bank of the river, and then block the bridges. When they get us there, they beat the piss out of us, shoot at us, etc. So over the course of a few weeks, the crowd has learned not to go near the areas that make it easier for police to push us over there. The strategic orientation has sharpened a lot, and there’s a memory of struggle that is crystalizing from one week to the next. Better reflexes are developing. Another thing that has happened is that instead of activist medic networks accompanying the demos, the Yellow Jackets are now doing that themselves, forming groups that come equipped with their own people to take care of each other.

Can you talk about the rhythm of the movement, and how it feels different from 2016?

In the Loi travail movement, it was the unions who set the schedule. They would call for a big day of action every couple of weeks, and we could really only intervene on their timeline. But the Yellow Jackets never trusted the unions and never waited on them. They decided to go out and do things every day just by themselves.

In terms of the rhythm of the struggle, the locality of the roundabouts really can’t be overemphasized. The fact that people live where they are blocking things makes the gesture qualitatively more powerful. It becomes totally normal for people to talk with the folks who are on the roads being blocked.

Could we imagine the roundabout as a sort of membrane, allowing contact between the punctual rhythm of the riot and the long-term, progressive rhythm of everyday life?

I hadn’t thought of it that way, but it’s true. The roundabouts permit strategic questions to overlap with everyday life in a powerful way. This doesn’t happen nearly as easily in most social movements. It did happen during the ZAD, where it was also the case that “you live where you block.” The same applies to the cabins, yet here it’s the other direction: instead of the struggle penetrating normal life, the structures built at the blockades function as incubators of a common and shared life.

Honestly, I was initially skeptical about this movement. It was lots of men, outwardly it looked like a reactionary movement, and I thought the demands were a bit weird, reminiscent of petty bourgeois things that had happened in the past. But when the Yellow Vests decided to take to the roundabouts and blockade things every day, and refused to leave until they win, we said “Okay, we need to go out and talk to them.” Then we realized that something else was going on.

What is the class composition actually like? Was it different than you imagined it?

I’d say roughly a third are retired people, for sure; a third are blue collar, like construction workers, day laborers, truckers; and the rest are unemployed people and plebs of all sorts. I don’t know how it is elsewhere, but to tell the truth, I haven’t met any rich or even upper middle class people out there.

Do we misunderstand the RIC if we think of it only ideologically, as electoral democracy?

This is a point of contention in the movement. Some naively (and others sincerely) believe in the RIC as a path to secure classical political power. Others with more experience are more skeptical, and think that only a rapport de force have secured the gains of the movement. It’s hard to push the conversation forward, though, because there aren’t many assembly-like spaces or places to discuss political things with people.

In most roundabouts, people select delegates, and they meet once a week with the other delegates to discuss strategic planning and events. On the one hand, it’s a very good thing that this level of coordination has developed so quickly in the movement. But, so far, the usual problems that confront all assemblies that try to make decisions are reappearing here. It’s less that the assemblies are weakened by infighting, and more so that when their efforts to actually organize a coordinated thing don’t go smoothly then people lose faith in the efficacy of these forms. Or else, the delegates will arrive at proposals that are unstrategic—for example, by advocating the movement do actions at too many different sites at the same time, which would spread the movement too thin and diminish momentum.

Are you optimistic that these forms of coordination will become smarter and more effective?

I am. I can’t say why, but over the course of the past few weeks things have kept getting more and more powerful. I think it’s just the beginning.