Thursday, October 6, 2011

Conversation from '68 on leaderless movements and specifying demands:

Daniel Cohn-Bendit: We must abandon the theory of the "leading vanguard" and replace it by a much simpler and more honest one of the active minority functioning as a permanent leaven, pushing for action without ever leading it... In certain objective situations - with the help of an active minority - spontaneity can find its place in the social movement. Spontaneity makes possible the forward drive, not the orders of a leading group.

Jean-Paul Sartre: What many people cannot understand is the fact that you have not tried to work out a program or to give your movement a structure. They attack you for trying to "smash everything" without knowing - or at any rate saying - what you would like to put in place of what you demolish.

DCB: Naturally! Everyone would be reassured, particularly Pompidou, if we set up a Party and announced: "All these people here are ours now. Here are our aims and this is how we are going to attain them." They would know who they are dealing with and how to counter them. They would no longer have to face "anarchy," "uncontrollable effervescence." Our movement's strength is that it is based on an "uncontrollable" spontaneity, that it gives an impetus without trying to canalize it or use the action it has unleashed to its own profit. There are clearly two solutions open to us today. The first would be to bring together half-a-dozen people with political experience, ask them to formulate some convincing immediate demands, and say, "Here is the student movement's position, do what you like with it!" That is the bad solution. The second is to try to give an understanding of the situation not to the totality of the students nor even to the totality of the demonstrators, but to a large number of them. To do so we must avoid building an organization immediately, or defining a program; that would inevitably paralyze us. The movement's only chance is the disorder that lets men speak freely, and which can result in a form of self-organization. For example, we should now give up mass-spectacular meetings and turn to the formation of work and action groups.

Foucault in 1972: "(In May '68) the intellectual discovered that the masses no longer need to gain knowledge: they know perfectly well, without illusion; they know far better than he and they are capable of expressing themselves. But there exists a system of power which blocks, prohibits, and invalidates this discourse and this knowledge, a power not only found in the manifest authority of censorship, but one which profoundly and subtly penetrates an entire societal network. Intellectuals are themselves agents of this system of power - the idea of their responsibility for 'consciousness' and discourse forms part of the system."

Current account of active minority:

"... things started in very late july or early august. Adbusters made a call. Some activists spotted it online and decided to go with it. The website ( was built by anarchist friends in a "let's make this real" drive as we were more or less expecting something to happen. Activists in NYC decided to do something as well, many of them linked to Bloombergville, but also assorted syndicalists, progressives, and communists (the WWP was active at least in the early days, I'm not sure whether they still are), and anarchists... David Graeber came although he seemed initially mostly to observe things, and informed that he'd just been told the week before that Adbusters wanted him to represent them."

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