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A popular assembly (or people's assembly) is a gathering called to address issues of importance to participants. Assemblies tend to be freely open to participation and operate by direct democracy. Some assemblies are of people from a location, some from a given workplace, industry or educational establishment others are called to address a specific issue.

The term is often used to describe gatherings that address, what participants feel are, the effects of a democratic deficit in a representative democratic systems.[1] Sometimes assemblies are created to form an alternative power structure, other times they work with other forms of government.


Ecclesia in Ancient GreeceEdit

In Athenian democracy the Ecclesia was the assembly of all male citizens. Citizens who did not engage politically were called ἰδιώτης (idiōtēs), meaning a private person, a person who is not actively interested in politics; such characters were talked about with contempt and the word eventually transformed to its modern form - idiot.

1848 German revolutionsEdit

Popular assemblies during the Argentine economic crisis (1999–2002)Edit

During the Argentine economic crisis (1999–2002) many Argentinian citizens started engaging and organising their actions through assemblies.

After closure the Chilvert printing press was occupied by workers who organised through an assembly. Within weeks of being reopened as a workers cooperative Chilvert printed a book called Que son las Asembleas Populares? or What are the Popular Assemblies?,[2] a collection of articles written by renowned intellectuals Miguel Bonasso, Stella Calloni and Rafael Bielsa as well as workers and participants in the assemblies.

As with other workplaces,[3] the print factory was saved from closure by the actions of a popular assembly. The military and police were blocked from entering the factory after the popular assembly of Pompeya called on barrio residents to protect the workplace. Individual police officers expressed their support for the workers and the popular assembly and successfully petitioned the judge to rescind his order to seize the factory.

The assemblies movement is reported to have spiked in power rapidly and fallen from any major significance within months. It is reported[4] that Grigera summing up his analysis of the asambleas states

'no matter how progressive or 'advanced' the social relationships, forms of decision-making and activities of asambleas are said to be, their small scale, lack of influence and flawed co-ordination between themselves and other movements render this movement unable to overcome very narrow limitations.'

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