Day 46 of the March on Brussels. From Tours, 34 km.
Today’s walk through the Loire valley was very pleasant. To describe it, I could talk about the villa’s contrasting with the cave houses in the rocks, I could talk about the picturesque vegetable gardens and the fruit trees. But I won’t do that. Instead I will talk about the chaos I found when we arrived.
Open revolt, and civil war. It couldn’t have been more symbolic. We settled on a small meadow with a canal running through it. The different factions were camping on the opposite banks.
I’ve been talking to all sides, I’ve been trying to understand what’s going on, and even though the picture is not a hundred percent clear yet, I think I grabbed the basic idea.
In general there are three factions. The ‘Assemblyists’, the ‘Pretorians’ and the ‘French’.
The Assemblyists are the majority, they are mainly Spanish, they come from various acampadas and popular marches, and they try to decide things together in assembly
The Pretorians – no historic comparison – are the tough guys with a combat background. They are a small minority, consisting mainly of comrade Cubano, comrade Legionario, and comrade Felix, who drives the small van. With the exception of the Cubano, they do not usually participate in the assemblies.
The French operate the communications van and the information point. Because of the language barrier, they are not fully integrated.
Now, when we arrived today, comrade Felix was drunk. He came stumbling out of the bar shouting that the chicken was his own private property, and that the kitchen should give it back. He added insults, and said he was marching off. “You can take your own bags and walk!”
It almost got out of hand. Some of the assemblyists proposed emergency measures which included the renegation of our pacifist principles and the relocation of the Pretorians from the meadow into the canal.
Most people kept their calm, fortunately. And it ended with some of us shouting “Fine! Go! We’re better off without you!”
The French were desperate with this situation, and it seemed they too were preparing to abbandon the march first thing in the morning.
The root of the problem, I think, is that the internal assembly doesn’t work. We lose hours and hours in methods, and we don’t get to speak about the real problems. And if we can’t talk things over all together, people start whispering among themselves.
This way comrade Felix has been object of covert criticism for weeks. People say he does little else but drink and waste gasoline funds. Today, he made three trips, loading and unloading the kitchen and the bags. There were still people and bags left in Tours when he was done. He had asked the French communications van to help out, and he went to the bar to grab a beer. One of the comrades found him there and said to him bluntly that they needed help in the kitchen. At that point comrade Felix snapped.
“To hell with you all, and your fucking assemblies! All you do is talk, talk, talk. But other than that you don’t do shit!”
Felix has his own way of saying things. With the exception of Cubano, he and the other Pretorians are not the intellectuals of the group. They cannot be bothered with deciding what should be done. They do things without talking about it first.
The Assemblyist group is very ideological, they pretend that all of the group participate on equal terms. But in practice it’s only the people who are skilled in the dialectics of the assembly who dominate the meetings. Most people abbandon it long before it ends, myself included. Only the die-hards remain to take decisions when the rest has already gone to sleep.
It’s society all over again. People appreciate what they do themselves, but have difficulty to understand and appreciate what others are doing. This is what I mean when I say that at the moment the whole is less than the sum of its parts.
Strangely, after I talked to all the different groups, I’m more optimistic than I was this morning. Everyone says the same in the end. “We’re going on. This is our fucking revolution, and we ain’t going to have it ruined by a bunch of gilipollas.”
Even the French say this. No way they are going to abbandon the march. They are not communicating much with the assemblyist group about what they are doing, but they are busy creating a network, preparing the arrival in Paris and spreading information. They are up to something, and they’re working like professionals.
A bit of empathy is all we need. We have one common goal, and all of us – minus one or two possible infiltrados – are playing a part in this. Some parts are bigger than others, but that is no reason to accuse the rest, or to boast about oneself.
Comrade Vera has seen all these problems before. She has been working with people in New Orleans in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, trying to rebuild one of the devastated neighbourhoods. Over there they formed an assembly which was supposed to give shape to a community center where all the different people from the neighbourhood, black and white, rich and poor, could feel represented.
It took them five years. They had to overcome countless problems and conflicts, but they succeeded.
“This is a learning process”, Vera says while people are shouting against each other over the canal, “we need time, but we’ll be okay.”