Friday — 07.25.14 — Coalition Building — Overcoming Separations within a Citywide Social Movement

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Friday — 07.25.14 — Coalition Building — Overcoming Separations within a Citywide Social Movement — Berliner Ratschlag, New York, and Translocal Networks of Solidarity

0. About Friday
1. Topics for the meeting
2. On Berliner Ratschlag
3. Further links and readings
4. Groups invited/participating
5. Conjunction/Connection

0. About Friday

What: Plenary / Discussion
When: Friday July 25, 7:00pm
Where: 16 Beaver St., 4th Floor
Who: Free and Open to all

Tonight we invite the participation of a broader grouping of activists and artists to discuss the ways in which we can develop meshworks of solidarity, alliance, and mutual aid between separate initiatives and to work towards a larger movement.

Besides geographical distance, on a basic level it can be seen how functional it is for neoliberal capitalism to have social relations to be fractured and separated, and discourses and initiatives to become “specialized” (and to speak through this language of specialization, whether in community meetings, academic networks, or art institutions) within a broader potential array of autonomous practices.

In this regard neoliberalizations saturate or structure our social relations, keeping us away from each other and obscuring the broader networks of solidarity that are possible. A slogan could be: Conjoin the disconnected! That is, if we remain with the language we developed in the Connective Mutations seminar with Bifo and many friends in 2009 – maybe the task is not to connect, but discover once again our capacity to conjoin. (For more on this, please read the fragment from Bifo further below)

Tonight’s conversation will include a report-back and presentation from David Scheller on the work that the Berliner Ratschlag has been doing in the city of Berlin this spring — inviting groups as diverse as the ongoing pipeline resistance in the Rockaways (No Rockaway Pipeline, Rockaway Wildfire); the commoning of the Marine Transfer Station at 135th street; artistic initiatives to common the city through its water-front spaces and waterways; community urban gardeners; bike activists; and members from housing activist coalitions — to join in a larger conversation to focus on defining this broader movement — and a broader definition of autonomy and autonomous practice. In this regard the Ratschlag will serve as a potential example for a broader city-wide network and platform of solidarity, knowledge exchange and direct actions united under the crucial question “Whose city is it?”.

This is of course in relation to the way that the neoliberal city is currently shaped/distributed — with separated domains into which our activities are channeled. In a sense, when we petition funding networks to endorse and support our activities, we are speaking the language of precarity — anticipating in the shaping of our discourses what these networks “want”, and what we think is possible.

On a certain level the “siphoning off” of social creativity that has been seen yet is mostly antithetical to a practice of building a movement, of developing affiliations between isolated or individual projects or initiatives.

On the other side of this are the solidarity networks on which autonomous social creativity is based — a common language of grassroots solidarity, prefigurative practices, horizontalism and practices of resistance that work in and between initiatives and networks, to create and sustain a larger empowering social movement and its potential structures.

By providing this space for the formation and strengthening of our relations, we see tonight’s conversation as a part of an ongoing process, which has many beginnings, many middles, and will be continued in future conversations.


1. Topics for the meeting

*node of housing alliances (and land and water commoning initiatives), conversation about broader networks/solidarity/affiliation between individual initiatives, urban agriculture, and art groups

*potentialities for reclamation and transformation of urban properties beyond “housing” = art, farming, etc

*democratization of the distribution of urban spaces and political decision-making in (horizontal direct democracy and self-organization)

*related to the housing question, policy frameworks determine our approaches, but prefigurative practices operate outside or autonomous to this

*the idea of distribution encompasses those networks

*if people are involved in a particular network, involved with a specialized discourse (policy), then how do we create an idea of distribution (of discourses, of spaces, of practices) that is more open/networked/empowering

*opening out of autonomous practices that overcome singular struggles — an idea of “translocal” solidarity

*a network or platform that opens up possibilities for new social relations and a just city


2. On the Berliner Ratschlag

“Berliner Ratschlag”

Berliner Ratschlag is a grassroots network and platform for more solidarity and better organization between initiatives, groups and coalitions from various backgrounds in struggles about distribution — of (social) housing, anti-eviction, public spaces, environment, migrant rights/status, energy, economy etc.

The intention is to overcome particularism and separatism of protest in the city of Berlin, in order to be recognized as a broad coalition or movement for a city from the grassroots.

April 2014 was the first meeting over a weekend as an open space – including a conference with working groups and plenaries to start this conversation in order to get to know each other better and reduce distrust.

Since this event monthly meetings and working groups have taken place to continue this conversation, support in direct action, mobilizing and organizing of participating groups between the various actions and projects.

Continuous work has occurred on a sustainable infrastructure of the network in working groups (i.e. website, structure, representations, decision making processes, squatting, alternative social housing economies, seniors and persons with disabilities, independent media)

It is potentially open to everybody (according to a basic code that reflects and excludes nationalism, sexism, racism etc.).


3. Links and Further Readings

Berliner Ratschlag




4. Groups invited/participating

Community Action for Save Appartments (CASA)


Crown Heights Tenant Union (CHTU)


Queens Neighborhoods United


No Rockaway Pipeline


Rockaway Wildfire


Brooklyn Solidarity Network


Reclaim Bushwick (Colonie 1209)


CAAAV – Organizing Asian Communities


Picture the Homeless


Occupy Sunset Park


New York City Community Garden Coalition


Right of Way


WE ACT for Environmental Justice


The Living Theatre


New York Year Zero


and the New York City Anti Eviction Network


5. Conjunction/Connection

From Precarious Rhapsody page 132-133
By Franco Bifo Berardi

The context of my understanding of the present historical and cul- tural dynamics is the transition from a realm of conjunction to one of connection, with a special focus on the emergence of the first connective generation, those who learn more words from a machine than a mother.

In this transition, a mutation of the conscious organism is taking place: to render this organism compatible with a connective environment, our cognitive system needs to be reformatted. This appears to generate a dulling of the faculties of conjunction that had hitherto characterized the human condition.

The realm of sensibility is involved in this ongoing process of cogni- tive reformatting; we see aesthetic thought as being inserted at a juncture. Ethical and political thought is also reshaping its observational stand- point and framework around the passage from a conjunctive to a con- nective form of human concatenation.

Conjunction is becoming-other. In contrast, in connection each ele- ment remains distinct and interacts only functionally.

Singularities change when they conjoin; they become something other than they were before their conjunction. Love changes the lover and a combination of asignifying signs gives rise to the emergence of a meaning that does not exist prior to it.
Rather than a fusion of segments, connection entails a simple effect of machinic functionality. In order to connect, segments must be com- patible and open to interfacing and interoperability. Connection requires these segments to be linguistically compatible. In fact the digital web spreads and expands by progressively reducing more and more elements to a format, a standard and a code that make different segments compatible.

The segments that enter this rhizome belong to different realms of nature: they are electronic, semiotic, machinic, biological, and psychic; optic fibre circuits, mathematical abstractions, electromagnetic waves, human eyes, neurons and synapses. The process whereby they become compatible traverses heterogeneous fields of being and folds them onto a principle of connectivity.

The present mutation occurs in this transition from conjunction to connection, a paradigm of exchange between conscious organisms. Cen- tral to this mutation is the insertion of the electronic into the organic, the proliferation of artificial devices in the organic universe, in the body, in communication and in society. Therefore, the relationship between consciousness and sensibility is transformed and the exchange of signs undergoes a process of increasing desensitization.

Conjunction is the meeting and fusion of rounded and irregular forms that infuse in a manner that is imprecise, unrepeatable, imperfect and continuous. Connection is the punctual and repeatable interaction of algorithmic functions, straight lines and points that juxtapose perfectly and are inserted and removed in discrete modes of interaction. These dis- crete modes make different parts compatible to predetermined standards.

The digitalization of communication processes leads on the one hand to a sort of desensitization to the curve and to the continuous flows of slow becoming, and on the other hand to a becoming sensitive to the code, to sudden changes of states and to the sequence of discrete signs.

Interpretation follows semantic criteria in the realm of conjunction: the meaning of the signs sent by the other as she enters in conjunction with you needs to be understood by tracing the intention, the context, the nuances and the unsaid, if necessary.

The interpretative criteria of the realm of connection on the other hand are purely syntactic. In connection, the interpreter must recognize a sequence and be able to perform the operation required by general syn- tax or the operating system; there is no room for margins of ambiguity in the exchange of messages, nor can the intention be shown by means of nuances.

This mutation produces painful effects in the conscious organism and we read them through the categories of psychopathology: dyslexia, anx- iety and apathy, panic, depression and a sort of suicidal epidemics is spreading.
However, a purely psychopathological account fails to capture the question in its depth, because we are in fact confronted with the effort of the conscious organism to adapt to a changed environment and a read- justment of the cognitive system to the techno-communicative environ- ment. This generates pathologies of the psychic sphere and in social relations.

Aesthetic perception – here properly conceived of as the realm of sensibility and aesthesia – is directly involved in this transformation: in its attempt to efficiently interface with the connective environment, the conscious organism appears to increasingly inhibit what we call sensibil- ity.
By sensibility, we mean the faculty that enables human beings to interpret signs that are not verbal nor can be made so, the ability to understand what cannot be expressed in forms that have a finite syntax.

This faculty reveals itself to be useless and even damaging in an inte- grated connective system. Sensibility slows down processes of interpre- tation and renders them aleatory and ambiguous, thus reducing the competitive efficiency of the semiotic agent.

The ethical realm where voluntary action is possible also plays an essential role in the reformatting of the cognitive system. Religious soci- ologists and journalists lament a sort of ethical lack of sensitivity and a general indifference in the behaviour of the new generations. In many cases, they lament the decline of ideological values or community links.

However, in order to understand the discomfort that invests the eth- ical and political realms, the emphasis needs to be placed on aesthetics. Ethical paralysis and the inability to ethically govern individual and col- lective life seem to stem from a discomfort in aesthesia – the perception of the other and of the self.

Questions? Ask us