SECESSION is an on-going project designed to re-shape and re-think the European space and project on the basis of translation, migration and hybridization.
The European Constituent Assembly
(Season 1 – Episode 1)
It was already late at night, and the representatives of the European Constituent Assembly all looked pale and wan. Banquets had been improvised in the alleys around the House for guests to eat and drink and regain their energy. People gathered in front of food trays, speaking of their surprise: how had that which several weeks before seemed an impregnable Totality, an extremely fine network of laws and rules, suddenly been overthrown? How, in the matter of a few days, had the old institutions been successfully deposed? Commission, European Council, even the old Parliament that flitted between Strasburg and Brussels, had all been dismantled. All the old treaties signed between 1945 and the end of the twentieth century had been suspended; treaties that had strengthened the outdated hold of merchandise, of money over mind, justice, and meaning.
It was the first action of the Assembly: the suspension of treaties, of this prison of rights in which the European Union had little by little locked itself. It had been done without hesitation, in the name of a new certainty. And this certainty was neither the return to the nation, nor the return to the closed-off identities of old sovereignties, of isolated languages.
In the months preceding the event, there had been small uprisings here and there: in the South, the North, in the East of Europe, in or outside the Union. The processions had slowly converged into a march, a great obstinate march. A song linked them together between their different languages, between their numerous aspirations: We are the ghost of a people/ We are the demos and we are the demon/ The spirit of a people, a fiction of country/ And in oblivion, we made our nest/ We are there, like memories/ We are a ghost and the future belongs to us. They sang and walked without knowing exactly where they went. Towards which city? Brussels? Paris? Frankfurt? Berlin, Sarajevo?
They travelled like pilgrims, and on their way, people came out to offer them food and drink. They walked and others joined them. In just a few days, the movement had acquired a power, a force and a calm legitimacy because those who participated all felt a quiet certainty that it was necessary to go through this: to accept History and the staggering risk of a real moment in politics. Not the umpteenth election or new procedure or a virtual digital link between those who govern and those who are governed, but a moment of the revival of body and foot: a moment of suspension and destitution, a moment to welcome and carry forward the new ideas that had emerged at the end of the twentieth century. Such audacity was necessary. Of this both the representatives and the nation of numerous popular processions were sure.
Yet there were still some saying that the world being born had no legitimacy, critics who tried to resort to force, to the police, to declare the movement illegal. Still, such naysayers struggled to act in the face of this common front of determination and hope. The old political elite understood immediately what this endless march portended. They could only bow in front of this ghostly sovereign whose imposing legitimacy forced others to submit to it. This is how the Assembly was able to accomplish the first acts of ruin without hesitation. The old powers, the old socialist or liberal parties, seemed to resign themselves to it out of sheer exhaustion: a people was putting an end to their suffering, to their collapse. The old guard seemed grateful. They had betrayed so many, stolen so much that a secret guilt, a distant guilt, had had time to make its way into their ranks. They were ready. As ready as a culprit who awaits his sentence, desiring it even. During all these years, they had searched for a people. They had tried to resuscitate it with numerous opinion polls. At each election, they trembled to see the number of abstention votes. They had tried to make it talk, this people, like a puppet.
Europeans want this, Europeans desire that. Europeans disagree. Europeans managed to agree. But the repeated failures of all these invocations had resulted in a lazy habit of speaking in the people’s name, to decide in their place what was good for them: the call to the absent people had mutated into a government in the absence of the people; and some had applied themselves to it in good faith, trying to determine in their heart of hearts what was ultimately in the common interest; while others had cynically taken advantage of the collapse to serve their own interests: one on behalf of his friends, one for his wife, another his cousin, yet another his son. The powers-that-be were all more or less conscious of the abduction and the drift, and they were waiting, in all likelihood, to be called to order.
At the same time, the people who had suddenly appeared during the several weeks of walking should also have thanked them. Their corruption, their scorn, their constantly broken promises, and their commitment to negotiating pointless treaties again and again, had finally galvanized the people to rise up. Necessity was there, like a hole, calling to be filled. They had governed without the people, in a space between their old countries; and now those who were absent from their calculations, from their negotiations, had finally begun to talk, to walk, to act. Thus, they submitted themselves to defeat without much debate. We had emerged from the post-war era. The market they had constructed bit by bit since 1945, like a rampart against the East and the communist world, the market they had called ECSC, then EEC, then Single Market, then Union, no longer had any meaning. The East had been dissolved and its frontiers shattered. The West could no longer say: we are freedom and you, barbarianism. On the contrary, a curious synthesis was born from this meeting.
On one side, the privatisation of everything, and on the other, a productive planning: a planning of trade barbarianism. And to think that those who had manufactured and propagated this world were still congratulating themselves! To think that they seemed proud to defend what they had created! But no. All this had to cease one day or another. Instead, a common mind was taking shape. A people! My God! A people with a conscience. If we had not needed it so much, we would have been frightened, as of a strange creature. How was it possible, after all this process of fragmentation, these efforts to carve up, to divide the world, how was it possible that such a force could survive and persist and now give voice to the absent, to the voices of this absence? It was indeed time to take up and reinvent the world.
And in many respects, such acts, such ideas came naturally to the Constituency, because it was enough to start from the very place where the old institutions had failed. It was enough to pay attention to everything the past had ignored. And, that night, the question being asked around those food platters concerned precisely one of these blind spots: a lapse of memory, an avoidance … What was this strange bond that could link people from the South with people from the North, people from the East with people from the West? With what language could they speak to, understand, and be emotionally stirred by one another?