Conference proceedings, ‘The Will of the People’ (June 2017)

Following on from our conference on Blanqui and his Legacy in May 2016, on 1st and 2nd June 2017 the CRMEP hosted a two-day international conference entitled The Will of the People? Revolutionary Legacies, Reactionary Manipulations.

Speakers included Peter Hallward (Kingston), Lars T. Lih (McGill), Marisa Linton (Kingston), Yves Sintomer (Harvard and University of Paris VIII), Olivier Tonneau (Cambridge), Jeffery Webber (Queen Mary), Jessica Whyte (Western Sydney). Rregrettably two invited speakers, Gilbert Achcar and Karma Nabulsi, were obliged to withdraw on health grounds.

The conference programme is posted here, and audio files of the proceedings are kindly hosted by the Backdoor Broadcasting Company. A brief description of the conference is appended below.

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The Will of the People? Revolutionary Legacies, Reactionary Manipulations

Conference outline: Debates about the nature and value of democracy and of popular sovereignty have returned to the centre of political discussion in recent years and over the past year in particular. Right-wing or extreme right-wing groups claiming to champion ‘the will of the people’ have established themselves all over the world, from Venezuela to Finland, and have taken or consolidated power by various means in places as different as the USA, Turkey, Russia, the UK, and Poland. These recent re-appropriations of the phrase, however, cannot erase its revolutionary origins and implications. Popular sovereignty is indissociable from the effective formulation and imposition of the people’s will, and democracy remains an empty word unless it affirms the power of ordinary people to prevail over any form of privileged interest or ruling class.

This conference aims to address some of the central questions that have become so divisive in contemporary political struggles, and to review some of the most significant revolutionary sequences that sought to empower a genuinely egalitarian and inclusive collective will to political change – from the French and Russian Revolutions to recent mobilisations in parts of the Middle East and Latin America.