I would be very interested to hear what people think of the following proposal -
Coalition for a Participatory Democracy
A Call to the British Left in Preparation for the Formation of a Fifth International
In his excellent survey of Britain’s real role in the world (Web of Deceit) Mark Curtis writes:
The history of British foreign policy is partly one of complicity in some of the world’s worst horrors. If we were honest, we would see Britain’s role in the world to a large extent as a story of crimes against humanity.
In response to this reality Curtis states:
To me the most useful public campaign would not be on a single issue but one that united the public and civil society groups from various sectors in a revigorised campaign for real democracy in Britain. If that existed, we would end the totalitarian decision-making that is the hallmark of domestic and foreign policies, and which produces British policies so abusive of human rights, development and peace overseas.
He continues adding:
I believe there needs to be a big new push by concerned people and organisations to democratise policy-making and the governance system in Britain. Bringing about a genuine popular democracy in Britain means discarding an entrenched elitism for a system where there are democratically accountable bodies, an end to secrecy and where people play a real role in decision-making through many more forms of direct democracy, instead of relying solely on an elected elite posing as ‘representing people’. No fundamental improvement in foreign policy will take place unless policy-making is transformed from elitist, secretive and totalitarian to popular, open and democratic. Single-issue campaigns that focus not on transforming the system but on (usually mirror) policy changes within it will only ever secure very limited gains while all coming up against the same big block – that the current system will always exclude the likelihood of policies being made in the maximum public interest. Surely the major lesson from the government’s launch of the war against Iraq is that unless the formal decision-making processes are democratised, even massive pressure can continue to be ignored.
But meaningful democracy should not be constrained to the political sphere, as Curtis points out:
Along with political democratisation needs to go economic democratisation. We need to reverse the deepening of economic ‘liberalisation’ that empowers transnational corporations, that makes all countries promote a ‘one-size-fits-all’ strategy, and that requires an elitist political system to preside over it.
The recognition of the root cause of many of the UK / worlds problems as being that of the meaninglessness of the existing “democratic” system has two important consequences –
- That we need a new participatory democratic system.
- That it makes sense for all progressive-left organisations to come together and work together in a new coalition for a participatory democracy.
Combined, these realisations constitute the seeds of what could become a new popular movement. It is also worth keeping in mind the recent repeated calls by President Chavez of Venezuela for the formation of a Fifth International. The Bolivarian revolution that is taking place in Venezuela has demonstrated a serious commitment to new inclusive forms of democracy – both in the political and economic spheres. The UK Left needs to be preparing for this historic event and the formation of a coalition for a participatory democracy could very well serve this purpose, over time developing into the UK branch of a newly founded International.
However, before we get carried away, we need to identify an initial group of individuals and organisations that are interested in exploring the possibility of forming such a coalition.
One of the primary functions of the coalition would probably need to be the clarification of what is meant by participatory democracy. This, of course, should be an open (non-dogmatic) and ongoing process of debate and experimentation.
Another primary function of the organisation might be for members to identify our main focus or formulate a series of initial demands for campaigning. For example, we might consider the protection of the public services from corporations – whilst also demanding more popular control over public services – the best place to direct our energies and resources.
We need to bring the anti-war movement, the environmental movement, the human rights campaigns, the Labour movement, civil rights groups, the women’s movement, the efforts to end poverty, etc, etc, etc… together!
If this message makes sense to you and you would like to explore and develop these ideas further please –
- Get in touch with me at: [email protected]
- Suggest individual / organisations that might be interested in this proposal.
If there is enough interest from this call we can look at setting up a forum for further discussions around taking this proposal forward.