There is a new initiative called People for a Shared Program
(P4SP). As its starting point this new initiative uses a document co-authored and / or signed by 87 people, many of whom are well known and generally respected on the left. A simple website has also been created to display this document in public and to facilitate participation by others in a number of ways.
One way in which people can participate is by filling in the “Sign Now” form on the home page. Completing this form is an easy way of showing your support for the initiative and we currently have 339 people who have done so. A second way of participating in this initiative is by submitting suggested changes to the actual document. This can be done either by writing a blog or by commenting in the forum. The blog option is probably better suited for longer comments about the initiative as a whole whilst the forum – which, as you will see, has channels for each part of the document – is better suited for more specific change suggestion. Clearly this second option takes more time and effort but it is also a much more meaningful way of getting involved.
So far, however, only a small percentage of the 339 people who have filled in the “Sign Now” form have actually taken the time to write a blog or make a suggestion for improvement to the document on the forum. If this does not change then it is almost certain that this initiative will just fade away into obscurity and then oblivion. What, then, can we do to avoid this dismal outcome?
Well, the more obvious answers to this question are:
If you are one of the people who signed but did not take advantage of the other means of participating then perhaps you will now return to the site and post some suggested changes to the document in the appropriate forum channels. Or perhaps you will write a blog about the initiative for the site and / or another progressive site.
If you like the initiative and have already signed you could let all of your contacts know about it and encourage them to “Sign Now” and engage in whatever way they can.
Taking these kinds of actions really could make a difference to the life or death prospects of this initiative. For some, however, this may all seem a bit too much like a talking shop and whilst they support the idea of developing shared program they may not feel particularly motivated to participate in this way. What these people want is some real action – like that of Occupy.
This is fair enough, except for the fact that the main reason Occupy did not last was precisely because its participants failed to come up with a coherent shared program. Nevertheless, Occupy did do something that was very impressive, namely mobilise many many people in many many places. Are you now thinking what I am thinking?
Is it possible that supporters of the P4SP initiative could adopt the tactics of Occupy and insodoing address the major weakness that was present within Occupy whilst also breathing life into the P4SP initiative by taking it to the streets? A kind of Occupy +, if you like. After all, as stated on the P4SP home page, “Our hope is that our collective efforts will ultimately inform actual organising in the real world.”
It could be argued that such a proposal is premature, that we first need to build community through the process of developing shared program via the various facilities available on the site. That, in fact, is my own position. That said, I am open to other possibilities, other ways of moving forward with this initiative, and the more I think about this as a way forward the more I like it. However, there are a number of important points that need to be clarified in order for this “Occupy +” option to be even remotely serious.
The first is that any actual occupation should not be seen as a substitute for the collective development of shared program. The second, following from the first, is that any occupation should be understood, at least in part, as an opportunity for people to get together to discuss and develop the P4SP document – a kind of popular education teach-in focused on the document. The third, following on from the first and second, is that any occupation should also be understood as an opportunity for participants to engage with the general public and mass media. Finally, the occupations – which could be organised systematically in order to grow, over a set amount of time, to a kind of crescendo – could culminate in the presentation of a set of demands informed by the latest version of the P4SP document to our representatives in power.
Currently, of course, all of this is nothing but an idea, a suggestion regarding what could be, how things could unfold. It is also an idea predicated on the assumption that there are people out there who are willing and able to undertake such activities. I believe that to be the case and if there is sufficient interest in exploring this “Occupy +” route we can start to look into the first steps necessary to make it real. We could begin to explore possible dates and locates for the first occupation. We could start to put together a list of volunteers who could steward the event as well as look into possible speakers, etc.