If democracy is characterised by the self-determination and self-rule of the people, it must be from, for and by the people. Citizens reach decisions and put forward policies that they themselves co-design, based on the common good, rather than the will and might of the current power holders.
Through real and ‘virtual’ assemblies, people can assert their power and direct control over their lives as equally as possible. People will feel encouraged to act for the common good in a society where any surplus is used for the benefit of all.
The sovereignty of the people – where power rests with the majority in society – is the underlying principle. That majority, however, must also recognise the rights and interests of minorities. Participative assemblies can help to ensure that these different interests can be expressed and accommodated.
All citizens have a say and control through their communities through democratic local assemblies that carry legitimacy and support from ordinary people. Each street and area has the confidence to control and administer resources to enhance the wellbeing of all.
Karl Marx proposed in his Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right that society – not the state – would become the real collectivity: “Democracy,” he wrote, “is human existence, while in the other political forms humans only have legal existence.”
Alongside democratic ownership and control of economic and financial resources, we should build on the formal democratic rights we have achieved and give them real meaning and content through a new political framework. This would rejuvenate the House of Commons, and include the abolition of the totally unelected House of Lords, the monarchy and the secretive Privy Council. A framework for a new democratic Britain could be built around:
- • local and regional Assemblies with executive as well as deliberative power and control over resources in place of existing local government and other structures
- • Assemblies to decide how best to meet a range of needs in their own areas and send delegates to a national Convention/Parliament with law-making powers
- • delegates to reflect diversity in our communities, with distinct voices for women, minority ethnic citizens, older people, young people, workplaces, students and small businesses
- • an electoral system in balance with the new participatory system
- • all matters discussed, debated and decided upon with full public access
- • delegates to be paid no more than the average national income
- • all delegates subject to recall and removal by local/regional voters at any time
- • mass involvement in the new democratic process through digital technology
- • extensive and binding consultation with voters before decisions are taken at any level
- • freedom of political expression and the right to organise politically, in communities and trade unions free from state control.
There would be a national and international approach when making domestic policy and vice versa. For example, local decision-making about production would take into consideration effects on wider communities and the planet as a whole. The earth’s resources would be respected as a “common treasury … for all,” to quote from Digger Gerrard Winstanley.
Different kinds of democracy
There would be a good balance between different types of democracy: including participatory, representative, liquid (aka delegative) democracy, deliberative and direct forms, all of which would be accessible via any digital device and promoted via new (social) and traditional media (TV, radio and publications) as well as face-to-face events. Understanding and practising these variants would be part of school curricula.
In the transition from the present, the function of state structures would be solely to ensure the needs and requirements of society for the common good. The rights of ethnic, faith and cultural minorities would be respected and have free expression. Inclusiveness and equity is the underlying principle – everyone would have an equal chance to be involved in decision-making.
Co-operative online platforms like Loomio are already being developed to provide the digital infrastructure supporting the decision-processes of real, participative direct democracy across the globe. Others, like the developers of VocalEyes are pushing for bottom-up adoption in colleges, universities, and communities in local electoral wards.
While new technologies have reduced the need for bureaucratic structures to ensure the smooth running of a citizen-based democracy, any remaining functions best organised centrally will be carried out by a transitional, state. By making information technology available to everyone, bringing the economy under the control of communities, workers and consumers, and discouraging bureaucratic trends wherever possible, the state as a separate body can eventually be dispensed with.
These and other draft proposals can take us towards achieving the ideal of a real democracy.
Over to you
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