Why a Real Democracy Movement is needed

Shaping the Real Democracy Movement

The organisational shape and role of the RDM will be decided by those who become supporters and take part in preparing its launch later in 2017. Here are some approaches to consider in the meantime. For example, there is no reason why the RDM could not:

  • • counter the dominant forms of hegemony – i.e. the reinforcement of  power through a range of ideologies. These include nationalism, racism, scapegoating of minorities, the fetish of free markets and ‘growth’. Newer forms include ‘1984’ notions like ‘post-truth’ – i.e. that there are no facts, and objective truth
  • • work with others to develop alternative visions, ideals of real democracy in meaningful ways
  • • provide moral and practical support and encourage a collective learning focus to strengthen each member
  • • address the question of power and how to facilitate a transformation of the present state
  • • develop partnerships, networks and alliances with those whose campaigns come up against the state and its power, such as trade unions, ethnic or religious groups
  • • initiate, and participate in, citizens’ assemblies as places where democracy is practiced and alternative power bases created.

As part of developing alternative visions, a real democracy movement would draw lessons from earlier movements. Given this is the centenary year of the 1917 Russian socialist revolution, this period of history is already being revisited afresh by a new generation of students, academics, artists, playwrights, architects and designers and activists. The RDM’s role could be to re-evaluate the achievements and contradictory outcomes of revolution, and, in an open discussion, create a new revolutionary ideal.

By drawing conclusions about the strengths and weaknesses of all those movements which have drawn into action millions never previously engaged in politics we can take on the task of building a new movement. Learning from their strengths is important. By addressing the issue of the state, rising movements can become the matrix for a real leap into the future.

What kind of organisation?

Humans have adopted democratic or semi-democratic organisational forms over the millennia. Collective decision-making and direct democracy, as we have seen in Chapter 1, were often the norm and citizens’ assemblies of various kinds have sprung up at many points in history.

Communes, Soviets, trade unions, general assemblies, councils of action, neighbourhood or street committees, workers’ councils, groups facilitated by digital democracy, participative, liquid or delegative democracy, sociocracy, and the general assemblies of the Occupy movements can all be effective, as indeed can political movements as well as party-type organisations. When trying to create and define the RDM  we should assess these and draw from them to help shape a new organisation.

Experience shows that even the best or most advanced ways of organising can be abused and turned into something different from their original intentions. Searching for a perfect democratic process which can provide a cast-iron guarantee against possible bureaucracy, or people giving up principles is a pipedream. Any chosen form can potentially lead to problems and possible betrayals and so working to create as many safeguards as possible is vital.

The crucial motivation should be the desire to find ways to work together with a diverse set of outlooks while at the same time being able to act decisively for the common purpose of developing a real democracy. So, perhaps the most effective way forward is above all to ensure a democratic approach and mechanisms within an organisation that welcomes maximum debate and accountability combined with unity in action. This includes understanding the need to respond quickly to rapidly changing situations.

The RDM must work out a structure that is itself democratic. That may seem axiomatic, but the challenge is to create an organisation where decisions are taken democratically and the rights of dissent and factions are protected. There are many models to learn from and a priority will be to adopt a suitable structure.

The development of a determined but flexible and non-sectarian movement that models the kind of democracy it wants to build is a big challenge. It will require diverse practices, networking, ideological development and within the movement itself, a democratic structure. When considering what shape the RDM could take, here are some principles to think about. It could:

  • • ensure that everyone has a voice in the forums and networks where they want to have a voice and are active
  • • find ways to make decisions collectively and then to check back that they are carried out
  • • create a learning environment, not a bureaucracy, so that we are constantly critiquing and improving the way we work
  • • enable people with specialist knowledge and expertise to take responsibility for developing their areas
  • • hold face-to-face meetings as well as make intelligent use of communications technology
  • • ensure that social activities, art and culture play a major role in understanding the present and imagining the future.

Over to you

Please let us have your views about these proposals and other ideas in Democracy Unchained. They will then become part of a new draft version that can inform the launch of the Real Democracy Movement. Please share this document widely – with friends, family, colleagues, in your community, your union, workplace, college, university and on social media. Deciding on the nature of a membership organisation – such as transparency, accountability and decision-making processes – will require face-to-face and online preparatory meetings.

We offer this booklet as a contribution to this great project. The door is open. Do come in.

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