People's Assemblies Network

15 April 2014
by pa-webgroup
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A vital initiative – but is it a People’s Assembly?

A vital initiative – but is it a People’s Assembly?

 As a new organisation you need to know where you stand and the People’s Assembly Against Austerity Recall Conference was about voting on a structure and policy to move on.

At the start of the day tributes were paid to Tony Benn and Bob Crow, not only very respected left wing leaders but also original signatories to the People’s Assembly founding letter. The conference had started with a minute of applause and their campaigning spirit and dedication was remembered throughout the day. I think it’s fair to say that the conference felt that a fitting tribute to them both would be to carry on campaigning for the issues that we believe in.

Much of the conference involved the process of passing motions, which will now become the basis on which the Peoples Assembly works, structurally and financially, the campaigns it supports, and the actions it takes. These were organized into Aims, Structure and Actions.

There was agreement the vast majority of the Action motions, which formed the largest part of the motions document, so these were largely not debated, but were proposed with supporting speeches, with none against. The breadth of the issues covered demonstrated clearly the far-reaching affects of the austerity agenda and there was a strong feeling of solidarity for the motions, campaigns and the groups leading them.  

It must have been no mean feat for the organising committee to pull together the 90 motions on 10 themes sent from around the country into something coherent. There was a main motion on each theme with any number of supplements to the main motion, giving more detail to the main theme. A few motions had amendments however, which contained proposals that were contradictory to the main motion.

I do not fully understand how the main motions were drawn up and how it was decided what should constitute a main motion, but listing the motions as such gave more weight to the main motion over the amendments and supplements. The amendments I felt particularly were therefore somewhat sidelined. A number of the main motions were also proposed by “the People’s Assemblies Signatories”, it was not clear who these actually were in this context and by doing this I feel further weight was given to these motions.

This design did not cause a problem on the Actions motions, as all but one contained no amendments and were therefore not contentious. However the Structural and Finance motions did contain amendments, and it was obvious from the debate that opinion was not as clear-cut and that delegates had differing views. This is where I felt the influence of the Conference Organising Group (or whoever had drawn up the motions document) and also the top table on the stage in the room, pushing for the main motion. Thus then, that a top down structure had already evolved.

This was important to me because I had written one of the proposals that had been classed as an amendment, a Participatory Democracy Motion, which had been submitted through Manchester People’s Assembly. This motion, sought to install a decentralized structure alongside calling on the People’s Assembly to exercises participatory practices and to set up a working group to look into how this could be achieved. I felt that there was an opportunity, as we structured a new organization, to lead the way in democratic process.

The motion didn’t get passed but did receive a good show of support. There seemed to be a genuine openness to where the participatory motion came from, from the person speaking to the main motion and the speech against it (from a Green Party and steering group member). The latter was almost apologetic, using the argument that now is not the time to change the structure and in a year it might be. I suspect it won’t be then though, I anticipate the argument will be put that it’s too close to a General Election to reorganise our structure. So while I felt sympathy for the ideals of the motion there was not the desire to take participatory democracy further within the PAAA. In other words the motion came up against an entrenched way of doing things.

The following debate on finance bore out the reason why I feel that participatory methods are more democratic and can ultimately foster deeper co-operation and understanding. They also demonstrated, I feel, the top down structure which is already in place.

The main finance motion focused on the flow and use of money raised within the central organisation, while the amendments spoke of the importance of both national and local groups, with one calling for a percentage of finances to be channeled to local groups.  The main motion also called for a membership scheme with a sliding fee scale for individuals, groups and Unions.

The debate on the proposed flow of funds caused friction between local PAAA groups and national committee. I felt that the ‘signatories’ came across as considering the central organization as more important than the local groups, and lacking an understanding of the challenges local assemblies face.

When it looked like the amendments were well supported & would pass, someone from the top table, rather grumpily, stated that this would mean the main motion would need to be rewritten. This caused someone to shout from behind me from the floor ‘that’s democracy’ – which of course it was!

One amendment was rescinded by the proposer when a steering group member promised to take on board its sentiments, the other passed, meaning that there is currently no agreed financial structure in place.

Using participatory practices, workshopping these motions with interested people from assemblies across the UK, when drawing them up, could have fostered a deeper understanding of the needs and challenges at local and national level and perhaps preempted this friction. Yes it would have taken more time and effort to collaborate, but it could also have resulted in closer working relationships between central and regional People’s Assemblies.The People’s Assembly Against Austerity therefore, does not function how I understand a true assembly of the people would function, which would be to exercise participatory democracy. It’s structure feels like a traditional trade union or party model, a tried and tested structure – yes, but a mirror of the structure of government in this country which people feel so disenfranchised from and which has allowed the implementation of an austerity agenda which no one voted for and which so many oppose.

A People’s Assembly to me is a movement of individuals, the People’s Assembly Against Austerity is more a grouping of already existing organizations. It is vital that we bring new people into the political debate and into actions, to hear the voices of individuals who are not already within a union or campaign group. We need to create an open and welcoming space where everyone feels encouraged to contribute and where everyone feels their voice is heard. To do this we need to try more than replicating a structure that is letting us down.

I believe that a networked structure where the centre facilitates the development of connections, solutions and actions between the local assemblies, but does not dictate the agenda, is the way forward. What I feel makes a true People’s Assembly is that ideas and solutions come from the network to the centre, rather than visa versa. While the motions were submitted from the network of assemblies, they were compiled by the centre and elements given weight by the centre. The centre is also calling for actions, rather than the network, which has resulted in the next two National Actions being London based.

I left the conference feeling that, as local People’s Assemblies Against Austerity, we will need to work extra hard to ensure that our regional voices are heard – which is what we have always had to do to take part in the political process. I also can’t help feeling that an opportunity has been missed to break new ground in organizing democratically.

That said, the People’s Assembly Against Austerity is a much needed organization. There is a need for an umbrella to bring together all the groups campaigning against the austerity agenda and the damage it is causing to society and people. We need to work side-by-side, to share ideas, experiences and skills, and it was encouraging to see so many groups intent on doing so.

Mich Manchester

(I write this as an individual and not as a representative of any organization or movement.)

15 April 2014
by pa-webgroup
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Brussels May 15th – Surround the Egmont Palace

“…This May 15, Europe’s biggest businesses have invited our political leaders (Karel de Gucht, Didier Reynders, Guy Verhofstadt, Kris Peeters etc.) to the Egmont palace for the ‘European Business Summit’. The organisers of this great lobbying jamboree have stated their goal: to influence European leaders a few days before the elections.

The ‘Transatlantic Partnership’ (TTIP**) will be at the heart of the debate. Negotiated away from democratic scrutiny, refusing to meet those who oppose it, Karel de Gucht’s ears are open exclusively to big business, who see this treaty as an unmissable opportunity to increase their power within the EU.

We won’t let them!

This May 15, from 8am, Surround the Egmont Palace!”

15 April 2014
by pa-webgroup
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21 June PAAA Movement National Demo – London

The People's Assembly Against Austerity

The People’s Assembly Against Austerity

National Demonstration and Free Festival 
Saturday 21 June 2014

No More Austerity | Demand the Alternative 
Assemble 1pm, BBC HQ, Portland Place, London W1 1AA
March to Parliament

Speakers and performers include:

russell-brand.jpg FrancescaMartinez.jpg
Russell Brand
Comedian
Francesca Martinez
Comedian
owen-jones.jpg christine_blower.jpg
Owen Jones
Journalist
Christine Blower 
National Union of Teachers
 jeremy_corbyn.jpg  sam_fairbairn.jpg
Jeremy Corbyn MP
 
Sam Fairbairn
People’s Assembly
 
stephen_morrison_burke.jpg  kate_sm.jpg
 Stephen Morrison Burke

National Poetry Slam Champion
Kate Smurthwaite
Comedian 
sean_taylor_copy.jpg  More to be 
announced…
 
 Sean Taylor
Singer / songwriter
 


Coaches are being organised from across the country. Get in touch with your local People’s Assembly group for details: click here.

Order Publicity

01WEB_leaflet.jpgWe don’t just want you to come to the demo. We want this demonstration to be a show of strength against this government and it’s austerity policies. That means we need everyone to get out on the streets and talk to the public, get friends, family and colleges to come and get organised in every area across the country. 

We have printed thousands of leaflets, posters and stickers. 

Order online now – click here. (or you can arrange to pick some up from the office)

Spread the word on social media - invite your friends on Facebook

Support from across the movement

People representing organisations from across the movement have been sending in quotes on why they’re supporting the demonstration. See quotes from Len McCluskey, Owen Jones, Kate Smurthwaite, Frances O’Grady, Lee Hall and more: click here
Please share widely.

14 April 2014
by pa-webgroup
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Call to Mass Democracy Action 17th October – London

A Call to Action – Democracy at Stakecomments

MayDay TrafalgarThe imposition of austerity has no democratic mandate from the public. Nobody voted for the privatisation of the NHS, or the Bedroom Tax, and the Liberal Democrats were quite prepared to renege on one of the key promises they made to their voters on tuition fees.

 

Our system of parliamentary democracy is unable to deal with the consequences of a social crisis it helped to create. We are facing record homelessness, while many more struggle to keep a roof over their heads, record numbers are relying on food banks to feed their families, and record numbers are facing fuel poverty as energy prices rise eight times faster than wages. Meanwhile inequality is reaching levels not seen since the nineteenth century.

 

Nobody voted for this.

 

It is becoming clear to millions in this country that our system of democracy increasingly functions in the interests of big business and a tiny wealthy elite.

It is for these reasons that the Occupy movement is calling for an Occupation of Parliament Square on Friday 17th October 2014 in order to demand fundamental change to Britain’s system of democracy.

 

Together we are powerful – get involved!

Contact us on democracyactionwg@lists.riseup.net

 

 IF YOU ARE INVOLVED IN A UNION, ASSOCIATION, CAMPAIGN OR GRASSROOTS GROUP PLEASE CONSIDER SIGNING THE STATEMENT BELOW

Model Statement/Motion:

 

This union/association/group notes:

  1. That the imposition of austerity has no democratic mandate from the electors

 

  1. That nobody voted for privatisation of the NHS

 

  1. That the Liberal Democrats broke the promise on tuition fees they made to their voters when they entered into the Coalition.

 

This union/association/group believes:

 

  1. That the Coalition government’s conduct reveals a fundamental problem with Britain’s system of parliamentary democracy.

 

  1. That Parliament has failed to protect the interests of the majority, and especially of the most vulnerable, in our society.

  2. That government and Parliament function in the interest of big business

 

This union/association/group resolves:

 

To support the call of the Occupy movement for the occupation of Parliament Square on Friday 17th October in order to put forward a set of democratic demands for the fundamental reform of Britain’s system of democracy

For more on the context of this call out, please see this piece by John Sinha of the Occupy London Democracy Action Working Group: A Call to Action for Democracy

19 February 2014
by pa-webgroup
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Bosnia Uprising

‘Death to nationalism’ is message of Bosnia uprising

A feature of revolutionary times is when people’s movements decide to take matters into their own hands and throw up new forms of democracy. That’s what we are witnessing in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where people of all ages – from teenagers to the very old – are engaging in an experiment in self-government.

The first people’s uprising of 2014 began in Tuzla, north-east Bosnia, an impoverished industrial city of 200,000 on February 4. The town has an unemployment rate of 55%, the highest in the country, while youth unemployment runs at 63%.

As the city administration handed in its resignation, a revolutionary organisational body called the “plenum” made its appearance. The idea of plenums quickly spread around the country, as one website explained:

All over Bosnia, protesters are organising ‘plenums’, places where people can gather and try to formulate their demands. The participants are defining their rules, moderating the plenums by themselves, and, after summing up, sending their demands to cantonal assembles.

In doing so they are shattering the clichéd image of a former Yugoslavia entirely riven by ethnic and religious conflicts. And the plenums revive a hidden but powerful aspect of former Yugoslavia’s history, hitherto buried under nationalist propaganda and image-making. As Mate Kapović writes:

The most impressive and symbolic picture of the first few days of the rebellion was the one depicting a burning government building in Tuzla, the city where it all began, with the graffiti ‘death to nationalism’ written on it. Since nationalism has long been a favourite refuge of the country’s political elites, who used it to justify their political and economic oppression, this was indeed a powerful message.

The legacy of the Dayton Agreement, imposed by Nato and Bosnia’s presidents in December 1995, were, as the campaigning movement Bosanski Kongres says, “enormous labyrinths of government bureaucracy, with parliaments, prime ministers and presidents for each and every entity, canton and district”. Consequently, an impoverished population of under four million people was burdened by taxation to support a bloated bureaucracy.

Following the February 4 street protests, this dysfunctional state has gone into meltdown. Prime ministers in the cantons of Bosnia and Herzegovina handed in their resignations, but not before sending out security forces to brutally beat up demonstrators.

Bosnia protest

Given the historic former ties with neighbouring Croatia and Serbia, corrupt political elites throughout former Yugoslavia are terrified that the “Bosnia revolution” could spread. Solidarity demonstrations were held in Serbia, for example. 

The Balkan spring was heralded three years ago, at the height of the Arab spring and global occupy movements by Facebook protests. What has made Bosnia special – then and now – is that, as Kapović notes, “it was the first time that openly anti-capitalist messages were displayed in any of the post-Yugoslav countries”.

Until now, the image projected by the media about Bosnia-Herzogovina has been dominated by cruel ethnic and religious conflicts which have undoubtedly shaped its history. It was in Srebrenica that some 8,000 Bosnian Muslims were murdered by Serb forces in July 1995, despite being under UN protection.  
 
It was the assassination of Habsburg scion Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo that sparked the outbreak of World War I a century ago. Today, the same area of the world can send a different kind of signal. Plenums of the kind being developed in Tuzla and elsewhere look back to the experiences of soviets in pre and post-1917 revolutionary Russia, the post-war Yugoslav and Hungarian workers’ councils, and more recently, the Occupy movements that swept the world in 2011-2012.

Plenums, like people’s assemblies, offer democratic forms of decision-making, ownership and control in place of top-down, capitalist state bureaucracy. Thus the people of this small but crucial state can be a real inspiration everywhere.  

Corinna Lotz
A World to Win secretary
17 February 2014

Bosnia

- See more at: http://www.aworldtowin.net/blog/death-to-nationalism-is-message.html#sthash.zpDUmXBB.dpuf

5 February 2014
by pa-webgroup
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Message from Kenya

BUNGE LA MWANANCHI-KENYA PEOPLE`S ASSEMBLY

“Setting the Agenda for the Nation from under a bougainvillea tree”

In a park, Jee Van Jee gardens, in the heart of Nairobi, members of Bunge la Mwananchi, which means “the people’s parliament” in Swahili, meet routinely/almost religiously every day. Four benches placed in the cool shade of bougainvillea trees form the physical base and indeed the cradle of the parliament, or Bunge, as it is more colloquially known. Each day, heated debates about topical issues concerning Kenyan politics and the occasional scandal take place.

The daily gatherings –Kikao/Assembly of people, are public debating forums, open to all ethnic, genders, occupations, and party affiliations. The movement can be traced to and reconnected to pre-colonial resistance movements, colonial liberation movements and post colonial struggle movements but more specifically the sittings in Jee Van Jee gardens started in early 1990s, during the clamor for multi-party politics. After the repeal of section 2(A) of the constitution in 1990, the one party era was brought to an end and multi-party politics was ushered into Kenya. The new found freedom and space gave birth to Bunge La Mwananchi which basically was a peasantry formation of those who came to rest in the gardens after engaging in demonstrations against the despotic KANU/Moi regime then. From the onset the movement fought hard for inclusive Kenya and by virtue of this inclusivity, Bunge la Mwananchi transgresses many of the boundaries that routinely frame Kenyan politics.

The cradle of the movement is Jee Van Jee gardens, a prehistoric garden that was donated to the people of Nairobi by an Indian contractor, Alibai Mullah Jee Van Jee. The contractor hated oppression and although he was rich, he could not stand colonial oppression and saw that it was not right to discriminate Africans and other races by the colonial regime who even barred them from entering the city centre. So he gave the garden voluntarily and in defiance of the colonial policy of not allowing Africans into the city centre. We reconnect with the spirit of resistance to oppression whether by a Whiteman or a Blackman.

Bunge la Mwananchi is one of the most vocal grassroots organizations in Nairobi and across the country has managed to establish Peoples Assemblies across every major town in all 47 counties across the country and defines itself as a social movement. There is no formal membership required and the movement is made up of whoever chooses to be part of it. Nevertheless, there are an increasing number of people whose sustained presence and practice has permitted for them to be regarded as essential members, and it is from these people that a ceremonial ”leader” is always chosen every two years when the movement goes to the altar of the ballot to choose its leaders in accordance with the tenets of democracy.

Bunge la Mwananchi is a grand idea/ideology build on the theory of people’s power and self-organizing and also a prominent front for articulating grassroots people agenda by giving them voice and visibility. It has created spectra of grassroots people’s platforms for amplifying grassroots people’s power to decide on the struggles they engage in or issues they face so as to improve their living conditions. 

The main goal of the movement is to transform the lives of the many ordinary poor Kenyans by redefining the agenda and body politic of the nation. This is achieved by making claim to article 1 of the constitution which states that; All sovereign authority belong to the people of Kenya….and through this constitutional provision the movement further makes claim to the Bill of rights …The Right to freedom of expression and the Right to freedom of Assembly to create discussion/debate platforms or spaces where Kenyans can come together regularly to dialogue around their “real life challenges”, investigate their interconnection to government or global policies and political accountability; and consolidate their power to push for change. 

Bunge La Mwananchi has established presence, platform networks and goodwill among ordinary Kenyans in all the regions of Kenya especially in major towns. In the last general election held on 4th March 2013 the movement made serious foray managed to make spectacular presence in the political scene hitherto going against the grain or political waves in various regions by fielding members on fringe party tickets but emerging with commendable victory. We now have members of Parliament and several members of County Assemblies and our members who belong to professional cadres have also been absorbed into various county executive positions.
The movement has risen from humble beginnings but has made great strides but much is still ahead as we seek to radically transform the politics of the country. The leadership of the country over the last half a century is filled up with a menu of failed leadership and economic plundering of the nation. Political patronage fuelled by the twin evil of bribe and tribe has taken this great nation that is a powerhouse in East Africa to the dogs but we shall not sit and watch. 

We seek to dismantle the tribe chieftain order that has been build by selfish and failed leadership and offer a new vibrant generation of leaders who have been grown on the seed beds of struggles for change and reforms. Leaders who shall lead not from the platform build for them by their father or grandfathers, tribal kinsmen or those who bribe their way into power because of ill gotten wealth but people who have a conviction of mind and heart to serve all Kenyans irrespective of party or tribe. We wish to spread the wings of democracy across every village in Kenya and break the chains of the tribal chieftain order so that Kenyans from all corners can enjoy and feel the fruits of a truly democratic society.

Mr. Kiptoo John
President 
Bunge La Mwananchi
+254 704 540 144

30 January 2014
by pa-webgroup
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The Troika Party

 

Neoliberalism erodes democracy and people’s sovereignty: this is the defiant message from the pan-European Troika Party, an irony-steeped political party that has announced its run for the European Union parliamentary elections in May 2014. The party’s slogans include, “Vote for us and you will never have to vote again!” and “Democracy is not competitive!”

Set to formally launch in January 2014, the Troika Party aims to become a rallying point across the continent against the current economic direction forced by austerity policies. “The campaign is a tool to raise awareness and dismantle the current neoliberal narrative, unpacking Troika’s role in European decision making,” one of the Troika Party’s organizers, Emma Avilés, told Occupy.com.

From Madrid, Avilés works on collective projects within the 15M movement, formerly dubbed by the media as the Indignados. “There is not a focus on who to vote [for] or not voting,” she added. “We aim at people rethinking the concept of democracy.”

The party takes its name from the trio alliance – the European Commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund – which has determined the bailout and austerity packages imposed on southern European countries in recent years, widely seen as devastating those nations’ social programs in favor of rescuing the banks that gambled away and indebted their economies.

Due to the bailouts, Greece is regarded to be suffering the worst humanitarian disaster in peacetime Europe. Spain, Portugal, Italy and Ireland are all suffering severely, too. The bailouts encapsulate northern Europe’s reaction to the financial crisis – a demand for belt-tightening austerity measures that include public service cuts, workers’ rights reductions and slashed wages – all of which are deepening already entrenched economic inequality. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies reports that austerity has caused Europe’s worst humanitarian crisis in 60 years.

As strategy goes, the Troika Party looks to build on the “Can’t pay, won’t pay” slogan which calls into legitimacy the dominant narrative of the international debt crisis: that countries are expected to pay back to the financial industry the debts that banks and corrupt, irresponsible governments were responsible for incurring. The Troika Party points out that the countries cannot afford to pay off these debts, even if they were legitimate.

“There is a big difference between understanding the crisis as something inevitable and our fault, then accepting austerity measures, the loss of rights and the undermining of democracy,” continued Avilés. “On the other hand, we want people to read it in a different light: the crisis as a ‘scam’ with specific actors that move the strings and benefit from it.”

The current, neoliberal economic structure is widely blamed as the key factor behind the Eurozone debt crisis –a contention forwarded inan academic paper by economists at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, which addresses how the Eurozone’s financial architecture is “protecting the interests of financial capital” and “facilitating the dominance of Germany at the expense of the Eurozone.”

In the fallout of the sub-prime mortgage crisis that spread to Europe, the scholars say investors saw Greece as an easy target and suggest the European Central Bank should have stopped “speculators playing destabilizing games.” Furthermore, the paper catalogues the ways austerity is causing poverty and recession in Europe’s peripheral countries – meaning the debts are even less likely to be repaid.

“Short-selling,” they contend, is one mechanism that deepened Greece’s troubles greatly. In times of crisis, speculators can short-sell financial assets and deepen a crisis by fueling panic and financial hysteria. This is done simply by borrowing assets, immediately selling them for a high price, then buying back those assets at a lower price. Looking at Greece’s crisis, now in its fifth year, the Financial Timesreports it was not only hedge funds that were responsible, but banks, insurance and pension companies which profited greatly as Greece’s debts escalated.

The Greek Credit Default Market is a key example. It was in the interests of the holders of these financial assets for Greece to default, as a default meant they got paid out. This credit default market’s value rose sharply in the run-up to Greece’s default. Worse still, from the perspective of the ensuing humanitarian catastrophe in Greece, the impacts of the credit default market created more panic sharpening the crisis.

A dominant power creates consent by shaping what people think of as “common sense,” according to the political philosopher Antonio Gramsci. In turn, Gramsci suggested that hierarchies can be challenged by undermining their myths. The notion of redefining common sense is core to the Troika Party’s platform. Alongside providing a hub for analysis, the party aims to challenge the messages that underpin neoliberalism itself.

“All around Europe we are hammered with tailored messages that are becoming mantras we unconsciously repeat, hiding the real truth about the direction Europe is taking and its consequences,” suggested Avilés. “Instead, we want to point at how Europe is walking towards a non-democratic model where finance and economic power have more say that citizens.”

The campaign aims to push serious economic and political messages in a fun and engaging way. “It will use satire, sarcasm and humor to dismantle the neoliberal narrative, backed up with visual tools and ‘everyday language’ to explain to Europeans what is really happening behind the curtains,” she said.

“This type of campaigning will play a key role in bringing political messages to sectors of the population that are not yet politicized, contributing to the multi-level European struggle against the ‘E.U. crisis regime’.”

The Troika Party says it wants to challenge the stereotype that southern Europeans caused the crisis because they are lazy and that the southern countries spent too much on public services. The inspiration for the pan-European party came from Spain, where a version of it has already been active. It was later put forward at a convergence of members from different social and political movements who met in Amsterdam in October.

“Everyone is invited” is another slogan for the campaign, which seeks to create events, actions, reports and media that can be shared online. Party organizers purposefully left lots of space for campaigns and platforms to be tailored to each country.

The potential breadth of targets reach beyond the bailouts and austerity; the group highlights examples like the upcoming Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP, and the Competitiveness Pact which could be included as points of opposition in the platform.

“On a global level there are movements fighting against austerity measures, illegitimate debt, questionable bailouts, privatizations, loss of labor, civil and human rights or attacks on natural resources, which this campaign might reach out to,” Avilés added. “We need to recover the true spirit of citizens as political actors.”

- See more at: http://www.occupy.com/article/young-europeans-against-austerity-launch-troika-party-run-2014#sthash.qrgHEePm.dpuf

Article kindly reposted from Occupy.com 

20 January 2014
by pa-webgroup
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Manchester PA Endorses Participatory Democracy Resolution

The following motion was drafted by an Occupier in Manchester and was accepted by the Manchester Peoples Assembly and will be taken forward into the Peoples Assembly against Austerity National Conference on March 15th 2014.   

MOTION TITLE: The People’s Assembly should exercise participatory democracy

 ZONE: Structure

 This conference notes:

  1. The turn out in the 2010 UK general election was 65.1%.
  2. Manchester Central had the lowest turnout at 44.31%.

 This conference believes:

 People feel increasing disenfranchised from our political system where they feel their vote does not count & their voice is not heard.

  1. People feel that politicians do not make decisions in the interest and well being of the people and the planet. Instead protecting the wealth and power of their friends and corporations.
  2. The current centralized ‘system’ is undemocratic and a major factor in how those in power are able to operate.
  3. There is an alternative, participatory democracy. The case for this is based a new way of doing politics as exemplified by Occupy & 15M.
  4. The People’s Assembly has an opportunity to lead by example and use it as a way to strengthen and grow the movement and foster a wider engagement with politics.

 This conference resolves:

 To work towards incorporating participatory democracy and consensus decision-making across the PAAA.

  1. To work towards a decentralized structure.
  2. To establish a working group to look at the implementation of participatory democracy across the PAAA.

 

12 January 2014
by pa-webgroup
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African Asylum Seekers in Israel

Hi all,

Don’t know if you’ve been following news from Israel in the past few weeks, but something historical is happening. 60,000 African asylum seekers (mostly from Eritrea and Sudan) have declared a general strike and are holding mass rallies in all major cities to protest the government’s recent change in policies, which intends to put them in remote detention centers in the desert to keep them away from major cities. Hundreds of asylum seekers already imprisoned in these detention centers are on their 7th day of a hunger strike.

The rallies are reported about in all the major newspapers and TV channels of the country. This is the first time the issue of African asylum seekers has reached the mainstream media, especially giving voice to the asylum seekers themselves and not just Israeli politicians talking about them.
 
This is the largest uprise of asylum seekers in Israel’s history is definitely an event on a worldwide scale.

The refugees have issued a call for action for solidarity actions by the international community on January 22nd in front of Israeli embassies. The call is available here. I also attach the full text at the bottom of the email.
 
Photographs from the rallies:
http://www.activestills.org/theme.php?cat=58

News stories in the international media:
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/07/world/middleeast/africans-continue-to-protest-in-israel.html?_r=0
http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2014/01/israel-illegal-immigration-refugees-african-workers-strike.html
http://mg.co.za/article/2014-01-10-israel-breaking-law-with-asylum-detentions-says-un
http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/.premium-1.567606

(if you intend to organize an action in your city and wish to coordinate with the Israeli protesters, contactfreedom4refugees@gmail.com).

Call for action for the international community (source)

African political asylum seekers in Israel struggle for freedom and refugee rights – CALL FOR ACTION

International community : we urge you to advocate that Israel stop our imprisonment and starts respecting refugee rights! Israel’s latest policy of arbitrary detention for endless time without trial continues to humiliate our community. We are turning to you for help and asking you to mobilize towards demonstrations at Israeli Embassies on 22 of January 2014.

In the last few weeks, a range of unprecedented policy changes towards African asylum seekers and refugees have caused us to take drastic measures to display our discontent, frustration and fear.

About 50,000 African asylum seekers and refugees live in Israel. We have fled persecution, forced military conscription, dictatorship, civil wars and genocide. Instead of being treated as refugees by the government of Israel, we have been treated as criminals.

The Israeli government members have called us a “cancer”, propagating we are “infiltrators” that have come to seek employment. The Israeli Government’s ongoing incitement and hate speech towards us has lead to racial violence and hate crimes against our community.

On December 11, 2013 the government of Israel passed a new amendment to the Prevention of Infiltration law, in response to the recent High Court of Justice (HCJ) decision that overturned previous amendments to the law. In its decision, the Court called the law “a grave and disproportionate abuse of the right to personal freedom” and against Israel’s basic laws.The new amendments allow for one year of closed detention followed by indefinite detention without judicial review

Inspectors from the Population, Immigration and Border Authority (PIBA) have begun to arrest and detain hundreds of asylum seekers in Tel Aviv. In the last week of December 2013, PIBA announced its plan to require thousands of asylum seekers and refugees to register at Holot within 30 days. Despite assurances given by the Ministry of Interior that families would not be separated, tens of men with wives and children have been summoned. Panic has spread among the asylum seekers community in Israel, as immigration authorities have increasingly limited the ability to renew visas, leaving people vulnerable to losing their jobs and being arrested.

In the past two weeks, thousands of African asylum seekers and refugees took to the street in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv to march for freedom, to oppose arrests, imprisonment and the disregard for refugee rights. We are now organizing a three day strike from 5 to 7 January 2014. On 6 January we march to the offices of the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR, The African Union, The European Union, USA, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Italy and Sweden to deliver our message calling on the international community to pressure Israel to stop its policy of detention and deportation and instead to call on israel to recognise us as refugees and respect our human rights

Specifically, we demand the Government of Israel to:

1. Cancel the new amendment to the Prevention of Infiltration Law; stop all arrests; and release all asylum seekers and refugees from prisons.

2. Start respecting the rights of refugees, including social rights, health and welfare benefits.

3. Check individual asylum claims in a fair and transparent way.

We demand the UNHCR takes responsibility. Specifically:

1. Hold Israel accountable to adhere to the refugee commission.

2. Monitor our asylum request process from start to finish, in a transparent and fair way adhering to international standards.

———————————————————————–

We stand in unity and solidarity with our fellow communities of African Asylum Seekers and refugees struggling for their human rights in Europe and across the world.

Our common plight as refugees must be addressed by a joint struggle and demand for all countries to respect human rights and the UN Refugee Commission.

We call the international civil society to support our demands and pressure the Israeli Government to stop its inhumane policies and respect our human rights as refugees

What can you do to help?

- Hold demonstrations and direct actions at Israeli embassies and consulate offices in Europe, Canada, USA and around the world on the 22 of January 2014.

- Send a letter to the Israeli Embassy or consulate in your area to demand Israel stops its policies of detention and deportation, recognizes us as refugees and respects our human rights.

- Send a letter to the UNHCR demanding accountability and responsibility for Israel’s fulfillment of our rights as refugees.

- Share our story and raise awareness to the struggle of African political asylum seekers in Israel. follow us on: Twitter @ Freedom4Refugee and Facebook @ Freedom4Refugees in Israel- International Solidarity

If you are organizing a demonstration or direct action, please notify us @ freedom4refugees@gmail.com

Thank you for your support.

Kind Regards,

African Asylum Seekers Community in Israel

8 January 2014
by pa-webgroup
0 comments

October Call to Action

Reclaiming the Power

The decision of the Occupy in London General Assembly to organise a mass action, an event for democracy in the vicinity of Parliament, has the potential to ignite a movement for democratic change in this country. The practice of democracy has always played an important, if not a central, part in the Occupy movement. We will campaign for a genuine democratic government free from corporate influence.

We would like to invite all the movements that have been resisting the cuts to get involved. This event could comprise a huge peoples assembly for democracy in Parliament Square and should include a statement of demands. This should be the outcome of a democratic forum and, it should be open to amendment, modification, or addition, inspired by the Chartists six points, it could include a list of straightforward demands such as

End the revolving door between big business and government
Remove the Remembrancer from Parliament
For the right of electors to recall their MP and all elected representatives by petition
Stop MPs and Lords voting on any bills in which they have a financial interest
Ban all commercial confidentiality clauses in government contracts
MPs and ministers to be paid no more than the national average wage

The problem with Parliament

How is it possible that a government can make major policy decisions, such as privatise the NHS, triple tuition fees, or introduce the Bedroom Tax without any mandate from the voters? None of these policies were put before the voting public by the governing parties. In the case of tuition fees, it was the clear breaking of a promise by the Liberals. How did they get away with it?

The answer must lie, in large part, in the nature of representative parliamentary democracy. The imposition of austerity in Britain has no mandate from the voters. But the democratic legitimacy of austerity is often overlooked by campaigners and commentators. Austerity is not the sole or even the main problem. The problem is a parliamentary democracy that has allowed the government to get away with the largest assault on our individual and collective well being since the Second World War. Parliament is the source of the government’s strength and legitimacy. It allowed the party leaders, Nick Clegg and David Cameron, to stitch up an austerity program which has no democratic mandate. One can argue that coalition governments are sometimes inevitable. But if that is the case, it is even more important that our MPs and Lords hold the government to account, acting as a democratic check on what the government does. Our MPs, irrespective of whether their party is in the governing coalition or not, should be there to defend us from the government; in is they have failed us.

The usual response from the defenders of the status quo is that an MP can always be voted out in a general election. But this state of affairs is highly unsatisfactory. It highlights one of the key problems with the representative system of parliamentary democracy. Some decisions Parliament makes are irreversible, such as voting for war. In the case of the NHS, the contracts signs with private companies are protected by clauses which would make the government liable for untold sums. This would it make prohibitively expensive for any government promising to reverse the privatisation. Added to that, the EU is supporting a secret trade deal with North America which would put such decisions in the hands of unaccountable arbitration panels, which could strike down any law made in a national parliament.

MPs are elected on the basis of the promises they (and their party) make to the voting public. But once these promises are broken there is little in the way of redress. Once elected, the party leader is free to ignore the promises he or she make to the voters. Why do the vast majority of MPs put loyalty to their party leaders ahead of the promises they make to their electors? Maybe because the decision to enter Parliament for most MPs is a career decision. Voting against the decisions of the party leader can be a very bad career move.

Not like us

MPs today are increasingly unlike the people they represent. This is particularly true for government ministers. They have more in common with each other than the people they represent. They are drawn from an increasingly narrow social spectrum. MPs are much more likely to have a relative who has served as a politician. They are more likely to be from better off backgrounds. Too many have limited experience of work outside the Westminster Village. The current cabinet (and shadow cabinet) fits this mould. Most of the cabinet were educated at public schools and the leaders of all three main parties, including Chancellor and Shadow Chancellor, went to Oxford. Most worked as ministerial aides, party researchers or as lobbyists. And they see themselves as different from the people they represent. While most people have seen their wages stagnate since the recession, MPs awarded themselves an 11% pay rise. Only ten MPs saw fit to oppose the increase.

Are we all in this together? Appears not, as far as many MPs are concerned. The expenses scandal revealed a sense of entitlement from our elected representatives that is completely divorced from the realities of their constituents struggling to pay the rent, the fuel bills or feed their families.

One of the quickest routes to a peerage is to become a donor to one of the main political parties. The going rate seems to be about £1.4 million. And many peers are former MPs who have served their time in the House of Commons. The furious response from many conservative MPs at the planned cap on the number of peers, which Cameron soon dropped, would indicate that the Lords is seen as a reward for putting the interests of the party leader above anything else.

People power versus the lobby

The privatisation of the NHS went through despite an enormous campaign of letter writing, petitioning and demonstrations, from individuals, trades unions, national campaigning groups, and local hospital campaigns. This mass campaign had public opinion on its side. But this effort was more than matched by the lobbying power of the health insurance industry and management consultants who stood to gain from privatisation. The vastly greater lobbying resources of corporations can make government MPs immune to the democratic pressure of such mass campaigns.

Added to this is the direct and indirect financial interests of Lords and MPs who stood to gain from NHS privatisation. One hundred and forty five Lords and seventy MPs have declared recent or present financialconnections to companies or individuals involved in healthcare. The fact that they must declare these interests does not make it any more acceptable. Privatisation is also beneficial to the later career prospects of politicians. Those who were involved in steering complex privatisation legislation can look forward to careers as non executive directors in the industries they have privatised, or as consultants to the merchant banks who invest in such industries. Alternatively, they can trade on their political contacts and join a private hedge fund, such as the Carlyle Group, its business model is based on “access capitalism”.

The recent lobbying and transparency act will further reduce our ability to hold MPs to account at election time; and it will do nothing to curtail the influence big business has on Parliament and government.

The tendency for Parliament to ignore mass movements is not unique to the current Coalition. On 15th February 2003 it is estimated two million people demonstrated in London against Tony Blair’s plan to invade Iraq. Parliament chose to ignore the largest demonstration in British history and support Blair’s decision to invade and occupy Iraq. How many of those MPs would have voted for the invasion if they knew they could be subject to an immediate recall by their electors organised through such a mass movement?

In a victory for the mass grassroots campaign against airport expansion, the incoming Coalition government promised not to support new runways in the south east. This was in contrast to the outgoing Labour government. The campaigners against a third runway at Heathrow might have thought they had finally killed of the third runway. But not long after the election, the PR and lobbying machine of the air travel industry moved into action trying to swing the debate in favour of airport expansion. It did not take long for the government to execute the quickest U-turn possible with an “independent” commission on airport expansion, its brief was skewed in favour of expansion. It remains to be seen what choice the voter opposed to expansion will have if all the main parties end up supporting this supposedly independent commission. It remains to be seen how successful big business will be in bypassing democracy. It is a strategy based on the war of attrition, it hopes to gradually wear down campaigners.

Lobbying beyond lobbying

Very often big business does not even need to bother with lobbying. Lord Browne, is a governmentadvisor to the Cabinet Office on business matters. He is also chairman of Cuadrilla, one of the main companies involved in Fracking in the UK. Some of the advisors at the Department of Energy and Climate Change are drafting key government policies on the electricity “capacity market” are seconded from companies running gas fired power stations. Or we have examples like Lord Blencathra, who is offering “consultancy services” to the Cayman Islands government, presumably to preserve its status as a tax haven.

Britain’s most powerful rotten borough

One of the achievements of the Occupy movement in London was to shine a spotlight on the highly undemocratic influence the City of London has on the UK Parliament and government. The City of London Corporation is the UK’s last remaining rotten borough; its lobbying power is institutionalised in the office of the Remembrancer. He is present in both the House of Commons and the Lords. With a budget of £3.5 million and and staff of six lawyers, his role is to ensure that no legislation threatens the privileges of the City. From this position he has direct access to all government ministers and officials involved in shaping any legislation which interests the City.

In 2008 City’s banks threatened to shut down the UK banking system if the government did not bail them out. This crisis presented the then Prime Minister, Gordon Brown with the greatest opportunity to reform the City, but he blinked first and, in a panic, he shouldered UK tax payers with £500 billion of liabilities. The bailout was hailed as a great example of Browne’s leadership. He did this without any approval from Parliament. But he could have nationalised the failing banks without compensation and limited the guarantees on deposits. During the banking crisis, there was no talk of austerity from the elites who benefited from this enormous transfer of wealth from the rich to poor. But once the banking system was safely bailed out the demand for austerity from the same elites became deafening.

Whitehall centralisation = corporate power grab

The shift in the balance of power in favour of big business is also present at the local level. In the Government’s drive to expand the fracking industry, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles has made it much more difficult for local communities to object to fracking applications in their area. The Education Secretary, Michael Gove can remove elected school governors and hand over control of schools to business. And this power grab from big business is manifest all over the planning system. Whether it’s the local pub being turned into a supermarket or the proliferation of betting shops on our high street. There is little local communities can do to resist these developments through the democratic process. In addition, Parliament has recently granted the health secretary the power to close hospitals without any community consultation.

Commercial confidentiality

In the case where local communities are resisting developer land grabs, or privatisation, they are often hamstrung by the commercial confidentiality clauses our elected representatives are allowed to sign with big business. This has become a major issue for campaigners resisting corporated led “regeneration” plans like the Heygate Estate. A similar problems surrounds the Private-Public Partnership deals in the public sector.

Passive, atomised and misinformed – is how they want us

Given the state of our democracy it should not be surprising that increasing numbers of people are so disenchanted with our system of democracy that they are no longer bothering to vote as Russell Brand has pointed out. Our media and political system has conspired to create a parliamentary democracy which represents an increasingly narrow spectrum of opinion. Those of us who question the need for austerity are effectively disenfranchised when the main parties all accept this narrative.

Why the government has (and it must be stressed – thus far) been able to get away with it is another question. Passive, atomised and misinformed is not the state we are in but the way the government would like us to be. Our ability to resist has been reduced as a result of a transfer of power that has taken place over the past thirty years. This transfer of power has occurred at all levels of government and in all spheres of our life. Our power to resist both individually and collectively has been reduced.

The public have been badly mis-informed. The BBC described NHS privatisation as a “bill to give power to GPs”. The government and the media have tried hard to play one section of society suffering from austerity against another; demonising families on benefits, or whipping up a wave of hysteria about Bulgarian or Romanian immigrants. Nobody elected Daily Mail editor, Paul Dacre, yet people like him have power over us. The consequences of a hostile media campaign targeting any minority group can threaten someone’s physical security.

Local democracy has been emasculated as more power has been centralised in Whitehall. The recent cuts in Legal Aid disempower us because they take away our ability to protect our rights through the courts and to fight miscarriages of justice. Would the Birmingham Six have been able to establish their innocence without Legal Aid? Would we have been able to uncover the extent of police spying or corporate collusion if climate activists had not been able to defend themselves with Legal Aid?

The best way for working people to defend their conditions of employment is through a trade union. But legislation introduced since the 80s has reduced the power of trade unions to defend their members. Added to that is the huge defeats inflicted on the unions in the 80s weighs down a like a collective nightmare on the trade union movement.

And the democracy of the street, that is, our ability to protest has been whittled down as successive laws restricting public assembly have been introduced. The police have become better at containing protest through tactics such as kettling. The main objective of the police is not to “facilitate” protest but to defeat protest through a strategy of demoralisation and fear. This was clearly evident with the student protests of late 2010.

The current laws on protest makes the kind of protest witnessed recently at the Maidan in Kiev illegal if repeated in Parliament Square. How can it be that in the Ukraine the right to protest is better protected than at the “Mother of Parliaments”?

In conclusion

Our political system is increasingly unable to deal with the consequences of a social crisis it helped to create. We are facing record homelessness, while many more struggle to keep a roof over their heads, record numbers are relying on food banks to feed their families and records numbers are facing fuel poverty as energy prices rise eight time faster than wages. Since it is probably safe to assume that nobody voted to be made homeless, hungry or unemployed. It appears that the majority are not able to use the democratic process to improve, let alone protect, the basic necessities of life. Our sense of powerlessness mirrors in an opposite way the increasing power big business has over our lives. It is time we took mass action to stop this.

It was our forebears, the Levellers who first raised the demand for universal suffrage, the Chartist and the Suffragettes fought to extend the franchise by reducing the property qualification and giving women the vote. Little could they imagine the extent to which corporate power has subverted the vote for which they fought so bravely and sacrificed so much. Any movement campaigning for genuine democracy should draw inspiration from them and learn from their experience.

We want to bring alive a movement that is able to take action over the institutions that have power over us. The late Tony Benn had five questions of power. We need to demand answers from them

1. What power do you have?
2. Where did you get it from?
3. To whom are you accountable?
4. In whose interest do you exercise it?
5. How can we get rid of you?

Of these the fifth is most important. The late Tony Benn noted that those with power do not like democracy and that is why every generation must struggle to win and keep it.

Get involved!
democracyactionwg@lists.riseup.net

re-posted from http://occupylondon.org.uk/a-call-to-action-the-case-for-action-for-democracy/

28 December 2013
by pa-webgroup
0 comments

Review of Global Protests

Dear friends

In case this escaped your attention, we reviewed 843 protests occurring between January 2006 and July 2013 in 87 countries covering over 90% of world population. The paper focuses on: (i) major grievances driving world protests (ii) who is demonstrating, what protest methods they use, and who are they opposed to (iii) achievements and repression of social movements in the short term, and (iv) the main policy demands of world demonstrators. The paper calls for policy-makers to listen, whether messages are articulate or communicate only through frustration and violence.

The paper, published last September by the Initiative for Policy Dialogue at Columbia University and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung New York Office, is available here:

http://policydialogue.org/files/publications/World_Protests_2006-2013-Final.pdf

The executive summary:

http://policydialogue.org/files/publications/World_Protests_2006-2013_Executive_Summary.pdf

 We encourage distribution through websites and blogs; the executive summary and paper may be distributed without alteration with an attribution statement about the authors and their institutions and a clickable link to the original.

Best regards,

Isabel Ortiz, Sara Burke, Mohamed Berrada and Hernan Cortes

 

30 November 2013
by pa-webgroup
0 comments

UK Invitation to draw up the alternative – Peoples Charter EC

Dear Comrades and Friends
There has been a lot of interest in the Dec 7 meeting convened by the
Peoples Charter, to be held under the banner of the Peoples Assembly,
and designed to pull together a common statement on economic and
social reform to counter austerity.

Here are a brief list of points summing up the original Peoples
Charter and we invite you to send in anything which will aid the
discussion and that you would like circulated for this important
meeting.

Sincerely

The Peoples Charter EC

 
Proposed Agenda for the meeting is:  
 
(i) What initiative is about (Peoples Charter, PAAA and how to create a ‘social and economic alternative to austerity’ agenda in the run up to the Spring 2014 Re-call Conference) 
(ii) Brief introductions – why we are all there and what we are campaigning for 
(iii) Main discussion: how to make this the start of an open democratic process of working together to achieve a common, alternative agenda
 
Expectation is there will be a decent trade union rep turn out to the meeting (via the Peoples Charter network) and also a range of individuals and groups from the wider social movements.  The meeting process is quite open and it will be facilitated in a relatively participatory way. Also, the meeting is not a final closure on what’s going to be in the alternative (or out) – it is just the beginning of a process. This is why the main discussion for the session will be on the ‘how’ of what we are trying to do in terms of process, and a chance to begin getting to know one another (rather than being a big discussion on everyone’s proposed political content. However, we do want to hear about the content you would like to propose)
 
Therefore you are invited to submit short paper proposals for the austerity alternative, and these will be circulated prior to the meeting to all those. These could be on any topic from process to internationalism to Europe to tax to constitution to use of digital tech to surveillance to media ownership .. and so on
 
For more information or to send any contributions /suggestions please mail crdlondon@gmail.com 
 
You can read the existing Peoples Charter here 

27 November 2013
by pa-webgroup
1 Comment

Horizontal Hope – looking for English translators

“What can we do to change things?” It’s hard to avoid this issue when considering the sad state of our societies …

Let us quickly recall some elements in explaining the genealogy of this political crisis.

Poverty proceeds from a dialectic that Marx revealed diligently: a minority monopolizes wealth at the expense of a majority that neverthelessembodies the lifeblood of a society. This majority progressively structured by the aggregate of individual interests, becomes powerless before the interpenetration of financial monopolies.

And yet if there is a way out of this debacle, it is in our collective strength, particularly when arranged in a synergistic manner.
This is what we think.

Some people think that the spread of their revolution will happen. But many have no contact with the reality of a struggle on the ground. They speculate and do not experiment.
How can we hope for a practical solution, if we are not even able to organize ourselves us in a small group or in a small organization? How can we solve problems on a large scale, when we do not even know how to adjust to a smaller scale?

One should also be aware of the difference between the popular support of ” I encourage you” and the popular mobilization of “I want to be by your side .” Popular support is an important factor in the revolutionary forces, but it is useless and vain too hope that all will rally to our side.
It is important to rely primarily on its own strength, be adaptive to the environment and be close to the people. These are basic strategic rules have been understood by all revolutionaries who have been able to achieve real change.

We could explain in a few words the often ignored non-Western origins of democracy, and at the same time, show an extraordinary approach to make better decisions together. On the other hand, human beings adapt to their environment and develop individualism above all because it is based on a system of the competition of individuals amongst each other. Given no better alternative, the community defers to those who already have the most.

Let us now turn to the heart of the matter:

When Gutenberg invented the printing press the deployment of knowledge outside of the clergy and nobility quickly caused problems in the institutions of the feudal system; the decline of feudalism significantly expanded science and the university, and radically changed the world and its operations to lead us to the industrial era.

In general, our communication tools are levers that can radically change the way we work, encouraging us to deploy more “collective intelligence”.

Similarly, the internet today has produced a “crisis of conscience” about the reality of political decisions and help in the deployment of a new world of open – source , collaborative company management, participatory media, the 15M movement, Occupy Wall Street, leading to new kinds of revolts as in Tunisia and Egypt.

Although the internet is not going to solve all our problems by itself, such a tool will necessarily involve a major change in our society. One can even argue that it will allow us to establish a way of life more “human” and more equitable among all.

Unfortunately, the overall vision of what can make a tool such as the internet is often limited to a simple appeal to the “democratic” , where in reality it is our democratic vision that will revolutionize the internet. For the internet offers us the ability to share real- time information with everyone else. Among specialists in collective intelligence, we speak of ” holopticism.” Schematically holopticism is the ability for all members of an organization to collect in real-time everything that is going on. This is key when you understand how information is vital in order to participate equally in a decision.

 

Understanding collective decisions and synergy

Some have claimed that there is a natural selfishness in humankind and a need for leaders. Nonetheless, monarchies and republics, even with their leaders, have not yet, with few exceptions, avoided crises , revolutions and chaos.

Paradoxically, the greatest remedy to this selfishness was found in the collective decision-making . The idea of ​​popular power is not a Greek invention, it is found to the origins of the human species : for example, even prehistoric tribes of hunter gatherers followed collective decision-making, and did not have a hierarchical structure.

Similarly, in nature, among dolphins , for example, one finds ways of living without hierarchy, where leadership changes from one individual to another at any time , and where individual freedom is extraordinary despite a strong spirit.

In humans, the method of decision-making that seems most prevalent historically is not dictatorship, nor a majority vote, nor “anarchy.”

This is a decision that involves a form of unanimity in the group, as evidenced by the exciting work of our ethnologists.

From “the apparent consensus decision” by Philippe Urfalino .

The Navajo do not have the concept of representative government. They are used to deciding any issue in meetings of all concerned … Traditionally, they make a decision after having discussed until consensus is met, or until the opposition concedes that it is impractical to continue.

This way of taking collective decisions, described in 1946 by Clyde and Dorothea Kluckhon Leughton for Navajo Indians, seems to have been the most widespread form of social organization.
The presence on all continents of this mode of decision-making sometimes described as “consensus”, sometimes as “unanimous” is evidenced by the work of anthropologists and historians. This is the only mode decision found among hunter-gatherer societies ( Baechler [1994 ] Silberbauer [1982] ) and was also the only legitimate form of collective decision in village communities in Kabylia (Mahé [2000] ) and in Black Africa ( Abeles [2003 ] Terray [1988] ) and Asia ( Popkin [1979] , Smith [1959] ).

European village communities of the Middle Ages also used deliberative assemblies, concluding their decisions without a vote, particularly in central and northern Europe: Otto Gierke ( Cited by Dumont [1983], p 99) noted the prevalence of unanimity for Germanic Europe. The Assembly of heads of clans Iceland, Althing, probably worked the same way (Byock [2001]). Consensus still prevailed in the decisions in some Scandinavian villages [as recently as thirty or fifty years ago?] (Yngvesson [1978] for Sweden, Barnes [1954] for Norway).

When we point out these examples, our interlocutor often stops us immediately: “You speak of prehistoric tribes? You mean to say that we should engage in direct democracy? These modes of operations also saw tribal wars, plus they were in small groups and on a large scale this organization is impossible. It is already hard to hear in a small group , and then how to decide unanimously on the scale of a country? Anyway, they had the same problems as us, etc. “

It is then necessary to establish simple elements:
- No, we’re not talking about direct democracy as commonly understood, but a more complex form of organization that includes other ways of deciding sets.
- These are recent discoveries, and few are those who know exactly what decision-making process were used to achieve unanimity, let alone their exact mechanisms.
- Similar processes are used today in many commission of experts, assembly of eminent persons, or the Italian Constitutional Court , because we consider that it is the most effective methods to get the best decision.
- In addition, we know exactly why these modes of natural organizations are not found in large numbers?

Their mechanisms are generally misunderstood. They reside in both the means for sharing information in the time allocated to adaptation decisions, but also in the differentiation between the general consensus view, and that of consent.
We can represent the difference thus: one is a case of “everyone says yes,” and the other “no one says no.”

 Let us dwell for a moment on this important concept. The consensus decision involves equality: it is the principle 1 vote = 1 vote. This is the method we use today in our Western democracies seeking what is called a majority consensus (51% of votes). This is a binary pattern of “for” or “against.” It is an aggregation of individual preferences, a bit silly without allowing for differences in strength of preference or conviction.

Sometimes we have simple preferences, while at other times, we are strongly opposed to a proposal as presented, or one of its implications.

Consent will generally involve consideration for the requirements to the decision: decisions will be made through firm opinion and reasoned objections will face priority over simple preferences. In trying to resolve these conditions, the final decisions will satisfy a much larger number of participants, and will also be better. It is also the only known way to successfully achieve unanimity 

For example, if we are three friends and we must choose between two containers of ice cream, if two of us prefer vanilla but the third is allergic, we will choose other so that everyone can eat. The firm argued objection will carry more weight than the aggregate preferences.
Understanding these natural phenomena is now a key to better decide as a group. However, they have two main limitations: the need to communicate effectively and the time required to make decisions.

Do we know exactly why these modes of organizations that seem so natural are not found in large numbers?

With our current democracies, it is assumed that everyone has or can participate in decisions as if they were equal to everyone else!
This is a big mistake. Imagine a chess game where your opponent could see the whole board, and on your side, you can see only a part. Even if you have an incredible intelligence, and are more talented than him, you will definitely lose this game: you cannot effectively analyze the best move to play because you do not see all the parts of the board.

The need to have enough useful information related to a decision is the first thing that pushed humanity to function in pyramidal structures, i.e , with a hierarchy, a leader who decides what is best for us. 

With the growth of major cities it became impossible for every member of our community to have sufficient knowledge of what was happening.  In order to make a decision within a large organization, one needs enough general information. And the only way to allow someone to have this information is through the “centralization of information”:  information passes  to a higher level, and this in turn does the same, until the information arrives at the “head” of the organization, which has privileged access .

It’s called the panopticon: schematically, if you’re at the bottom of a mountain, you can see a small shrub near you but not what there is on the other side of the mountain. If you are at the top of the mountain, you will see the entirety of the mountain, but not the details.
You know more than the boss about what is happening in your business, but you know less than he or she does concerning what happens in other sectors.

Thus, we understand the concept of “information field” is an essential element for making good decisions, and that, without any skill. By virtue of having more information, you can make a better decision whatever your intelligence, your experience or your talent on the subject.

In a small group , we can easily share all relevant information , and thus move towards greater equity decision . But in a large organization , it was impossible and unimaginable until now.

You will then respond: “Yes, you could still share the information! It was enough to re-share the same way in the other direction!”

Again, it’s hard to understand a fundamental element: the time factor. When deciding something, we still have a limited time to make this decision.

If you are a general and an army is in front of you attacking, you will not take the time to share with all members of your army useful information and cheerfully discuss what seems wiser. You have a limited time to make the decision more just to avoid getting slaughtered.

The time required for the decision depends on the decision to make, and when we realize that we have a limited time to make a decision, it also includes the ability to share real -time information that will give us precious time to arrive at the best decision all together.

These are key elements to understand:
 
- You cannot make a decision unless you collectively share enough information related to the decision.
- The way you make a decision depends on the time you have to make it.

It is follows that having sufficient information and time are necessary to decide effectively. In turn improved decision making begins the instant everyone has information.

We often say, “Human beings are selfish and they only think about themselves in the end, and that’s the problem.”

The human being is not an exploitive, selfish monster, as Marx explained to us. Although his contribution to the mechanisms of capitalism is more precious, even prophetic, his comprehension of human nature is most ridiculous and devoid of real analysis of the context that can bring these human behaviors.

This is the system that pushes us to be individualistic, and there is evidence to certify:

” Anthropologists stress that the practice of what might be called palaver is exercised
in a normative context where political individualism is absent ( Terray [ 1987 -
89 ] Abeles [2003 ] ) . “

Do you realize the significance of this simple sentence? A context where political individualism is absent? But if human beings are fundamentally individualistic then how can there be so many societies where political individualism does not exist?

But especially the most basic question: in what parameters is political individualism absent?

The answer lies in the concept of synergy, we can do more together than the sum of what can be done separately. A tribe of hunter-gatherers will be able to drive a huge mammoth work together and provide meat in abundance for all, where the individual acting alone could never do so.

 

The problem is that we do not understand that if we can act synergistically then what we produce together is strictly greater than the sum ofwhat can be produced separately, and if we always allocate equitably the fruits of this collective work, then self-interest and public interestcoincide.

In other words, your interest is to help the group or community, because the more it will earn, the more you earn in return. This is not true in our society today for two reasons: synergy is ignored, and there is an inequitable distribution of wealth. If you give to your country, you will only make the rich richer and the poor continue to be poor.

 

Mutual support, sharing and love of one’s neighbor are erased when we are placed us in an environment where protecting the interests of those we love means confronting others. If man is placed in an environment where helping others benefits everyone, including his family, then all are much better off.

You may say, “But in this case, humanity would have chosen to be less effective in establishing the pyramid scheme? It does not make sense!”

Of course, we have continued to evolve. A small group is more effective in conducting its affairs horizontally, but this ability is lost in large numbers. The synergy of a horizontal system is impossible without holopticism. The pyramid scheme makes sense for one simple reason: quantity may outweigh quality.

 

When a small group of 50 people working more effectively in a horizontal system is faced with an army of 5,000 individuals with a great leader, even if the small group deploys more intelligence proportionate to the number of individuals, it cannot resist the “strength in numbers”.

The pyramid scheme therefore made ​​sense in a world where information could not be shared with all instantly. But the question that remains is whether this is still the case today.

“But how to create a world where giving to the community will save at all?”

The solution to our problem lies in how we make our decisions, in the analysis of the decision with the consent of all and of the structure [organization?], in the understanding of the concept of information field, and the parameters of the synergy.

 

Because in reality all these elements are not or little studied and remain completely unknown to the general public. We never tried to understand these mechanisms and discoveries are very recent.

In addition, the use of large-scale internet brings the possibility to have equal access to relevant information in very large structures is also a new element historically. Without this tool, it is impossible to have a fair [understanding?] about the possibility of participating in general decisions.
It is these elements that are key to understanding the great challenges of the 21st century.

Even when we look to the past, discussions and debate about how we make decisions collectively are very numerous, and have led us to other voting methods, and exciting proposition that is deliberative democracy, too often ignored.

It is natural anyway that we redirect our attention to the traditional ways of making decisions on a larger scale, thanks to new technology that will bring us something we had lost large numbers: the holopticism.

 

Just because humans love their neighbor and love to be effective. These modes can be more effective and are also are used in many large companies that tend to reduce levels of the hierarchy, or remove them, as in the open-source movement and new forms of rebellion or social movements worldwide. The examples are endless.

The structure of these modes of decision making called unanimously palaver apparent consensus decision or decision to consent of all, is not really understood or applied on a large scale . Specialists discovered just this unexplored continent and it remains totally unknown to the general public.

More broadly, these implications are equally ignored. They bring to the work of researchers in collective intelligence: living architecture, holopticism, gift economy, self-learning …
Researchers who themselves have failed to understand the structure of the natural decision in a small group: the differences between consensus and consent.

 

We have a new ability, another way to decide, with a lot of success than those methods used in our political system, but this time spread out in businesses, communities, etc. 

These functions allow us to adapt, learn from our mistakes, and evolve our operations . The rules governing the 15M movement or Occupy in their beginnings are different from those that govern today. The very fact of having to take into account what is important for each shoot to evolve.

The characteristics of a large-scale system that will seek the consent of all will involve other elements that are inter -dependent. Just as we cannot decide without the consent of all holopticism, we cannot accept what is essential for everyone by refusing to evolve, as it can effectively decide the consent of all in a centralized system, etc. 

If you must share generally the true solution of a fair system radically different from the existing it will mention five characteristics:

 

Research the consent of all: the most common operation in the history of mankind which is by far the most effective, and which suppresses political individualism.
 The need to seek maximum holopticism: the total transparency in real -time, minimum, information related to decisions that affect you, which cannot be ruled out a search with the consent of all, greatly reducing corruption and manipulations.
 An evolving system as we change, the world changes, and that future generations do not have to be limited by our vision today .
 A living architecture that allows everyone to go assist and participate in various locations to form multiple experiences, and a natural authority to put in place, which varies from one individual to another depending on what we are doing .
 A decentralization required for each master is what concerns having the last word which does not look at the others, while the other to decide when the decision affects.

Such a system is possible and it would permit us to proceed step by step in solving our problems, never stop evolving in itself: a constitution,for example, written all together (it is quite possible when we understand the mechanisms of these decision-making processes); it will bebetter, and written in a more limited in time! It will be reviewed regularly under similar conditions so that the following generations are masters of their society, and not governed by the laws that previous generations have seen best in conditions so very different.

Concrete action

Most important is that such a system can and should be applied today, among ourselves, with our own internal economy, and testing these methods to prove their superior efficiency.

We can organize ourselves today by showing the world that the human being is not what some would have us believe.

The Occupy movement and the Indignatos strive to rediscover such approaches often without realizing it, because it is indeed a natural function of people who have now have acquired the power to share real-time information on a large scale.
 
These movements are too centralized and need to share their experiences and complete decision making, test methods comparable decision-making very large scale to provide more concrete alternatives to the people , and learn to accept a new form of leadership while continuing to deny the static hierarchy, ie refuse a great leader : we can be in the same group all leaders on specific functions, for a specified period.

But they never fail to evolve and they are only just beginning! We naively believe that we can have everything overnight, for a mass mobilization, even hope in the persistence of individuals who overcome their difficulties by relying on their own strength, determination, and lifelong learning.

Then there is the response, “Okay, even if this system is possible and we can make better decisions together and have synergy and a better world , anyway , we do not have the power to establish it! “

Again, we often think of a miraculous process, everyone should be aware and act, or a major campaign of mass communication should change everything in itself. And if that does not work it is just that people are too stupid.

This is another big mistake. First, not everyone can be a full-time or even part time activist today. Many of us have responsibilities and cannot engage in a difficult struggle while providing for their families. The degree of conviction varies among people, or they have other priorities.

It is also for these reasons that we must offer concrete alternatives to people, respecting those who cannot invest as much as we in thischange.

For example, we can create a system within the system, using our own money, and if we collectively manage our resources effectively, we will gain strength every day, starting to now. As a linux system is more efficient than windows system, a horizontal well managed system ismore efficient than a pyramid scheme in the Internet era.

There are many means to act, working practically, evolving and progressing every day. The creation of a small group of trusted colleaguescan change things enormously, especially by adopting similar horizontal operations that allow them to combine very easily and very effectively.

Our role is to learn to work together in all fairness, actually, today. We should be closer to the people, with specific objectives and recognizing our successes as our failures.

The establishment of a small horizontal movement will connect with others, and here tools that are related to networking are very important. We need to facilitate links between people who understand this global perspective, and allow them to all be in direct contact with each other, while continuing to develop our specific projects and assistance.

Many tools exist today: Mumble , PADS, crowd -funding , collaborative platforms …

Wherever you are and whoever you are, a great and important task awaits you . We do not ask you simply to “talk around you,” there will be no leader , we do not draw lots for a great leader either! Together we make the decisions that affect us all, and we help each other while allowing complete freedom for everyone.

However, starting from scratch to learn these methods is difficult and can result in errors: a from a spokesman acquiring too much power to a misunderstanding of the difference between equality and equity decision, between consensus and consent, between methods that work and those that don’t, not to mention making changes based on the parameters of the decision to take, etc. 

Your mission, should you accept it, is to make contact the self-managed groups around you and connect with others. To accept differences and understand others. Adopt effective strategies on the ground, enact systemic, concrete alternatives : free currencies , food self -sufficiency, a culture of commitment, etc. .

We must learn from each other and adopt methods that allow us to grow every day.

And we well remember an important element; if we cannot agree amongst ourselves in a fair system today, how can we hope to do throughout the world?

This system exists. And you can test it today in your own groups and especially improve since it is ultimately a proposal that everyone should own, and which is scalable. We can all help each other and decide together the world in which we live and immediately develop strategies to take back what is rightfully ours and become stronger every day until that time.

Horizontalism was born naturally in our society and we have not yet precisely defined it. It is time that everyone appropriates and applies this model.

If you need any help , contact the mailing list: http://lists.occupy.net/lists/subscribe/espoirhorizontal

One french book called “Horizontal hope” exists where you can see detailed proposals for comprehensive methods and learn more about these. It seeks translators, ”Horizontal Hope” available free at: http://www.horizontality.org/espoirhorizontal/

16 November 2013
by pa-webgroup
0 comments

Global March against the Mainstream Media

 

MARCH AGAINST MAINSTREAM MEDIA is global event on Nov 16th happening in over 100 locations world wide. 

 

This Saturday, please support this call for a more responsible media.  

 

WHY?
Because issues that deeply affect the  public are either under reported or not reported at all, such as:

 

In the UK in September 60,000 people marched TO SAVE THE NHS (from corporate take over), in Manchester. It was placed as local news, while the small Tory conference was televised, and the issue was not covered.

 

The #MillionMaskMarch occurred in 400 locations around the world, but was deemed “too small” to report.

LOCATIONS IN THE UNITED KINGDOM

MARCH AGAINST MAIN STREAM MEDIA GLOBAL SATURDAY 16TH NOVEMBER

LONDON – https://www.facebook.com/events/211755219006456/

BBC MEDIA CITY SALFORD , MANCHESTER
MANCHESTER – https://www.facebook.com/events/576695935730752/

SOUTHAMPTON – https://www.facebook.com/events/722334277794768/

HULL – https://www.facebook.com/events/562573580483603/

BIRMINGHAM – https://www.facebook.com/events/540107232743945/

BBC Scotland Pacific Quay Pacific Drive Glasgow G51 1DA
GLASGOW – https://www.facebook.com/events/388343207963053/

BRISTOL – https://www.facebook.com/events/1394011987504779/

MIDDLESBOROUGH – https://www.facebook.com/events/211057479073935/

Cardiff event OpBBC

https://www.facebook.com/events/588018157914214/

Kingston-Upon_Hull

https://www.facebook.com/events/562573580483603/?source=1

Norwich BBC

https://www.facebook.com/events/552010618207478/?ref_newsfeed_story_type=regular&source=1

LOCATIONS IN THE USA.
http://www.mamsm.info/locations.htm

This event will be live video streamed via this channel:
http://bambuser.com/channel/OccupyLondon\

Find more info, videos FB links etc at Occupy London site

16 November 2013
by pa-webgroup
0 comments

Brussels Strategy Meeting 12-13 Dec

Invitation to a European strategy meeting for civil society organisations

For more information on the TTIP go here

And also in the Guardian 

And on the ‘secret chapter’ in Wikileaks

Brussels 12-13 December
Venue: Avenue de Cortenbergh, 1040, Brussels

The proposed EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP/TAFTA), is one of the
most ambitious projects of the European Commission. It may strongly affect social, labour and
environmental rights on both sides of the Atlantic and deepen global trade and investment
liberalization. Indeed, elites from both sides explicitly aim at greater “transatlantic regulatory
convergence and harmonization” of future regulations between the EU and the US, in the only
interests of transnational corporations and financial industry.

The objective of the meeting is to  bring together representatives of civil society organisations and social movements from across  Europe that want to better understand the threats posed by the TTIP and want to work in a  coordinated way to build a common strategy facing the proposed deal.

Meeting starts at 14.30 on 12 December and finishes at 15.30 on 13 December

A detailed Agenda and details about the venue will be circulated to registered.

Please register by sending an email to info@s2bnetwork.org indicating your full name, the
organisation you are representing, your arrival and departure time.

Deadline for registration: 6th December