Here are some ideas that various people have already put forward about Peoples Assemblies, none of them definitive. We will add comments from overseas – aswell as interactive spaces in which the PA concept, including some of the important concerns that surround it can be discussed – soon.
People’s Assemblies are democratic bodies representing everyone in a community. There are many ideas about what they should do. Here is a starter-for-seven taken from A World to Win’s new booklet about People’s Assemblies:
- defend against closures, evictions, and job losses
- fight for democracy and rights
- campaign for action on climate change
- oppose war and the secret state
- struggle against racism and attacks on minority communities
- build links with movements internationally
- create a new democratic society through a transfer of economic and political power.
Taking another angle, here is The Campaign for a 21st Century Constitution 2006 Statement, which mentions People’s Assemblies.
The Campaign for Real Democracy / Project 2012 has set out the following priciples:
Equality – each person is able to speak and be listened to – there is no elite platform
Difference – we learn from each other’s perspectives; we may disagree, but we listen to one another respectfully and our views become refined through the experience
Solidarity – we are together because we believe in the existence of a common agenda. In spite of our differences, we pursue and find consensus over ideas and shared actions
Sharing – we believe in a society in which sharing and co-operation triumph over competition. We freely share food and other gifts at our meetings
Secularity and Spirituality – we respect and are happy to learn from different belief systems
Ecology – we believe in a new, really democratic society with a very low/zero carbon footprint
Self-determination – we struggle for a new kind of freedom based on community, nurturing, true individuality, and vice versa – “It takes a village to bring up a child”
(1) Peoples Assemblies make decisions horizontally
(2) Peoples Assemblies are interested to learn about, try out and embody new democratic practices
(1) Real Democracy – PAs should find ways to campaign for a really ecological, democratic society at local, national and global levels
(2) Decentralisation – to bring this about, sovereignty should be vested at the neighbourhood / community / workplace / study place level
(3) Internationalism – PA communities link up in solidarity and support across the world
(4) Ideals – we are interested to bring about a world based on a Reclaimation of the Commons, Truth, Peace, Sustainability, Justice and Compassion above all things and we are willing to fight non-violently to this end
(5) Peoples Assembly movement – to bring these aims about we are calling for a movement based on the idea of Peoples Assemblies
(1) local, democratic not private or state led provision of public services (the real third way)
(2) really democratic, people powered globalisation, not capitalist or state-led (the real third “world”, or international) as a means in its end, but also a way of forcing the nation states to work together for the good of all
(3) a new appropriate political economy to match
The Kenya Network of Grassroots Organisations (KENGONET) says:
Greetings from Kenya. We are keen to participate in any way that we can in the People’s Assemblies process. We think that we can add value to the process owing to our involvement in the People’s Parliament, an initiative that has lasted for the past 18 years.
The People’s Parliament has been the conduit for resistance in Kenya and has taken part in important struggles and initiated change processes on various issues. It would be great if we could join with others in the movement for People’s Assemblies.
We may not have funds to contribute to the process, but we can certainly offer support in other ways.
Radfax says: “No devisions, uniting the Kingdoms for the benefit of all”
Mary says: “I am extremely concerned about the proposed public sector cuts and would like to play a part in opposing them”
Andrew says: “I support the idea of direct democracy and minimising hierarchy in organising democratic institutions. I think the people’s assemblies project has potential to function in this role, as did the plenums we organised during an occupation of the filosofski fakultet in Zagreb, April and October/November 2009. Plenums, consisting of large groups of students who chose to attend, were a means of bypassing student council (which was a nursery ground for those interested in liberal democratic governance). Student councils had led to large scale political disengagement, with small numbers of students voting. The plenums (and people’s assemblies) are means by which an increasingly politicised public can actively participate. I want to link up with other people working on this project and find out how it can be implemented in manchester
Umut says: “Because People’s Assemblies is trying to lead the future movements… I don’t know I have lots of reasons to support you… Because I want to be a part of this movement… it should organise non-violent direct actions… it should make co-operations between several different ideological movements stronger… it should provide many platforms for the people to discuss their ideas about the future…
See you there…
umut (means ‘hope’ in turkish language)”
Matthew says: “We need to do something and it needs to be different.”
Julian says: “We need to put power and activity back into the hands of people, we need to begin to organise toward this. The powers that be have utterly run amok now, we have to change it. Because I want to take part in my own life and society.”
Gerard says: “I think a positive step is need beyond protesting which demonstates to ordinary people that there are real alternatives which embody the idea of a participatory democracy. I will be attending along with other members of project for a participatory society (PPS -UK). I’m also hoping to meet other activists and network with them. It should try to engage local people in campaigning on local issues but also agitate for more services to be run by communities.”
Preeti says: “I believe that engaging in discourse about a possible vision for the future is essential in guiding our current strategy and resistance. I believe that we need to hear more diverse voices.
I will attend this event because it is inspiring and very close to the heart of what PPS-UK is also interesting in discussing. Hear voices in an efficient, inspiring and productive way.”
Jonathan says: “People’s Assemblies are a radically decentralised and participatory structure of governance (or non-government). They are an alternative to the power of the state and the authority of central governments. Assemblies can be the vehicles for the liberation of humanity from exploitation, separation and alienation. I want to learn more about the movement and get involved. They should be the sole organs of power and organisation for a liberated humanity.”
Jason (Project for a Participatory Society U.K.)
says: “We support projects that seek to build alternative institutions based on participation, equity, solidarity and self-management that seek to dismantle and transcend current unjust structures as part of a process towards social transformation. We will be discussing this as a group and presenting our ideas of short, medium and long term goals on the day of the event. As an ultimate aim however I believe the goal of establishing people’s assemblies should be to replace the representative democracy political system we have now with a federated nested structure of councils and assemblies that cover the whole society. To engage in projects that tackle the root of institutional injustice and seeks to replace the current system with new structures that promote participation, equity, diversity and self-management.”
Kondo (GLOBE VERT, Lomé , Togo) says: “THIS IS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR US ESPECIALLY FROM DEVELOPPING COUNTRIES TO RAISE OUR VOICE AND CONTRIBUTE TO A REAL CHANGE. THIS ASSEMBLY WILL ALSO ENABLE PEOPLE INSTEAD OF MURMURING IN THEIR ROOMS TO MAKE THEMSELVES HEAR BY STAKEHOLDERS. MY PARTICIPATORY TO THIS EVENTS IS VERY IMPORTANT BECAUSE IT WILL BE AN OPPORTUNITY FOR ME TO CONTRIBUTE AS A WORLD CITIZEN TO CHANGE THINGS OR TO PROPOSE WHAT SHOULD BE. A PEOPLE ASSEMBLY SHOULD TAKE INTO ACCOUNT EACH OF OUR PROPOSAL BECAUSE FEW PEOPLE CAN NOT DECIDE IN THE NAME OF OTHERS. AND THIS ASSEMBLY SHOULD MAINLY FOCUS IN DEVELOPPING COUNTRIES.”
Clemens (PPS-UK) says: “i think PAs are crucial elements in a really democratic society. PAs should decide about the allocation of resources on a local level.”
Richard says: “Because we need to take back ownership of the true meaning of Big Society that has been perverted by David Cameron. Big Society is about democracy and people meeting the needs of their community by association. Because since the ‘non-election’ in May I have felt powerless as bit by bit the coalition Government shows its contempt for democracy, whether in its actions or intended actions, but masked behind actions/policies which hide their undemocratic nature.
I want to be part of something that can hopefully make a difference The cuts are merely a symptom of the failures of capitalism. It is broke, but why fix such a not fit for purpose system. The movement should be prominent in fighting the cuts but as a means of gaining attention and commitment. However at the same time it should shout the message about the attack on democracy by the coalition (see previous comment:
Fixed term parliaments. recallable MPs (but restricted to ‘misdemeanours’ the government doesn’t like) designating all bills affected by the cuts as money bills and therefore not debatable by the second chamber. Dressing up the Alternative Vote as a big reform, if it was the Tories would nebver allow it, it is only there to save Nick Clegg’s blushes.”
Virginia says: “Because this systems need to be changed and only organized people can do it. o learn more, meet people and contribute to be part of this movement.”
Andrew says: “I support the idea of direct democracy and minimising
hierarchy in organising democratic institutions. I think the people’s assemblies project has potential to function in this role, as did the plenums we organised during an occupation of the filosofski fakultet in Zagreb, April and October/November 2009. Plenums, consisting of large groups of students who chose to attend, were a means of bypassing student council (which was a nursery ground for those interested in liberal democratic governance). Student councils had led to large scale political disengagement, with small numbers of students voting. The plenums (and people’s assemblies) are means by which an increasingly politicised public can actively participate. I want to link up with other people working on this
project and find out how it can be implemented in manchester”
Chris says: “Because we need to take and dissolve state power. It should take power”
Liliana says: “Because I think we have to create world(s) beyond capitalism. To exchange ideas, experiences, help mobilise? work on or support ‘outreach’/education”
Carl says: “I have been involved in anti-cuts discussions with my sixth form students, and also assisted the Royal Holloway university occupation. I think it is important to make strong links between other groups and individuals with similar concerns, so that coordinated action can be taken. I want to make contact with other people and organisations who have similar concerns. The assembly should provide an opportunity for different people to share their experiences and successes/difficulties in their activism. It should also allow for future activity at a wider level.
Lisa says: “I have been attending people’s assemblies near the Houses of Parliament following the eviction of the Democracy Village which I also regularly visited. i support the idea of people coming together to discuss political issues rather than passively watching others discussing them on TV from within our separate self-contained units for living. Create space for participation that goes beyond the illusion of participation created by the ballot.
Ethan says: “I support the idea of a peoples assembly.
Because I feel that parliament does not have the best interests of the common man. Centralised government looks out for one person and that is itself. Through local and national people assemblies we can provide a counter balance to the growing power of the centralised state. We vote the MPs in to power, they should be answerable to us but their not. People’s assemblies will put the power back in the hands of the people. A peoples assembly should both discuss policy that could be proposed to the government as well as debate the policies that the government are trying to put through. Peoples assemblies should also deal with social issues that the government are not address effectively.”