Political Involvement and Getting Anywhere within the Present System

Hi all,

I've just come from the Natcan webinar and am fully enthused; so I thought I'd start a discussion.

A lot of people are disillusioned with politics today... most people in fact. And it begs the question of how we can make a difference. I'm involved in a number of different projects to try and make a difference. But to be perfectly honest the one I have the most passion for is the one with the least chance of getting big. Why? Because it's a political party (www.democraticreform.co.uk).

Now in my view: a) we need to get people elected to change the system; b) those people being elected must come from outside the system, from a group whose members work together, but aren't whipped; and c) that group shouldn't be a single issue group - it should be about empowering all people. This is why I'm a democratic reformist.

What I'd like to ask you is your opinion on this. Do you think parties have a future or not? And if so could it be worth your while spending £5 a year to bring about change?

I realise this sounds like simple promotion by the way. But I'm editing a book with Cambridge Dons, a Nobel prize nominee, entrepeneurs and heads of political organisations. It will be called Democratic Reform: The Next Leap Forwards. And in that book I'll be writing about the future of the party system. So your answers will be carefully considered, and used as research for that book.

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Do you mean a concerted effort to get independent minded people elected to take reasonable decisions on the merits of the case, and not in supporting power blocs and gaining power from that, and in as close contact as is possible with the life and opinions of their constituents? If so, then  - YES! YES! YES!

This is what we desperately need, especially at local government level where it is also much more realistically possible to introduce fast (in fact I think it is already happening in some places but not joined up yet elsewhere). If we were successful in seeding groups of seriously real independent councillors across the country then in those localities they would begin to have an effect on the dynamics of local party politics and the movement would grow so that there would be a potential for getting independent MPs elected in some places.

This would help to disturb and unstick the highly dysfunctional nature of the party political system that has now become so highly unfit for purpose it is a part of the toxic system which is leading us over the cliff.

Fantastic. Yes what you said at first is exactly what I mean. But we're not just promoting independence; we're promoting cooperation and accountability too.

At the moment we're stuck with a choice between independents on the one hand, who can respond to their community but can't cooperate on national level; and centralised parties where a few people have all the power. What we need is an inbetween; something through which independently minded people can develop their own manifestos at the local level, not be whipped, and be responsive to the people first and foremost, such that they can take reasonable decisions on the merits of each case; but also something that provides a framework for cooperation on a national scale, and agreement on both a national manifesto and a set of values that people can vote for. This is what the Democratic Reform Party aims to be.

Hi Robert
 
Your post reminds me of something I just read in Eric Hobsbawm's latest book concerning Gramsci:
 

"You might as well say that for Gramsci what is the basis for socialism is not socialisation in the economic sense – i.e. the socially owned and planned economy (thought this of obviously its basis and framework) – but socialisation in the political and sociological sense…

 

Socialist societies, also for comprehensible historic reasons, have concentrated on the other tasks, notably those of planning the economy, and (with the exception of the crucial question of power, and perhaps, in multinational countries, of the relation between their components nations) have paid very much less attention to their actual political and legal institutions, and processes.

 

In extreme cases, as in China on recent years, the major political decisions affecting the future of the country appear to emerge suddenly from the struggles of a small group of rulers at the top, and their very nature is unclear, since they have never been publically discussed.  In such cases, something is clearly wrong.

 

In insisting on the crucial importance of politics, Gramsci drew attention to a critical aspect of the construction of socialism as well as the winning of socialism. It is a reminder we should heed."

Good points. We're not arguing for any particular ideological standpoint. But if there is a democratic reformist ideology it is that things are always in a state of change;  the state needs to be able to change in sync with society; and that it can only do this quickly enough if it is truly in touch with the people, through a decentralised democratic system. As you imply, not only are ideas constantly changing, but perceptions of them are changing as well. I just argued this here: http://www.democraticreform.co.uk/questions-and-answers at the bottom under comments.

Yes of course cooperation, and linking and sharing, are crucial to enable independents to function. But not as old style 'groups' at local government level which gets them into the old power game which is so deeply embedded in our political system it pushes everyone along that track wherever they start.

 

But, we have the opportunity within our grasp now, with new tech media like this giving us so many new tools to help us share at what I call the horizontal peer level - where it is more energy wave than organisational matter (see video clip and my paper .) It is why I am an ethusiastic supporter of NatCAN. It is part of the same jigsaw of fundamental emergent change.

 

Paying attention and awareness to the process for the inter-relationship of the horizontal peer system and the existing vertical system, which will remain, is critical to the success of indepedents in electoral and representational politics. We have a long way to go to get a good enough understanding of that. I hope my paper offers some help in thinking about it.

 

Good links. You're absolutely right that there is a fundamental mismatch between the vertical and horizontal models in political and non-political society; and that this needs to be remedied through decentralisation. However I think we may have to disagree on your idea of getting rid of political groups. On your own it would be even more difficult to change the system than working together; and on your own you cannot represent people as well as multiple people working together can.

I realise you're saying that independents do cooperate. Of course they do. But take structure out of the equation and you're not left with a horizontal structure; you're left simply with agencies; many of whom would have a strong desire to re-establish some sort of hierearchical structure. Imagine a system where all MPs were independent, and no one had any party behind them providing support or research, or holding them to account against a constitution and manifesto that people voted for. No one person knows everything. Would every individual make their own manifesto? Perhaps their own constitution too, setting out their personal values? How would they know enough about all these areas to be a specialist everywhere? Yes you can hire assistants but let's face it they'd just be un-elected politicians with their own ideas. Yes you can ask your constituents, but would you ask them everything that's not in a subject area you don't have experience or a degree in?

We have to move away from the idea that this is about individuals. It's about the system. We need a new system, like the Open Parliament (http://www.authorstream.com/Presentation/JeanEveleigh-1331723-open-...), which creates a democracy 2.0, empowering people, and using evidence at the same time to ensure we move not towards populism but a knowledge democracy. And we need a new movement - lots of people, not just one, talking about the newest and greatest ideas.

With only independents the system becomes more open to corruption, and loses transparency because all the deals are made between individuals behind closed doors i.e. a modern Roman Senate. Groups would be formed anyway, but they would be groups that the public had no control over.

Thus the new, inclusive politics must really have new thinking at its core. It cannot be a choice between the old parties and individuals who we vest all our hopes in. There are good people in Parliament already. It's the system that is their enemy. And so we need an entirely new way of thinking.

Robert - this response system is too shorthand. You will see from my paper that I am not seeking the removal of the vertical systems nor the interaction of the horizontal with them. So I am not proposing only a loose network of independents and nothing else. Quite the contrary - I am an organisational structure specialist by background ... Just needed to make that clear. I may not have time to come back on this to say more until the weekend, so wanted to say this straight away.

Ah sorry Eileen; I have to admitt I only gave the links a glance. My mistake! I hate it when people do that, and I've just gone and done it myself, lol.

I won't be able to respond myself again until next week. But I'd certainly be interested in hearing more (without having to read that whole article please - I would love to but I really don't have the time).


Robert Battison said:
I won't be able to respond myself again until next week. But I'd certainly be interested in hearing more (without having to read that whole article please - I would love to but I really don't have the time).

 

I know the feeling. Just look at the video clip. video clip  It isnt the theroy but it will give you a flavour.

If many of the recommendations in the Power Inquiry had been taken up democracy might be in a healthier state in the UK in terms of participation, influence etc, etc. 

http://www.jrrt.org.uk/sites/jrrt.org.uk/files/documents/Powertothe...

Right, I've watched the whole video now! Sorry about not doing so before replying above. So let me see if I understand this correctly. You're saying that most of our grassroots civil actions are comparable to energy waves rather than atoms, protons, neutrons etc, and thus that although organisational structures are necessary, we must not try and place a structure around all agency action because almost by nature many agency actions do not belong within a bound socio-political structure. Is that correct? And that the implications of this way of thinking are that we need structured organisations to exist in a support role rather than an active role? So for example you would propose for example that rather than parties having collective positions, a Pressure Group or Big Lottery kind of scheme could have a collective position (even if it was simply to support independents) and support independents towards electoral victory but that they shouldn't have undue influence over them afterwards?

I think I do need you to clarify this actually, without having been able to read the paper. But if my interpretation is correct then we're not all that far apart. The DRP doesn't have Whips and so cannot sway DRP candidates after they've been elected. Local candidates write their own manifestos based on feedback and surgeries in their local area. But the party provides an organisational structure within which people of shared values can cooperate on national issues. Thus it provides a means for people who don't stand for election to shape the manifestos of those seeking election, but beyond that manifesto, and the values incorporated within the constitution, candidates are responsible to the people who elect them. If the party leadership wants to garner agreement on a certain matter then we put arguments across and debate, but do not whip.

P.S. Simon I couldn't agree more! Most of these proposals are in fact already in the DRP manifesto.

Robert said: Right, I've watched the whole video now! Sorry about not doing so before replying above. So let me see if I understand this correctly. You're saying that most of our grassroots civil actions are comparable to energy waves rather than atoms, protons, neutrons etc, and thus that although organisational structures are necessary, we must not try and place a structure around all agency action because almost by nature many agency actions do not belong within a bound socio-political structure. Is that correct?

 

well sort of, but not quite. There are appropriate strutures and proscesses and systems in relation to the energy waves but they are not just the imposition of those that are used in the vertical hierarchical world of organisations and institutions. This imposition is what happens now and that is my first preoccupation - to get undersanding that that is not appropriate.

I will need time to think about what you are saying in relation to political parties. But I am very interested in developing how my model applies to them. It is noted on the diagram of my model (figure 7  in the paper page 12) and the text in comment on hybrid systems in the shared social eco-system (pages 11 & 12). But further work is needed to articulate my thoughts about that.

I am very preoccupied just now with deadlines until about 16 March so may have to leave further response to you till after. But I will come back to it. Thank you for looking at the video and thinking about this.

 

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