We need popular participation, not populism - Hilary Wainwright

The struggle for the vote for workers and for women was resisted at every stage, and when universal suffrage was finally won, every effort was made to blunt and control its impact through institutional devices. These included second chambers, disproportional electoral systems, executive powers and, most importantly, a rigid separation of politics from economics. Any historical study shows us that the elites, political and economic, fear the demands, desires and collective power of the people. Hence it must be mediated and dissipated before it touches on the centres of power. The end result is minimalist democracy: periodic votes choosing different leaders.

This minimalist democracy has eased the steady growth of corporate power and its influence over the state. As the post-war generation, brought up to believe that democracy was worth dying for, discovered how little it meant, a modern Chartist movement broke out across the world, to deepen it. It was a movement for participatory democracy, among students, workers, women and communities, all demanding and taking control in a huge variety of ways of the institutions that shaped their lives.  SEE MORE

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Comment by Jez Hall on March 27, 2017 at 11:28

A good phrase: "when the best leaders’ work is done – the people say we did it ourselves.’ ‘That,’ concludes Benn, ‘is my reading of progress.’". Or as Cormac Russell quoted in one of his weblogs.."when you do change to people they experience it as violence, when you do change with people they experience it as liberation.". The challenge being ... is participatory democracy a policy instrument... a way for leaders to manage political expectation (as might be seen as the case in Porto Alegre) or something more like co-design. The challenge for momentum, and maybe Corbyn, and indeed the traditional left, that sought to wrest power from power holders through strikes, rallies or political indignation is that co-design means pausing to listen, to talk and then act in harmony. But their ears are closed. When the long cherished institutions of the left are under attack, can we remain patient? How to we balance challenge and engagement. Not easy.

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