Strategy debate 6: How do we organise in a direct democratic way and build
up counter power,
(morning session long version)
author: Antti R. - 01.09.2002 23:57
This is original version of the notes, which has been summarised for the conference paper. For unclear structure of the text, blame the discussion, not the author. Note that this is not transcription altough in some places may look like a one, all comments have been reconstructed from shorthand, and author might have been seriously misrepresented here. All protests against this text are most welcomed to this phorum.
Debate was popular, attended by about 30 persons from all around the Europe. Two introductions of about 15 minutes were made, another one representing ideas of a communalist organisation from Holland, another one by consulta initiator’s group from Spain. Most of the discussion fluctuated around these introductions, although it took some other paths as well.
Introduction started by short noting of inadequacies of the current wave of street protests. According to speaker, movement should develop constant level of organisation in the local level. Political model of communalists is one of ancient city state, polis. These units have a constitution, assemblies of people are well-organised, constant and regular. And institutions themselves are not yet enough, one needs also high consciousness of the people. There must also be a way to connect assemblies to each other, not by means of parliamentarism, but in a form of a conferedation. One example is the commune of Paris, it was crushed because it was an isolated event. This will happen to isolated experiments in the future as well.
Organisations will create counter power, capitalists and nation states will try to crush communities. The temporary goal should be one of the dual power, where communities are already a challenge to power structures although yet unable to get rid of them. An example about this is Argentina, people’s assemblies have not yet been able to destroy centralised power, but centralized power has also not been able to destroy self-organising of the people.
There must be a difference between radical organisations, and institutions of the direct democracy. Anyone should have a chance to participate to the institutions we are building, where role of the radicals is to radicalize these institutions.
Consulta is a space for discussion and decisionmaking. Consulta aims to develop synergy between the local struggles. Most of us has some experiences in working in groups which apply direct democracy, aim of the consulta is to create synergy between these groups.
In a local level, groups will have lots of autonomy. Currently initiator’s group is developing a minimal structure called internal consulta. This aims to be a framework to the whole consulta process. A tool of this process is the internal consulta guide. Process have local promoter groups, which try to develop possibilities in local level and framework in the European level. A condition of participation to consulta is respect of 5 hallmarks, which include anti-capitalism, opposition to any kind of discrimination, direct action and development of methods of social transformation, right of everyone to develop the world they want and finally a form of organisation based on decentralization and autonomy. In october, there will be a common encuentro.
Consultas of zapatistas have inspired different processes in Brazil and Spain among the others. Aim of the consulta is to adress people in a large level. One of the possibilities is to create a parallel structure in the times of the EU elections.
Consulta understands direct democracy based on consensus as a political alternative to the representative democracy. Consulta believes, that this method of decisionmaking is able to develop real alternatives to capitalism.
In the beginning of the discussion, a person proposed that PGA conference
should together endorse the consulta process. This sparked a short but heated
discussion is this discussion a place to discuss about consulta or PGA process
in the first place, since there are other groups dealing with these topics.
A demand was made to link all strategy discussion about direct democracy to
practice of direct democracy in the PGA in order to avoid getting stucked
to hopeless abstractness. Other people responded that topic of the discussion
is not too wide or abstract, and no restrictions should be made. Facilitator
proposed that people should interpret topic of the discussion as they want
in their contributions, no-one opposed the proposition. Further on discussion
did not touched the workings of the PGA.
People were asking questions from both of the presentators of the introductions in a free order. For sake of the clarity, questions about communalism are listed first, then questions about the consulta.
What do you mean about the dual power? You was talking about Argentina, but I understand events in Argentina so that even if people went to the streets, still the assemblies did not developed to real counterpower. To me, Argentina is more a reason to pessimism than a reason to optimism. It is also a question of relation between consciousness and organisation, I think they are a little bit like chicken and egg, without organisation the might not be consciousness and vice versa.
As far as I know, the assemblies still exist altough they are a big weaker now, they just did not had enough power to make a revolution. But one must remember, that for example in French revolution the whole process got years to happen. First in 1789 mostly well-off people started to form these structures, and they were in the heights of their power and width of participation only about 5 years later.
What comes to relation between consciousness and organisation, it is right that one may not exist without another. However when forming structures of counter-power with wide involvement of the people, we do not have to wait that everyone should become revolutionaries.
Communalism makes a distinction between social, state and political. Political is space where everyone may discuss and meet, where social is limited only to your family and friends. Direct democracy should include more people, not only those neighbours you like but also those which you do not like.
We must get connected to social struggles. But it is very difficult to have
this kind of assemblies in the
French poor suburban areas. We are living in even more controlled and limited enviroment. In France we have a sort of invisible dictature.
It is true that organising assemblies is much more difficult in repressive circumstances. Still I have read about them being organised for example in Turkey in very difficult circumstances. It is just that involvement should be that wide that it cannot be crushed straight away. But it is a complicated question for sure.
I think it is a problem if local groups have full autonomy in regards of realization of the decisions made in the consulta. I am also wondering whether you are applying consensus, majority decisions or what model?
Right now consulta is applying consensus, but the future is open. Local groups have autonomy because of big differences between areas.
What are the tools you are talking about?
For example written documents distributed here are what we mean as tools.
In year 2000 there were elections, and an attempt to create an alternative space against them. All in all, one million people participated, from small cities as well. And the essential is not the results but how many people we may have networked and involved.
In year 2000, was it one day only, or has the project some continuity?
One day only. But the network which organised it still functions.
Discussion about relations of sudden catastrophes to direct democracy sparked many comments. Both Germany and Czech republic had faced massive flooding lately, which had been accompanied by failure of state organisation to deal with the problem and spontaneous self-organisation and solidarity by people in the large scale. One person felt, that in Germany they had missed an enormous opportunity. A person who had visited Sweden had experience when hundreds of persons there had come to spontaneous meeting in case of plague of mosquitos, so intervention is possible and maybe such structures could have some long-term perspectives of the existing as well. Also S11 came up in the discussion, as well as the fact that there will be more and more such crises and we should be more prepared to them. A person with experience about Czech catastrophe commented that solidarity and direct democracy are different things, the first one requires much less. One person commented, that after all experience we get from crises is seldom possible to get generalized to everyday life.