2014: Time for Participatory Democracy

Can the People’s Assembly rise to the challenge?
Since 2008 the left has failed to make an impact. This is largely due to the history of the 20th century: Stalinism, Maoism & improving material conditions for much on the working class, especially in the West. But now the material conditions have changed, we are getting worse off, the left need to catch-up & join the 21st century.

People's Assembly

This means recognising that it is the working class that we fight for first & foremost. Defending oppressed minorities is part of what the left do, but not it’s raison d’etre. Marx understood class, but today we still have too many ‘Marxists’ who don’t. Too many Marxist academics strong on philosophy but weak on economics. Not to mention the middle class liberals who still believe social democracy (reformed capitalism) is possible.

Understanding the nature of the material conditions is only part of the challenge, we need to make the right strategic decisions & recognise the slogans that will move the working class. Many will get behind an alternative given the opportunity. It’s up to activists, primarily Marxists, to give them one. In trying to work out what this alternative will be, we can say that it is not a Bolshevik party. Neither is it a Social Democratic party. It is unlikely to be any form of political party. Politicians, just like bankers, are hated. The whole establishment is despised; the press, the judiciary & for many the police.

Occupy was international, anti-establishment, & very suspicious of any who tried to domineer. Despite the many theoretical short-comings of its prominent activists, it was largely participatory & democratic. It had echoes of the Paris Commune of 1871.

The launch of the People’s Assembly last year recognised the important role of participatory democracy in the struggle against capitalist imposed austerity. The need to connect with Occupy & similar groupings. It also understood the need for unions & industrial action in the struggle. By bringing these two essential elements together with other organisations fighting for the workers the People’s Assemblies offer the potential of something that can attract large numbers & make a difference.

The People’s Assemblies have had the headwind of ‘recovery’ (at least in the media & the pockets of the rich) to battle against in 2013. 2014 may be a lot different as the limits of money creation get tested. In otherwords, the Ponzi scheme may collapse in on itself & give us another 2008. A renewed crisis will really start to make people look for, & demand, an alternative.

For the People’s Assembly not to miss this chance, it must NOT introduce compulsory membership fees (as currently proposed). It doesn’t matter how low they are it will hamper growth & risk killing it. The People’s Assembly is not a political party. Marxists should still belong to a revolutionary organisation. The People’s Assemblies are better seen as embryonic soviets (or communes), where the people, both revolutionaries & social democrats, come together to organise & fight. Funding is better based upon union money & local People’s Assembly donations. So something like £1 every month from every registered member of a local, recognised People’s Assembly, paid by the local People’s Assembly. That might mean a local People’s Assembly that has 10 members pays £10 per month. That may come from two individuals who have set up regular monthly payments. Others may contribute to room hire & print costs on an ad-hoc basis. To insist that all 10 members set up regular monthly payments will test their involvement & be a barrier to getting new members. Once the PA has grown to say 30 members it may set up it’s own bank account & have members pay direct to this & a proportion goes to the central fund.

This is a key test for the People’s Assembly. The other big test is it’s ability to implement on-line participatory democracy. The new website promises a lot & should go live this month. It needs to be a site that gets people to participate. To post articles, discuss, learn & organise. A lot is resting on some young heads. We need to be clear about the vision, the challenge & what has to be done if the left are going to offer the working class a real alternative to capitalist led austerity.

Let’s make 2014 the year when we start to get some momentum.

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