People’s Assemblies –
the future shape of democracy
The global political elites have turned democracy into a commodity and sold it to the corporations and banks for a small fee. Our votes now count for very little despite the great struggles of the past to win the franchise and give people a say in elections.
Whoever is in power will do what the financial markets, the major corporates and the International Monetary Fund say. That is why the burden of the economic crisis of capitalism is imposed on ordinary people with wage cuts, lower pensions, unemployment and the loss of vital services.
So we should create a new political and economic system, one that is actually responsive to the needs of the majority and not the minority whose only interests are profits and large bonuses.
People’s Assemblies are the new shape of democracy, and the vehicle for going forward to the stage of challenging the authority of governments to bring ruin on people and, ultimately, replacing them and the system they serve.
Inspired by the Arab Spring and the mass actions in Spain and Greece, people throughout the world have joined occupations, marches, assemblies, protests and other actions against austerity and oppressive regimes from Moscow to Damascus.
They are united by a common desire to create a fairer, sustainable society. But the existing political system is a barrier to future human progress. People’s Assemblies are the vehicle for taking this movement forward to real democracy now.
Q: What can People’s Assemblies achieve that a big demonstration or occupation can’t?
A: Occupations run by Assemblies are test beds, showing what people can do when they are independent and liberated. A network of People’s Assemblies can widen this movement to the whole of society, giving it a concrete form that can appeal to all those under attack from capitalism.
Assemblies can facilitate a transition to a democratic society based on co-operation and self-determination instead of profit and corporate power. They will disprove in action the lie that there is no alternative to the capitalist system and the states/local government bodies that serve it.
They can complete the struggle for democracy begun in the battle for the right to vote. They can provide a local united forum to fight every job cut, closure and eviction.
They can develop local solutions and implement them, dismantling the right of undemocratic local and national governments to impose their will.
The experience of Egypt shows that, however powerful and united the movement, unless it achieves political control, the old state and interests will reassert themselves.
Principles for a new democracy
- self-organisation throughout society wherever possible
- involving everyone who wants to take part in governing and administration
- an end to special privileges and incomes for state officials
- civil servants answerable to the People’s Assembly and working to achieve goals set by the majority
- elections for all public offices
- a ban on state surveillance and unconditional rights in the workplace and to strike
- no secret diplomacy or trade deals – complete transparency and openness at all levels
- new legal and justice systems based on community control and self-policing.
Assemblies will come into being through local initiatives of people and communities who want to get beyond resistance and protest, to actually win their struggles against cuts, job losses, repossessions and injustices.
Q: What will Assemblies do to help people facing problems now?
A: They will defend everyone who is fighting on any front, without trying to usurp other people’s movements. They will support groups and individuals who ask for help, and those people can decide to become part of the Assembly. They will learn from movements in the US where communities have prevented evictions; from the civil rights and civil disobedience movements, for example against the Poll Tax; from Transition Towns, where communities try to do things for themselves, exploring new ways of living.
Q: How will they be different from the old politics?
A: The People’s Assembly is a living body, not a political party. It will be open to the whole community and actively set out to make sure they are represented and have a voice - including young people, people from minority ethnic communities, small businesses and
self-employed people as well as workers from every sector.
They will embrace different points of view.
They will try to show by their actions that there is another way of living, and another
way of “being political” that isn’t about money-grubbing and claiming expenses.
They will support education and culture and encourage everyone to share their skills and talents.
Q: What is AWTW’s role in the Assemblies?
A: We are in there arguing for our position that the Assemblies should aspire to become the new power in society. A network of People’s Assemblies should work to bring into being the new society we want. To achieve this, they will have to challenge, and ultimately replace, the powers held by the present capitalist state.
Q: What guarantee is there that we won't end up with something worse, a different kind of authoritarianism?
A: There are no guarantees in history! But a revolutionary change made in the name of democracy with the aim of ousting the 1% from power would be a great start. In Britain, a network of People’s Assemblies could help shape a new constitutional settlement.
A democratic constitution drawn up by ordinary people could:
- enshrine People’s Assemblies as the new sovereign power in the land
- establish a Charter of Rights
- make the rule of law primary.
A Britain based on local and regional People’s Assemblies would aim to democratise society as a whole in new ways:
Co-ownership of resources: The key resources of the planet, including land, energy sources, minerals and finance must be removed from private ownership and held in trust in a new global commons.
Mother Earth rights: The biosphere must have a right to protection as part of the rule of law, so that every process of production conforms to ecological and recycling/reuse laws agreed by the whole of society.
Democracy in the workplace: Self-management whether in a factory, hospital, call centre, in public transport, civil service, local government, offices, shops, schools, colleges or university. All major decisions would require the consent of the workforce.
What you can do
support the movement for People’s Assemblies in your area and help create the democratic alternative to the “corporatocracy”
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