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Uniting theory and practice

At a recent meeting of students who had come together from a range of occupations against the rise in tuition fees, a proposal about creating People’s Assemblies (PAs) was described as a “deeply philosophical” question. The remark, which was not made in a derogatory way, was spot on.

Advancing a concept like PAs is both practical and theoretical at the same time, which appears as a philosophical conundrum. That’s a good sign because all revolutionary ideas – and PAs are just that – are rooted in both the present as well as the future. They are, therefore, a real contradiction.

But isn’t that bad? Aren’t contradictions harmful? Wouldn’t the world be better off without them? Can’t we come up with a simpler proposal that everyone can grasp immediately without further reflection and put into practice?

In the struggle against the Coalition’s draconian public spending cuts – made in a bid to rescue capitalism from itself – “simpler” proposals and plans have emerged spontaneously. Anti-cuts campaigns have spread throughout the country. Protests and lobbies take place on a nightly basis. Students and education workers reacted to the cuts with strikes, marches and occupations.

Now that movement is at a turning point. The cuts are going through town halls – many of them Labour controlled. Tuition fees rises have passed through Parliament along with the abolition of educational maintenance allowances. Planned cuts in higher education spending will devastate the universities.

The weakness of the direction of the movement so far is that it is largely restricted to the “present” situation. It is aimed at stopping, halting or reversing the cuts made by a government that has staked its existence on carrying through a massive reduction in the budget deficit. The deficit itself is a product of the global crisis of capitalism and the devastating way it has impacted on the British economy.

The government has made it clear that it is not for turning. Indeed, were it to collapse under the weight of events, a likely outcome would be a national government rather than some mythical formation that would immediately start on a programme of public spending. As we know, Labour is also committed to reducing the deficit and is doing so with gusto at local government level.

So where do we go from here? Putting all our hopes on the results of the March 26 demonstration called by the Trades Union Congress would be a mistake. One demonstration, however large, is not going to change the world. Ask those who took part in the two-million strong march against plans for the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

That’s where PAs come in. They are connected to the present by presenting an opportunity to all those with grievances that the Parliamentary system tied to corporate and financial power is incapable of addressing. These include trade unionists, service users, students, the unemployed, minorities and climate change activists.

They also build on the struggle for democracy and representation that dates at least from the Levellers and Diggers of the English Revolution – and in other ways is traced back to the Peasants Revolt of 1381 and the Magna Carta of 1215. But PAs go further in proposing new forms of democracy beyond the existing capitalist state framework, which can then begin to transform how the economy is owned and run.

They are a philosophical question in the sense that PAs require a leap in thinking out of the present ideological framework which is dominated by impressions and acceptance of the capitalist status quo. But they are also deeply practical because they offer a way forward to an alternative, progressive future.

Paul Feldman
Communications editor
8 February 2011

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Jonathan says:

Personally I take great encouragement on the comments made, whether I agree with them or not, and especially that they come from those already organising ‘practically’.

Contradictions always made me uncomfortable when young, I thought it was me, feeling like the worst metaphysically itch I never could or never would reach, I was so unable, so unarmed, so ‘unworthy’. It was not the Zeno I was teased with by my father or saw represented on cartoons, it was that there had been thousands of years of development in philosophy and science that left some, I should say the category, stubbornly in place like an impacted tooth; still IN YOUR FACE. The predominant English Empiricism where there must be a resolved contradiction with enough data didn’t help matters. Now, decades later I find that some I chased like a banshee on acid are just that, irresolvable contradictions. So I, as have hundreds of thousands of others, carried on with those, especially the social ones that could be. And we find ourselves in the period of the sharpest social, economic and political contradictions world wide. Resolving them needs a medium outside the head. I, nor the many others, never left the others ‘alone’, they were necessary to help handle the very concept of contradiction (and, well, if not ones science, or art, gripping), it then didn’t worry me that a better grasp of the real nature of these contradictions would be uncovered generations after I was well gone, nor that those social ones were necessary to be resolved before humanity and its many friends could turn fully to address these; nor, indeed, that this may occur when my memory of events was dissolved. I then found I quite ‘liked’ contradictions and the contradictory way some approached them; a great source of knowledge in-its-self, and therefore for me. So, yes it is good; without them it would be hard to say whether it would exist, this world of ours, as a utopia or dystopia, it certainly would exist without movement, without development, without any sense of purpose. To those now entrenched nothing else but the status quo which IS and can not be changed, developed, moved; the accomplished fact is all that needs defending.

The method kept alive can now be grasped by new layers with much more speed and practice.

Let us note this is a life or death struggle for Global Capital (and national capital doesn’t stand a chance against this form of capital organisation) but one of success or enslavement for the whole world exploited classes and those intermediary class that will be needed to control and direct production ‘in another form’; small shop keepers, farmers, small capitalist concerns, etc., see Lenin on NEP. IT IS NOT A NATIONAL QUESTION, IT IS, BY THE NATURE OF WHAT IT OPPOSES, AND THE NATURE OF THE PRODUCTIVE FORCES AS THEY STAND: INTERNATIONAL. It is also necessary to organise internationally for viruses know no country, draught no national frontier, weather, by its ‘nature’, is global. Monsanto not only ignore the cultural heritage of Mexico, but of international treaties, cod certainly know no national waters, though its history and the British ‘Cod War’ take it to ‘the national heart’. The grasp of what causes the natural rights of those in Somalia to take to Piracy, the ignoring of international laws on dumping ballast, of the sweeping up of fish stocks but incredibly concentrated fishing using factory ships with a flotilla of trawlers also, doubtless caused sharks to come deep into the Red Sea, these matters are international, looking at them other displays the limitations of the forms of thinking.

As with Egypt taking control of international treaties can not be done through the medium of Parliament, either in the interests of those within the national territory or others. Only through a network of Assemblies can openly address these questions with the participation of the large communities with direct links who normally are ignored or sidelined.

The unity of theory and practice, which nearly all wings of parliament look at, in the ‘present’ (and the present does include, for them, the continuation of ‘what is’) situation somewhat like an accountant trying to balance the books, no exactly like one is what we, ‘society’ are confronted with: they control the state. Their difference, I agree, is on what goes where, and what form of accounting is used. That is the basis of its ideological construct, a great advance from the total product being divided by ‘God’s Will’ as was the case in the previous economic formations referred to as regards the revolts by the developing classes, though even then sections saw beyond that. That these social formations recreated ‘people’ in a one-sided, distorted, ‘alienated’ form, made resistance skewered. Parliament is also a straight jacket for any that enters it, indeed: ‘Abandon hope all ye who enter here’. To which can be added any that come under its sway; only ones excepted are those in big business, and their dripping class, that know this is the great form of deceit, maybe the last. Switch from coverage of (or participation in) Cairo to watching The House of Lords to grasp even some of the above. But these ‘dominated by impressions and acceptance of the capitalist status quo.’ are trapped, also, by its forms of thinking hiding behind one major thing: ignoring how it came into being; and the struggle that led to this. All the twittering on, and all the references to 1688 changes that not one jot. Remove that one thing and the class encamped in The Cabinet, Whitehall, and all points west are seen in the development on top of centuries of exploitation of the class they called into being, in the most sickly and exhausting ‘fashion’ which they did and now need once more to put to the wheel to rescue the falling (plunging) rate of profit; this time with all the old ‘creative accounting’ of exploitation and the new: enslavement. The only thing ‘Glorious’ about 1688 is that they got away with it without too many more heads on the block and brought it back into the arena of Parliament settling accounts in a new way. Yes, things have developed, things have leaped, and permanent revolution has shown one thing, and that one thing is being addressed in Egypt at this very moment; that a new content needs a new form; and the new form needs a new content in thinking. The limitation of virtual use now confronts them in the necessity of a physical assembly to oppose the, behind the scenes, secret, non accountable process going on, with all its international caveats and manoeuvre: and they know it. And why do they know it, because it is also an arena where discussions and discussions take place. No more changes in form alone. This has to go where the Diggers and the Levellers knew it must, and stay there, outside Parliament. The new content is not the crisis itself BUT WHAT STANDS BEHIND IT; the developing forces and potential of the economic formation of which THE CRISIS IS A NECERSSARY EXPRESSION. There needs to be Assemblies to draw in the interests noted above AND to unleash the creative power of a now fully ripe class and NEW youth. The new thinking is that of dialectics of which the above are moments that need to be addressed.

As to Radfax, Aristotle says that we are distinguished from the animals by being political animals (a matter that science shows to be limited in truth), it would be well not to forget the slaves in this, they knew they also fell under that.

So where does Radfax find his ‘politicians are the problem’ if it avoids the ‘framework’ as started above, and raised at the meeting referred to, of the forms of thinking necessary to address and dispose of such issues? Within previous formations is where he admits to finding them. There, a place which the ‘established’ most ‘glorious’ representatives inside all the parliaments since the removal of economic power from the king implemented economic policy from.

More importantly, the spontaneous reflection of thinking inside the whole of society, all of us included, is bound up with this economic formation.

It is a serious personal fight, and an essential political fight, of all those addressed by the question of WHAT NEXT; that how, in what form and content of thinking, we arrive at this or that decision, plan, proposal, ORGANISATION? How we all implement it THAT Radfax side steps to go straight for this ADDRESS to the powerless. The method behind the ‘Address’ is where differences lie. That there is a necessity to unity practices and the addressing of theoretical method behind them is necessary, as well as whom is being addressed. A centuries long war for self determination by Ireland is not an idealist matter, and links with assemblies there can not be done with a constant repetition to ‘The U.K.’ and that is one of the most important aspects of why uniting theory and practice must be addressed for the practice is that of opposing the practice all inclusive of the present, or any other, British state/government and not to be co-opted in the forum of its (or its press’) choosing.

Mark says:

Put these two together, and what have you got ?!

The way forward!!

Robbie says:

Hi Radfax - yes I think you are missing something. Behind the radical language, you are begging the people you despise [10 Downing Street, The house of Commons, The House of Lords] to offer you the rights you and we deserve - but they won't give you them. There is another People's Charter for Democracy that recognises that "the existing system of government fails to represent the interests of the vast majority of people and is democratic in name only. Instead, the state’s primary purpose is to promote business interests at the expense of ordinary working people".

And so instead of appealing to them, we will need to establish these rights ourselves and to do this we will have to build our own alternative seat of power - People's Assemblies.

The people of Egypt and Tunisia should give us confidence that we can do it!

Bob says:

Wouldn't it make more sense to intervene in the TUC demo with leaflets and stump speakers to agitate for PAs rather than simply calling for them? All the organs of embryonic dual power that you mention arose from existing mass movements (e.g. the revolutionary democratic tendencies arising from the English Revolution and the New Model Army). In sounds to me that AWTWs proposal has cart after horse and sounds like syndicalist style "dual unionism". As a counter-example, isn't the time to call for dual power organs like a Constituent Assembly, expressed now in Egypt??

Radfax says:

I think if I/we/you/us/people are expecting to bring about a real change, one that is based on solidarity, then it must distance itself from the political dogma and rhetoric and stand firm and frank for and with the People.

In all my years there has never been any political party who have truly and honourably served the best interests of the masses. In my mind politics and politicians are the problem, with the starting point being that they allow themselves to be not only above the law, but also the will of the people.

I have thought both long and hard to outline a census, that I feel covers many of the changes that need to be implemented. I feel we must have some kind of a framework to put forward, something credible and sustainable, something that people can relate to and get behind.

In my opinion, there is no way forward until sections 1-26 of the People's charter are fulfilled. This is to kettle government and hold them to account, with a list of demands from the People.

There has to be a just way forward, f*ck all those corrupt politics and power hungry political persuasions. This is about People, real People.

Coming from a street view, Section 1 of the People's Charter 1-26 Is the starting point

1. We the People are demanding The law of the land apply within parliament with a fully transparent and a just system favouring democracy of the people, whereby the government and police are held to account for their actions against the people.

Or is there something I'm missing?

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