Democracy as the alternative. Time for the self-organising revolution

On march 26th many thousands of people are ‘marching for an alternative’, but to my mind very few, if any, are expressing a truly convincing or appealing alternative to short term cuts and the long term privatisation, degradation of public services and dominance of profit seeking business that has been happening without interruption for at least 30 years.

The closest thing to an alternative in the anti cuts movement is summed up by the slogan ‘tax the bankers’, and while this is fine as far as it goes, if we taxed bankers enough to pay back the bailout we might be able to stop the cuts and get back to where we were in 2007, but correct me if I’m wrong, but that was no golden age worthy of nostalgia!

However, no politician of any colour is even going to go this far because among all the other crises old and new there is a serious crisis of democracy. The cuts have made the lack of democracy more obvious than ever before – when all three main parties and the media agree that ‘cuts need to be made’ ignoring all the evidence and opposition outside of that cosy club something is seriously wrong, and when Nick Clegg U turns on student fees the emptiness of the rhetoric of ‘the democratic process’ is plain to see way beyond the usual critics.

I think we need to bypass all politicians and their institutions and come together face to face on a local level to do the open, democratic discussion and planning that politicians aren’t interested in. We need to follow this up by making plans and putting them into action ourselves. We need to do this everywhere and build horizontal solidarity between communities.

In my local area we have had a very diverse and often exciting period of campaigning against the cuts, but the particular cut that I am fighting has been agreed and is due to enacted in 2 months – New Cross Library is due to be closed on 28th May. In addition the local childrens centre and family learning centre both face a similar fate, not to mention many other services that are to be downgraded, cuts we don’t know about yet and changes to benefits, housing and the NHS which affect everyone.

In response we’ve set up ‘The Future of New Cross’ – a series of public meetings, conversations online, on the doorstep and in the street to get everyone talking to everyone else and working together on an alternative that we can build into something which looks much more like real democracy. We might decide to occupy or even more formally take over services that the council wants to close but we simply wont accept the funding cuts – in the first instance we’ll continue to fight to get the money from the council and the government (who are still wasting most of the money they do manage to get hold of) but also, instead of relying on the government to tax big business and the council to distribute it, we will demand money directly from the corporations (and not just those that are on the current list of tax dodgers – NONE of them pay a far share).

Some people might worry that this is the big society but I’d say that it’s the complete opposite. It’s self organising – not the tory idea of people with time on their hands doing good things for the poor unfortunates, this is us taking control over our own lives and communities. It’s time for the self organising revolution.


4 Responses to “Democracy as the alternative. Time for the self-organising revolution”

  1. Mary Says:

    Strange you accuse politicians of ignoring alternatives, you appear to do the same.

    Politicians will say they have considered all the alternatives and are pursuing the optimal course. I don’t see a description of your preferable alternative.

    • jamestholland Says:

      My point is that alternatives to the cuts is kind of missing the point, what we need is an alternative to the PROCESS that decided on the cuts, which in my view isn’t democratic. And THIS would by definition be able to really explore alternatives much better.

  2. David Leal Says:

    It is good to start writing things which go beyond the “no Tory cuts” slogan. I fear that you have not go far enough back to basics. My attempt at this is:
    1) Societies consume things of value – food, clothing, energy, stuff;
    2) Societies make things of value – but not everything they need, so they exchange;
    3) Exchange should be fair;
    4) The people of Lewisham produce very little of value, nothing comparable with what they consume;
    5) This is a crisis, and our response to the crisis is that bankers, who thieve value from others around the world should give some of it to us.
    This is not socialism, it is the behaviour of a spoilt child. Ultimately this approach will lead to our complicity in the thieving of the bankers. Without jets bombing Libya, how will the bankers still get their money.

    We have to get of our knees and demand something else:
    1) the stripping of political power from those who have created this situation;
    2) a return to industrial production in Lewisham and the rest of South East London.
    To live on the profits of bankers is immoral – we need to do away with the bankers.

    • jamestholland Says:

      Fair point, I guess my quick reply would be that it is for people themselves coming together in properly democratic forums to wrestle with these very real problems (and then sharing the results), I certainly hope we’ll be doing that in the future of NX process.

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