What global civil society networks and movements can we build in the years to come? It’s a hell of a question, and one which will require a lot of energy, practical creativity and working together across borders. We haven’t got the answers yet. But they’re out there… This posting was previously entitled “The Madrid Call: toward a third force network”, and linked to a website set up collaboratively by myself and Nancy Bordier-Skougor for the Madrid Summit on democracy, terrorism and security. The Call generated quite a bit of interest. I've edited this entry so those who may have linked to it can see this update.
What global civil society networks and movements can we build in the years to come? It’s a hell of a question, and one which will require a lot of energy, practical creativity and working together across borders. We haven’t got the answers yet. But they’re out there…
This posting was previously entitled “The Madrid Call: toward a third force network”, and linked to a website set up collaboratively by myself and Nancy Bordier-Skougor for the Madrid Summit on democracy, terrorism and security. The Call generated quite a bit of interest. I've edited this entry so those who may have linked to it can see this update.
Here it is: Vote4Peace. Our try, some of us, at building a politics of peace and legitimacy, rather than just crying after that which has evaporated.
The Guardian just picked it up. Not quite accurate. We don't have quite that much money, and I'm volunteering myself. Obsessed with the donors, they don't notice that it's actually about the people: the many not the few, the moderate majority of Brits who believe in peace and legitimacy but despair for the realisation of their dream. In the US, MoveOn.org has three million email supporters. They have real power. We're just at the beginning.
"Candidates who had the courage to raise their voices against the folly in Iraq shall be rewarded. The supporters of illegitimate war and occupation must acknowledge their mistakes, and be held accountable." A bit stentorian, wouldn't you say?
But here it is. A foray into practical politics.
A couple of weeks ago I attended a private meeting of pro-European opinion formers at a notable venue in London, and it crystallised worries that have been haunting me about the referendum we face in early 2006. Here’s the gist of what I said then (plus a couple of things I held back on…):
“We are losing the debate, and we will lose this referendum unless we change our course fast.
“Our problem is fourfold.
“One: the debate is polarised into different worlds, with very few bridges – each camp reinforces its own arguments, there’s little bridging.
“Two: supporters of Europe are meek, recede in the face of attack and don’t care enough to get out to vote.
“Three: we are presently losing the debate, focusing as we do on some very narrow defensive arguments about protecting red lines and the dangers of economic or social isolation, when the real argument is about the dimensions of political union which are now clear for all to see, and the way in which Brits feel that our country and our way of life are threatened (the national and cultural dimensions). We won't get people out to vote by waving bugaboos. We might shrink their vote ever so slightly.
“Four… even if we win the debate, we’ll lose the referendum on the ground. They’re building their grassroots and email networks, they’re mobilising… and we’re debating the merits of federalism and criticising Blair and Britain in Europe for doing nothing.
“We can’t leave it to the government.
“Step one: we need to make the new case for Our Europe. A Europe which is political in the sense that Churchill envisaged: a Europe that works for a better, safer, more just and more prosperous world. A Europe which is engaged as a force for good in the world. A Europe which enables Brits to move beyond the collapse of our Empire to a new, more confident place in the world – where we can get beyond the special relationship and the Iraq debacle to a fairer, more sensible transatlantic dialogue. A Europe through which we Brits are on the front foot again.
“A Europe where there are rules of the game, and fair play will prevail (even if the Italians ignore the offside rule now and again). A Europe where our vision of widening is prevailing, where the superstate idea is disappearing into the background. A Europe with flaws, sure… the CAP needs reforming, we need more democracy and transparency, more openness. But it’s time to stop pretending that Europe is something apart from ourselves. It’s what we make it. Let’s acknowledge that by voting yes, and then work to make Our Europe – a better Europe – possible. A citizens’ initiative to abolish the CAP (made possible by the new Constitution) might not be a bad place to start.
“Step two: once we’ve got a passionate story to tell, something that might mobilise people and get them together… we build the infrastructure to make that possible. We set up Our Europe summer schools. We twin young with old. We build blogospheres and “get-local” tools and networks and email lists. We set up meetups. We learn all those US lessons (from Republicans and Democrats alike), and fit them to our specific challenge. We give people a vision of Europe they can care about again, one which has precious little to do with QMV or co-decision. And we give them channels to get out and win.
“It would be nice if along the way, with our No camp opponents, we can set up more common spaces where the best arguments can be heard. We think we’ll win. They think they will. May the best prevail. The Irish National Forum on Europe (though it was based on a different, more consensual politics) points some of the way. The Beeb could do a national roadshow around this.
“But the biggest challenge is to tell a completely different story, to reclaim the political ground, and then rapidly to build the networks that can convert that story into GOTV and votes. And that’s a bottom-up challenge. Lords and Ladies can help, but they can’t deliver.”
Recent polling indicates the phrasing “constitutional treaty” has done the Yes camp a great favour. But there's a hell of a hill left to climb.
Why bother being Cassandra if you don’t turn into Ulysses? But we don’t have ten years. We have less than twelve months from the forthcoming election. And this referendum isn’t winnable in a snap, in a two-month blitzkrieg. We need people like Gordon to paint the picture of Britain in the world, and to show how Our Europe makes that possible.
I don’t have a great deal of time for this between now and then. But we need to start work on a positive case for Our Europe now, and match it to a new mobilisation strategy…
and I think some of us know how to do that.
Avanti, Popolo… as a dear departed German friend used to say.
Otherwise Europe draws back, becomes lesser, more bureaucratic, paler. And we are banished into a Norwegian chill –
but our oil is running out faster than Norway's.
One of the best gathering-places for the new generation of US technology activists, political strategists and evangelists is Personal Democracy Forum.
They just saw fit to publish a short "Letter From Europe" from me before the election of the DNC chair, the next party head of the Democrats. Howard Dean is a front-runner, Simon Rosenberg of the New Democrats a dark horse, they might even share the honours.
I felt, as I say in the letter, less like Paul to the Corinthians than a provincial vicar to the Vatican. But the procedure they're using to choose Dean/Rosenberg/whoever is pretty papal-conclave. So I went for a tone of typically British diffidence -
1. YOU DON'T VOTE!
2. SUN-GODS ARE JUST ENERGY!
3. REACH OUT WITH RESPECT!
4. SWING FROM THE GRASSROOTS!
5. EMBRACE PLURALITY!
6. JOIN THE WORLD!
Looking forward to the flames...
Here's my proposal for a global civil society movement to lead a democratic response to terror. First draft. Responses invited.
We need an alternative to the present securocrat's dream of a state War on Terror. A summit is being held in Madrid on 11 March - the anniversary of the bombings which provoked horror in Europe. Millions of Spaniards took to the streets after that bombing and said - We are democrats, we are together, and we choose a different path.
The summit is a bit "Club of", but they've agreed to let some good folks run the bottom-up element. Let's rise up from the foundations and colonise the spires.
Let's take it and make it ours, all of us who are willing. Like al-Qaeda's mirror image - but open to the light of day.
The politicians can come along for the ride.
I just finished the little job of mapping the future of more open politics, and more open parties, to be published (I feel appropriately) on openDemocracy today. It's a possible future. It's worth bringing about.
Gathering readers get it first - here's the link. From civil society outriders to participative budgets and voucher-funding to blogs and smart voting, not forgetting those new sun-god politicians...
The piece is part of the debate kicking off on oD about the possibilities of open politics, in response to an interview with Greek Apollo, socialist leader George Papandreou, dangerously entitled "Go Ahead, George, Change It All". The architect of the EU's intriguing eVote project in 2003, George seems genuine about this. The relationship of leadership to openness is puzzling, alchemical. It's worth arguing through. The oD discussion boards are just starting to hum, in a kooky kind of way.