Grassroots democratic culture in DiEM25

What does the expression grassroots democracy mean? A bunch of small groups of people discussing in isolation, even if they all get to vote on proposals made by a few (elected?) leaders is definitely not what I imagine. Grassroots democracy implies that any person who is interested can take part on the making of those proposals, not just vote on them. The proposals themselves have to stem from the roots, so to say. This implies a colossal feat of agreement among those grassroots who include you and me, and hundreds of thousands or even millions of people. Grassroots democracy is exactly the mechanisms that makes that miracle happen.

If we agree that there is no real democracy in Europe, although most of the people outside Europe would consider ours a democratic territory, it is because we have a very clear idea of what democracy is. Democracy is indeed a set of values, not a governance mechanism, but some mechanisms are more democratic than others. What democracy mean for you and for me is quite irrelevant. The question is what it means for us. What we agree is our working definition of democracy IS democracy among us.

One of the problems we have faced in DSC Dublin 1 is that we do not have yet a procedure to make decisions, we have not even agreed on the need of working on it. There are many issues with our DSC that need consideration, and they must be dealt with, but I want to stay in this aspect: decision making. We are powerless because we cannot decide. Decisions are at the heart of governance, at the heart of democracy, and what empowers people is not the “feeling of being empowered” by talking in a small circle of people and “saving the world”, but rather the ability to actually take part on the decision making process and see those decisions carried out.

Decision making is crucial, the corner stone of democracy. In DiD we have just started deciding on the rules of our democracy game. When we play it, we all know that the resulting decision has democratic legitimacy. We are slowly building the rules of our game. Does your DSC already have a consensual decision making mechanism? Do you know what are the rules of your game? Do you all agree that your system is fair and democratic? If not, you (just like us in Dublin) have work to do.

If you do not have decided on those rules we invite you to use DiD’s. The first set is posted in this blog, and we will keep working on it. If you do know the rules of your game, please, share them with us. May be we like them better than ours. May be we can produce some rules which are common to your game and our game, which take into account needs and sensibilities from both groups.

If we all had a common knowledge of the rules of the game, if we had defined and agreed upon the game together, you could get twenty diemers from around Europe into a room, who do not know each other, and they could start working together in a productive way from the start. No doubts about if something is right or wrong. No need to have prominent characters “making things move”, no chance of some people talking over others or shutting them off. This is, if we all shared a common democratic culture, we could start talking of grassroots democracy.

This does not mean that every DSC, every region, every national gathering has to play by the same rules. As long as there is internal agreement, you can play the game you want and still call it democracy, but when we meet with others we need a common ground. Otherwise we need to beat around the bush for a long time, we are not productive, and prominent figures get their way imposing their views without anyone being able to say: No, that is not the game we are playing.

The Organization Principles of DiEM25 are the result of a top down design which results in a top heavy structure. This is a self stabilizing process which must be reversed with a significant effort from a significant number of people. If DiEM25 is going to survive it will be because it becomes the grassroots movement which it claims to be, and for that to happen DiEM25 has to develop a common democratic culture which legitimates all and everyone of our decisions and acts. No one sitting at the top is going to do this for you. Either we do it or it doesn’t happen.

Democratic culture is a set of implicit and explicit rules of the democracy game, nothing we cannot all work on together. If you are interested in working with us, do join DiD or share with us your experiences and opinions or just spread the word. The ball is rolling, just push it further.

Salud, Paz y Democracia


One thought on “Grassroots democratic culture in DiEM25

  1. […] There are as many ideas about what a “democratic culture” is, as people who have asked themselves the question. Is is normal that different groups work in different ways across a large movement, each one adapted to the particular needs and desires of its members. However, one of the most important characteristics of a transparent, democratic movement, should be the ability of members to take part in any discussion they see fit. Discussion groups, local and non local, should be open to visitors at all times. Visitors coming from outside the mesh (members who live in a place without a DSC or are new to the movement) will always find a series of habits or protocols which they may find strange. This is to a large extent unavoidable. However, when an active member decides take part in another group, or when a new thematic group is formed, everyone should know what to expect. We should not invent democracy every time. Our rules of engagement should be clear from the start, even if they should be always open for change if such is what the group needs. If we all want to belong to the same movement we have to share, without trying to find an orthodox standard everyone will be judged by, a common democratic culture, a series of habits and traditions that make it easy to take part in conversation here and there. This concept is further developed in this former article. […]

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