Concern about compliance with Section 6 of the OPs

This post only expresses the opinion of the authors and signatories (Wessel, Ezekiel, Lea, Pedrojuán)

(The following message has been send to the CC:)

Dear members of the CC,

We would like to request of formal statement by the CC as well as a response towards solving the following issue:

At the moment, none of the proposals (except for the “status quo / no” proposal) that will be put forward for the November 1 vote comply with the regulations set down in section 6 of the Organising Principles (OPs).

Reasons for this are:

  • None of the proposals has the formal support of either 10% of the DiEM25 membership or 30 out of a 100 VC members
  • None of the proposals will have been sent to the VC before the November 1 vote after which the VC can reject the proposal or ask for “further refinements”
  • The current setup of the vote (50%+ majority) does not comply with the regulations, for in that case the conditions for any proposal to pass would be 60% super-majority and at least 50% of the eligible members casting their vote

Even though we understand the practical difficulties this brings about, we believe not complying with these rules is far more damaging than facing these difficulties. Why?

  • To respect the statement in the OPs: “Amendments of the Manifesto and of DiEM25’s Organising Principles must be a carefully designed and implemented process, lest DiEM25’s character and mission are inadvertently damaged”
  • To respect the basic democratic rules that the entire movement agreed with at the moment the OPs were inaugurated
  • To make sure the integrity of DiEM25 as a movement is not damaged. A movement that has “democracy” in its name that is operating outside of its own democratic rules does not present itself as an integer organisation

Luckily, these issues can all be solved before the November 1 vote (it is not too late for the damage to occur!):

  1. Proposals could all contain a “disclaimer”, stating that they are merely statements of intent and do not impact the manifesto/OPs
    • The VC can approve provisional actions, like the institution of a PNC, on a case-to-case basis; if needed on the basis of an accepted proposal
    • During later votes, changes to the OPs/Manifesto can be approved, in a way that complies with section 6 of the OPs
  2. OR: the November 1 vote can be delayed in order to have each proposal move through the necessary steps and respect the requirements laid down in section 6 of the OPs

These solutions still allow for timely actions to be taken (e.g. registering “provisional” political parties for the electoral wing) and at the same time respect the DiEM25 OPs that we all once agreed to.

We are looking forward to your timely reply.

Democratically yours,

Wessel

Ezekiel

Lea

Pedrojuán

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Proposal: YES to “Not another political party” BUT under some conditions

This post expresses the personal opinion of its author (Wessel). Nevertheless, this proposal – that has been submitted for the transnational political party vote – has received input from many (25+) DiEM25 members.

Summary

YES, we support the move towards a transnational electoral wing as proposed by the Coordinating Collective BUT we propose a number of conditions for doing so as to guarantee the flourishing of open ideas towards an open future, in a democratic, grassroots movement, such as DiEM25. The specific proposed conditions in a nutshell are: (1) a “sunset” clause: we suggest to carry out another voting procedure after one year to re-examine the idea of a transnational political party; (2) the creation of a task force to redefine the organising principles of the entire movement, working together with the entire membership; (3) making sure that all positions of power are open and subject to an electoral process; (4) making sure that CC members won’t be able to run or stand for office while being in the CC, in order to avoid conflicts of interest; (5) making sure that all legal documents and legal positions in DiEM25 can be known to its members; (6) ensuring that DiEM25 the movement and its electoral wing are statutorily bound but operationally separated and (7) that all electronic voting procedures are transparent and auditable.

Introduction

We support the passionate outcry of the CC and a big part of our movement to start acting to combat the great crises and injustices we face in Europe and beyond. In principle, we therefore also support the idea to start acting on becoming a transnational political party; as one of the means towards reaching our aims.

We also agree with the CC’s proposal, in that a first proposal should not be too complicated and detailed. We face an open future, and an open future demands open-ended ideas.

However, we do want to propose a number of reasonable and necessary conditions to the CC’s proposal that in our opinion will guarantee the flourishing of open ideas, towards an open future, in a democratic, grassroots movement such as DiEM25.

Why a proposal and not only amendments? Because we think the following conditions are all necessary for us to go forward. No cherry picking should be possible, in other words.

What do I vote for? When voting for this proposal, you vote for (1) adopting the CC’s proposal for “not another political party”, (2) adding the conditions listed below and (3) acknowledging that in the case of conflict between the CC’s proposal and the conditions, the conditions gain precedence and taking the provision below into account (that is, your vote will not have any statutory effect).

One important provision: a vote for this proposal does not have any immediate effects on the organising principles and/or the manifesto of DiEM25 because the process leading up to this vote did not comply with section 6 of the organising principles. Because of this, no additional mandate to the existing mandates of DiEM25 bodies will follow from a vote for this proposal. For any new mandates and corresponding formal changes to the organising principles and/or the manifesto, additional votes will be needed that will comply with the rules laid out in section 6 of the organising principles.

1. We need a sunset clause

Choosing for a transnational political party seems like a good idea, but the future might teach us otherwise. Whatever the future might hold, we think it would be wise to already propose a moment of reflection and reconsideration: a moment at which the movement can either continue or discontinue the transnational political party project.

Condition I: “One year after the vote, the entire membership of DiEM25 the movement will be able to engage in a vote to either continue or discontinue DiEM25’s political wing.”

Why? The future is necessarily open-ended and uncertain. Moving towards creating a transnational political party might create power-structures or imbalances between movement and party that in time might be seen as undesirable by the majority of the DiEM25 membership. A sunset clause will guarantee that such a problem can be mitigated.

2. We need some rigorous changes to the organising principles

The organising principles (OPs) contain some problems that – if not anticipated beforehand – can lead to structural issues later on. We propose to mitigate the most pressing problems by already putting conditions forward of the following amendments to the OPs to put forward in case we go down the path towards a transnational political party.

Condition II: “At least before two months after the vote on the transnational party issue, an open call to all DiEM25 members should be issued for forming a task force for a grassroots-based review of the OPs in light of becoming a transnational party. This task force should be voted in by the membership with a 2/3 majority. The task force should meet regularly, should not contribute to ideas itself and will be responsible for (1) reaching out to the entire membership of DiEM25 to ask for ideas, (2) transparently collect, collate and summarise these ideas and (3) develop a consensual document that most DiEM25 members can agree with.”

Why? For some time now, the movement has been struggling with the current version of the OPs (not being sure about mandates, ways to put forward proposals from the grassroots, etc.). A dedicated task force will be able to tackle all these issues in a timely manner.

Condition III: “Within two months after the vote, the CC should put forward a proposal to make sure that all significant positions of power that surpass the DSC level (e.g. PNCs,  should be (1) open to all DiEM25 members, (2) formalised in the OPs and (3) filled through all-membership votes or lotteries.”

Why? A move towards a transnational political party will require much more coordination/operational support. The people providing this support will be in positions of significant power, which should therefore be legitimised in order to these people to be accountable. Open positions and votings/lotteries will provide for the much needed legitimisation of these positions.

Condition IV: “An immanent vote on the following amendment to the OPs should follow the vote on the transnational party issue: [original]: ‘No individuals in public office or holding positions of major responsibility within a political party (e.g. sitting on its national executive or leadership board) can sit on the CC.’ => [amended]: ‘No individuals in public office, standing for public office, or holding positions of major responsibility within a political party (e.g. sitting on its national executive or leadership board) can sit on the CC.’ Additionally, a clause should be added stating that, in order to respect the mandate of CC members, they can return to their positions on the CC as soon they seize standing for office, be in public office or hold positions of major responsibility within a political party.

Why? To avoid major conflicts of interests between the leadership of the movement and those involved in the political wing. For instance, under the current OPs a CC member can stand for public office. Under the new OPs, a CC members needs to step down before being able to stand for office. However, in order to respect the mandates of CC members, they should also be allowed to return to the CC as soon as they stop being active in the political wing of DiEM25 (e.g. not running for office anymore).

3. Some conditions for DiEM25’s legal structure

At the moment, the legal structure of DiEM25 (its European level) is very opaque. We don’t know who are part of the “legal entity” DiEM25 (official board members under the Belgian law), we don’t know who is legally in charge with DiEM25’s finances and we are not able to see any of the legally obligatory documents (legal statutes, annual financial report, etc.). Moreover, it is difficult to assess how DiEM25 the movement is kept legally separate from DiEM25’s electoral wing.

Condition V: “The official legal documents of DiEM25 (its statutes, annual financial reports, etc.) should be made transparently available to all DiEM25 members. The CC is expected to propose a way to do this within two months after the transnational party vote.”

Why? Like every political movement/party, transparency concerning legal matters is essential for the membership. Especially when funding is organised for national parties of DiEM25’s electoral wing and money is channeled towards the movement, the membership needs to know who is legally in charge with taking care of these finances; to provide the necessary accountability.

Condition VI: “DiEM25 the movement and its electoral wing should be statutorily bound, but operationally independent. This has the following implications (1) what DiEM25 political party’s can and cannot do is solely determined by the statutes (the OPs) of DiEM25 the movement in conjunction with membership-wide votes, (2) the leadership of DiEM25 the movement has no further control concerning the day-to-day operations of the DiEM25 political parties, (3) disputes between a DiEM25 political party and the leadership of DiEM25 the movement should be settled by the independent mediating body and (4) in extreme cases, a DiEM25 political party and DiEM25 the movement should be able to “separate”, which would mean that the DiEM25 political party would lose its right to carry the DiEM25 name and identity.”

Why? One of the main concerns of the members of DiEM25 is that DiEM25’s electoral wing will de facto replace DiEM25 the movement. Merely making membership of DiEM25’s electoral wing optional, as proposed by the CC, seems not sufficient to mitigate this problem. By having the abovementioned condition, the following risks are mitigated: of (1) the DiEM25 leadership totally controlling the day-to-day operations of the DiEM25 political parties, de facto turning the movement into an umbrella party and of (2) a DiEM25 political party moving into a direction that the movement cannot identify itself with and vice-versa, in case of which a proper separation would be better than a continuous internal struggle.

Condition VII: “All electronic voting procedures should be made transparent and auditable. This implies that the CC should present a roadmap to ensure this within 2 months after the vote and should start implementing solutions no later than 4 months after the vote, unless convincing grounds for extension of this period are presented and validated by the VC.”

Why? Voting processes are the cornerstone of democratic organisations and it is paramount that they are transparent (e.g. that the sorting algorithm for lotteries is public) and auditable; meaning that in principle everyone should be able to contest voting outcomes and ask for proofs that they happened in a fair way. At the moment, neither is the case in DiEM25. We therefore ask to change this.

 

Personal message to the CC concerning the institution of the “Internal Communication Group”

This post only expresses the opinion of the author (Wessel)

Dear CC members,

After reading the summary notes of the CC’s meeting in Brussels on the 10th of September, I would like to raise an objection to one specific decision made at this meeting and offer a constructive alternative route for reaching a similar goal.

Objection: I would like to object to the decision to institute an “Internal Communication Group” (ICG) in the way stated – having three administrators (Erik, Luis & Mehran) that have not been democratically elected select up to 12 people to populate this group. Reasons why I object to this are (1) it does not provide an equal and fair opportunity to all DiEM25 members who are interested to get involved in this crucial group, (2) there is no explicit mandate mentioned in the OPs that gives the CC the power to institute a group like the ICG, (3) selection “from within” will create a group of insiders chosen by insiders; leaving people at the periphery of the movement without a voice and (4) it does not guarantee input from all the different initiatives that have been started so far (including DiEM Connect, DiEM Cafe, etc.).

Alternative: Instead of the current way in which the institution of the ICG is proposed, I would propose the following course of action. (1) One of the elected CC members leads this group (based on personal interest) and starts by (2) issuing an open call for all DiEM25 members to be part of this group, clearly stating its aims and activities, (3) selecting with the elected CC, based on the applications, a core group of 12 people and a periphery (people who stay involved in communication, idea generation, etc.) of all the other applicants, (4) putting the core group up for a vote to either the VC or the entire DiEM25 membership and (5) in conjunction proposing a change to the OPs that would facilitate a process of instituting groups such as the ICG.

Notes: the selection of the core group can be made by means of some clear criteria (e.g. being involved in an internal communication project, having valuable communication or IT skills, etc.); the change to the OPs should include a mandate for the ICG (e.g. it is chosen for one year) and a timeline for creating a new ICG.

Best wishes,
Wessel Reijers

(for a response, you can contact me on wesselreijers@posteo.net).

p.s. I send you this personally in order to react early on in the process and not to cause any “wasted time”. Nevertheless, we will also soon discuss this issue with the DiD (Democracy in DiEM25) group and probably get back to you with a more fully developed response.

Why DiEM25 members should vote NO in the transnational party vote

This post only expresses the opinion of the author (Wessel)

We have arrived at a pivotal moment in DiEM25’s history, a crossroads. On the 20th of October, we face a deadline for sending in proposals to the DiEM25 membership that will shape its future: should DiEM25 become a transnational party or not?

Notwithstanding the good intentions of the people who put this initiative on the table, I will present a compelling case for all DiEM25 members to vote NO in the upcoming vote on electoral expression of the movement.

This no-vote does not represent an unwillingness to consider the means of electoral expression. Rather, it represent a gentle, compassionate, but firm disagreement with the way in which the DiEM25 membership is confronted with the upcoming vote, its organisation and its time-frame. This, in line with DiEM25’s philosophy of constructive disobedience.

I would therefore present two options for alternative campaigns and the reasons behind these campaigns: one for a NO vote, and one for a NO, Unless vote (which would practically be a counter-proposal to the CC’s proposal).

1. Case for the NO vote:

(Discuss the NO vote here on the DiEM25 forum: https://diem25.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=176&t=14953)

The reasons why DiEM25 members should vote NO in the upcoming vote are the following:

(1) The vote has been set up in an unfair way

Even though the vote makes all proposals formally equal (each proposal has the same chance to be accepted, on paper), the vote is unfair from the very start. No alternative proposal has the capacity to engage in a consensus process similar to the CC’s, nor has it the capacity to reach out to as many people as the CC’s (note that the CC’s proposal is already being spread in the media: https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/diem25/diem25-detailed-proposal-on-creating-electoral-wing)

(2) Accepting the CC’s proposal means saying goodbye to DiEM25 the movement

The CC’s proposal, notwithstanding its rhetoric, calls for a de facto abolition of DiEM25 the movement. This is the case because DiEM25’s current leadership (the CC, in conjunction with the VC and the DSCs and members) will politically control the “electoral wing” of DiEM25: the nation-based parties. There will therefore be no real separation between DiEM25 the movement and DiEM25 the transnational party.

(3) In the current voting system, NO seems to be the only viable alternative

Given (1), the current voting system of two rounds leads to the very likely outcome (due to reasons of exposure of different alternatives) of the CC’s proposal and the NO-vote “winning” the first round. Without a proper campaign behind it, the NO-vote is doomed to fail in the second round. Not seriously considering the NO-vote therefore leads to the almost automatic adoption of the CC’s proposal.

(4) The grassroots have not been seriously involved in setting up the vote

There have been many initiatives to set up a constructive dialogue to address the concerns many DiEM25 members have with the current move towards becoming a transnational political party. An open letter by a number of DSCs was send and people were making efforts to put together open fora such as the DiEM Cafe. This, to make sure as many as possible voices would be heard before organising a vote. A No-vote would therefore be a strong message to the CC that for further initiatives towards electoral expression, the grassroots should be much more involved.

2. Case for the NO, Unless proposal

(Discuss the NO, Unless proposal here: https://diem25.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=176&t=14954)

I would argue that the DiEM25 membership should not engage in drafting a huge list of alternative proposals, but rather to come together to collaboratively express the conditions under which a proposal for a transnational party might work. These conditions should be discussed out in the open (on the forum, on Mastodon, and other DiEM25 channels).

The reasons for a NO, Unless proposal are:

(1) it mitigates the risk of a “pick and choose” strategy of the CC to adopt some amendments into their proposal and leave others. Rather, we want to express that there are a number of conditions “sine qua non” for making the decision towards a political party.

(2) A “NO, Unless” proposal could put forward the condition that DiEM25 the movement be kept in tact and it would spell out what this would mean.

(3) A “NO, Unless” proposal could demand for a clear spelling out of the mandate involved in the vote towards a transnational party. If we vote “yes” to the CC’s proposal, it is not at all clear what kind of mandate is given to whom. We could state that each proposal should involve “actions on the short- medium, and long-term” as conditions for them to be valid.

(4) A “NO, Unless” proposal could slow down the process towards a transnational party for the sake of involving the grassroots in the way in which this should be organised.

(5) A “NO, Unless” proposal, if collaboratively drafted and widely discussed, could be a viable alternative to the NO vote and would therefore stand a chance of winning the first round of the voting. In the second round, it would be a constructive alternative to the CC’s proposal.

 

Democratically yours,

Wessel

 

 

Results of the first DiD Survey

Dear DiEM25 members,

Please find below the results of the first DiD survey, on internal transparency, democracy and movement building. Because we don’t want to offer you an interpretation of the results that would be in any case biased, you can download the results of the survey instead, according to the different languages in which the survey was organised:

English_ResultsDiDSurvey

French_ResultsDiDSurvey

Spanish_ResultsDiDSurvey

Italian_ResultsDiDSurvey

Deutsch_ResultsDiDSurvey

Finnish_ResultsDiDSurvey

 

On the question of voting

The question we ask here is: how does voting relate to the democratic process and, more specifically, how can a ranked voting system meaningfully contribute to this process?

First, we must distinguish between the different roles of voting in a democracy: the two most important ones being voting for “people” and voting for “things”, or propositions (e.g. the Brexit vote).

The difference between these two roles can be explicated as follows:

  1. Structuring the voting for people entails the “who” and the “how” of voting
  2. Structuring the voting for things entails the “what” and the “how” of voting

The two elements of each form of voting are intimately related. We cannot meaningfully discuss the “how” (procedure) without considering both the “who” and “what”. Let me explain:

  • Voting for people and the “who” questions which it entails, means that any procedure for voting can only be meaningful *as long as voters have a sufficient grasp of who they are voting for*. In cases where this does not apply, because of a lack of proximity or the increase in abstraction between representation and those being represented (e.g. on the EU level), voting might not be a good option altogether. In those cases, alternatives such as lottocracy might be preferred over voting. In cases of great proximity between those representing and those represented (local setting, team settings, etc.), direct voting *might* be the preferred option because it is transparent (direct, visible correlation between votes and decision) and is based on a thorough knowledge of the “who” one is voting for. In between these extremes (great proximity, great abstraction), ranking voting might be a very good option, especially when a voter has sufficient knowledge to distinguish between his different conceptions of who he can vote for. Or, put more simply, if a voter sufficiently knows “who” he can vote for, ranking voting might be the preferred option.
  • Voting for things – propositions – is perhaps an even more complicated issue because the “how” question cannot be addressed without considering the “what” question. This has to do with an informational problem: one can only meaningfully vote on some-thing if this “thing” is properly understood. To break this down: it is for instance easier to understand a clause than an entire contract, and easier to understand an issue that is embedded in a discourse (e.g. with pro- and contra-arguments) than as a “ready-to-vote-for” proposition. To compare this with the process of cooking: one cannot understand the whole of a “dish” without understanding its parts – the “ingredients” – what they contribute to the whole and what procedures have been applied to come to the final “dish” that is put on the table (“put the cake in the oven for 30 or 45 minutes?”). What does this mean for voting procedures? First, it means that we have to conceptualise the entire process, from the proposition of clauses to the drafting of a final position. A very preliminary attempt:
    • Each democratic discourse starts with determining the “subject matter”: the dish we want to cook and the ingredients and procedures needed to get there. A ranking voting might be very beneficial here, provided that proposals are well-formed and sufficiently understood.
    • Once the subject matter has been decided (e.g. “we want to formulate a position on issue X”), idea generation can start. The best way to do this democratically is to empower people to propose clauses (the ingredients and procedures of “the dish”) that together, by means of amendment and voting processes, eventually form a proposal (a text), the “dish” – so to speak. For this process, voting on the separate clauses and amendments in crucial, and this can be either done by ranking or by majority voting (each clause either “passes” or “fails”). Preference of either of these two methods will be context dependent (mostly depending on the complexity of the clause in question).
    • Once the “dish” has been served, the final part of the process commences, namely accepting it, rejecting it, or bringing it back into the previous procedural step (making amendments). Depending again on the complexity of the proposal, and the knowledge each member has of the eventual dish, the ingredients used for it and the procedures required, different types of voting might be preferred:
      • For proposals with great complexity and significance, consensus might be required.
      • For proposals with very little complexity and lesser significance, majority voting might suffice; for it is transparent and there’s a direct visible correlation between the voting and the decision.
      • In between, again, ranking voting would be a good tool (giving people the opportunity to choose between the different “versions” of the dish). However, this would require sufficient knowledge and understanding of the voters, which might be difficult to achieve.

Given the great advantages of ranking voting in certain democratic contexts, we need to consider some of its disadvantages, mostly being:

  • Dealing with the difficulty of degrees of understanding. If a voter understands alternative A perfectly well, but has no clue about alternatives B,C and D; how can we expect her to meaningfully rank these alternatives?
  • Dealing with the opacity of ranking mechanisms. The great advantage of majority voting is that there’s a direct, visible link between voting and decision. Ranking algorithms can be greatly opaque, which could give voters the feeling that their democratic process has been “black boxed”. Making sure that ranking operations are transparent and easily understandable is therefore a hard criterion.

 

Democratically yours,

Wessel