The public image of DiD

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

When I was in the Berlin DiEM25 event, June 21017, facilitating a workshop about topologies of grassroots movements, I experienced two types of reactions. On one hand there was a lot of attention to both my presentation and the work that DiD was doing, which by then was widely known among the grassroots activists. The second was fear to be associated to DiD, to such an extent that in my closing workshop I was requested by a member of the organization not to propose DiD as a hub for a future network of pan European groups that would provide the necessary topology for our organization to succeed. I did as requested. Nothing came out of that effort.

The image of DiD is quite controversial, and we have got word of it, and we have tried to put a remedy, but we do not seem to succeed. Why? It pains me that we spend most of our time trying to be “non confrontational” (listen to our meeting recordings and read our meeting minutes if you have any doubts about it) instead of building the communication structures that we so badly need.

It is quite obvious that we represent a checkpoint, a necessary observer ever watching the way in which decisions are made, regardless of their content. Shouldn’t that be positive? I believe our very existence has helped to put the discussion about internal democracy in the middle of the table and I am aware that this has reduced the speed at which the movement was progressing, but I hope it will pick up real momentum once we all decide in which direction we are moving. Indeed we have repeatedly made the point that we do not think there are any evil doings from anyone against internal democracy, but that we have moved forwards too fast not paying enough attention to this critical issue. The obvious reason for that is that there is no clear solution to the problem of democracy. Not in DiEM25, not elsewhere. We have to find the solution among all DiEMistas.

However, we have been pictured by some as a faction that aims to split the movement. It must be understood that this is by no means the case. We are truly convinced DiEMistas who put an enormous amount of effort in trying to make this project succeed. I would like to share with you some records of our activity for you to be reassured:

“It was agreed upon that our activity should contribute to the good health of DiEM25 and in no way be understood as a threat to the organization. “ Founding Meeting Sept 14th 2016

Aims of DiD:
1. Engaging with the DiEM25 members
2. Defining democratic governance
3. Reviewing the organisational principles
4. Setting up a dialogue with the CC
5. To experiment with the tools of democracy”

And finally in the About section of this blog: “This is a blog for people who would like to explore the possibility of making DiEM25 the spearhead of democracy in the twenty first century: inclusive, efficient, effective and corruption proof.”

How can we be misunderstood? In which way can this be a faction?

Some people think the name “Democracy in DiEM25” is bad for DiEM25. I do not agree. On the contrary, a movement which is conscious of its own shortcoming and addresses them upfront is a movement that people can trust. But, you know what? We are more than happy to change it, if the rest of the DiEMistas think it would be best. Do you?

At any rate we are determined to do what we were set to, we are now working in a new large scale debate initiative called the DiEM Café in which you will be invited to take part. We are working on an analysis of persistent democratic deficiencies in the movement. We are working on setting up other transnational groups and networks. We are working for DiEM25 and we hope to work with you.

If you still have doubts, meet us, write to us, question us until you can trust that DiD is there for you, for DiEm25.

Salud, paz y democracia.
Pj

 

 

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Politicization of DiEM25 and internal democracy.

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

The question of whether or not DiEM25 should become a political party or not, and if so in which terms, is in principle NOT a subject matter for DiD. What does fall inside the scope of our objectives is to support that debate among other members of DiEM25. With that purpose we intend to organise soon an online debate on the subject, based on the World Café methodology, hopefully together with the CC for whom we are drafting a formal proposal.

I, however, have a personal view on the issue that is directly related to the question of internal democracy and hence relevant to this blog. There are two sides that need to be considered.

  • Whether we are convinced that the decision making process will satisfy the democratic standards that we should aim for.
  • Whether our internal democracy is strong enough to help the future DiEM25 political representatives to withstand, on the bases of the support provided by the grassroots, the pressure that they will experience immediately after they take sit in the European Parliament.

There isn’t a clear road map to organise the decision making process. The unfortunate announcement made in Berlin was the result of a debate from which many members were not aware of, and the CC has rightly taken a more cautious stand in the matter. This decision, whichever way it falls, will have dramatic consequences in the future of DiEM25 and potentially of Europe, but these consequences are impossible to predict. We have to do what we think is right, what we think is best, but before we have to make sure that we are at ease with how such decision is taken. Are we ready? I believe not yet. The present structure of DiEM25 is still inadequate for large scale debate. We aspire to a grass roots structure, but we have a very centralised one. Should we not make sure we are happy with how we operate before we take such a momentous decision?

Furthermore, let us assume that DiEM25 candidates are elected to the European parliament. On which bases will they take decisions? In which direction will they cast their votes? Not only DiEM25 still lacks the mechanisms to agree on a full political agenda which includes fundamental topics such as foreign policy, but it also lacks the mechanisms for internal consultation in the decision that DiEM25 EMP’s will have to take. Will they vote what they think is best? Will they represent the rest of DiEM25 members and voters in the same non consultative way that other existing parties do today? What guarantees do we have then, that those decisions are not going to be lobbied in the same way that they are today in other parties?

I would like to believe that anyone standing for office on behalf of DiEM25 will be a trustworthy person who will try follow the mandate of the DiEM25 grassroots and do the best for DiEM25 and for Europe. I am sure, however, that these people will be under such great pressure that they will hardly have the time or means to listen to that mandate. The main reason being that we do not have the means to express it in a timely fashion. This will create, as we can see in Podemos, a disengagement of the grassroots which will condemn DiEM25 become “one more party”. If we go political now, our present structure will crystallize in its present state and the great hope for a grassroots democracy to take on Europe that DiEM25 represents today will die.

In conclusion I would not get here into the debate of whether DiEM25 should become a party or not, but I would like to suggest that we need more time to take the decision. The interesting point is that this dramatic decision may become the driving force leading to a profound democratisation of DiEM25, a democratisation process that, in my opinion, could eventually make DiEM25 mature enough to stand for election.

Salud, Paz y Democracia
Pj

 

Democratic control of information channels.

You have an idea and you want to share it with the world. Internet allows you, in theory, to send it to everyone as a private message so you make sure they know that your idea is there. If everyone does the same we would all be flooded with message coming from everywhere. Most of them undesired. Information becomes invisible, intractable, useless, there is too much of it.

If I want to know what you think, I subscribe to your channel, you subscribe to mine, we talk to each other, the information is useful but incomplete. We do not know what is happening in the greater world. There must be channels to which we can tune in and listen to what is happening, to what people have to say, and the contents of those channels MUST NOT be controlled by a few people who can decide what we hear about and what we hear about it.

As a practical example we have the general mailing list of DiEM25. This is a powerful tool who is now controlled by the CC. It makes sense to look after it, not to let it become a spamming machine to serve personal interests, but it also makes sense that there are mechanisms to let the grassroots talk to themselves and use it. If a sufficient number of members agree that an issue should be shared with the rest of DiEM, it makes sense that it is indeed shared with the rest of DiEM. What does “sufficient” mean?

Well the answer can also be customized by each member, because the technology allows for it. We could have a model by which members could subscribe to communications backed by X number of members, or by members of such country, or by members of N different countries, or coming from a particular group, such as, for instance, the CC.

Now, once the message is sent, there is no need for all subscribers to get all replies. The message could immediately become a thread to which interested members could subscribe or not. It should be able to subscribe conditionally. If there are more than N responses, or responses from N people or responses from people from N different countries.

No person of group should have the power to control what other people say to each other. No person should stop communication among others. The use of information channels in a democratic structure must be regulated so every individual has the same level of access, and this only depends on the will of other people to spread the message.

Until we solve this fundamental problem we will have no hope of creating a large scale grassroots movement.

Salud, Paz y Democracia
Pj

Distributed network collectives, local groups and grassroots democracy.

This post describes the program for the workshop of the same name, organised by the author for the Berlin DiEM25 event of May 25th 2017. It is composed of two sections which will open and close the two day program.  The objective of this workshop is to define concrete lines of constructive work to revitalise the democratic nature of DiEM25 in the coming months. In the first place we will devise a mechanism to improve internal communication in DiEM25 based on distributed Network Spontaneous Collectives. Then we will figure out how we can put such mechanism in place.

The more or less theoretical concepts which will be developed in the first part of the workshop will underlie some of the work proposed by other workshops and presentation. During our interactions for two days the practical implementation of the theoretical model will be taking shape.

In the closing session we will tray to put together all the work done during the two days defining a project plan to spread the idea of NSC, provide a toolkit for future collectives and a methodology for communication among them.

Part I (Thursday 27, 12:30):

The first part of the workshop will be a collaborative effort to device optimal topologies (relationships between DiEM25 members as seen in a piece of paper) to foster horizontal communication in a grassroots movement and to create a new framework for channeling grassroots energy into action and decision making.

  • Presentation (20 minutes):

Present the concept of NSC.
What are we going to do.

  • (5 min) Devise and analyse different geometrical alternative to connect DiEM25 members by means of personal connection.
  • (10 min) Think what do they imply from the point of view of geographical dispersion and language perspective.
  • (10 min) Summarise conclusions trying to draw an ideal network of networks. Graphical presentation of results.

Part II (Friday 26th 17:30):

This second part of the workshop is about getting our hands dirty, preparing a line of work for the next few months, as a result of which horizontal communication and grassroots democracy in DiEM25 can be improved.

  • Introduction (10 min)
    Non local DSC’s as an intermediate step towards NSC
  • NSC start up kit (5 min)
    Which tools does an non local DSC or NSC to operate?
  • NSC concept promotion (5 min)
    How can we promote the organization of NSC in DiEM25?
  • The NSC project plan.
    All interested are invited in defining a project plan to implement widespread networking by means of NSC’s within DiEM25.

 

Salud, Paz y Democracia
Pj

A topolgy for grassroots democracy

This post only expresses the opinion of the author

At the centre of grassroots democracy lies the individual. Her thoughts, fears and desires. She will have more or less concerns about how the wider world is ruled, but as many as she has, she has the right to express her will. She may not want to vote A or B in a particular referendum but she may wish she could have done it so many other times. The problem is that if we are all together and speak at the same time, we cannot listen. To be able to express our thoughts freely we must be surrounded by trusted people. We must be in small groups. The question is how to bring the conversation outside the small groups where is best generated.

We have to accept a fundamental limitation of humans. We can only know and trust so many people. In large groups the conversation tends to be controlled by power eagerness rather than by ideas. If we are in small groups, such DiEM25 Spontaneous Collectives (DSC), the basic organizational unit of the movement, our thoughts and ideas may spring easily, but they do not go far. Information has to flow out from our DSC and into other DSC’s. From your mind to my mind. The coordinator’s list, an e-mail group in which one member from every DSC participates, is an attempt to make information flow, but it makes conversations impossible. Too many people, too much information, too little trust. The coordinator list is a bottle neck. The DiEM25 forum proves also inefficient because of its impersonal nature and because it requires a very proactive attitude from individuals. Another solution is needed.

Let us assume that all DSC’s meet once every two weeks and every alternate week there are many meetings, online or otherwise, where people from different DSC’s get together. We will call this groups where DSC’s mix, Networking  Spontaneous Collectives. The ideas which where discussed in the comfort of a local the DSC meetings will have a low resistance path into all the other DSC’s through the NSC’s, by simple mouth to mouth. If  only the “coordinator” of each DSC is involved in outside conversations, this person will be a bottle neck for the information flow. Ideally, every single member of the DSC should be involved in a different NSC to ensure that we have a redundant network for the information interchange. This is the topology of the Internet. Multiple alternative paths exist between any two points. It is extremely efficient, extremely resilient to failure, extremely democratic.

In practice this total level of engagement will never happen, because most people will not take part in more than one group.  Nevertheless, as long as at least one does participate in one NSC, the DSC will no longer be isolated. Once the human relationships have been established among people across Europe, IT will come to the rescue by strengthening and making the information flow flexible and reliable, but the connections must be build around individuals, around their ability to relate to another limited set of individuals involved in one single large scale conversation. To think of the internet as a solution to the problem of democracy is a simplistic mistake. Democracy is about people, and and the internet is the most incredible democracy tool that people have had, but it is only a tool.

We must accept that many people are not interested or motivated enough to spend part of their life finding ways to optimise the use of the commons. I like to think that at one person every one thousand is a natural activist. From 500 million Europeans you will probably never have more than 500.000 people interested in an active political live, however, that should be enough to ensure true democracy. However, this is already a very large number to take part in a single conversation. If we picture a movement like DiEM25 eventually turning into a successful European party, this means that it will gather hundreds of thousands of activists who need to talk to each other.

If we have such large groups, a myriad of interconnected, redundant, networking nodes will be necessary to connect everyone with the rest, so ideas actually flow mouth-to-mouth from Faro (PT) to Rovaniemi (FI), from Hammerfest (NO) to Naxos (GR) in a matter of days or weeks. We could ask ourselves what is the optimal structure to unite with least intermediate steps each DiEM25 member to the rest. The ideal topology resulting from a formal mathematical analysis may serve as a guideline, but it would be entirely unnatural, inhuman and will never work on a movement relying on spontaneous participation.

We may, in order to initiate or trigger the creation of NSC’s, create placeholders inspired in that optimal topology. We may create NSC’s based on language or topic which people may want to join, but things would only really work if individuals decide to organise their own NSC to talk about what they want, to speak in a particular language or meet at a suitable time of the week. If NSC’s emerge naturally, they will be less efficient at creating the mesh of nodes, we will have to compromise on the number of steps between members, but in exchange we will foster quality communication because people would have chosen on what, how and when to take part. They will quickly get to know people in their NSC (or NSC’s) and they will find the trust needed to speak up their mind, share their views and those from people in their DSC.

If a good network of DSC’s and NSC emerges from DiEM25, ideas would flow like crazy in Europe. We will then have to ask ourselves, all together, what is the solution to true large scale democracy.

From a practical point of view, Network Spontaneous collectives must be easy to implement. There should have a toolkit consisting of basic rules of the game, (may be similar to those used in DID or otherwise) and clear models to streamline all the information generated by the NSC ( where to put files, recordings, votes and so on). They should be offered facilities to easily teleconference (not necessarily sharing their personal details, but joining an anonymous call). Also, new tools must be designed or found in order to allow everyone to have a clear overview about which topics are being discussed at any given time: in the NSC, in other DSC’s, in DiEM25 at large.

Network collectives must have the same sort of recognition than any other DSC, they must have visibility. Their activity must have some window to the outer world: tools should be available to share meeting minutes and recordings, memos and other files. Taking part in a NSC must be easy and fulfilling, but for that they have to be relevant. They become relevant when their opinion is taken into account. That is, they can become relevant when the channels exist for the information to flow without bottlenecks.

Salud, Paz y Democracia
Pj

Justice and internal democracy.

This post only expresses the opinion of the author

In our last DiD meeting, we faced a potential conflict. As per our own voting procedures, if someone needs more time to debate before making a decision this can be stated, and the entire “Simple voting procedure” can be delayed. The condition, however, is that a case must be made to delay the vote. Someone had requested more time, but had not indicated the particularities to be debated. Hence a decision had to be made. Should the vote be kept open? Should it be closed according to the previously established closing date?

We there and then realized that we were facing a judiciary decision. The law, as generally understood, is written in words. Sometimes it is a code others is just a set of precedent from previous trials. Either way, at a certain point, someone will have to INTERPRET the law, in order for a decision to be made with respect to the facts under consideration. The person or group who interprets the law is the judge or tribunal and without any intention the biweekly meeting attendees found themselves in front of such decision.

It just so happens that most of us had slightly vested interests in the results of the vote (basically, not to lose time which we didn’t think was going to benefit anyone), although it was really not a very critical decision to take, but because of that alone we were not the ideal arbiters of the decision. We were, however, the only ones facing it and we had to proceed one way or the other. Let us say that there was little disparity on our opinions about what to do in this case but surely I would have preferred someone external and neutral to make the decision for us.

DiD is so small that it hardly needs a tribunal, although the right of the meeting attendees to make such decision should be made explicit and approved by the totality of the members. DiEM25, however, is not so small. We are talking about an organization which prides itself of consisting of several tens of thousands, in which there has been already conflicts of interest, and in which executive decisions have been made which have affected the internal dynamics of the movement. There is a constitutional law, the Organization Principles, with its reference to article zero: the manifesto. Who interprets this law?

This is a question which we should ask ourselves, a question which is vital for internal democracy. It is essential that every member of DiEM25 be confident that no one is using executive power inadequately. And for that, a certain organism should exist. Call it Tribunal of Guarantees, call it however you want. Can a triad of members of the AP elected by lottery play this role? Would they accept that? Is that a plausible idea? Should we think of something else?

Democracy needs separation of powers, and that is beyond any doubt. Internal democracy requires internal separation of powers, and that is also beyond doubt. The only question is how to implement it.

Salud, Paz y Democracia
Pj

Non Local Networked DSC’s

What are non-local DSC?
Non*local DSCs are spontaneous collectives of DiEM25 members that are concerned about a specific topic and/but are not able to meet locally and thus resort to technology to discuss those topics and take action on them.
Why do we need Non-local Networked DSCs?
DiEM25’s goal is to democratize the European Union and to reform the European economic system. 
The lack of a common public sphere is one of the main reasons for the current dysfunction of the EU. Political debate is still national, so persons and groups in different European countries cannot discuss common problems together and organize to solve them. In order to build a more democratic Europe, DiEM must be able to give a space for people and groups across Europe to deliberate on common matters together.
The current internal system of forum discussions is inadequate as can be seen from the low activity. We propose that DiEM members should be allowed to create online networking hubs / DSCs across Europe – so that they can discuss issues that matter to them but find no echo in local/surrounding realities.
The proposal for Non-local Network DSCs is also meant to strengthen grassroots democracy in DiEM by giving the grassroots more control over the policy processes. 
The case for allowing non-local DSCs:
In DiEM’s organizing principles, there is no specific dispositions forbidding DSCs from organizing online. According to the OP DSCs are indeed thought as mostly local (“DSCs are best suited for people who live reasonably close to one another”) but there is nothing forbidding its online spontaneity. In fact, there is a mention to this possibility – DCS are supposed to think of ways for their meetings to “make participants leave the (physical or digital) room feeling enthused rather than alienated”
 
DSCs are also “self-governing, with no need to validate their actions from the CC”. and are expected to develop policy proposals to be submitted to the Forum or even to the CC.
 
Amendment to the OP: Non-local Network DSCS
 
DiEM25 should allow for Non-local Network DSCs. 
Non-local Network DSCs offer DiEM members a forum for pan-European policy debate on their topics. The Non-Local Network DSCs are open for all DiEM members and usually deal with transversal topics, common to the entire membership (gender, transparency, internal democratic procedures, Human Rights and Immigration etc).
The CC member responsible for coordinating a specific policy area (e.g. Human Rights) shall be invited to become a member of the corresponding Non-Local Network DSC.
 
Non-local DSCs shall be allowed to take part in all discussions and activities which fall within the objectives and aims of DiEM25
 
Non-Local DSCs should have the same rights as other DSCs, including the right to propose policies and sets of policy alternatives for a membership vote. 
The CC and DiEM coordinators should support the work of the Non-Local Network DSCs in the same way they support the work of regular DSCs.

Support this proposal
 
If you would like to support this proposal you can sign below in a comment and sign this Change.org petition.