PostDem (VII). David Fernàndez: parliaments. The CUP: one foot on the street, one foot in the Parliament

Notes from the Institutions of the Post-democracy: globalization, empowerment and governance conference, organized by the CUIMPB and the Communication and Civil Society program. Held in Barcelona, Spain, the 17th August 2013. More notes on this event: postdem.

David Fernàndez. Parliaments. The CUP: one foot on the street, one foot in the Parliament.

We are living the complete exhaustion of the current regime, including a deep defeat of the ideologies of the left.

One of the main factors of this exhaustion and defeat is the privatization of politics: the statement that politics have nothing to do with the citizenry. This paved the path of the total privatization not only of politics but of everything that was the common interest, ending up in the privatization of the welfare state.

Should we recover the institutions as we knew them? Should social movements enter these institutions?

Indeed, there already are many institutions working within the system but with different mindsets such as Coop57, SomEnergia. Xarxa d’Economia Solidària or La Directa.

The CUP benefits from all the social movements that are initiated just after the death of the Dictator Franco and the recovery of the Democracy in Spain. Of course, all the anti-globalization movements of the late XXth century and beginnings of the XXIst century. Deeply rooted in municipalism, the CUP begins to create local assemblies to concur to the municipal elections all over Catalonia, being part of the Parliament out of the question.

But the changes in the way of doing politics and the change in the sensibility of Catalonia regarding nationalism and independentism, the CUP decide to concur to the national elections and win three seats in the Parliament.

The three main courses of action are popular activation, civil disobedience and building of alternatives.

It is a crucial strategy to recover the commons and the common good for the citizenry. In material or infrastructural terms — recovering the assets and the strategic resources of a territory/community — but also in terms of superstructure — recovering the governance of the several institutions that have exert power over the citizenry or can influence public decision-making.

Power is not a space, but a relationship. Thus, if one aims at changing power, one has to change a relationship of power, a relationship usually between two parts: a third party and oneself. Changing relationships of power, thus, begins with changing one’s own practices.

Ways the whole thing can change: feudalist capitalism , democratic fascism or any other form of subtle authoritarianisms, or an egalitarian solution.

Discussion

Arnau Monterde: how is made compatible being in the Parliament and being an assembly-based party on the outside? David Fernàndez: “It’s complicated”. The way it is done is creating 15 work groups within the organization which translate their diagnosis and decisions to the MPs so that they can use the information and decisions in the Parliament. There are also geographic groupings that help to vertebrate the territory.

Ismael Peña-López: technically speaking, the commons is a privatization of the public goods. Is privatization the way to (re)build the common sphere? David Fernàndez: we should separate the goals from the ownership of the commons. If the commons are headed towards providing a public good, this is what is most important, more important than technical ownership. There is no much difference between common and public. In this scenario, private/common ownership is only a second best when one cannot dispute the design of the State and how power is distributed.

Institutions of the Post-democracy: globalization, empowerment and governance (2013)

PostDem (VI). Ada Colau: citizenry. The PAH: from the ILP to the ‘escraches’

Notes from the Institutions of the Post-democracy: globalization, empowerment and governance conference, organized by the CUIMPB and the Communication and Civil Society program. Held in Barcelona, Spain, the 17th August 2013. More notes on this event: postdem.

Ada Colau. Citizenry. The PAH: from the ILP to the ‘escraches’

We are living the end of a regime, kidnapped by corrupt political en economic leaders. And the regime needs a renovation. How?

How do we rethink social organizations? There is no regeneration of democracy without a strong and well organized civil society. The solution, if any, is not expected from the institutions that corrupted democracy from within. Only a watching and alert civil society will enforce the correct government, as power naturally tends towards corruption.

This social organization, besides its role to watch the power, needs also new forms. Because most organizations nowadays have not aged very well. This includes political parties but also labour unions and NGOs: organizations that were very useful when they were created but that have become useless to provide answers for today’s problems.

The problem is that we [Spaniards] have not been educated into Democracy. We have always been told not to participate in politics. We need to be critical against corrupt institutions, but also self-critical with ourselves and our not-being involved with politics.

And empowerment is the word, the way to do politics (again), to win back for the citizenry the agoras, the squares, the collective discourse, etc.

Back in 2008, before the government and the population in general realized the problem of the housing speculation in Spain, the Plataforma d’Afectats de la Hipoteca (PAH, Platform for people affected by their mortgage) was created to weave a network of people with a common interest. The worst error then was staying in “maximalism”: remaning on the theoretical approach, on the macro approach, on raising awareness on the issue of evictions and personal debt… but not going into action, addressing specific issues, very concrete problems.

The new initiatives of the PAH then attacked several issues in the short, medium and long run, with plural strategies that would address both the macro and the micro levels, the economic crisis and the individual drama of a given citizen, etc.

The Platform succeeded in mobilizing people that had no experience in being mobilized and that did not even had the will to do it: instead of angry people aiming to fight for their rights, the Platform found devastated people being stigmatized by the society. The Platform provided a new mindset, a new context, and a new strategy to overcome the problem: instead of lamenting oneself, fighting for one’s legitimate rights.

Another success was empowering people: it is you that will solve your problems, not anyone else, not the Platform. But the PAH will empower you so that you are able to solve your own problems: no one will defend your case better than yourself. But by oneself does not mean alone, but, on the contrary, collectively and, above all, in a shared way.

All this activity has been done with almost no resources. The person that becomes empowered is reborn and helps others to go through the same process. High level politics can be done with almost no money.

A last resource for activism is civil disobedience. If a law is unjust, it is not only fair but a duty to fight the law back by disobeying it.

Besides civil disobedience, and in parallel, the mainstream way was also taken, by means of a popular legislative initiative. Of course no practical success came out of it, but two major successes came out of it: raising huge awareness on the topic and de-legitimizing the ones in the Parliament that were proven to be useless to citizen problems even if those were channelled within the system itself.

The main challenge is how to substitute the old mechanisms and institutions with new ones. There is a need for some form of organization: participative, non-hierarchical, democratic… but a form of organization in any case.

Discussion

Q: changes, but towards which way? what scenario can be envisioned? Ada Colau: the horizon is not clear and, above all, we should not rush it. What is clear is that we have to open processes of debate and processes to design this new scenarios. And do not delegate these processes but, instead, be ourselves the main actors. Some urgent initiatives or issues to be addressed is fighting corruption, sanitizing institutions by changing their design (by changing the regulatory framework that shape them), etc.

Q: how do we design the communication strategy? what kind? Ada Colau: this is very difficult because mainstream media react depending on many factors. On the other hand, media tend to identify the movement with one spokesman or visible head. Thus, even if the movement plans a decentralized strategy based on a collective message, while the identification with a specific spokesman works for the movement, ok with it.

Arnau Monterde: how does the movement replicate? Ada Colau: empowerment is without any doubt the most important part of it. Notwithstanding, replication has been an issue from the very beginning: the movement should be able to be replicated, de-localized, decentralized, so that it became sustainable and could grow. Information, procedures, etc. have always been shared and socialized. The movement has taught not only the end users or the members, but also the professionals have been retaught in new ways of sharing their expertise and provide advice openly.

Ismael Peña-López: what is the legitimacy of a Platform such as the PAH to speak with other institutions? Ada Colau: first of all, elections have been proved not to legitimate parties, especially when they do not carry out their own political programmes. On the other hand, anyone can represent the defence of human rights: what the PAH does is to remember that human rights cannot be violated, and asking for respect for the human rights is a duty for everyone.

Institutions of the Post-democracy: globalization, empowerment and governance (2013)

PostDem (V). Roger Palà: media. Mediacat and the Yearbook of the media silences

Notes from the Institutions of the Post-democracy: globalization, empowerment and governance conference, organized by the CUIMPB and the Communication and Civil Society program. Held in Barcelona, Spain, the 17th August 2013. More notes on this event: postdem.

Roger Palà. Media. Mediacat and the Yearbook of the media silences.


Media are suffering a crisis of legitimacy as important as parties’. Indeed, media are reproducing all the bad practices that other powers are. How can we re-legitimze media? How can we return media to their role as watchdogs and not as part of the power? This crisis of legitimacy has been running for at least 15 years. If they have emerged now is due to two main reasons: (1) the financial and economic crisis that have deepened the crisis of journalism, as they lack more now resources and (2) the emergence of social networking sites.

There has been an important devaluation of contents due to lack of resources but also due to accommodation of the professional. This has ended up with bad practices like do not checking the sources, lack of self-criticism, etc. But changing the system from within (i.e. Association of Journalists) is very difficult, so the Grup Barnils opted for initiating some activities “in the margins”. With Media.cat a project was created to point at bad practices in journalism, creating reports on the state of the question of media, etc. The flagship project is the Yearbook of the media silences.

But the point (of the yearbook and in general) is not a general criticism against media, but raising awareness on the crisis of the sector, the reasons for the crisis and the ways to try to fix it. The approach, in fact, is rather constructive and awards the good practitioners more than condemning the bad practitioners.

The Yearbook has had increasing success and one of the reasons is twofold. On the one hand, because it has raised a lot of awareness on the issue and, on the other hand, because it has relied on the citizens to back the project, through crowdfunding initiatives but not only, as citizens have spread the word about the whole process and not only about the final outcome.

The con side of the initiative is that it is a one-time-a-year thing, not very fairly paid and with difficulties of sustainability.

The good thing is that despite being a very small collective, an impact has been made, especially in the field of media.

Discussion

Q: is it true that social networking sites make it more difficult to hide things? Roger Palà: absolutely. A good thing of social networking sites is that they break the monopoly of the agenda-setting.

Arnau Monterde: what is the future of media? is it possible a network-based model? will we see for long the traditional model of mass-media? linking the economic crisis with the crisis of media, is it legitimate? Roger Palà: it is absolutely true that money enables professionalism and professionalism usually enables quality content. This does not mean that media have to be big: we are witnessing the emergence of small initiatives that, despite being small, they are 100% professional and are looking for new niches and new ways of working. We will surely see a new cosmos of few big media and a constellation of small media living together.

Q: isn’t there room for citizen journalism? Roger Palà: yes, sure, but the problem is sustainability in the long run. Is it possible to sustain quality and engagement and professionalism without a comfortable economic position? Maybe, but stability helps a lot in sustainability.

Institutions of the Post-democracy: globalization, empowerment and governance (2013)

PostDem (IV). Lourdes Muñoz Santamaría: Parties. PSC BCN: network party, open party

Notes from the Institutions of the Post-democracy: globalization, empowerment and governance conference, organized by the CUIMPB and the Communication and Civil Society program. Held in Barcelona, Spain, the 17th August 2013. More notes on this event: postdem.

Lourdes Muñoz Santamaría. Parties. PSC BCN: network party, open party

Political parties do have to change, but they have to keep their ideology and the focus on the common interest.

But it is true that we are in a change of paradigm and a change of era. And thus institutions have to change, especially to be able to understand the needs of people and provide valid answers. To do so, politics have to be much more participated. And social-democracy is speciallly fit to lead this transformation, as they believe in serving people from the power of institutions.

There is a problem when people, as individuals, have taken up web 2.0 and social networking sites as multi-purpose tools, but institutions have not. Partly because the paradigm of sharing is not in the ADN of most institutions.

Indeed, sharing relies heavily on access to information and access to knowledge.

The idea behind the open party is to apply to a party the concept of open governance that applies to governments. That is, openness in decision-making, access to information, participation, engagement, etc.

The main reasons to carry on this project is, above all, conviction. The necessary reformation of the PSC-Barcelona was not only about content, but also about forms.

And this change is especially about changing all the processes. Smoothly, so that no-one is left behind, and everyone can have a chance to learn the new ways.

One of the debates just before the project was whether the party needed a “cyberpartisan” or a “web 2.0” initiative. But the party decided that people were not “normal” vs. “digital”, but a single one: so, the idea of the open party is that it will cut across all sections and initiatives.

Principles of the network and open party:

  • Transparency: all decisions, all debates are open. All the information required for participation is openly available.
  • Virtual participation is an effective right. Deliberative democracy, e-voting. There is too much distance between “liking” a status in the party’s Facebook page and participating in a local meeting of the party. These two worlds have to be bridged.
  • Project-based work, instead of department-based work. This enables people to participate in whatever their interests are, without having to participate on a binary basis: all or nothing.

Goals:

  • Adequate the party to the society.
  • The conviction that the public space has changed, and thus have changed the roles of political intermediaries, media, the way the public opinion is made up and shaped.
  • Increase the possibilities to commit with a party, with a specific initiative.
  • Combine openness in deliberation with spaces of privacy that enable consensus and negotiation, without entering into opacity.
  • Build a deliberative democracy.
  • Stablish more ways of direct relationship with the elected representatives.

Discussion

Roger Vilalta: are big traditional parties still on time to retune with the citizenry? Or is everything already lost? Lourdes Muñoz: this is certainly the question. What is clear is that things will never be the same. An obligation for the party is to do this reform well and quick. And just hope that the new procedure will attract if not new people, at least the ones that left.

Marta Berenguer: does openness represent a chance to break the discipline of the party? Lourdes Muñoz: a debate has to be as open as possible, but the final position has to be unique. Thus, party discipline is good not to mislead the voter and to have a higher negotiating power [note the Spanish context to frame this answer]. What fails, thus, is not party discipline, but the internal dialogue and debate.

Joan Carles Torres: is it to believe initiatives as such, or is it just make up and marketing? The problem is that transparency has become a cool trend that everyone seems to be embracing. So, can politics be transformed with initiatives like this? Lourdes Muñoz: it is true, it is difficult. But we have to begin somewhere and this is one way to do it. Let us just hope that it works, that it can spark a change from within.

Q: what can guarantee that transparency and participation will actually be enabled? Lourdes Muñoz: there are no guarantees. This is just a beginning, a new way to try to transform how the party works on its inside (especially) and towards the outside (in more general terms). There are three problems to be addressed: learn how to facilitate; how to identify the relevant stakeholders; how to put the decisions made into practice.

More information

Post democràcia, partit obert, by Lourdes Muñoz Santamaría.

Institutions of the Post-democracy: globalization, empowerment and governance (2013)

PostDem (III). Alessandro Di Battista: multilevel movements. The Movimento 5 Stelle

Notes from the Institutions of the Post-democracy: globalization, empowerment and governance conference, organized by the CUIMPB and the Communication and Civil Society program. Held in Barcelona, Spain, the 17th August 2013. More notes on this event: postdem.

Alessandro Di Battista. Multilevel movements. The Movimento 5 Stelle.

The Movimento 5 Stelle is trying to bring citizen politics inside the Parliament. The usual procedure of the movement is that issues are debated and decided in assemblies and then they are transposed and voted in the Parliament.

There is no more need for political intermediaries: the Internet but also squares and civic centres are more than enough to organize most political debates and initiatives (Di Battista spent 140€ in his political campaign for the Italian parliament). And the good thing of not relying on third parties’ money to run one’s political campaign is that you do not need to pay favours back. The real revolution is that money is put out of the political equation.

Same is likely to happen with media: most papers will shut down and it will come the time when citizens will pay some specific journalists for a given report or documentary.

The Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S) heavily relies on networks to be able to get rid of money and, thus, be free from the strings attached: honesty and determination are the main drivers for change and the main assets of M5S. On the other hand, +80% of the MPs of the M5S are graduates, which makes the movement a highly capitalized on in terms of human capital and knowledge. Indeed, it is participation what is sought for by M5S, so that more people with their knowledge and ideas can contribute to make better politics.

Discussion

Q: how true is that M5S is neither right nor left when some principles are clearly from the left? Why not vindicate a left-wing ideology? On the other hand, how will M5S adapt itself if it came into office? Di Battista: one of the problems is that the left in Italy has been doing “bad” things during many decades. Detaching oneself from that is but healthy. Citizens should be able to present their ideas just for the sake of themselves, without having to clarify whether they are right of left sided, or having to identify them with a given label. About how the party works, now M5S is running a direct democracy project were any citizen can make a proposal and anyone else can vote it, with a binding commitment from M5S that if there is a major voting in favour of a proposal, the movement will bring it to the Parliament. And that is the idea: more participation, more engagement.

Joan Subirats: is the M5S creating a dichotomy between the good and the bad guys, the politicians vs. the common people, etc.? Di Battista: it is not about creating dichotomies, but about opening or disclosing the space of participation. Of course there is a role for the politicians to spark the debate and to try and reach a decision, even if it is not within a consensus. It is not about saying that politicians do not know anything because the citizens are always right: it is about fostering the voice of the citizen, about the citizen having a more balanced power when it comes to decision-making or, at least, to create a debate, and informed debate. It is about free and open information.

Joan Subirats: what is the Role of Beppe Grillo in the movement? Di Battista: Grillo is charismatic, of course, and he influences lots of people, but he is not the intolerant and autocratic person that some say him to be. The list of MPs was open and voted by the government, decisions are taken at the assembly as is the management of the budget or all related to hiring collaboratives.

Marc Rius: it is very different to avoid the appropriation of some labels by certain political parties than denying the existence of the right-left axis. On the other hand, it is very hard to understand that Grillo is having no influence on the movement. Anyway, what is the position of the movement in the immigration issue? Di Battista: Of course Grillo has a great influence: he was the founder of the movement. But influence is one thing and lack of independence is another very different thing. All the decisions are taken at the assembly. About immigration, it is fair acknowledging that the programme was put together in quite a rush. The movement has a strong commitment not with immigrants, but with citizenship and right to citizenship.

Marta Berenguer: how does the assembly work? Di Battista: the assembly is made up by territorial units or meetups (e.g. 15 in Rome). Each meetup makes their own decisions and then they are aggregated and discussed at higher levels. The final decision is made by the MPs at the parliament. Depending on the decision to be made, specific assemblies will be organized.

Q: What about Europe? Di Battista: the European institutions have to be transformed radically. So, it is not about leaving Europe or abandoning the Euro, but definitely Europe needs some serious fixing.

Institutions of the Post-democracy: globalization, empowerment and governance (2013)

PostDem (II). Joan Subirats: Governance. The Third Axis

Notes from the Institutions of the Post-democracy: globalization, empowerment and governance conference, organized by the CUIMPB and the Communication and Civil Society program. Held in Barcelona, Spain, the 17th August 2013. More notes on this event: postdem.

Joan Subirats. Governance. The Third Axis.

(Subirats’s session begins at 47:00.)

The separation of powers is based on the idea that powers are not to be trusted, but that they can be controlled by the other powers. The role of the government, in this scenario, is to represent those who are absent when and where they are not present. The government had two main components:

  • Competence: finding the solution or person that most fits for a given issue.
  • Hierarchy: sorting, according to the values, the several issues to be solved, including the ones that will solve them. It is thus a hierarchy of problems and people/institutions.

Is that still so? There is a growing problem with the definition of competences. More than levels of governments we should be speaking of spheres of government. Things have become complex.

Complexity has grown:

  • The heterogeneity of the population has increased notably. There are no more two social classes but many more and more difficult to be defined or delimited. This has created a more fragmented society.
  • The action of government has much more externalities (e.g. NIMBY syndrome). And the problem is that speaking with the affected stakeholders may not solve the issue, as the fragmentation of the society means that these stakeholders may not be representing all their peers.
  • We have grown in knowledge, but only to have less certainties: we know have complex answers for complex problems, and not simple solutions for simple problems. Tame problems have become wicked problems. More knowledge often implies that decisions are harder to make… and can end up not being taken.
  • Authoritarianism is becoming less accepted. Hierarchy and power is not enough, and people ask for deliberation and founded arguments.

We used to see power as status, and related with occupying an institution: the one who was sitting on an institution was the powerful one. But now, power is being able to exercise influence over the ones who make decisions or over the ones that have an influence over the ones who make decisions.

Thus, old politics is very concerned in occupying positions of power, of occupying institutions. And they work for the preservation of institutions and institutionalism. Institutionalising institutionalism: insiders vs. outsiders, decision-makers vs. normal citizens.

When some citizens state that you do not represent us they mean that (1) you are not answering my needs and (2) you are too different to me, and thus sure have different interests than I do.

What is changing?

There is a growing acknowledgement that “Politics” does not only happen within institutions, but also outside of them, on the streets, all the time. Politics do not end at parliaments and political parties, but outside of them.

This spreading of politics in everyday life, means also that vertical or homogeneous ideologies are less useful to provide answers or even to provide a good diagnosis of the issues at stake. It is no more about synchronicity, but about convenience, about flexibility.

In a network, authority is granted by peers, and not given by occupying a certain position. The processes of intermediation that do not contribute to the solution are automatically circumvented.

Hierarchy and competence are no more useful functions. A good function can be coordinating stakeholders, articulate solutions, being a platform for collective government, but not any more a core of power.

A new axis appears confronting old politics with new politics, the traditional way to approach government, problem-solving and decision-making and new approaches to face these challenges.

Discussion

Q: do we need different ethics or philosophy for the “new politicians”? Subirats: A good definition of the old politician is the one that always has an answer. We need new ethics based on acknowledging that the world is complex, that solutions are many (or none). On the other hand, the traditional (and necessary) lack of trust or modern democracies surely has to give way to more trust in the collective to produce answers.

Q: how should be the design of the new institutions? SUbirats: influencing democratic institutions from the outside; dissenting from the actual institutions (which are also part of the problem) and proposing new designs; and resisting the old ways of functioning.

Lourdes Muñoz-Santamaría: how do we go from making proposals to making actual decisions? Subirats: it is true that making decisions is not only about aggregating different opinions or options. But it is also true that governments should acknowledge that many problems are wicked and that solutions are not simple. And defining the problem and finding out the solution collectively implies different ways of running a government. Increasingly, participating is doing, not being informed.

Marc Esteve Del Valle: is there really a third axis? Is actually the left-right axis over? Subirats: maybe not, but what we surely find is that people are less and less identified with the left-right axis. And, actually, there is people that identify themselves with new ways of doing politics and participating. The left wing has still many difficulties in understanding freelancers, cooperativism, etc. Our coordinates are so mujch Fordist that they have serious difficulties when it comes to understanding the World and providing good and effective answers.

Institutions of the Post-democracy: globalization, empowerment and governance (2013)