DemocraticCity (IV). New political movements for real democracy in Europe

Notes from the Network democracy for a better city, organized by the D-CENT project, in Barcelona, Spain, on May 5th, 2015. More notes on this event: DemocraticCity.

New political movements for real democracy in Europe
Chaired by Pablo Gerbaudo

Daniel Ripa, Podemos Spain

There is a tension between citizens aiming at participating in politics and the traditional institutional structures which provide no way to channel this aims for participation.

Podemos Asturias has managed to organize a referendum, both online and offline, to validate the political programme for the upcoming local elections.

Digital participation enables people to get over institutions and go their own way, with or without the institutions.

As important as ending with corruption is avoiding it: what failed in the current system and how can corruption be stopped before it happens… or just avoided.

Gala Pin, Barcelona En Comú

Participation is not something managed by a department at the city council, participation is not a project, not a sectoral issue: participation should be a way of thinking, of doing things.

There is no online vs. offline participation, but a multilayer strategy so that everyone can participate and in different ways.

A third challenge is how to have a proper balance between institutional leadership and collective and distributed participation, how to “rule by obeying”, how to elaborate bottom-up initiatives that can be put into practice.

Last, open data is necessary as it is the fuel of informed participation.

Birgitta Jónsdóttir, Pirate Party Iceland

The coalition of movements in Iceland after the crash was a disaster. Things should be kept as simple as possible, and promise as little as posible, in the sense of promising what can be done, with a sense of reality.

And yet the constitution was great. It was a discussion about what kind of people we want to be together. But when the new Iceland Constitution got to Parlialment, politicians were not able to properly finish the job.

Many people do not want power, but given the appropriate, relevant, timely, and easy to use tools, people will participate.

Most movements can be summed up by Debt, Budget and Constitutional Process, that is, having sovereignty back. And it is not about voting, but about community building.

Andreas Karitzis, Syriza Greece

For a change to take place, something new must replace the old one.

There now is a struggle to recover sovereignty that has not been given away to the governments, but that actually has been given away to third parties (other governments, private firms, international powers) and that make governance of the local an almost unreachable quest.

There now is a huge gap of disconnection between democracy and the basic needs of the citizens. And this gap is the one that a new approach to democracy is aiming at fixing.

Digital participation processes will help in amplifying organizational processes, but it will not be enough.

Generative democracy is the one that pursues to liberate people’s capacities to participate, to be engaged.

Silvana Denicolo, 5SM Italy

Three pillars: protest, proposal and proactivity.

Movimento 5 Stelle appeared in time where there was very few activism. It has now flourished and has gone way beyond “keyboard activism”: online activism must complement — not replace — face-to-face activism.


Q: Do we risk some depolitization by using (too much of) these technologies? Birgitta Jónsdóttir: the problem is about expectations and overpromising things. Participation should be coming with both some pedagogy, but also with resources so that proposals can be put into practice if so people vote to.

Q: Are we missing ideology in new politics? What are the risks of populism? Are we limiting ourselves just to “improve our lives” and setting aside values? Birgitta Jónsdóttir: is not lack of ideology, but so basic demands — like respect for human rights — that are beyond (or actually come before) ideologies.


Network democracy for a better city (2015)