Monday, October 20, 2008

A Charter for Democracy

How to defend our rights but also secure them in a lasting way was the overall theme running through our Stand Up for Your Rights festival at the weekend. Dramas portraying the struggles of the Levellers of the 17th century and the Chartist movement of the mid-19th century attested to the fact that this is not a new question.

There is, however, plenty of evidence to indicate that new opportunities are rapidly emerging that could, if grasped, enable us to do complete the unfinished business of great movements for rights that form an essential part of our deliberately obscured revolutionary tradition.

A World to Win does not claim to have all the answers. That is why we work with others. But we know this:
  • the existing capitalist state and the capitalist economic and financial system it presides over are in deep crisis.
  • they cannot control the slide from recession to depression – the markets have spoken.
  • neither the state nor the economic system can be reformed in any meaningful way.
  • pressure and protest will provide the fuel and energy but cannot in themselves bring about the change we have to have.
  • the state and the government are weak, desperate and discredited.
  • they have actually lost any assumed right to rule over us.
  • creating democratic people’s power in place of corporate power is not a long -term dream but the immediate issue before us.
We need a movement, a force of people that is irresistible, in order to achieve this goal. That is why at the festival we launched a Charter for Democracy. In June 1837, the East London Democratic Association passed a resolution proposed by George Harney that “their brethren of the working and productive classes” form similar associations as the “only rational means of obtaining universal suffrage” and “the overthrow of the monied tyrants who grind the sons of labour to the dust”. In that spirit, the Charter of 2008 says:

The existing system of government fails to represent the interests of the vast majority of people and is democratic in name only. Instead, the state’s primary purpose is to promote business interests at the expense of ordinary working people.

Under these conditions, our hard-won right to vote is undermined and the mass of people are effectively disenfranchised. As the global financial and economic disaster deepens, we refuse to pay for the crisis of capitalism through mass unemployment, repossession of homes, loss of pensions, tax and price rises and cuts in spending on vital services.

We therefore support the campaign for a republican Britain based on a written constitution that would:
  • end the rule of political elites and bureaucracies and instead create new local, regional and national Assemblies, representing diverse communities and workplaces
  • extend democracy through co-operative forms of ownership and workplace control of major corporations, enterprises and services
  • establish social rights to housing, education, health, transport, training, employment, pensions and care in older age
  • guarantee basic human rights to organise, strike, speak and act free from state surveillance and interference
  • safeguard the civil and religious rights of minority communities and adopt a “no borders” approach to refugees and asylum seekers
  • eliminate speculation and profit as the basis for society, ensuring that both ecological care and basic human needs shape production, consumption and lifestyles.

We will initiate, encourage and support all actions such as campaigns to stop repossessions, occupations of threatened workplaces and the rejection of higher fuel and transport charges.

To this end, we will work to establish local and national Conventions for Democracy to build support for the transfer of political and economic power to the majority.
We appeal to everyone to take part in this project for the Charter as a matter of priority. That’s the best way to stand up for our rights.

Paul Feldman
Communications editor

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