Friday, September 21, 2012

An Agreement of the People for 2012

In the light of the ConDems plan to turn Britain into a total market state and Ed Miilband’s plan for Labour to “save capitalism from itself”, we present a 2012 draft of the Agreement of the People (with deference to the Levellers and their 1647 version debated at Putney).

 Whereas the current British state political system is undemocratic and unjust in that:    

  • The state is a highly centralised, alienating power that has established itself above society as a whole. 
  • This power is exercised primarily on behalf of dominant economic and financial interests.
  • Legal authority does not come from the people as citizens, but from the Monarchy, Lords and Commons. 
  • The House of Commons is a powerless assembly rather than an independent transforming legislature.  
  • Members of Parliament do not exercise any real control over ministers or civil servants.  
  • A surveillance state secretly monitors and tracks the legitimate activities of activists, trade unionists and protesters.
  • Increasing numbers of “arms-length” quasi-state agencies have been created which are totally unaccountable at central and local level.
  • Local government has lost its relative autonomy and is now reduced to carrying out central government orders and decisions.  
  • The state has abandoned primary responsibility in a number of areas including housing, higher education and care in older age in favour of markets.
  • The states refuses to take steps to cut carbon emissions and other measures to meet the challenge of climate change.
We therefore declare that the present state is a barrier to the real democratic control of society and has effectively disenfranchised the 99%. We therefore propose an initiative that has as its aim the transformation of the present political system along democratic lines.

We propose the goals of building a new, independent and decentralised democracy, from below, creating an inclusive written constitution that serves to protect and enhance our liberty and embraces the aspirations of the powerless majority.

To reach these goals we aim to:  
·         encourage the building of a new, nation-wide democratic tradition from the ground up through, for example, independent Peoples' Assemblies, as a means of transforming the state
·         develop a working coalition of civil and human rights activists, constitution campaigners and all those interested in decentralisation, self-organisation and complete electoral reform
·         carry out actions by non-violent means in support of the rights and issues we stand for
·         develop a peoples' constitution that will defend existing rights under attack and create new ones that deepen and extend democracy

We advocate a new constitution for a 21st century democracy, moving from a constitutional monarchy to a constitutional democracy. This new constitution should have as its guiding principles:

·         justice, transparency and accountability from those elected by the people to govern
·         a decentralised, participatory and inclusive democracy
·         self-government and management in all spheres of social, economic and political life
·         absolute equality before the law
·         an independent, democratically appointed judiciary to uphold the new constitution and the rule of law

The rights set out below, which a new constitution would incorporate, should form the basis of the new democratic state:

Human and social rights
·         The right to organise, associate, demonstrate and strike independently of the state
·         The right to a representative electoral process in balance with a new participatory system
·         The right to set up independent People's Assemblies with decision-making powers and control over resources
·         The right of minority communities to equality in all areas of social life
·         The right to affordable housing for all those in need
·         The right to free continuing education and training

Economic rights
·         The right to co-operative ownership and self-management
·         The right to democracy in all areas/activities of the workplace

Environmental rights
·         The right to live in an environment shaped by ecological care and basic human needs
·         The right of nature, including human beings, to exist free from abuse and despoliation.

Indigenous rights
·         The right to hold and use land held in common
·         The right of communities to continuity of culture, traditions and habitat
·         The right to the free movement of people based on 'no borders' principles

Paul Feldman
Communications editor

A version of this draft was first presented at a democracy day school held by Occupy's Real Democracy Working Group in London.

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