The title of today’s labour list article Corbyn vows to scrap House of Lords with plan to tackle “democratic deficit” is neglecting the radical visionary potential in Corbyn’s proposed democratic revolution.
The House of Lords has been progressively losing its teeth since the 19th century, blocking Lloyd George’s people’s budget of 1909, thus propelling Asquith’s Liberals to diminish the lords further, culminating in the parliamentary act of 1911. Historians will point to several other moments in its step-wise degradation leading up to the present. It has few teeth left and although its end or replacement with an elected second chamber should be sought by progressives, the really radical proposals Jeremy Corbyn has just made are of far greater consequence.
He plans to deepen democracy in the UK with a democratic revolution. He has said:
“I believe in the wisdom of ordinary citizens. That’s why we are launching proposals to extend democracy in every part of public life: in national politics, communities, the economy and the workplace – and in our own party.
“Labour under my leadership will listen to ideas from the bottom up – and take radical action to transform and rebuild our country so that no one and no community is left behind. We need nothing less than a democratic revolution in our politics, communities and workplaces.”
This is to be achieved, among other things with:
“Online democracy and opening up local referendums on the outsourcing of public services”
And by starting
Dismissing party politics as a vehicle for progressive change has been too easy for too many for too long. That is not to say that this ease of dismissal is anything other than rational thinking based on lived experience. Although not overtly stated here, Corbyn’s proposals open the door to something even greater. A libertarian municipalist and confederationalist style politics, a duel power of town and city on the one hand and the state on the other.
Exposing the paradoxical ‘representative’ pseudo democracy for the power maintaining sham that it is and its corporate, military and media inter-relations has been a disorderly but central message in social movements in my life-time. Awareness, it can now be said in the UK has reached a nexus and now manifests overtly in party politics at the level of the leader of the main opposition party and its social movement ‘momentum’ that makes it possible.
If politics at the level of the state itself can be used to create peoples or citizens assemblies, what Bookchin called in his mature writings, that historical revolutionary 'red thread' and in turn create a politically engaged and educated citizenry and culture, a 'paideia' over what may be described as a largely dis-empowered population of constituents and consumers then this is no longer politics as commonly understood.
Rather this is a return to politics at its root, key elements of which trace back to 5th century BCE Athens which was based on face-to-face decision-making in communal assemblies of the people and confederations (groups) of those municipal (town, city) assemblies. Aristotle believed that this level of political engagement was a key part of individual self actualization and fulfillment.
Bringing power to the local, the towns and cities, a humanly imaginable scale, where the people who are most intimate with the fallout of centralized statist decisions begin to make decisions themselves, where democratically (in the true sense) created constitutions and laws begin to take precedence, when locally created and governed institutions can make the exercise of non-statist power possible and effective -
Than the question has to be asked, for what do we need a state?
By Gloucestershire based activist Martin O'Beirne