Meeting DIEM25 Spontaneous Collectives (DSC) in Dublin, London and Barcelona: On the importance of face-to-face get togethers and DiEM25’s crucial next steps
Europe is a large place and so a movement like DiEM25, that aims to be pan-European, must rely a great deal of the internet and other digital means to link its members and get its campaigns going. The very purpose of the DSCs is to exploit the power of the digital universe to spread the DiEM25 message, to launch ourselves simultaneously in a thousand different towns and spots at once. But when we can gather together, in one room, over a drink, looking into each other’s eyes, the feeling is sweet, the experience wonderful, the possibilities for camaraderie infinite.
I was recently reminded of this when, as part of one my pan-European sojourns, I met with DSCs in Dublin (27th May), London (28th May) and Barcelona (2nd June). All three meetings happened in the context of other larger meetings involving not just DiEM25ers but a wider audience of potential allies.
In Dublin, our DSC met in a lovely old pub a couple of hours before my televised discussion with Vincent Browne, one of those rare journalists that I look up to. The meeting comprised around twelve members who could attend during a working day in downtown Dublin. (And, yes, I had a Guinness!) Representing different age groups and perspectives the Dublin DSC struck me as a group of highly intelligent, motivated DiEMers who judge the Irish political scene to be in great need of reinvigoration. The impression I got was that our Dublin comrades believe there is a large disconnect between the Irish people’s need (and demand) for a new politics (one that is at once radical and Europeanist) and what the existing political parties are delivering. While DiEM25 is not in competition with existing parties, it became clear to me that we have a significant role to play in eliminating this gaping disconnect. For if DiEM25 fails to do this, and no other progressive organisation does it either, all sorts of ills can spring out of this lacuna.
The London DiEM25 meeting took place at UCL in the context of the whole day event organized jointly by us, by the Another Europe Is Possible comrades and by Momentum. Following the opening session (where Caroline Lucas and I, on behalf of DiEM25, were joined with other speakers), our DSC held its own breakaway session separately. Our meeting was chaired by Paul Hilder (that DiEM25ers will be hearing more and more about in the months to come) and featured as speakers, besides yours truly, a representative of Jeremy Corbyn’s Momentum, Mary Kaldor, an LSE Professor specialising in civil society and global government, and Zoe Gardner, representing Another Europe Is Possible. Remarkably, hundreds of people turned up! Indeed, there was not an empty seat in the house – a turnout that was incredibly empowering for the handful of DiEM25ers who started the DSC in the first place.
The DSC in Barcelona meeting took place in a cafeteria an hour or so before we all walked close by to the Civic Centre to join Ada Colau, Gerardo Herrero, Jordi Ayala and other leaders of the City of Barcelona to celebrate the anniversary of their spectacular victory that turned them from an urban protest movement to an efficient local government. During the DSC meeting we discussed the next steps that DiEM25 must take (see below), the Organising Principles (again see below), the Spanish election, issues pertaining to Catalunya and, of course, the DSC’s own organisation. It became clear to me that, like in Dublin and London, DiEM25 has a great deal to offer the local political scene, a pan-European Agenda (under which local and regional struggles can be embedded) being first and foremost.
COMMON THEMES, NEXT STEPS
Two were the common themes that occupied the DSC meetings in all three cities: DiEM25’s Organisational Principles, i.e. our internal constitution, the ways in which we shall be practising democracy within our organisation; and DiEM25’s next steps in putting together our proposed European Agenda.
We discussed extensively the importance of combining horizontality, of small decision making groups, of instituting a coordinating collective that makes decisions at a European-wide level, and creating a council selected at random (by sortition within our membership) to validate the coordinating collective’s decisions. We also discussed the importance of fund raising that goes through a payments platform guaranteeing: (i) total transparency (so that even our enemies can see whayt money came in and how each euro was spent), (ii) efficiency (e.g. a single bank account under the control of a fully legal entity representing DiEM25 in law, and (iii) complete decentralisation (so that monies collected by, say, a DSC in Finland can be spent by that same DSC without any authorisation from anyone else).
A draft of the Organisational Principles is now available at https://diem25.org/draft-of-diem25-organising-principles/ . DSCs are encouraged to discuss these and to collect objections, suggestions etc.
Assembling DiEM25’s European Agenda: The role of DSCs
We also discussed the main process of turning our DSCs into a fully fledged movement: creating a surge of debate around the six systemic crises/challenges facing Europe, a debate that must culminate into six Policy Papers that, taken together, constitute DiEM25’s European Agenda (DEA). The actual process of fashioning these six Policy Papers and the DEA will also be the process by which our DSCs become functional cells of a functional movement. In the meetings, we reiterated that the six systemic challenges we must now focus on are the same ones we identified during DiEM25’s Berlin inauguration on 9th February as the DEA’s main planks:
TRANSPARENCY in EU decision-making
OPEN EUROPE: Refugees, Migration, and Solidarity with ‘Others’
LABOUR: Its value and the distribution of income
GREEN NEW DEAL: Investment-led Green Recovery & Macroeconomic Policy – incorporating policies for financing the Green Transition and tackling effectively the crises of debt, banking, insufficient investment, intra-European imbalances, poverty alleviation, the faulty architecture of the euro, monetary policy coordination between the Eurozone and non-Eurozone economies
GREEN TRANSITION & TECHNOLOGICAL SOVEREIGNTY – What should Europe be investing in? And how can Europe avoid becoming hostage to the technological choices made by multinational giants for multinational giants
IMAGINING A DEMOCRATIC EU CONSTITUTION IN THE SPIRIT OF DECENTRALISED EUROPEANISATION - and the process leading to the Constitutional Assembly that will bring it about. (DiEM25 rejects the notion that Europeanising the solutions to our various crises must come at the cost of further loss of sovereignty at the municipal, regional and national level.)
The question was then asked: How do we put together one Policy Paper per each one of the above six issues/challenges by the end of 2017?
In our Dublin-London-Barcelona meetings, a broad consensus was clear that we should do this in the following steps:
Step 1 - DiEM25 will compile a list of questions for each of the six challenges above and will call upon its members to convene locally, and in the spirit of self-organisation, in order to propose particular solutions and policies. We envisage, in addition to our digital Forum, debates in Town Hall meetings, meetings in theatres, cinemas, cultural centres etc.
Step 2 - All policy recommendations, concerns and suggestions will be compiled by a dedicated DiEM committee (one per Policy Paper) with a view to putting together a Policy Paper Proposal that will be submitted to a DiEM25 Assembly – see Step 3
Step 3 - Fix dates and cities, one per Policy Paper, where the relevant proposals will be debated and the DiEM25 Policy Paper will be finalised
Step 4 - Once each DiEM25 Policy Paper has been finalised, it will be put to a vote of all members using DiEM25’ digital platform.
A final remark on DiEM25’s purpose
During the London DiEM25 meeting, I addressed Zoe Garnder, the representative of Another Europe Is Possible, without thinking too much about it, by saying: «You know Zoe, what you are doing with Another Europe Is Possible here in the UK we, DiEM25, are doing in 28 EU member-states and beyond. Another Europe Is Possible, UK, needs to see itself as part of DiEM25.” I am more than pleased to report that Zoe agreed enthusiastically.
And so DiEM25 moves on. We have much work to do. These DiEM25 physical meetings are only part of what we need to do a lot more of. And they are possibly the sweetest and most rewarding part of our endeavours…