Democracy Action Working Group (DAWG) minutes 17.4.14
Note: DAWG is meeting regularly, on Thursdays, 6-8pm at Friends’ House, Euston.
However, on May 1st other activities may take precedence.
Present : Janie Mac, Dan C, George B, Steve B, Chris FD + 1 (name not known, apologies).
Minutes by Steve B.
1. Functionality of the group ..
process problems ..
call to action ..
where next for DAWG ?
2. Mayday … and possible developments.
3. Chartists’ anniversary event … 15 June.
1. Functionality of the group, process problems,
call to action, where next for DAWG?
There seems to be some annoyance at personal, unconsulted processes going forward within DAWG .. this dilemma has been described as an ‘autonomy of one’ issue. There is a general feeling that everything on DAWG’s website should be withdrawn, and brought back for discussion : we don’t want individuals deciding our process in an ‘autonomy of one’ manner, without a consultative, shared, democratically-agreed procedure having been observed. Chris FD pointed out, that in contrast, and ‘doing it the right way’, the initial OccupyLSX statements were deliberated and arduously worked out through the straits of a proper democratic process.
A shared feeling was expressed that the forthcoming events of Mayday, that will be elaborated on later in the minutes, need to be a really useful launchpad for a domino-effect of various positive actions to follow.
As concerns how DAWG manages its meetings, it was mooted that natural and straightforward responding to one another’s points within the flow of general exchange is sometimes preferable to the traditional method of ‘stacking’ … though, of course, this may only be applicable when the number attending the meeting is lesser rather than greater.
Chris FD pointed out that we need to work towards coming up with a small number of ‘well-cooked ideas’ about policy, which we can then put out into the realms of the public and the media, which, perhaps, the BBC may not be able to negatively deconstruct but might even be encouraged to present through the eye of the media as a focus and series of demands which are both crystal-clear and providing a positive alternative, which is really the identity of ‘Occupy’.
Janie Mac iterated the importance of how ‘we interlink’ with other groups outside Occupy – we should endeavour to bring together an activist umbrella which is actually much broader than ‘Occupy’. ‘Occupy’ should serve to be the the creator/facilitator, so that the larger, ‘cross-group’ events can happen.
As regards Mayday, also in this facilitator spirit,Occupy is serving to ‘host’ various events that are to take place on the day.
We must remind ourselves that it always remains ‘a fine line between creating a coalition rather than a collective’, that very important difference between what is random and chaotic – thrown together in a ramshackled way, and, quite to the contrary – carefully organized. Moreover, because the media is slanted against Occupy, we have to counter that negative weight through the execution of a really clear programme and a ‘shiny’ website.
It was suggested that a large time-gap between Mayday and October might need to be connected by an event or number of events running in between.
Dan C suggested that, for the actions we are trying to put together for October 18th, we need ‘a clean sofa’ – a clear media platform, much akin to the typical media-room that we normally find to be a really useful instrument of the method the media adopts in order to transmit its messages. Compare the very fact that Parliament is in reality ‘a media room’ or ‘a media circus’. We can therefore selectively adopt memes from the mainstream establishment that we can use for own (and eventually their ?) positive processes. Critical to this ‘media process’ which we endeavour to put into effect, we bring together all the various voices of a sort of ‘clear channel’.. cf – ‘Clear Channel’, the media-corporation which is responsible for producing ad billboards all over Europe. We adopt the positive structural elements of others’ methods in order to work against media hostility.
Let’s not forget that Occupy has a name that still resonates.
There may be ‘a reality gap’ that needs to be bridged in order to capture the nation’s awareness : ‘who was Occupy?’ .. Janie referred to this as a ‘middle England syndrome’. We have to reach the ‘Middle-Englanders’, and thereby create an increased critical mass.
As mentioned earlier, Chris FD suggested that Occupy needs a few good policies … eg .. on ‘housing’, on ‘banking’, on ‘social welfare’. These need to involve general occupations of the vital issues .. of ‘climate change’, the ‘NHS’, ‘education’ .. etc. Occupy needs a clear general vision. Occupy needs to launch a campaign rather than come up now with an absolute, finished, bigger vision. A solid campaign-approach can foment a positive knock-on effect for other actions to then follow. This might for example involve days of handing out flyers outside many stations,etc. So, we have a sort of cumulative process which gradually builds up a critical mass. Clarity and straightforwardness rather than complexity and opacity need to be applied to how we market our campaign-approach.
Chris FD mentioned how we need to really remain apolitical, for we are not looking to encourage social fragmentation, even though Occupy has something of a reputation of being part of the left. We need answers/demands which are ‘different’ and ‘creative’ as well as being readily socially accessible. We need to be unafraid of believing that we can summon new ideas instead of replicating examples only from the past. We need a clear table of ‘demands’ and also ‘solutions’, and a pragmatic sort of flexibility can enable our movement to remain resilient.
We have to ask, ‘ how do we market the movement to the widest group of people?’ George B mentioned that we need to straddle the gap between sustaining a systemic focus as well as having various, clear demands.
George B talked of us having a ‘short'(one or two sentences ?), a ‘medium-sized’ ( one paragraph? ), and a ‘larger version’ (A4 sheet, with further detailed attachments/footnotes), describing our specific systemic focus and the list of our demands. Yet again it was suggested that Occupy serve as a ‘conduit’ or facilitator for a much more expansive, positive movement to flourish.
Dan suggested that though we do not look to UKIP as a political beacon, its focus on a single issue, in that case, being the very timely controversy of Europe, has served to galvanize a perhaps surprisingly growing following : we clearly note that pertinent single issues are very useful hooks to attract the ordinary person, whereas the reality to the contrary is that a rigidly fixed stance actually divides, and, as more issues from an equally rigid perspective are piled atop, a fragmentation of attraction ensues. We must always remind ourselves how rigid dogmatism can only serve to exclude.
Though as the general milieu presently stands we may be actually ‘swimming against the tide’, we need to work out how to occupy the middle-ground.To our advantage is the social reality that the true condition of democracy changes day by day, whereas the nature of capitalism the way it really manifests itself is that it endeavours to sustain an oligarchic status quo. So, Janie Mac pertinently pointed out that we actually need new governments for each new generation.
We need to come up with an idea much bigger than Europe. UKIP becomes entrapped within the myopic mindset of the problem being Europe, which is really a meet response to desiring to preserve the aegis of nationalism.
The biggest tent at St Paul’s was the ‘tent city university’ : we really need some sort of media tent in order to continue to work out this programmatic approach.
Janie Mac made us privy to the good news that 300 placards are being made, as well as a mammoth-sized banner (50m x 2m).
We have David Graeber and a representative from DPAC already set up to speak at Trafalgar Square, with other key speakers being arranged. We are proposing to have an ‘assembly without an agenda’.
After the procession from Clerkenwell Green (1pm ), the speeches at Trafalgar Square will follow at 2.30/3pm, and then, at about 5.30pm, we intend to move on to a special location to have a particularly themed GA. We will do it in such a timely way so that we meet up with participants from DPAC at around 6pm. We have to give plenty of time to DPAC’s participants to arrive at the meeting-point.
There are banner-making workshops on the evenings of 28th,29th and 30th, and more information about these can be obtained from Janie Mac.
Occupy is having a particular focus for Mayday, which shall become revealed in due course.
Janie Mac also conjectured that, the way things presently stand, ‘evictions’ and ‘fracking’ seem to be the critical issues that are going to occupy the next few months : ‘hands-on’ evictions have already started to gather apace, but a head of steam of resistance is seriously beginning to counter this.
Chartists’ Anniversary … June 15th
Chris FD mentioned briefly, at the end of our 2 hour-meeting that discussions are being mooted for June 15th : embryonic ideas are being bandied about over the possibility of presenting a petition to Parliament as an expression of an increasing concern over a widening democratic vacuum that needs to be filled more urgently than ever.