DiEM25 and the Future of Democracy in Europe (Part 2)

The Co-ordinating Collective

As noted by me in the Introductory post for this discussion thread, it is stated in the introduction to the Organising Principles, that: At the beginning, DiEM25 was put together spontaneously by initiators who conjured up, together and haphazardly, the idea of a pan-European association aiming at creating a movement for, simultaneously, democratising Europe in general and the European Union institutions in particular, enhancing democratic sovereignty at the local, city, regional and national levels. The time has come, however, to formalise this group that has been, since DiEM25’s inauguration on February 9, 2016, steering its activities into a Coordinating Collective.”

There is nothing unusual in this happening when a group gets together to organise opposition and resistance to some unpleasant or dangerous development in their environment. In fact, we should praise the initiators for taking action and drawing our attention to a situation that had really “crept up” gradually and unnoticed by many European citizens. That is what often happens. Fortunately for us, in this case, the boy who called “Wolf” was no longer a boy but an experienced adult, who with his knowledge and respected reputation as an international economist could be believed when he told us that there was a force building in the E.U. that had to be resisted. By resisting with his countrymen and countrywomen for as long as they could, he finally had to admit that this threat demanded a bigger response than one individual could command. Then working together with some like-minded spirits from different roles in life, they produced the idea for DiEM25.

In approaching this discussion I would like to focus my attention, and hopefully yours also, on certain current aspects of the Organising Principles that could become an Achille’s Heel, even for those of us who are not Greek!

From the beginning it is stated clearly that: “the proposed Coordinating Collective (hereafter ‘CC’) will not act as some central committee that makes policy”,

This clearly signals that DiEM25 is going to be a different kind of organisation. Again, we should applaud that statement. But now comes the problematical point. What kind of organisation is DiEM25 going to be? If there is no central committee to make policy, who will make it. It is implied in the sentence that policy making in DiEM25 will be different. I am worried by the use of the title “Co-ordinating Collective”. What does that mean? Let me digress a bit here to discuss some information about organisations as systems and its relevance to our discussion. If you are already familiar with this, then skip ahead to pick up the narrative further on in this document.

Organisations and the Open Systems Approach

The basic principle used here when thinking in terms of an organisation as a system, is as follows. A system is fundamentally a collection of activities that receives or requires an input, and then internally converts that input into an output. This implies that an organisation is separate from, but embedded in, its environment and so we think of it as having a boundary around it. (Sorry! I don’t have a graphics facility in WordPress to include diagrams!). Outside the boundary is the “environment” and inside the boundary is the “organisation”. Now when I use the words “organisation” and “system”, I am using them in a very general way. The United Nations, very big and complex, can be examined as an organisation, as a system. We could also describe a town or a village as a system. It could even be an individual person! It might even have been one of the very early atoms and molecules formed in the primeval slime at the beginning of planet Earth’s formation where single-celled creatures began to emerge. Is there a simple picture that we can draw to illustrate these? Can you think of a simple diagram that could apply equally as a model for the U.N. and for an individual person, or for a single-celled creature? Just think for a moment before moving on. Draw that model!

In the Open Systems approach the diagram we usually start with is a circle! Inside the circle is everything that comprises the system. Outside the perimeter of the circle is the surrounding environment. Now even that simple diagram raises questions. How does the system survive in that environment? The general answer is that it gets what it needs from its environment, works with those inputs and sends out what it produces or doesn’t need again. Why does it need inputs? Because its task is to survive while doing its primary (conversion) task. Just add boxes on the left with an arrow on each pointing to the system circle. Each box signifies a particular input. On the right hand side, draw arrows pointing away from the System circle. Each arrow represents a particular output. That’s the basic diagram for a system in an environment!

Now, take time out and imagine the circle is a system diagram of a factory whose principal task is producing cakes! List as many inputs and outputs as you can think of (quickly!). Good, now list the outputs that you might expect from such a system. (Again, just a sample will be sufficient). Finally, list the different “things” that need to be done to turn the inputs into outputs.

[Make a separate note of any lists you produce]

Again, taking the same basic diagram that we started with, answer the same questions but this time think of the system as your own body! Incidentally, what is the primary task of your body?

Finally, to bring us back to our topic, think of that basic diagram as DiEM25 and answer the same questions. It doesn’t matter whether you are “right” or “wrong” in any of these examples. In fact, there is no single “right” or “wrong” answer to this question in the real world. That is why we need an active discussion, comparing notes, discussing the similarities and differences, leading (one would hope!) to a consensus answer. At the moment, I just want to get you thinking in terms of “the system”. This last diagram will be very useful when we start analysing and planning for DiEM25.

Now for the €64,000 question. What else needs to be added to these diagrams so that each system produces the desired outputs and carries out its primary task?

Let me introduce you to two new words with which you are familiar but which I am using in a very specific way. These words are “Authority” and “Power”. How would you define them? Make a note of your answers.

Authority =

Power =

I use them as follows:

1. “Authority” is the RIGHT to do something.

2. “Power” is the ABILITY to do something.

[Important note: We very often use these two words interchangeably, as in the examples given in some of the online results. There is nothing inherently wrong in that. It will help, however,  in our discussion, if we stick to the different emphases I have given].

Think now, where does the “Authority” rest in the DiEM25 organisation? Where is “Power” located in the organisation. Put it another way. Who or what part of DiEM25 has authority. Where do we want them to be located? Who or what has power. If power rests in more than one part of the organisation, is there a difference in the kind of power available? What different kinds of authority can you identify in DiEM25? Use your own words to describe these differences.

So, how is the job of “managing” done in other organisations with which you are familiar? And how is the job of “managing” done in DiEM25? You tell me now!

  • Who (individual or group) will do the “managing things” that you and I have identified?

  • Where and how do they get the authority, the right, to do those things?

  • Who or what gives them the authority they exercise?

  • If they are a group, how should they make their decisions?

How would you describe the Primary Task of DiEM25? By Primary Task I mean the single, overall task that defines the organisation. Clearly DiEM25, like any other organisation or movement will perform many different activities but what is the over-arching task to which all the other activities contribute? Keep the definition of the Primary Task as brief and as focused as you can.

The Primary Task of DiEM25 is to

……………………………………………………………………………………(20 words or less)

Now look at the political system in your own country! We use elections to select individuals who tell us they have the ability to lead the country. In other words we give up some of our authority over our own lives and transfer it to our representatives to enable them to have the RIGHT to organise society on our behalf. Do you think those given that RIGHT also have the required ABILITY to make the decisions on your behalf? If they don’t have the ability or if they make bad decisions, what sanctions, or what controls are available to us then to control them?

That’s enough about Systems theory for the moment. Let’s take up the discussion where we left off

Applying the Systems model to DiEM25

So let’s now re-examine the statement in the Organising Principles that The proposed Coordinating Collective (hereafter ‘CC’) will not act as some central committee that makes policy”.

Co-ordinating is one important function, or set of activities, in the role of management in an organisation. But it isn’t the only one. Take time to think, from your experience, what other functions have you seen taken on by management? List them.

Functions of Management:

(or describe them as groups of activities with a common purpose)

[Make your own notes before proceeding further]

Managers make decisions, don’t they? They communicate with one another, with those senior to them, with those in other departments, with their workers, with customers, suppliers, and so on. Can you think of any other functions?

Some functions of management have been defined by those who study organisations. Carry out a web search if you want to get a wider variety of options. But, in fact, the list of management functions usually narrows down to four or five. Click on the link to find their answers. Do they agree with your ideas?

What then is the role of the CC? What do you see as the main activities and functions of the CC? From where and from whom does it receive the authority to carry out its activities? Most importantly who or what finally has the authority to give the “go ahead” for activities?

It is also stated in the Organising Principles that: “The CC will recommend to the Validating Council disciplinary action against members who have grossly violated DiEM25’s principles and/or Manifesto.” The duty of taking disciplinary action is a very serious responsibility. What is the defined role and source of authority of the V.C.? Is it right to give the responsibility for such decisions to a group of people who were selected at random, and who receive no remuneration because they are not expected to spend a long time on any of their activities?

Furthermore, in regard to the DiEM25 Principles and Manifesto, on whose authority were these principles drawn up. Who approved them. Where does it specify that the V.C. has the authority (remember, “authority” = the right) to do so? Who gives them that authority?

I am puzzled by the statement that “the CC will be assisted by (my italics) several Co-ordinators”. This statement and earlier descriptions of the activities of the CC suggest that the CC actually has a managing role and its co-ordinating role is part of that managing role. Does the CC have other managing roles and, if so, where does the authority for each of these functions come from? I understand the reluctance of those who founded DiEM25 to use any terminology that might suggest the the CC had a traditional management role because it might appear to contradict the evolution in democracy that DiEM25 represents. Nevertheless, we cannot escape the reality that while the intention is to disperse the management role, it would be ridiculous to omit some management functions. Or would it be ridiculous? What would happen if… If there is no managing role then the only result is anarchy! On the other hand, democratic management, where the activities of the management role are continually monitored and subject to sanction by the members is a revolutionary statement and principle which will require major relearning by members in regard to how we move in an evolutionary way to that desired goal without tearing the Movement apart.

It is also specified that “the CC will meet once a week … and will be chaired on the basis of a rota system that ensures a high frequency rotation of the chair (ensuring rotation at least once every three months). (So much revolving of chairs is making me feel dizzy!) Again I understand and support the concept enshrined in this sentence. I wonder, however, would it be better to use the word “moderator” (of the proceedings) rather than “chair(person)” which is a quite different role. My experience of working with intact groups (and also having watched a few of the CC videos) is that when the members are strongly committed to the work of their group, the role of the moderator is one who ensures that every member is listened to and gets a chance to voice their views. This also allows every member of the group to exercise leadership when needed or desired. The role of chairman could be perceived as anathema to this approach.

It is unclear from the same paragraph whether the statement “no provision is made for a Secretary General or President” means that “no provision has yet been made” or “no provision will ever be made”. Again I understand the motivation and the sensitivity implied by this statement. Nevertheless, making that statement before the organisation structure and system have been finalised is unnecessary and reassures no one it will never happen. Perhaps the founders are being unduly and guiltily modest lest such ambitions might be imputed to them!

In regard to the Election/Selection of the CC, I have already noticed and responded to some comments and observations in the various labyrinthine corridors of Slack where there appears to be considerable confusion about the duration for which those selected will serve. If individuals can stand again immediately after being selected to make way for potential replacements, then I don’t really see the need for the elaborate ritual of six being selected (or did they offer themselves?) but then available again for re-election. This process will in no way prevent some effective or popular people being continually elected whereas the intention appears to be to prevent that happening. I suggest this whole area needs to be examined, especially in the light of the statement towards the end that “there will be no term limits for membership of the CC”. Again, I must emphasise that I believe that the intention is good, but thDiEM25 and the Future of Democracy in Europe (Part 2)e implementation is rather ponderous and potentially disruptive. We are a Movement, and a very idealistic movement, but that does not mean there will be no political motives evident!

The statement in regard to the minimum period of membership required for members to be eligible to vote draws attention to the possibility of “rogue registrations” prior to an important vote being used to sabotage the Movement. What would or should happen if it appeared that existing registered members were behaving in a concerted and “rogue” manner to undermine the status quo of the Movement. I suggest that this could be a dangerous assumption and have a bad effect on confidence of members in one another.

End

You are invited to move now to the next section which deals with the Validating Council.

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