“Bottom-Up Democracy & Proportional Representation” Part One

This post continues a series of reproducing a 2002 Manifesto for Democratic Socialism in Bermuda, which I originally wrote for the purpose of a founding discussion paper for a left-wing political party in Bermuda (the ‘DS’). While it was circulated amongst a small group of fellow lefties in 2003, nothing came of the initiative – for various reasons – it has informed my subsequent thought and actions, including this blog (since 2007). I am republishing it now as a mix of historical interest, potential for discussion and because I hope to write a completed and updated version in the near future.

Part One

At present Bermuda is a Crown Colony of the United Kingdom, possessing more or less complete local autonomy (including increasing de facto autonomy over foreign affairs), with a Westminster-based parliamentary system. It is a central goal of the DS to realise in Bermuda a bottom-up democracy, independent from all foreign control – formal or informal. [It needs emphasised that the DS considers a global democratic socialist system to be paramount to nationalist issues. Furthermore, the union of Bermuda into a federation with other naitons is not opposed by the DS, provided such an act of union is (and remains) voluntary, and furthers the development of a world socialist federation.]

It is the view of the DS that a Westminster-based parliamentary system is fundametnally flawed in itself, a situation that is further exacerbated by the current economic system (namely that only the rich may, on average, successfully contest an election). In opposition to the current system the DS envisages a bottom-up democracy coposed of labour and territorial representations forming the overall executive of society. While the exact nature of this system can only be worked out in detail once state power is in the hands of the workers, some general clarifications of the system may, and must, be made.

Our current system (Westminster), even if freed from the shackles of economic inequality that exists under the current economic system (capitalism) would remain a ‘top-down’ democracy. Under this system the elected representatives of the people – MPs – determine government policy irrespective of society’s own needs and desires for a set period of time (approximately 4.5 years in our case). In effect this is a dictatorship of some forty people over a nation of about 64,000 for a period of over four years! Not to mention that the ‘first-passed-the-post’ election system means that these forty people were often elected by a minority in the first place! Democracy indeed!

It is true, as some will no doubt point out, that at the next election period a ‘bad’ representative will ‘reap what they have sown’ – and in cases of extremely bad representatives (bad more in ability to cover-up or ‘spin’ than anything else) this is certainly true. For the vast majority of these representatives however, cover-ups, spin and various pre-election acts and election promises (as well as the power of Party machinery) are more than efficient (especially with the lack of choice available) to re-install their democratic dictatorship – or ‘democratorship’.

In a bottom-up democracy, provided the right to free election and the aforementioned right of recall (if the vast majority of concerned electors so decide), the ‘Government’ – as such – does not determine policy (other than perhaps at the lowest levels – the people ARE the government – or during states of national emergency – defense against foreign aggression, during hurricanes, etc.) but instead executes (that is, implements) the policies determined by society as a whole, as best it can with the resources available to the nation. In short, the system ceases to be one of passive delegation of authority to one of active democratisation of the state.

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