A Structure Proposal for DiEM25

Democracy has this concept of change built-in. Democracy is a system whereby the guiding principles of society can be constantly questioned and transcended. There is no established democracy. The idea of an establishment or an establishness is completely contrary to the very idea of democracy.

The question whether DiEM25 shall participate in elections, be it directly, by means of a "wing" organisation or not at all, depends a lot on the answer to a more foundational question: whether DiEM25 is going to learn from previous attempts at creating global progressive political movements.

Currently, DiEM25 has chosen a rather fragile architecture. Here is an abstract summary of how we of the Structures WG(1) would like to improve DiEM25 in such a way that it could withstand the stress of being a political movement and/or party, while staying true to its ideals of democracy.

Quick summary:

  - Permanent Assembly
        - bottom-up and top-down processes in one;
        - rapid positioning on request by CC;
        - decisions regarding finances.
  - Validating Council
        - checks integrity of assembly decisions.
  - Spokespersons
        - must only speak of confirmed DiEM content;
        - must not be member of CC.
  - Coordinating Collective
        - know secrets, in charge of strategy;
        - neither candidating nor in political office;
        - strictly coordinating.
  - Ad-hoc moderators, Elected/random moderators
        - must be independent of CC;
        - must moderate CC members as anybody else.
  - Court of Arbitration
        - anyone can submit a case;
        - must be independent of CC.
  - Informal teams, WGs, DSCs, thematic DSCs

Again, with explanations:

Permanent Assembly

        - bottom-up and top-down processes in one;

All certified members of DiEM25 can choose to participate in a permanent digital assembly platform. It enables bottom-up processes of long-term development of political proposals and consensus as any participant can initiate a debate, however voting only takes place when a proposal has reached a relevant level of consensus.(2)

        - rapid positioning on request by CC;

Whenever an urgent positioning of the movement is needed, the CC has special privileges to initiate a debate with a time limit - be it a week, a day or only a couple of hours. This will only give those people a chance to contribute, that can participate in real-time. The method of liquid democracy has been shown to compensate for the bias that may arise from this,(3) providing a reasonable approximisation of the intent of the entire movement. Another advantage of using such a method, in contrast to an elected gremium, is its inherent resistance to corruption.

        - decisions regarding finances.

Similarly, the liquid democratic permanent assembly has also shown to perform well as the deciding body regarding financial expenses,(4) even when the money needs to become available in the matter of hours. Again, any form of misuse is a lot less likely by the real-time transparency of operations allowing any participant to suggest a cheaper shop for printing fliers, for example.

Validating Council

        - checks integrity of assembly decisions.

The new Validating Council has the job of ensuring that the Assembly's debates and decisions are coherent with previous decisions in general, which obviously includes Statutes and founding documents. This is a legal rather than a political role, since the VC is never called to provide its own political opinion.

Spokespersons

        - must only speak of confirmed DiEM content;

Those, who have the talent of representing the movement to the media, are a precious asset, but in many previous political projects it has occurred that they would present their own new ideas or opinions, this way exercising pressure on the movement to either adopt their positions, which is harmful, as they may not actually be as smart as the collective intelligence of the movement, or to not adopt them, which is worse, as the general public received a false idea of what the movement's positions are. Worst of all if there is a fight among figureheads in the media, making the general public assist to the demise of an abusive spokesperson.

        - must not be member of CC.

See below for reasons. Also, a spokesperson doesn't have much time for coordination and is themselves in need of coordination.

Coordinating Collective

        - know secrets, in charge of strategy;

When interacting with other political actors, it is inevitable that some members of the movement will be informed of confidential information which is of strategic importance for the movement but cannot be published. In an organisation that has no rules on this topic, it typically happens that these members would then select other individuals to share such secret information to, unvoluntarily creating inner-organisational power groups. Some may even intentionally keep strategic information to themselves for personal gain, as described in the biography of Joschka Fischer, who established his leadership in the Green movement by tying all journalists to his person. By formalising that all confidential information, including telephone numbers of allies, enemies and media, must be surrendered to the CC, all participants in the movement also protect themselves against doubts and accusations of having intentionally withheld anything.

        - neither candidating nor in political office;

Since the CC has this enormous responsibility in managing strategic information and coordinating the entire movement in a way that is aware of strategic possibilities, it is a breach of the concept of separation of powers if the same persons are also running for a political office or appearing in media and television where confidential information can be useful to their personal careers rather than the interests of the movement.

        - strictly coordinating.

With the creation of a Permanent Assembly, the CC can now truly limit itself to a job of strategic coordination. It must not influence the ongoing political debates, neither thematic nor structural, except individually, as regular participants of the Assembly. A manual coordination on thematic aspects is no longer necessary, at all. In particular, the CC shall not hold political debates over its communication channels -- instead, it should equip itself with eavesdropping-resistant channels for respectful exchange of confidential information and strategic planning.

Ad-hoc moderators, Elected/random moderators

        - must be independent of CC;
        - must moderate CC members as anybody else.

For the purpose of civil discourse and interaction on electronic platforms over the Internet, sociology has not found any smarter solution than to develop suitable codes of conduct and put moderators in charge of having them respected.(5) It is however of importance, that such moderators are not employed by those who are most likely to be criticized, thus resulting in a conflict of interest. Therefore, the moderators must be independently chosen and asked to police elected members of the organisation with the same diligence as anybody else.

Court of Arbitration

        - anyone can submit a case;
        - must be independent of CC.

Even given guidelines of operation, moderators will always be fallible. It is fundamental for an inner separation of powers in the movement, that any person can submit a case to a Court of Arbitration to have the actions of a moderator checked, or have any other interpersonal dispute settled in a fair way. For the purposes of justice, it is frequently necessary, that the Court is involved in private affairs of people, for example if a victim was subject of sexual harrassment. It is therefore important that the CoA has a suitable size that can be trusted to respect the privacy and personal rights of the contendants. In extreme cases the CoA, and only the CoA, can remove people from the organisation. It isn't democratically correct to let the Assembly have that role, as it would either not have access to private aspects of the case, or force people to publish private affairs they should not be forced to expose. It also isn't correct to have the CC exercise such a role, possibly being in conflict of interest. Nor is the Validating Council the right place for this, given its current size.

Informal teams, WGs, DSCs, thematic DSCs

Given the above architecture, it is not necessary to formalise most working groups, thematic DSCs etc. This avoids the risk of empowering them into exercising special interest pressure on the movement as a whole. Whichever groups are formed, they serve the purpose of either authoring or discussing proposals which ultimately are represented in the Permanent Assembly. Groups can form and dismantle freely, just like the issues and proposals appear and disappear in the process of the Assembly. Even when DSCs are in need of finances to implement certain activities, some representatives can articulate the request in the appropriate area of the Permanent Assembly and have the responsibility assigned to them.

Questions and Answers

Why should all of these changes be presented in a single proposal?

Because there are interdependencies among many parts. A Permanent Assembly, for example, is likely to degenerate socially if there is no solid inner justice architecture. For the optimal creation of statutes we should not battle out pieces of the document by voting. We should instead do a long procedure of consensus finding. If there is anything you would like to do differently about this proposal, please come to our feedback channels so we can improve it in a way that satisfies our wishes and reasonably handles our worries.

[1]http://structure.pages.de
[2]https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/carlo-von-loesch/reply-to-thomas-fazis-critique-of-diem25
[3]https://arxiv.org/abs/1503.07723
[4]Ever since the introduction of participatory budgeting into the Italian Pirate Party in 2011, there have been no known cases or even rumours of financial corruption.
[5]http://structure.pages.de/convivenza
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