Changing constitutions: needs must when the devil drives – Paul Feldman

Changing a constitution often involves unconstitutional actions. Just ask the ruling class. Down the centuries, they’ve used the most unorthodox of means, even what might be considered unlawful methods, to make fundamental changes to the state.

A couple of episodes from the 17th century, when the substance of the present constitution was settled, show how history moves in an unconventional, even revolutionary way, when it comes to shifting state power from one class to another.

The Century of Revolution is what historian Christopher Hill named his ground-breaking book first published in 1961. His sweeping account of a century that saw England transformed from a minor power to a dominant state is about social and political revolutions.

In 1649, after years of civil war, the Parliamentary forces under Oliver Cromwell executed Charles I, despite his claim to rule by divine right granted by God himself. England became a republic and a Commonwealth. The House of Lords was abolished, as was monarchy. Hill called it a great, yet incomplete revolution. Continue reading

Exploring the ‘fracking polemic’ through democratic Convergence – Craig Thomas, University of Manchester

Assemblies For Democracy invite people to an event run in association with Craig Thomas from the CURE research centre at the University of Manchester. The event will be based around a new role-play game built from Craig Thomas’s research on conflict around proposed fracking in Greater Manchester. The focus of the game is on stakeholders that came together around opposition to an exploratory well drilled into the shale bed in Barton Moss, Salford. Continue reading

Re-imagine Democracy – Towards a Citizen’s Convention on the Constitution

Jointly called by Assemblies for Democracy and Occupy Democracy at the Runnymede Festival for Democracy on the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta.


Saturday, 14 November 2015 from 10:45 to 16:30
Waterloo Action Centre
Baylis Road, SE1 7AA

John McDonnell MP, Labour shadow chancellor
Natalie Bennett, leader Green Party
John Hendy QC, Institute of Employment Rights
Liz Davies, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers executive
Stuart White, openDemocracy
plus speakers from Occupy Democracy and others

A hunger for democratic change is sweeping the UK, expressed in last year’s independence referendum in Scotland and in the wave of enthusiasm for renewal generated by Jeremy Corbyn’s stunning campaign. Continue reading

Assemblies for Democracy: A Theoretical Framework – by Richard Gunn, R.C. Smith and Adrian Wilding

Note: the following article is based on ongoing research activity at Heathwood Press. For more information and to view Heathwood’s series on democracy, emancipatory politics and societal transformation, see here.

Download the full article as a PDF file.

General elections are top-down events: attention focuses on political parties and their leaders. Personalities and success or failure move centre-stage. Policies get a mention, but are assessed like moves in a game of chess. Can this top-down perspective be reversed? Can a form of politics be found which retains a grassroots or ‘bottom-up’ emphasis?

In these notes, we attempt to do two things. We explain why, in our view, this question is important. And we explore challenges that a grassroots politics must face. Continue reading

Communities are the atomic elements of molecular democracy: Part 1 – by Cormac Russell, Nuture Development

In this series of four blogs I’d like to think about active citizenship and democracy. In this regard, I will not be writing about:

1. How we can use civic muscle and our precious collective efforts to change a disinterested technocratic elite, fired by the moral mission of “society’s best and brightest in service to its most needy”.
2. Reforming systems, or how we can get our leaders to be better leaders, or even how we can lobby for better policies or legislative frameworks.
3. Getting more people to vote.
Nor will I be… Continue reading

Digital – a doubled-edged sword

Digital- a double-edged sword powerpoint presentation

Digital: A double-edged sword
Graeme Arnott’s presentation in Glasgow

The title of my talk today is ‘Digital: A double-edged sword’. I’m grateful to the Working Group for the Assemblies for Democracy Scotland for providing the opportunity to give this talk and to Penny Cole for suggesting the talk’s title, which some of you will no doubt recognise as a Gramscian conception of literacy. Gramsci considered literacy to be a double-edged sword in that it can be used for the purpose of social empowerment and for the reproduction of repression and domination. And that raises the question about how we, as democrats, handle this sword in a digital age, and particularly with regard to the governmental release of data in digital form. The talk is in two parts but it would be simplistic to think that the double-edge of the sword is some sort of binary between good bits of digital (open data) and bad bits of digital (CCTV, for example). The double-edged sword is a much more complicated weapon than it might initially appear to be. Continue reading

Looking Back to Look Forward: the intellectual heritage of Asset-Based Community Development – by Cormac Russell, Nurture Development

What a week, we’ve just finished the ABCD Festival where we celebrated with people from 17 countries. We revelled in the greatness of small, local, and organic things. And we weren’t alone, yesterday we trended at number 6 in the UK on Twitter for over two hours, then drop to number ten for a further hour; and we also trended at number 9 in Canada.

Next week we’ll write more about the festival once all the graphic art and presentations come through. Another big dimension of the week was the launch of my book: Asset-Based Community Development-Looking Back to Look Forward.

Read more

Police block Magna Carta festival for democracy speakers

After struggling for several hours to get through police lines blocking people from joining a festival for democracy at Runnymede on the weekend of the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, the case for constitutional change became only too apparent.

Asked by Occupy Democracy to Runnymede “Festival For Democracy” to  speak about a citizens’ convention on the constitution, this cut no ice with police forces assembled from Surrey, Sussex and Somerset. On the spurious grounds that an illegal rave was planned, they invoked their powers under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act and declared a vast exclusion zone around the festival site.

Having been read the official declaration, a group of us from Assemblies for Democracy were warned to leave the area immediately or face arrest. After many hours of negotiation between the festival organisers and senior police officers – and with the situation going live on Twitter – we were eventually allowed in and Paul Feldman from the London Planning Group made his presentation (listen to audio below). Many other speakers were not so fortunate and were unable to present their ideas.