Municipalist Programme from the mid 1990s
In the mid 1990s a local chapter of the Greens in Norway participated in the local elections on a libertarian municipalist platform for participatory democracy and a communalized economy. We choose to reprint the program for inspiration to others who consider participating in municipal elections.
Political Programme for the Sauherad Greens
Municipal Elections, 1995
This year, the Greens are running for mayor in the municipality of Sauherad on a radical programme for direct democracy. The programme will be found lacking in conventional electoral “promises”, but will instead focus on innovating political structures on the local political level. The ideas expounded in this programme will have to be materialized by you, the citizenry of the Municipality of Sauherad.
Today’s society is riddled by dissolving tendencies caused by deep seated social, economic and ecological disruptions. Political power and economic resources are concentrated on fewer and fewer hands, causing a tiny elite of corporate agents, bureaucrats and professional politicians to determine social developments above the heads of ordinary citizens, which become increasingly disempowered and alienated from their respective communities.
This elitist and authoritarian system is conventionally called “representative democracy”, without any attempts at defining the very concept of ‘democracy’ itself. The term originated in ancient Greece (demos = the people, and cratein = rule), in which it meant the self-government of the citizens through direct participation in the public assemblies (ecclesia). Thus, the very concept of “representative democracy” is historically and conceptually a contradiction in terms.
Democratization of Political Life
In today’s situation the so-called “representative democracy” is stuck in a global, economic system based on ruthless individual competition and growth for its own sake. This system has its own inner dynamic which ignores ethical considerations of what is best for humanity at large and the very planet itself, in favour of short term monetary profits for multi-national corporations and economic ventures in general.
Hence, the public can have no expectations that the fundamental social changes needed to rectify the present social, economic and ecological malaise, neither could nor should be “implemented” or “decreed” from above by representatives for the ruling elites. What is needed is a broad, self-organized grass roots movement aiming at political and economic democracy, based on direct participation from the public itself, in a way that secures the taking back of control over ones daily issues.
The Sauherad Greens have the following concrete proposals for the initiation of such a grass roots democracy in the municipality of Sauherad:
- It should be conducted open public meetings for example in the name of the already established welfare bodies in the village communities, in Gvarv, Hoerte, Stranda, Akkerhaugen, Holtsaas and Hjukseboe respectively, in front of every single meeting in the municipal councils (consisting of the elected politicians), at which the Sauherad Greens aims at being represented after this years’ election. At the above mentioned public meetings people in the local communities would be able to discuss their common issues and come up with majority decisions regarding the issues addressed by the municipal council and, even more importantly, discuss the issues which appears to be the most important for their respective communities, vote on their own proposals in a free and independent manner.
- If the Sauherad Greens were to be elected to the communal assembly we consider us obligated – in the form of a self-imposed mandate – to visit the meetings in the welfare communities, and convey the decisions from the majority decisions resulting from the public assemblies, as well as the minority viewpoints, further to the communal assembly. In future municipal elections this attempt at decentralizing and democratizing the political decision making process could be furthered by the initiative in the villages themselves at running on their independent programs for direct democracy. Thus, in time the local assembly will be transformed into an agency for coordinating and administering the relationships between the various local communities and villages, while the actual political decisions would be taken by the citizens or inhabitants themselves, based on the above mentioned public meetings conducted by their respective welfare organizations.
A Municipalized Economy
The main driving forces of the present market economy; individual competition and growth for its own sake, have to an increasing extent undermined the sense of community in the villages and their ability to rely on their own local resources, both natural and human. Market economic dynamics has reinforced specialization, rationalization and conformity among the local business enterprises, and in this manner weakened the vitality and degree of self-reliance within the local communities. For example, local production no longer aims at delivering quality produce meeting local and regional needs, but rather at delivering mass produced consumer goods of declining quality to the international market. The highest possible profits for the actual producer are priority number one, while consideration of the common good, product quality and ecological concerns are rarely a theme.
In Sauherad, we experience this clearly for example in relation to the one-sided agricultural production. The narrow focus on fruit and grain production entails monocultures which demand a vast use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. This kind of production is highly costly when it comes to transportation, and it undermines the social, cultural and ecological diversity of the villages and the community at large. At the same time a vast array of resources remains unutilized because they do not represent an immediate source of rapid profits for the single producer, while they potentially could represent a foundation for diverse, local economic activities based on local labour, aiming at meeting local and regional needs.
The potentiality for Sauherad to achieve such a municipalized, ecological economy can only be guessed at today. However, a study of the economic structures in our villages all the way up to the 1950’s and 60’s reveals some of it, and to these may be added the new possibilities created by the technological developments and increased knowledge during the recent decades.
Some Concrete Economic Measures
In addition to democratic political structures based on direct popular participation, in order to achieve an authentically cooperative society, free from oppression of any kind, we need cooperative, economic ventures directed towards meeting the needs of the community at large. Some examples of moves in this direction are:
- The establishment of production cooperatives ran by the workers themselves, but at the same time controlled by the local community at large through public assemblies (in the welfare organizations already in existence and under popular control). These cooperatives could initially occupy themselves with presently unutilized resources, such as the local fresh water fishing stocks, agricultural land and waste land which could be managed ecologically, various forms of craft and workshops, processing of berries, fruit and other agricultural produce, recycling of waste – all of it directed towards meeting the basic needs of the local community.
- The establishment of local financial agencies with the purpose of assisting the above mentioned cooperatives in their initiation period. These “popular banks” should be governed through majority decisions in the respective village communities.
- The introduction of a basic income to every citizen of the municipality, more precisely a guarantee that everyone gets what she or he needs economically and thus are free to engage in various cooperative efforts. In this way the municiplaity will take over the role of the state as far as welfare is concerned.
- The establishment of land trusts, implicating that people join together to buy land in order to manage it ecologically and with the intention to meet local and regional needs.
- Municipally expropriated resources (land, forests, facilities, etc.) to be leased to cooperatives among the inhabitants of the respective villages, who may wish to utilize local resources in order to meet local and regional needs.