Ségolène Royal réinvente-t-elle l’autogestion de Michel Rocard ?

Posted on 31 août 2011 par

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Bien qu’un fou de Ségo, un ségolien par devant et sé-golliste par derrière, par ailleurs très militariste (ceci n’étant pas un reproche et encore moins une insulte, précision pour le vénéré qui a une conception bien particulière des insultes et diffamations), critique « l’autogestion à la Maire/CFDT..extrapolation "fumeuse" des années 65/67 et voulant surtout se démarquer du dirigisme communiste.. », il faut quand même bien considérer que la démocratie participative de Ségolène Royal, si ce n’est pas un recyclage de ladite autogestion, c’est quoi au juste ? D’ailleurs ses sujets, les résidents de sa Poitou-Charentes, pourraient sans doute en dire beaucoup sur leur participation en Charentaises.

Et les jurys citoyens, si on leur donne un vrai pouvoir, n’est-ce pas de l’autogestion ? Sinon ce n’est que du vent médiatique.

Hubert le 41ème nous donnera peut-être l’adresse d’origine de ce texte sur la démocratie participative, trouvée sur la toile, mais en anglais :

Participatory democracy is about considering that each of you has in him a form of energy, expertise, knowledge of his life, of what he is, of what he wants for his family, his children.

There’s a profound democratic crisis in France. The French consider that their government doesn’t care enough about what they think, what they live, what they feel. The French aren’t disinterested in public affairs: on the contrary, they have a thirst for efficient politics built in partnership with them. To be able to act justly, it is necessary to use the expert capacity of citizens and to associate them more directly when decisions concerning them are formulated, both at the national and the regional scale. The mobilisation of this collective intelligence gives real results. By contrast, the arrogance and autism of government doesn’t work.

As minister, I’ve often been baffled by how many measures and procedures, sometimes with the best of intentions, but concocted in narrow circles, have ended up completely different from what they were intended for, simply because those most concerned haven’t been associated in the process.

More informed, less inclined to delegate, with stronger allegiances, citizens want to forge their own opinions and want to be more closely tied into the decisions that concern them, however with the condition that it won’t be a waste of time. Most importantly, they don’t accept any more that the offer of services takes so often so little into account their own needs and aspirations.

I think that there is a direct link between the quality of the democratic functioning in a country, and the efficiency of political action, that citizens have matured long ago and that they want to participate in the decisions that concern them.

For my part, I call participative democracy the effective possibility, for citizens, to orient directly the choices, including financial choices, and the public action. Whatever the form – participative budgets, scandinavian style consensus conferences, citizen juries, referenda – this requires a recognition in the expert capacity of citizens: not only in their experience, but also in their power to really influence the decisions that concern them.

James Madison argued in the Federalist Papers that a republic which contained representative democracy was best able to scale because of its representative nature. This stopped the complete paralysis of true democracy while avoiding the arbitrariness and alienation from autocracy.

Madison also lived in a time when much of the population was disenfranchised and there was distinct inequality in education. Today there is not much difference between the education of the Prime Minister of Australia and the average citizen. This is due to the democratisation of education.

Political parties or the gathering of factions and special interests are inevitable in a political system – especially when the modern state carries so much economic power through revenues, taxation and legislation.

But the political parties are minorities of absolute minorities anyway – despite the appearance of mainstream acceptance by elections and the discussions of the political media.

This leads to governments acting politically rather than for the common weal. An example of this is the American Congress between 2002 and 2006 which ran amok in spending. By comparison Australia in the same period has been far more measured in its budgets and actually paying off Australia’s debt.

Another positive issue with direct participation of citizens was discovered in the Citizen’s Assembly for Electoral Reform in British Columbia. Here it was found that voters trusted the referendum put forward more than if politicians had done so. There is higher trust in citizen bodies than political ones.

Direct democracy and citizen bodies entering politics do not mean that representative democracy has failed, that politicians will no longer be political specialists or that politics has failed. It does mean that where citizen bodies provide superior outcomes to political machines, special interests and bureaucracy then they should be used. A great example of this is in the judicial system where juries are an old, old technology.

Royal continues discussing citizen juries for purposes outside of the judicial system;

In general, these are ordinary questions. For example, in the region of Ile-de-France, there is a so called « observatoire des Engagements », which corresponds to this idea of citizen jury chosen randomly for two years, evaluating if the public policies that are being put in place correspond to the promises and expectations. It’s the president of the region himself who decided to create this. So it’s the elected officials themselves who, to have better light on their decisions, decide to bring directly into this discussion the citizens, who normally are the furthest away from the institutions.

The fan out of possible forms of participative democracy is very large as witnessed by many experiences in Europe, USA and South America. In the first rank are the experiences in Brasil, where many cities elaborate with their inhabitants a real participatory budget; this approach is much more innovative than the traditional « information seances » which seem to constitute, in France, the full horizon of local democracy. If the participatory budget is so successful, it’s because it isn’t just about small expenses, but about deciding on a large part of the local budget, which really lets the inhabitants orient the public finances. Here’s another interesting experience: the randomly selected citizens juries work well in Berlin, Denmark and Spain.

This use of citizen juries is interesting. They essentially act as auditors or performance reviewers. Anyone who works in a corporate environment has done performance reviews, they are a simple process to determine past behaviour and future goals. Politicians tend to think only in elections as when they face a performance review. The only other intrusion on their performance is the media, which is being managed more and more by politicians each day – to the point that some media institutions are little more than propaganda outlets.

The idea of citizen juries here is not much different to citizen auditors which have been mentioned on South Sea Republic before though they were spontaneous citizen groups which were given the freedom to audit government. Flash-mobs for the purposes of limiting government profligacy and waste. Though I have not seen them mentioned before as performance appraisers though auditors do fall in that function.

Far from competing with the local representative system, these initiatives actually help it to improve, to comfort representative democracy so as to maintain the contact with the citizens.

The more people will be associated with them, the more solid will be the reforms. The development of participative democracy, wherever it is enacted, doesn’t happen to the detriment of representative democracy: on the contrary, the former strengthens and tonifies the latter.

A more direct democracy, as our project says, which extends both the power of initiative of citizens and their consultation. It’s what is called participative democracy, it isn’t contrary to what one might have heard, a weakening of representative democracy. It’s, for the elected officials who institute it, a way to analyze the impact of their policies and if necessary to adjust them. It’s also a way to bring into politics those citizens who had moved away from it and are able to come back.

That’s why I believe in this participatory democracy, which completes and reinforces representative democracy. It will determine the force of adhesion to a project. It is the best rampart against populism. Populism is a negative movement, a compulsion which leads to denigration, destruction, deconstruction. It depends on us to combat this populism, by the force of political engagement.

The politician will always have the last word. There’s no question of surveillance or destitution of anybody. Simply put, with citizen juries, the public point of view will have been given. It’s the power of the public person, unmultiplied. The people are only interested in politics if politics is interested in them. Nobody is ever disappointed with participatory democracy. Each morning on the radio, the listeners form very interesting citizen juries. I’ve rarely heard nonsense [on talkback radio].

Royal writes that she sees participative democracy as improving, rather than replacing representative democracy and making representative democracy strong by tapping the wisdom and will of the people. It is interesting that she also believes it will protect from political populism. This suggests that she thinks the mob is more pragmatic, anchored than most proponents for representative democracy believe who usually espouse fears of tyranny of the majority.

It is also possible that Royal is equating populism as politically led tyranny of the majority and that only citizens – of which a group chosen by lot will contain minorities – can halt that slide. It is certainly hard to hate a minority once another a person from the majority meets a minority face to face and gets to know them. It takes hatred to the point of irrationalism after that to maintain that view.

Here’s an experiment we tried this year in about fifty high schools in the departement of Poitou-Charentes: The participative high school budget. Votes were held in the high schools so that the education community – studends, personnel and parents – could choose on its own the works, equipment and actions required in the schools that form part of the selected bugdet. It’s a first on the national territory. We held participatory forums in many domains: the politics of water, culture, sporting practices, tourist development, ecological industries, social work, young farmers, and we will shortly hold one on handicaps. On all these subjects, we try to introduce a deliberative democracy which favorises public debate, the collective control of regional issues, transparency, and the followup of decisions. The contributions to these forums are accessible on our internet site, and the discussion can continue there, everyone able to bring his own rock to the edifice. But we also wanted to scale this up, by pledging to open 10% of the regional budget to debate and participatory decision making. Because the real power is the power to engage the public spending. Because to really weigh in on regional politics means to weigh in on the budgetary choices which allow them to happen and translates priorities.

That, for me, is participatory democracy: the users of the public service decide on how to spend regional funds, the taxpayers decide what to do with their tax dollars. What haven’t we heard when we started this innovative approach! It couldn’t work, it was useless to ask students about their expectations since they were already known, etc. It works and it’s the occasion for discovering many needs which until now have been overlooked. This was recognized by the direction teams of the schools when the discussions and voting took place for the participatory budget.

We also need a Europe which associates citizens with the decisions which concern them, just as in national politics. I think that there is space for a participatory democracy in Europe and in fact the German presidency seems to prepare itself for it by taking a certain number of initiatives already.

In that example she is discussing it at a very low level – at the regional level. This might be similar to the local benefits Ian McDonald sees in Mayors constituting an upper house in Queensland. It puts those who notice when the Wheelie Bins aren’t being collected right snug up next to the political process.

All in all her citizen juries don’t sound at all ‘bizarre’. There is also growing empirical evidence that these structures have wider use outside of the judicial system in levels of government above the Local Government. Politicians will remain the political specialists and citizen bodies will augment their function as well as reign in the negatives of the representative system. I see these types of bodies being implemented widely over time.

 
Et aux primaires socialistes, n’oubliez pas de penser jeunes, de voter jeunes : votez Manuel Valls ou Arnaud Montebourg. Ne nous laissons pas enfumer par les médias qui veulent nous imposer leur propre choix.

 
[Pour en savoir plus sur Ségolène Royalici ou ailleurs]

 
 
 

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