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Some feedback from Creating Our Future… October 31, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
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I’m just posting these comments from sonofstan and Tomboktu up so others can read them…I hope they won’t mind.

sonofstan

That was a bizarre day.

There was much to cringe at, and I might as well get it out of the way: the music for a start – Mary Coughlan, a folkie doing ‘Talkin’ bout a Revolution’ samba drums, a Gospel choir – it was like being stuck inside the collective head of the Galway Arts Festival in about 1987. And a day that starts with Leonard Cohen and his vacuous chocolate box ‘poetry’ is a day that doesn’t deserve to live in my world…

The format was such that it’s not really possible to give a report, since what you experienced very much depended on what table you found yourself at. Tomboktu sets it out above and it followed that – the voting wasn’t nearly as exciting as the Eurovision though – Equality romped home in the values category: next years event will presumably be in its beautiful capital city.

From talking to others, I reckon my table was a little odd, in that there were 4 out 6 members of political parties (SWP, Labour, CP and Green)and 4 out of six who self- identified as ‘left’ and not the more usual ‘progressive’. I don’t think it would be fair to pick out comments made by individuals in that context, though, so a veil descends…

Where it all got decidedly cheesy was in the revival meeting stuff from the stage – ‘aren’t we all great entirely to be here’ -and the uncritical acceptance that new media by itself was so wonderful, it would probably bring us to the promised land, tweet by tweet.

There is a lot of justice in the notion that it’s the LP at prayer, but still, getting 1,000 people into a room to talk about politics is not something many parties could do, and if it were an LP/ ICTU event, it certainly wouldn’t have gotten the numbers…..

As to CL’s question – I don’t think anyone has a clue, and the notion that policy can be somehow done without politics was embarrassingly present in a lot of the stuff I heard.

I’d really like to hear what anyone else who was there thought, though.

Tomboktu:

I was relieved when almost everybody at my table complained about the wording of the options in session 2A:

2a Economy and environment

  • Change the current development model and define and measure progress in a balanced way that stresses economic security and social and environmental sustainability.
  • Ensure that natural resources are developed sustainably and benefit the common good over private profit.
  • Drive a strong indigenous economy through links with appropriate Foreign Direct Investment, state-owned enterprises and investing in specific local enterprise strategies.
  • Regulate banking to change the culture from one of speculative banking to one where currently state-owned banks and new local banking models focus on guaranteeing credit to local enterprises and communities.
  • Prioritise a legally binding national sustainable development strategy that caps resource use, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and implements measures to protect our life support systems.
  • My table-mates asked: What did the organisers mean by “current development model”? What is “appropriate” foreign direct investment. They also said the phrasing tried to pack a number of different ideas into a single option, and the language used was not good for communicating with people who didn’t spend their time analysing policy.

    As we went through the sessions, our table got more awkward, giving more time to proposing different points and different wordings for existing points than we were giving time to ranking the suggestions that CoF had offered. At about the third round of voting, two members objected to voting for the ideas at all.

    We pointed out that combating and preventing corruption was missing from the set of priorities. One person complained about the one proposal among the set of twenty that looked out to the wider world (in session 3a):

  • Ensure Ireland’s global role, foreign and economic policies and international relations advances the rights of impoverished and exploited people in the countries of the global south.
  • It was described as ‘patronising’ that Ireland’s role in the World is seen solely as focusing on the rights of people in the global south. It also needs to deal with the impact of the EU, the WTO, the IMF, etc. on people in Ireland and the “developed world”.

    The biggest problem with the structure channeled discussion in to a task that, in my opinion, was “safe” for CoF: ranking the sets of suggestions they had produced. Now, in fairness, there was the chance to add suggestions, but the software and the time available for each the sessions meant that was very squeezed (and literally in the case of the text boxes on their web interface).

    For me, the test about the day as a whole will be what happens with the suggestions that were made from the floor (both new points outside the pre-set agenda and proposals to change the wording of points), and whether the CoF people make any real effort to take on board those views. That will be much more difficult than the task today was, as it will need developing a system for longer, considered debate and a decision-making mechanism that allows details and alternatives in the specifics of proposals to be considered and selected from. (For example, on the “Your Ideas” pages of the Claiming Our Future website, I count four different suggestions specifically about low income, and a few others on caps or other restraints at the top of the income and wealth ranges. The differ in details, and there would need to be a piece of work done on developing a coherent proposal or set of linked proposals.) It will have been little more than a cynical exercise if all that comes out of it is that the CoF people now claim they have a mandate for what their ideas and deal only with those.

    I was also heartened to discover I was not alone in the criticism of the exclusive use of the Internet (and an email account) to enable people to register and participate.

    (I am also confused how the votes were collated. There were 100 tables, and each ranked four sets of five proposals. For session 2a, the total number of votes comes out at 1394. For the other sessions, the total votes were: 1403, 1329 and 1394 (again).)

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    Comments»

    1. Tomboktu - October 31, 2010

    Mamanpoulet, who did the live commenting atthe event, has a post about it at her blog here.

    Three Four Youtibe films from yesterday are here:

    Vox Pop

    One of the discussions

    Oisin Coughlan from Friends of the Earth

    An addition: Fergus Finlay interviewed at the event

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    Tomboktu - October 31, 2010

    That bong that cuts across the speaker at the start of the first video is very like the bong used in Leinster House to call the TDs to a vote. Wonder if that tells us something :o

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    2. Hugh Green - October 31, 2010

    I’m not one for banning things but I think the world would be slightly better off without ‘Talkin’ bout a revolution’

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    3. CL - October 31, 2010

    Whatever about new technology bringing us to the promised land, yesterday’s new media event did bring us an ad. for BP which ran intermittently throughout the day below the live web feed. Ed. Bernays, father of flim-flam, would be proud. Propaganda for the corporate predator, BP, just beneath images of the enthused discussing equality and sustainability was enough to make a dog puke.

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    4. Maman Poulet - October 31, 2010

    CL – the ad from BP is one of the perils/drawbacks of using free software in online/social media. If you know of another product that enables live streaming of events that is ad free let people know or maybe develop one yourself!

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    CL - October 31, 2010

    Its the ads from BP that allow the live streaming to be ‘free’. In effect BP sponsored the conference. Shame on COF.

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    5. Maman Poulet - October 31, 2010

    PS Sonofstan the ‘Gospel Choir’ was in fact GLORIA – Irelands award winning lgbt choir – as far from Gospel as you can get!

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    sonofstan - October 31, 2010

    Yeah I knew – I meant the style rather than the content. But political content or context never gets a free pass from me musically.

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    6. eamonndublin - October 31, 2010

    I only met a mixture of lefties, trade union campaigners and a world of poverty industry participants at yestedays meeting in the RDS in Dublin 4. I was not expecting any real movement and was therefore not dissapointed.
    As for the use of the internet, I think some of the participants would prefer it because that way they don’t have to deal with reality. Towards world peace and have a happy holloween.

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    7. Tomboktu - October 31, 2010

    RTÉ has a report on it (I guess it was for the 6.01 or 9.00 news yesterday) which they have put on the web. At the end, the reporter mentions the proposal to rein in high incomes, which is what got me interested in the whole schebang to start with, when Is Feidir Linn were generating the ideas.

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    sonofstan - October 31, 2010

    The cap on high incomes generated the most vehement opposition on our table.

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    Tomboktu - October 31, 2010

    Yes, but you had a Green Party activist at that table. ;)

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    8. Tomboktu - October 31, 2010

    The top eight objectives were as follows:

  • Change the current development model and define and measure progress in a balanced way that stresses economic security and social and environmental sustainability. 429 Votes
  • Reform representative political institutions to enhance accountability, equality, capacity, and efficiency of national and local decision makers. 413 votes
  • Provide universal access to quality healthcare, childcare and services for older people. 408 votes
  • Achieve greater income equality and reduce poverty through wage, tax and income policies that support maximum and minimum income thresholds. 395 votes
  • Develop participatory/deliberative forms of citizens’ engagement in public governance and enhance democratic participation by fostering the advocacy role of civil society orgs, civics/ethics education in all school levels and a diverse media 380 votes
  • Prioritise high levels of decent employment with a stimulus package to maximize job creation in a green/social economy. 336 votes
  • Invest in equality in access to and participation in all levels of education (preschool to university). 301 votes
  • Regulate banking to change the culture from one of speculative banking to one where currently state-owned banks and new local banking models focus on guaranteeing credit to local enterprises and communities. 286 votes
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    LeftAtTheCross - October 31, 2010

    Quick input from myself.

    It was quite hard work. The level of politicisation I felt was quite low. Lots of motherhood and apple pie stuff. Hard questions weren’t addressed at all. There was an option to submit notes on “elephants in the room” which had been missed in the discussion which was maybe intended to open a channel for people to feedback on what they thought was substantially missing. We’ll see if anything comes out in the wash from that for the next steps.

    The discussions were channeled or guided pretty much by the relatively narrow focus of the groups behond the event, which was a positive in that it was well orchestrated and prevented people from venting and waffling all over the place, but it did very much limit the scope towards arriving at a predestined conclusion. The option to submit alternative points from each table was there, but inevitably didn’t then rank in the aggregated results as they were leftfield to the choreographed stuff.

    The motivation and engagement of participants was a positive, but it seemed to be weighted towards community, voluntary and charity sectors, inevitably perhaps. There was an eco-focused guy at my own table who was more politicised than the representatives of those other groups. One would wonder how much appetite there really is for transformative change arising from this constituency, whether all they really want is to put partnership back on the political agenda and leave it at that thanks.

    Of course the hard work only begins now, to attempt to engage with a wider constituency rather than those already converted with their narrow sectoral vested interests, and to focus effort on building towards something, although the method of doing so and the actual end goals of which are still very much indeterminate.

    We’ll see. I’d give it 5 out of 10. Much done, more to do, as they say.

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    CL - November 2, 2010

    Who is going to do the changing, developing, prioritising etc and how do ‘they’ (whoever they are) get their hands on the levers of power to do the providing, achieving etc.

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    sonofstan - November 2, 2010

    Same answer I gave above.

    As to CL’s question – I don’t think anyone has a clue, and the notion that policy can be somehow done without politics was embarrassingly present in a lot of the stuff I heard.

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    9. sonofstan - October 31, 2010

    The level of politicisation I felt was quite low.

    Do you think that taking part in an event like this might be the first step in politicising this constituency? I mean, the people they need/ want to get involved aren’t the likes of you and me – to whatever extent, you more than me perhaps, we’re as involved as we can be, and we’re comfortable with the political party – if not in my case, any actual political party – as a vehicle for the expression and implementation of our views. Others really don’t feel like this: the sheer distaste for orthodox left parties – and Labour – that some people I talked to feel means that they’ll never come aboard that way – so perhaps the only way to get them is through something like this that looks all new and shiny and people-y …..

    So yeah, where it goes next is the ceíst….

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    LeftAtTheCross - October 31, 2010

    Do you think that taking part in an event like this might be the first step in politicising this constituency?

    SoS,

    That’s a very good question. It can’t hurt anyhow. It’s hard to know what politicises people. Debate can turn people on or off, depending on whether there’s any resonance there to start with. Real world stuff politicises people, austerity, emigration, redundancy, family members not getting a satisfactory level of healthcare.

    the people they need/ want to get involved aren’t the likes of you and me

    I don’t know about that. I’d agrue they do need that in the mix, otherwise there’s too much groupthink and a lack of analysis maybe.

    we’re as involved as we can be, and we’re comfortable with the political party…as a vehicle for the expression and implementation of our views.

    Maybe that’s true. But there’s an element of the political party having been the only game in town to an extent. Although many gains on say the feminist agenda maybe came via judicial action also. I don’t know. Politics with a small p has to be more than representative democracy, which is where I think the CoF event might fit in, it does offer a forum for some of the other stuff, the other strands.

    the sheer distaste for orthodox left parties

    Well don’t get me started on the loony left.

    they’ll never come aboard that way

    Yep. I don’t think it has to be about getting them on board either, not in the sense of trying to convert them necessarily. Maybe it’s enough just to be involved in this, to contribute critique in a structured way, to guide it gently if possible, and to learn ourselves in the process. Dialog rather than monolog if you know what I mean.

    BTW, I did intend saying hello yesterday, but you had disappeared at the end of the event by the time I went looking.

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    sonofstan - October 31, 2010

    The music drove me out in the end:)

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    LeftAtTheCross - October 31, 2010

    Know what you mean. One song would have been enough. I’m with Hugh above on the Tracey Chapman thing also, ban it.

    How about Billy Bragg next time, “Waiting For The Great Leap Forwards”.
    :-)

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    10. Eoin - October 31, 2010

    Two things to note: it was held in the *Royal* Dublin Society and one of the main organisers was overheard saying that it was “going to be great, like a great big wedding.”

    Any leftie worth salt has to be skeptical about this kind of start to something like CoF. It’s not particularly grounded, it is technology driven (not ideas driven) and who is the ‘Our’ in CoF?

    If it is a citizens’ forum then call it a citizens’ forum. Otherwise it is just Joe Duffy with Twitter.

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    sonofstan - October 31, 2010

    Oh come on….SF have had Ard Fheiseanna in the RDS.

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    Eoin - November 1, 2010

    SF can hold meetings wherever they like. I have nothing to say about wherever SF want to hold their meetings.

    Calling it Joe Duffy with twitter is, I agree, flippant, but it is clear from the material available from CoF that it looks more like a technocratic exercise than much else.

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    11. Tomboktu - October 31, 2010

    sonofstan: That was a bizarre day.

    Tomboktu: The biggest problem with the structure channeled discussion in to a task that, in my opinion, was “safe” for CoF: ranking the sets of suggestions they had produced.

    LeftAtTheCross: The level of politicisation I felt was quite low.

    God, we’re a difficult bunch to please. :)

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    LeftAtTheCross - November 1, 2010

    God, we’re a difficult bunch to please.

    Maybe. But it’s probably worth raising the point that important aspects of change weren’t on the pre-packaged agenda, and that although the organisers can be satisfied that the event can be seen a success in terms of it’s initial scope, that they shouldn’t get carried away with any notion of self congratulation. As SoS implies, the path they might be heading down is one that people here are in some senses further along. It’s not necessarily cynicism or anything negative like that, it’s just a realisation that the initial opening of eyes is liberating and all of that, but the analysis of what you see with those eyes takes a lot of time and effort and development and education, and that far from it being an easy task to build and grow the CoF discussion in a wider constituency, there is in fact a strong possibility of fracture, distraction, weariness, shrinkage, as the same dynamics kick in which have impacted on the growth of previous attempts to do politics outside of politics. I just don’t buy the line that “it’s different this time”. Hopefully I’ll be proven wrong of course.

    So no, I don’t think it’s anything to do with us being a hard bunch to please :-)

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    Eoin - November 1, 2010

    Got to agree here. It is not much “different this time”. The crystallisation of political thinking around themes is a ‘good thing’. I am just not sure that CoF sees sitself as political. which to me is a shame.

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    12. neilcaff - November 1, 2010

    Did anyone else catch the CoF spokesperson on Morning Ireland this morning? Was the tone of the CoF similar to hers? Although some of the stuff she was coming out with ‘core values’. ‘promoting equality’ did seem a bit um.., aspirational, she was a welcome relief from the endless litany of Goldman Sachs analysts telling us folks to suck up the pain for the appeasement of the market.

    Mind you she got a very easy ride from the interviewer, I have a feeling any of these CoF people would be eaten alive if they had to face off against Mór McDowell or some similar right wing goblin.

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    CMK - November 1, 2010

    I don’t know if Camille Loftus of ‘Poor Can’t Pay’ (I think) is part of CoF, but she gave Moore McD a good run for his money on Mary Wilson’s ‘Drivetime’ a while back.

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    Eoin - November 1, 2010

    Siobhan O’Donoghue was interviewed this morning and the way the interview was conducted made it sound as if RTE have about as much interest in CoF as they do in explaining twitter to their listeners. Siobhan is the Director of Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland: mrci.ie

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    Tomboktu - November 1, 2010

    Audio of the Morning Ireland piece with Siobhan O’Donoghue (her “day job” is with the Migrant Rights Council of Ireland”):

    http://www.rte.ie/news/av/2010/1101/claiming_av2846305.html#

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    LeftAtTheCross - November 1, 2010

    She badly needs some needs media training, or better yet she needs to not be one of the CoF spokespeople. A couple of weeks ago she was on Vincent Browne’s Tonight programme and was weak and lacking in clarity, waffley, much the same as that brief interview there. Mary Wilson has someone else from CoF, from NUI Maynooth (I think), on her Drivetime show this evening who did a better job of at least putting some context on the absence of clarity in the outcome of the saturday event. Unfortunately Siobhan just comes across as one of the happy clappy brigade and a bit shallow, which I know is very unfair, I’m not saying she is like that, only that she comes across that way in interview situations.

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    Tomboktu - November 1, 2010

    The “someone else” from NUI Maynooth would be Mary Murphy, who with Niall Crowley, is a key ideas person in CoF. (She used to be a Labour Councillor on Dublin City Council.)

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    13. Captain Rock - November 1, 2010

    http://limerickmarxistreadinggroup.webs.com/

    There was a Marxist scholars conference in Limerick as well. Who knew?

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    Garibaldy - November 1, 2010

    What a strange beast of a conference. Looked quite interesting though. I see though that it seemed to take a very definite perspective on what constitutes Marxism.

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    Mark P - November 2, 2010

    Not enough on the Juche idea for your taste, Garibaldy?

    Joking aside, it seems rather broad ranging to me. Bordering on the eclectic in fact. What narrowness of focus do you perceive?

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    Garibaldy - November 2, 2010

    I’d agree it’s eclectic, hence my remark about it being a strange beast.

    I don’t know the political affiliations of all those present – and I am sure there were some with none – but of the identifiable ones, they all seem to be variants of Trotskyists do they not?

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    Mark P - November 2, 2010

    I think that Helena Sheehan would be somewhat surprised to be so labeled. As would quite a few of the other speakers.

    If you hold a conference about Marxism in Ireland, and even more if you hold an academic conference about it, simple weight of numbers dictates that a large amount of those involved will be in or have a background in some Trotskyist group or other.

    If someone had held a conference of the same sort in the late 1980s it would have been overrun with people in the Workers Party people.

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    Garibaldy - November 2, 2010

    It wasn’t a major complaint, or even a complaint at all, just a comment in passing. I wasn’t so much referring to the academics as the people there explicitly referred to as representing political parties.

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    Mark P - November 2, 2010

    http://socialistdemocracy.org/RecentArticles/RecentOctoberConferenceInLimerick.html

    A slightly less sour than usual account from the eternal curmudgeons of Socialist Democracy.

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    Budapestkick - November 2, 2010

    Less sour than usual? I’d hate to see a really curmudgeonly rant.

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    14. CL - November 2, 2010

    Blithely ignoring power, how it’s structured and used in capitalist society while having one’s ‘free’ web feed underwritten by BP, devoting one’s time and energy to nebulous aspirations…they might as well be chasing after rainbows.

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    15. Pope Epopt - November 2, 2010

    Thanks to all who went and reported back. ‘Policies without politics’ seems to sum it up.

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    LeftAtTheCross - November 2, 2010

    Did you make it to CoF yourself Pope? Any thoughts to share?

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    Pope Epopt - November 2, 2010

    No LATC – I was unfortunately too busy and down the country – but it’ll be interesting to see what, if anything, comes of it.

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    16. NollaigO'M - November 2, 2010

    At the closing section of the Claiming Our Future event it was said that a minority of the attendees supported the idea of CoF becoming or evolving into a political party. If the organisers of the event wan…t fairness they should open a web page to allow interaction to those who would support forming a political party/movement such as the African National Congress to clallenge the politicis which supports the Fianna Fail/EU programme to prop up the Capitalist system that is about to create collosal economic, health and education distress to thousands of our people while preserving the ‘golden circle’ of neo-liberal politicians, bankers and the ‘Barons’ of business.See More

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    LeftAtTheCross - November 2, 2010

    I’m inclined to think that the biggest mistake that CoF could make, and the one which will bring them furthest away from initiating any transformation of the economy or society, would be to accept that the existing representative democratic system is the only game in town, and to play the game according to those very limited rules.

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    17. Tomboktu - November 2, 2010

    Three days on, and they have posted the following on their website:

    Session 5
    Discussion to brainstorm five ideas for actions to communicate and build support for the preferred policy choices.

    We received around 400 ideas on the day as well as over 200 really well researched ideas in the run up to the event. We are currently tagging them to make it easier for you to search through these ideas and so we can all really benefit from the day.

    It will be interesting to see these. I had noted that many ideas posted on the CoF site in the weeks before the event didn’t seem to have made it to the agenda on the day.

    Also, I note that the Is Feidir Linn website (behind its registration wall) has a new discussion

    [...] For Is Feidir Linn the event is a major success and the culmination of a lot of hard work. The question for both Is Feidir Linn and for Claiming Our Future is ‘Where now?’ . It may make sense for us to ask all those who have supported [the Is Feidir Linn] site to move to invest their energy directly into Claiming our Future. Others have argued that Is Feidir Linn represents a specific perspective within the broad range of organisations and individuals which comprise Claiming Our Future. If you have any thoughts on this question, we would be delighted to hear from you. If you have any thought on where the larger Claiming our Future movement should go we would also like to hear your thoughts, but for that on it is essential that you read or listen to the ideas that came from the event itself.

    [The Is Feidir Linn web site has 387 registered accounts.]

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    18. Tomboktu - November 3, 2010

    And the opening video from the day

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    19. Tomboktu - November 5, 2010

    Aidan Lloyd, one of the Is Feidir Linn ad hoc grouping that organised the event, has an article about it over on Irish Left Review: http://www.irishleftreview.org/2010/11/05/converting-popular-movements-action

    Like


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