THE YELLOW VESTS IN FRANCE
The Yellow Vests (Gilet Jaunes) in France is a wonderful uprising of ordinary people against the Big Money ruling class. The demands are all directed at making society more equal and democratic.
Here are videos and articles about this uprising.
Click here to see how they have created an "assembly of assemblies"; this is virtually the same as the egalitarian "non-local assembly," an introduction to which is here. See below for a discussion of the similarities .
Thoughts about the Yellow Vest Demand for "Citizens Initiative Referendum" (CIR [RIC in French]) Lawmaking
CIR would enable the general public to sign a petition to have a referendum on a question and if it gets sufficient signatures then the referendum is held and if a majority vote yes the law is passed (this is the basic idea, anyway.)
Without doubt instituting CIR would be an improvement over the status quo.
The question is whether the CIR improvement would result in genuine democracy that could prevent the existence or re-emergence of class inequality with some rich and some poor and the rich treating the rest like dirt.
CIR would be an improvement for two obvious reasons:
1. CIR, at least theoretically, enables the majority of ordinary people to enact a law(s) without having to rely on politicians to do it. Since the politicians are beholden to Big Money (as is obvious now to most people), it would be a big improvement if the public could enact a law without the approval of the politicians.
2. Since the vast majority of ordinary people share the egalitarian values of no-rich-and-no-poor equality and mutual aid, then, at least theoretically, CIR would result in laws that shaped society by egalitarian values, which would be a very good thing!
These are clearly the reasons--excellent reasons!--why the Yellow Vests want CIR.
But would CIR result in genuine democracy, by which I mean a system of government that enables the people with egalitarian values to shape society by those values and prevent those with the contrary values from imposing class inequality?
In other words, does genuine democracy require a system of government that is even more different from the status quo than CIR-government would be? I think the answer to this question is "yes." And I think the "more different" kind of government that is required to have genuine democracy is what I call voluntary federation of egalitarians, briefly discussed at https://www.pdrboston.org/genuine-democracy-what-is-it .
There are serious problems with CIR that would likely enable oppressors (such as the current Big Money elite), or would-be oppressors, to gain the upper hand over ordinary people. What are these problems?
#1. CIR does not address the need for local communities to enact laws or policies about local matters. Most local laws and policies are not suitable to be decided by a national referendum. And if a national referendum did impose on a local community a law that most of the people with egalitarian values in that community objected to--a law the writing of which they were not allowed to *personally* participate in as equals with all others involved in writing the law (as they would be allowed in a voluntary federation of egalitarians government)--then it would be a violation of genuine democracy to force these egalitarians to obey such a law.*
Everybody lives in a local community and if they work they work in a local community. In a genuine democracy, the people in a given local community decide what mutual agreements they want to make with each other, and with people in other local communities, about how to cooperate, including how to share with each other economically on the basis of the egalitarian principle of "From each according to reasonable ability, to each according to need or reasonable desire with scarce things equitably rationed according to need." The myriad details and decisions required for arrive at these mutual agreements cannot possibly be decided by a national referendum in a one-size-fits-all manner.
#2. Because of the problem in #1, there would be in a CIR system many cases in which people--good people!--thought CIR laws were not ones they were obliged to follow. The people in a local community might, for example, want their local schools to teach X even though a CIR referendum said they must teach Y. The people in a local community might think Z is reasonable even though the CIR referendum said otherwise. ETC.
#3. Because of the problem in #2, there would develop a legitimacy vacuum: a particular CIR law would lack legitimacy, but nobody else would formally have the legitimacy to enact a better law or policy for the local community.
#4. What would fill this vacuum would inevitably be either:
a. formal adoption of voluntary federation of egalitarians, entailing the principle that the Local Assembly of Egalitarians is sovereign: it can make the laws for its local community, and no higher body of government can make a law that people in the local community must obey, and higher bodies of government can only make proposals--not laws!--for local assemblies to implement or not as they wish;
b. something that Big Money-types, anti-egalitarians, would persuade people to accept on the grounds that it solved the problems of #1, #2, and #3 above. Whatever this is, it would be something that would provide a means for those who want to maintain (or re-establish) class inequality with some rich and some poor to succeed.
* After I posted this a person, T.S., made an excellent comment. He wrote: "Anti-propaganda laws are required before any RIC laws. Else you'll have money manipulating opinions via ads, or bots, or paid shills."
Furthermore, Big Money is very skilled in preventing ordinary people from obtaining what they really want with a referendum. For example, in my state of Massachusetts, there was a referendum in the 1990s to have Single Payer Health Care. The only reason the referendum lost was because Big Money totally out-spent the pro-Single Payer folks and dominated the air waves with T.V. ads showing doctors, wearing stethoscopes and looking directly into the camera, warning that "If you vote for this it will destroy the health care system and you'll lose your health care." It was an outright threat, and it worked.
The moral of the story is that until we remove the rich from power (and that means depriving them of their financial fortunes, not just passing some law about elections), the rich will very likely be able to manipulate even the CIR system to their advantage.
THE YELLOW VESTS ARE CREATING EGALITARIAN GENUINE DEMOCRACY
Please note that this Yellow Vest "assembly of assemblies" is virtually the same as what I have been calling a "non-local assembly" (consisting of delegates from local assemblies) in my discussion of what genuine democracy is in an egalitarian society (go to https://www.pdrboston.org/genuine-democracy-what-is-it for an introduction.)
Note these fundamental similarities:
1. The "assembly of assemblies" is an assembly of delegates from local assemblies of Yellow Vest people; the local assemblies are open to all Yellow Vest people in the given town or local community. Likewise, the egalitarian "non-local assemblies" that I talk about are exactly the same thing, replacing the phrase "Yellow Vest people" with "egalitarians"; the Yellow Vest people are virtually all egalitarians because they support the values of equality and mutual aid.
2. These assemblies are open to the Yellow Vest people--i.e. people who support the fundamental equality and mutual aid values of the Yellow Vests--and NOT to those who oppose the fundamental values of the Yellow Vest people. Likewise, the egalitarian assemblies are open to those who support egalitarian values (no-rich-and-no-poor equality and mutual aid) and not open to those who oppose those values. In both cases the members of these assemblies understand that their purpose is to facilitate shaping society by shared fundamental values, and to prevent people with opposing values from shaping society by those opposing values.
3. The "assembly of assemblies" very explicitly says that it is not making laws or pronouncements that people in local communities must follow, but rather that it is crafting proposals for people to implement or not as they see fit. Likewise, the egalitarian non-local assemblies are not law-making bodies but rather exist for the purpose of crafting proposals for local assemblies to implement or not as they see fit.
IT IS NO ACCIDENT THAT THE YELLOW VESTS ARE DOING WHAT I HAVE DESCRIBED AS EGALITARIAN GENUINE DEMOCRACY
The reason for the similarity is that this is the natural common sense way for people to cooperate for the task of shaping society by the values of equality and mutual aid. It is the common sense way to do this democratically.