written by John Urquhart, Harmony Party UK general secretary
“By striving to do the impossible, man has always achieved what is possible. Those who have cautiously done no more than they believed possible have never taken a single step forward.” ― Mikhail Bakunin
In 1997 I remember being at school yet still being swept up in something of a fervour sweeping my particular subculture of Britain: Labour were riding high in the polls. My parents were excited. Better times were ahead. Tony Blair was going to change everything.
Actually, though, it had been John Smith who had really sparked the enthusiasm: Blair was something of an opportunist, though an adroit and cunning one. Though, too, Smith.
If Smith had led in ’97 Labour would still have won, it seems fairly sure; as others have noted elsewhere, the Conservative Party was split, had serious “sleaze” issues with scandals splashed across front pages on a regular basis, and the public perceived that the Tories had no clear way out of the issues that beset the country. A new hand at the tiller might be better; and Smith was a man well capable of winning nearly any argument he found himself in.
What might have been? — is a question covered in numerous other places, so we won’t do it here very much — yet…
We’ll never really know, of course. We can but guess. In some sense Blair and Smith were very much of the same school of centrist thought — Blair’s “Third Way” in the end being not nearly as new nor as radical as he touted it to be, not even ultimately going so far as to be as radical as Nordic social democracy.
Blair did not dare because he first mired himself in a great wet sandpit: the sand was wet because he had spent years pouring water in by then. Socialism, it was effectively argued, could not be applied yet, so certain — core — socialist ideas had to be jettisoned in the name of pragmatism. Somehow the people who would’ve been supported, aided, helped, or abetted by the policies jettisoned were never quite the issue so much as the question of “are we capable of doing it?”
And if you are not, then frankly the answer is to let others try.
But when personal ambition holds sway — ah. Well.
In that case: there had to be steps. Phases. An orderly progression from this thing to that thing, with specific, carefully plotted points along the way — first order change, second order, third order… That way, the order could be preserved in such a way that no-one would harm those who had paid for them to come to power, while a steady progression towards a better world might be earned with hard work.
The problem, of course, was that once New Labour pegged out these positions their opponents immediately locked them into a perpetual Zeno’s paradox of governance: if this is how far you are willing to go, we will not let you go so far, and so you may never approach closer than halfway — and this battle eventually causes you to lose further ground too, from sheer attrition. It is always a mistake to stake out your demand too close to what you actually want; staking it out at less than you want is only self-defeating.
In America the Democratic Party also falls into this trap — regularly and often — by failing to allow for the action of “the enemy” when accounting for strategy.
Sometimes, in social engineering, one has to aim for the moon to persuade someone else that you are in fact willing to climb a tree.
What is my moon? is a question which may arise soon enough.
And I could go on at length.
I want housing to be a right but I want us to find ways to do it that disadvantage nobody harshly and leave nobody in peril, harming none. I want there to be no people without homes who are also without community; while one might be a choice, the other almost never is.
I want to abolish the police and replace them with a spectrum of focused public services that includes some of the function but none of the tradition of the current system.
I want us, together, to trust each other, and in so doing learn how to end hate.
I want healthcare for all — and I don’t want any private healthcare at all, because public health is just that: public.
I want us together to make sure that children stop starving, which seems so obvious as to not need saying.
I want us to fund & create a National Care Service that not only houses the elderly when they are frail but also watches out for them by network of paid staff and volunteers, organic communal aid & deliberate support mingled to ensure loneliness is reduced — to stop people dying alone and unattended, cold and afraid.
To that end too I want utilities to be a right; nobody should go cold.
I want everyone to have access to good education. I want educational reforms that would equip our children with the ability to face the difficult years ahead of us now: they will need to be the best educated children in history to face down the difficulties of solving problems like automation & idleness, climate change, conflict, mental health crises globally, and so on.
What’s more, I know the route to it: the way is for us to have a country which is governed not just by representatives of the people but by the actual people themselves. I want a huge reorganisation of government: a reformation of Britain. And I want us to do it together.
I want everyone in on it — not symbolically but in actuality, by way of a People’s Congress for Great Britain.
We have so many questions, we, this nation, we need to fully resolve, and fast.
What do we want Britain to be? What does “Britain” mean? Do we want it to keep meaning something? Do we want to change the meaning?
Is our democracy sufficient? How can we fix it?
I have ideas and I want to argue them passionately, but I want to argue just as passionately for others to have a voice and a say — a genuine say — in the future of what could be a great country for us all. A greater one.
That’s how Harmony works: we talk about things, amicably, with deliberation. We discuss. We find common cause — and if we don’t, we vote, but we all get one vote, and we all speak with our own voices. Nobody speaks for us: we can speak for ourselves.
Likewise we should have for the nation. We are grown up: we can speak for ourselves, and we must: if we are to face what is to come, then we will need to face it with unity. Consensus is the only way we may find unity: deliberative democracy is the best way to obtain that consensus before it is too late — for any of the myriad problems we face as a nation, and, indeed, as a wider planet.
In a nutshell — we can do better, together.
That People’s Congress that’ll help us get there — that I’ll be arguing for for the forseeable future both within Harmony and without — that’ll need to have those big Ds. It’ll need to be both Deliberative, and Democratic: nothing else will be representative enough, carry enough weight. No more bullshit referenda, easily manipulated: let’s really talk. We know how to organise it: we can show the way.
But the other d, the d of discussion, must not be neglected; it also must be ongoing regardless of progress towards the craved People’s Congress — even though many things could be resolved, even older questions, at such a thing.
Failings of environmental protection; failings of policing; failings of foreign policy; we must press the government to do better every step of the way in the hope that we may wring some value from the broken system we currently endure.
And while some will say we are “talking the nation down,” it is imperative we remember that constructive criticism is building it back up. We can build it back better.
In an FA Cup final, the team at half time never comes back from a deficit without recognition of what caused the penalty to be given away in the first place — whether it was sloppy defending or a loss of discipline, identifying it is key.
Likewise: this nation must address its weaknesses if it is to ever truly hold strengths such as those imagined when some think of lions, of roses, and of history.
That history too must be fully examined, and the failings brightly lit in a deliberative glare: failings such as Windrush, such as the endemic failings of race & class in the last century that have left generations of people behind with often very little hope of obtaining their fondest hopes & dreams.
Statues may fall but the stories will stand for ever if we give them legs, and the context we put the objects of stone into is the light in which history will remember us all — if it should. The stories should have legs but we must never run from our mistakes if we wish to never need endure them again.
Bakunin said “freedom can be created only by freedom.”
Thus it is that while I, the founder of the Harmony Party and its first general secretary, can speak to you of all of these hopes and goals, none of these hopes and goals are necessarily that of the Party. They are not yet policy.
They are instead simply likely what I, a simple humble ordinary member like any other must argue for. We in Harmony are now forming policy, piece by piece, a jigsaw we’ll fit together, I hope, into a beautiful mosaic we’ll name manifesto one day. I hope you’ll join us, if you’ve not already done so.
What we will do I cannot predict exactly, though I believe our structure and our values are things from which good will rise.
But I personally will be aiming for the moon (on a stick, if need be!), and so long as I can argue it, so might the Party.
The Harmony Party after all holds the principle of “one voice, one vote” very dear — which includes me.
And when I founded the Party, it was this single principle I hoped most of all that we might bring to wider Britain, as a whole: the notion that each of us deserves a voice as much as we deserve a vote — even if we use that voice or that vote in folly, even in utterly absurd folly.
Your freedom is my freedom; your folly is my freedom; your genius also, my freedom — as much vice versa.
Ultimately, the more free we each make one the other by the systems we build together — and the less coercively hierarchical those systems are — the more trustful we may be of each other.
And the acorn of freedom is not power, nor majesty, nor holiness, nor strength, nor dignity, nor glory of arms, nor war, nor the look in the eye, nor a lover’s sigh: it is in fact simply trust, which the breaking or making of is everything in all we do which we name community.
Let’s build a new, more trusting society — let’s build it better together.