I have been urged to write a blog on consensus politics, so feel like a kid at school who’s been given the subject of an essay to write. Those not interested in politics can scroll down to the finalÂ three paragraphs for a brief summary of how consensus can be achieved in other areas.
I have always been on the extreme Left politically but even I can see that you can’t move too far ahead of the electorate. It is therefore necessary to take small steps towards your ultimate goal, and carry the general public with you as things progress.
This, of course, is easier said than done. However what is the alternative? Small political groups and factions crying in the wilderness? Violent revolution which imposes ideas on society for which it is nowhere near ready? We’ve had plenty of examples of the latter, and it results in repressive regimes and widespread corruption.
By ‘consensus politics’ I don’t mean the kind of coalition government we have in the UK at the momentÂ consisting ofÂ the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. This is a Conservative government in all but name, the Liberal DemocratsÂ acting very much the junior partner and very few, if any, of their policies being adopted. The referendum on the Alternative Vote system not only failed to win over the electorate, but was far too narrow and should have included other options such as Proportional Representation. No wonder it got defeated.
Equally unsatisfactory were the kind of enforced coalitions which existed in places like the CSSR (Czechoslovakia) and the GDR (East Germany) during the Socialist era. These all-party coalitions were totally dominated by the Marxist-Leninist Party, often taking orders direct from Moscow.
True censensus politics involves finding common ground between Left and Right and all shades in between. Proportional Represention in voting systems is a wayÂ towards achieving this as it tends to deny any single political party an absolute majority to force through its policies. When this does happen under the first-past-the-post systems used in places like the UK and USA it often results in minority governments. Both Thatcher and George W. Bush ‘won’ elections even though the majority of the electorate voted for other parties or candidates.
In order to achieve any political goals it is necessary to take the general public with you, and not be either too far ahead or too far behind. This does not mean abandoning basic principles or ceasing to popularize them. It does, however, mean you cannot always achieve everything you wish to immediately; you often have to take small steps, sometimes even steps backward. Even on the Far Left this has been accepted in the past, for instance when Lenin was forced to introduce the New Economic Policy after the Bolshevik Revolution and allow some private shops, etc. to re-open.Â It was described by him as ‘Two steps forward, one step back’. This is often how slow progress has to be achieved.
I just use this as an example – it does not mean the abolition of all private enterprise is necessarily the ultimate goal of the Far Left. Indeed the competitive element of small-scale family businesses can be beneficial and is often much preferable to either vast near-monopoly multi-nationals or bureaucratic monopoly State enterprises, both of which stifle competition, can be against the interests of workers and consumers, and can be very wasteful and inefficient.
My ideal society would have a mix of small-scale private family businesses with restrictions on employing hired labor, worker/consumer cooperatives and mutual societies with profit-sharing schemes, small-scale publicly owned enterprises and a few State enterprises for things like the utility companies and transport networks. All these competing in a friendly and mutually advantageous market place.
I see this in itself as a form of consensus politics, since it combines the competitive elements of free enterprise with the profits being shared by those who produced them and those most in need, rather than going into the pockets of faceless shareholders and company directors. In fact companies with no profit-sharing schemes for their workforce or bonus schemes for workers (rather than directors)Â provide little or no incentive to increase productivity or improve quality, and this applies equally to vast capitalist multi-nationals and old-fashioned inefficientÂ State enterprises.
Before any of the above could be achieved, however, much smaller steps need to be taken to eliminate corruption and unfairness in the present system. These measures could be described as ‘reformist’ rather than ‘revolutionary’, but this is really how society has advanced over the centuries – by evolution rather than revolution.
Without the trade union movement, for instance, workers in the developed capitalist countries would never have achieved the wages and working conditions they now enjoy. This, however, has meant that increasingly the labor force and resources of the developing world are exploited ruthlessly by the vast multi-nationals, at the same time making millions unemployed in the advanced capitalist countries.
The formation of trade unions and cooperative enterprises in the developing world would be a big step towards reducing this exploitation by the muti-nationals. Not a revolutionary step perhaps, but a more gradual evolution towards a fairer world.
Here in the UK consensus politics would mean first a new PR voting system which more accurately reflects the views of the electorate, protects the rights of minorities, and takes account of the views of minor political parties like the Greens, for instance.
On a European scale it means devising an EU Constitution and framework which unites the continent by taking into account national aspirations and creating a level playing field in wages, taxation, working conditions, cost of living, etc.
On a global scale it must include the same principles as for Europe. To have vast pools of cheap labor working for peanuts producing goods which are then sold at high prices in the developed world is not achieving consensus, nor is exploiting the natural resources of the developing countries.
True democracy means empowering people to protect their basic human rights and to have freedom to choose whatÂ policies are implemented by their respective governments. In order to achieve this a consensus has to be achieved, otherwise you have some form of dictatorship with minority rights and opinionsÂ quashed.
However it is not only in the political field that consensus must be achieved. Equally in the fields of religion/humanism/science and what can be described as New Age or psychic matters a consensus is possible and is slowly becoming apparent. There is common ground in all these fields: great teachers who set a good example in all religions and also in atheistic humanism: the Buddha, Krishna, Christ, Mahatma Gandhi, Karl Marx, SirÂ Bertand Russell,Â etc., etc.Â – these should all be respected and heeded. Scientific language and that used by religious and New Age sources is very different, but sometimes describe the same sort of principles. For instance, New Age people talk about various planes of existence, religious people conceive of various alternative states of existence too (such as heaven, hell, purgatory, nirvana), and some branches of science envisage a multi-dimensional universe with other dimensions existing side-by-side with our own (in particular Quantum Physics and String Theory suggest this.)
In order to progress in all these fields during the 21st Century I feel there has to be a gradual coming together of various political, social , religious, Spiritual and scientific ideas into some enlightened consensus, taking the best ideas from various areas and adapting them.
I was inspired or urgedÂ to write a blog on this subject, and hope I have done it justice. It has not been an easy one for me to write, and I fear my own personal views have perhaps been emphasized too strongly. However I do now accept that any ideas, my own or other people’s, cannot be imposed by force, and this is the jist of what I’m trying to convey here. There has to be some sort of consensus before real progress can be made in any of the areas mentioned above.