28 December 2011

The theory and practice of community politics revisited

David Cameron's 'Big Society' is an oft used phrase, but its meaning and policy effects remain vague - wrapped up with localism and a rolling back of the central state. Last December Nick Clegg even suggested it was the same as community politics.

Clegg is wrong about community politics - and I suspect his understanding of it is purely through its status within party circles - much like the vague understanding that Keynes or Beveridge were liberals. If he did know any of its detail he wouldn't have compared community politics to the Big Society and would have heeded its Hitchhiker's Guide like warning that 'Community Politics is not a technique for the winning of Loca1 government elections'

It prompted me to revisit the 1980 booklet 'The Theory and Practice of Community Politics' by Greaves (the other one) and Lishman. It stands up remarkably well with one of the key sections stating:

It involves working simultaneously within and outside the established political system. The fusion of the two approaches creates a strategy distinctively, new and different when allied to the ideas of community politics.

We work through the established political structures not to win and exercise power but to remodel that structure itself; to create a new generation of political institutions corresponding to the reality of the pattern of communities that exist within society; to break down the centralised power structure of our society so that no single person or group possesses disproportionate power and all people and groups share the responsibility for controlling their own affairs.

To subvert and destroy the political establishment in such a radical way requires a powerful political movement based outside the political system. We work outside the political system, not to create confrontation or to foment revolution. It is indeed a more radical process than revolution.

The aim, by promoting joint community action directly in society, is to create the very structures of community organisation which we wish to see emerge as the new political structure. We mobilise people to take control of their own affairs, to take power and to use it.

I'd say that sounds like a relevant strategy for rebuilding the party in and outside of the coalition today.

No comments:

Post a Comment