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Friday, June 17, 2011

Memo to “Old Horses” storming the gates

Toward 2012 and beyond — “Democracy is not limited to male landowners, ‘dare more’”
Edited by Carolyn Bennett

In a Social Europe Journal article published earlier this week, Social Democratic Party Secretary General Andrea Nahles points to phenomena that critically endanger democracies and harm social democratic parties: social exclusion and disengagement from political life.

“An increasing number of citizens no longer actively participate in our democracies,” Nahles writes. “A growing group of citizens stays away not only from political parties but from political debate in general. They stay at home on election day.” 

Real change must come

“Party renewal must center on more democracy and participation — in societies as well as in [political] parties,” she writes. “We have to open up our parties internally as well as to society in general — take [party] members seriously, give them more influence on issues and elections.” 

Make the card of membership “an invitation to actively shape parties and societies.”

Parties must reflect modern society’s diversity

“Young men and women, migrants and modern workers have to be more present inside our organizations,” she writes. Non-members must be invited “not just to watch from the sideline but to join [party] activities.”  Open up party projects and campaigns to all citizens.

“Modern parties should not only cooperate with NGOs, social movements and community organizations; they must also invite citizens to join political debates inside the parties.

“We can be part of a grand narrative called democracy if we are ready to explore new paths — a democracy not limited to male landowners, but open for all. From this tradition grows our strength.”

Also in that June edition of Social Europe Journal, political analyst Gabor Gyori reflects on democracy, parties and people — a required modern sense of complexity and broadmindedness.

“There  must be some debate,” Gyori says, “about how to interweave social democracy with our increasingly and attractively complex patterns of identity; and about how to better intertwine social democracy with other, more trendy layers of identity — such as civic organizations focused on human rights, environmentalism, social justice — to which [social democracy] bears affinity. The how begins, he says, “with building or reinforcing community spaces — both physical and virtual.”

Political parties’ investments in these activities will be great. “The challenge is vast and even if we divert more resources to tackle the problem the returns may be slim: there is no way to recapture the ‘golden age’ when in many countries political parties were natural parts of community life. 

However, political organizations that accept their gradual degeneration into mere campaign machines are, in the end, doomed.”

Sources and notes
“Party Renewal is about Democracy and Participation,” June 14, 2011 (Andrea Nahles), http://www.social-europe.eu/2011/06/party-renewal-is-about-democracy-and-participation/

Andrea Nahles is the Secretary General of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD).

“Organizations, too, need Love – Social Democracy ought to be more than just a Policy Choice” (Gabor Gyori), http://www.social-europe.eu/2011/06/organisations-too-need-love-%e2%80%93-social-democracy-ought-to-be-more-than-just-a-policy-choice/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+goodsociety+%28Social+Europe+Journal+%C2%BB+Good+Society+Debate%29

Gabor Gyori is a freelance political analyst who has worked as a Senior Research Analyst at the Demos Hungary Foundation and as a policy analyst at the Hungarian Ministry of Children, Youth and Sports and the Prime Minister’s Office. He occasionally publishes in Hungarian magazines and journals.


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