Derbyshire Multitudes and Accidental Political Parties. It's febrile out here...
Our job in A/UK is to map, as much as to forge, a new politics. Our basic thesis is that there is so much civic and social creativity beyond the boundaries of the traditional parties, that we do well to just listen for new voices and practices. But given all the networked tools at everyone's hands, it's not surprising that some people want to edge their projects towards something resembling new parties. It's fascinating to see how they do it.
For example, take Plan C - based out of Leeds, and already claiming chapters in Birmingham, Brighton, London, Manchester and Thames Valley, who use the shared Plan C web-platform (as well as Facebook sites). They've just concluded a sell-out conference, the Fast Forward Festival, in Derbyshire, and have a magazine and blog.
What's their politics? We've been grappling with the new book from Hardt and Negri, Assembly - see our Alternative Editorial blog - and it would be fair to say that Plan C are part of that Italian "autonomist" tradition. They want to push back against capitalism by invoking the "social" power of networked labour and communities - what H&N call "the common".
We will be publishing more on this soon - particularly on how the idea of "entrepreneurship" could cross different traditions. But while we wouldn't quite align ourselves with an anti-capitalist position, the vigour that comes from thinking about new spaces in society from which to build enterprises and projects is very evident in Plan C.
See the opening plenary speech from their Festival: "What we shared was a commitment to experiment and what we hoped for was to learn from our mistakes and not just keep repeating them."
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Another example of new party flowering - but interesting for the sheer lightness of its coming to being. A few days ago, a journalist for the Economist posted this tweet:
About 24 hours later...
Yet it seems that the edge of their appeal is to be anti-Brexit - indeed, that in doing so, Britain might regain leadership of the EU (Jeremy Cliffe highlights this thread as evidence of his thinking).
As one wag in the Twitter responses has said, "aren't you the Liberal Democrats then?" - adverting to the explicit (but failed) appeal that ancient party has made to Remain voters, unreconciled to Brexit. But there is clearly a diffuse yearning for a "Macron"-style political project among the UK political-media establishment (Cliffe comes from the heart of that milieu).
As the progress of the Brexit negotiations becomes ever more climactic and tortured, expect to see a few more political fireworks like this go up. We'll still be asking questions about how politics can reconnect with those far beyond the tiny percentages who sign up to the usual party activisms and processes. And who knows what those questions will inspire themselves?
Update: and this is how quickly it goes - the founder of Radicals UK has resigned after 48 hours, and intends to hand his new party over to a committee.