Calling all the radicals

There’s an interesting discussion going on in the comments on this post of Jennie’s about whether there’s a need for a ‘radical liberal’ group of some description. This reminded me of this post I wrote last year on the same issue, even if I got myself a bit trapped in semantics about left, right and centre.

So, given that five or six people in a comment thread think it’s a good idea – hey, the SDP started with less than that – I think it’s time to take a step forward from ‘that’d be a good idea’ and actually do something about organising a radical grouping. Actually, it’s more than five or six, as I’ve seen similar ideas discussed elsewhere and get support from different people. There is, I believe, support out there for a radical liberal organisation of some sort, but the question is what sort of form should it take?

My thought is that I think a radical liberal grouping would benefit from taking a different approach to organising itself. In my view it would be best organised as a network or a forum where like-minded people can come together and discuss, argue and plan things together but without the necessity for having to convince the entire organisation of something before any action gets taken. One of the issues with trying to create an organisation that’s truly radical is going to be that not everyone is going to agree with everything that’s discussed and suggested, and it seems to me that the best way to deal with that is to embrace it and make it a feature. Indeed, you could argue that if everyone agrees with something, it’s not really that radical…

Rather than creating some new faction with a shopping list of policy proposals that everyone has to sign up to, my idea would to be to come up with a relatively short statement of radical liberal principles, and people who agreed with those could become part of the grouping. I’d expect that list to be centred around issues of freedom, civil liberties and libertarianism, anti-authoritarianism etc with dashes of decentralisation, internationalism and other issues. Once that’s done, then we can look at how we go on to build a network of the people who agree with it, and what shape that network could take.

So I guess it’s time to throw it open to the crowd – how does that sound for steps forward? What’s your vision of radical liberal principles?

4 thoughts on “Calling all the radicals”

  1. I’m trying to remember the basic things in Conrad Russell’s “Intelligent Person’s Guide to Liberalism” – that could make a good starting point. Certainly better than the five New Radical principles that Donnachadh McCarthy pushed forward in 1997.

    1. It’s been a while since I read Russell, so I can’t help there, but that McCarthy list seems like it has a lot in it to disagree with. It’s perhaps also an interesting comment on changing times that there’s nothing in it about civil liberties. The use of the term ‘pure genetics’ is a real eyebrow-raiser for all its unfortunate implications.

      Though that has prompted the thought that another area to include in any radical principles would be something about being pro-science and evidence-based policy.

  2. I always liked the idea that the Revolution(R) Party had in the USA – they had a list of fifteen policies and anyone who agreed *with ten or more* could join. The idea was to bring on board both left-liberals and right-libertarians.

    I tried to sum up my own views a few months back in a post I called What I mean when I call myself a liberal and it boiled down to freedom, democracy and hatred of privilege. It’s a wooly post, but it’s in plainish English.

    “Indeed, you could argue that if everyone agrees with some, it’s not really that radical”
    I remember reading about a venture capital company that’s had a comparatively huge amount of success, which had a three-person board, and they said the secret of their success was that they only ever did things when two of the three agreed. When all three agreed, they did nothing.

    1. I’d forgotten about The Revoltution – I had a link to them on my first ever website, and I think that’s where I first heard the word ‘liberaltarian’ (which is bloody ugly, but sometimes useful). I did find the beginnings of The Revolution in a quick search and there’s some interesting stuff in there.

      Oh, and you quoting me alerted me to a typo – it should read ‘everyone agrees with something’ not ‘some’. Now changed.

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