Germany’s cooperative associations’ landscape going out of fashion is a phenomenon of the 90s. The assembly culture of associations has always been bad-mouthed, but no decade of the post-war period has so consistently replaced democratic decision-making structures with foundations and charitable limited liability companies (gGmbHs) through “the true will of citizens“, project work, and efficiency.
The Internet did its part for direct communication and democracy to be regarded as superior to committees (or parliament) slowly finding a compromise. After all, in Italy the comedian Beppe Grillo managed to enter a representative parliament by connecting a movement on the street and a network. In the wake of the sovereign debt crisis, for which primarily young people in Southern Europe, the United Kingdom and Ireland will have to pay, hopes are being built on social movements, which are hard to fulfil.
Martin Kaul, editor at the tageszeitung (taz), simply asked in his article „Avanti is not Compact“ (in German), why these social movements do not dart across borders. My answer in the taz: finally reconcile organisations, associations (in brief: structured sustainable democracy) with scattered pressure from the street! For it is „a romantic notion that a social movement on the street can get along without organised structures.“ Democratic civil society, beside national parliaments, must be at the heart of European democracy. It deserves the respect of the media and politics again. Citizens must not be left with elite initiatives alone, even if they are well intentioned. Let us dare to have more democracy in civil society!