In June the world will celebrate 800 years since the issuing of Magna Carta. But 2015 is also the anniversary of another important, and far more radical, British milestone in democratic history.

Almost exactly 750 years ago, an extraordinary parliament opened in Westminster. For the very first time, elected representatives from every county and major town in England were invited to parliament on behalf of their local communities.

It was, in the words of one historian, “the House of Commons in embryo”.

Read more on BBC, that is covering the topic extensively, for the BBC Democracy Day (20 Jan)

Image: Statue of de Montfort on the Haymarket Memorial Clock Tower in Leicester

First off, I’d like to thank God that lives in us all. Recently, John and I got to go to Selma and perform “Glory” on the same bridge that Dr. King and the people of the civil rights movement marched on 50 years ago. This bridge was once a landmark of a divided nation, but now is a symbol for change. The spirit of this bridge transcends race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and social status. The spirit of this bridge connects the kid from the South side of Chicago, dreaming of a better life to those in France standing up for their freedom of expression to the people in Hong Kong protesting for democracy. This bridge was built on hope. Welded with compassion. And elevated by love for all human beings.” 

———

"Thank you. Nina Simone said it’s an artist’s duty to reflect the times in which we live. We wrote this song for a film that was based on events that were 50 years ago, but we say Selma is now, because the struggle for justice is right now. We know that the voting rights, the act that they fought for 50 years ago is being compromised right now in this country today. We know that right now the struggle for freedom and justice is real. We live in the most incarcerated country in the world. There are more black men under correctional control today than were under slavery in 1850. When people are marching with our song, we want to tell you that we are with you, we see you, we love you, and march on.

— 

Common and John Legend winning Best Song for ‘Glory’ featured in Ava DuVernay’s Selma 

I am posting this because while I have seen parts of their speeches on tumblr I have not seen the whole thing posted. And I think the message is even stronger when it is all together. Common and John Legend’s words were incredibly humbling to hear and one which we need to take to heart.

Marxists know that democracy does not abolish class oppression, but only makes the class struggle clearer, broader, more open and sharper; and this is what we want […] The more democratic the system of government is, the clearer it will be to the workers that the root of the evil is not the lack of rights, but capitalism.
—  V.I. Lenin, “The Other Political Issues Raised and Distorted By P. Kievsky”.
This is why the term “taxpayer” is such a poor substitute for “people” (as in, “we must respect the taxpayers’ right to have an accountable education system”). It implies that your relationship to the state is as a customer, and that the “better” a customer you are (the more you spend) the more legitimacy should be imparted to your priorities and views on the state. Some of the people with the most intense relationship to the state pay no tax at all: the elderly, children, prisoners… If we link your right to steer the state to the extent to which you pay into the state, then none of these people have any rights, and these are the people who have the most need to have affirmative rights in relationship to the government.

At a livestock exhibition at Plymouth, England, in 1907, attendees were invited to guess the weight of an ox and to write their estimates on cards, with the most accurate estimates receiving prizes. About 800 tickets were issued, and after the contest these made their way to Francis Galton, who found them “excellent material.”

“The average competitor,” he wrote, “was probably as well fitted for making a just estimate of the dressed weight of the ox, as an average voter is of judging the merits of most political issues on which he votes, and the variety among the voters to judge justly was probably much the same in either case.”

Happily for all of us, he found that the guesses in the aggregate were quite accurate. The middlemost estimate was 1,207 pounds, and the weight of the dressed ox proved to be 1,198 pounds, an error of 0.8 percent. This has been borne out in subsequent research: When a group of people make individual estimates of a quantity, the mean response tends to be fairly accurate, particularly when the crowd is diverse and the judgments are independent.

Galton wrote, “This result is, I think, more creditable to the trustworthiness of a democratic judgment than might have been expected.”

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They dug up a Malcolm X speech that predicted so much of what’s going on today.

For all that’s changed, somehow this hasn’t.