The Partnership

The Politician


11.1 "Good morning people. Thank you for attending my short course on politics in this country." The politician was busy arranging his charts while making his opening remarks.

11.2 "Firstly, it is time once again to consider the basic cause of war, since all the signs are pointing to us having to make a decision on the subject in the near future."

11.3 The politician drew our attention to the first of his charts:

The War Cycle

11.4 "Now I know that since the general proliferation of nuclear weapons this chart no longer applies in practice, but the tendency to this behavioural pattern is still there. The fact that everyone knows that war is no longer tenable since it would result in the death of all on Earth does not stop the tendency to behave in the same old way."

11.5 "What I have to say to you is this: this mechanism is so simple and obvious that great lengths have to be taken to disguise it. But always when you hear war songs on the media or the threat of war far away or close at hand, look behind the news at where we are on this cycle. Don’t be taken in by the drumbeats, don’t stop analysing the situation, don’t stop evaluating your options. Try to increase your knowledge and awareness in proportion to governments’ attempts to dull them. I say this in the historical perspective of The Partnership’s pacifist stand."

11.6 Although I am not personally a pacifist, The Partnership is. And we are all therefore bound collectively as pacifists. In the last nuclear war we managed to protect most of our own, but we were branded as traitors because we would not aid in the production or use of war materials. There was great dissension between the partners: some wanted The Partnership to identify with the war goals set by the outside leaders, but the majority insisted on maintaining the strict pacifist position. Outside leaders tried to infiltrate The Partnership believing, rightly, that we fail to identify with their war goals. A number of partners resigned which weakened The Partnership financially by the necessary payouts. It was really a dreadful time of testing for The Partnership. The partners decided as pacifists to contribute as much to peace as outsiders were contributing to war - they started to design and build the best possible shelters in areas that were most likely to survive and to do this with their own money - they lobbied for pacifist status based on their historical foundations of pacifism - they started to toil long, hard hours in a close bond of co-operation. When this area sustained an indirect hit, there was sufficient warning to put The Partnership's contingency plan into operation and very few of our people were lost."

11.7 "I think that the government allowed The Partnership to continue because they knew that the partners would not co-operate in their war plans, except under extreme physical coercion and even this would not achieve co-operation from some of The Partnership's extreme pacifists - and they did not wish to have open hostile conflict at home with such a highly respected organisation. Also we were not anxious to antagonise the government unnecessarily and did all within pacifist bounds to make peace."

11.8 "It was a time of great internal and external stress: every decision had the pacifist's touch it seemed - we couldn't make anything that could be regarded as war materials - we couldn't can food, we couldn't make many of the products that we made in peacetime since the pacifists argued successfully they contributed to a war machine - it was decided to allow the manufacture and sale of medical equipment, bomb shelters, fresh food and modular food containers. Partnership pegs were allowed to continue in production, but The Partnership refused their sale in bulk to the government arguing that they could find their way to a war zone and The Partnership did not in principle want to be identified or have any of its products appear in any warlike acts. This discriminatory sales policy was hard for the government and its supporters to accept and we lost a lot of old customers - the arguments that raged over that innocent clothes peg! But the more The Partnership considered the matter, the more firmly stood their decision - and in the teeth of strong pressure from government and outside customers they took their stand. I can tell you, it takes more courage sometimes not to kill than to kill, not to be subservient than to be subservient. As the chasm between the government and The Partnership widened, so the bond between the common people and the partners strengthened."

11.9 "Somehow in those difficult times we gained the strength to carry on. Our sales were down and it seemed we were losing more customers with every new decision. We’re small compared to the big manufacturers that were all fully co-operating with the government, and perhaps that’s a reason we were allowed to continue existing. Our surplus ran negative and the partners had to start using their personal resources to keep The Partnership solvent. But under this adversity the Spirit in this place was at work and the little people from outside started to support us by purchasing the pitiful range of products we were prepared to produce. They seemed to sense our downtrodden state. The government people thought we could not exist long under such extreme sanctions and that we were finished and beaten - but buyers started to come in increasing numbers to our sales people."

11.10 "While the country was on a war footing, but before hostilities began, we were glad of our strong financial position that allowed us to stand firm when necessary. The policy of owning all the necessary means of production rather than renting, the fact that the partners nearly all owned their own homes and had them fully paid off from their income in the good years, the policy of cash trading whereby we neither give or take credit - all of these practices that initially caused a slowdown in the rate of growth now acted as buffers against the effects of falling sales. There came a time of stability in adversity - the sales figures bottomed out. Then the support of the little people outside started to make itself felt: they clubbed together and started to buy whatever we made - a small group from a church would come and order a shelter, another group would buy more pegs than they could possibly use, people started to just give to The Partnership and this was the most humbling of all. We had to learn how to accept gracefully, and we recognised that we had a certain pride that religious people should not have."

11.11 "When the first nuclear bombs were dropped, the government feeling against us seemed to be white hot and relations were very strained. It would not have surprised me in the least if we were all arrested by the military and taken off to prison, and our assets confiscated as ‘essential war materials’. In those days the nuclear weapons were not nearly as potent as they are now, and the world survived although the damage to life and property was huge. Our bomb shelters proved their worth and our customers were thankful. The shelters on The Partnership’s farm saved many of the partners, but nothing could be done for those who could not escape the target area: they were killed. Our hard work in producing and stockpiling medical supplies was appreciated and even the government started placing orders with us. But it seemed that we just couldn’t keep out of trouble - the ‘enemy’ wanted the designs for our bomb shelters, and they wanted help for their injured. The board prayed about this realising that compliance could be construed as an act of treason. And we co-operated with the ‘enemy’ to exactly the same extent as we co-operated with our own government."

11.12 "As the people loved us more, the government liked us less. Still, no charge was brought against us perhaps because we were not aiding the war effort of the ‘enemy’ and we had earned the respect of many of the people in government - also they were probably concerned with higher priorities than a group of odd-type pacifists who had demonstrated that they were determined to do no harm to anyone."

11.13 "Are there any questions so far? If you all understand the war cycle, I will proceed to discuss other charts."

11.14 "I have a query" replied a partner. "How are you accepted as a member of Parliament by the other members who know that you will adopt The Partnership rather than the party line?"

11.15 "I would say that I am not accepted in any group sense, but I have the respect that is accorded an expert representative from a trusted organisation. I make no secret of the fact that I am a partner in The Partnership, and everyone knows that I am bound to obey our board when directed to do so. I don’t think I’ll ever be more than a back-bencher though until the Computer Party gets going."

11.16 "Do you receive a salary as an M.P. and a partner?" I asked.

11.17 "I am a partner like other partners. I put in more than the minimum hours per week on approved Partnership work, much of which has a political nature. I earn my income from The Partnership like other partners. It is true that I have two sources of income: the government pays me as an M.P., and The Partnership pays me as a partner. In this respect I am no different from those partners here who also own a part of another partnership."

11.18 "Now let me proceed. The Computer Party is a democratic device - it’s not really a political party, it’s more of a political concept. The nub of the Computer Party is that in an advanced society such as ours where almost everyone has a terminal in their home for ordering groceries, looking up telephone numbers, placing advertisements and a hundred other things, we can use these fast, sophisticated units for elections. Society has had the technology for over a century to supersede political parties and return to the Westminster system of direct election. People now generally claim an increased awareness of the political climate and want to elect individual ministers directly. We could use our terminals to get essential data on each candidate. Then we could vote in each individual M.P. in an informed way. The standard form that M.P’s. are required to complete is reasonably comprehensive and probes quite deeply into areas of potential conflict of interest such as ownership or control of any income-producing capital. If the Computer Party were accepted, then the data from these forms would be accessible from every terminal and if an aspiring M.P. refused to answer any of the standard questions, we could programme the computer to signal ‘WARNING: Data Withheld’ thus drawing attention to a candidate’s possible weakness in this area. Using the terminal to vote could easily be made secret with no double counting and reducing the informal vote."

11.19 "Inertia is the main reason the Computer Party has not yet come. People are very slow to change. Advocates of the party system say we need a team to run a country - I agree, but it is surely a question of how we get that team. We should start considering electing a prime minister directly, then, having done that, elect the rest of the cabinet likewise. Then we say to the people we have elected ‘form a team and govern’. In this way then I hope to see the Computer Party emerge. There does seem to be an increasing number of independents being elected and I take this as a hopeful sign."

11.20 "The Computer Party grew with a politically active pressure group in The Partnership. This industrially based pressure group has already achieved goals out of all proportion to input. A few partners have had a greater influence on government, especially local government, than all the rest of the partners combined. If this concept is accepted and our group is extended sufficiently, political power can be distributed back to the individual. The Partnership has certainly benefited by the actions of this group and has been pleased to see them exercise their new-found power."

11.21 "As usual, I have run out of time. Thank you for being so attentive."

Go to next chapter.

From The Partnership, by Graeme Doel.

Converted to HTML by Simon Grant, 2003.