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openDemocracy’s founder Anthony Barnett writes to you...
Anthony Barnett
Anthony Barnett
22 November 2011

Dear reader,

A wake-up call is being sounded against the closed and inhuman privileges of corporate power - and its different forms of political control. It is being heard, picked up, repeated and amplified across the world.  

But what are its demands? What do the indignants, the occupiers and the inspiring brave youth of Egypt want? The answer is clear. So clear that it is blindingly obvious. So blinding that our mainstream media can’t see let alone utter it.  

It is that our economic and social systems must henceforth be governed by the people, for the people.  

At last!  

openDemocracy is part of this rising.  

We will be asking the questions of how. How can we govern our economies for the people, not the financiers? How can this best be done by we, the people? How can we do this so that we enhance and protect our liberties rather than lose them?

These are very hard questions. It may be obvious that the power of open networks now makes it possible to achieve real democracy. But it is just as clear that in authoritarian hands modern surveillance and control can impose the opposite. It is not just that the answers demand hard intellectual work, they will call for even tougher and more careful networked organisation, which in turn demands an open, anti-corporate culture we are all just learning.  

I’m asking you to join openDemocracy and help the tough cultural and intellectual fight for real democracy.

What has led us to this point over the last ten years is succinctly set out by Paul Rogers. Why you must resource us (if you can) is brilliantly argued by Tony Curzon Price. Tony makes an original point. Nothing is really free on the web. When you think it is, you are the product that is being sold! 

Except when it comes to openDemocracy. We are not a commodity; we are a not-for-profit that will always be free to read. And nor are you a commodity: for a start there are not enough of you to become an advertisers’ dream, more important you are awkward customers who think for yourselves.

However, there are more than enough of us, who use, read, write and help edit openDemocracy, to make it self-sustaining: by joining or donating affordable amounts. The more independent we are, the more we will improve, grow and be more widely used and enjoyed and all the more impactful we will be.

openDemocracy’s Editor Rosemary Bechler is developing ideas for Citizens Editors, to open out openDemocracy in a way that releases energy and is purposive (avoiding the self-indulgent time-wasting of much on-line comment).  

In May, in Madrid’s Plaza del Sol, when the Occupy movement extended the Arab awakening to the West, I interviewed one of its inspiring, starter activists. “We have broken the silence”, she told me – and she was right.

But it is going to be very tough indeed to work out what to say and do next. It will need argument and debate and a disciplined open-mindedness to replace the current economic system, not clichés and glibness. It will need us all to create a new democratic culture, open to each but strong enough to govern with modesty - encouraging the love that does justice, in Martin Luther King’s commanding phrase.  

With your help we can make a start. Join in openDemocracy. Become a Member by investing however much you think best.

Thank you

Anthony Barnett

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals


To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.


By adding my name to this campaign, I authorise openDemocracy and Foxglove to keep me updated about their important work.

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