We as citizens of the United States observe politics from afar and the vast majority of us may participate in the political process only to the extent that we go to the polls once a year to vote. We may endeavor to follow the news accounts of our nation's politics as they unfold, and of the consequences those political actions yield, but we have little power to influence our "democratically" elected officials. Perhaps we write an occasional letter to our senator or representative, but we almost inevitably receive a vague and impersonal response explaining why they will vote in our opposition.

Over the decades, our representative democracy has been systematically undermined and has ultimately failed in preserving the well being of the people of this nation. The system that the founding fathers painstakingly devised in order to best serve the interests and the will of the people has been corrupted and the systems of checks and balances on power that they instituted have been stripped away. Most of us accept this reality as being beyond our control and continue to observe, comment, and complain without aspiring to achieving any real change, without any hope of instituting a new system of governance that would instead take directly into account your views, and the views of your neighbors, and would empower you to make real positive change possible in your communities.

This site will attempt to explore in depth the places in the world where people are successfully bringing about that type of change in the face of similar odds, where an alternate form of democracy, which is called participatory or direct democracy, is taking root. Initiative, referendum & recall, community councils, and grassroots organizing are but a few ways in which direct/participatory democracy is achieving great success around the world.

Our system of representative democracy does not admit the voice of the people into congressional halls, the high courts, or the oval office where our rights and our liberties are being sold out from underneath us. Our local leaders and activists in our communities, and even those local elected officials who may have the best of intentions are for the most part powerless to make real positive change happen in our neighborhoods, towns and villages when there is so much corruption from above.

In places like Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Brazil, South Africa, India, and the Phillipines, new experiments in grass roots community based governance are taking place. There is much to be learned from these and other examples of participatory democracy from around the world when we try to examine how this grass-roots based governance could begin to take root here in our own country in order to alter our political system so that it might better serve the American people.

In the hope that one day we can become a nation working together as a united people practicing true democracy as true equals, we open this forum…


Sunday, September 14, 2008

VENEZUELA: Developments in the Cooperative Movement

Venezuela: Creating an Endogenous Cooperative Culture

Written by April Howard
Thursday, 04 September 2008


Since 1998, the government of President Hugo Chavez has embarked on wide ranging projects to redistribute Venezuelan resources and services. He has promised radical change to the eighty-three percent of Venezuelans who live below the poverty line in a country that is one of the world’s largest exporters of oil.[1] Chavez has redirected oil income from a large and wealthy management to a multiplicity of projects designed to improve social welfare. The scope of these projects range from programs aimed to address health and educational needs to organic gardens, which are designed to change the modus operandi of the Venezuelan economy.

Chavez’s energy policies have also brought him just criticism from environmentalists. Though his administration has banned genetically modified seeds and created an indigenous seed bank,[2] Center on Global Prosperity director Alvaro Vargas Llosa, argues that anti-capitalist environmentalists should oppose Chavez because his "government owns scores of refineries and cashes in big time on the processing of sulfur-heavy crude."[3] Chavez’s oil contracts with Brazil’s Petrobras, and Chevron Texaco caused environmental journalist Hanna Dahlstrom to warn that Chavez' big oil projects could destroy the Amazon."[4]

Writing a Pro-Cooperative Constitution

When Chavez was elected in 1998, it was with a clear popular mandate to follow through on his promise to rewrite the constitution. During his presidency, "active participation" has been a large part of the government’s rhetoric. Article 61 from the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic states: ¨All citizens, women and men, have the right to participate freely in public affairs… the people’s participation in the formation, execution and control of public negotiation, is the necessary means to achieve the leadership that guarantees their complete development, both individual and collective..." Articles 118 and 308 declare that the state must "promote and protect" cooperatives.

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