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, March 30, 2008

Participatory Democracy Tends to Replace Representative Democracy

The following interview with Jean-Louis Laville and Roger Sue gives an optomistic view of the growing participation in community organizations. They accurately point out that there is not an established social state in some "developing" countries and that participation in diverse organizations is starting to fill this void. Meanwhile in France, the type of organizations in which people participate is changing faces due to new pressures and the co-optation by hierarchical state structure of some old organizations. They note that all around the world, people are creating organizations in the form of networks that distinguish themselves from former social movements. The full interview and additional information below it on the webpage positively reflect on the prospects for participatory democracy in the future. -Editor

Participatory democracy is tending to replace representative democracy, while new forms of citizen action are appearing through a rapidly increasing number of organizations. An interview of Jean-Louis Laville, a sociologist at CNRS-CRIDA1.

Label France: What does the recent rapid growth in the number of organizations reveal, in France in particular?

Jean-Louis Laville: The act of associating, which in France hinges on solidarity, is intrinsically linked to modern democracy. Indeed, when one adopts the principle that we live in a society of free and equal citizens the problem of living together is posed, since the social system is no longer guaranteed by reference to a transcendent authority. This structure, in fact, encompasses two concepts of liberty: the right to do what does not harm others and the power to
commit oneself, to associate with others. This is to do with occupying the public arena that constitutes modern democracy, in other words, that capacity to devise together a form of social bond, freely entered into.

For a little while now, three phenomena have been contributing to the greater visibility of the voluntary organization sector. The first concerns the structural change of productive activities: jobs linked to education, health, services based on face-to-face provider-user contact, the areas in which voluntary organizations are active, are increasing.

The second is linked to the restructuring of the Welfare State: many activities were organized with finance and regulations emanating from the Social State. Lastly, the crisis of the traditional institutions of socialization such as the family, the Church, political parties or trade unions, has encouraged community networks to flourish, which are no longer inherited but chosen.
At the same time, it is also the forms of public commitment that are changing...

We are witnessing both a crisis and a resurgence of voluntary service. Some political parties and trade unions, institutionalized organizations, are seeing a disaffection of their membership while other structures are expanding rapidly. Once we had forms of militancy, to which one subscribed for the duration - people committed themselves to a cause for twenty or thirty years - they made sacrifices - they were prepared to neglect some aspects of their lives - and very much based on delegation. Now, people want to play a more active role, and obtain rapid results. They have less confidence in representative democracy and are more involved in participatory democracy.

Isn’t this commitment less idealistic, directed more towards the individual?

Interest and disinterest mingle in the stories of individuals and communities. An unemployed man who gets involved in an organization for the jobless, what is it that makes him decide to act? The desire to improve his situation or the feeling of belonging to a group ignored in public life? Probably both. Ditto for the Aids militants. Certainly, commitment is often linked to a personal experience, but, at the same time, this drive to form a genuine movement to win recognition of a decent status for the sick cannot be explained solely by personal interest.

It is true that there is a paradox between this aspiration of citizens to become involved and the rise of individualism. Historically, individualism has been associated with emancipation. But alongside its advance, it was rooted in society, tried and tested from participating in the great institutions. Now, with their function disrupted, they no longer constitute such poles of reference, and this can lead to an individualism experienced as a withdrawal into the private sphere, a lack of care for others, and become an obstacle to democracy. Moreover, for me, the future of the relationship between the individual and democracy is in part contained in the coming changes in a number of everyday services.

For example?

With women’s involvement in working life, the care of children and help to old people at home are no longer provided by the traditional family. Organizing these services thus becomes a problem for society. Now two models can be envisaged; that of private companies, which will define standardized interventions and will adapt to the user perceived as a consumer, with the risks of selection by money to which this leads: and one based on a community spirit, which will try to instigate a dialogue with users, perceived as citizens, and attempt to involve them.

Behind these changes, there are really two models of society being sketched out. Depending on the option chosen to regulate these relationships between the generations, forms of collective action will be supported, people seeing that it is possible to be committed to simple actions which make for a very structured community life; or negative individualism will be consolidated.

Is the voluntary organization movement a new form of social movement?

A social movement is a form of integrated collective action, highly delegated, which aims to bring about changes generated by relationships based on force. Contemporary forms of voluntary group action seem to make our way of understanding it inadequate. When an association of the unemployed is formed, political groups systematically try to wield power in it. The old ways of working, referring to a sacrificial militancy, thus represent themselves as being the only social movements and deny all legitimacy to more recent forms of organizing.

Another example: the mobilisation of the NGOs at the World Trade Organization (WTO) summit in Seattle (United States) in December 19992. This is not the construction of a social movement as it used to be seen: there is no single movement, which, through the mechanisms of representative democracy, constitutes a homogeneous force standing up against the great powers. It is organized much more as a network - and on an international scale - than as a pyramid, with, moreover, the help of the new technologies. If this is indeed collective action proving its ability to affect decisions, can one nonetheless talk about a social movement?

Are we not witnessing the emergence of new forms of citizen action, of the involvement of civil society?

Today, economies can no longer be regulated solely at national government level. Thus there are attempts to democratize the economy through a variety of citizen actions. These phenomena assume that it is possible to have an interdependent, human economy. At the supranational level, this is expressed through co-ordinated campaigns like those in Seattle which plead for world trade to be regulated by equitable commerce, respecting social and environmental rules.

At the infranational level, this takes the form of actions whose object is to generate local development, not focused on the market economy but oriented towards economies useful to the people living in a particular country. In both cases, the difficulty is managing to reconcile in action the ability to ask critical questions and the construction of a society. The fact that the networks concerned are seeking to act together underlines the link between these forms of action.

Can we conclude, after Seattle, that a world-wide civil society has been formed, a planetary democracy?

It is obvious that we no longer live in triumphant liberalism and that a counter-power with the capacity to intervene has appeared. On the one hand, there are nonetheless difficulties in reaching a definition of common objectives for networks that have come out of the same rejection. On the other, in all regions of the world, community life is making progress and, in developing countries, this advance is part of the process of constructing a social State, which does not yet exist. In any case, we must stop seeing civil society as being in opposition to the State. They are complementary, and it is exactly this that is being reformulated in various countries. The actions of organizations in civil society must be thought of in relation to those of social rights and thus of public intervention3.

To keep reading click HERE

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Participatory Budgeting in Ethekwini, South Africa

The following article discusses one of several participatory budgeting initiatives underway in several countries of southern Africa. -Editor


This article was prepared by Mr. Owen Naidoo, Financial Officer, Ethikweni Municipality, South Africa



Ethikweni Municipality is located in Durban, South Africa. Participatory Budgeting in Ethikweni Municipality is guided by the Mayor and is facilitated by three departments namely: Treasury; Corporate Policy and Community Participation; and Action Support. The Treasury department is responsible for the compilation, co-ordination and driving of the budget process whilst the Corporate Policy and Community Participation and Action Support departments co-ordinate the participation process with the community and various stakeholders through Regional Public Hearings and Ward Meetings and Integrated Development Plan (IDP) workshops.

The driving force behind the participatory budgeting initiative: Citizens participation in the budgetary process is encouraged by the South African Government and is strongly supported by the legislation which acknowledges that community input is essential in compiling the budget. Thus the budget is believed to be the ‘people’s budget’. South Africa has a democratically elected government and there is freedom of speech as embodied the national Constitution. The Participatory Budgeting process has also been made possible by the political history of South Africa. The imbalance in service delivery needs to be redressed to ensure that the previously disadvantaged communities get an equitable distribution of resources and service delivery.

The participatory budgeting process in Ethikweni Municipality is targeted at all users of information including, the Community, Commerce and Industry. The demographic focus is women, youth, disabled, indigent and previously disadvantaged individuals.

Participatory Budgeting Tools and Methodologies:

  • Public and Regional Budget hearings: These are held centrally after the draft budget has been tabled to council. Cluster presentations are done by each cluster head during the hearings;
  • Integrated Development Plan Workshops and Ward Meetings: These are held on an ongoing basis and are meant to obtain the views of the citizens.
  • The Print and Electronic Media: The budgets are publicized through newspapers, the radio and the council’s website. The draft budget is placed on the council website 90 days prior to the approval of the budgets for comment.
  • The Budget is monitored through in-year, monthly, quarterly and annual reporting as required by the legislation. Monitoring is done against service delivery and the Budget Implementation Plan which quantifies measurable targets.
  • Inclusiveness: Budgets are presented and questions area asked by the community and responses by Councillors and Officials are recorded. Budgets are amended to include necessary adjustments as required. Concerns pertaining to Provincial / National issues are recorded and communicated to the relevant authorities. The decentralized presentations ensure a participative budgeting process. Presentations are reasonably attended. Community Mobilisers are deployed in various wards to facilitate participation and assist citizens especially in the previously disadvantaged areas. Translators are used to ensure that communication is multi-lingual (diverse society).

Results and Impact of the PB Process:

  • Communities are aware of the budgets and resource availability and relate these to service delivery.
  • Community feedback enables informed decisions to be made in the budget.
  • Helps eliminate the feeling of suspicion, marginalization and exclusion from the budgeting process.
  • Creates reliable, transparent and accountable budgeting


Like any other municipality with limited resources and unlimited community needs and wants, Ethikweni is faced by financial constraints in implementing the Participatory Budgeting process.. To counter this problem, a prioritization process takes place to ensure that basic needs are addressed in all communities. Another shortcoming relates to political agendas of parties which create bottlenecks during the budget approval process.

By. Mr. Owen Naidoo, Financial Officer, Ethikweni Municipal Council

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Spain: Participatory Budgeting in Cordoba

Participatory Budget: A Wager for the Future of Cordoba


Are there any prospects for greater transparency and accountability in local government and the political system in general? How is it possible to inform the public in a more balanced manner on issues of their concern and enhance public participation in politics (especially the participation of marginalized inhabitants)? Participatory budgeting is a timely project that directly faces those decisive challenges. Since 1989, when it was firstly implemented in the city of Porto Alegre, it has spread rapidly: until today, similar experiments have been realized in almost 1000 cities throughout the word and 80 in Europe. The following text comes from Cordova, the first European city to adopt participatory budgeting.

The text is written by the delegation on citizens’ participation - Municipality of Cordoba

In 2001, the municipality of Cordova decided to implement the program of participatory budgets in order to open up the democratic horizons of the city. We chose this political process as to encourage the gradual participation of social movements in the development of the city and to promote the ideas of co-management and co-responsibility.

Participatory budgeting, like any other political process, is constituted within the context of a historical itinerary: the city of Cordova has been a pioneer in writing and establishing the first Regulation of Citizens’ Participation in Spain. Later, in 1986, this Regulation was enlarged to include the functioning of Local and Sectional Councils, the creation of a Committee of Citizens’ Movements, which became a primary municipal partner, it represented local neighborhoods, and it has enabled the participation of members of the latter in municipal organizations. This process has been enriched through the founding in 1991 of a Local Network of Citizens’ Centers that have contributed to the enlargement of social and cultural networks in the city.

What do participatory budgets offer?

Participatory budgeting was born out of a double conjuncture: the demand of the citizens of Cordova and the political will of the collective leadership of the Municipality. Since the beginning of their implementation, participatory budgets were a tool for citizens’ intervention in public decision-making, in particular with regards to expenditure and economic funds during the planning of the municipal budget.

For the Cordovan local authorities, though, participatory budgeting has become a tool that guarantees greater transparency in the management and control of public economic funds, while it also contributes to the creation of new forms of citizen responsibility through the dissemination of information on public issues and the democratization of political decisions.

Participatory budgeting brings citizens closer to the local government, by placing politics in the public sphere. The debate on participatory budgets is a debate about politics in the broader sense of the word; it is a debate about the democratization of the city; it is a debate about the open socialization of the tools of decision-making. Participatory budgeting also poses pressing questions on the most effective ways in which citizens’ participation can be strengthened, and on the capabilities of the local sphere to transform existing social, political and economic relations.

Prospects and challenges

The process of drafting local budgets takes place in an environment characterized by limited funds and constant conflicts of interest. In other words, there are significant difficulties involved in the implementation of participatory budgeting: it provokes resistances and insecurity and it has to overcome serious limitations and impediments. Therefore, while it is useful to learn from the successes of this project, it is much more important to consider the difficulties that we encountered during the course of this initiative:

  1. From a political perspective, participatory budgeting requires the intermingling of the mechanisms of representative and direct democracy. The central local authorities grant power to the citizens without relinquishing though their political responsibility for implementing the political program on the basis of which they were elected.

  2. From a technical perspective, municipal planning is determined by the decisions and priorities of the citizens themselves. Since local authorities lose the privilege of centralized planning, they are pressed to explore discovering different courses of action.

  3. From an administrative perspective, implementing participatory budgeting presents a challenge for the development of new administrative practices. In particular, it becomes necessary to ensure intensive co-ordination amongst the various administrative sectors and to place more emphasis on the relationship between citizens and local organizations.

  4. From the perspective of social participation, participatory budgeting requires the establishment of a system of equal representation. It is crucial, therefore, to confront clientelistic practices that might characterize local communities. In addition, local authorities should guarantee that decisions are debated and taken through a collective dialogic process. For Cordoba, the participation of neighborhood associations and other collective organizations is thus strategically invaluable for the success of this initiative.

It seems like a paradox: whereas the implementation of participatory budgeting signifies a concession of political power on the part of local authorities, it presupposes simultaneously a strong central political will for its realization.

Participatory budgeting is an innovative tool that has enabled Cordoba to become a sustainable and open city. Our goal is to promote new practices through which citizens can experience direct democracy. Cities and provinces cannot improve as long as they do not offer citizens, men and women, direct mechanisms of political intervention in the decisions that affect their lives. It is necessary for our urban-local politics (social, economic, urban planning, environmental, cultural etc.) to be decided upon and implemented through the largest possible participation of the population. Without doubt, this is the longest and most difficult path one has to tread, but ultimately the worse kinds of politics are those that exclude the participation of the people who are affected by them.

Further links:

Cordoba- delegation on citizens’ participation
Participatory budgeting - resources

Saturday, March 22, 2008

UK: The 'Transition Towns' Movement

Photo: Transition Town Public Meeting
The following article discusses the transition town movement in the UK which uses the participatory model to address the pressing evironmental and energy issues that will shape the future of towns and communities and affect their viability and habitability in the near future. By seeking citizen participation in major decision making on such important issues and the design of measures that will be taken to address them, people are not only able to have their voices heard, they are also instilled with a heightened sense of responsibilty for their communities, and a greater level of political participation on all issues. - Editor

Voices of Descent

Addressing climate change can seem a colossal task. Melanie Jarman reports on the emerging ‘transition town’ movement, which is encouraging citizens’ participation in long-term planning to change energy use at a local level.

Under the catchy title of Transition Town Totnes, the south Devon town is the first in the UK to explore what it means to undergo the transition to a carbon-constrained, energy-lean world at a local level. By consciously planning and designing for changes on the horizon, rather than reacting to resource shortages as they are thrust upon them, the participants hope that their town will become more resilient, more abundant and more pleasurable than the present.

The seeds of the transition town idea lie in the small Irish town of Kinsale, where in 2005 a group of students at the local further education college developed a process for residents to draw up an ‘energy descent action plan’ - a tool to design a positive timetabled way through the huge changes that will occur as world oil production peaks. The action plan covers a number of areas of life in Kinsale, including food, energy, tourism, education and health.

For example, for food, the plan envisions that by 2021 the town will have made the transition from dependency to self-reliance, where ‘all landscaping in the town comprises of edible plants, fruit trees line the streets, all parks and greens have become food forests and community gardens’. As a practical step towards this, the plan recommends the immediate appointment of a local food officer.

For housing, the plan envisions that by 2021 ‘all new buildings in Kinsale will include such things as a high level of energy efficiency together with a high portion of local sustainable materials’. A suggested immediate practical step towards this is a review of current building practices and future development plans.

The energy descent action plan approach landed in the UK when a Kinsale college tutor, Rob Hopkins, moved to Totnes and held a number of talks and film screenings to introduce the idea. In September 2006 Transition Town Totnes was launched, seeking ‘to engage all sectors of the community in addressing this, the great transition of our time’ and seeking to put ‘Totnes on the international map as a community that engaged its creativity and collective genius with this timely and pressing issue’. The initiative has spread beyond Totnes just one year on; towns and villages around the UK have started developing a transition town approach for themselves.

One reason why the initiative has caught people’s imaginations is that, at its core, is a hopeful message. Many ‘transitioners’ are motivated to change energy use patterns not just because of energy shortages in the future but because of self-imposed energy rationing now - because cutting fossil fuel use is essential if climate change is to be lessened.

The transition movement shakes off the usual gloom and limitation around this message by calling for positive and pro-active changes. These are based in how the world actually is, rather than how we would like it to be if only someone, somewhere, would come up with that miraculous solution that will allow us to expand infinitely and indefinitely, all within a finite world. Rather than a vision of deferred promise and baseless hope it offers community-wide participation to find realistic and workable answers.

Whether the transition town approach can work at a citywide level, or whether its call for reduced consumption will have a wider impact on, for example, international trading systems and their inherently heavy use of fossil fuels, remains to be seen. In Totnes, at least, the creation of new businesses and land use initiatives suggests that the transitioners are in it for the long haul.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Venezuela: Chavez Urges Increased People Power

The following article discusses a recent call by Hugo Chavez on his Televised Alo Presidente program for a broader and swifter transfer of power to the people in Venezuela. These renewed efforts are at the core of the 'Bolivarian Revolution' in Venezuela, the expansion of the model of 'socialism for the 21st century', and the expansion of popular power through the creation of communal councils and other grassroots power structures. The new additional drive for the creation of socialist communes discussed in this article represents another cornerstone in the movement that will help ensure the strength and permanence of the grassroots power base. - Editor

Chavez Calls For Strengthening of “People’s Power” in Venezuela

March 17th 2008, by Chris Carlson -

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez during his talk show on Sunday (ABN) March 17, 2008 (— Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called on the country to strengthen so-called "people’s power" on his Sunday talk show Aló Presidente yesterday. The president focused on government efforts to promote popular participation in community organizations, and announced a new program for the formation of "socialist communes" around the country.

"We are dedicating today’s show to people’s power," said Chavez upon opening the show. "This year, 2008, is the year to strengthen people’s power."

Broadcasting from a poor community in the western state of Lara, President Chavez announced that his government will focus on the consolidation of organized communities in 2008. He urged communities around the country to get organized and form "socialist" enterprises to help build a socialist economy.

President Chavez toured the small community and spoke with community leaders about the projects being carried out there, including the construction of housing and a medical clinic. Upon speaking to workers at a community brick factory, Chavez insisted that more of this type of community-owned factory be established in order to put the means of production into the hands of the people.

"We have to aim at the base of the economy, from the bottom up," he said. "We have to multiply this, and put the means of production into the hands of the people."

With this goal in mind, Chavez announced the creation of "Mission April 13th," a new government program for the formation of "socialist communes." The so-called communes, a fundamental part of last December’s failed constitutional reform, are organized communities that collectively manage and operate productive enterprises.

The new program, to be launched in April, will focus on the formation of several model socialist communes around the country to later be reproduced in other communities. Chavez insisted that in this way a socialist model would be progressively implanted in the country.

"The idea is that once a commune is set up, it should later be multiplied so that the model of communes keeps growing. This is the way to the formation of socialism," he said.

Starting this week, nearly two thousand community projects will be granted nearly BsF. (strong bolivars, as the new currency is known) 400 million (US$ 186 million), to carry out activities in their communities, a government minister reported. Most of the community projects involve repairing and building new infrastructure, water systems, irrigation systems, and the formation of new communal economic enterprises.

Chavez insisted that all the money granted to the communities be carefully followed and directed toward the formation of a socialist economy.

"Every penny, every credit that we give out has to go towards the construction of a socialist model. But we have to plan it, and it should be accompanied with socialist ideology," he said.

The president also insisted that the newly formed political party, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), would play a fundamental role in the strengthening of "people’s power." Chavez explained that the candidates for the city and state elections at the end of 2008 must come from the bottom up, and not be designated from the top down. He called on all PSUV party members to help strengthen the power of the communities.

"Anyone who wants to be a candidate has to publicly commit to the government program for promoting people’s power, community participation, and the transfer of power to the people," he said.

Chavez called on the recently elected PSUV party leadership to organize a method for all the PSUV candidates in the 2008 elections to be democratically selected by the party rank-and-file. Elections will be held across the country at the end of this year for state governors and city mayors.

The Venezuelan president also commented briefly on the recent threat from Washington to include Venezuela on a list of state-sponsors of terrorism. Chavez emphasized that the strengthening of "people’s power" and the consolidation of a socialist model is the best way to respond to the attack.

"Now they are trying to include Venezuela in a list of terrorist countries, and they want to try me in the International Criminal Court," he said.

"We should respond by strengthening the Bolivarian Revolution, by strengthening people’s power, and by strengthening the unity among us."

Chavez insisted that the real terrorist is US President George W. Bush and accused Washington of trying to create conflict and divisions between the countries of Latin America.

"There are only two paths here. Theirs is the path of war, and ours is the path of peace," he said.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

UK: Participatory Budgeting in Salford - A Flawed Example

The following article describes the ups and downs of the participatory budgeting initiative in Salford, U.K. The author questions whether the people are truly having their say and being heard, or whether community voices have are being drowned out by the power structure within this somewhat token and incomplete participatory model. This case demonstrates the need for such initiatives to be firmly rooted at the grassroots level in order for them to be successful. - Editor

Power to Which People?

The government is promising ’devolution right to the doorstep’ as a means of reinvigorating local democracy. A pilot participatory budget making project, whereby people can ’have a direct say’ in how their taxes are spent, has been running in Salford. Stephen Kingston questions its democratic credentials

Nearly 170 years ago, more than a quarter of a million people marched to Kersal Moor, in Salford, demanding democracy. One of the biggest of the many demonstrations organised by the Chartist movement in the mid-19th century, this huge rally was the Live Aid of its day, with more than 30 bands playing. But instead of Bob Geldof demanding ‘Give us yer fuckin’ money’, there was Feargus O’Connor demanding ‘Give us the fuckin’ vote’.

After much campaigning and demonstrating, five of the six points of the People’s Charter, adopted on Kersal Moor that day, were eventually won. As well as the right to vote itself, these were: secret ballots, equal electoral districts, no property qualification to stand as an MP and payment for MPs. The exception to this successful record was the demand for annual parliaments, which was seen by the Chartists as crucial to stop the corruption of MPs...To read the full article click HERE

Presupuestos Participativos en Portugal

Los Presupuestos Participativos se Extienden por Portugal

La población lisboeta participa en la primera sesión del Presupuesto Participativo del municipio.

Os temas relacionados com a degradação do edificado, a falta de estacionamento, os problemas de mobilidade urbana e as carências de jardins-de-infância e escolas do ensino básico foram os mais referidos, durante a primeira sessão do Orçamento Participativo de Lisboa.



Monday, March 17, 2008

Direct Democracy vs Parliamentary Democracy: The Spanish Revolution

The following article discusses direct democracy from an anarchist's viewpoint in the historical context of the Spanish Civil War and the direct democracy and collectivism instituted in republican controlled areas of Spain. The successes of this movement in Spain in the 1930's is pointed to as an example of a successful model of direct democracy that unfortunately was robbed of the opportunity to continue and flourish by the fascist forces of Franco. - Editor

Parliament or Democracy?


Throughout history there has been an alternative idea of democracy - this is the idea of direct democracy. It surfaced during the Paris Commune (in 1871), it surfaced in Russia during the early part of the revolution there, and it was put into large-scale practice in Spain between 1936-37. It is the method often used by workers in a strike; it is the method that often arises 'spontaneously' when people confront the State or the bosses. Direct democracy is the democracy that anarchists advocate.

Direct democracy is different to parliamentary democracy in a number of important ways:

1.Direct democracy is about 'originating' ideas as much as it is about 'approving' them. In parliamentary democracy, people are never asked for their own ideas - they are only asked to 'approve' or 'disapprove' of ideas already prepared for them. Direct democracy is radically different in that way. Direct democracy is based on the realistic notion that 'people know best how to look after their own situation'. We don't need specialists to tell us how to run our places of work or our communities. Anarchists argue that we are quite capable of doing this ourselves. All we need are the resources and the right to do this. Direct democracy is the method.

2.Direct democracy is based on delegation not representation. The crucial difference between delegation and representation is that delegates are only elected to implement specific decisions. Delegates do not have the right (like TDs or MPs) to change a decision previously made by an assembly of people. Delegates (unlike representatives) can be immediately recalled and dismissed from their mandate if they don't carry out the specific function allotted to them.

3.Direct democracy is as much about the workplace as it is about the community. In parliamentary democracy, the workplace is 'immune' to democracy (save what rights workers have won through their unions). In direct democracy, the operation of a factory or a plant or an office will be via a general assembly of all workers. This body will decide on conditions of work, will elect re-callable managers, and will organise how work is done. It will also elect people (as delegates) who will co-ordinate with the other places of work and with the broader community. Regional organisation will be managed through a federation of workplaces using a delegate structure.

Could such a form of democracy work and what would it be like? As mentioned earlier, Spain provides one of the best examples of how far we can go in organising a new type of society. The collectives that were built by the workers of Spain between 1936-37 were highly democratic. But they also showed the massive potential that we have if freed from the constraints of capitalism. It seems obvious (though it is impossible under capitalism) that we should all have a say over the work we do, how we do it, when and in what way. When we do have these rights, the quality and nature of our work changes enormously - and this is one of the things that was achieved in Spain.

Democracy and work should always go together - and it is one of the singular failures of parliamentary democracy that this has never occurred - nor is it ever likely to occur because of the threat it poses to capitalism and the rule of the boss... To read the full article click HERE

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Canada: New Direct Democracy Party Emerges in Nova Scotia

The following is a press release from a new political party being launched in Atlantic Canada that favors direct democracy and citizen participation. To learn more about the party, visit their website:

- Editor


The Atlantica Party announces the start of its campaign to achieve official provincial party status in Nova Scotia.

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia, March 12, 2008 - The Atlantica Party today has started its campaign to achieve official provincial party status in Nova Scotia. Central to the campaign is a series of public meetings where citizens can learn about and ask questions of the Atlantica Party. Along with this the Atlantica Party is officially accepting party memberships for the first time.

The meeting schedule is available online at

"This is the start of the mass movement for change in Atlantic Canada," said Jonathan Dean, leader of the party. "It is critical that we meet with and be questioned by citizens all over the province in order to build our credibility and to explain our policies of electoral reform, political reform and a debate on Atlantic Union. Nova Scotia is just the start, we will be initiating similar campaigns in the other three Atlantic Provinces in the future."

The Atlantica Party will advance a debate on Atlantic Union. The Atlantica Party will also reform the provincial political system by re-establishing the independence of the Legislature. This sharing of powers between the citizen's representatives in the Legislature and the Executive will encourage freer debate, better decision making, and establish stricter public oversight of government operations. The Atlantica Party will also institute several direct democracy tools for use by citizens, including Citizen's Initiative and Recall.

The Atlantica Party will introduce British Proportional Representation (also called STV) for provincial elections and ban election contributions from all sources in favor of equal election financing for each candidate. Citizens shall also be able to vote directly for a Premier. These reforms are needed to ensure fairer elections, allow more political voices to be heard, encourage citizens to become engaged in elections, and present voters with more electoral choice.

The Atlantica Party is committed to Atlantic Rights and increasing the voice of the region within Confederation in order to reverse the neglect of this region by the Federal Government.

What is the Atlantica Party?

The Party is a provincial party in each of the four provinces of Atlantic Canada. We represent Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador. The Party is a reforming party that is from outside the system and has no stake in the current status quo.

Who are we?

We are a small group of private citizens with big ideas concerned with the future of Atlantic Canada.

Who are we affiliated with?

The Atlantica Party is completely independent, made up of unaffiliated private citizens. We are not affiliated with nor receive funding from any corporations, special interest groups, other political parties, or any level of government. And never will.

Briefly what is you policy package?
  • Free The Legislature.
  • Allow Citizen's Initiative.
  • Allow Recall.
  • Use British Proportional Representation (STV) for elections.
  • Equal Campaign Funding.
  • Direct Election of the Premier.
  • A debate on uniting Atlantic Canada into a single province within Canada.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Citizen Empowerment in Indian Politics

The following article from the Washington Post uses surprisingly strong language to describe the trends toward participatory democracy taking root in new Delhi, India. "Citizen revolution" and "people power" are direct quotes that demonstrate the depth of commitment people feel for the reformed system which allows their participation. Bhagidari, the Hindu word for partnership, is a popular New Delhi City government initiative that empowers constituents to demand answers from officials they view as corrupt. The article gives more detail, click the following headline.

Indian Cities Eye New Delhi's Quiet 'Citizen Revolution'

Promoting Bhagidari is not a brand-new thing. Even back in 2000 Sheila Dixit was hard at work getting it started. This next article comes straight from New Delhi. Click on the headline:

Bhagidari a Voluntary Movement, Says CM

Promoting cooperation between the government and the people has been a great step in the right direction, but Bhagidari could be undone by the government that follows in the next elections. This threat should be confronted by the citizens who are participating through demands for candidates who will uphold the policy and continue to foster citizen participation. One example of citizen participation in demanding government reform comes from the Indian struggle to maintain the Right to Information movement. The following interview with one leader describes the process of struggle and unity:

RTI: An Enormous Power With the People

- Editor

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

New Zealand: Police Let Public Write Laws

Last fall, New Zealand opened up the task of writing a new police act legislation to the public through the use of a Wiki site. The following BBC article describes the process. You can also visit the Wiki site by clicking HERE. The site gives a summary of the results of the process, which is now complete, and encourages future input. This initiative is but one of many that illustrates how the internet is a viable means and a valuable tool for implementing participatory and direct democratic processes worldwide. - Editor

NZ Police Let Public Write Laws

"Self-policing" should correct any corrupting entriesNew Zealanders have been given the chance to write their own laws, with a new online tool launched by police.

The "wiki" will allow the public to suggest the wording of a new police act, as part of a government review of the current law, written in 1958.

Police say they hope to gain a range of views from the public on the new law before presenting it to parliament.

The wiki, one of the first of its kind in the world, is open to any internet user, police say.

'Wiki sandbox'

The wiki is the latest round of public consultation in the 18-month review of the 50-year-old law.
Launching a wiki version of a statute is a novel move, but one we hope will yield a range of views from people interested in having a direct say on the shape of a new Policing Act

The officer in charge of the review, Supt Hamish McCardle, described the site as "similar to a whiteboard" and said it was open to anyone who wanted to have their say on the new law.

It even includes a "wiki sandbox" that lets nervous newcomers practise their posting.
The final document will be given to a parliamentary committee in 2008 to be considered with other information gathered during the review period.

"Launching a wiki version of a statute is a novel move, but one we hope will yield a range of views from people interested in having a direct say on the shape of a new Policing Act," Supt McCardle said.

Aaron Smith - from the US-based Pew Internet Project, which studies the evolution of internet uses - told the BBC News website that the wiki was a new frontier in online government.

"You see a lot of government sites worldwide allowing for various feedback mechanisms... but in terms of bringing this to the public in the form of writing laws, that's obviously a different thing entirely and something that we certainly haven't seen yet," Mr Smith said.

He said any possible corrupting of the process should be reduced by the "self-policing" nature of wikis.

"It would certainly be difficult for people to put in bogus information... without people recognising that fact and the community of users correcting that before the finished product is completed," he said.

A "wiki" - from the Hawaiian word for "quick" - is a type of website that can be easily edited by anyone. The most well-known wiki is the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia.

Visit the Wiki site:

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Organizing for Mexican Food and Energy Sovereignty

Cooperation of various unions and workers' organizations is a key way to create a united front against the unjust policies of NAFTA and the elitist Mexican government. Increasing collaboration augments the number of people that can work together in demanding food and energy sovereignty in Mexico and around the world. This is an issue that divides the ruling class and the government from the workers and peasants who are directly effected by the policy decisions made without voter consent. In order to demand a voice in the deliberation over NAFTA's renewal a united front of workers and peasants should demonstrate sentiments where we can - on the street and on campuses.

Seattle University students showed their solidarity for the Mexican struggle by demonstrating against a speaking presentation by Trade Commissioner of Mexico in Western Canada and the US Pacific Northwest, Sergio Rios. Protesting that the Trade Commissioner presented only the business interests of NAFTA, students handed out informational pamphlets describing the detrimental effects that NAFTA has on Mexican workers and farmers, distributed corn husks with personal stories of economic downfall caused by NAFTA, and dropped banners with powerful slogans. This direct action and the continual demonstrations within Mexico illustrate the popular demand for a change in trade agreements that have caused injustice and poverty for the working class. The participation of people in fighting this issue is gaining momentum as NAFTA will soon be up for renewal and cannot slow if we are to succeed in altering the agreement in favor of workers and farmers.

See the article below for specifics on the participation of Mexican unions, indigenous groups, and farmers coalitions in demonstrations for food and energy sovereignty. - Editor

Mexican Orgs Defend Sovereignty

Mexico, Feb 26 (Prensa Latina) Over 40 Mexican rural and trade organizations inked a pact to defend national food and energy sovereignty Tuesday prior to a meeting with the government.

The document includes revising the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), rejecting the privatization of the oil industry and repudiating neo-liberal policy.

Also on the list is opposing reforms to penal justice, and public and labor safety currently in debate at the National Congress.
The National Workers' Union, the Mexican Union Front, the Permanent Agrarian Congress, the National Congress for Rural and Fishing Organizations, and rural entities attending the January 31 rally against the NAFTA signed the pact.

Other statements include the defense of social property and agreements on rights and indigenous culture.

Signers expect to defend political interests, the rights of workers and farmers, class unity and boost a public convergence process in a national pact to favor majorities.

Cruz Lopez Aguilar, leader of the National Rural Confederation, said that the meeting with the government will review again the NAFTA and the national agricultural policy.

Max Correa, from the Cardenista Rural Union, and Rafael Galindo, from the Independent Rural Union, stated that the march and April protests were not cancelled and continue to be prepared.

UK: Update on Petition Process

The following article submitted by Consultation Watch in the UK gives an update on 10 Downing's e-petitions initiative and related moves underway to institute a similar system at the local level. For more information on this subject see our previous related post. CLICK HERE. - Editor

Direct Democracy or Petition Sham?

As part of the Governance of Britain green paper, the Department for Communities and Local Government is now consulting on Local petitions and Calls for Action.

Since November 2006 members of the public have been able to start or sign
online petitions at the 10 Downing Street website, which can run for up to 12 months and receive a Government response if signed by 200 or more people.

Governance of Britain green paper committed the Government to considering means of petitioning Parliament and devising a mechanism which could lead to a debate in the House of Commons – but strangely this is not included within this consultation, with no explanation of why not or whether it will be in the future. To find out you may want to email Hazel Blears (Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government)

Instead, another issue, not even mentioned in the green paper is being consulted upon: petitions to local government.

consultation document proposes that local authorities would have a duty to respond to petitions in much the same way as the 10 Downing Street system, if they relate to an issue in local government jurisdiction; are organised by a local person; and have a sufficient level of support.

However, as the consultation document admits, "many local authorities already deal with petitions systematically, scrupulously and fairly" – so it is not clear what difference this proposal would make – except for the minority of councils who perhaps do not respond formally to petitions (no examples are cited in the consultation document).

However, the document does mention examples of countries where petitions are a "trigger leading to electoral action, typically in the form of a referendum". One such example of this is
Switzerland whereby any change to Swiss law can be subjected to a referendum if 50,000 people sign a petition opposing it within 100 days. Additionally, a referendum on a constitutional change can be initiated by 100,000 people signing a petition within 18 months.Campaigning organisations such as charities, trade unions and other NGOs may therefore wish to reply to this consultation suggesting the Swiss model.The deadline for responses is 20th March 2008.

posted by Andrew

What is Consultation Watch?

At any one time there are often over 100 active Government consultations, ranging across Government departments and covering all aspects of our daily lives. To improve Government proposals for legislation at the earliest stage we all need to contribute to the policy-making process. Getting involved during the consultation period is an important part of this.

Consultation Watch aims to:
  • Raise public awareness of Government consultations;
  • Encourage people to respond to consultations; and
  • Share the expertise and insight of charities, trade unions and non-profit organisations.
We will do this by:
  • Providing links to active consultations on Government department websites;
  • Featuring prominent consultations and highlighting their most important aspects; and
  • Publishing consultation responses from charities, trade unions and non-profit organisations.

To learn more about Consultation Watch visit their website:

Also see this related link for more information on Downing Street's e-Petitions one year on from it's inception:

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Participatory Democracy Spreads in Italy: The Case of Grottammare

Experiments in direct and participatory democracy in local governance have been proliferating across Italy for some time. The following article highlights the case of Grottamarre on the Adriatic coast. For more information see our previous post related to the institution of direct democracy in Tuscany, Italy in an effort coordinated with Poitou Charentes, France, and Catalonia, Spain (CLICK HERE). Also visit the Italy section of our links resource page (CLICK HERE)

Local Democracy Italian Style

Hilary Wainwright savours the political and cultural dolce vita in the Adriatic town of Grottammare.

Casilda, an elderly but agile woman, accosts the former mayor in the medieval centre of the seaside Italian town of Grottammare. She shouts passionately after Massimo Rossi, a radical leftist elected for his full two terms with one of the biggest popular mandates in Italy. But she doesn’t want to complain about her house or her drains. She wants to make him stop and look at what has happened to the sculpture near her house.

Made three years ago by the Bolognese sculptor Marco Pellizzola, the sculpture is a cage, an elongated version of the bell-shaped devices used in medieval times to carry around pet falcons. The cage is empty. At night it is lit up. Clustered on top of it there used to be eight or so birds, which were seemingly free but uncertain where to go. "They face new choices," said Pellizzola by way of explanation of the ambiguities of the piece’s title - "Prospettiva di Volo" ("the prospect of flight"). The artist chose commonplace birds - pigeons, blackbirds, swallows, and though the sculpture was first exhibited in Grottammare’s medieval main square, he subsequently moved it to a more ordinary part of the old town. The birds became easy prey to passing youth. Now there is only one sad and solitary blackbird left. Casilda wants something done. In Grottammare, an attractive town on Italy’s Adriatic coast, the municipal government is checked and part-controlled by local committees elected by open neighbourhood assemblies. The future of the town’s culture is a vital matter of everyday life.

And culture is broadly interpreted in Grottammare. It ranges from the ruins of the castle built to stave off the Saracens and the network of grottoes installed to reinforce those defences in the Middle Ages (the grottoes are now used to keep bottles of the local wines cool), to the town’s restored art nouveau-style villas and its Orange Theatre, whose last performance was in 1908 when the wooden boards of the stage were ripped up and used to make coffins during an epidemic of Spanish flu. It also includes the beach, which is now set off with a broad, palm-lined promenade with a sky-blue cycle track bordered by a trail of pink oleanders. The seafront is as impressive as Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana, but instead of swanky hotels surrounded by extreme poverty there are enticing "chalets" selling local culinary specialities like fat olives stuffed with fish and lightly fried in breadcrumbs.

Historically, when people in Europe and North America demanded the rights to democratic government in the 18th and 19th centuries, the ideologues of the then ruling aristocracies evoked fear of the mob and the threats popular rule posed to culture. In Grottammare over the past 10 years an extension of citizens" rights has been culture’s protector.

In the late 1980s local construction interests teamed up with bigger companies from Milan to turn Grottammare into an upmarket Rimini: there"d be a mega marina with the biggest yacht park on the coast - a tourist playground of big hotels with a cable car running to the medieval town. Rossi and his mates, radical teachers, doctors, journalists and community workers deeply committed to their town, got wind of this. They were well known because of their involvement with a housing rights centre and the independent local radio station Radio Creativa. Two or three of them had already been elected to the council. They mounted a successful campaign against the development plans.

"We knew people didn’t want this kind of tourism. We argued for a tranquil tourism that was about nature, culture and human relationships - not consumerism," says Rossi, who is a notably innovative member of Rifondazione Comunista, the party that developed out of the Italian Communist Party in the 1980s and which is now heavily involved in the European Social Forum and local social forums across Italy. This group of radical socialists touched a nerve. The people of Grottammare refer to Rimini as if it were a haunting nightmare, and Rossi and company had a reputation for getting things done. In 1994 the Christian Democrats, whose clientelism had dominated the town since the 1960s, were ousted and the Participation and Solidarity (PS) coalition of untried, but also uncorrupted men and women, started work to recreate their town.

The coalition’s first task was to develop a new urban plan for a town that was becoming cluttered with concrete and which was losing its magnetism for tranquillity-seeking Romans and Milanese. (Since PS took office, the number of tourists visiting Grottammare has more than doubled from 254,000 to more than 500,000 a year.) The new government combined a professional efficiency - surveying the threats to the environment, taking sewage treatment back into municipal ownership - with participatory democracy - calling open assemblies in every neighbourhood. "We told [the people] we don’t know what to do any more than you," says Luigi Merli, Rossi’s successor as mayor and an independent-minded socialist who runs a large vegetable market garden.

Out of these neighbourhood assemblies came committees that reported back to recalled assemblies twice a year. "Our job is to put together ideas to discuss with the council, and to check that they carry out their work," says Morena, the president of the Ischia neighbourhood committee. She took me on a tour of the projects that her committee have worked on with the council, proudly describing the integration of tourism with the life of the town: here, a piazza designed by local children where before there was just a church and a car park; there, a space where dog owners could let their pets run free without offending the neighbours; and over there, "the 1 May park" where previously the land was abbandone. In the evening the local youth, wearing T-shirts announcing "summer party Ischia quarter", put on a party on the beach. "We make the town better for us, and it’s better for tourists," Morena explains.

And it’s true: tourists and citizens both benefit from Grottammare’s very un-corporate style of regulation. Work has now begun on converting the previously disused 18th century convent in the old town into 15 or so council houses. The luxurious garden of the villa-turned-town hall now hosts regular festivals, the best touring operettas from Rome, and events to celebrate the culture of the growing number of immigrants living in the town. And while I was staying in the town, I didn’t feel like an outsider at all. The mayor even gave me the keys to the town hall so I could access my email.
Sometimes the enthusiasm to recuperate the past has meant a certain airbrushing of history, however. The guidebooks wax lyrical in praise of the town’s most famous son - Felice Peretti, otherwise known as Pope Sixtus V. By all accounts, Peretti was indeed a pioneering urban planner (he would have blessed the radical socialists whose style of government is now transforming his home town), but he also ran such an authoritarian regime that the pallbearers at his funeral are said to have tipped his body into the Tiber.

Now Grottammare is providing a beacon to other municipalities searching for strategies to resist the privatisation favoured by Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. The conditions in the town make it a natural political laboratory. With a population of 15,000, it is cohesive but not parochial. A network of small and medium-sized industries and local traditions of design and invention have enabled the regional economy to weather Berlusconi’s low-tax-induced recession relatively unharmed. And, surrounded by towns of cultural interest, like Macerata with its open-air opera, Grottammare is an ideal base for creative tourism.

But there are problems, too. As PS has fulfilled its commitments, popular participation in Grottammare’s system of local government has dropped. There is talk of decentralising budgets to the neighbourhood committees to reinvigorate the process. The people of Grottammare have gained their freedom. Like the birds on top of Pellazzola’s cage (and now restored to their perch), they are ready to fly. But, with all the relaxed humour of an Italian seaside town, they are pondering where to go.

Thanks to Angela Logue, Vittorio Longhi and Derek Clarke for help with translation
and more.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Participatory Budgeting in Matam, Senegal

The following abstract and summary of a presentation by Mayor Adoulaya Drame of Matam, Senegal provides another example of the many participatory budgeting initiatives underway in Africa. - Editor


Abstract from a Presentation made by Mayor of Matam, Hon. Abdoulaya Drame during a PB Conference held in Malaga Spain from 28 March – 1 April 2007.


Matam is a small town in Senegal with 20,000 inhabitants. Before 2002, the city didn’t know its budget – no one tracked it. The PB process in Matam involves a constant exchange between the city and neighborhood committees. The city asks committees to prioritize projects and decide their costs, then the committees and city employees develop the budget together through many meetings (co-management). The city council even includes one spot for a councilor from the town’s international diaspora, who mobilizes resources from the diaspora that are used for the PB.

Presentation by Abdoulaye Drame, Mayor of Matam Senegal


Following a brief introduction about the City of Matam, the Mayor went on the describe the motivation for introducing participatory budgeting. He pointed out that previously, local governments draw up their budget in a small circle and most of the time, the information was not shared with the populations. The few who were consulted for data-gathering were not present during the budgetary orientation meetings or during the budget vote meeting. He pointed out that beside the local population, even sometimes local elected officials had no information about the financial capacities of their municipality, or about the use of these financial resources. Furthermore, the results of theprevious budget were not looked into. There was an enormous deficit of communication between the elected officials and the inhabitants about the use of public resources. Such failures turned out to be obstacles to realising good local governance – efficiency, participation, transparency and equity.

It was against this background that during the budgetary orientation meeting (2005), the local elected officials deplored this situation and decided to try out the participatory budgeting. It was the determination of the councillors to get the community to:

  • Determine the assignment of whole or part of the available public resources and
  • Participate in subsequent decisions related to expenditure assignment

The local authority asked ENDA ECOPOP to monitor the process of participatory budgeting and to provide capacity building for both council officials and the community. Among the activities was a four-day workshop organised in Matam to elaborate on the investment opportunities as part of the budget with all the different actors – local elected officials, local technicians, state technicians, women, youngsters, traders, carriers, old aged people, delegates, handicapped people and other stakeholders.

A second workshop with all the actors was organised to analyse the best follow-up strategies of the activities which were started through participatory budgeting. The idea was to reflect on the obstacles to local financial resources mobilization and also the collection strategies. The working groups were created during the workshop which constitute an interface between the council and the populations.

The Mayor highlighted some capacity building challenges. He stressed that citizens have a crucial role to play in the financial resources mobilization of their community. However, whilst they are fullfledged actors in the budgetary process, they do not know what they must do and how they must do it.

Mayor Drame outlined the lessons learned as follows:

  • The mayor plays a key role in encouraging citizens to participate in the budgetary process.

  • A budget committee must be set up to follow up on the process

  • The participatory budget is voted for and priorities are discussed in public

  • The priorities should be in line with programmes of the state

Among the Impacts and lessons learnt are the following:

  • People now appreciate that there is transparency in the budgetary process

  • Financial and technical assistance from ENDA was very useful

  • The mayor plays a key role in implementing participatory budgeting

In his final remarks, Mayor Drame said “PB is a reality that reconciles peoples’ dreams with the resource realities they are in”. He went on to say that participatory budgeting is an instrument of democratization in public management and has two fundamental principles namely; participation and transparency.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Venezuela: Frente Popular Revolucionario del Sur

Esta convocatoria es de una nueva agrupación de organizacines sociales que se formó en Enero de este año en ciertos parroquias del sur del capital de Venezuela, Caracas. Representa un nuevo esfuerzo que busca unir todas las organizaciones 'grass roots' del pais para “conquistar en esas calles lo que no logramos en el referéndum,” o sea, lograr por acción directa y participativa en solidaridad con el presidente Chávez lo que el referendum del 2 de Diciembre no pudo lograr. La meta de este proyecto es mejorar la coordinación entre los grupos sociales para avancar el proceso bolivariano, continuar el fortalecimiento del poder popular, acelerar la formación de las estructuras de la democracia participativa, y eliminar los elementos coruptos y burocráticos dentro del movimiento que estan poniendo en peligro el proceso. - Editor

Frente Popular Revolucionario del Sur Solicita Apoyo para Realización de Asamblea Popular este Fin de Semana en Caracas

Fecha de publicación: 16/01/08

El Frente Popular Revolucionario del Sur, agrupa a diversas organizaciones sociales de base en Caracas.

Credito: Frente Popular Revolucionario del Sur

Caracas, 16 de enero de 2008 ( El Frente Popular Revolucionario del Sur, integrado por organizaciones y activistas de los sectores El Valle, Baruta, 23 de Enero, Coche, La Vega y San Agustín de la capital del país, está convocando a todos los militantes y organizaciones sociales y políticas de Caracas comprometidas con la revolución Bolivariana a una gran Asamblea Popular este sábado 19 y domingo 20 de enero a partir de las 9:00AM en la Universidad Simón Rodríguez de El Valle.

La asamblea busca la articulación de las organizaciones populares de la capital, hasta ahora fragmentadas, para la construcción inmediata de un plan de lucha y un programa revolucionario de acción permanente que sean realmente participativo.

Igualmente, esta asamblea a nivel de la capital, busca ser un primer paso hacia una gran asamblea nacional de movimientos populares.

El Frente, a través de una nota enviada a esta redacción, hace un especial llamado a los militantes del PSUV "que sabemos están dando la batalla por acabar con las roscas internas del partido y avanzar en su depuración de burócratas, corruptos y capitalistas infiltrados, que son los principales responsables de la derrota del 2D. Queremos combatir hombro a hombro contigo en esa batalla y que nos acompañes en la lucha y articulación de los movimientos sociales."

El Frente ha hecho un conjunto de propuestas con el fin de abrir el debate. "No pretendemos imponerlas, lo que queremos es que los demás traigan las suyas para construir todo este espacio de articulación y lucha permanente."

Fortalecer la formación política e ideológica de las bases populares.
Fortalecer y hacer aportes bien estructurados a las políticas del camarada Presidente.
La creación de las Comunas, para garantizar nuestras luchas territoriales.
La creación del Parlamento Nacional de Legislación popular para promover nuestras leyes.
La creación de un Consejo Popular de Gobierno para articúlanos con el camarada Presidente.
La creación de tribunales Populares para procesar denuncias de corrupción entre otras.
La creación de milicias Populares como forma de autodefensa territorial.
Continuar en la lucha interna por la construcción del PSUV.
El Frente pide que los que piensan participar envíen sus propuestas a los correos electrónicos: y, para ir sistematizando toda la información.

Igualmente, el Frente puede ser contactado a los teléfonos 0416-705-3149 , 0414-847-7915, 0412-601-7771 o 0416-012-0824.

En vista de que los organizadores no cuentan con la logística necesaria para que nuestra asamblea sea un éxito total, solicitan ayuda para en la obtención de:

4 Toldos grandes
500 Sillas plásticas.
50 Mesas con mánteles
1000 botellas de agua potable o botellones con vasos
10 Kilos de café.
100 Colchonetas.
Para más detalles sobre la asamblea consulte

Venezuela: Update on Participatory Democracy and the Bolivarian Revolution

The following two articles provide an update on the current challenges facing the Bolivarian Revolution and its attempts to cement and institutionalize socialism and participatory democracy in Venezuela. In the wake of the defeat of the constitutional reform package on Dec 2nd, 2007, which would have deepened the transfer of power to the grassroots, Chavistas (Chavez supporters) have been engaged in a deep examination of their identity and of the challenges before them. Those in the opposition have seized upon the opportunity to continue their destabilization efforts, including hoarding and exporting foodstuffs in the midst of food shortages brought on by declining poverty rates and the resulting increased demand for basic commodities. Meanwhile, there are divisions within the Bolivarian movement, with those in the grassroots intensifying their efforts to advance participatory democracy from the bottom up, and those elements in the Chavez government who are corrupt bureaucrats slowing the transition and the transfer of power from the top down. This complex situation is but the latest chapter in what has been a relentless struggle to see this bold Venezuelan experiment in participatory democracy become entrenched and permanent. The first article examines the new dynamic within the grassroots of the Bolivarian revolution, and the second provides an broad overview of the current situation. - Editor

Grass-roots Chávismo Awakes

February 12th 2008, by Reinaldo Iturriza López


I’ve been reading John Reed’s wonderful book, Ten Days That Shook The World, about the Russian revolution. Writing in July 1917, Reed refers to the Bolsheviks as being still only ‘a small political sect’. I couldn’t but smile when I read the footnote the book’s publishers had added to this description: ‘Reed uses the word “sect” wanting to underscore that immediately after the March 1917 Democratic-Bourgeois Revolution, the Bolshevik Party, which had just come out of hiding, was still relatively small.’

Despite this clarification, the truth is that the Bolsheviks were just that: a sect, a small group of revolutionaries, who through the strength of their audacity and tenacity would change the history of humanity. The important issue lies in that they would have to do it sooner rather than later: only three months later, in October. How was this possible? This is where Reed’s book’s historic value comes to the fore. This may serve as a taster: ‘In July they were harassed and spurned; in September the workers in the capital, the marines of the Baltic Fleet and the soldiers had in their majority embraced their cause.’

Today, despite the best attempts of many throughout the decades, no one can convince us that the Bolsheviks were predestined to lead the Russian revolution. It is clear that in revolutions, vanguards, leaders and movements play a role. But so does uncertainty, chance and surprise. In fact, leaders are tested precisely at these times when indecision and perplexity reign. That’s why it is said that revolutionary countries always ‘sense’ the moment to act and how.

Nothing is written Those of us who are activists in the Bolivarian revolution have been wasting our time if at this stage we are not able to understand that nothing is written. We were getting used to winning; and as we were always faced with the task of beating the adversary, we postponed the struggle within the movement, as if Chávismo were one and indivisible, headed by an infallible leader.

The constitutional reform referendum defeat on 2 December, which I’ll now refer to as ‘2D’, has taken our side by surprise. We could obviously evaluate and determine what the main causes of this defeat were. But the result, without a doubt, has surprised us all: Chávismo was always sure of victory, even when it thought it would be tight.

The challenge we now therefore have within the Bolivarian camp, within the government, that Chávez himself has, but most importantly that we have within democratic, revolutionary, grassroots Chávismo, is to know how to deal with this surprise. That is precisely what the political moment that opened up following 2D consists of.

Of course revolutionary leadership does not depend exclusively on the capacity to act with audacity and aptitude in the face of chance and surprise. On the contrary, it depends on the ability to become the advocate and defender of demands from the grassroots.

John Reed himself recounts that the efficacy of the policy that the Bolsheviks implemented in the weeks preceding the October revolution lay in the way that ‘they took the simple and vague desires of the workers, soldiers and peasants, and with this built their immediate programme’ – all power to the soviets, peace on all fronts, land for the peasants, worker control in industry.

The people’s reform On 3 December 2006, following the annmouncement of his comprehensive victory in the presidential elections, Chávez addressed those gathered at the Miraflores presidential palace: ‘Today is a starting point, today … a new era begins … [It] will have as its central aim … as its central strategic line, the deepening, the widening and the expansion of the Bolivarian revolution, of revolutionary democracy, in the Venezuelan path to socialism.’

A few minutes earlier he had said: ‘You have re-elected yourselves; the people are in control. I will always lead obeying the Venezuelan people.’ Chávez also made a call to increase the battle ‘against the bureaucratic counter-revolution and against corruption, old vices which have always threatened the republic.’ We were all convinced we had achieved a new and resounding ‘people’s’ victory.

On 17 January 2007, as he swore in the members of the presidential commission for constitutional reform, Chávez reminded people that, as stipulated in the Bolivian constitution, three entities are allowed to propose a constitutional reform: the president, the national assembly and the people. Chávez said he had opted for the first convinced that he was ‘interpreting and collecting the feeling of the majorities’.

Seven months later, on 15 August 2007, in his speech presenting the constitutional reform proposal to the national assembly, Chávez expressed himself in very similar terms: ‘The reform belongs to the people, it doesn’t belong to Chávez. I am sure that our people will embrace it; everything I am going to say is said with the Venezuelan people and their most sacred interests in mind, and thinking of our revolution and its strengthening.’

If anything has been made clear by 2D it is that what could effectively have been ‘the reform of the people’ was in reality Chávez’s reform. It is true that during his speech on 15 August Chávez reiterated the need to initiate the ‘great debate on the Bolivarian reform’. It is equally true that the national assembly was far from being the catalysing space for this debate. The PSUV [United Socialist Party of Venezuela] wasn’t either. The PSUV’s ‘battalion assemblies’ were conceived as instruments to disseminate and defend the reform proposal, but at no point as a space where the reform could be criticised, corrected or supplemented.

Nevertheless, the key to the 2D defeat lies in the fact that a basic rule of revolutionary politics was missing: ‘It is the people who rule.’ That same people, who in Chávez’s words, were re-elected in December 2006; the same people he swore he would obey while leading. These people were not called on to participate in the creation of the reform proposal. This is why a considerable sector of Chávismo never made Chávez’s proposal their own. And this is why another important sector opted only to critically support the proposal.

Grass-roots Chávismo There has been much debate, both before and after 2D, about the reform’s content. Some of us pointed out that one of the problematic aspects of Chávez’s proposal was the concentration of powers in the figure of the president. Indeed, the idea of the infallible leader is one that has been promoted by the right wing of Chávismo, a right wing that could eventually opt to get rid of Chávez himself once its main objective – to isolate democratic and revolutionary grass-roots Chávismo – has been achieved. At the same time, though, many of us opted to support a proposal that had enough in its content to turn it into a programme for grass-roots struggles.

Nevertheless, this debate should not distract us from the most important point: if the reform proposal had been the product of grass-roots participation and protagonism, there is no doubt that the content would have been different, much closer to the demands and desires of revolutionary grass-roots Chávismo. Had this occurred, the result of 2D would undoubtedly have been favourable for those of us who struggle for the democratic radicalisation of the Bolivarian process.

Today there is talk of relaunching the reform proposal, not from the presidency but from the grassroots or the national assembly. And the convening of a constituent national assembly has not been discounted. Given the national assembly’s lack of legitimacy and popular support, there would, in principle, seem to be two alternatives: reform by grass-roots initiative or via a constituent process.

Whichever route is followed, it is clear that if we repeat the same exclusionary logic that bypassed the grassroots last time, any future proposal could suffer similar resistance. If we insist on promoting the same reform proposal through a flawed ‘grass-roots initiative’, we could be making a tactical error of incalculable proportions.

But these tactical considerations are merely the tip of the iceberg.

Underneath is a giant that lay dormant under the troubled waters of 2D: grass-roots Chávismo, the only guarantee of the revolutionary deepening of the Bolivarian process. 2D found us dispersed, such as we had not been in many years. But from the very morning of 3 December the multitude that makes up grass-roots Chávismo has been the protagonist of an effervescent process of deliberation that the most conservative sectors of Chávismo will find very hard to silence. The sleeping giant has awoken and before it lies the opportunity to become more than just a ‘small political sect’. John Reed dixit.

Red Pepper

The next article provides a more comprehensive and detailed outlook on the current challenges facing the Bolivarian Revolution and the instituitionalization of popular power and participatory democracy... - Editor

Venezuela: Danger Signs for the Revolution


February 24th 2008, by Kiraz Janicke - & Federico Fuentes - Green Left Weekly

In recent weeks, external and internal pressure against Venezuela's Bolivarian revolution, has intensified dramatically. It is clear that US imperialism and the US-backed Venezuelan opposition see the defeat of Chavez's proposed constitutional reforms on December 2 as a green light to push forward their plans to destabilize the government. In addition, growing internal problems, with a strengthening of the right-wing of the Chavista movement - known as the "endogenous right", who support implementing some reforms without breaking with capitalism - pose a serious threat to the survival of the revolution. Chavez's proposed constitutional reforms were aimed at institutionalising greater popular power and increasing restrictions on capitalists to the benefit of working people. In response, the capitalist-owned private media, spearheaded by virulently anti-government private television channel Globovision, launched a campaign based on lies and disinformation aimed at confusing the Venezuelan people. ...To read full article click