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…


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.

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