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, May 15, 2008

Philippines: Cooperativism Promotes Participatory Democracy

Cooperativism in the Philippines promotes participatory democracy, but is impeded by the capitalist environment in which it is attempting to flourish. - Editor

Fortress of Genuine Coops


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

By Ben Sumog-oy
Issues and Views

THE City Government, under the auspices of City Mayor Pedro B. Acharon Jr., is hosting a national cooperative summit by October, this year. About 5,000 participants from every nook and cranny of the country are expected to attend this gigantic gathering of cooperative leaders.

As it appears, preparatory work pieces are now falling on their right places at the right time. In fact, on April 2, 2008, the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) among stakeholders for this national undertaking was already undertaken at KCC Mall in General Santos City.

Indeed, this nationwide summit deserves our all-out support. For its part, this corner would contribute to the success of this summit by heightening public discourses on cooperativism, in its bid to crystallize cooperative-related issues. There has been no serious attempt in the past to subject the cooperative movement to judicious social assessment and this is probably the reason for its continuing bastardization.

Thus, as we all wait for the summit this coming October, we find it fit to engage in the continuing distillation of cooperative issues, hoping that we can help build strong fortress for the growth of genuine cooperatives.

So, let us begin this task by, first, clarifying the cooperative's theoretical framework.

Cooperatives, by nature, serve to counter-pose the prevailing capitalist system, regarded as the cause for the continuing destitution and disempowerment of the larger section of society. Their primary purpose is to effect society's immediate humanization and, finally, to facilitate its eventual transformation.

Towards this end, the paramount concern of cooperatives is to help usher the country's transition from its present liberal capitalist state to social democracy and to lead the nation during the precarious period of social reconstruction.

Thus, cooperatives are not regarded merely as business ventures, with a socialized system of ownership and democratic decision-making, but they are largely social movements with indispensable transformative agenda. And they should be so; lest, they give imprimatur to their own destitution and, in the end, write their own obituary.

Cooperatives wither away under a capitalist environment, like we have in this country. Cooperativism is a social concept that finds its nurturance under the system of social democracy, which is mainly characterized by mixed economy but with social ownership of the means of production as the dominant principle defining property relations.

Cooperativism, therefore, is an ideology that propagates participatory democracy as a system for political decision-making; stewardship as a system of property ownership; and collectivism as an operative culture. Thus, we cannot advocate cooperativism while, at the same time, defend, or being complacent against, capitalism as an economic system.

Cooperativism and capitalism, like oil and water, do not mix.

Social democracy is a fertile ground on which cooperatives take their roots, grow and mature. It is also on this ground where they take a leading role in the shaping of the nation's future.

Under social democracy, the role of corporate capital in the overall economy is sidelined and it is forced to conform to the stringent ethics of a humanist system, which considers social justice as an overarching goal.

As previously posited, cooperatives cannot subsist under a social system whereby the ownership of private property is lodged on the state which is controlled by monolithic political party.

In the Philippine setting, cooperatives are considered by extremist revolutionary forces as reformist projects that delay the success of the revolution.

Viewed at different perspective, under the present neo-liberal global order, cooperatives are destined to be bulldozed by tsunami-like fury of corporate capital.

Therefore, unless the cooperatives contribute to the overall struggle for system change, they cannot honesty justify their touted claim that they are working for "social justice and genuine development."
Let us summarize. Cooperatives travel along the center of the political spectrum; they are neither left nor right. They are but a happy combine of humanely efficacious elements from both the left and right. Therefore, they are neither capitalists nor communists.

Cooperatives, therefore, operate outside the realms of capitalism and communist-inspired socialism because they both share a common undesirable character, which the cooperative movement considers as an aberration -- crass materialism.

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