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, August 28, 2008

MEXICO: Civil Society Requires Means to Participate

The following article is important to our analysis of participatory democracy because it discusses the very problems caused by politicians who claim to be promoting "democracy". As you read, be aware of the differences between the electoral democracy discussed here and the direct or participatory democracy we demand. -Editor

Democracy and Civil Society in Mexico

1- Presentation

Democracy and Civil Society in Mexico is the issue that I will, here, develop. It is necessary to point out that these terms have been recently inserted in Mexican politics. During decades, these concepts were practically inactive, in the best of the cases, relegated to second or third level in national politics. Throughout the revolution regime the privileged ideology sustained, an authoritarian Estate instead of democracy. This ideology was based in three main principles: the presidential institution, the official party and the power elite named the revolutionary family. Instead of civil society, what existed was a resistant corporative structure that linked social sectors organized in confederations (labors, peasants and popular) with the Estate by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (respectively the CTM, CNC and CNOP). This kind of structure is similar at extended webs of local organizations in the first floor that are related whit other webs of states organizations in the second floor and, finally, centralized at the top level in the main leaders of the corporations and the Presidency of the PRI.

These structures gave the country political stability and social peace for several decades. But the ways of the old system suffered a process of decay because Mexican politics and civil society opened up to pluralism and democracy. The development of the country produced a notorious differentiation of spheres. Politics, Society, and Economy have become more heterogeneous and more complex. Now a day no one has the possibility to exert hegemonic dominion upon the social body of the country.

It is important to mention that the struggle against authoritarianism took form of electoral vindication. The country has a large tradition of electoral frauds and it was necessary to take out the control of the government over the elections. New political factions entered into the public scene legally recognized for carrying a more equitable and transparent competition for power.
Nevertheless, along with the process of democratization emerged a consistent process of un-governance and the significant increment of social conflict. The old authoritarian order stayed back, however Mexico has not been able to consolidate a new democratic order. The political elite is deeply divided. The conflict originated from the elections of July 2nd makes this is evident, the economic growth doesn’t succeed in including the labor force and Mexican society suffers an abysmal inequality among the rich sectors and the poor mass.

In this essay I’ll try to interpret and explain the paradox of the modern Mexico and I’ll propose a possible way for solution.

To continue reading this article, click here.

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