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…


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

BOLIVIA: Social Organizations Speak-Out in Santa Cruz

The recent referendum in Bolivia reaffirmed the overwhelming support of the Bolivian people for President Evo Morales and his policies aimed at expanding participatory democracy and social justice. The response of the radical separatist movements of the oligarchy was to resort to violence. So far that violence has resulted in the deaths of 30 Bolivians at the hands of foreign mercinaries hired by the separatists and increased diplomatic tensions with the U.S. who are backing the separatists. The resulting crisis in Bolivia is the product of the separatist's rejection of democracy and their embracing violence and repression in an attempt to secure their truly non democractic goals. The following comes from various social organizations in the city of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, where we hear the voices of the people in favor of a constitutional referendum, despite the fact that the general sentiment emanating from this city is in strong opposition to the Morales government. In a time of upheaval and violence, these organizations speak clearly in favor of peace and equal opportunity to land rights. -Editor

Bolivia: Faced with fascist fury the answer is people's wrath in legitimate defence - Statement of the social organisations of the city of Santa Cruz

By Social organisations of the city of Santa Cruz, Bolivia
Tuesday, 16 September 2008

The results at the polls and once again the marvellous resistance of the Plan 3000 [neighbourhood] against the fascist gangs, and the radical nature of the resolutions of the National Committee for Change (Conalcam), show that the right wing and the national bourgeoisie have only been allowed to survive, and represent an obstacle with the support of imperialism. The recall referendum and two years of economic and political sabotage show that the Bolivian landowners and businessmen are just a small minority in society.

We greet with extreme support and as a totally correct step, the Supreme Decree which finally calls for a constitutional referendum. The government is starting to move in a firmer way, under the pressure of its social base, the mobilized workers and peasants, as shown in the statement of President Morales: that from this day onwards the real protagonist of any dialogue is the people.

We will also be called to vote on the question which is the real issue of this struggle: the ownership of the land. To reduce to 5000 or 10,000 hectares the maximum amount of land allowed to one single landowner represents a serious blow to the agro-financial structure of Bolivian capitalism and against the opposition based in the East, with the demand more land to distribute - less power to the oligarchy. The measures of civil disobedience by the opposition and the civic committees in the East represent the defence of the existing structure of land ownership and exploitation. The new Constitution affects very powerful interests, those of the cattle ranchers, the soybean barons and their imperialist masters and partners. This is why their resistance has been violent; they will defend by all means their ownership of the land and of the State.

The recall referendum on August 10th, has been yet another show of strength and militancy of the Bolivian masses. It has shown that the workers and peasants of Bolivia are not prepared to lose what they won through struggle since the Water War; on the contrary, they still have great expectations of change.

The United Nations charter and in the codes and laws of the country, the right of legitimate defence is recognized as a legitimate and legal right, when faced with attacks or abuses against people, institutions or countries. This applies when fundamental rights are violated, and the principle of proportionality should be respected (example: to a smack in the face, a proportional response would be a smack in the face).

What is happening in Bolivia, particularly in Santa Cruz and other departments like Tarija, Beni and Pando, is really an insult, not only against the country, but against the whole world, who witnesses with shock the images of groups of crazed fascists, paid and following the slogans of prefects and civic committees who oppose President Morales, attacking women, the elderly and massacring anybody who is in their way. And even worse, they act with complete impunity, in this land, which according to the fascists is theirs and nobody else's.

The police, as a body in charge of maintaining order and above all of safeguarding the lives of citizens, has been overrun and we still receive beatings and humiliations. For how much longer? We do not know, but when we see all these criminal acts, what we see is an outrage against human dignity, and we are referring not only to the attacks on women wearing traditional shirts (polleras), but attacks against anyone, this is an act against human dignity which we should all be ashamed of as Bolivians.

It is not enough to denounce these facts as if in the wail of the accomplice; this must come to an end, the people cannot take it any more. The people have no other option but to fight back with popular wrath in LEGITIMATE DEFENCE! We repeat it once again, not everything can be solved through votes, because they are not enough to achieve peace.

Therefore we agree to:

Denounce that the business mafia of the Civic and Prefectural Committees, who would rather destroy the Bolivian state before losing their economic privileges, having appropriated for themselves large swathes of land and the natural resources of Bolivia.
We declare our absolute opposition to the fascist Civic-Prefectural actions, with looting and destruction of our public institutions. These actions have been carried out by groups financed by the right wing.

We appeal to the working class, the peasants, the street vendors, neighbourhood juntas and the organized people in general to declare a national mobilization in defence of the unity of Bolivia and of our Bolivian brothers who are suffering aggressions and massacres in the East of Bolivia, on the part of the Civic Committees and the Prefects.

That the Bolivian people should come out in the streets against the danger of a coup, that has been prepared by the national and multinational companies together with military officers who are traitors to the country, and want to sell off our companies and natural resources again, so that the Bolivian state becomes indebted again.

That the Social Organisations of Bolivia must be the direct protagonists, by any means and resources necessary, in the solution to the problems of the country (the process of change should not be solved through clashes between small groups).
September 13, 2008, signed by

Santa Cruz Departmental Workers Union
Association of Neighbourhood Juntas of the city of Santa Cruz.
Associations of Small Traders of the City of Santa Cruz Market.
Associations of Small Traders of the Ramada Market, City of Santa Cruz.
Associations of Small Traders of the Mutualista Market, City of Santa Cruz.
Associations of Small Traders of the Plan 3000 Market, City of Santa Cruz Market.
Organisation Marcelo Quiroga Santa Cruz.
Organisation Andrés Ibáñez (the Egalitarians).
Organisation Cañoto.
Peoples’ Civic Committee of the Department of Santa Cruz
Organisation Ignacio Warnes.
Organisation Avanzada Che Guevara.
Organisation Antonio José de Sucre
Peoples’ Youth Union of the Department of Santa Cruz
Social University Movement of the U.A.G.R.M.
Social Workers of the Department of Santa Cruz.

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