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…


Monday, September 8, 2008

CHINA: University Experiments with Direct Democracy

Chinese uni scopes out democracy

Andrew Trounson September 03, 2008

IT is a far cry from the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy movement led by ill-fated university students, but it seems some Chinese universities are moving to introduce more direct democracy in their student unions.

Beijing's Tsinghua University is aiming to have its student union president directly elected by the student body by 2011, the year of its centenary. It would be only the second Chinese university to do so.

Accordingly, a group of Tsinghua student union officials were this week visiting Melbourne University's student union to learn about running elections.

Currently elections at Tsinghua are more indirect, with classes voting for class representatives who then vote for the student presidents of each of the 28 faculties. These presidents then vote for the overall student president.

But while Tsinghua university students appear keen to experiment with wider democracy on campus, they have no ambitions to change the national political system that is dominated by the politburo of the Communist Party.

``The system now is working fine and the people are happy with the system and all we want is stable and prosperous development,'' 21-year-old Tsinghua law student and student union vice-president Cao Feng told the HES.

Unfortunately the delegation will miss out on actually observing Melbourne's student union elections next week as they will be heading back to China.

In the wake of an end to compulsory student unionism here, student union members at Melbourne now amount to around 4700 out of a student body of 38,000. The organisation is in the process of transforming itself by necessity from being primarily a service provider to more of a political organisation.

Tsingua University

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