By Laura Flanders for Grit TV – Can budgets and even the federal reserve be brought under public control? One radical tool for grassroots democracy that is taking hold is Participatory Budgeting. Josh Lerner is co-founder and executive director of the Participatory Budgeting Project and is the author of two books, both released last year: Making Democracy Fun: How Game Design Can Empower Citizens and Transform Politics, and Everyone Counts: Could Participatory Budgeting Change Democracy? Also on the show: what is the Federal Reserve, and what role could it have? Connie Razza works with the Center for Popular Democracy and their “Fed Up” campaign, working to make the federal reserve work for the 99%.
A game you could play with this article would be to substitute the word “air” every time you read “water.” Commodification of water seems silly enough in the abstract. Now in the throes of artificial scarcity, U.S. cities, counties and states are running out of water even as they turn control over managing water supplies to private corporations. At the beginning of February, as chronicled by Victoria Collier, New Jersey authorized the fast-track sale and leasing of water utilities to private corporations “without public notice, comment, or approval.” As I write this, more communities in New Jersey are “studying water privatization, while the city council of Columbia, South Carolina is resisting business interests’ pressure to privatize water there as well.
This devolution of the economic system has been accompanied by corporations’ seizure of nearly all forms of political and social power. The corporate elite, through a puppet political class and compliant intellectuals, pundits and press, still employs the language of a capitalist democracy. But what has arisen is a new kind of control, inverted totalitarianism, which Wolin brilliantly dissects in his book “Democracy Incorporated.” Inverted totalitarianism does not replicate past totalitarian structures, such as fascism and communism. It is therefore harder to immediately identify and understand. There is no blustering demagogue. There is no triumphant revolutionary party. There are no ideologically drenched and emotional mass political rallies. The old symbols, the old iconography and the old language of democracy are held up as virtuous.
A tiny minority of persons (directors and major shareholders) makes all the key economic decisions in capitalist enterprises. The mass of workers who must live with those decisions and their effects are excluded from making them. Capitalist enterprise organization is thus the opposite and enemy of the democratic enterprise organization that socialism affirms. In socialism redefined along these lines, all the workers in an enterprise collectively and democratically make all the key economic decisions: what, how, and where to produce and what to do with the enterprise’s surplus or profits. Such a socialism would advocate social ownership, planning, and the democratization of enterprises, i.e. their transition from capitalist to workers’ self-directed enterprises (WSDEs).
On remote Deer Isle, Maine, the movement for a more just and democratic economy won a major victory this summer. More than 60 employees of three retail businesses – Burnt Cove Market, V&S Variety and Pharmacy, and The Galley – banded together to buy the stores and create the largest worker cooperative in Maine and the second largest in New England. Now the workers own and run the businesses together under one banner, known as the Island Employee Cooperative (IEC). This is the first time that multiple businesses of this size and scope have been merged and converted into one worker cooperative – making this a particularly groundbreaking achievement in advancing economic democracy.
Under the banner of a campaign called “Our Power,” participants hail from dozens of organizations representing indigenous peoples, people of color, and working-class white communities that collaborate through the Climate Justice Alliance. Three days of conversations and strategizing will conclude Saturdaywith a day of action to highlight local alternatives to fossil fuel dependence. This is the first national gathering of Our Power and, according to organizers, builds from an intense season of mobilization, including a gathering of youth and young adults that took place in Detroit in June, as well as ongoing preparation for the the Peoples Climate March and Summit, to take place in September in New York. Those convened in Richmond are ultimately shooting for a big goal: connecting local, national, and international struggles of the marginalized and dispossessed to chart a “just transition” to a new economy.
The world is in crisis. The economic recovery never happened for the large majority of people in the United States. Conflicts in Israel and Gaza and the Ukraine along with huge stand off’s by major global powers heralds a possible World War 3. Not in decades has the need for a People’s Movement for justice, equality, human rights and democracy been more painfully obvious. And the US Social Forum is gearing up in multiple regions of the country to help catalyze the movement that must be built. To connect and give national voice to these diverse emerging struggles, the US Social Forum announces the US Social Forum 3 in June 2015 as a polycentric social forum. It will be held in Philadelphia, PA, Jackson, MS, and San Jose, CA.
“We recognize that we must confront the plundering by transnational companies and the harassment of bad governments through their political parties that offer programs and money that corrupt many leaders and divide our communities,” states the declaration of the National Indigenous Congress (CNI) of the Isthmus region, which took place in March 2014. While a furious battle has been unleashed for the recognition of indigenous rights and culture in other communities in Mexico and Latin America, in Oaxaca, new legislation is being debated on this very theme while large-scale projects continue to advance.
This is not the time for expedience or for working within the confines of what is perceived as politically possible. This rulemaking is about the future of the most important communication tool in history. The Internet already has tremendous economic, social, cultural and political impact and will have an even greater impact in all of those areas in the future. Popular Resistance urges the FCC to reclassify the Internet Under Title II as a Common Carrier so real net neutrality rules can be put in place and we can be assured that the Internet will remain an Open Internet with equal access for all and no discrimination. Only in this way can the full potential of the Internet be realized.
Because economic power translates into political power, the extreme concentration of wealth in the top 1% undermines democracy. Both main parties have colluded over the last four decades to transfer wealth to their super-rich donors, while ensuring that no meaningful reforms take place to our electoral system. The U.S. leads the industrial nations in income inequality because our electoral system is the least democratic. The sacred texts of Jews, Christians, and Muslims all call for a Jubilee every 50 years to redistribute wealth and forgive debts, not just for moral reasons, but to make the economy function again. America needs a Jubilee. The US electoral system of winner-takes-all leads to the domination by two parties, one center-right and the other far-right. The Democrats want to repeal the New Deal and the Republicans want to repeal the Enlightenment.