Richard Moore

From: "Janet McFarland" <•••@••.•••>
To: <•••@••.•••>
Subject: New Democracy
Date: Mon, 5 May 2003 10:38:08 -0700

Hi rkm and all,  here is another article from the new
democracy organization.  What do you think?


People, Get Ready

A New Democracy Editorial
(May-August 2002)

Two million workers converged on Rome this April in the
largest demonstration in Italian history. They were
demonstrating against government plans to weaken job
protections. A week later nearly 13 million Italian
workers staged a one-day general strike. In Argentina
workers and the middle class have brought down five
presidents since December, 2001; workers have seized
over a dozen factories there which they are now
operating. In March China was shaken by its largest
labor protests since the Communists took power in 1949.
In Venezuela a US-backed coup by business and military
leaders was defeated in 36 hours by a popular uprising.
In Washington, DC on April 20 more than 75,000
demonstrated against the Israeli invasion of the
Occupied Territories of Palestine and against the war
on terrorism. In Germany in May, 2.3 million auto
workers began a series of one-day "rolling" strikes.
Two hundred thousand took to the streets of Madrid on
May 19 against "War and Capitalism," chanting, "Another
World is Possible."

Millions of people around the world are again finding
their voices, asserting their values, taking to the
streets, challenging elite power, imagining a new
world, mobilizing for class war. Capitalism no longer
offers any real hope of a better future. No one
believes anymore that "the market" will make us free or
that the rich gorging themselves on the fruits of the
earth will somehow lead to a better life for us all.
All the system can offer is what our leaders have
promised: the terror of war and the "war on terror."

Forces are assembling around the world for conflicts
that will define the fate of the planet for decades,
perhaps centuries to come. A new era has begun, an era
of mass mobilization, war, and revolution. Are we


Merely a glance at the mobilizations mentioned above
suggests some of the weaknesses of the movement, as
well as its strengths.

The struggle of the Italian unions, for example, is
purely defensive, and the general strike seems to have
been intended by union officials as a show of strength
and a sop to the members rather than as a serious
exertion of working class power designed to strengthen
class forces for further struggle; according to press
reports, even as they called the strike, labor leaders
were already trying to negotiate a compromise with the
government by balancing layoffs with a state-run
unemployment benefits system. The one-day "rolling"
strikes called by German union officials are a means of
letting off steam and dividing the workforce by having
one auto plant strike at a time. The Venezuelan
uprising succeeded in restoring Hugo Chavez to power,
but Chavez is a kind of South American caudillo with
authoritarian ways who hasn't delivered on his promises
to the poor and isn't mobilizing and arming the working
classes to defeat elite power; in fact, after the
failed coup Chavez called for reconciliation of the
classes in Venezuela and acceded to many of the
business elite's demands for more power. The April 20
demonstration in Washington, while a significant
mobilization, was also defensive. It raised a number of
different issues, all of them related, but not tied
together in a coherent analysis or in an encompassing
vision of fundamental change. While many of its
participants surely had a new society in mind, the
march did not challenge the legitimacy of the system
that produced the problems it was trying to solve, and
it did not call for a new society.


The demonstrations of the Chinese oil workers of Daqin
illustrate the poignant irony of the historical moment
in which we find ourselves. They are fighting a
Communist government's capitalist privatization

Capitalism and Communism, the two great systems of the
twentieth century, locked in mortal combat for 75
years, turn out to have been two sides of the same
coin, two different management strategies for
controlling people, two different approaches to
exploiting workers and raping the environment, two
studies in anti-democracy.

The aggressive "free-market" capitalism which the world
has been experiencing these last 30 years was
undertaken by the world elite in response to the last
great revolutionary wave to shake the world. That
massive revolutionary upsurge began in the mid-1960s
and threatened capitalist and Communist elites around
the globe: in Poland and Prague, France and China and
the US and Latin America. The revolutions of the day
were defeated because they were trapped between the
ugly alternatives of capitalism and Communism. For all
their revolutionary energy and aspirations, people
simply felt that they had nowhere to go, no vision of a
new society which they felt confident would escape the
existing models of class domination. The world
elites-capitalist and Communist-were able to defeat the
global revolutionary upsurge and mount a thirty year
counteroffensive because the people of the world were
disarmed by the lack of an inspiring revolutionary
alternative to capitalism. Capitalism triumphed by
default, echoing Margaret Thatcher's refrain: "There Is
No Alternative."

The lack of a revolutionary alternative to capitalism
bought the system time for its thirty-year
counteroffensive. Now time has run out.


There is nothing more necessary for the success of
popular struggle in the coming years than a worthy
revolutionary alternative to aim for. This alternative
must inspire confidence that we can create a truly
democratic, humanly fulfilling, successfully
functioning new society.

There are developments in the struggle in Argentina
that bear on this question and which may have great
impact on all of us. In the weeks after the popular
uprising of December 19-20, people began to meet on
street corners in Buenos Aires and elsewhere to
consider how to take further action against the
corralito- the government decree impounding the bank
savings of small savers. These informal meetings led
rapidly to the creation of more than fifty popular
assemblies in Buenos Aires alone, involving thousands
of people, with weekly meetings of an
inter-neighborhood assembly.

The concerns of the assemblies moved quickly from the
corralito to the economic and political system in
Argentina. In another promising development, the
assembly movement and the piquetero movement of the
unemployed and poor peasants have joined forces. The
piqueteros have operated for several years in the
countryside, blocking highways with mass sit-ins to
pressure the government to provide economic assistance
to the poor.

The assembly movement is an important exercise in
direct democracy. It is still fragile and at
considerable risk of being high-jacked by the unions
and political parties of the left. From our admittedly
scant knowledge, however, it seems to be exactly the
kind of development that can lead to an authentic
democratic revolution in Argentina.

The assembly movement faces huge ideological and
political obstacles. In every modern revolution people
have spontaneously created similar popular
assemblies-in the French Revolution of 1789, the
Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917, the French
occupations movement of May, 1968 and others. It has
been precisely these bodies of popular democracy that
the existing regimes have defeated or that emerging
elites have suppressed on their way to taking power.

The key obstacle to the success of direct democracy is
the belief that ordinary people are not competent to
govern society. This belief is not only endemic to
capitalist assumptions about people; it is also central
to what has been the chief anti-capitalist
philosophy--Marxism. Capitalism and communism turned
out much the same-as class societies in which a small
elite holds the power-because they are based on the
same view of people: that human beings, capitalists and
workers alike, are driven by self-interest; that
economic development is the basis of human development;
that economic forces drive history; that elites act,
while ordinary people-unless they are thrust onto the
stage of history by economic forces beyond their
control-are only acted upon.

This view of people can never result in a democratic
society. It can only lead to tyranny of one form or
another. The moral of the Communist experience is not
that "revolutions always turn bad," but that
revolutions based on a capitalist view of people always
turn bad.

We began New Democracy in 1992 because we felt we had
found the basis for a revolutionary alternative to all
the existing systems. We had found it not in a text of
Marx or Lenin or in some economic or historical theory.
We had found it right in front of our faces--in
people's everyday lives. We formed New Democracy to put
this new idea of revolution on the popular agenda.

We reasoned that the core of any political vision is
its view of people: their values, their aspirations,
their strengths and weaknesses, their role in creating
the present society and their ability to create a new

The starting point of a new, world-wide revolutionary
movement is an understanding that ordinary working
people are motivated not primarily by self-interest, as
capitalism would have it, but by their belief in
solidarity and mutual aid; that the everyday struggle
of ordinary people to provide for their families and to
create supportive human relationships is the source of
the good in society-both the material wealth and
whatever positive human values may exist within it;
that the struggle of ordinary people to humanize the
world and to fill it with meaning is the force that
drives history; that the class struggle is a struggle
over the texture and meaning of human life and of the
values that should shape it; that the successful
conclusion of the class war requires the revolutionary
transformation of society with working class values of
solidarity, equality, and democracy.

Ordinary people, it seemed clear to us, already create
the basis of a new society in the shell of the old in
the best things that they do everyday with their
families and friends and co-workers. Creating a new
society is not an impossible step into unknown
territory but a fulfillment of values and struggles
that are already part of our lives.

This positive view of people is the basis of our
confidence that direct democracy movements such as that
in Argentina can succeed and that people can create a
whole new kind of world reflecting a new set of
values-the best values that have been in their lives
all along.


If revolution is our goal, what are the practical tasks
that lie before us now? Here are a few:

-Spread a democratic vision of human beings. Democratic
revolution depends on a positive vision of human
beings. The most powerful capitalist propaganda is the
idea that society is based on selfishness and greed
because that's the way people are. The revolutionary
movement must reject the capitalist view of human
nature for a revolutionary view. This means rejecting
elitist assumptions about people-they're racist,
sexist, homophobic, stupid, need to be controlled,
apathetic, only care about themselves-that are only too
common in political movements, and starting instead
from a positive view of people's abilities and values.

-Spread solidarity. Capitalism controls people by
dividing us into groups and forcing us to compete-in
school, on the job, as entire nations. As the system
becomes more threatened, government leaders will
increasingly turn to war as the ultimate social
control. We need to reject competition with other
working people and build ties of solidarity within our
plants, our offices, our schools, our countries, and
between blacks and whites and Latinos, men and women,
Arabs and Jews-in short, among all the people whom the
ruling elites are trying to divide. We should refuse to
fight any war but the class war.

-Expose the system. Behind every important social
problem we face lurks the system of class rule. The
things that ordinary people face as
problems-unemployment, low wages, overwork, poor
schools, competition on the job, unaffordable housing,
insecure retirements-are in fact solutions for the
ruling class: solutions to the elite problem of how to
manage us through fear and also make more money. Such
problems as high stakes testing and the terrible stress
our children face in school are consciously
manufactured by the elite to cause students to fail and
thereby to reinforce social inequality. We cannot solve
these problems within capitalism. We should be
constantly showing people in every examination of these
problems that capitalism must be destroyed.

-Build independent labor institutions. The unions are
dominated by capital and work on behalf of the
companies to manage the workforce and keep it divided
and demobilized. We need to build Solidarity Committees
free of union control which enable workers to spread
solidarity, spread the vision, build a revolutionary
workers' movement nationally and internationally.

-Spread the conversation. What we believe and say to
each other are the keys to building this revolution.
Tom Laney, talking about building solidarity among auto
workers, says: "People can participate in the
solidarity movement without having to travel, go to
meetings or write anything on email....People just need
to trust their experience and common sense, to take
sides, to be on the side of friendship and mutual
support.... They only have to defend solidarity in
their conversations and everything will change.
Everyone will see that the best things they believe in
and try to practice in every way they treat others in
their families, neighborhoods and workplaces are the
values that should be running the show."

-Build New Democracy. New Democracy is the only
organization we're aware of - we're eager to find
others - promoting this positive view of people and
this idea of democratic revolution. The purpose of our
organization is to develop and promote this alternative
vision of ordinary people, to give us all the clarity
and confidence to succeed.

We are a tiny organization which is having a large
effect on national debates around education reform,
health care, and labor. We need to do much more. To do
that, we need your help. We hope you will read the
Statement of Principles on our web site and, if you
agree with it, become a member. We ask you to buy a
subscription to our newsletter and sell subscriptions
to your friends. Let friends know about our web site.
Get a copy of We CAN Change the World: The Real Meaning
of Everyday Life, available for only $9.95, for
yourself and a friend. Send a donation to New
Democracy, whatever you can afford.



    For the movement, the relevant question is not, "Can we
    work through the political system?", but rather, "Is
    the political system one of the things that needs to be
    fundamentally transformed?"

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