What is democracy? Dictionaries provide a variety of meanings but in general, they define it as “rule by the people,” which includes the election of representatives in a legislature or a parliament. This simple definition is easily understood but when one takes a closer look at the nations which call themselves democracies, it is clear that the word is now little more than a “get out of jail” free card to cover for what is, in fact, oligarchic rule. No one has to look very far to see the discrepancies between democracy as advertised and how states really function. Most people here in the United States, 61% according to one poll , want a ceasefire in Gaza.
Changing the leadership, structure, or functioning of any U.S. labor organization is no easy task. Activists and experts have long argued about whether dysfunctional unions are best reformed from the top-down, bottom-up, or some mix of the two approaches. For the past 65 years, the main locus of union democracy and reform struggles in the U.S. has been local unions, which hold leadership elections every three years and are closest to the membership. Thousands of rank-and-file workers have campaigned for more militant unionism by running for and winning local office. Some have had the backing of national networks of like-minded dissidents, including Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) and Unite All Workers for Democracy (UAWD), a TDU-inspired reform caucus within the United Auto Workers.
On October 16, 2023, Palestinian trade unions issued an urgent call to End all Complicity and Stop Arming Israel. At the CAP Conference on January 24, 2024, the UAW International Executive Board — without membership engagement or approval — crossed that picket line by endorsing Joe Biden, whose administration arms, funds, and facilitates the relentless Israeli genocide and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people in Gaza and throughout historic Palestine that has already killed more than 30,000 people, including thousands of children, in just over 114 days.
Guatemala City’s Central Plaza was a sea of cautious optimism on Jan. 14. But just up the street, a march organized by Indigenous leaders set out to walk towards the plaza as part of the commemoration of the inauguration of Bernardo Arévalo as the country’s next president. The march marked the culmination of the Indigenous-led movement to defend Guatemala’s fragile democracy against attempts launched by corrupt politicians to block the ascension of Arévalo to the presidency of the Central American country. He was an academic and diplomat who became a congressional representative and then an anti-corruption presidential candidate in 2023.
In early December, I published “They Call It ‘Genocide’ — But Don’t Invoke the Genocide Convention” about countries which called Israel’s slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza a “genocide” but were not invoking the Genocide Convention at the International Court of Justice. But by the end of the month, South Africa answered the call, stating that it had a duty to prevent genocide and therefore issued an 84-page application before the ICJ. And, just as the oral arguments for the case were being heard late last week, we had a case of “interesting timing” with Biden ordering the bombing of Yemen because Ansar Allah there was attacking ships associated with Israel until Israel stopped its slaughter in Gaza.
The last several years have provided ample reason for public protest, and many people have been doing just that, including some who never had before. This country has a much-vaunted history of vocal public dissent, but we know that that is intertwined with a sadder history of efforts by the powerful to silence those voices. As we move into 2024, and reasons to speak up and out go unabated, what should we know about our right to protest? What should concern us, or give us hope? Chip Gibbons is a journalist, researcher and activist, and policy director at Defending Rights & Dissent.
As a consensus facilitator, I am constantly trying to make it easier for everyone to contribute what they have that's relevant to the conversation. Then I do what I can to establish how those contributions are rooted in a reasonable interpretation of group values (and therefore worthy of taking into account), as distinct from personal preferences. About this time, I generally point out that the right to offer one's views and have them be taken seriously is tied at the hip to the responsibility to treat respectfully the views that differ from theirs and have been similarly vetted. Absent this framing, it's relatively common for groups to get bogged down with people who are inspired to defend their viewpoints because they are tied to common values—accusing those with disparate views of being selfish and not thinking of what's best for the group.
Israel’s status as a bona fide democracy is often taken to be a self-evident truth, but a more critical look at the history and reality of Zionism calls this into question. After all, how can a democracy exist in a country constitutionally defined as an ethnostate that can only exist through the suppression and gradual elimination of its Others? Israeli historian Ilan Pappé joins The Chris Hedges Report for a discussion on Israel as an inherently colonial, and therefore anti-democratic, project. Ilan Pappé is a professor with the College of Social Sciences and International Studies at the University of Exeter in the UK, where he directs the European Centre for Palestine Studies, and co-directs the Exeter Centre for Ethno-Political Studies.
The First Weekend of November, 2023, Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) held its annual convention at a hotel near O’Hare Airport outside of Chicago. It was the 48th convention since the rank-and-file union reform movement’s founding in 1976. The mood was confident and upbeat, with organizers announcing an attendance of 500 Teamster members from across the country. It was the largest TDU convention since 1997. The Friday dinner banquet speaker was Teamsters General President Sean O’Brien, who took stock of what his administration had accomplished since taking office in March 2022.
Nowadays there is a lot of talk about digital, or e-democracy – focusing on online participation. There is even talk of a so-called Appocracy – civic participation being channeled through smartphone apps. Many see in such means an exit from the deepening crisis of representative “democracy”. Often the reason people give when engaging with such proposals, is valid – people globally are indeed mistrustful towards professional politicians and tend to increasingly absent from the rituals of political representation (such as elections). The problem comes with what they propose as an alternative. The logic behind the supposed digitalization of democracy is based on the misunderstanding of political participation as passive activity, such as consumerism.
San Jose, CA – On Tuesday, December 5, hundreds of Palestine supporters attended the San Jose City Council meeting in person and online to demand that the council pass a resolution in support of Palestine. Community members waved Palestinian flags, wore keffiyehs, and brought signs with messages such as “End the genocide.” City staff intentionally blocked off half of the available public seats in the council chambers and diverted community members to overflow rooms. Many attendees were taken aback by this blatant restriction on their right to civic engagement.
To many of us, thinking about climate change brings about existential dread, panic, or even climate anxiety. The largest ever U.N. climate change conference of the parties, COP 28, will occur this week — and many of us are hoping against hope that the world’s leaders come up with a solution for us all. Climate change, though, is hyperlocal. So, too, are many of the solutions. And cities are tackling climate change with an inspiring vigor that, alongside global leadership, could help to reduce emissions and foster a healthier planet. Ordinary people have been at the heart of these local movements. Among these solutions are citizens’ assemblies, which bring together a randomly selected group of people in a community to deliberate on a societal challenge and identify policy solutions.
Western governments frequently claim that their foreign and domestic policies are motivated by “human rights” and “democracy”. They often even lecture their adversaries for purportedly failing to respect these concerns. But on the international stage, Western capitals have shown their commitments to be merely rhetorical, as they have consistently voted against these noble causes and refused to support measures that would tangibly protect them, in flagrant violation of the will of the vast majority of the international community. These stark double standards were on display on November 7 in the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly’s Third Committee, which is devoted to social, humanitarian, and cultural issues.