The Latvian Rural Communities Parliament (LRCP) is held biennially with the aim of collaboratively discovering effective solutions and exploring new opportunities for rural development. Its primary focus is to foster cooperation among diverse stakeholders and identify challenges and priorities at the local, regional, national, and European levels. The Community Parliament operates on the principle of equal dialogue, bringing together approximately 300 individuals representing local and regional authorities, businesses, policymakers, academics, rural development experts, and enthusiasts.
This summer, cities around the world are unveiling and expanding new tools and initiatives in the name of civic engagement and digital innovation. From Los Angeles to Lisbon, local governments are testing different models of outreach and participation with the promise of increasing trust and equity in civic processes and institutions. Ranging from online portals to citizen assemblies, the wave of experimentation in policy and design responds to historic levels of distrust and disengagement in government at all levels. The question remains whether these new tools deliver on their promises to effectively bring underrepresented communities into decision-making processes and increase transparency and equity in bureaucratic systems.
The Alliance for Global Justice is organizing a new delegation to Venezuela for March 2023. This is a unique opportunity to get to know Venezuela’s reality first-hand and witness the heroic achievements of the Venezuelan people, who have been able to resist the US and European aggressions and blockade. You will get the chance to participate in the commemoration activities organized by Chavistas for the 10th anniversary of the departure of Comandante Chávez. Among our activities, we will visit the communities of Ciudad Caribia, Petare, and El Hatillo and meet with the community councils, street leaders, CLAP, and peasant leaders from the states of Carabobo and Yaracuy, as well as fishing communities. We will also learn about the new social missions created during the economic war against the Venezuelan people.
The unwritten rules in many groups are clear: Be nice, avoid conflict at all costs and, if a conflict arises, see it as a “personal problem” of one perhaps problematic individual. In sociocracy, we have the opportunity to see things differently. A conflict or individual’s strong feelings can point out something the rest of us aren’t seeing, which could be important to the organization as a whole. Perhaps an activity of the group is conflicting with the group’s values or aims. Perhaps a policy is not clear, and the lack of clarity is creating a conflict. Listening to this tension and identifying the underlying needs can lead to a more effective organization that functions better. We can actually use the tension inherent in conflict as a way to steer governance.
The assemblies started to happen in the times when there was a general feeling (in Europe) that everything was possible. After the economic crisis, municipalist movements came to life and older ideas of different political and economic systems (socialism, communism) became a possibility again. People suddenly realized that representative democracy really doesn’t work and that alternative ways of decision making closer to communities are needed. This new optimistic wave of democracy was extremely strong in Maribor, which meant that a lot of people wanted to be part of the change. This resulted in a really high level of participation at citizens’ assemblies at the beginning. However, it must be said that even then mostly older generations, who still remember how self-management (at the workplace and at the municipal/city districts level) worked in Yugoslavia participated.
There is a confrontation of models, a clash of two paradigms not only in Venezuela and in Latin America, but also worldwide. One of the questions in the debate is: who is the historical subject? For us, that is the question of who is it that activates, who lights up the field, who pushes changes forward. And when we reflect on this issue, which means thinking about our own practice, we guide our interpretation by the proposal that developed with Comandante Chavez. Chavez developed a hypothesis after a process of maturing, after a rigorous analysis of the Venezuelan and continental realities, and after a reflection on the revolutionary potential under our feet (based also on a commitment to justice for the poor that was there from the start). His hypothesis was: The commune is the historical subject, the commune and its people, the comuneros, that is where the revolution really begins. So we made this proposal ours, we committed to it.
I had a letter in the mail the other week from someone named Barry Klein, who resides in Houston. I filed it knowing I would write about it, and now I shall. Klein runs a group called ForeignPolicyAlliance.org. “Wars without end?” read the accordion brochure Klein sent. “Americans on the left and right are uniting to ask, Why? A call to reform U.S. foreign policy.” This guy has endorsements that glow in the dark. Dan Ellsberg, Andy Bacevich, Sharon Tennison, Gordon Adams, Larry Wilkerson and Peter Kuznick: These are big names in the alternative foreign policy business. Klein included a one-sheet flier with the Foreign Policy Alliance prospectus. “How to immediately spur a movement to stop the proxy war in Ukraine,” is the headline. Good enough, but what stopped me cold was a Post–It note Klein stuck in the right-hand corner.
Threats to our democracy are two-fold: a growth of support for authoritarianism by some and the withdrawal from and lack of engagement in political activity by others. Both trends stem from people’s loss of trust in their government and belief that officials don’t represent and serve them. Neither escalating partisan conflict nor escapism are solutions. However one fresh tactic is increasingly being used to establish broad dialogue, actively engage citizens in policy decisions and thereby revitalize democracy. Citizens’ assemblies have a long history, from ancient Athens and Rome to Rousseau’s Geneva and Vermont’s annual town halls. Rather than bringing all residents of a particular jurisdiction together, recently leaders have turned to selecting representative demographic samples of the population using the technique of “sortition.”
On Tuesday, almost 7 million Cubans will start attending around 78,000 meeting points to discuss the Family Code approved by the Cuban Parliament (ANPP) in December. They will carry out the discussions in 12,513 constituency electoral commissions, where the citizens will debate the contents of code's articles. These debates will be recorded in physical and electronic records that will be sent to the electoral authorities so that they can aggregate and count citizen opinions according to specific issues. Then the compilation made by the electoral authorities will be sent to Congress so that the lawmakers can submit a new version that will go to referendum before the end of 2022.
Outside of Venezuela, communes are a little known aspect of the Bolivarian Revolution, yet the development of the communal state is integral to the vision of 21st century socialism laid out by former President Hugo Chavez. In this series, In Commune, Venezuelanalysis will explore different experiences of rural and urban communes to help better understand what these highly controversial bodies mean, how they have been put into practice, and what they could signify for the continuity of the Bolivarian Revolution in the current situation of political and economic imperialist aggression.
The big black pickup truck plunged into the protesters blocking the parking lot and I cringed, viscerally, as though I could feel it myself — this merciless crush of steel against flesh. I was recovering from a bicycle injury when I watched the event on the news last week, as members of the Never Again movement stood their ground to shut down the Wyatt Detention Facility, in Central Falls, R.I. I had fallen a few days earlier; my face hit the sidewalk. I was far too close to my own trauma not to feel a horrified empathy as I watched the video.
Political scientist, author, and activist, Marta Harnecker devoted her life to collaborating in building radical democracy in Latin American communities where people have, for generations, experienced crushing poverty and a near complete loss of control over their lives. In South America and the Caribbean, but especially in Cuba and Venezuela, Harnecker has worked directly with disenfranchised workers and peasants. From the ground up, she has helped to build new structures and methods that bring to virtually unknown towns and provinces the full meaning of the Bolivarian revolution. In this latest work, Harnecker, with Spanish economist José Bartolomé, shares some of her wisdom on how this is being done, and how communities everywhere can gain empowerment.
By Eric Dirnbach for Public Seminar. Participatory Budgeting was first used for the municipal budget in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 1989, and since then the PB movement has grown to over 3,000 cities around the world. Portugal recently announcedthat it will use it for the national budget. PB is being used in more than 40 communities in the U.S. New York City is in the midst of its 6th cycle of PB and the program has grown to 31 out of 51 City Council districts. Each district has been allocated at least $1 million for proposed projects. The requirements are that each project cost at least $35,000, last 5 years, be located on city property, and be brick-and-mortar type infrastructure projects such as fixing up a playground or library. I voted in the final PB project selection last year. My district had been presented with 21 options, and chose five projects from among them: a senior center renovation, planting street trees, school science lab improvements, school technology upgrades, and a library renovation. When my City Council Member Mark Levine announced the beginning of this current PB round, I decided to follow the entire process.
By Ruth Needleman for Portside - Here in the states, we know what it means to see our democratic rights attacked. But do we have a vision of what an expansion of democracy and popular participation in government might look like? Oakland, New York, Minneapolis, among others, are exploring the possibility of “participatory budgeting,” an initiative to shift decision-making on development projects from the government to the community, and increase citizen engagement. In order to better understand the process, delegations from these cities visited Canoas, an industrial city of 350,000 in Southern Brazil.