A sense of the masses - a manifesto for the new revolution

It appears to general observation, that revolutions create genius and talent; but these events do no more than bring them forward. There is existing in man, a mass of sense lying in a dormant state, and which unless something excites it to action, will descend with him, in that condition, to the grave. As it is to the advantage of society that the whole of its facilities should be employed, the construction of government ought to be such as to bring forward, by quiet and regular operation, all that capacity which never fails to appear in revolution. -- Thomas Paine

... the representative system diffuses such a knowledge throughout a nation, on the subject of government, as to explode ignorance and preclude imposition ... There is no place for mystery; nowhere for it to begin. Those who are not in the representation, know as much of the nature of business as those who are ... In the representative system, the reason for everything must publicly appear. Every man is proprietor in government, and considers it a necessary part of his business to understand ... and above all, he does not adopt the slavish custom of following what in other governments are called LEADERS. -- Thomas Paine

Men of the same trade seldom meet together even for merriment or diversion but their conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public. -- Adam Smith

In practice, it is impossible for the modern state to maintain an independent control over the decisions of big business. When the state extends its control over big business, big business moves in to control the state. The political decisions of the state become so important a part of the business transactions of the corporations that it is a law of their survival that most decisions should suit the needs of profit-making. -- Nye Bevan

How is it that people in some of the oldest democracies feel so little sense of ownership, or in Paine's language 'proprietorship', of government? How is it that their right to vote, a defining political right of a democracy, appears to so many to be hardly worth exercising? -- Hilary Wainwright

For a fully democratic government in the Paineite sense - ie forms of government that fully utilise the capacities of the people - there must be open democratic processes connecting local 'community' participation to the wider political process. -- Hilary Wainwright

Average working people have been largely put off by, and shut out of, our current political system. We have been sidelined, both economically and culturally, by a top-down political process which stresses "experts" and "leaders" rather than participation and empowerment. So our new politics must also feature concrete grass-roots work to raise political consciousness, and strengthen local capacities to participate in genuine democracy. -- New Politics Initiative

I work with activists to help them get control of the political process ... I help individuals but I also connect them with each other so they can get organised. -- Libby Davies, Canadian MP

It is possible to govern and to govern ourselves without the parasite that calls itself government. -- Zapatista communique

The storm is here. From the clash of these two winds a storm will be born. Its time has arrived. Now the wind from above rules, but the wind from below is coming ... When the storm calms, when rain and fire again leave the country in peace, the world will no longer be the world, but something better. -- Subcomandante Marcos

Perhaps you can hear it from where you're sitting now: that low distant rumble, growing steadily louder as you focus on it. It's the sound of change, and it's coming your way - our way - whether we like it or not. The world is not going to go on like this: with the richest 20 percent of us rolling in 80 percent of the wealth, the poorest 20 percent scraping by on 1.3 percent. -- Paul Kingsnorth

From what we now see, nothing of reform in the political world ought to be held improbable. It is an age of revolutions, in which everything may be looked for. -- Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine observed that the creative genius that appears to arise in revolutions is in fact there all the time, it just lies dormant. The question for a democratic society is how do we realise the talents of the masses without a bloody revolution.

Writing at the time of near-absolute monarchy, Paine put forward the radical idea of representative democracy. He thought that if we had broad geographical representation we would have a government that was accountable to the people.

Sadly how wrong he has been proved to be. We have an elected elite, with the electorate reduced to election fodder, whose only function is to endorse one or more of near identical corporate controlled clones at election times, then fall back into silent apathy.

This is not a recent phenomena. As early as the 1940s and 1950s, political commentators were observing the place of the electorate in a modern democracy. Seymor Lipset refers to 'the formation of a political elite in the competitive struggle for the votes of a mainly passive electorate' then went further 'the belief that a very high level of participation is always good for democracy is not valid'. Joseph Schumpeter emphasised the same point, voters 'must understand that, once they have elected an individual, political action is his business not theirs'.

A situation all too familiar to the electorate today, which is why voter turnout at elections is falling worldwide.

At times the electorate does react, planning threats that upset the established social order or destroy the quality of life are a good example. Then the good citizens wake up to the fact that those who control the institutions of state are not acting in their best interests.

There have at times been bigger reactions. The late 1960s was one such period, and with the large and growing anti-globalisation and anti-war movement at the end of the 20th century, beginning of the 21st century, we are seeing the beginning of another.

The problem though is worse than that of unaccountable elected elites. Big Business has been growing, such that it is now the most powerful economic and political force in the land, occupying a position once held by absolute monarchs at the time of Paine. The politicians are the courtiers of Big Business, the only role of the electorate to endorse the offerings of Big Business with a cross on the ballot paper against their choice and to continue consuming their products between times.

Big Business has had its frights. The street protests of the 1960s shook it to its core leading to the Trilateral Commission, British American Project for a Successor Generation and groupings like Bilderberg, Davos, European Roundtable, etc. Later, with a growing green movement, corporate spin was developed, which included infiltration, establishment of 'front' environmental groups and extensive use of greenwash.

The rot set in under Thatcher and Reagan, though has got much worse under Bush and Blair. The guru of the far right was Friedrich von Hayek.

The underlying philosophy of Hayek was that only the unfettered free market could deliver. The state could not as it was not all knowing. This simple philosophy was all too simple and thus suitable to the mindset and easily adopted by the likes of Blair.

The left had a problem as state control was widely discredited and no more democratic or capable of delivering social or environmental justice than Big Business. The only difference between state run enterprise and that controlled by private capital was that the latter was in general more efficient and at least listened to its customers if profitability was threatened.

The Hayek worldview was not just simple, it was too simple. It ignored the very obvious fact that only those with money could participate in the market. It also ignored the realities of today's market which is dominated and corrupted by large trans-national players, it is not the simple market of Adam Smith where producers and consumers are on a par with each and we have real choice.

In the Hayek world, lots of companies are offering and competing, they may not have complete knowledge, but something will succeed, whereas the state to provide everything has to be all knowing which is impossible. Superficially at least, this has its attractions.

But we do not have to have the all powerful state, which at the end of the day, is all too easily corrupted by Big Business. A situation which Nye Bevan warned of over 50 years ago, and is all too prevalent today. For example, who is deciding GM policy, Big Business or the people? A theme running through the World Economic Forum in Davos (January 2003) was that society has 'little or no trust' in either Big Business or politicians. Could it be because it is increasingly difficult to tell the two apart?

If we are to meet Paine's ideals, then we have to recognise that representative democracy has failed. What masquerades as democracy today is little different from the time of Paine. Instead of a self-imposed monarch, we are asked to periodically choice between near-identical pseudo-monarchs, wielding power on behalf of their masters that absolute monarchs in Paine's time could only have dreamt of.

Only participatory democracy can achieve Paine's ideals, only then, every man will be a proprietor in government. If we bring into the decision making process those currently excluded, not only will we have call upon the talent currently excluded, but we will also have control over those running the institutions of state on our behalf.

It is worth while to pause for a moment and consider where we are today and where we'd like to be. A possible road map to the future. [table adapted from the concluding chapter in Paul Kingsnorth's One No, Many Yeses]

Dictatorship Of markets, corporations and their allies and supplicants national governments. Political elites, with 'left' and 'right' indistinguishable and controlled by the diktat of the markets. Democracy Political and economic. Decisions taken at the lowest possible level with the full participation of all those affected.
Monoculture From crops to clothes to ideas. The same moronic popular culture from the same media barons. No room for dissent. Everything reduced to a global shopping mall. Diversity Cultural, biological, geographical, political and economic. A rainbow world of many possibilities, each adapted to its own niche.
Globalisation Corporate control of our lives by ever more powerful global corporations. Decisions taken by bankers, company directors, and corrupt politicians to maximise profit for the few. Localisation All decisions taken at the lowest possible level, self-governing local communities, where decisions are taken by the community for the benefit of the community.
Dependency A world of consumers not citizens, dependent on big business for our needs. A world where money, greed and material needs rule okay. Self-determination Self-governing, autonomous local communities, regions, states. Where the people through active participation decide their own fate.
Enclosures Corporate control of land, water, electricity, genetic material, traditional culture. Intellectual property rights for the benefit of the few, bio-piracy and theft of nature's resources. Theft of our heritage, stolen from our global commons, sold back at inflated prices. Commons Our common heritage held in perpetuity for the benefit of all mankind. Protection of public services with access to all. Species and areas of bio-diversity protected for their own intrinsic value.

Ad hoc groups form to fight perceived threats, road schemes, airports, incinerators etc. Real as they may be, they are only fighting the symptoms, not the root causes. These groups usually evaporate as quickly as they were formed. They fail to see the bigger picture.

In Guildford, grass roots action stopped the construction of an incinerator, local councillors and officials complained of being bullied by the electorate. The only real alternative to an incinerator is waste minimisation and recycling. Such schemes require the active participation of the local community, and the only realistic chance of a successful scheme is one drawn up by the local community, not disinterested officials who would probably prefer an incinerator as it would involve less work, though one should never dismiss the potential of jobs for the boys.

Schemes for the unemployed are never drawn up by the people they are supposed to benefit, therefore whatever good intent there may have been in their design rapidly degenerates into massaging the unemployment figures and end up harassing the very people they are meant to help.

Participatory democracy demands a new form of political party, a new type of politician. As Hilary Wainwright writes in Reclaim the State, 'What is needed is a [new kind of political] party that does not simply use participatory rhetoric but is committed - through its structure, its culture and its way of arriving at policies - to allying with and nurturing the power and consciousness of independent movements and people.'

We need non-parties, or ideally no parties at all. If we are to have parties they need to be like Brazilian Workers Party running Porto Alegre. We need politicians like Caroline Lucas MEP or Canadian parliamentarian Libby Davies who are just as at home working with activists as they are in their parliaments. Or parliamentarians like Tony Benn, who after half a century in parliament left parliament to go into politics.

Libby Davies has been working on the streets with the lowest of the low, the druggies and the junkies. She got them to turn out at election time, they voted because they saw it mattered, that they had someone worth voting for.

The point I want to make is they voted because we had worked together for three years. They had taken their issue, their right to be recognized as human beings with dignity and rights, and had completely transformed the debate on the drug crisis in the Downtown Eastside. It was their issue, their voice, and they understood and wanted their ally back in parliament fighting for their rights.

In Aldershot, the local community does not turn to their local councillors who they see as a bunch of useless tossers, whatever the party (which explains the abysmal electoral turnout), instead they turn to local campaigner Peter Sandy. They do so because Peter knows the area, works with the people and gets things done.

That is what the new politics is all about, working with the local community. Not the pretend doorstep politics of LibDems. Neo-Labour are so far removed from the ideas of social justice that they no longer even trouble to pretend.

The new breed of politicians see elections as a means of putting the community in charge of the instruments of state, not as a route to power for themselves and their party.

The old breed is exemplified by neo-Labour, a fascist dictatorship governed by spin, riddled with cronyism and in partnership with Big Business. The members of such parties have little role beyond campaigning at elections for the elite and in between times fund raising.

The new breed is exemplified by the Brazilian Workers Party (PT), based in the struggle against fascist dictatorship of the 1980s and with strong links to civil society and the landless movement MST. PT is committed to sharing power 'with the movements we come from'.

Other new parties or non-parties, with strong community links, are Akbayan (Philippino Citizens Action Party), South Korean Democratic Labour Party (DLP), New Political Initiative (NPI, Canada) and to a far lesser extent, the Green Party in the UK.

But things can go wrong, very, very wrong. During the apartheid period in South Africa the ANC had strong links with the civics. The civics were the means of organisation at street level in the townships and took responsibility for health, social welfare, conflict resolution and environmental protection. There were high hopes when the ANC came to power, but the civics were sidelined, and under the new ANC leadership the country appears to be heading the same way of other corrupt one party African states. Happily following the IMF songbook, a neo-liberal agenda is being imposed - privatisation, massive military spending. The legacy of the ANC in the post-apartheid period, is one of privatisation, 20% increase in Black unemployment, two million blacks evicted from their homes and a massive increase in military spending. All though is not lost, you don't endure apartheid and learn nothing, the civics are fighting back, direct action is re-connecting those cut off from water and power.

Community activist Ashwin Desai:

A militant opposition has invented itself in other places in the world, but in South Africa it has happened very quickly: the miracle here is how quickly the ANC has donned the cape of the IMF and unsheathed the sword of structural adjustment. The pace of opposition has had to be very quick.

People are ready for actvism. Delivering free basic services by reconnecting water and electricity. Building structures of sharing resources... We really are creating liberated zones.


The community movement is growing throughout the country as the poors in the ghettos mobilise against water and electricity cut-offs, evictions and the like. The first step towards this surge in community power has been people losing faith in the political parties and ideologies with which they fought apartheid. Betrayed by an ANC government drunk with privatised ideas, communities are having to take direct action to protect their basic human rights and in doing so they are discovering a new sense of power. This power is bursting not from traditional workplaces but from communities of single mothers, disillusioned youth and the rabble of the ghettos. Such are the Vulumanzi Boys (‘water opening boys’), a youth group who teach others how to reconnect their water.

Since the ANC came to power the rich have got richer and the poor poorer, and 95% of the poor are black. The richest 5% of the population, all white, consume more than the bottom 85%. Twenty-two million South Africans live in absolute poverty, the proportion of Black South Africans living below the poverty line has grown from 50% to 65% since the ANC came to power, 10 million have had their water cut off, 10 million their electricity cut off, and 2 million evicted from their homes. Half of the population has to manage on $2 a day.

The ANC came to power with the promise of Reconstruction and Development Programme, drawn up with wide consultation with civil society. It promised investment in health, education, sanitation, welfare, housing, a clean and healthy environment. Once in power, it was quickly dropped, to be replaced by GEAR, Growth Employment And Redistribution, a neoliberal agenda drawn up by the South African Banks and World Bank, civil society was not party to the discussions.

At the end of George Orwell's classic Animal Farm, the pigs who have taken control of the farm from all the other animals, the fact that it was an uprising by all the animals which led to the reclaiming of the farm long forgotten, are sat down to dinner with the men from neighbouring farms. The pigs are bragging at how effecient their production methods are due to their fellow animals being readily available for exploitation. The farmyard animals look in through the windows. They look from pig to man, and man to pig. Slowly it dawns on them that they cannot tell the difference.

Lots of pots pour money into deprived areas in the UK, urban regeneration funds, new deals for communities, etc. These are usually gravy trains for town halls and Big Business, with no community input or control. New Deals for Communities (NDC) is unusual in that it is designed to be community led. Hilary Wainwright gives two examples, Luton and East Manchester, where it seems to be working out. One community even stipulated that no councillor could sit on the board of the trust that was set up to control the money, which seems a wise move. But as Mike Lane shows for Liverpool, the old corrupt elites will happily get their snouts in the trough, if you let them.

The mainstream media will invariably be hostile, owned as it is by Big Business. And the BBC, the Dr David Kelly affair to one side, is too often driven by the government agenda, if not acting as a government propaganda machine.

You don't bite the hand that feeds you. Mainstream media is simply a vehicle to generate advertising revenue. Much of the media is now itself global corporations. Ten corporations control most of the media in the US (newspapers, TV, radio, books, publishing, film companies, music companies, even theme parks): Time Warner, AT&T, General Electric, News Corporation, Viacom, Bertelsmann, Disney, Vivendi, Liberty and Sony. Of this ten, six are global players. In the UK, journalists who work for ITN, also produce corporate propaganda for CTN, a company jointly owned with Burson-Marsteller (the biggest public relations company in the world with some very unsavoury clients). Can we expect those same ITN journalists to be objective when presenting the nightly news?

The mainstream media has less a mission to inform and educate than to generate profit.

Deregulation is making the situation worse. Where once you could own a terrestial TV station but not satellite or cable, or own a national newspaper but not a regional paper or a TV station, there are now no, or virtually no, restrictions.

The global media giants are now eyeing the last bastian, public service broadcasting, and trying to use WTO and GATS to open up the final frontier. Were a regulatory regime to restrict ownership it would under GATS be to erect a barrier to fair trade in services and could lead to punitive sanctions

There are some niches in this global pop monoculture. David Barsamian established Alternative Radio in Boulder, Colarado, in 1986. It has gone from strength to strength and now has a global audience measured in millions.

If you don't like the media, follow the example of David Barsamian and create your own. There are now many local newsletters - Pork Bolter, SchNEWS, BVEJ, Oxyacetylene, to name but a few. Indymedia, first established at Seattle for the WTO meeting, is now a worldwide network. Breaking news often appears first on Indymedia, if it appears elsewhere at all. It was Indymedia that showed live footage of rubber bullets being fired in Seattle, of the police brutality at G8 in Genoa. There are also alternative video outlets and channels, eg beyondTV, undercurrents, Democracy Now, Media Channel, etc. Media Lens brings into sharp focus the distortions in the mainstream media.

Next time you gripe that your demo/action/protest was not covered by the media, do something about it. Write a report, take some pictures, and post it on the Indymedia newswire. That is what open publishing is all about.

Follow the example of Rising Tide (activists against climate change), who ensure all their actions get posted on Indymedia.

By communicating your actions to others, you inspire other people to follow your example. We are not alone. One reason why the mainstream media is so keen not to report such actions.

Open publishing, of which Indymedia is now the most widespread and best known example, doesn't just give access to the media, it enables raw news to arrive unfiltered to the viewer/listener/reader. Those who peruse the open source newswires are free to exercise their own editorial control. It allows feedback through comments. Whilst a cretinous minority abuse this facility, it does allow additional views, corrections, and networking, than the original contributer was able to provide.

Open publishing is an essential element of participatory democracy as it enables necessary feedback, society is able to unhindered monitor society.

A criticism regularly leveled at the anti-globalisation movement is that it offers no solutions, or that it offers too many solutions, it is too diverse. Its diversity and many solutions are its strength. We have had too many -isms, capitalism, communism, socialism, that pretend to offer solutions. Hayek was not criticised for the multi-solution approach of the entrepreneurial solution.

Writing One No, Many Yeses, after several months travelling around the world exploring the many facets of anti-globalisation, Paul Kingsnorth got it about right when he wrote:

This is a movement which stands for redistribution - redistribution of both wealth and power. It stands for equity - in which everyone gets their share, of material wealth, of representation, of influence. It stands for autonomy, and for genuine democracy, both participatory and representative. It stands for a model of organising which rejects, in many though not all cases, traditional hierarchies, and similarly rejects the old left-wing model of leaders and followers, vanguard and masses. It stands for DIY politics - a willingness and a desire to take action yourself, to take to the streets, to act rather than to ask. It stands for economic independence, anti-consumerism and a redefinition of the very concepts of 'growth' and 'development'. It seeks a world where there are strict limits to market values and private power, where life is not commodified, where the commons are redefined and reclaimed, where ecology and economy go hand in hand. It stands for a rejection of top-down models and all-encompassing 'Big Ideas'. And it stands, perhaps above all, for a reclamation and redefinition of power itself.

Participatory democracy offers local solutions to local problems. It builds on social knowledge, the common sense of the masses. It's a suck it and try it approach, not a solution rigormortized in dogma. Who better to know what a particular locality wants than those who live and work there?

Participatory democracy offers an open, network approach. Open because anyone and everyone can participate, network because different groups communicate and share experiences. It is also a Gaian approach, it is messy and fuzzy, different solutions are tried based on the collective experience, it can be fine tuned as it is not set in stone as are policies dictated by elites from afar, be they the local council or the IMF.

Hayek was correct to criticise the state, command control economy. The problem was that his solution was equally invalid, as there is little difference between state control or corporate control, both lack perfect knowledge and both are equally disastrous. The state is not all knowing, so mistakes get magnified. A locally based, socially accountable system, is equally not all knowing, but the fact that it is a self-governing system, feedback can monitor the output and apply corrections. This as any self-respecting system engineer or deep ecologist knows is how you operate in the absence of perfect knowledge, and it is how any natural system operates. A natural system has no knowledge of the environment in which it operates, it monitors and adapts, and as a consequence, modifies its environment. Each system embedded in other systems, all interconnected.

Representative democracy is reduced to a secondary role, to provide a framework within which participatory democracy operates. Paradoxically, the elected representative is strengthened, as he/she has the power of the community behind him/her.

A situation very ably summed up by Hilary Wainwright:

Representative democracy's legitimacy stems from the minimal but equal participation of all through the vote, whereas the legitimacy of participatory democracy lies in the high degree of activity of what is likely to be a minority through institutions that are transparent, open to all and based on mutually agreed rules. Representative institutions based on one person one vote determine the principles and general direction of an elected government. They set the broad framework. The process of participatory democracy provides ways in which the people, rather than officials, can play a decisive role in elaborating the detail of how these broad policy commitments are carried out.

Representative democracy has no legitimacy when Big Business is embedded in the institutions of state and the elected representatives have no mandate. Who decides policy on genetic engineering, the people or Monsanto? Who gave Bush and Blair the mandate to wage war on Iraq?

As the people become involved in the political process, parties have less relevance. It becomes possible to see what our elected representatives are doing on our behalf. Politicians who work with the people can be re-elected, those who obstruct, kicked out. Imagine a system where, instead of having to fight the local planners as well as developers, planners, local politicians and local community all work together to stop unwanted development, corrupt planners in the pocket of developers lose their power base and can be kicked out. The role of officials, if they are to have any role at all, should be as technocrats providing specialist advice to the local community, after all it's the local community who pay their wages.

Traditionally, the top dictates what is to be done, which is rarely what the people want, which then may or may not be carried out by the officials, the people have no say. In the new world of participatory democracy, the people decide the policies and priorities, they are then directly involved in their implementation.

In Farnborough, the town centre is being destroyed as local government works hand-in-glove with developers, local people, local traders have been excluded from the political process, social housing to be demolished to make way for a car park for a superstore. Likewise, an unwanted business airport, a key component of globalisation, was imposed on an ungrateful local community.

In contrast, Porto Alegre turned down a five-star hotel investment on the site of an abandoned power plant, and instead built a public park and convention hall. The nearby city of Guiaba turned down a proposed new Ford auto plant, arguing that the proposed new employment would be less beneficial than the subsidies and tax breaks that Ford was demanding.

A multinational supermarket was accepted in Port Alegre, but only on terms acceptable to the local community, which included employment conditions and low cost in-store retail units for local businesses.

Participatory democracy should not be confused with 'consultation'. We tell you what we have decided and let you comment, if you disagree with us you will be ignored, on the rare occasions there is dialogue there will be no alternative.

Participatory democracy is best illustrated in Porto Alegre in Brazil, Zapatistas in Chiapas (Mexico) and the Piqueteras in Argentina. All are examples from Latin America. In Argentina the Piqueteras have not taken over a handful of factories, they have occupied hundreds, in addition they have set up communal bread ovens, formed community organic gardens on waste land.

And the next time someone tells you that the anti-globalisation movement is rich white middle-class kids in the West who have nothing better to do than protest on the streets and have little understanding of conditions in the Third World, and they may be right, point out that the anti-globalisation movement is widely recognised as having come to life in Chiapas, when the Zapatistas rose up in protest on 1 January 1994 against the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Not that we should underestimate the struggles against IMF and World Bank neo-liberal policies that had been going on for decades. Violence on the streets in the Third World goes unreported, it was only when heads were clubbed and tear gas was fired in Seattle, that the world sat up and took notice.

The mainstream media may not have listened, but when 'the ones without faces, the ones without voices', came to make the world listen, they shook the financial world in New York to its core.

Zapatistas, unlike most revolutionaries, don't want to seize power at the barrel of a gun. In fact they don't want to seize power at all. They did once march on Mexico City, but did so without guns. They have guns, but rarely use them. Zapatistas don't want power for themselves, they want power for the people to govern themselves. This they have put into practice in Chiapas where large areas have been declared autonomous zones, and all government influence and officials eradicated. The government did once try to reclaim one of these autonomous zones. They were beaten back by the people and have never tried again.

At the core of Zapatismo is the encuentro. A global encuentro was called for August 1996. A few hundred were expected, over 3,000 turned up.

Where California goes, the rest of the World follows. In Humboldt County, Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County has been formed. Their role is to put corporations in their place. A spin-off organisation, Citizens Concerned About Corporations, has done just that. Through a ballot initiative they now have a city ordinance that exerts some control over corporations operating in their town. Maybe even more important, they have got the community involved and questioning the role corporations play in their lives.

What the common experience of all these groups has been is that they are facing similar problems and coming up with similar solutions. Cross-fertilisation is taking place at events like the World Social Forum and European Social Forum.

A representative from the privatisation fight in Newcastle was able to go to WSF in Port Alegre and come back invigorated. More were able to attend the European Social Forum in Florence. East Manchester community groups sent representatives to WSF in Port Alegre, Luton community groups have had seminars run by people from Port Alegre.

Millions took to the streets to protest the war on Iraq. At a recent conference in London (early summer 2003) entitled Alternatives to War organised by Resurgence, delegates from UK and across the world met to exchange ideas. Is your local authority investing in the arms trade (details from CAAT)? The summer before, WDM organised a well attended conference on globalisation that attracted activists from across the world and the now Secretary General of the WTO. A couple of summers before that a well attended conference of western and third world activists organised by Labour Behind the Label discussed the problems of sweatshop factories. Similar well attended conferences on food and farming that brought together people from across the world, the list is endless.

The message from all of these meetings is the same: Big Business and Big Government is killing people and the planet. The solutions were similar, localisation, sustainability, community participation. Politics is too important to leave to politicians.

Big pharma was forced to backtrack in the Third World as a direct consequence of Third World governments working with civil society. At the WTO meeting in Cancun in Mexico, the activists outside and the Third World delegates inside, were united in their opposition to the agenda being forced by the EU and US on behalf of Big Business. Working together, we may have dealt the death blow to the WTO.

We need to create space, autonomous zones where people are free to run their own lives, free of the corrosive influence of big business and the state. As people take control of their lives and their communities they become emboldened. They demand more.

The need for participatory democracy could not be greater than it is today. Tony Blair and George Bush took us into a war with Iraq, that not only was strongly opposed by world opinion (how many millions have to take to the streets), it was also contrary to international law. Big Business believes it can operate where ever it likes on terms which it dictates. The WTO has amassed powers to itself which place it above national governments and international law. GATS proposes a further dramatic tilt of power from people to corporations. The rich are getting richer, the poor poorer, not only within countries, but also across countries.

The wealthiest 5% of the world's population now earns 114 times as much as the poorest 5%. The 500 richest people on earth now own $1.54 trillion - more than the entire gross domestic product of Africa, or the combined annual incomes of the poorest half of humanity. The richest 1% earns as much as the poorest 57%. The richest 10% in the US have a combined income greater than the world's poorest 2 billion. In 1960, the 20% of the world's population that lived in the industrialised West, had twenty times the income of the poorest 20%, today it is seventy-four times as much. 2.8 billion of the world's population lives on less than $2 a day, up by 10% on the late 1980s. The combined assets of the three wealthiest people on the planet exceeds that of the combined GDP of all the least developed countries. More than 50 countries are now worse off than they were a decade ago. In the US, 5% of the world's population consumes 30% of the world's resources. Of the world's 100 biggest economies, 51 are corporations, only 49 are states.

Our world is not for sale. There can be no justice in the world, no democracy, without environmental and social justice and respect for human rights.

Thomas Paine (1737-1809), writer and political philosopher, whose pamphlet Common Sense greatly influenced public opinion during the American Revolution. Born in Thetford, Norfolk, England, he emigrated to Philadelphia in 1774, after he lost his post as an excise officer in 1774 for agitating for higher wages. He went to America with a testimonial from Benjamin Franklin, and soon became involved in the political controversies which led to American independence. His pamphlet Common Sense (1776) influenced the American Declaration of Independence and provided the arguments to justify it. He returned to England in 1787, and in 1791 published the first part of The Rights of Man, as a reply to Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France. The radical views expressed in the second part of The Rights of Man (1792) stimulated the growth of the London Corresponding Society but alarmed the British government. Threatened with arrest he fled to France, where he was elected to the Convention. He supported Republicanism, but opposed the execution of Louis XVI, which earned him a 11 months jail sentence, during which he completed The Age of Reason (1795), a provocative attack on Christianity. To escape the guillotine, he fled to America, where he remained until his death. He had a grand vision for society, proposed representative democracy at a time of absolute monarchy, was anti-slavery, was one of the first to advocate a world peace organization and social security for the poor and elderly. But his radical views on religion would destroy his success, and by the end of his life, only a handful of people attended his funeral.

Paulo Freire (1921-1997), Brazilian educator and political philosopher, born of lowly background. Freire believed there should be dialogue between pupil and teacher, that understanding the world was as important as understanding the word, that understanding should build social capital. He was especially concerned that the oppressed become the oppressors when given the opportunity and how to break the cycle. A founder member and leading guru of the Brazilian Workers Party (PT). The underlying philosophy of PT is the philosophy of Freire.

Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT, Brazilian Workers Party) was founded in 1981. It grew out of the struggles against the military dictatorship. It has its roots in the poor, the landless, Marxism, Liberation Theology and was greatly influenced by the philosophy and teachings of Brazilian educator and political philosopher Paulo Freire.

MST, Brazilian Landless Workers Movement, is the largest social movement in Latin America and one of the most successful grassroots movements in the world. Hundreds of thousands of landless peasants have taken onto themselves the task of carrying out a long-overdue land reform in a country mired by an overly skewed land distribution pattern (Less than 3% of the population owns two-thirds of Brasil's arable land). They have not waited to be given land, they have taken it. In 1999 alone, 25,099 families occupied unproductive land. There are currently 71,472 families in encampments throughout Brazil awaiting government recognition. The success of the MST lies in its ability to organize. Its members have not only managed to secure land, thereby guaranteeing food security for their families, but have come up with an alternative socio-economic development model that puts people before profits. This is transforming the face of Brasil's countryside and Brasilian politics at large.

The Zapatista uprising occurred when seven towns in the Chiapas were seized on the 1 January 1994. It was no coincidence that the uprising was timed to coincide with the beginning of NAFTA (North America Free Trade Area) as NAFTA signed the death warrant for the people of Chiapas. It was the first post-modern revolution and marked the start of the anti-globalisation movement.


further reading

Africa, BVEJ newsletter, March 2002

Rebeca Abers, Inventing Local Democracy: Grassroots Politics in Brazil, 2000

Argentina, BVEJ Newsletter, July 2003

Argentina Autonomist Project - Piquetera Tour, BVEJ Newsletter, July 2003

Matthew Arnison, Open publishing is the same as free software, March 2001 revised June 2003

Sharon Beder, Global Spin: The Corporate Assault on Environmentalism, Green Books, 2002

Walden Bello, Deglobalization: Ideas for a New World Economy, Zed Books

Emma Bircham and John Charlton (eds), Anti-Capitalism: A Guide to the Movement, Bookmarks Publications, 2001

Sue Branford, Breaking the chains of Brazil's slavery, Red Pepper, March 2003

Sue Branford and Bernard Kucinski, Politics Transformed: Lula and the Workers Party in Brazil, 2003

Patrick Bond, Elite Transition: From Apartheid to Neoliberalism in South Africa, Pluto Press, 2000

Noam Chomsky, Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies, South End Press, 1989

Aziz Choudry, Neoliberal Globalization: Cancun and Beyond. An In-Depth Report on the World Trade Organization, Action for Social & Ecological Justice, July, 2003

Libby Davies, What is New Politics, and How do We Build It?, NPI, May 2002

William F Fisher and Thomas Ponniah (Eds), Another World is Possible: Popular Alternatives to Globalisation at the World Social Forum, Zed Books, 2003

Paulo Freire, The Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 1970

Gauteng APF opposes 'prepaid' water meters, Indymedia South Africa, 7 September 2003

Jacques B Gelinas, Juggernaut Politics: Understanding Predatory Globalization, Zed Books, 2003

Globalisation and the Media, Undercurrents {video}

GM contamination, SchNEWS, 3 October 2003

Edward S Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent, Pantheon Books, 1988

Noreena Hertz, The Silent Takeover: Global Capitalism and the Death of Democracy, William Heinemann, 2001

Informed Dissent, Undercurrents

Jo'burg development organisation in bid to evict hundreds of homeowners from inner city, Indymedia South Africa, 21 September 2003

Joichi Ito, EmergentDemocracyPaper, September 2003

Johannesburg Water has declared war on the poor, Indymedia South Africa, 7 September 2003

Margaret Keck, The Workers Party and Democratization in Brazil, 1991

Paul Kingsnorth, One No, Many Yeses: A Journey to the Heart of the Global Resistance Movement, The Free Press, 2003

Paul Kingsnorth, Opening a crack in history, The Ecologist, May 2003

Paul Kingsnorth, A shattered dream, The Ecologist, July/August 2003

Paul Kingsnorth, The gospel according to Billy, The Ecologist, October 2003

Naomi Klein, No Logo, Flamingo, 2000

Naomi Klein, Free Trade Is War, The Nation, 29 September 2003

Naomi Klein, The poor of Argentina standing up to the foreign multinationals..., Indymedia UK, 1 October 2003

Andrew LaMar, Experts watch Arcata's debate: Voters seek control of corporations, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 13 June 1999

Mike Lane, Housing Assosiations move into property development, Indymedia UK, 20 August 2003

Mike Lane, Liverpool’s New Deal for Communities initiative, Indymedia UK, 21 September 2003

Mike Lane, Local Government Issues: The Community is Silenced, Indymedia UK, 26 September 2003

Seymor Lipset, Political Man, 1960

Liz McGregor, Everybody has got it wrong about my country, New Statesman, 1 September 2003

George Monbiot, The Captive State, 2001

Most Britons 'oppose GM crops', BBC news on-line, 24 September, 2003

On Fire: The battle of Genoa and the anti-capitalist movement, One-off Press, September 2001

Andres Oppenheimer, Bordering on Chaos, Little, Brown and Company, 1996

Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man, 1791

Greg Palast, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, 2002

Keith Parkins, Blair's junket to Rio + 10 in Jo'burg, Indymedia South Africa, 23 August 2002

Keith Parkins, Big Business Jets In, Red Pepper, December 2002

Keith Parkins, Brent East, Indymedia UK, 19 September 2003

Keith Parkins, The Party's Over, Indymedia UK, 13 October 2003

Keith Parkins, Farnborough town centre – compulsory purchase orders, Indymedia UK, 16 October 2003

Keith Parkins, New political initiative, Indymedia UK, 16 October 2003

Keith Parkins, New political initiative, Indymedia UK, 20 October 2003

Keith Parkins, New political initiative, Indymedia, 20 October 2003

Peter Phillips and Project Censored, Poject Censored Guide to Progressive Media, 2003

John Pilger, Hidden Agendas

John Pilger, New Rulers of the World, Verso, 2002

John Pilger, Iraq's epic suffering is made invisible, New Statesman, 11 September 2003

John Pilger, Pilger film reveals Colin Powell said Iraq was no threat, Daily Mirror, 22 September 2003

John Pilger, Media censorship that doesn't speak its name, New Statesman, 25 September 2003

John Pilger, The Fall and Rise of Liberal England, New Statesman, 9 October 2003

Thomas Ponniah and Judy Rebick, The New Politics Initiative: Towards a Living Democracy, NPI

Judy Rebick, Imagine Democracy, 2000

Residents to reclaim park from ‘terror gang’, Indymedia UK, 3 October 2003

John Ross, Rebellion from the Roots: Indian Uprising in Chiapas, Common Courage Press, 1995

E F Schumacher, Small is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered, Abacus, 1974

Joseph Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, 1942

State opposes bail for SECC/APF comrades, Indymedia South Africa, 9 September 2003

Joseph Stiglitz, Globalization and its Discontents, Allen Lane, 2002

The South African deal: A case study in the arms trade, CAAT, June 2003

There is no case against the Kensington 87!, Johannesburg Anti-Privatisation Forum, 23 January 2003

Hilary Wainwright, Reclaim the State: Experiments in Popular Democracy, Verso, 2003

Water Shambles, SchNEWS, 27 September 2003

Alan Weisman, Gaviotas: A village to reinvent the world

For Estie, and many millions more, who would like to see a better world.
Gaia index ~ deep ecology ~ localisation ~ direct action
(c) Keith Parkins 2003 -- October 2003 rev 1