Volume , Number 0
There are no articles.Commentary
There are no articles.Culture
There are no articles.Features
David Van Deusen
A New Organization
Gay & Lesbian Community Notes
There are no articles.
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
Promoting Democracy In The USA
When someone asked what he thought about Western civilization, Mahatma Gandhi replied, “I think it would be a good idea.” Inspired by this, three dozen progressive scholars, lawyers, and activists—including Howard Zinn, Gore Vidal, Mumia Abu Jamal, Ramsey Clark, Immanuel Wallerstein, Ellen Wood, Michael Parenti, David Harvey, and I—have created the International Endowment for Democracy (IED) to highlight:
- the tragic and rapidly deteriorating state of democracy in the United States
- the hypocrisy of our government’s efforts to engage in what it calls “democracy promotion”
- the kind of fundamental reforms needed to make our country into a real democracy
- the activities of many groups and institutions in the United States who are trying to turn things around
U.S. democracy has never been what it claimed to be.
What’s different now is that the person sitting in the oval office is a usurper (more Napoleon III than Bush I), having stolen the last two presidential elections and, with this, even the modest degree of influence Americans once enjoyed over their rulers has practically disappeared. The policies followed by this illegitimate government display the same arrogant disregard for democratic values and procedures that brought it to power. At home, the tragic events of 9/11 were used as a pretext to make an unprecedented assault on American civil liberties in the so-called PATRIOT Act and to carry out an economic program that favors corporations and the rich as never before.
Abroad, our illegitimate government has become the major danger to world peace, having started two unnecessary wars (at least one of which was based on lies) and threatened several others. Economically, by bullying and bribing weaker nations to adopt “free market” economies, the rapidly growing gap between America’s rich and poor (including the misnamed “middle class”) has been reproduced virtually everywhere. While in the environment, the U.S. government’s unwillingness to admit global warming, let alone act on it (other than to make it worse), has raised the stakes to the point where the future of our species is in jeopardy.
The solution would seem to be more democracy. But if big money dominates the political process at every turn (drawing up programs, nominations, campaigns, advertising, consulting, media, lobbying, to say nothing of setting and administering the election rules)—as it clearly does in the U.S.—then, as a popular joke goes, “our government is the best that money can buy.” The formal right that everyone has to speak their mind and vote, and the regular occurrence of elections help legitimate what is, in effect, a pre-determined outcome.
Democracy, like any other set of practices, is connected to a whole set of preconditions, which in this case involves a significant degree of social and economic equality among all its participants. It comes along with these preconditions or it doesn’t come at all. Thus, any serious attempt at political reform must include equally strenuous efforts to democratize all the sectors of social life (especially the economy) that feed into the political process. Only by leveling the political playing field in this way will the United States ever have a government that is truly “of and by the people.”
Democracy promotion, the declared aim of U.S. foreign policy, therefore, has to start in the country that needs it most, which is the U.S. This is not because there is less democracy in the United States than anywhere else—a few other lands are worse off in this regard—but because the democratic deficit from which we suffer is a greater hazard to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness all across the globe than the policies followed by any other government.
T he International Endowment for Democracy (IED) has been set up to enable people everywhere to play a part in the struggle to extend democracy in the United States by expressing their solidarity with and giving aid to some of the many groups that are involved in these struggles. Where some of the most important interests of Americans and non-Americans coincide, the enormous potential for cooperation has hardly been tapped. Together with the World Social Forums and the spreading actions against the political and economic dictates of the U.S. ruling class, we consider the International Endowment for Democracy part of the essential next step in the democratization of capitalist globalization—except this part also allows people everywhere to join in the struggle at the very heart of the world system that needs to be transformed.
Our motto: in the words of the U.S. comedian, Dick Gregory, “If democracy is a good thing, let’s have more of it.” A lot more of it. For more information, www.iefd.org.
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljustice center.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www. peacestockvfp.org.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.