Quentin Skinner. On the Liberty of Republics
“You are a free person if and only if you are engaged in the making of the law under which you live. If you are not so engaged the law is not a reflection of your will but of someone elses. But in that case you are a slave.”
Immanuel Wallerstein on the Global Systemic Crisis and the Struggle for a Post-Capitalist World
War in the Ukraine and the Middle East and the Crisis of the European Union are symptoms of a worldwide systemic crisis. The global capitalist system reaches its limits and the struggle for a post-capitalist world has already begun. Part of the transition is the decline of the superpower USA. [DE]
Noam Chomsky on the liberal elite’s fear of democracy
In times of turmoil, when people are waking up and start to organize themselves, the actual concept of democracy of the ruling elites comes to the surface. The rhetorical and the actual view of democracy and the media. The people as adults/citizens or the people as a dangerous enemy/children under guardianship. The role played by liberal intellectuals and the media. Deceive the public, depict Russia as the aggressor.
Interview with Cornelius Castoriadis by Chris Marker (English subtitles)
In this interview Castoriadis lays out and examines the contributions of ancient Greece to questions of contemporary relevance relating to democracy, politics, philosophy, art, poetry, economic and social reorganization, and the creative chaos that underlies all existence.
J’ai pas voté (I didn’t vote) – in French with English subtitles
Let’s look at the facts: during the last referendum, which took place in 2005, voters had to respond to the following question: Do you approve the bill authorizing the ratification of the treaty establishing a constitution for Europe?” Everyone debated, exchanged opinions, thought about it, and communicated. In the end, 55 percent of the French people said no to it. This was a disaster for all political parties, which had been convinced that this text needed to be approved. The solution was simple, they edited the former text, changed some phrasing in it and above all changed the title, and from then on, we referred to it as the Treaty of Lisbon. This time the president did not take the risk of holding a referendum and the parliament approved the treaty without consulting the population and so they played a trick on people. Let’s sum that up: a text which 55 percent of the French people rejected, was approved four years later. The referendum played its role. It participated in the illusion of democracy.”
Remark: This example illustrates how important it is to distinguish between referendum and plebiscite: referendums are initiated by citizens who act on their own will whereas plebiscites are initiated by the government, in the French case by the president. Referendums empower citizens, plebiscites empower governments. Actually Jean-Paul Jouary is talking about plebiscites and he shows that plebiscites serve to maintain the illusion of democracy. The same is not true for referendums. For example in Switzerland, international treaties like the Treaty of Lisbon must be decided by referendum; the Swiss government has no right to call plebiscites.
The Promise and Peril of Democracy
This little montage aims at raising awareness for the meaning of real democracy (in French with English subtitles).
Etienne Chouard explains his vision
I think that the ecological disaster is part of a wildfire, but the source of this fire, the flamethrower that everyday sets things on fire – things like injustice, racism, injustice at work, the feudal right that allows the owners to exploit labor, corruption in the political milieu, the monetary catastrophe that creates a lack of money while it is so easy to create money – these are all consequences, fires produced by the flamethrower which consists of the universal suffrage that gives power, all the power, to the richest. Technically we know very well, what are our problems and what are the means to solve them. With regard to the monetary system, we know very well what to do, likewise with regard to the economy and ecology. Our problems are not technical, we have a political problem, we choose poorly the political actors, and we do not control them at all. But this is not their fault, they go as far as their power allows. There are no limits, because those in power define their limits by themselves.
We will not be able to solve the ecological disaster without recourse to drawing lots. This would make the rich less powerful and far less dangerous. We should appoint our Constituant Assembly by drawing lots. And the Constituant Assembly, having considerable power, including the power to commit errors, should be controlled too. We should develop a culture of controlling power. The powers-that-be are concerned with controlling the people, and the people let it happen. People should re-appropriate the constitution and reverse the process of control, getting the government to fear the people. I think this would change everything.
But it seems we are not even able to want it. We are unable to name our powerlessness, we call “democracy” what is actually its strict opposite. As long as we do not call things by their name, we are not even able to want what we need.
If we understand what a true democracy means, that is, the power of the citizens to decide directly their laws and to appoint their representatives by drawing lots, in order to weaken them, not to make laws, it is not those drawn by lot who make the laws, they are the police, they are magistrates, they prepare the laws, because the people are too numerous to prepare them, but it is the citizens who decide the laws. This is democracy. There is no democracy without drawing lots. This is what one observes when studying the democracy of Athens; it was based on and could only work with the drawing of lots.
So if we spread the word among us, and we become thousands, millions, billions – because this cannot happen in one country only, we need several countries so that we are able to defend ourselves against the oligarchies. We cannot expect that our elected representatives will do this for us, because they have no interest in a real democracy, they know that they will loose their jobs with it, that is understandable, they are decent people who want to work for the common good, so the drawing of lots will make them loose their political job, and this they do not want. But it is not for them to decide. It is not for the people in power to write the rules of power.
And therefore if we at the basis, who have renounced power, having no interest in governing others, we only want to prevent social injustice and make sure that it is not the rich who govern. If this is our problem, and I believe this is largely our problem, we try to find common ground among the ecologists, the syndicalists, the anti-corruptionists, all these people have in common to denounce the tyranny of the rich. If we unite on the basis of this radical idea, we will be able to resolve our problems, we will have an innovative voice. I believe that there is no solution for the ecological disaster without democracy, therefore the drawing of lots. And really I think that the cause of the causes is in our will, the cause lies not in the bad character of the political actors. They are elected by the rich, therefore they serve the rich. You cannot even blame them; it is in the nature of things. It’s our fault for not putting limits. It gives hope to know that the cause of causes lies in us. If it were in them it would be necessary to wait for them to change. If the cause is in us then it is sufficient to talk to each other, to say that now we want a constituant process, in a disinterested and controlled way. The ecological disaster is not the problem. This seems provocative, but it is not. Our problem is having lost the control of the political actors, which are in the service of the rich who do not care about the ecological disaster. This is the cause: our political powerlessness, the fact that our political actors are in the service of the multinationals.
We Empower Ourselves: Atelier Constituant
Etienne Chouard organizes workshops were ordinary people learn to write a constitution. The aim is to accustom people to participate in the making of the rules of the political game. The constitution should be written by the citizens themselves, not by professionals and representatives who inevitably will institute a system for their own benefit, rendering people powerless.