GTA's Newsletter #05: POWER AND DEMOCRACY (Sep 2021)

GTA's Newsletter #05: POWER AND DEMOCRACY (Sep 2021)


Dear readers, It is our pleasure to share Global TapestryThe weaving of networks of Alternatives of AlternativesAre activities and initiatives, concepts, worldviews, or action proposals by collectives, groups, organizations, communities, or social movements challenging and replacing the dominant system that perpetuates inequality, exploitation, and unsustainabiity. In the GTA we focus primarily on what we call "radical or transformative alternatives", which we define as initiatives that are attempting to break with the dominant system and take paths towards direct and radical forms of political and economic democracy, localised self-reliance, social justice and equity, cultural and knowledge diversity, and ecological resilience. Their locus is neither the State nor the capitalist economy. They are advancing in the process of dismantling most forms of hierarchies, assuming the principles of sufficiency, autonomy, non-violence, justice and equality, solidarity, and the caring of life and the Earth. They do this in an integral way, not limited to a single aspect of life. Although such initiatives may have some kind of link with capitalist markets and the State, they prioritize their autonomy to avoid significant dependency on them and tend to reduce, as much as possible, any relationship with them.’ fifth newsletter issue with you. This is our first thematic newsletter on “Power and Democracy”, with the intent to explore varied dimensions of power and democracy with focus on two broad points:

[1] The role of Representative democracy within the framework of the Nation-State, its crisis of legitimacy and the co-optation by the pro-capitalist perspectives and increasing fascist tendencies; [2] The practices of radical democracy or direct democracy taking place in social movements, grassroots organizations and community processes, along with the emerging frameworks of power for radical transformations. We intend to bring out the tensions and complementarities between local, national and global dimensions.

Our contributors, who spread across Central Asia, Africa, South Asia, Europe, and Latin America, explore challenges posed by statist-capitalist dominations but also how people are organising on the ground to subvert these. Şervîn Nûdem’s piece on building democratic autonomy in Rojava, powerfully illustrates peoples’ struggle in a war-torn region and the process of building-up self-organisation based on the pillars of radical democracy, ecological justice, and gender liberation. The question of imagination of democracy from a more-than-human perspective is beautifully argued in Simon Mitambo’s piece that describes peoples’ processes of reasserting the traditional and customary decision making process that are rooted in earth justice. Mitambo’s piece is complimented by Patricia Botero-Gómez’s piece from Latin America, where communities in the margins are weaving a politics of ‘life-place’ and regenerating their bio-territories. Both these pieces explore how the political boundaries of the current nation states are accidents of history or are results of colonialism and how communities are challenging that. Ashish Kothari’s piece further explores the perils of liberal democracy and argues for alternatives by giving several examples from India and the rest of the world that are embodying radical democracy in their everyday practices. Two of the pieces explore how the movements and networks are challenging the currently predominant notion of what power is, which is 'power-over', power to dominate over, or hierarchical power. Justin Kenrick and Eva Schonveld from Grassroots to Global Assemblies explain their process of creating spaces of learnings, innovation, rituals and creativity, in order to prefiguratively model a politics of wholeness from the grassroots to the global. Our final piece by Frédéric Vandenberghe of Multiconvergence Alliance describes their attempts to experiment on radical democracy by initiating a Global Citizen’s Parliament.

All the pieces weave together powerful examples of organizing from below offering visions of Pluriversal democracy: where all people, rather than being under a political occupation of globalized, capitalist, hetero-patriarchal, liberal democracy, have the right to exist as they are, with their own ways of being, doing, and thinking. They also offer interesting lessons on transnational organizing while also thinking through power and alternatives.

We invite you to engage, reflect and dialogue on these ideas. We see it as a start to a long-term process of knowing each-others' work, engaging with ideas, facilitating collaborations and initiating co-writing, co-learning and dialogical processes.

Editorial team: Shrishtee Bajpai, Franco Augusto, Upamanyu Das and Anna Hedin

Alternatives to the State- the march from the Kumanday and Cali-Colombia bio-territories for all the worlds

By Patricia Botero-Gómez

Youths, women, peoples fighting socio-territorial struggles and they all disobeyed the order imposed in the midst of the pandemic and took to the streets. In Colombia, the massive national strikes of young people and their mothers seems to indicate that we are starting to question the destructive structures that are ruining both the human and natural world. They also enable us to transit and re-imagine a world in which many worlds fit.

Keep reading ->

Radical Ecological Democracy Gaining Root in Africa

By Simon Mitambo

Radical ecological democracy is different from the conventional representative democracy that dominates the world. It is a democracy where the indigenous peoples and local communities in Africa are asserting their rights to decision-making by incorporating local citizens' assemblies, ecological responsibility, and livelihood sovereignty. For instance, communities working with Society for Alternative Learning and Transformation (SALT) are recalling their clan governance system and customary laws and, with it, their ancestral responsibilities to protect their territory and cosmology. With support from the Gaia Foundation and Siemenpuu Foundation, they have begun reviving and documenting their customary laws to secure legal recognition of their customary governance system, which will in turn help them protect their sacred natural sites and ancestral lands.

Keep reading ->

Challenging Power by Building Democratic Autonomy in Rojava / North and East Syria

by Şervîn Nûdem, member of Jineolojî Academy

The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House. - Audre Lorde

In the past centuries various anti-colonial and revolutionary struggles have been led with the aim to liberate people and the land from exploitation. Their declared aims have been to gain peoples’ self-determination and self-empowerment, a life in freedom, welfare and justice for everyone. Many liberation movements in Africa, Latin-America, Asia and the Middle East were able to force colonial powers to retreat physically from their territories. However, many movements have not been as successful in realising their declared aims. Former colonial elites were often replaced by new national elites exerting power over people and the land. Hereby the hopes of many people -including those of many former freedom fighters - were shattered. Many in the following generations also became disenchanted. Instead of thinking and organising in an alternative way, people tended to arrange themselves in the structures of state and power. It seemed like Margaret Thatcher’s hail to capitalism ‘There is no alternative!’ had been tacitly accepted as a destiny.

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The Promise and Peril of Democracy

by Ashish Kothari

The grand drama of national elections across the world, filled with promises that each party makes of bringing paradise on earth and promptly forgets them once elected to power, hide a deeply troubling phenomenon. There is something pathetic about the human condition, if our fate (and that of the planet) is dependent on a few individuals who rule over us with our willing consent.

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How can we safely collapse systems of domination, and so, flourish?

by Justin Kenrick and Eva Schonveld, from Grassroots to Global Assemblies

Climate chaos is symptomatic of a system of domination—an expression of the violence of inequality. The climate chaos that we are witnessing makes it inescapably clear that dominating others harms oneself, and that this system of domination will inevitably end—whether through ecological disasters or our collective action.

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Multiconvergence of Global Networks: Experimental Democracy at the Planetary Level

By Frédéric Vandenberghe

New times present us with unknown challenges and demand new concepts to solve them. But until these new concepts are conceived, we’ll have to make do with the ones we have—power, people, nations, states, parliaments—while we are also rethinking them. This is not easy to do since, depending on the conjuncture, the time and the latitude, the state can appear as part of the problem or part of the solution. Over the past few decades, states all around the world appear to have been captured by trans-national corporations and populist movements that abuse power to deconstruct and destroy the administrative state from within. It is hard to believe, but it wasn’t so long ago that the state was considered an ally of social movements. Boaventura, for example, went as far to state that the state is a social movement.

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