Searching for a Democratic Alternative

A proposal for a new International has been circulating online and collecting endorsements for some months now. It has been signed by Vandana Shiva, Noam Chomsky, Fernando Vegas, John Pilger, Trevor Ngwane, Pervez Hoodbhoy, Susan George, Boris Kagarlitsky, Francois Houtart, and nearly 1,320 others.

The proposal originated with an article by Michael Albert titled, "Fifth International!?" in response to a call by President Chavez of Venezuela to host an April gathering to discuss a new International. Albert’s article received a favorable response from visitors to the Z Communications site. Since there seemed to be significant agreement with the proposal’s specific points, and since many people thought pursuing those points made sense, a draft of a "Proposal for a Participatory Socialist International" was created and sent, with a cover letter, to a number of individuals seeking their endorsement. What follows is the proposal.

The Proposal

PURPOSE: Different people could conceivably have different agendas, but what this proposal seeks in the eyes of its very first endorsers is only to:

(a) specify a set of features/values/procedures that the endorsers feel are worthy and workable for a new International

(b) urge that any process to create a new International should discuss, debate, assess, refine, and implement these and other features that emerge from a wide discussion and gain favor among founding members

The purpose of the proposal is to promote discussion and debate and also offer some broad ideas for features that ought to be included in the discussion and debate. This proposal is not a call for a new International much less a map of all attributes a new International could have. Nor is it a gathering of people intent on somehow themselves creating a new International. This proposal is simply a group of people urging that efforts to create a new International should involve wide discussion and debate, including considering the points raised here.

1. A new International should be primarily concerned (at least) with:

  • economic production, consumption, and allocation, including class relations
  • kinship nurturance, socialization, housekeeping, and procreation, including gender, sexuality, and age
  • cultural community relations, including race, nationality, and religion
  • politics, including relations of law and legislation
  • international relations, including matters of mutual aid, exchange, and immigration
  • ecology, including relations with the natural environment and other species

The new International should address these concerns without elevating any one focus above the rest, since (a) all will critically affect the character of a new world, (b) unaddressed each could subvert efforts to reach a new world, and (c) the constituencies most affected by each would be intensely alienated if their prime concerns were relegated to secondary importance.

2. OUR VISION for a Participatory Socialist future should (at least) include that:

  • economic production, consumption, and allocation be classless, which includes equitable access for all to quality education, health care, food, water, sanitation, housing, meaningful and dignified work, and the instruments and conditions for personal fulfillment
  • gender/kinship, sexual, and family relations not privilege by age, sexual preference, or gender any one group above others, which includes ending all forms of oppression of women while providing day care, recreation, health care, etc.
  • culture and community relations among races, ethnic groups, religions, and other cultural communities protect the rights and identity of each community up to equally respecting those of all other communities, which includes an end to racist, ethnocentric, and otherwise bigoted structures while simultaneously securing the prosperity and rights of indigenous people
  • political decision making, adjudication of disputes, and implementation of shared programs deliver "people’s power" in ways that do not elevate any one sector or constituency above others, which includes participation and justice for all
  • international trade, communication, and other interactions attain peace and justice while dismantling all vestiges of colonialism and imperialism, which includes canceling the debt of nations of the global south and reconstructing international norms and relations to move toward an equitable and just community of equally endowed nations
  • ecological choices not only be sustainable, but care for the environment in accord with our highest aspirations for ourselves and our world, which includes climate justice and energy innovation

3. The GUIDING VALUES AND PRINCIPLES informing internal strategic and programmatic deliberations of an International highlight at least the following values, which includes implementing whatever structural steps prove essential to organizationally embody the values as well as possible in the present:

  • solidarity, to help align worldwide movements and projects into mutual aid and collective benefit
  • diversity, to spur creative innovation, respect dissent, and recognize that minority views thought to be crazy today can lead to what is brilliant tomorrow
  • equity, to seek wealth and income fairness
  • peace with justice, to realize international fairness and fulfillment
  • ecological sustainability and wisdom, to seek human survival and interconnection
  • "democracy" or perhaps even a more inspiring conception of people’s power, participatory democracy, or self management, to foster participation and equitable influence for all

4. That a new International be THE GREATEST SUM of all its parts, including rejecting confining itself to a single line to capture all views in one narrow pattern. To achieve this the new International should:

  • include and celebrate "currents" to serve as vehicles for contending views, help ward off sectarianism, and aid constant growth
  • establish that currents should respect the intentions of other currents, assume that differences over policy are about substance and not motive, and pursue substantive debate as a serious part of the whole project
  • afford each current means to openly engage with all other currents to try to advance new insights bearing on policy and program
  • guarantee that as long as any particular current accepts the basic tenets of the International and operates in accord with its norms and methods, its minority positions would be given space not only to argue, but, if they don’t prevail, to continue developing their views to establish their merit or discover their inadequacies

5. MEMBERS of the new International would be political parties, movements, organizations, or even projects, where:

  • members, employees, staff, etc., of each new International member organization would in turn gain membership in the International
  • individuals who want to be members of the International but have no member group that they belong too, would have to join one
  • every member group would have its own agenda for its separate operations which would be inviolable
  • each member group would be strongly urged to make its own operations consistent with the norms, practices, and agendas of the International establishing solidarity, but also autonomy
  • member groups would have a wide range of sizes, but since the International’s decisions would not bind groups other than regarding the collective International agenda, a good way to arrive at decisions might be serious discussion and exploration, followed by polls of the whole International membership to see peoples’ leanings, followed by refinements of proposals to seek greater support and to allow dissidents to make their case, culminating in final votes of the membership

6. PROGRAMMATICALLY what a new International chooses to do will be contextual and a product of its members’ desires, but, some examples include:

  • a new International might call for international events and days of dissent, for support campaigns for existing struggles by member organizations, and for support of member organizations against repression, as well as undertake widespread debates and campaigns to advance related understanding and mutual knowledge
  • more ambitiously, an International might also undertake a massive international focus on immigration, on ending a war, on shortening the work week worldwide, and/or on averting climatic catastrophe, among other possibilities. It might prepare materials, undertake education, pursue actions, carry out boycotts, support local endeavors, etc.
  • general programs would be up to member organizations to decide how to relate to, yet there would be considerable collective momentum for each member organization to participate and contribute as best it could in collective campaigns and projects since clearly one reason to have an International is to help organizations, movements, and projects worldwide escape single-issue loneliness by becoming part of a larger process encompassing diverse focuses and united by agreements to implement various shared endeavors

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