Participatory Democracy Elevates Society — Five Historical Examples

THE PARIS COMMUNE

“Paris was filled with people going to theater, concerts, museums, listening to street corner speeches, reading books and the many newspapers that stuffed the news racks. The working class was bursting with life, ideas, and enthusiasm! And all this was happening in a city surrounded by a hostile army and under constant siege.”

“During [the Commune’s] short reign, not a single man, woman, child, or old person was hungry, or cold, or homeless… It was amazing to see how with only tiny resources, this government not only fought a horrible war for two months, but chased famine from the hearths of the huge population which had had no work for a year. That was one of the miracles of a true democracy.”

CATALONIA IN THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR

“jubilant atmosphere…the normal motives of civilized life–snobbishness, money-grubbing, fear of the boss, etc.–had simply ceased to exist… there was a belief in the revolution and the future, a feeling of having suddenly emerged into an era of equality and freedom. Human beings were trying to behave as human beings and not as cogs in the capitalist machine.”

KERALA (INDIA)

ROJAVA (NORTHEAST SYRIA)

PORTO ALEGRE, BRAZIL — PARTICIPATORY BUDGETING

“…the bulk of its investment budget on making the city’s poor neighborhoods fit to live in… 9,000 Porto Alegran families, who 12 years ago lived in shacks, now have brick housing…. Nearly the whole population — 99 percent — has treated water; and the sewage system covers 86 percent of the city, compared with 46 percent in 1989. Over 50 schools have been built in the past ten years and truancy has fallen from 9 percent to less than 1 percent. The number of students going on to university doubled from 1989 to 1995… The report concludes that the participatory budget has functioned as a powerful instrument of the redistribution of wealth.”

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