Taking Democracy Seriously: A Review of Towards An Inclusive Democracy*
Don't we all take democracy seriously? It is, after all, the badge we pin on ourselves, the status symbol that we take to elevate our country above others that don't manage it so well. And the last decade has been seen as a glorious time for democracy. We have witnessed the fall of communism, the defeat of apartheid and the end of the military régimes in South America. The key-statement for the initial phase of self-congratulation was Francis Fukuyama's The End of History and the last Man.
Takis Fotopoulos's very first sentence puts Fukuyama in his place: 'The collapse of 'actually existing socialism' does not reflect the "triumph of capitalism", as celebrated by its ideologues.'(ix) However, the democracy that 'we' celebrate can more precisely be designated as liberal democracy, that is democracy within a capitalist framework. Here, with one person one vote, we are all equal on our occasional visits to the polling booth but in no other respect.
To defenders of liberal democracy this is adequate. Hayek was keen to point out that democracy refers only to a type of government and so has no application to other organisations. This is in contrast to the designation given by Alexis de Tocqueville just over a century and a half ago. For him political democracy was merely one aspect of a wider phenomenon. Democracy as a whole was the levelling process that had, over centuries, worn down the hierarchical aristocratic gradations so enjoyed by his own forebears. Tocqueville described the levelling process as inevitable, yet simultaneously warned of the emergence of an aristocracy of manufacturers, a class that might acquire powers equal to those of the displaced landed aristocracy but was unlikely to match their sense of social responsibility. Do we not, in this sub-theme, find a presentiment of our current situation?
What we have reached might be described as the paradox of liberal democracy - that the parts are in contradiction, for how can we be equal politically when we are so unequal economically ? Consider the case of the current British Labour government, swept to power by a wave of popular enthusiasm just two years ago. Do those of you who voted for it have the same degree of influence on it as Bernie Ecclestone of Formula One fame, or of Rupert Murdoch, the Australian-American newspaper magnate ? James Mill once stated 'that the business of government is properly the business of the rich, and that they will always obtain it, either by bad means, or good.'
Of course, it was precisely this situation that socialism emerged to overcome. However, to cut a long story short, the current tendency is to regard socialism as discredited. Its communist variant has fallen in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Its remaining outposts in China and East Asia are unlikely to be extended. The notion that communism might introduce or deepen democracy proved an illusion of their initial phase of power. The Leninist idea of the soviet as a higher form of democracy disintegrated into the Stalinist one-party state.
Western Social Democracy, however, never sought to challenge parliamentary democracy. When in power the rights of other parties and the freedoms of association and of the press were never threatened. Social Democracy has to its credit a significant democratic achievement for through its impetus the class disqualification to political participation was overcome and, in its best phase, it sought to obtain both full employment and adequate welfare provision.
However, beyond that the democratic thrust of Social Democracy was thwarted, both by its Fabian managerialism and by the society's capitalist framework. Throughout the 1970s those on the left subjected social democracy to a withering critique that may, partially and ironically, have led to a loss of self-confidence that, in combination with other factors, facilitated its downfall and replacement by the New Right. However, as Bob Dylan so memorably put it 'the wheel's still in spin' and Social Democracy has re-emerged into its current position of unparalleled dominance in European governments. However, although it bears the label, it is not the Social Democracy that we knew before. Fotopoulos reminds us that 'As these parties...bear almost no relation at all to the traditional social-democratic parties of the 1950-75 period, they should more accurately be called "social liberal" rather than social-democratic parties.'(p.86)
Social Democracy's opportunity has come both through a withdrawal of support from the full New Right doctrine and from the fact that it can no longer be feared as an agent of Soviet power. However, liberation from that context has been countered by at least two disadvantages. Firstly, the reduced preponderance of the industrial working class has increased Social Democracy's need to appeal to the middle classes. Secondly, the power of the state has been reduced and so governments have had less control of economic management.
This is the logical starting-point of Fotopoulos's book. In one sense it belongs to the genre of pre-Thatcherite critiques of Social Democracy in that it seeks to analyse its failings and find a way of overcoming them. It is, then, an updating of that debate for it commences with a thorough analysis of the significantly changed current situation. Its point of continuity with earlier debate is that it takes the bold and currently unpopular view that the socialist project is still a plausible one. Fotopoulos, then, is not among those on the left who have collapsed into the individualist paradise of post-modernism. Nor is he among those who call on Social Democracy to return to its traditional path. 'Social democracy ...is dead', he tells us in the book's very first paragraph. (ix. Also see pp.74,85-100,102) It has been undermined by internationalization and the consequent decline of the state, which was the prime site of Social Democratic activity.(see pp.29,32,42.) At one time the United States of America was considered exceptional amongst modern industrial societies in that the land without socialism was simultaneously, or one might say consequently, the land with poor welfare provision, weak trade unions and a deep social and economic divide between rich and poor. What should have been a warning to other countries seems instead to have become a model. Fotopoulos notes 'the "Americanization" of the political process all over the advanced capitalist world.'(P.39 and see p.95) We thus join the USA in if not 'The End of Ideology' then the end of ideological competition. If the loss of old Social Democracy and the decline of state welfarism produces, among other things, a narrowing of the political spectrum, then we simultaneously impoverish both the needy and our democratic system. Old Social Democracy, as should now be clear, is no longer a plausible option. It emerged at a time when ecological concerns had no impact. However much might divide capitalism from socialism both shared a 'growth ideology' as their 'ultimate ideological foundation.'(p.66) Fuirthermore, global capital now dominates global labour. The state is caught in the middle between international economic power on the one side and, on the other, the real communities where people live and work. Fotopoulos's project is to recommend that the latter reclaim the power that has been usurped by the former.
Fukuyama thought that we were there. For him there was no further project. This is it. Not, as sometimes assumed, that there would be no further changes, but rather that they would be within the mind-set of liberal democracy, which apparently fulfills mankind's psychological needs. Fukuyama, of course, was writing in the immediate aftermath of the fall of communism and his book bears witness to the widespread complacency of that phase. Since then the dominant mood has altered. The New World Order seems less under control than its proponents imagined. Parts of the globe have been resistant to American polticial hegemony and the international economic order has suffered embarrassing instabilities. In Britain at the moment one of the most publicized accounts of the current situation is John Gray's False Dawn. The Delusions of Global Capitalism. Gray provides a powerful account of the depradations of global capitalism. Yet his solution seems too slight. For him capitalism remains but should be controlled and stabilized by better regulation. This is largely a recommendation to carry on as before but within a more safeguarded structure. For Fotopoulos carrying on as before is what got us where we are now. It would involve a failure to learn from previous errors. Only a new structure of life based on different principles would meet the needs of justice and survival. So, where Gray looks for global regulation, Fotopoulos proposes the local community as the prime agency of a renewed and deepened democracy.
For Fotopoulos, as we shall see, a whole change of direction is necessary. Gray's answer, difficult though it might be to achieve, seems unlikely to remedy the condition it describes, particularly as he wants it based on the support of the United States of America. As he tells us; 'A vital condition of reform of the international economy is that it be supported by the world's single most important power. Without active and continuing American endorsement there can be no workable institutions of global governance.'
Fotopoulos, in contrast, doesn't want us to carry on with a modified version of what we had before; indeed, he doesn't think it possible to do so. Fundamental change is necessary, but precisely for that reason it is bound to be much harder to achieve. For him the destination of mankind still lies ahead and needs a clear change of assumptions from those now dominant. Fotopoulos could have set himself a more limited, easier and less controversial task, that of delineating our current condition. That would have been a service in itself and the part of the book that deals with it (Part 1) is clear and enlightening. However, our author has a political project, that of fulfilling the democratic ideal that the west nominally professes.
For Fotopoulos 'today's "politics" and "democracy" represent a flagrant distortion of the real meaning of these terms'.(p.54 and see pp.175-6) He wants a return to the ancient Greek understanding of the concept, which is fair enough in the sense that the word does derive from them, though he does not sufficiently integrate his awareness that the Greeks left out of their democracy those not qualifying for citizenship, 'women, slaves, immigrants'. (p.185) He takes to task A.H.Birch, the author of a recent textbook on the subject, who, as he realises, is representative of a wide body of current opinion. For most academics in the social sciences, your reviewer included, 'democracy' is regarded as an 'essentially contested concept', whose meaning has altered over time, often according to the wider political purposes being proposed. Greek democracy was a form of rule by the largest class of citizens in a society based on slavery . Since then direct democracy of the citizens has, after a very long interval in which democracy in all its possible forms was totally denigrated, given way to modern representative democracy, with distinct variations between western liberal democracy, third world democracy and even the claims once made by Soviet democracy. The western orthodoxy is that parliamentary liberal democracy is the real thing and that those countries that possess it can enjoy the satisfaction of having fulfilled the democratic ideal. However, Fotopoulos wants a democracy that extends beyond equal voting rights and into the economic sphere. This is a more extended notion of democracy than currently prevails, but one cannot say precisely which definition is right and which is wrong. The contest over the use of political and social words is in itself a political one and so Fotopoulos's claim to his sense of the term cannot be accepted in the sense of replacing a wrong usage by a right one but merely of stipulating the sense that he will use and the claims that can be made on its behalf.
Nor is Fotopoulos's definition exactly identical with the ancient Greek one. He shares their basic assumption of the 'incompatibility of democracy with any form of concentration of power' and, on that basis, seeks 'a new conception of inclusive democracy'.(171, emphasis added) This involves 'the extension of the classical conception of democracy to the social, economic and ecological realms'(p.176), a demand which, interestingly, had already been made by Pericles.(see p.192.) To note that Fotopoulos wants democracy extended should not be taken to imply that he finds it satisfactory in the spheres where it now operates. He regards the political structure as being as élite dominated as the economic one (see p.135). Consequently there is apathy and low turnout, especially among the poor.(see p.171).
In outlining his model of inclusive democracy Fotopoulos combines and builds on the lessons of ancient Greek democracy and the radical critiques of Murray Bookchin and Cornelius Castoriadis. He also works through the radical democratic proposals of Norbert Bobbio, Jürgen Habermas, Chantal Mouffe, Paul Hirst, David Miller and David Held. Fotopoulos points out that economic democracy is necessary but not sufficient. Democracy must also extend into the social and the ecological realm; a democracy that centres not so much on the workplace as on the community as a whole. In his plan there is 'no institutionalized political structures embodying unequal power relations' for 'the delegation is assigned, on principle, by lot [emphasis added], on a rotation basis, and it is alway recallable by the citizen body.' (p.207)
This idea of selection by lot rather than election is, of course, historically prior to selection by election and is, again, part of the model of ancient Greek democracy. It is in many ways a surprise to see it resurrected in modern (or post-modern ?) times. However, Fotopoulos is here not alone amongst current thinkers. Professor Bernard Manin has recently outlined the contrasts between ancient and modern democracy. Manin compared selection by lot with election by representation. He pointed out that lot is in many ways more democratic. 'Pre-modern republicans valued above all... the possibility of holding office.' Lot gave them all an equal chance. Now with representative government we are all equal as choosers but have quite unequal chances to be chosen. Just compare the social composition of parliament with that of the society as a whole to realise how over-represented lawyers and teachers, and under-represented women and the working class, are. Thus, though our age congratulates itself on its democratic ethos, it actually has a narrower concept of citizenship than did the republicans of pre-modern times. This rejection of a democracy of the chosen, rather than of the choosers, is not merely unlamented; it is now scarcely noticed although the idea of selection by lot lasted as a matter of serious concern for far longer than commonly assumed, through to Harrington, Montesquieu and Rousseau. However, powerful élites preferred election, not just because it was a means of adapting democracy to large countries, but rather because it served to filter the democratic input. Thus a political form now regarded as the essence of democracy was actually introduced to counter it. Manin also deals with how western parliaments shook off the idea of 'imperative mandates' (i.e. binding instructions from the electorate to their representatives). The ideological ploy here, as in a famous speech from Edmund Burke, was to claim ultimate responsibility to the nation as a whole rather than to the constituency in particular.
Fotopoulos rejects what he calls the 'myth of the "experts" ' (p.207) and imagines that a modern industrial state can operate without them and that even economic decisions can be 'taken by the citizen body collectively and without representation.'(p.211) Concerning this question one can recall the experiences of three twentieth-century century thinkers, all of whom claimed to wish democracy well. In 1911 Robert Michels produced what has become a classic of Political Sociology, Political Parties, revealingly sub-titled A Sociological Examination of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy. Here, to be cryptic, he concluded that organisation produces oligarchy. Any organisation pursuing particular ends would elevate adminstrators who gain or claim expertise in their particular niche and so become indispensable to the organisation. In that way they become separated from the mass they were originally meant to serve and so develop an interest apart and different from them. Secondly we can turn to Lenin who, in State and Revolution, foresaw political representation in the manner suggested by the 1871 Paris Commune, that is without parliamentarism 'as a special system, as the division of labour between the legislative and the executive, as a privileged position for the deputies.'. The combination of proletarian rule and modern scientific developments was assumed to facilitate the gradual withering away of the state through the performance of necessary administrative tasks devolving to the community as a whole. A few months later Lenin abandoned State and Revolution for the tasks of actual revolution. He soon found that economic understanding and administrative ability were less widespread than he had assumed. Large sections of the Czarist bureaucracy had to be retained although the attempt was made to control them through a system of 'workers' and peasants' inspectors'.
Let's leave backward Russia and move forward to the United States of the 1960s and 1970s. Theodor Roszak was one of the heroes of the counter-culture in that radical phase. In Where the Wasteland Ends he pondered the intellectual demands of contemporary political involvement:
Nothing is any longer simply and straightforwardly accessible to the layman. Everything ―economics, foreign policy, war and peace, city planning, education, environmental design, business administration, human psychology― now requires the benefit of professional training to be comprehensible... Does our democracy not continue to be a spectator sport in which the general public chooses up sides among contending groups of experts, looking on stupidly as the specialists exchange the facts and figures, debate the esoteric details, challenge one another's statistics, and question one another's prognostications?
All of this should serve as a warning to later opponents of hierarchy. It's not that the attempt should be abandoned but that we should be aware of what we are up against, given the uneven distribution of intelligence, aptitude, ambition and position. The ambitious nature of Fotopoulos's project extends to 'the workplace, the household, the educational institution and indeed any economic or cultural institution which constitutes an element of this realm.' (pp.211-2). The proposed confederation of communities would be stateless and, in the economic sphere, would dispense with both money and the market. This is what Marx and Lenin also wanted but, in contrast to them, Fotopoulos assumes that scarcity will continue. He rejects the Marxist notion that there are material pre-conditions to inclusive democracy. In an implicit farewell to the Euro, money is replaced by vouchers of either a basic or non-basic designation. Each community would be fairly self-reliant and would collectively decide what tasks should be done and how work should be distributed and remunerated.
This confederal, inclusive democracy is only outlined in very general terms. We have no precise blueprint for the new order but only the principles and mentality required. One can have two contradictory responses to this. On the one hand it seems slightly inadequate. If we are to replace our present order we need a closer vision of what we are to put in its place. If, on the other hand, we engage in detailed planning, as did Owen, Fourier, Saint-Simon and other nineteenth-century radicals, we are open to ridicule in the way that they were, and also to charges of authoritarian élitism in that we try to pre-empt decisions that should be taken democratically by the communities involved.
Problems of transition
Having a plan or a vision is one thing. Outlining the means of implementing it is quite another. The policy of transition is usually the weakest part of projects for social reform, for the simple reason that it is the hardest one. It was precisely on this issue that Marx and Engels ridiculed the thinkers they chose to term 'Utopian Socialists.' Owen, Fourier, Saint-Simon and others of their like were accused of naivety in believing that transformation required no socio-economic pre-conditions and that prejudice would fall before rational persuasion. Marx and Engels tried to improve upon their 'utopian' predecessors by insisting that history had a definite logic of development. No new order could emerge before its predecessor had laid down the necessary socio-economic basis. Furthermore each transtion required a plausible social agency, a class that had to have both the will to carry out a revolution and the key location in the production process that gave them the necessary power. On all these counts they judged the modern proletariat as willing and able to replace capitalism with communism.
We can now say that even with their thorough consideration of the necessary means of transformation Marx and Engels got it wrong, and for the following reasons:
That capitalism replaced feudalism throughout Europe did not imply that communism was bound to replace it. The analogy did not work.
Capitalism had instabilities, as Marx and Engels were pleased to point out, but they were not fatal to it.
The most developed capitalist industrial states were not those in which the system was overthrown in the name of Marxism..
The working-class did not come to form overwhelming majorities in the way that Marx and Engels expected nor, even more detrimental to the project, did they develop the requisite class consciousness.
With that thorough but flawed analysis in mind, let us ask on what basis Fotopoulos thinks that he has found a way forward.
Firstly, Fotopoulos regards the present order as unsustainable. 'Old politics is doomed'.(p.276) In the era of globalization even the democratic states cannot meet the demands that their electorate make. There is a 'huge "objective" crisis' in 'that the present economic system cannot meet even the basic needs of at least one-fifth of the world's population'.(p.143) Since the book was written nothing has occurred to upset that analysis. We have seen the collapse of some of the Asian 'tiger' economies and witnessed the loss of faith suffered by international financier George Soros. In The Crisis of Global Capitalism he declared that 'market fundamentalism' might be 'a greater threat to open society than totalitarian government today.'
For Fotopoulos the opportunity of transformation occurs because the system is in crisis. However we must note that a crisis does not always lead to a desirable solution. At this moment Russia is in crisis. This provides, I suppose, a moment of opportunity, but who would bet on a favourable outcome ? And, of course, we have been here before. Russia was in crisis in 1917. A re-reading of State and Revolution will remind us that what Lenin planned was a higher form of democracy in which the centralised state would wither away, class distinctions would disappear and all would live cooperatively in equality and harmony. Instead of which Russia got Stalin and the gulag. Fotopoulos himself notes that all forms of socialism 'failed to change the world, at least in accordance with their proclaimed declarations and expectations.'(p.74) This, obviously, is a warning to all who attempt to change the world, not that they should despair but merely be soberly aware of what they are up against.
One of Marxism's disadvantages was that communists presumed to know the 'real will' of the proletariat and so underestimated the importance of their actual outlook and beliefs. Fotopoulos clearly does not repeat this error. He acknowledges that 'the world market economy is not widely questioned'(143) and, as a second basis for reform, sees a big educational task as a pre-requisite. He mentions the need for 'a new moral code' (p.233) in which the right 'community spirit (p.297) prevails. Not for the first time the Greek tradition shows the way. 'A crucial role in the education of citizens is played by paedeia. Paedeia is not just education but character development and a well-rounded education in knowledge and skills, i.e. the education of the individual citizen which can only give valuable, substantive content to the public space'. (p.209)
Fotopoulos wants 'the development of a similar mass consciousness about the failure of "actually existing capitalism" to the one that led to the collapse of "actually existing socialism" '.(p.165) The problem here is that the collapse of socialism occurred in the context of a real alternative. Of course, opposition in eastern Europe was not only anti-communist. It included nationalism, anti-imperialism, anti-atheism as well as anti-Stalinism, but nevertheless, horrific and bizarre though it might sound, Margaret Thatcher was one of the most popular names in eastern Europe during the 1980s. There was a gilded image of the West as a real alternative, not that far away, and visible in its self-presentation, as a real alternative, on film and television screens. Nothing so concrete now exists as an alternative to prevailing capitalism.
Fotopoulos notes that 'A power base is needed to destroy power.'(p.277) For this reason, as we have noted, Marx chose the large and strategically located industrial proletariat as his agency of transformation. The unmentioned Herbert Marcuse was one of those within the Marxist tradition who sought an alternative to a working class clearly not sufficiently willing to perform their scripted task. For Fotopoulos the third basis of transformation is the core agency of radicals, greens, libertarians, and feminists, in short the members of what are called the 'new social movements'. They are to provide a base of local activism from which a majority might eventually grow. In time Fotopoulos believes that inclusive democracy might appeal 'to all those alienated by the present statecraft which passes as "politics"; workers who are alienated by the hierarchical structures at the workplace; women who are alienated by the hierarchical structures both at home and the workplace; ethnic or racial minorities who are alienated by a discriminatory "statist" democracy, and so on.'(pp.286-7)
In direct contradiction to normal current tendencies this new movement will contest local elections but not national ones. Thus they will fortify the sense of local community and simultaneously hope to diminish the state. What should occur is 'the gradual involvement of increasing numbers of people in a new kind of politics, and the parallel shifting of economic resources (labour, capital, land) away from the market economy.'(p.282)
Once again we can say that we have been here before. At the demise of communism in East Germany some of the type of people that Fotopoulos favours were at the forefront of opposition: radical democrats, democratic socialists, and environmentalists. Their moment came... and went. They were swept aside by those with more economic power.
This brings us to the issue of the oppostion that any radical proposals are bound to produce. The 'utopian socialists' gave scant attention to this theme. To an extent they thought that appeals to superior rationality would be enough. Otherwise for them the problem was reduced to the extent that they planned only small communities of believers and so did not challenge the might of the prevailing political and economic order. For Marx and Engels opposition was sociologically determinded. Those who were to be dispossessed would do all in their power to resist, and that was precisely why only a revolution could bring about the required changes.
It is a measure of the realism with which Fotopoulos examines this question that he is clearly aware of the opposition his proposals will produce. He has, after all, declared war on 'statism and the market economy'. (p.287), threatened the 'penalization of anti-ecological activities' (p.291) and declared that hierarchical economic structures will be 'eliminated.'(p.242) The inclusive democracy movement takes on might opponents and one wonders how a policy of statelessness will find the means of controlling them. We have seen in the United Kingdom the kind of scurrilous press campaigns that over the years have been waged against the likes of Michael Foot, Tony Benn, Arthur Scargill and Ken Livingstone. On this basis we can begin to imagine the media backlash that would lampoon and villify the inclusive democracy movement Mr.Takis Theodorakis and his cohorts should itthey begin to make real inroads into popular beliefs. What, for example, would be the reaction to the attempt to 'expropriate' such 'privately owned big enterprises'(p.298) as MacDonalds, Coca-Cola and Shell? And how would the state react to the gradual taking over of its fiscal powers? (see p.299) I found nothing in this book on the consequences of breaching our international obligations. Would, for example, ecologically inclined communities still be prepared to allow 40 ton lorries along their streets? If not, we would have broken European Union regulations. Even if we achieve sanity in one country, how would the insane world react? Insanely but powerfully, I expect, as the United States once did against Allende's Chile.
Does that mean, then, that nothing will happen; that society is frozen into its current structures? The forthcoming millenium encourages us to lift our thoughts to the longue durée. One thing that is clear about history is that it moves. The Roman Empire fell, as did the British and the Communist empires. All must at one time have appeared solid and impregnable. Henry Miller, no less, was, back in the 1930s, bold enough to suggest that even the American empire would one day crumble into dust. Even George Soros, that brilliant arch-manipulator of global markets (your innumerate reviewer cannot disguise his jealousy) regards the whole system as unstable. Indeed, as compared with the Fukuyama-led complacency at the beginning of this decade, the mood now is more one of disquiet concerning global economic tendencies.
I doubt if we will get any improvement unless we dare to think of it, dare to outline its principles and purpose, dare to consider how we might move towards it. The attempt made here is bold and brave even before any move in its direction is made for it can provoke ridicule from those who dismiss anything different as utopian. Anyway perhaps a touch of utopianism is precisely what we need at the moment.
This book is remarkable for the clarity of its exposition and for its sophisticated grasp of economics, sociology, politics and philosophy. It can be strongly recommended to anyone who wants to know what is going on in the world. It is, hopefully, clear that the criticisms offered are made from within the spirit of the enterprise, with which your reviewer is very much in agreement.
* Takis Fotopoulos, Towards an Inclusive Democracy. The Crisis of the Growth Economy and the Need for a New Liberatory Project , Cassell, London, 1997.
 F.Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man (Harmondsworth,1992)
 Quoted in C.B.Macpherson, The Life and Times of Liberal Democracy (Oxford,1977) p.42.
 See, for example, David Coates, The Labour Party and the Struggle for Socialism (London,1975).
 John Gray's False Dawn. The Delusions of Global Capitalism, first published in London,1988
 See C.B.Macpherson, The Real World of Democracy (Oxford,1966)
 See M.Cranston, Freedom. A New Analysis (London,1954) ch.4 for the distinction between stipulative and lexicographical definitions.
 Bernard Manin, The Principles of Representative Government (Cambridge,1997),p.135. See also the discussion on 'Election by lot' in B.Barber, Strong Democracy. Participatory Politics for a New Age, Berkeley,Ca.,1984,pp.290-3. (Barber's book can be recommended as sharing the spirit of that by Fotopoulos, though it lacks the economic basis.)
 Compare also Q.Skinner, Liberty before Liberalism, (Cambridge,1998).
 V. Lenin, Selected Works, London,1950, 2 volumes, vol.2,p.173
 T.Roszak, Where the Wasteland Ends. Politics and Transcendence in Postindustrial Society, London,1973,pp.50-54-5
 Quoted in George Soros and Jeff Madrick,'The International Crisis: An Interview', The New York Review of Books, January 14,1999,p.36.
 See Soros and Madrick, 'The International Crisis: An Interview', p.40
 Isaiah Berlin once asked Andre Sakharov: ' "Who are the people you most admire in the West?" He and his wife both said "No difficulty about that, - Reagan and Mrs. Thatcher".' From 'Isaiah Berlin. Between Philosophy and the History of Ideas. A Conversation with Steven Lukes'. Berlin Archive, Wolfson College, p.59.
A Response to Michael Levin's Article
I would like first to express my gratitude to Michael Levin for his accurate, fair, as well as penetrative analysis of the issues involved in the project for an inclusive democracy, which, of course, constitutes the journal’s raison d’ etre. I believe that his thorough analysis will contribute significantly to the dialogue on this project, a dialogue which I think is crucially important in today’s conditions of total degradation of what used to be the Left and the bankruptcy of the European Green movement, whose criminal co-operation in the latest NATO barbarity simply confirmed its full integration into the status quo and its self-negation as part of a broader liberatory movement. It is therefore in this light that the following comments should be seen, since their only aim is to engage in a constructive dialogue on the project for an inclusive democracy—an aim obviously shared by my reviewer as his final remarks make abundantly clear (’it is, hopefully, clear that the criticisms offered are made from within the spirit of the enterprise, with which your reviewer is very much in agreement’). Needless to add that readers are most welcome to take part in this dialogue with their valuable comments.
Levin begins by pointing out that:
(for Fotopoulos) only a new structure of life based on different principles would meet the needs of justice and survival…(he) could have set himself a more limited, easier and less controversial task, that of delineating our current condition. That would have been a service in itself and the part of the book that deals with it (Part 1) is clear and enlightening. However, our author has a political project, that of fulfilling the democratic ideal that the west nominally professes’.
Although my reviewer is of course right in stressing that the project for an inclusive democracy proposed by the second part of book involves the creation of a new structure of life, I am concerned that the above presentation may give a false impression about the connection between the first and the second parts of the book. The aim of the book is not just to contrast the irrationality of the present order with the project for an inclusive democracy, seen as a kind of a new utopia to be added to the long list of libertarian utopias. As I stressed in the book :
A liberatory project is not a utopia if it is based on today's reality. And today's reality is summed up by an unprecedented crisis of the `growth economy', a crisis which engulfs all societal realms (political, economic, social, cultural) as well as the Society-Nature relationship. Furthermore, a liberatory project is not a utopia, if it expresses the discontent of significant social sectors and their, explicit or implicit, contesting of existing society. Today, the main political, economic and social institutions on which the present concentration of power is founded are increasingly contested. (TID, p. 346)
I would therefore like to point out here that it is in this light that the reader of the book should see the second part of the book (which describes the ID project) with respect to the first part (which attempts to analyse the present multidimensional crisis). The main aim of the first part of the book is to show that the collapse of ‘actually existing socialism’ that confirmed the failure of the socialist movement to achieve a synthesis of the demands for autonomy and equality, the parallel degradation of socialdemocracy into an integral part of the neoliberal consensus, and the consequent universalisation of the market economy, have in fact intensified the crisis which began about two centuries ago, when the system of the market economy and representative democracy were established. Furthermore, the establishment of the market economy in particular was
instrumental in creating the present huge concentration of power, currently accelerated by globalisation. It is therefore the concentration of power which is shown to be the fundamental cause of the present multi-dimensional crisis: political, economic, social and ecological.
In this problematique, the inclusive democracy project described in the second part of the book should be seen not in the usual libertarian light of one more ‘utopia’, but as a project aiming at the negation of concentration of power. In other words, as a project whose fundamental objective is the equal distribution of power among citizens: at the political level, through direct democracy, at the economic level through economic democracy, (a new form of economic organisation beyond the failed systems of the market economy and central planning), as well at the broader social level. In this sense, the project for an inclusive democracy is not therefore a utopia but, in effect, the only perhaps realistic way out of the chronic and today generalised crisis. Furthermore, it is the synthesis, but also the transcendence, of the two great historical traditions, the socialist and the democratic one, as well as of the radical trends within the green, feminist and autonomist movements.
Levin then continues with a discussion of the concept of democracy and, in the process, it becomes obvious that he has a very different stand to mine on the conception of democracy in general and the Athenian democracy in particular. First, he assumes (incorrectly) that I want ‘a return to the ancient Greek understanding of the concept, which is fair enough in the sense that the word does derive from them, though he does not sufficiently integrate his awareness that the Greeks left out of their democracy those not qualifying for citizenship, 'women, slaves, immigrants'.
But, as statements like the following one make clear, I see the classical conception of democracy as inadequate and therefore not as a model for today’s conditions but just as a sperm for the development of a new conception of democracy:
The final failure, therefore, of Athenian democracy was not due, as it is usually asserted by its critics, to the innate contradictions of democracy itself but, on the contrary, to the fact that the Athenian democracy never matured to become an inclusive democracy (TID, p. 194).
It is therefore because I consider the conception of the Athenian democracy inadequate, in the double sense that it did not include all residents and also in the sense that it was not extending to all realms of public life (not just to the political realm) that I tried in the book to develop a new conception of inclusive democracy:
A fruitful, perhaps, way to begin the discussion on a new conception of democracy may be to distinguish between the two main societal realms, the public and the private, to which we may add an "ecological realm", defined as the sphere of the relations between the natural and the social worlds. The public realm in this book, contrary to the practice of many supporters of the republican or democratic project (Arendt, Castoriadis, Bookchin et al) includes not just the political realm, but also the
economic realm as well as a ‘social’ realm, in other words, any area of human activity where decisions can be taken collectively and democratically (TID, p. 206)
It is therefore clear that the classical definition is only my starting point in defining a new conception of inclusive democracy. Furthermore, my recognition that Pericles had an understanding of ‘the merely formal character of political rights when they are not accompanied by social and economic rights’ (p. 192) could hardly be taken as implying that a demand for an inclusive democracy had already been made by Pericles. As I stressed in the book, Pericles’s concern was to create the preconditions for political democracy, which, however, is only one component of inclusive democracy (TID, p. 192).
But, let us see in more detail where my disagreement with Levin lies with regards to his stand on the conception of democracy.
My reviewer states that :
‘for most academics in the social sciences, your reviewer included, 'democracy' is regarded as an 'essentially contested concept', whose meaning has altered over time, often according to the wider political purposes being proposed. Greek democracy was a form of rule by the largest class of citizens in a society based on slavery. Since then direct democracy of the citizens has, after a very long interval in which democracy in all its possible forms was totally denigrated, given way to modern representative democracy’…one cannot say precisely which definition is right and which is wrong. The contest over the use of political and social words is in itself a political one and so Fotopoulos's claim to his sense of the term cannot be accepted in the sense of replacing a wrong usage by a right one but merely of stipulating the sense that he will use and the claims that can be made on its behalf’.
I find this statement false on several grounds. First, as I attempted to show in chapter 5, there is only one form of democracy at the political level, that is, the direct exercise of sovereignty by the people themselves, a form of societal institution which rejects any form of ‘ruling’ and institutionalises the equal sharing of political power among all citizens. On this, as well as on the fact that the Athenian democracy was not ‘a kind of rule’, every libertarian thinker (apart from those of the individualistic trend inspired by the liberal tradition like Susan Brown) and every supporter of the autonomy/democracy tradition agrees: from April Carter to Murray Bookchin and from Hannah Arendt to Cornelius Castoriadis. In this sense, when ‘most academics in the social sciences’ regard democracy as an 'essentially contested concept, whose meaning has altered over time’ they simply reflect their explicit or implicit adoption of what I called the dominant social paradigm (i.e. the system of beliefs, ideas and the corresponding values which is associated with the dominant political and economic institutions, namely representative democracy ―which passes as a kind of democracy and the market economy― which, correspondingly, passes as a kind of
Therefore, the modern concept of democracy not only has hardly any relation to the classical Greek conception, but also has no relation at all to any concept of democracy as self-government of the people. So, it is possible to derive a criterion which we may use in distinguishing between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ definitions of democracy. On the basis of such a criterion, we may decide that any definition which does not involve direct self-government of the people (i.e. not through representatives ‘on its own behalf’) is not a proper definition. This means that liberal democracy (which Castoriadis aptly called ‘liberal oligarchy’), third world democracy or Soviet democracy do not qualify as democracies. Even therefore on the positive side one can ‘precisely say which definition is right and which is wrong’. But, this becomes even more evident when we consider the normative side of the problem.
As I stressed in the last chapter of the book, the concepts we use and the interpretations we adopt with respect to social phenomena is a matter of choice—a choice, which is always in consistency with the social ‘paradigm’ we endorse. My conviction therefore in the rightness of the concept of inclusive democracy is not based on any kind of ‘objective’ interpretation of social evolution (Marx) or natural evolution (Bookchin) but on a deliberate choice. Likewise, the orthodox social scientists’ belief in the rightness of the concept of representative democracy is not based on any ‘objective’ type of analysis but on a different choice. In other words, in both cases, the choice of definitions is based on a primary choice of social paradigm. My choice of the inclusive democracy definition is based on the explicit adoption of the autonomy paradigm and on the implied analysis about the type of institutional framework which may secure autonomy, i.e. freedom. By the same token, if most academics in social sciences use a concept of democracy which is totally incompatible with the autonomy paradigm this is simply because, implicitly or explicitly, they adopt a different social paradigm than that of autonomy.
Therefore, I would disagree with my reviewer that ‘one cannot say precisely which definition is right and which is wrong.’ As I stressed in the last chapter of the book, the fact that we cannot justify ‘objectively’ the liberatory project does not mean that we have to abandon any idea of it and fall into a kind of post-modernist conformism, where everything is contestable and nothing can be shown to be ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. So, the real issue is not whether the concept of democracy is contestable or not. The real issue is which is our primary choice of social paradigm. The libertarian criterion of choosing a social paradigm is whether it secures the liberation of Man. Once this axiomatic choice has been made then one can say precisely which definition of democracy is right and which is wrong. It is not difficult to show, for instance, that liberal democracy does not secure human liberation and it is therefore ‘wrong’ . By the same token, it could be argued that the definition of inclusive democracy is the ‘right’ one to adopt—unless it can be shown conclusively that an institutional framework based on it cannot secure human liberation.
Furthermore, I think it is also false to argue that Greek democracy was ‘a form of rule by the largest class of citizens in a society based on slavery’. One should not confuse the scope of citizenship with the institutional framework itself. The fact that those qualifying as citizens were exercising a kind of rule over those not qualifying as such is well known; still, this does not negate the democratic character of the institutions themselves. To give a couple of concrete examples, the 19th century U.S. ‘democracy’ did not recognise equal rights to the majority of the population (women and slaves), whereas the de facto apartheid regime in Israel still implements a policy of strict discriminations against a significant minority of its population (Israeli Arabs). But, of the three cases mentioned, it was only in Athens that those qualifying as citizens enjoyed full political democracy, whereas the same cannot be said about either male white Americans in the last century, or Israeli Jews today. It is for these reasons that as I pointed out in the book:
I would argue that Athens was a mix of non-statist and statist democracy. It was non-statist as regards the citizen body, which was ‘ruled’ by nobody and whose members shared power equally among themselves, and statist as regards those not qualifying as full citizens (women, slaves, immigrants), over whom the demos wielded power
However, Levin has misgivings not only about the ‘right’ definition of democracy but also about the feasibility of democracy itself, although he qualifies his doubts about feasibility with the statement that “all of this should serve as a warning to later opponents of hierarchy; It's not that the attempt should be abandoned but that we should be aware of what we are up against, given the uneven distribution of intelligence, aptitude, ambition and position”. However, when he comes to substantiate his doubts, he does not attempt to assess the feasibility of the concrete model of confederal inclusive democracy proposed in the book but he refers to generalisations derived from sociological or historical analyses. But, my aim in devoting an entire chapter on a model of inclusive democracy was, exactly, to show the feasibility of such an alternative method of economic organisation of society, given the utter failure of both the market economy and central planning to meet human needs. This aim becomes evident by the very first paragraph of this chapter:
Even though it is up to the citizens’ assemblies of the future to design the form an inclusive democracy will take, I think that it is important to demonstrate that such a form of society is not only necessary, as I tried to show in the first part of the book, but feasible as well. This is particularly important today when the self-style ‘left’ has abandoned any vision of a society that is not based on the market economy and liberal ‘democracy’, which they take for granted, and dismiss any alternative visions as “utopian” (in the negative sense of the word) (TID, p. 224)
Still, despite the fact that my reviewer did not include in his review any assessment of the feasibility or desirability of the proposed economic model for an inclusive democracy, he concludes that ‘this confederal, inclusive democracy is only outlined in very general terms. We have no precise blueprint for the new order but only the principles and mentality required’! However, given that, as far as I know, there is no other proposal at the moment (apart from the proposal for ‘participatory planning’ of Albert & Hahnel, which is only a variation of the usual socialist planning proposals) for an alternative economic organisation ―which is of course a basic requirement for the development of any movement that wishes to replace the present universal market economy― I find the omission of any critical assessment of the economic democracy proposal extraordinary.
But, let us come to the general doubts of my reviewer about the feasibility of the project. He refers first to Robert Michels:
Who produced what has become a classic of Political Sociology, Political Parties, revealingly sub-titled A Sociological Examination of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy. Here, to be cryptic, he concluded that organisation produces oligarchy. Any organisation pursuing particular ends would elevate administrators who gain or claim expertise in their particular niche and so become indispensable to the organisation.
It is obvious, however, that any attempt to generalise about the relationship of organisation to oligarchy, which emanates from present experience, is irrelevant. As the proposal for an inclusive democracy involves a complete restructuring of society, where ‘experts’ producing the economic plans, (among which the assemblies will choose the most appropriate one according to their own criteria), will have no more political, economic and social power than an ‘expert’ in, say, farming, ship building, carpentry or shoe making, it is hard to see why THIS sort of organisation will produce oligarchy.
The same applies with respect to Theodor Roszak’ reservations. Roszak, bases his argument on a society where division of labour and specialisation have reached absurd dimensions in the pursuit of the highest degree of economic efficiency, defined on narrow technico-economic criteria. It is however obvious that in an alternative society where efficiency, as I argued in the book, will be defined very differently, as a means to satisfy all needs (not just the needs for physical survival) of all citizens, the role of the ‘experts’ will be very different from their present role. This does not mean that specialised knowledge will not be needed anymore. But, such knowledge, given the institutional framework of inclusive democracy which precludes any institutional inequality in the distribution of power, cannot be the basis for a new hierarchical structure. As April Carter has noted we should always distinguish between authority based on special knowledge and authority based on special status in a social hierarchy. The former is inevitable and desirable the latter is avoidable and non-desirable.
Furthermore, the point that Levin makes ‘Fotopoulos rejects what he calls the 'myth of the "experts" ' (p.207) and imagines that a modern industrial state can operate without them and that even economic decisions can be 'taken by the citizen body collectively and without representation.'(p.211)’ should not be read out of context. And the context is provided in the description of the economic model which was ignored by my reviewer. There, it is described how assemblies will only select out of various draft plans about the allocation of resources drawn by the planners the one more consistent with the collectively decided objectives. Planners will have to spelt out clearly the implications of each plan and citizens will not need to be experts in economics to understand these implications!
Finally, one may dispute Levin’s account of the reasons why Lenin quickly abandoned the idea of the democratic procedures envisaged in State and Revolution:
Lenin abandoned State and Revolution for the tasks of actual revolution. He soon found that economic understanding and administrative ability were less widespread than he had assumed.
However, it was not only that the adverse ‘objective’ conditions prevailing at the time made such a democratic experiment almost impossible (civil war, on top of economic backwardness, lack of any democratic tradition among the vast majority of the population etc.). Even more important role on this played Lenin’s and Trotsky’s stand on the ‘cumbersome mechanism of democratic institutions’, so powerfully criticised by Rosa Luxeburg on her assessment of the Russian revolution ―a stand which, as I pointed out in ch 5, is consistent with the Marxist-Leninist world-view, in the context of which a non-statist conception of democracy is inconceivable, both at the transitional stage leading to communism and at the higher phase of communist society (TID 196-99). So, if the Russian revolution taught us a lesson this is that if a revolution is organised, and then its program carried out, through a minority, it is bound to end up with new hierarchical structures rather than with a society where concentration of power has been abolished. To my mind, this is the fact which played a crucial role with respect to the failure of democracy in the Russian revolution rather than the inadequacy of economic understanding and administrative ability mentioned by Levin.
Coming now to the transitional policy which Levin rightly characterises as ‘usually the weakest part of the projects for social reform’, my reviewer asks the following question, referring also to the Russian revolution which took place in the midst of a crisis:
for Fotopoulos the opportunity of transformation occurs because the system is in crisis. However we must note that a crisis does not always lead to a desirable solution. At this moment Russia is in crisis. This provides, I suppose, a moment of opportunity, but who would bet on a favourable outcome ?
Of course, the reply to this question is obvious: no one would bet on the favourable outcome of a crisis and History is full of examples where serious crises led not just to unfavourable outcomes but to tragedies, like the rise of fascism and national socialism in the interwar period. But, as I mentioned above, the reason I devoted the entire first part of the book in the analysis of the present multi-dimensional crisis was not just in order to show the existence of an ‘opportunity of transformation’. My aim was to show the systemic nature of this crisis, and in particular the fact that the ultimate cause of it is the huge concentration of power created by the present political and economic structures.
The present crisis, as I mentioned in ch 4, is differentiated from past crises both as regards its scale and its nature, given in particular the addition of the ecological aspect of it:
It is precisely the universal character of this crisis that constitutes the determining factor differentiating it from other crises in the past, while, simultaneously, it calls into question practically every structure and “signification” that supports contemporary hierarchical societies in East and West, North and South. Thus, the present crisis calls into question not just the political, economic, social and ecological structures that came into being with the rise of the market economy, but also the actual values that have sustained these structures and particularly the post-Enlightenment meaning of Progress and its partial identification with growth (TID, p. 140)
It is therefore obvious that the crisis which began about two centuries ago, when the system of the market economy and representative democracy were established, has, in the past twenty years or so, intensified as it has led to the present huge concentration of economic power and the related ecological dimension. Furthermore, the Inclusive Democracy project, which proposes the equal distribution of power, is proposed as the only long term solution to this chronic and constantly worsening crisis. So, the crisis, far from being seen as a just an opportunity of transformation, provides, in effect, the rationale for the inclusive democracy project.
Levin then points out that “Fotopoulos wants 'the development of a similar mass consciousness about the failure of "actually existing capitalism" to the one that led to the collapse of "actually existing socialism” and he finds a problem in the fact that the collapse of socialism occurred in the context of a real alternative whereas nothing so concrete now exists as an alternative to prevailing capitalism. Of course, no one denies that the lack of a real alternative to the universalised market economy does create an additional difficulty in the development of an alternative consciousness but this is exactly why the transitional strategy proposed in the book aims at the gradual establishment of alternative to the market economy institutions. It is within the process of establishing such alternative institutions as part of a comprehensive program for the creation of an inclusive democracy that the conditions for the development of an alternative consciousness will be created. As I put it elsewhere
The ID political strategy comprises the gradual involvement of increasing numbers of people in a new kind of politics and the parallel shifting of economic resources (labour, capital, land) away from the market economy. The aim of such a transitional strategy should be to create changes in the institutional framework, as well as to value systems, which, after a period of tension between the new institutions and the state, would, at some stage, replace the market economy, statist democracy, and the social paradigm “justifying” them, with an inclusive democracy and a new democratic paradigm respectively. The immediate objective should be the creation, from below, of ‘popular bases of political and economic power’, that is, the establishment of local public realms of direct and economic democracy which will confederate in order to create the conditions for the establishment of a new society. Contesting local elections (the only form of elections which is not incompatible with the aims of the ID project) could provide the chance to put into effect such a program on a massive social scale, although other forms of establishing new types of social organisation should not be neglected, as long as they are part of a program which explicitly aims at systemic change
Furthermore, it should be added that the socialist revolutionaries in Russia and elsewhere in this century also faced the same problem of the lack of a real alternative to the capitalist system which was universal by then. This fact did not of course prevent the creation of an alternative consciousness among significant minorities which led to the Russian revolution and to a significant revolutionary activity in other countries. To my mind, the real problem of any revolutionary strategy is the uneven development of consciousness among the population, in other words, the fact that a revolution, which assumes a rupture with the past both at the subjective level of consciousness and at the institutional level, takes place in an environment where only a minority of the population has broken with the dominant social paradigm. But, as I tried to show elsewhere, the gradualist, but not reformist, character of the ID strategy has a much better chance of solving this major problem of any revolutionary strategy than the failed strategies attempted so far.
In this sense, I think that the following statement about the ID strategy is obviously inaccurate:
Once again we can say that we have been here before. At the demise of communism in East Germany some of the type of people that Fotopoulos favours were at the forefront of opposition: radical democrats, democratic socialists, and environmentalists. Their moment came... and went. They were swept aside by those with more economic power.
Although the social groups and classes on which such a strategy will be based are clearly the ones that the internationalised market economy has already created and it is true that certain categories of activists that might take part in such a movement will not be different from the ones described by Levin, still, what matters is not just the social structure of the members of such a movement. Important as it is, the social structure of the members of such a movement is only one part of the equation. The other part is the political project and the strategy implied by it. After all, it was the same working class which supported in this century supported revolutionary socialist movements but also social democratic, or even fascist, nationalist and racist movements. It is well known that the radical democrats, democratic socialists, and environmentalists who took part at the demise of communism in East Germany did not share a common vision about a future society, in the form of a comprehensive political project, nor did they share a common strategy. Furthermore, the social paradigm that was hegemonic in East Germany(and everywhere in Eastern Europe) at the time, i.e. the one shared by the vast majority of the population, was based on liberal democracy, human rights and its complement, a ‘free’ market, and not a new comprehensive type of democracy that would replace what pass as political and economic democracy in the West. I therefore think that we should be careful in our comparisons before we derive conclusions of the type “we have been here before”.
Finally, as regards the important issue of the opposition that any radical proposals are bound to produce no one, least of all myself, underestimates—as Levin himself recognises—the extent of the powerful backlash that would be unleashed against the inclusive democracy movement once it begins to make real inroads into popular beliefs. As I stressed in ch 7:
nobody should have any illusions that the implementation of a transitional strategy to economic democracy will not receive a hard time from the elites controlling the state machine and the market economy. However, as long as the level of consciousness of a majority in the population has been raised to adopt the principles included in a program for an inclusive democracy, ―and the majority of the population has every interest to support such a program today― I think that the above proposals are perfectly feasible, although of course there may be significant local variations from country to country and from area to area, depending on local conditions.(TID, pp. 299-300)
This is why the project of establishing alternative sources of information, not as a kind of life-style effort but as an integral part of the transitional strategy, is of crucial importance, as I stressed elsewhere. However, one should not confuse the various stages of the transitional period. Levin, for instance, asks: ‘What would be the reaction to the attempt to 'expropriate' such 'privately owned big enterprises'(p.298) as MacDonalds, Coca-Cola and Shell ?’ However, as it is made evident in the sentence from which my reviewer quotes, such actions would only come about at the end of a long process which marks the transition to an inclusive democracy:
At the end of this process, the demotic enterprises would control the community’s economy and would be integrated into the confederation of communities, which could then buy or expropriate privately-owned big enterprises (TID, p.298).
The same applies to his question: “And how would the state react to the gradual taking over of its fiscal powers ?”, as it becomes again evident if the relevant sentence is quoted in full: “
This way, community assemblies would start taking over the fiscal powers of the state, as far as their communities are concerned, although in the transitional period, until the confederation of communities replaces the state, they would also be subject to the state fiscal powers. (TID, p. 299)
In other words, what is envisaged for the transitional period is a dual taxing power―an arrangement which already exists in many countries with local author)
Levin then proceeds to raise some issues concerning the international ramifications and he refers to the fact that as he puts it ‘I found nothing in this book on the consequences of breaching our international obligations. Would, for example, ecologically inclined communities still be prepared to allow 40 ton lorries along their streets ? If not, we would have broken European Union regulations’. Of course, I did not deal with such details in the book, the obvious reason being that an inclusive democracy movement would fight, together with the radical socialist Left and other movements, for the creation of an alternative Europe to the present Europe of capital and markets which is being imposed on European peoples. It is obvious that a first step in such a fight is the struggle to dismantle the present ‘European Union’. In the meantime, activists should of course continue using any kind of direct action to prevent 40 ton lorries along our streets etc. As I stressed elsewhere, the implementation of the transitional strategy for an inclusive democracy requires a new type of political organisation:
which will mirror the desired structure of society. This would not be the usual political party, but a form of ‘democracy in action’, which would undertake various collective forms of intervention at:
the political level (creation of ‘shadow’ political institutions based on direct democracy, neighbourhood assemblies, etc.),
the economic level (establishment of community units at the level of production and distribution which are collectively owned
the social level (democracy in the workplace, the university etc.), and
the cultural level (creation of community-controlled art and media activities)
Then, Levin asks: ‘Even if we achieve sanity in one country, how would the insane world react ? Insanely but powerfully, I expect, as the United States once did against Allende's Chile’. However, I never suggested in the book that the conflict with the ruling elites is avoidable. As I put it :
Of course, at some stage, the ruling elites and their supporters (who will surely object to the idea of their privileges being gradually eroded) after they have exhausted subtler means of control (mass media, economic violence etc.), may be tempted to use physical violence to protect their privileges, as they have always done in the past. But, by then, an alternative social paradigm will have become hegemonic and the break in the socialisation process ―the precondition for a change in the institution of society― will have occurred. The legitimacy of today’s ‘democracy’ will have been lost. At that stage, the majority of the people will be prepared to counter state violence in order to defend the new political and economic structures. Once citizens have tasted a real democracy, no amount of physical or economic violence will be enough to persuade them to return to pseudo-democratic forms of organisation.
So, assuming that the inclusive democracy is by nature an internationalist movement (as described also in the book (see e.g. p. 285) the real issue is whether the ruling elites will resort to violence before the alternative social paradigm becomes hegemonic domestically and starts creating significant inroads into popular beliefs abroad. The traditional answer given to this question by revolutionary movements in the past was in terms of the creation of avant-garde political or military organisations which sometimes succeeded in leading to systemic change. But, this was always at the expense of creating new hierarchical structures based on the avant-gardes themselves. Therefore, if we wish to move out of the present multi-dimensional crisis and if we think that this can only be achieved through a form of social organization which re-integrates society with economy, polity and nature, then, perhaps, the ID strategy is the only one which can move us from ‘here’ to ‘there’—if it ever does. The alternative is to get immersed more and more into the present barbarity.
April Carter, Authority and Democracy, (Routledge, 1979) p. 13
Rosa Luxemburg, The Russian Revolution and Leninism or Marxism? (Univ. of Michigan Press, 1970
Takis Fotopoulos, ‘Mass media, Culture, and Democracy’ , Democracy & Nature, vol. 5, no 1, p. 63
Takis Fotopoulos, ‘Mass media, Culture, and Democracy’ , p. 62
Takis Fotopoulos, ‘Mass media, Culture, and Democracy’ , p. 64
Takis Fotopoulos, ‘Mass media, Culture, and Democracy’ , p. 64