Peoples’ Charter As The Ground Norm Of Popular Participation In Governance By Jaye Gaskia
At a first glance, the topic seems incongruous, but on deeper reflection, it does make sense given the times we live in [a moment of global crises of capitalism], and the country we live in [with a system of government that can be better characterised as ‘Kleptocracy’ rather than as a democracy].
A kleptocracy, because it is characterised by grand theft, pillage and looting of the treasury, our collective wealth, by a ruling elite driven by greed and selfishness that oftentimes even undermines their collective class interest, and tips the polity over which they preside to the edge of the precipice, the brink of cataclysmic collapse.
So why is a charter needed? Why should it be a peoples’ charter? What should governance manifest as? What does popular participation mean? Why is popular participation in governance necessary? Is it actually ultimately what the desired goal should be? How should citizens’ participate in the management of their affairs?
THIS MOMENT IN HISTORY:
We are living through quite tumultuous times in global history; a moment characterised by a comprehensive and total crises of the global capitalist market system, of such a proportion that it has engendered a revolutionary crisis on a world historic scale and scope. It is a period marked by the coming together and merging into one of at least five different streams of crises of capitalist globalisation; a global food crisis [with more than a billion people going hungry and facing absolute food insecurity, and another billion or two facing immense difficulties getting adequate basic food to eat]; a global financial crisis, which through the sublime crisis that engendered it has grown into a global economic crisis [with the collapse not only of transnational corporations, but also of whole national economies, each needing bailouts]; a global environmental crisis that has precipitated a global ecological crisis [with the reality of the deleterious impact of global climate change hitting home]; a global political crisis [with governments/regimes shaken by crisis of stability and falling in quick succession – Greece, Italy, Spain, UK, Ireland, France, and more dramatically in the Arab spring; and a global social crisis. It is the coming together and merging of all of these that has precipitated the total global crisis of capitalism, which has engendered a global revolutionary crisis [with the ruling classes no longer able to rule in the old ways – hence governmental collapse and succession of regime changes, inconclusive elections, with coalition governments, etc; as well as the oppressed and ruled classes no longer accepting to be ruled in the old ways – hence the wave of youth uprisings and workers strikes across Europe, the Arab spring, and our own January Uprising].
It is important that we also understand that the root cause of the global capitalist crisis, in its different streams, as well as in its merged and combined form, lies in the rapacious exploitative nature of the capitalist system; Exploitative that is both of nature and human labour.
As an integral part of the global capitalist market we were also affected by this crisis, so much so that coupled with the heightened scale and scope of corruption and treasury looting, the ruling political elite was soon pressed to raise more revenue, hence the fuel price hike, and the consequent January Uprising!
A PEOPLES’ CHARTER?
What is a charter? And what makes a charter a peoples’ charter? A charter is basically a set of demands framed in the nature of, and understood as a binding social contract between the ruled and the rulers, the governed and the governors.
A charter in this sense presupposes that organised social forces have gone through the process of understanding the issues and challenges faced, and articulating such into a set of messages and demands which is made of those in authority. A peoples’ charter will thus presuppose the prior organised self conscious existence of social formations of the people, in their different strata; as well as a conscious and organised effort to aggregate and prioritise the issues and challenges, the proposed solutions, and thus the demands that are made of power.
It is important to note that the process of producing and promoting a charter requires organisation [organised effort], as well as mobilisation [organic movements, expressed in collective social action].
And to have a peoples’ charter that will be articulated and promoted requires the prior resolution of the question of what and who constitute the people?
For depending on the dominant class interests, the people may be defined as a whole language/cultural/religious/ethnic/national group, blurring internal class differences, based on the promotion of the myth of a common overarching interest between oppressed and oppressor, exploited and exploiter.
On the other hand, a people can, and given the reality of power relations which is to the disadvantage of the impoverished toilers, a people ought to be defined in class context; such that those to be organised and mobilised, and whose issues and challenges are to be understood and articulated, are those who share the common bond of exploitation, and powerlessness.
It is important to resolve this question in order to be able to appreciate those to whom the charter should be addressed, and the potential challenges in the way of realising and actualizing the charter.
WHAT IS GOVERANCE?
Governance will connote and include all the processes, including structures and systems, involved in, and required for the collective management of the affairs of human societies. So it will include the totality of policies and frameworks, institutions and legislations, the personnel running the system [and their interaction with the whole process]; in their interactions one with the other, as well as in their interactions with the members of the human community whose affairs is being so collectively managed.
In order to achieve this governance, various systems and models of governance have been developed through human history, usually tailored to serve the ultimate interest of the ruling elites/classes, and usually progressively made to achieve this with the co-optation [more or less voluntary] of the subordinate classes, through a combination of processes, including but not limited to the use of force.
Class governance is thus based on the hegemony [overarching authority] of the ruling class in society, and depending on the scale, scope, intensity, and level of exploitation and suppression in the society, this form of governance becomes more or less exclusionary and alienating of the exploited subordinate classes.
POPULAR PARTICIPATION IN GOVERNANCE:
It is against this background of the tendency of governance to exclude and alienate the subordinate classes in class society, that various efforts and processes to involve a greater involvement, and therefore participation of subordinate classes in the governance of the society. Hence the evolution of the democratic system of governance, and the evolution of the attempts to mitigate alienation, through deepening participation of non ruling classes in the governance process; And thus the evolution of the concept and demand for ‘Popular Participation in governance’, and the notion of a ‘popular’ or ‘Peoples’ Charter to mediate the realization of such popular participation.
All class systems based on exploitation, including the highest form of democratic governance, share this basic characteristic of being exclusionary and alienating.
A society organised on the basis of cooperative human labour, and equitable access to the common wealth generated by this social labour [essentially, a democratic socialist society, and eventually, a classless communist society], would be organised on the basis of self management and self government, thus making the need for ‘popular participation in governance’ superfluous, unnecessary, and retrogressive.
In such a context, the every citizen will be involved in several ways, and at several levels in the collective, collaborative management of the affairs of society; governance will become truly self governance.
Achieving this level of organisation of human society will require a revolutionary leap forward as its basic foundation; and what is more? A revolutionary leap forward that is unfolding on a world historic stage.
To conclude, it is important to note the following:
Popular participation in governance is required to mitigate exclusionary and alienating tendency of governance in class societies based on exploitation.
Such popular participation will be required to be won in the context of class struggle, in the context of social organising and social mobilising to take social action to undermine exploitative class and power relations, and make access to society’s progressive benefits much easier for subordinate classes.
Such social organising and social mobilising for social action aimed at achieving greater levels of social justice, requires the articulation of the challenges and solutions to those challenges by the social formations and social forces seeking more equitable re-integration into society.
Such articulated challenges and proffered solutions, could, and are best organised in the framework of Social Demands, Charters, Programs, Manifestoes etc.
In our particular situation and context as a country, such Social Demands/Charters/Programs/Manifestoes assume greater significance because of the deficiency of the ruling class and the consequent emptiness of their political platforms.
To overcome class exploitation, transcend popular participation in governance, and achieve self governance, requires a revolutionary leap forward, and on a world historic stage.
A period of generalized and combined crisis of a systems of organising society, such as the current global crisis of capitalism, presents an opportunity, to deepen the struggle for popular participation, and to become through that process of deepened and intensified class struggle, ready and fitted to make the revolutionary leap forward.
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