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A political manifesto

Concepts for Democratic and Ecological Society,
Forfatter: Yavor Tarinski
Forlag: Zero Books, (USA)
DIRECT DEMOCRACY / We need a new social system with commons and decline. And it is possible to achieve it. We have enough experience and knowledge from previous times. It's just a matter of getting started, writes Yavor Tarinski in a recent debate book.

Yavor Tarinski is a Bulgarian free thinker, academic, activist and author. He participates in various social movements in the Balkans, is concerned with spreading "grassroots knowledge" and sits on the board of the Transnational Institute of Social Ecology.

Through 93 pages, including notes, Tarinski now presents us with a political manifesto that aims to reshape our societies in a more radical direction, where democracy is not primarily characterized by elections every four years, but more in the form of what he himself calls an ecological direct democracy.

Breaking the growth doctrine

Tarinski's diagnosis, which then forms the basis of his claim of necessary change, is simple: the root of all evil is capitalism and the greed that the capitalist system creates. It destroys the lives of billions of people, and the environment with it.

This is such a broad diagnosis that it is of little value, I think. It becomes almost like a spell. Nevertheless, I have sympathy for Tarinski's project. The world must act now so that we can reach a social and ecological balance. So what is Tarinski's proposed solution? There can only be one thing, of course, namely to punch a hole in the growth doctrine.

Tarinsku writes: "We should leave growthdoctrine altogether and direct attention to the already enormous pace of our economic production. There is no point in expanding it further – on the contrary, if we want to have any future on this planet, we must scale back. But this can only make sense if we decide to share equally what we create."

Ireland, Switzerland, Nepal and Mexico

To achieve this, we need to expand our democracy, writes Tarinski, in the form of more direct democracy. This is what the climate activists in Extinction Rebellion demand – more popular participation in order to send clearer signals to elected bodies about the new directions we as a society must choose. Direct democracy is described by Tarinski as: "[m]aking power equally among all members of society".

This is easier said than done. Not all citizens will participate in public meetings, polls or voluntary work. A citizens' council is not necessarily any more democratic than elected assemblies, such as the Storting. But: This may still have something to do if the citizens feel more engaged in that way. Participation creates good feelings of belonging and meaning. There are examples of a form of extended democracy several places in Europe, such as in Ireland, with its form of citizens' councils, or referenda in Switzerland. There are also many so-called Transition Towns, some with their own currency and a high degree of popular participation in local government and care. Tarinski also mentions examples from Nepal and Mexico.

In addition, he relies on theoretical works made by social theorists such as Cornelius Castoriadis and Murray Bookchin, and he also visits well-known names such as Hannah Arendt, David Graeber, Elinor Ostrom and David Harvey to substantiate his claims.

Commons

Tarinski goes back to antiquity and the Middle Ages and the form of direct democracy that then existed in various city-states, even if the concept of citizen was narrow at the time. He also finds inspiration in a network of cities around the world that are experimenting with new forms of direct citizen participation, not unlike the historical examples. These are also often cities where emphasis is placed on ecological design in urban development. It creates enthusiasm and increased participation. People feel that they are taking part in the development of their nearest commons. And that is the way to go, according to Tarinski – we need to revive our feelings for commons.

Both financial and physical capital, natural capital, social capital and human capital.

Tarinski also addresses the topic growth ('degrowth'). We have to make do with a smaller economy, he insisted Ecologyhappen principles. It will also be an economy that is essentially more solidarity-based.

Tarinski has a fresh language and attacks both the right and the left. Both are too concerned with hierarchical control. Dominance, one class over another, one clan over another, one race over another, and the dominance of man over nature, ultimately leads to global catastrophe, both socially and ecologically.

What about Norway?

The world revolution is probably a long way off, and perhaps we should be happy about it. I can manage a simplistic critique of capitalism that cuts across the whole of the West. Much of the criticism Tarinski makes regarding the lack of democratic co-determination does not apply to Norway at all. But we are perhaps one of the few countries that is so well developed?

But Tarinski makes us look ahead and makes good suggestions for what can be done. And several countries are now questioning the old concepts of growth; it applies to both Scotland and New Zealand. They have worked with a concept of growth that includes different sizes, with both financial and physical capital, natural capital, social capital and human capital. Growth is sought, but a policy that increases one form of capital at the same time as it breaks down other capital will be wrong. Several European cities, such as Grenoble, have started banning advertising posters from public places.

Something is going on. And Tarinski contributes his thoughts.

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Andrew P. Kroglund
Kroglund is a critic and writer. Also Secretary General of BKA (Grandparents' Climate Action).

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