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Friday, April 22, 2011

The International Endowment for Democracy: Supporting Democracy Where It's Needed the Most: the U.S.

International Endowment for Democracy
www.internationalendowmentfordemocracy.org or www.iefd.org

Statement of Purpose
International Endowment for Democracy


I

When someone asked what he thought about Western civilization, Mahatma Gandhi replied, "I think it would be a good idea". We are only saying the same thing about American democracy—"We think it would be a good idea".

Inspired by this idea, a number of progressive American scholars, lawyers and activists have created the International Endowment for Democracy (IED) to highlight—

  1. the tragic and rapidly deteriorating state of democracy in the United States;
  2. the frightening hypocrisy, especially under such conditions, of our government's efforts (aided and abetted by such institutions as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED)), to engage in what it calls "democratic nation building" and "democracy promotion" (See our website for DEMOCRACY LIBRARY, section I.);
  3. the kind of fundamental reforms needed to make our country into a real democracy;
  4. the activities of many groups and institutions in the United States who are trying to turn things around; and
  5. the possibility for people outside the United States, all of whom are harmed in a number of ways by our government's policies, helping the Americans involved in this struggle (and therefore also themselves), if only in a modest way.
II.

American democracy has never been what it claimed to be: too many people have been denied the vote either by law or through discrimination; politics was always dominated by the rich who also controlled the main means by which people acquire their political information and ideas; governments were always in the hands of the same rich whose interests have determined most important legislative, administrative and judicial outcomes. If Abraham Lincoln famously defined "democracy" as "government of, by and for the people", American democracy was always government OVER everyone, BY a small wealthy class, and (with an occasional exception) FOR these same few.

And it was never meant to be anything else, as James Madison, the most influential of our "Founding Fathers", admitted in describing the goals of those who wrote the Constitution in 1789 as trying to check the leveling instincts of the majority, who had little or no property, while retaining "the spirit and form of popular government". Should anyone miss the point, John Jay, one of Madison's co-conspirators (the convention that drafted the Constitution was engaging in an illegal act against the then government of the United States) declaimed that "the people who owned the country ought to govern it". How they have gotten away with this—with a focus on who "they" are and what served their interests—is the real history that most of America's history books have been written to hide. (See our DEMOCRACY LIBRARY, section III.)

What's different now is that the person sitting in the oval office is a usurper (more Napoleon III than Bush I), having stolen the last two presidential elections, and, with this, even the modest degree of influence Americans once enjoyed over their rulers has practically disappeared. The policies followed by this illegitimate government display the same arrogant disregard for democratic values and procedures that brought it to power. At home, the tragic events of 9/11 were used as a pretext to make an unprecedented assault on American civil liberties in the so-called "Patriot Act" and to carry out an economic program that favors corporations and the rich as never before. With few exceptions, the media and the official opposition, the Democratic Party, both of which are also owned by the rich, continue to make believe that George W. Bush is really the President. Meanwhile, despite all the bad reviews, nothing is being done to fix the electoral system to keep 2008 from becoming a replay of 2000 and 2004. (See our DEMOCRACY LIBRARY, section II.)

Abroad, our illegitimate government has become the major danger to world peace, having started two unnecessary wars (at least one of which was based on lies) and threatened several others. Economically, by bullying and bribing weaker nations to adopt free market economies, the rapidly growing gap between America's rich and poor (including the misnamed "middle class")—with the accompanying erosion of decent paying, full-time jobs and social benefits—has been reproduced virtually everywhere. While in the environment, the American government's unwillingness to even admit global warming, let alone act upon it (other than to make it worse), has raised the stakes to the point where the very future of our species is in jeopardy.

III.

Why does the lack of real democracy in the United States lead to a worsening economic plight as well as a fall in the quality of life and in personal security for most people throughout the globe? Because the great majority of the American people, who have no interest in pursuing the policies that produce these results, don't rule. While the small minority that does rule are willing to risk the well being of people everywhere, because this is how they increase their already considerable wealth and power. It's called "capitalism".

The solution would seem to be more and better democracy. But if big money dominates the political process at every turn (drawing up programs, nominations, campaigns, advertising, consulting, media, lobbying to say nothing of setting and administering the election rules)—as it clearly does in America—then, as a popular joke goes, "our government is the best that money can buy". And the formal right that everyone has to speak their mind and to vote, and the regular occurrence of elections, simply mask and help legitimate what is, in effect, a pre-determined outcome.

What is essential to realize is that democracy in the United States has always been two parts ideology to one part reality. And the main job of that ideology has been to teach voters how to be good losers and to treat those who bought their way to victory as the legitimate government of the country. In this, the word "democracy", whose core meaning has always been "the rule of the many", has served as the most effective disguise for "the rule of the few". Is it any wonder that the same ruling class interests, interests that punish most people outside as well as inside America, always comes out on top?

Democracy, like any other set of practices, is connected by its umbilical cord to a whole set of preconditions, which in this case involves a significant degree of social and economic equality among all its participants. It comes along with these preconditions or it doesn't come at all. Thus, any serious attempt at political reform must include equally strenuous efforts to democratize all the sectors of social life (especially the economy) that feed into the political process. Only by leveling the political playing field in this way will the United States ever have a government that is truly "of and by the people". And only such a government is likely to pass laws that are truly "for the people", because, in the last analysis, democracy is also about quality of life issues. It is also about the great majority, once in power and no longer subject to the self-interested distortions of their former rulers, taking the necessary steps to make life much better for themselves. In short, democracy quickly acquires a distinctive "for the people" content to go along with its "of and by the people" forms, but loses it, or never acquires it, if elections are dishonest or unfair, or their necessary preconditions are absent. (See our DEMOCRACY LIBRARY, section IV.)

IV.

"Democratic nation building", the declared aim of American foreign policy, therefore, is a noble cause, but it has to start in the country that needs it most, which is our own. This is not because there is less democracy in the United States than anywhere else—a few other lands are even worse off in this regard—but because the democratic deficit from which we suffer is a greater hazard to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness all across the globe than the policies followed by any other government. When America was still an English colony, a popular slogan declared, "No taxation without representation". Today, people all over the world are being "taxed" on their wealth, health, culture, freedom and chances for survival by the United States without any representation or even any voice in the bodies where the decisions on these matters are made. Is there any way this situation can be changed? We think it can.

The International Endowment for Democracy (IED) has been set up to enable people everywhere to play a part in the struggles to extend democracy here in the United States by expressing their solidarity with and giving practical aid to some of the many groups that are involved in these struggles. Where some of the most important interests of Americans and non-Americans coincide (as outlined above), we need to work together. By soliciting money outside the United States to help save/extend/develop democracy inside the United States, the International Endowment for Democracy (IED) offers a new, albeit partial, way to do this. Apart from our small operating expenses (no IED board members are paid), we will not spend any of this money. All of it will be passed on to groups and institutions in the forefront of the struggle for real democracy in America. Together with the World Social Forums and the spreading actions against the political and economic dictates of the American ruling class, we consider the International Endowment for Democracy (I.E.D.) part of the essential next step in the democratization of capitalist globalization—except this part also allows people everywhere to join in the struggle at the very heart of the world system that needs to be transformed.

The American comedian, Dick Gregory, said, "If democracy is a good thing, let's have more of it". Amen. WON'T YOU HELP US—AND\ YOURSELVES—TO WIN THIS PRIZE?

Celebrating the Constitution

*See, other sections of website on DEMOCRACY LIBRARY; FROM THEORY TO PRACTICE / MANIFESTOS AND CHARTERS; DEMOCRACY QUOTES; DEMOCRACY CARTOONS.

AND PLEASE DON'T FORGET TO FORWARD THIS PAGE TO ALL YOUR CONTACTS AND ASK THEM TO DO THE SAME.



The INTERNATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR DEMOCRACY (I.E.D.) is a new foundation of progressive American scholars, lawyers and activists (see WHO WE ARE) dedicated to promoting real democracy in the country that needs it most, the U.S.A.



Who We Are:

IED Officers (Incomplete)

Honorary Chairpersons (and Board Members)

  • Mumia Abu-Jamal - Journalist, activist and political prisoner; honorary citizen of Paris; author of Live From Death Row, Death Blossoms: Reflections From A Prisoner Of Conscience, We Want Freedom: A Life In The Black Panther Party, and other works.

  • Ramsey Clark - World's leading human rights lawyer; former U.S. Attorney General under Lyndon Johnson; winner of the Gandhi Peace Award; founder of the International Action Center; co-author of War Crimes: A Report Of The U.S. War Crimes Against Iraq.

  • Harry Magdoff - until his sad death on Jan. lst - Co-editor of Monthly Review; author of The Age of Imperialism, Imperialism Without Colonies, Imperialism From The Colonial Age To The Present, as well as a half dozen books on the capitalist economy with Paul Sweezy, and other works.

  • Annette Rubinstein - Lecturer at the New York Marxist School; member of the Board of Editors of Science & Society; author of The Great Tradition of English Literature from Shakespeare to Shaw, American Literature: Root and Flower, and other works.

  • Gore Vidal - Author of numerous essays, novels and plays, among the best known of which are Imperial America: Reflections On The U.S. Of Amnesia (essays), Perpetual War For Perpetual Peace, Or How We Can Be So Hated (essays), and Julian The Apostate, Washington D.C., Burr, and Lincoln (novels).

  • Ellen Meiksins Wood - Former Prof. in Dept. of Political Science, York Univ., Canada; former co-editor of Monthly Review and member of the editorial board of New Left Review; winner of the Isaac Deutscher Prize for Retreat From Class; other books include Democracy Against Capitalism and Origins of Capitalism.

  • Howard Zinn - writer, lecturer, former Prof., Dept. of Political Science, Boston Univ.; author of A People's History of the U.S., Soldiers in Revolt: G.I. Resistance During the Vietnam War, Declaration Of Independence: Cross-Examining American Ideology, Marx In Soho (a play), and other works. Website.

President:

  • Bertell Ollman - Prof., Dept. of Politics, NYU; 1st winner of the Charles McCoy Award for Life-time Scholarship from the New Political Science Section of the American Political Science Association; author of Dance of the Dialectic: Steps in Marx's Method, Alienation: Marx's Conception Of Man In Capitalist Society, How to Take an Exam...and Remake the World, and other works. Website.

Executive Committee:

  • Michael Brown - Prof. and former Chairman of the Dept. of Sociology, Northeastern Univ.; co-founder and former co-editor of SOCIALISM AND DEMOCRACY; author of The Production of Society: a Marxian Social Foundation for Social Theory, co-author of Collective Behavior, and other works.

  • Barbara Foley - Prof., Dept. of English, Rutgers Univ. - Newark; Chair of the "Left Alliance" (alliance of progressive academic caucuses); Member of the Board of Editors of Science And Society; author of Spectres Of 1919: Class And Nation In The Making Of The New Negro, Radical Representation: Politics And Form In U.S. Proletarian Fiction, and other works.

  • John Manley - former Prof. and Chair of the Dept. of Political Science, Stanford Univ.; co-author of The Case Against the Constitution and author of "Marx and America: the New Deal" and "Neo-Pluralism: a Class Analysis of Pluralism", and other works.

  • Michael Smith - radical lawyer; co-host of 'Law and Disorder' radio program in New York City; author of Notebook of a 60's Lawyer.

Legal Counsel:

  • William Schaap - radical lawyer; co-founder and former co-editor of Covert Action Quarterly; co-editor of Bio-Terror: Manufactoring Wars the American Way, and other works.

Other Members of the I.E.D. Board of Directors:

  • Amrita Basu - Prof. of Government and Women's and Gender Studies, Amherst College; Director of the Five Colleges Women's Studies Research Center at Amherst, Mass.; author of Two Faces of Protest: Contrasting Codes of Women's Action in India, co-editor of Community Conflict and the State in India, and other works.

  • Carl Boggs is a professor of social science at National Univ., and the author of The Two Revolutions: Gramsci and the Dilemmas of Western Marxism (1984), The End of Politics: Corporate Power and the Decline of the Public Sphere (2000), Imperial Delusions: American Militarism and Endless War (2005), and other works. For two years (1999-2000) he was Chair of the Caucus for a New Political Science, a section within the American Political Science Association, and has had three radio programs at KPFK in Los Angeles.

  • Eduardo Capulong is an acting assistant professor of law at NYU Law School. Before that he was public interest director and lecturer in law and urban studies at Stanford Law School, and also worked for the No. CA Coalition for Immigrant Rights, ACLU, Center for Constitutional Rights and Community Service Society. He is also a member of the Board of Governors of the Society of American Law Teachers, and author of Which Side Are You On? Unionization in Social Service Nonprofits and People Power Revolution of 1986, an article on the Philippines.

  • James Cockcroft - Internet Prof. at State Univ. of New York; author of Mexico's hope: an Encounter with Politics and History, ed. of Salvador Allende Reader: Chile's Voice of Democracy, and other works. Website.

  • Bernardine Dohrn - Prof., Northwestern Univ. Law School; founder and Director of "The Children and Family Justice Center" at Northwestern; Board of Human Rights Watch; author of Incarcerating Children, Mass Incarceration: Perspectives on U.S. Imprisonment, "Letter to Young Activists: But It's My Own Country", and other works.

  • John Ehrenberg - Prof. and Chair of the Dept. of Political Science, Long Island Univ. - Brooklyn; former Chair of the New Political Science Section of the American Political Science Assoc.; member of the Editorial Board of SCIENCE AND SOCIETY; author of Civil Society, Proudhon and His Age, and other works.

  • Francis Feeley - Prof. and Director of the Center for the Advanced Study of American Institutions and Social Movements, Stendahl Univ. (Grenoble, France); author of America's Concentration Camps During World War II: Social Science and the Japanese American Internment, Rebels with Causes: Revolutionary Syndicalist Culture among French Primary School Teachers between 1880 - 1919, and other works. Website.

  • John Gerassi - Prof., Dept. of Political Science, Queens College and C.U.N.Y. Graduate Center; a former editor of Time And Newsweek magazines; author of Jean-Paul Sartre: the Hated Conscience of His Century, The Great Fear in Latin America, "Why America Is So Hated: Who Do We Cry For?", and other works.

  • Martha Gimenez - Prof., Dept. of Sociology, Univ. of Colorado; founding editor of The Progressive Sociologists Network; winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Marxist Section of the American Sociological Association; author of "Marxist Feminism / Materialist Feminism", "The Feminization of Poverty"; co-editor of Work Without Wages, and other works. Website.

  • Christine Harrington - Prof., Dept. of Politics, N.Y.U.; founder of Law and Society Program at N.Y.U. Law School; co-author of The Constitution: Law, State and Society and author of Popular Justice, Populist Politics: Law in Community Organizing, and other works. Website.

  • David Harvey - The world's most cited academic geographer; Distinguished Prof. of Anthropology, City Univ. of New York; author of The New Imperialism, A Brief History of Neo-Liberalism, Social Justice in the City, and other works.

  • Michael Hudson - Distinguished Prof. of Economics at the Univ. of Missouri - Kansas City; President of the Institute for the Study of Long Term Economic Trends; author of Super Imperialism: the Origin and Fundamentals of U.S. World Domination, Global Fracture: the New International Economic Order, and other works. Website.

  • Abdeen Jabara - Civil Rights lawyer; and former President of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Comm.

  • Mark Kesselman - Prof., Dept. of Political Science, Columbia Univ.; Co-Director of the Columbia Univ. Seminar on Globalization, Labor and Popular Struggles; co-author of The Politics of Power: a Critical Introduction to American Goverment, A Century of Organized Labor in France: A Union Movement for the 21st century, and "The State and Class Struggle: the Trends in Marxist Political Science".

  • Joel Kovel - Distinguished Prof. of Social Studies at Bard College; Editor of Capital, Nature, Socialism; author of Enemy of Nature: the End of Capitalism or the End of the World, White Racism: a Psychological History, and other works. Website.

  • Peter Kwong - Professor of Asian American Studies at Hunter College. A labor activist, writer and author of Chinese America: The Untold Story of America's Oldest New Community, The New Chinatown, The Forbidden Workers and other works.

  • Sandra Levinson - Founder and long-time Director of the Center for Cuban Studies / Cuban Art Space in New York City; journalist and producer of films on themes related to Cuban culture.

  • Michael Parenti - writer, lecturer, political science professor at various universities; author of Democracy for the Few, Superpatriotism, Inventing Reality: The Power of the Mass Media, and other works. Website.

  • Michael Ratner - international human rights lawyer; Lecturer at Columbia Univ. Law School; President of the Center for Constitutional Rights and past President of the National Lawyers' Guild; author of America's Disappeared: Secret Imprisonment, Detainees and the War on Terror. Website.

  • Ellen Ray - writer, editor; President of the Institute of Media Analysis; co-founder and former co-editor of Covert Action Quarterly; co-author of Guantanamo: What the World Should Know, Covert Action: the Roots of Terror and other works.

  • Lynne Stewart - prominent radical human rights attorney, who has been unjustly accused of aiding terrorism and is currently facing prison for her zealous defence of an unpopular Moslem client. A victim of the Patriot Act.

  • Immanuel Wallerstein - Senior Research Scholar at Yale Univ.; former President of the International Sociological Association; Chair of the Gulbenkian Commission on the Reconstruction of the Social Sciences, author of The Modern World System (three vols.), Historical Capitalism, Utopistics, or Historical Choices for the 21st Century, and other works. Website.

  • Leonard Weinglass - Civil Rights activist and progressive America's leading criminal defense lawyer whose clients have included the Chicago 7, Mumia Abu Jamal, and the Cuban 5; author of Race for Justice: Mumia Abu Jamal's Fight Against the Death Penalty, Super Power Principles: U.S. Terror Against Cuba, and other works.

  • Suzi Weissman - Prof., Dept. of Political Science, St. Mary's College of California; host of "Beneath the Surface" radio program in Los Angeles; member of the Editorial Boards of Critique and Against the Current; author of Victor Serge: The Course is Set on Hope, and other works.

  • Richard Wolff - Prof., Dept. of Economics, Univ. of Massachusetts - Amherst; co-founder and co-editor of Rethinking Marxism; co-author of Knowledge and Class: a Critique of Political Economy, Capitalism and Communism in the U.S.S.R., and other works.

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