Saturday, April 12, 2008

PROBLEMS IN EDUCATION

PROBLEMS IN EDUCATION
1.-PLATO
a,- Plato believed society should be stable and hierarchical; those most adept would rule, others would become warriors and carry out the orders of the rulers, and those least adept would fill the lowliest functions.
b.- Education would be orderly and segregated. It would select, classify, segregate and reject students at various stages of the educational process.
c.- As a consequence. most schools today go through a process of selection and rejection, with great effort expanded on testing, measuring, classifying and segregating students.
d.- Greatest prestige is accorded to the study of ideas and abstractions, and lower prestige is accorded to practical studies and manual work.
e.-Liberal arts are considered suitable educational fare for potential leaders
Vocational studies are considered suitable for followers.
f.- What a society may need most is people with technological, practical and manual skills, not liberal arts.
2.- ST. THOMAS AQUINAS
a.- In the 13th Century, Aquinas tried to synthesize reason and faith, philosophy and theology, university and monastery, activity and contemplation.
b.- The educated man that emerged from this process was the Scholastic, a man whose rational intelligence had been vigorously disciplined for the pursuit of moral excellence.
c.- For Aquinas, the primary agent of education is the learner, a person capable of self-education. Intellectually autonomous, he/she is able to conduct his own process of research and discovery.
3.- JOHN LOCKE
a.- Locke formulated the classic defense of individual freedom against the authorities of church and state.
b.- Locke was opposed to both the stagnation of unreflective tradition and the perils of enthusiastic radicalism.
c.- The model of the aristocratic gentleman had been the model for education in British society, and Locke formulated it for the rising bourgeoisie.
d.- Under Locke’s influence, the aristocratic model became infused with democratic, Puritan and practical characteristics.
e.- Locke believed that the mind at birth was a tabula rasa to be filled with knowledge.
f.- His four aims in education were; virtue, wisdom, breeding and learning.
Learning was to be lightly worn.
g.- Locke’s Puritan individualism had great effect on American education
h.- Locke failed to recognize the uses of institutional power and legislation for interventions that would enhance rather than restrict freedom.
4.- JRAN JACQUES ROUSSEAU
a.- Rousseau was reacting to rationalism in education with his spontaneity and naturalism.
b.- The educated person is the natural man or woman, opposed to rationalism, complexity and objectivity.
c.- The child should be protected from the corruptions of civilization
d.- The child’s intellectual powers should develop without distortion. Feelings should precede thinking, and the child should be controlled only by things, not adult’s wills.
e.- Constantly in tension with demands of reasoning, discipline, authority and scholarship, progressive education reminds us the our ultimate concern is with the child.
5.- KARL MARX
a.- Marx was concerned with curing the alienation and dehumanization of man caused by capitalist exploitation.
b.- The material dimension of history is primary.
c.- Economic production is the basis of life and ideas (religious, educational, political, artistic), which are determined by the economic structure.
d.- The dominant ideas in a society are those of the ruling class, those who control the means of production.
e.- To find the hidden agenda behind an idea, one must examine its social function, not its intellectual content. What class interests are being addressed?
f.- After a proletarian revolution the opposition between the individual and the collective will tend to disappear., with the interest of each dovetailing with the interest of all, and alienation will tend to disappear altogether.
g.- What is needed is a genuine community, a drawing together of autonomous and socially responsible persons.
h.- The educated person is not the irresponsible individualist nor the coerced collectivist, but the accountable communal person, who has attained freedom not by fleeing social relationships, but through them.
i.- Individual freedom requires social authority. Dialectically, there is a need for state intervention to remove gross inequalities and expand opportunities, and ultimately human regeneration is a task for each individual.
6.- PRAGMATISM
a.- Pragmatism was created by immigration, urbanization and industrialization. Its proponents are Peirce, James and Dewey.
b.- Pragmatism is the dominant American philosophy. It sees men and women as formed through the interaction with their natural and social environment. Neither the individual nor society has any meaning without the other.
c.- The educated person is reflective, critical of authority and tradition,. and someone who prefers science and organized intelligence to solve problems.
d.- A child’s interest should neither be repressed nor humored . A child’s bent should not be ignored, nor should the power underlying the passing whim.
e.- Subject matter should enable the child to reflect upon his social experiences.
f.- Subject matter that precedes or is unrelated to a child’s experiences is largely meaningless. It can only be meaningful through the continued reflection upon, and reconstruction of, experience.
7. BEHAVIORISM
a.- Skinner rejects the conventional model that man is a free agent who acts in accordance with the decisions of his inner self.
b.- Skinner believes education can create a planned person, one who will be conditioned to behave in the way best calculated to achieve society’s goals.
c.- Behavioral engineering can remove all antisocial tendencies, and a person will want only what is good for the self and society.
d.- Skinner’s ideas have led to the invention of programmed instruction (teaching machines) and to the emphasis on behavior in schools.
e.- Scientific control will bring about a society in which it will be easy to be good and excellent.
8.- EXISTANTIALISM
a.- Buber’s model of an educated person is one whose life is shaped by existential decision making, which cannot be determined in advance of the situation.
b.- Principles and traditions are not infallible guides.
c.- Each person is seen as unique.
d.- Dialogue is central to Buber’s educational philosophy. The educated person is one who can listen as well as talk. Genuine dialogue depends on authenticity, on being rather than seeming. This takes courage and responsibility.
e.- There is a continuity between learning and life, rather than knowledge for its own sake. Learning must be related to consequent action. Cognitive faculties may be trained, but the spirit must be infused by what has been learned.
9.- WHAT IS KNOWLEDGE?
a.- Is it accumulation of information, of knowing something is true or false, of knowing how to reproduce information on a test?
b.- Is it the process of thinking, of knowing how to learn and discover things, of focusing on process, on skills and attitudes?
10.- How should knowledge be communicated?
a.- An apprentice watches and imitates the master, fails, tries again, until he/she knows what the master knows. We learn role identity, what it means to be husband or wife, father or mother this way. It is a traditional method, not effective for stimulating growth and new knowledge.
. b.- One who knows (the teacher) tells one who doesn’t (the student). The student listens tries
to remember, and is required to produce his memorization in testing. Not a very effective way to communicate knowledge.
c.- A student can watch film or videotape, or read a book.
d.- One method that does not imply superiority-inferiority is dialogue All may be at different moments teachers and learners. This method assumes that all have knowledge to give and all need to learn.
11.- WHAT IS EDUCATION FOR?
a.- Education should serve the needs of the individual.
b.- Education should serve the needs of society.
c.- Under capitalism, both these goals are held, but for different segments of the population.
d.- Upper-class schooling the needs of the individual are met, and diversity and idiosyncracy are tolerated.
e.- The masses are taught to become obedient, well-drilled, uncomplaining workers in industry and agriculture.
f.- In France and Germany education is seen as intellectual development.
g.- In England education is seen as building character.
h.- In Communist countries, moral training is the primary purpose of education.
i.- In Roman Catholic countries, religious training is important.
j.- In the United States, where large scale immigration from Europe brought the fear of social disintegration, education is a preparation for citizenship and national consciousness. The U.S. is the only country that pledges allegiance in school.
12.-DIFFERENTIAL VS UNIFORM GROUPINGS
a.- Should similar students be clustered together for instruction or should the classroom be made deliberately diverse?
b.- Students can be grouped by chronological age; mental age, IQ, skin color, sex, social class, geographical location, parental income, performance ability on tests, etc.
c.- Skin color is used in the U.S. and South Africa, parental income is overtly used in private schools and voucher schools, (covertly in public schools located in expensive neighborhoods)
d.- Some criteria separate rich from poor or elites from minorities because of the cultural bias of the tests used.
e.- Homogenous groups are more efficient in instruction and learning.
f.- Heterogenous groupings have better social outcomes, enhanced understanding of others and a tolerance for diversity.
13.- CONTROL AND DISCIPLINE
a.- When education is seen as between a teacher (superior) and a student (inferior) questions of control arise.
b.- Those who believe people are basically untrustworthy will favor strict control, to prevent the students’ natural impulses from harming themselves or others.
c.- Those who see people as basically trustworthy will justify a more lenient attitude.
d.- Both agree that a student should develop self-discipline.
e.- Does self discipline develop through practice in obeying orders or practice in commanding oneself?
14.- COMPETITION AND COLLABORATION
a.- Is the competitive spirit innate or is it acquired through culture?
b.- The question is should competition be encouraged or reduced. Some argue that since competition is endemic in the culture and the student needs to assimilate into the culture, the school should encourage competition and help to develop the necessary strengths to compete.
c.- Others argue that competition is pernicious and schools should not encourage harmful aspects of the culture, but work toward cultural progress.
d.- As a result, students often struggle to compete without appearing to do so.
15.- WHAT ARE THE BOUNDARIES OF FORMAL EDUCATION?
a.- Some subjects are considered taboo, such as religious teaching in public schools, sex education, Communism, and sensitivity training.
b.- The argument is that children are not well equipped to resist heavy bias,
They’re compelled by law to attend and constitute a captive audience.
c.- The counter argument is that such censorship is used to keep all controversy out of schools and render them places of deadly uniformity and dullness.
16.- INTERVIEW
From Michael Apple
a.- Education in the United States is reactionary. This is caused by neoliberalism. , which tries to turn teachers and students into objects of consumption.
b.- There are scarce resources, there is overcrowding, lowered standards, emphasis in student capacity to increase production in the interest of private capital
c.- Education in the U.S. doesn’t try to reduce unemployment or wipe out poverty. It constitutes an attack on egalitarian values, it is against cultural and political democracy.
d.- The political right has been successful in furthering its agenda in
education. It has united different tendencies around welfare, culture, the economy and social and political issues.
e.- The right is made up of neoliberals, neoconservatives, authoritarian populists, and parts of the new middle class. It wants to privatize institutions and have a weak government, except in the army and the police. .
f.- The right sees students as human capital needed to turn out profits. Any other purpose is viewed with suspicion. It will gladly invest in education, but only to satisfy the requirements of capital.
g.- The schools are one of the main forums where questions of resources, power, political ideology, curricula, pedagogy, testing and financing are decided.
h.- What needs to be done is to combine academic principles with knowledge of production. For example, schools should teach physics, mathematics and architecture in order to build housing for low income families. Education should be an arena of struggle and compromise, because here is decided what institutions should do and whom they are to serve.
i.- The Right in education must be fought. The Right must be made to compromise or it will have to call out the police into the streets.
j.- Dropping out is a form of resistance. Young people know that even if they make an effort, most will not find jobs, or only something inferior to their abilities. Education results in low-qualifies jobs and low salaries.
k.- The antidote to Right-wing education is information and critical analysis.
17.- ARTICLE
From AFT:
a.- The primary mission of schools should be to teach students how to read literature, write persuasively, solve tough mathematical problems, understand an appreciate history, and apply scientific principles in their everyday lives.
18.- Critical thinking
1.- Critical thinking involves
a,-Creative problem solving
b.-Decision-making
c.-Change
2.- Critical thinking can best be used in analyzing
a.-The workplace
b.-Politics
c.-Television
d.-Personal relations
3.-People are thinking critically when they
a.- Identify and challenge the assumptions underlying their own and on others beliefs and behavior
b.- Explore and imagine alternatives to current ways of thinking and living
4.- Philosophers, physicists, psychologists and scientists in general are trained to question basic assumptions.
5.-Critical thinking unearths assumptions and builds new insights
6.-Critical thinking becomes aware of alternatives
7.-Critical thinkers don’t accept automatically a particular idea or solution without examining the alternatives, making a choice, and accepting the consequences
8.-The critical thinking process starts with
a.- A triggering event that causes inner discomfort
b.- Exploration of ways of reducing the discomfort
c.- Developing and alternative
d.- Integration the new ideas into the situation
e.- Use of the scientific method in problem solving:
Types of methods; axiomatic, empirical, hypothetico-deductive, simulation,, classification, experimentation, hypothesis, measurement, observation, laws and theories, explanations.
9.-Critical examination involves;
Critical questioning that scrutinizes the basis for thinking and acting.
Critical incident exercises milestones that are meaningful and finding out why.
10.-Critical analysis discovers the unspoken assumptions of right wrong good bad
a.- Reject standard formats for problem solving (don’t parrot the official line)
b.- Cultivate a multifaceted interest
c.- Take multiple perspectives
d.- View as relative and contextual
e.- Use trial and error
f.- Embrace change
g.- Build self confidence
h.-Make decisions by brainstorming- generate free flow of ideas with no evaluation or criticism allowed
i.-Encourage individuals to propose outrageous solutions
j.-Invent the future by asking
Who am I?
What do I want to do?
How can I do it?
What are the grounds for having others join me?
11.-When you can answers these questions you are ready to challenge the status quo..
19.- THE CRISIS IN US EDUCATION TODAY
(after Tim Wheeler)
THE PROBLEM
1.- Public education is a need and a right. Without it a modern society cannot survive. It offers young people an opportunity to meet, discuss, plan and receive information/education for their future. There are proposals to eliminate it altogether by means of privatization, vouchers and charter schools. Promoting an end to "big government" by cutting welfare, health care, food stamps and all-people programs really means rule by the rich without regard for the majority.
2.- Attacks on education come after the ground has been prepared by corporate "downsizing," plant shutdowns, attempts to stop the raise on the minimum wage, and to outlaw unions . Young people are blamed through racist stereotyping of blacks and browns, and for the drug epidemic and gun violence. Teenage girls are blamed for their pregnancies, when it is a fact that the fathers are mostly older men, who are never mentioned. The attempt to pit youth and families against unions and teachers is a divide and conquer tactic. First public schools are denied a minimum program, repair facilities and smaller classes, then they are blamed for not doing their job, while schools for the rich have the best of everything.
THE SOLUTION :
3.- Full funding for public education to reduce class size, repair and rebuild schools, programs that expand horizons and inspire students in the arts and sciences as well as sharpen their skills in the basics of reading and writing up-to-date materials including computers and the Internet. Promotion of bi-lingual education and multi cultural curricula. An end to racial discrimination and segregation. Students have been isolated and the schools promote racism thereby. An end to the anti-human legislation that pretends that immigrants are not people or do not have children that deserve an education. The struggle for teacher's unions and decent contacts and working conditions must continue.
4.- Parents, school workers, students and elected officials must speak out and defend public education in the praise in conferences, letters to the editor and visits to legislator's offices . Cut class size to 15. Hire teachers and support personnel, using affirmative action guidelines. Provide publicly funded quality all-day early childhood programs. Instead of taxing local property, tax the rich and the corporations to pay for public education. Reappropriate military expenditures into the Department of Education. Impose a moratorium on interest payments on the national debt. Appropriate 250 billion dollars to build and repair schools create jobs and give the youth a hope for the future.
5.- Schools should be based in the community, and staffed by community people, from cafeteria workers, cooks and suppliers to teachers and administrators.

Friday, April 11, 2008

THE PEOPLE GOVERN, NOT THE STATE (Harnecker)

THE LATIN AMERICAN LEFT TODAY.
Abstracted from an article, "Haciendo Posible lo Imposible," by MarthaHarnecker, 1999

THE SITUATION TODAY. Latin America is finally beginning to recover economically from the painful decade of the 80s, a time in which Latin Americans had been excluded both as producers and consumers. The people have begun to become connected again by means of the informal economy and the criminal economy, for example, drug trafficking, outside their countries.
The menace of unemployment hits underdeveloped countries as well as developed countries, while the dreams of a better society timidly fade into the background. The destruction of the environment, corruption in high places, the threat of war, including nuclear war, are highly demoralizing. Capitalism does not only generate garbage that is not recyclable, but also throws the human refuse it has created onto the collective heap.
The crisis of the left has three origins;

1.- Its inability to work out its own ideas based on the reality of the subcontinent and of each country, its traditions of struggle and its potential for change. Using European theories, Latin Americans saw themselves as a feudal formation, rather than the dependent capitalism with a majority indigenous population that they are.
2.- It has not been able to do a serious study of socialism--- its triumphs as well as its failures.
3.- There has been no serious study of Marxism in the 20th Century; of capitalism under the electronic-information revolution, globalization and financial wars. How, for example is the theory of surplus value modified with the introduction of digitalization and robotics, and the actual process of globalization? How does this affect technical and social relations, relations of distribution and consumption and the introduction of new technologies at the workplace? How has the work force, as well as the bourgeoisie, changed, at a time when knowledge has become basic to the productive forces? What is a Marxist position on ecology, on gender? Where is globalization taking us, and what are its consequences? What are the objective bases for the transformation of this means of production?
Some on the left blame Marx for the fall of the USSR, as if the recipe were to blame for the food being burned. Marx’s great contribution was in founding a new science, history, just as Tales founded mathematics and Galileo physics. Before Marx, history was an uncultivated field, taken over by religious, judicial, philosophical and moral ideas. The left has to work out a strategy and tactics based on historical reality.

1.- Where is the revolutionary potential today?
2.- Where must we work?
3.- What form must the organizational effort take?
4.- Where are the contradictions in the system?
5.- Which is the weakest link in the chain?

We can only answer these questions seriously if we make a scientific, dialectical, historical and Marxist analysis of society.

THE MARXIST ANALYSIS. Marxist science cannot be dogmatic. A dogma can charge copyright fees, but not a science. One speaks of mathematics, physics or anthropology without calling them galeleism, newtonsim, etc. During the time of Stalin, when it was transformed into an official dogma, Marxism became an anti-science which retarded the movement for decades. It is paradoxical that capitalists now use parts of that Marxism for their counter-revolutionary strategies.
Marx pointed out that capitalist production undermines the land- all production eventually leaves the ground sterile, and the land deteriorates as a result of the changes in country-city relations. With the increase in urban populations, the great centers of capitalist production have concentrated into a motor force capable of changing society, but the relations man-earth have been disturbed, and the conditions for permanent fertility of the soil have been broken.
Capitalism measures everything in terms of monetary value and does not ask if production really serves human beings, neither does it worry about the effects it can have over nature. The left needs to ask what is the degree of social efficiency or environmental rationality or technological productivity. This is unthinkable within capitalism and this is why it is necessary to struggle for a socialist society. The left must devote time to theory, winning over intellectuals, forming communities of scientific research, making popular schools and permanent cadres a reality. Only socialism can resolve the contradiction between conservation and growth, between the laws of the market, of economic interests, of cultural and ethical values, and of popular demands of appropriation and self-determination on the use of natural resources. An eco-Marxist theory will give new orientation and foundation to the development of productive forces that make up ecology, technology and culture in within the ambit of equal and sustainable productive forces.
At the same time, the Latin American left is going through a profound programmatic crisis. After

1.- The fall of Soviet socialism,
2.- The crisis of the welfare state promoted by European social democracy,
3.- Ideas of populist development in Latin America,
To which one can add,
4.- The potential that still is possible within capitalism.

The left has had great difficulty in designing a project that can transform and take on the new world reality in a single unit that can unite all the social sectors that are affected by the regime in power.

THE ALTERNATIVES: Alternatives do not appear from one day to the next. Other factors make progress of the left difficult. One of the main problems is that the practices of the left differ very little from traditional parties, be they right wing or center . People are fed up with party politics that are corrupt and not transparent, they don’t want to know anything about speeches that remain mere words and do not translate into effective action. People demand coherent results to match the speeches.
The most active and powerful political party is the party of indifference. This represents a victory for the ruling class in power. In addition to this, the right wing has unscrupulously hijacked the language of the left for its own ends. Words like "reform, structural change, rights of women, right to work, concern over poverty, transition," are all part of the anti-people, oppressive discourse. Keywords of popular opposition movements in the ‘50s and ‘60s have been transformed into keywords used by those who, with violence and firepower, destroyed them. Now everybody is "against" privilege, everyone wants reforms, everyone wants preferential treatment of the poor and minorities.
The left can take over important local governments, and is capable of taking over the national government, among other things due to the growing popular discontent produced by neoliberal measures that affect ever-widening social sectors. But there is always the danger that a left government limit itself to administrating the crisis and engaging in the same kind of politics that the right-wing does. This will negatively impact on the suffering of the poor that is caused by the neoliberal model, and (this is the most dangerous) can destroy the left option for a long period of time.
Naturally, the dominant ideology takes it upon itself to say that there is no alternative, and the hegemonic groups do not simply make declarations, they do everything possible to make whatever alternative that crosses their path disappear, as happened with the Unidad Popular in Chile, with the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua, and as it has tried to do for 40 years without success within the heroic Cuban revolution. There are those who feel that there is no other way but to recognize the need to opportunistically adapt oneself to the existing situation. Such an attitude excludes any attempt to bring forth an alternative to existing capitalism, because by resigning oneself to the realpolitik, one need not act upon reality itself, and need only stop doing political work and accept political formulations made by others.

MAKING OPENINGS IN THE CRACKS OF THE SYSTEM. Instead, left politics should consist in discovering the potential that exists in any concrete situation today to make possible tomorrow what now appears impossible, always starting from the standpoint of what is true and real. This works to create a new balance of power in the correlation of forces, using what is progressive, and strengthening that. It functions always in the area of reality, but for the purpose of dominating and overcoming deficiencies. What is important is to build a correlation of forces that are favorable to the popular movement, starting with its strong points.
If we think about workers in Marx’s time, subjected to the immense power called the capitalist bosses, who could at any moment leave them in the street without any means of earning a living, a strike under those conditions was suicide. What to do then? Their strength lay in the organization and unity of the workers, who were much greater in number than their class enemies. It was a strength that had to be built, and only traveling on that road was it possible to achieve what had appeared to be impossible.
There are those who believe that classical labor struggles are no longer viable, for example, strikes, which are based on the unity of the industrial working class and its capacity to stop the corporations. There are those who believe that this no longer gives positive results, and there are opportunists who move in trying to immobilize the worker’s movement and convince it that it needs to passively accept its current conditions of super-exploitation.
On the contrary, the art of politics consists in discovering the means by which the any weakness in the industrial working-class can be overcome, in order to build an organized social force consistent with the new conditions in the world. It’s necessary to build a new union strategy. It’s no longer only about the working-class solidarity of the 19th century. If at that time the fundamental unity of the industrial working-class was necessary, today unity is fundamental for all of people exploited by capital----permanent workers and temporary workers, contracted or subcontracted, union or non-union, along with all the other social sectors that have been damaged by the neoliberal system. A new strategy (always based on the central and organizing role of the working-class) must hook up the totality of employees, the unemployed and marginalized workers, with the totality of men and women who are oppressed and excluded, to build its own social force that is capable of standing up to the power of domination, challenge it and conquer it. Only in this way can the working-class negotiate with a strength that it does not have by itself, and certainly that the rest of the population lacks. No union alone today can win a struggle, because liberalism attacks on every side. For example, city dwellers need to understand that the struggle for land is not only a struggle to help a few peasants or farm workers, but that it entails the solution to many of the critical problems of the city itself.
When one thinks of building forces one is also overcoming the narrow vision that reduces power to the repressive aspects of the state. The power of the enemy is not only repressive but also constructive, it molds and disciplines workers. If the power of the ruling class were only a form of censorship or exclusion, it would be weaker. It is strong because in addition to crushing what it doesn’t want, it is capable of doing what it does want, of molding behavior, of producing knowledge, rationalizations and a kind of consciousness, of forging a way of seeing the world, and seeing itself that way.
When one thinks of building a movement, one must also overcome the old and entrenched mistake of trying to build a political force, whether by means of arms or the ballot box, without building a social force at the same time. For the left, politics must be the art of building a social force that is against the system. This can only be achieved if it manages to tear apart the barriers that the enemy puts up to prevent the movement from being built. That is why it is necessary to have a wide understanding of these barriers, and not remain in the mere observation and challenge of only some of them. These barriers are simply the form that the ruling class has to organize its political and social control of the oppressed.
The left, therefore, should not think of the people or the popular social forces as a given that is there ready to be manipulated, and that is only necessary to agitate. The movement is something that must be built. It is well known that a key element in the strategy of power of neoliberalism is to achieve maximum fragmentation of society, because a society divided into different minority groups is not capable of building itself into a majority that can challenge the hegemony of the ruling class, and that is the best formula for the reproduction of the system. One of the most fundamental tasks of the left is to overcome the dispersion and division of the exploited population, and to build on people’s unity.

TO ACT IN A CREATIVE MANNER. To think of politics as the art of building a popular social force means rejecting two types of political styles that can prevent this kind of cohesion, namely right-wing populism and the spontaneous marshalling of forces of the traditional left. "Spontaneous marshalling of forces" refers to a political style that is limited to situations that have already occurred. It reacts to social explosions that emerge spontaneously in different social sectors, (strikes, taking over land, and street demonstrations of all kinds). This is the style of the political agitator that reacts to possibilities that appear in front of him, and are not the result of his initiative or planned action, nor are they are a result of a global political analysis that allows him to choose his actions. This explains its spontaneous characteristics.
A different style starts with the basic idea that the social force is not something already given, but rather has to be built, and that the ruling class has strategies in place to prevent it from coming into being. This implies that one does not allow oneself to be carried along by events, but instead acts upon them and chooses among the spaces and conflicts where one is to concentrate one’s energies to achieve the central objective; the building of the popular forces. This construction does not produce itself spontaneously; it requires a political subject that is capable of orienting his or her actions based on an analysis of the totality of the political dynamic.
The crisis in today’s institutional left parties is expressed as much in the loss of its capacity to attract new members, especially the youth, as in an evident dysfunction of its current structures, habits, and traditional ways of making politics, in the face of a social reality which places current demands on the members of a popular socialist organization in the process of substantive renovation.

THE NEED FOR A POLITICAL PARTY. The right can do without a political party perfectly well, as has been demonstrated during the periods of dictatorship. Even when they exist, they demagogically manipulate the elections. What better example of this is the fact that the poorest and most marginalized sections of Latin America vote for extreme right candidates? The left, if it needs to build a popular force that is against the system for the qualitative transformation of society, cannot do without its political instruments- a party, a political front, or some other formula. In the first place, the transformation is not produced spontaneously. Ideas and values that prevail in capitalist society—those which rationalize and justify the existing order—are pervasive throughout the whole society and specially influence the sectors that are least equipped to understand theory or have critical distance.
Is also necessary to defeat immensely powerful forces that are opposed to the transformation, and this is not possible without a political organism that formulates the proposals, that is capable of giving millions of people a single will, at the same time that it unifies and articulates the difference in emancipatory practices. For this reason the people must be given other experiences and knowledge that allow them to shape their view of the world, to discover the deep causes of their exploitation and to discover for themselves the road to their liberation.
This does not mean that under certain conditions popular sectors cannot wake up and reveal the real interests that move the different social sectors. This happens at a time of great social and revolutionary upheaval. The ruling class takes off its mask and reveals its methods of struggle. The people become politicized and learn with extraordinary speed. There’s a certain kind of knowledge that the working-class and in general the popular sectors have access to as a result of the confrontations that they have experienced, and that is why it is fundamental for revolutionaries to start with the historical and social practice of the people, its ideas and values, its conceptions, as well as its forms organization in struggle and styles of work.

MISTAKES OF THE LEFT
But there is another kind of knowledge that is not possible to access directly. It’s very difficult for popular sectors to acquire by themselves an appreciation of the global conditions of class struggle in their country and around the world. Very often Marxist organizations have overvalued this indirect knowledge, a part of which comes from scientific activity, underestimating other forms of knowledge such as those that are based on direct experience, in collective and social practice . There is a tendency to ignore the knowledge that is acquired in this manner by the dominated sectors. Direct experience is considered unimportant in building knowledge, especially if one is talking about the social experiences of ordinary men and women. This winds up leaving the analysis of reality in the hands of intellectuals.
It is also true that some militants have fallen to the other extreme of over-estimating direct experience as the only source of knowledge, disdaining the need of having global knowledge that relates to the national situation as well as to the international one. Thus it is necessary to have an organization in which political analysis becomes the synthesis of a collective process which builds on everyone’s knowledge, that takes in as much direct experience as it does the examination of global reality using theory as a guide. This implies that rejection of two extreme theses; "the illuminated vanguard" and "basism."
The "vanguard" considers politics as the only way of knowing the truth: The party is the conscious element, it holds the key to knowledge, and the masses are the backward sector. This vision is based on a simplistic interpretation of the Kautsky´s thesis regarding the need of the fusion of Marxist theory with the working-class movement. This vision leads to a political relationship with the masses characterized by a strong dose of authoritarianism and verticalism. The direction of the movement, the duties of the leadership, the platform of struggle, are all resolved by the direction of the party which trickles down to the social movement in question, without it being able to participate in the planning of any of the things that are in its greatest interest.
The opposite thesis is "basism." This over estimates the potential of social movements. It believes that these moments are self-sufficient. It rejects indiscriminately the intervention of any outside politics and thus contributes to the division of the popular movement. The history of many popular uprisings of the twentieth century has demonstrated that it is not enough for the masses to have creative initiative to overcome the class in power. What happened in May of 1968 in France is an example. Other events are; the popular uprisings in Haiti In 1987 and 1988; social uprisings that have shaken Venezuela and Argentina in the ‘90s, where the poorest urban masses have risen up and under no particular direction have taken highways, towns, neighborhoods and supply centers. In spite of their massiveness and their combativeness they did not manage to destroy the ruling system in power. The history of triumphant revolutions, on the other hand, ratifies what can be achieved when there is a political force capable of putting forth a national alternative program that can bind together the most diverse popular sectors, and of unifying action by concentrating forces at the weakest link of the enemy’s chain. Solid organizational cohesion alone does not only give the objective capacity to act; at the same time it creates the internal climate that makes it possible to intervene energetically on events and to take advantage of the opportunities that they offer. One must remember that in politics it is not only necessary to be right; one must act at the right time and have the strength to materialize forces.
Unfortunately, "the great work of social engineering," that became so efficient in Russia---a backward society coupled with an autocratic political regime--- was mechanically translated to the Latin American reality, which is a very different one. Not only that, but it was applied in a simplified and dogmatic form. The party considered itself to be the perfect political subject for social transformation, the instrument that was destined to lead the political class struggle—a struggle that always occurs in specific historical , political and social conditions, and whose organic structure had to be adjusted to the reality of each country, and modified in accordance with the concrete demands of the struggle. Is not possible to have an organization that is immutable and absolutely addresses every group’s needs. The conditions of worker struggles are constantly being transformed, and according to these transformations, the vanguard worker´s organizations must also constantly find new forms.
The Marxist Latin American left was fond of proclaiming itself the vanguard of the revolutionary process, in many cases the vanguard of the working class, even though this class was practically non-existent in some of the countries. To accept that other organizations were as revolutionary or more than they were was to accept the possibility of sharing power, which was almost unthinkable for a longtime. On the other hand, they didn’t understand that the vanguard is not a process which can be self-proclaimed, but rather something that is conquered in the struggle itself, and that if there is no rear guard, there is no vanguard. There is a distinction between the formation of the party or revolutionary organization at the moment when the cadres are being prepared for leadership and the moment in which the real capacity for leadership is achieved. The majority of the left organizations in Latin America were not able to ever achieve this real capacity of leadership.

SECTARIANISM. Each organization fought for the title of the most revolutionary, the most just etc.; what was important was the sect, the outward appearance, and not the revolution. As a result, most of the organizations fell into sectarianism. The political and military organizations considered that all the parties that were not involved in the armed struggle were reformists, and the latter—especially the communist parties, some of whom believed there could not be anyone legitimately to their left—attacked others as ultra-left. The vertical style of leadership which tried to run things authoritatively from above---filtering down lines of action prepared by the political leadership to the base---was the usual practice. This led to another deviation: The tendency to pile up many leadership responsibilities on a few people to control everything from above instead of going through the process of patiently working with the base. Most of the time, strategy was formulated not as a result of the search for a native way tailored to the specific characteristics of the country, but rather was made up from the sum of partial strategic components of differing revolutionary experiences from other countries.
One must bear in mind that the 26 of July movement, the Sandinista and Nicaraguan fronts all gained leadership, among other reasons, because they were able to insert themselves deeply into their noble and heroic national traditions. They made the revolution in Spanish, not in Russian. Their spiritual parents were Martí and Sandino.

ABSTRACT THEORY AND PRACTICALISM. Abstract theory and dogmatism have been present in the most diverse aspects of the left: As much in the traditional left as in the self-proclaimed revolutionary left, although their relationship is not symmetrical. The latter had as its inspiration the Cuban revolution, a genuine Latin American process that found its own way. The tendency is to make a theoretical general analysis that is unable to explain how concrete processes function. What came out were agitational politics and sloganeering, which did not contribute much to the popular social forces. Discussions were sterile. It was difficult to have a debate based on foreign models and a dialectical synthesis that would allow members to overcome their differences; on the contrary, many of these theoretical discussions divided and disunited the different forces even more. This led to two mistakes, which were often interrelated: on one hand it was felt that unity could be achieved avoiding theoretical discussion; on the other, people fell into only practice, rejecting every effort to theorize over the real situation. This absence of theory and of theoretical discussion, the lack of a critical study of successes and failures, only served to allow revolutionary thinking to trail behind.

STRATEGISM: Strategism was another mistake of the left. Great strategic goals were planned, e.g., the struggle for national liberation and socialism, but there was no concrete analysis of the concrete situation. There was a mistaken idea that there was a revolutionary situation in all of Latin America, and all that was needed was a spark that would ignite the prairie. One of the reasons it was so difficult to go in this direction even after overcoming hegemonism and sectarianism, even with the existence of a real, unified will, was still the absence of theoretical, historical analysis about national and continental realities

SUBJECTIVISM. In addition there has been much subjectivism in the analysis of the correlation forces. It often happens that leaders, moved by their revolutionary passion, confuse their desires with reality. There is no objective analysis of the situation. The enemy is underestimated, and one’s own possibilities are overestimated. The leadership confuses the state of mind of the most radical members with the state of mind of the popular sectors at the base. There is a tendency to generalize about the state of mind of the people from one’s own perspective, from the region or social sector where one is working, or from a guerrilla front, or simply what is perceived by one’s surroundings, which are always in the most radicalized sectors.
Those who work among the sectors that are less politicized have a different vision. It is not the same to work in a combative popular neighborhood, than it is to work with the more comfortable middle-class. The same thing occurs in countries where there is guerrilla warfare. Guerrillas who have real confrontations with the enemy, who militarily control certain zones, tend to believe that the revolutionary processes is more along than those who work within the legal space in the cities, where ideological power and military control is still very great.
It is important for top leaders to listen to the people and avoid projecting their preconceived ideas on the middle leaders and on the base. If one cannot listen—something that requires a great dosis of revolutionary modesty—and at the same time one receives false information. The result is that there are no real possibilities of mobilization.
On the other hand, there has been a tendency for the left to kid itself along, to falsify data regarding mobilizations, meetings, strikes, the forces that each organization has, etc., so that incorrect action, which is based on false premises, is taken. Not only are the numbers falsified, but also the evaluation of the action taken is distorted. If the objective was to achieve representation in the congress, and this was not achieved, it was not recognized as a failure, but there was always an attempt to show this as a triumph; for example, that there were more votes cast in comparison to the previous election. If there was a national strike proposed, and there were only partial strikes, this was not recognized as a step backward, but was looked at as a successful strike because more workers had struck than previously.
The left in general had a reduced idea of state power and the revolutionary left thought of power essentially as the overthrow of the government—and thus always concentrated forces to create conditions for this overthrow, ignoring the other aspects of the struggle, among them, the work of cultural transformation of popular consciousness, which was seen as something to be done after power had been seized

RELIGION. Changes in the Catholic church after the second Vatican Council of 1962-1965, which culminated in the Medellín Conference in 1968, the appearance of Liberation Theology, and the movement of Christian communities at the base, to which can be added the work of Camilo Torres, the priest who died fighting with the ELN guerrilla campaigns in Columbia, have all brought about changes in unjust attitudes as to what role Christians can play in the Revolution.

IGNORING ETHNIC GROUPS. The left there during many decades, except in a few instances, ignored indigenous people. The application of classical reductionism to the indigenous peasantry allowed it to think of indigenous peasants as an exploited social class that had to fight for the land like any other peasant, ignoring the ethnic cultural factor that made these peasants a social sector that was doubly exploited, and one that had an ancestral culture of resistance against the oppressor. One of the merits of the armed Guatemalan struggle f the ‘70s was to realize the explosive potential of the indigenous people who are the majority in that country. Today the revolutionary movement in Latin America understands, that it must respect the language, customs, religiosity and cultural expressions of the indigenous people, if it doesn’t want to throw them into the arms of the enemy. It must be sensitive to the enormous revolutionary potential in these people who are economically exploited and culturally oppressed.

LEARN FROM THE PAST. To forget the past, to not learn from failure, to ignore one’s own traditions of struggle, is to help the right, which has the greatest interest in erasing the historic memory of our people, because that is the best way not to accumulate forces, to fall again into the same mistakes. Hooking up with the past is more than just an exercise in interpretation or in identifying a tendency. The latter is necessary but not enough. The future of the left depends as well in the re-structuring of its memory. The history of the left, lived as memory, can be painful but it can give great strength and anchor the present. It is not about putting people into the organization and in a society which has a partisan plan, rather it’s about putting politics into the life of the people and the partisan organization. The left identity must be legitimated toward the outside more than toward the inside. This means that a member of the organization must spend the greater part of his/her time connecting the party with society. Internal activities should be reduced to whatever is strictly necessary, avoiding too many meetings.
The new political organization should have in its sights not only on the economic exploitation of the workers, but also on the diverse forms of capitalist oppression and destruction of humans and nature that go way beyond the basic relations between capital and the workforce. Classic reductionism needs to be abandoned by taking on the defense of all social sectors that are discriminated and excluded economically, politically, socially and culturally .Beside the problems of class, the left must consider cultural and ethnic, racial, gender, sexual and environmental problems. It should not concern itself only with organizing workers, but also bring together the struggles of women, indigenous people, blacks, youth, children, the retired, the disabled, homosexuals, etc. And it is not about simply defending discriminated and exploited people, but of understanding the radical and transforming political potential that exists in all of these struggles. The environmental movement addresses a problem that affects all of humanity. This movement could be a catalyst and an axis that brings together other struggles that can become integrated into an alternative and transforming sensibility.
The new political organization should not try to take over legitimate representatives of all those who strive for emancipation, but rather try to articulate its practice into a single political project, at the same time generating spaces so that the different social problems can recognize each other’s needs and create a consciousness, which is the result of specific struggles that each one has in their particular area: neighborhood, university, school, factory, etc.. There should be a creative tension between the social movements but they do not have to lose their autonomy or their roots, because that is their strength. This is an organizational party of a new type, that condenses the social movement, that does not intend to represent it, that does not intend to take it over, but does have the task of creating a national project out of it. It’s very difficult for a social movement--- be it made up of youth, ecologists, women, peasants, native people, blacks, etc., to have a national project on its own.

HEGEMONY. Hegemony is opposed to Hegemonism. It has nothing to do with the steamroller approach of some revolutionary organizations who take advantage of being the strongest, and have tried thereby to gain greater strength through hegemonism. It has nothing to do with imposing leadership from above, taking over positions and giving orders to the rest. It has nothing to do with pretending to have a copyright over other organizations that dare to raise their banners. It’s not about instrumentalizing , but rather adding and giving strength to all those who are convinced and attracted by the revolutionary project. They can only be added if everyone is respected, if there is a capacity to share responsibilities with other forces. This is easier said than done. When an organization is strong, it tends to underestimate the contribution the other organizations can make. This is something that must be fought against.
Hegemony is not measured by the number of persons that the political organization has in the administration, but rather by the number of persons that feel represented by the organization. That is why the government cannot be sectarian; it has to try to incorporate into the leadership those best suited to carry out the job, even people of other parties of the political coalition that allowed for the election to succeed, or of independent persons.
A hegemonic attitude, instead of adding forces has the opposite effect. On one hand it creates malaise in the other left groups, because they feel manipulated and forced to accept decisions in which they have not participated, and on the other, it reduces the field of allies, since an organization that has this position is incapable of taking into account the real interests of all the popular sectors, and creates much mistrust.
On the other hand, the concept of hegemony is a dynamic constant. Hegemony is not once and forever. It is a process that has to be re-created continually. Life goes on its way, new problems appear, as do new challenges. Important sectors of the left have come to understand that our hegemony will be greater when we succeed in having more people follow our political line, even if it isn’t under our signature. The best thing to do is to conquer these ideas for the greatest number, not only in political organizations and mass organizations and in their leaders, but also among well-known national figures. An example is the capability shown by the Sandinistas in forming the "group of the 12," before the triumph of the Revolution, which was made up of 12 people who belonged to the Nicaraguan bourgeoisie and to middle levels, an important part of which were not members of the Sandinista front, even though they felt sympathetic toward it. The group, which had intellectuals, members of the clergy, landowners and businessmen, was a mediating factor at the national and international levels to include the Sandinista front as an indispensable element in the search for a political solution to the crisis, and certainly extended the hegemony of the FSLN to important social sectors.

ORGANIZATIONAL DEMOCRACY. There has been a lack of understanding over the relationship between democracy and socialism as shown in the language that many leaders have used. They declare themselves to be revolutionary and qualify other progressive left forces as democratic forces, as if a radical revolutionary did not have to be at the same time a radical democrat. Instead of vindicating democracy, in their speeches and propaganda they emphasize the dictatorship of the proletariat.
The traditional Marxist Leninist left has underestimated the subject of democracy. By justly denouncing the limits of representative or formal democracy, they wound up denying the value of democracy itself, forgetting that democratic victories are not a gift of the bourgeoisie, but the result of historical struggles by the popular movement, such as; the right to vote, women’s rights, union organizing right, etc..
Not always a clear distinction between formal democracy and real democracy has been made, in its mutual relations, and that which has to be rejected and that which has to be saved. If anything positive came out of the military dictatorships of the ‘70s and ‘80s, it was to allow the left to see the value of a democratic regime, subject to the rule of law, no matter how limited it might be.
A new organization must raise high the banner of democracy, because it understands that the struggle for democracy is inseparable from the struggle for socialism. Democracy has three basic aspects:

1.-The problem of representation and citizen’s rights.
2.- The problem of social equality.
3.- The role of people’s participation and the people as protagonists.

The first aspect of political democracy or representative democracy refers primarily to politics, and emphasizes the freedom to choose one’s governors, and the civil rights of all the citizens. This democracy that proclaims itself to be the government of the people, can be, and is, in the case of bourgeois democracy, a democracy that favors the minority sectors of the population. That is why it is called representative or formal democracy. It contains first and second class citizens.
The second aspect is expressed in real democracy which is substantial and social, whose fundamental aim is the solution to the problems of the population: bread, the land, jobs, education, housing, and all the things that allow society to advance in an egalitarian way. In practice democracy does not necessarily have to function in the traditional Western style of representative democracy.
The third aspect is participatory democracy. Besides putting in practice transformations that tend toward greater equality (social democracy), there must be some sort of systematic citizen’s representation. It is not about abolishing representative democracy, or delegate participation, in favor of direct participation. Far from excluding it, it complements and enriches it.
One cannot govern without dedicating the work of governance to the people’s representatives. Direct democracy is viable at a local level in smaller communities, but it cannot be exercised at the national level, except in very exceptional cases (plebiscite, referendum). The technique of representation seeks to assure real representation and a system of control by the electorate over those who represent them. The left must concern itself that minorities are represented and protected at the state level, assuming that they do not do anything against the national interest, of course.
The new society must also have instruments to defend itself from bourgeois electoral campaign demagoguery where everything is promised and nothing is carried out, and it must adopt the basic principle that this representation must carry with it the mechanism to remove all power from representatives who are no longer carrying out the electoral mandate. Term limits must be imposed to avoid what has occurred in most of the socialist countries where terms are for life, which is something absolutely foreign to classical Marxist thinking.* Marx saw the bureaucratic function as something in transition, and something to be rotated.
The most characteristic aspect of socialism must be the practice of participatory democracy, where people are the real protagonists in the building the new society; where people’s self-organizing is stimulated and respected, without trying to make them submit to the party or to the state. Socialism cannot separate itself from democracy; it can only be the a greater and more intense expression of democracy, and an enormous expansion of it in relation to the more limited bourgeois democracy. The banner of democracy belongs to the left and not to the bourgeoisie, which took it over by taking advantage of the deficiencies in this area among the socialist countries
Many other parties have included in their programs and discussions the expression "dictatorship of the proletariat" as something to be achieved, but they were not able to establish the connection between democratic struggles and revolutionary struggles which could transform society, thus tailing behind the bourgeoisie. This term has created misunderstandings among the populations that know little about theory. In the political discourse, and in recent experiences in Latin America, what people know are military dictatorships. How can one tell people that have not studied Marxism, and who don’t have scientific knowledge: "Comrades, we come to offer you a new dictatorship, only this is the dictatorship of the proletariat?"
One thing is political discourse and another is theoretical discourse. From a theoretical point of view, in order for a democratic political system to reflect the interests of the majority, the interests of those who are opposed to it have to be limited for the benefit of the people. One must acknowledge that society is made up of contradictory interests, and it is obvious that a society made up of a popular majority must use mechanisms that allow it to have their majority interests respected in order to function, even though this necessarily enters into conflict with the interests of a minority that has been heretofore enjoying privileges. If the minority submitted itself voluntarily to the interests of the popular majority in power, the latter could bring about an unlimited democracy. Limits are not placed there by the people; they are imposed by the activities of the enemy. The dictatorship of the proletariat is simply another name for the widest popular democracy, the right to force the majority interest to be respected. If this right is not practiced against the opposition, one would go against the very concept of democracy, because the majority would not be respected.
The most representative bourgeois democracies are actually bourgeois dictatorships, because they express the supremacy and dominion of the bourgeois class. They impose their class interests on the rest of society. Naturally no bourgeois politician is going to make a political campaign raising the flag of bourgeois leadership. On the contrary, he/she will try to get everyone to believe that they are expressing the interests of all the citizens and are the most democratic in the world.
One should not confuse the rule of right (law) with the rule of the right. The bourgeoisie, who is so passionate about the rule of law when it is their rights that they’re talking about, places great obstacles in the path of the progressive forces that try to modify this rule of law by trying to put in practice constitutional reforms that permit a better expression of the people’s interest. The question that must be asked is; whose interests, or which class, is being served by the state? The form of government determines the answer to the question; How are those material interests achieved: through a dictatorial regime or a democratic one?
If the left aspires to build a social force against the system, it has to have an organization that expresses great respect for the popular movement, it must contribute to its autonomous development, leaving behind all attempts to manipulate. It must understand that it is not the only one that has ideas and proposals, and on the contrary, the popular movement has a great deal to offer, because in its daily practice of struggle it also learns, and discovers new paths, finds answers and invents methods that can enrich theory and practice. It is a terrible mistake to try to lead a mass movement from above, by giving orders, because popular participation is not something that can be decreed from above. Only if one starts with people’s motivations, only if people discover for themselves the need to carry out certain tasks, only of their consciousness and their hearts are one, will these people be ready to fully dedicate themselves to the movement.
Popular participation must be welcomed, and the method of arriving with pre-established schemes must be abandoned. We have to struggle to eliminate all verticalism that discourages the initiative of the masses. Our role is that of orientator and not a matter of taking over. We must learn to listen, we must then speak to people, and of all of the ideas that are gathered we must be able to diagnose a correct plan that reflects their true state of mind, synthesize that which can be unified and can generate action, and fight against pessimism and ideas of failure. We must listen to the solutions that the people themselves propose in their own defense and the struggle for their vindication. Only then will the orientation that we give not be taken as a directive coming from outside the movement, and will allow the building of an organization capable of integrating, if not all the people, at least an important part of it into the struggle and thus the most backward sectors can be eventually won over. When these backward sectors feel that the objectives of the struggle are not only necessary, but possible, they will join the struggle and the capacity of the movement will grow enormously.
What was usually practice was not democratic centralism, but bureaucratic centralism, greatly influenced by Soviet socialism. Not the application of the general line and of action previously discussed by all the members and agreed upon by the majority, but a line of action that had been decided by the party core, without knowledge or debate from the members, who were expected to simply carry out orders that were never discussed and often not understood.
At the same time, in the struggle against the centralist bureaucratic deviation, one must avoid falling into an ultra-democratic deviation, where more time is spent in discussion than in action because everything, even that which is unnecessary, is discussed and the action becomes nullified. Consensus is a method that is apparently more democratic because it seeks to find the agreement of all, but in practice it is many times more anti-democratic, because it gives the right of veto to a minority who doesn’t agree; to the extreme that a single person can prevent the majority agreement to be carried out. On the other hand, the complexity of the problems, the breadth of the organization, and the political climate--- which can force rapid decision-making at certain points—make it almost impossible to use consensus on many occasions, even without its manipulative aspect.
In order to put in practice the general line, it is necessary to define concrete actions that have to be carried out by the members. To achieve this it is necessary to have ample discussion, where everybody gives their opinion and where finally agreements are adopted that all have to carry out. To achieve coordinated action, the lower organs have to take into account in their decisions the instructions that come from the higher organs. A political group that intends to seriously struggle for the transformation of society cannot allow itself the luxury of having at its center undisciplined elements that break up unity of action, without which there is no action. In complicated political times, when the revolution is on the ascendance, centralism should be emphasized; in periods of calm, when the rhythm of events is slower, democracy should be emphasized. Initiative shows itself in the willingness to take responsibility, in an orderly style of work, in courage and aptitude for solving problems, for expressing opinions, for criticizing defects, as well as in the control that is shown, with the comradely care, over the higher organs. If it is not thus, the party as an organization will no longer have any meaning because it will not be carrying out internal democracy. An insufficiently democratic life restrains the creative initiative of the members, with a poorer political result.
Democratic centralism implies that the same time that the minority must submit to the majority, while the majority respects the minority’s ideas. The minority must not be crushed nor marginalized, it must be respected. The minority does not have to submit totally to the majority. It must submit to the tasks that are proposed by the majority at each correct political juncture, but it need not give up its political, theoretical, or ideological agenda. On the contrary, it has the duty to continue struggling to defend minority ideas until it convinces or is convinced. The minority can be right, its analysis of reality can be the closest to the facts, because it has been able to discover the true motivations of a certain social act. That is why those who are in a minority position at a particular moment not only have the right, but the duty to maintain their positions and to struggle to conquer the greatest number of members to their side by means of internal debate. If the majority is convinced that its position is correct, it has nothing to fear from ideological struggle. On the contrary, it should favor the discussion to see if it can convince the minority group. How many splits could have been avoided if minority opinions could have been respected? Instead of doing this, all the weight of the bureaucratic apparatus has been used to crush them leaving only one option: The formation of a splinter group. These groups are accused of being divisive. Weren’t the real devised ones those who provoked the division in the first place, those who forced minority groups to use the only way out if they tried to defend the positions that they believed to be correct?
In a mass organization there can also be an imbalance between the majority and the minority .This imbalance can be caused by different reasons, for example, the incapacity of the real majority group to achieve a better representation in the mass organization; in the bureaucratic functions of the formal majority to more tightly maintain its leadership position, in the rapid alteration of mass consciousness due to the rapidly evolving revolutionary process itself—those who days before had been a formal majority lose ground because the revolutionary situation has allowed the masses to see that the minority was right.

THE DEBATE. In order for an organization to have an internal democratic life, it is necessary to have debate, to build positions, to engage in mutual enrichment by means of the exchange of opinions. It is fundamental that differing positions not be sanctioned.
Up to now, with few exceptions, there have been certain privileges within the cells, where the democratic life of the party is brought into being. Nevertheless, it is evident that if one is to go deeply into the debates, especially those that build on the general political line of the party and of the different sectors, that this can be a very limited space. Better results are gotten in general meetings where different ideas by quality presenters can be addressed, where they have profound debates in which they defend their ideas so that others can continue forming their own criteria. This is a way of building thought.
How can one think, for example that the discussion the economic situation in the country, and the line to be followed , can be solely be discussed only in cells and work centers? Ideas are formed by debate. What kind of debate can you have over something this important with only 10 or 20 or 30 people that may not even no even know the subject well? Isn’t it more logical to bring together experts from the party over the problems to be debated, and to allow the general body to become familiar with the different positions and then make up their own minds? One of the greatest challenges for the left is to provide the mechanisms that allow democratic debate within the political organization.
It is normal that within an organization there be different currents of opinion, which simply express the different political sensitivities of the members. The clustering of the members around a particular position can contribute to deepen the thought of the organization. What must be avoided is that these currents of opinion must not become stagnant, or fractionalized, or parties within a party; and that the theoretical debates become the excuse to impose a correlation of forces that has nothing to do with the debate at hand. There must be internal legislation that recognizes the legitimacy of different currents of opinion and sanctions the existence of fractions. On the other hand, if debate is to be democratized, it is logical to not have permanent groups. At least in some subjects, especially new ones, people can be grouped in different ways. You don’t always have to have, for example, the same group of people who have the same position in terms of the role of the state in the economy, coupled with those who have the same position on the role of women in the economy. This should only be done if the different positions are complemented dialectically, and there is dialog and debate of each position with its opposite. If you start with the old traditional position that you are representing the proletariat and the rest of the people are the enemy, then anyone who disagrees with you has to be neutralized.
One must start with the awareness that one does not own all the truth, that others can also have part of the truth, and that their positions are legitimate. If dialogue and debate do not allow one to reach an understanding, the differences can be resolved by a vote. In order for this to function we have to assume that people are willing to submit themselves to the results of the voting. This is fundamental in the political culture of a modern socialist party, of a revolutionary party that is not autocratic, that doesn’t try to bureaucratically impose its program on others. Being open, respectful and flexible is by no means giving up the struggle for one’s own ideas to be adopted, even if one is in the minority. If after the debate is over one continues to be convinced that those ideas are correct, they should be defended with the only requirement that this defense be respectful of unity of action of the party around the majority position.

POPULAR PEDAGOGY. In the new era, the left cannot have a military mentality—we’re not about leading an army, although this can happen under some circumstances, and we’re not about populist demagoguery—because we´re not leaders of sheep. Political cadres must fundamentally be popular teachers, capable of making all the knowledge that exists among the people effective. Elitism in politics is not a deviation, but rather one of the left over consequences of citizen participation unable to find the channels it needs to manifest itself.
We live at a time of imagery and television programs. Book culture is now the culture of an élite, it is no longer a mass culture. People today read very little or not at all. In order to communicate with people, we must learn to use audiovisual language. The left has a great challenge in finding out how to do this when the main audiovisual media are absolutely controlled by the great national and transnational monopoly corporations. One may want to share airspace with television, but this is very difficult, not only because of the financial resources that are necessary, but also because the monopolies that control the media prevent any type of left wing incursion into the airspace. But there are other alternative forms of communication on our Subcontinent that have not been taken advantage of, such as; community radio, neighborhood newspapers, municipal television channels, and even more accessible, the use of videocassettes, audiocassettes and CDs to take one’s own experiences to small groups of people who are interested, to allow them to learn and form a critical consciousness to defend themselves from the messages and misinformation that are broadcast by the huge information transnationals. This challenge can also allow the creation of pedagogical videos that allow the exchange of experiences and to learn from other people’s experience. The web that transmits by satellite allows political actors to communicate with each other from one country to another, and lets them dialogue over their experiences. Besides using a language adapted to the new technological development it is fundamental for the left to break with the old style of trying to take the same uniform message to people of very different interests. We cannot think of the masses as amorphous; they’re individuals, men and women that are in different places, doing different things and influenced by different ideologies. The message has to be adapted in a flexible way in order to reach this concrete person.

ACCEPTING THE POLITICAL PROGRAM. What should unite the members of a political organization must be basically the consensus around a community of cultural values from which they can derive their projects and programs. The political program needs to be the unifying element that gives coherence to political action. Acceptance or non- acceptance of the program must be the dividing line between those who are in the organization and those who are out of it, whether it is on the political left or in a wider political front. There can be many differences around many things, but there has to be a consensus on the program.

UNITY IS THE UNITY OF THE PEOPLE. Much has been said about the unity of the left. Without a doubt it is fundamental for moving forward, but it has to do with unity of struggle, unity of resistance, unity of transformation. It’s not about simply a unity of left groups, because within those groups there can be people who believe that there is nothing else to do but to adapt themselves to the current regime and thus subtract forces instead of adding to them. There are forces that add and forces that subtract, and there are those that multiply; for example, in a political coalition that brings together all the left groups whose militancy surpasses the degree of militancy in each one of the individual groups. This kind of unity can bring together a great number of people that formerly were not members of any party. Members of a united front without a particular party constitute two-thirds of the front, and the party members the remaining third.
The left needs to know how to open channels of militancy to get results from the base and nourish a growing sensitivity in favor of the left throughout the society. Not everyone has the same militant vocation and not everyone wants to militate in permanent form. This fluctuates depending on the political climate of the moment. Ignoring this fact and demanding a uniform militancy is to limit and weaken the political organization. Some people are ready to militate round a certain theme: health, education, culture, and not at work or in a particular geographical area. There are others who want to act only at particular times, elections, for example, although at key moments one can always count on them, and in daily life they push for the project and the values of the left. Trying to box in the members into a single form, the same for everyone, twenty-four hours a day in seven days a week, is to leave all the rest outside, and to ignore their potential. We have to create an organization that allows the different types of militancy, where there are different degrees of formalization. Organic structures must abandon their rigidity and become more flexible to optimize these differentiated activities, without assigning a value hierarchy among the different groups. A person’s political dedication should not be measured in terms of their formal affiliation to an organization, but simply by their concrete contributions to the development of the political line of the organization. Cells should not be structured everywhere the same without taking into account the specificity of each environment: a factory is not the same as a farmworker´s field, or a university, or a television channel.
The political organization not only needs to work with the members in the party, it needs to also assign many tasks to those who are not members. One way of doing this is to create groups outside the party itself that are useful to the political organization that can take advantage of the theoretical or technical potential: research centers, centers of publicity and propaganda, discussion of issues such as agrarian reform, oil, housing, education, the national and external debts, etc.

TRANSFORMING DAILY LIFE. The revolutionary struggle has tried to reduce its aims of transformation to that which is related to the economy and the state, but little has been done to include the struggle against the alienating culture and civilization in which one lives, not taking into account that even under socialism the new society has to compete very strongly with the past, because the fetters of the past are brought into the present in each individual consciousness, and there has to be steady work done to combat it. This struggle has its principal field of battle in daily life. The transformation of daily life can only come about when the individual finds a social space and time for his/her individuality. If this is not achieved the member becomes dehumanized, starts to lose sensitivity and distances himself or herself more and more from the rest of the mortals. To fight against individualism, something we have to do, does not mean to negate the individual needs of each human being. Individual interests are not contrary to social ones; they are complementary .
The mistaken relations ship between militancy and sacrifice must also change. To be a militant in decades past was to be a martyr: suffering was revolutionary, to enjoy something was seen as suspect. The member was a cog in the party machine; his or her individual interests were not taken into account. This does not mean that revolutionary fervor should be undervalued. Militant passion, a sense of duty, of rebelliousness, of responsibility, are qualities all militants must have, especially the leadership, but they must try to combine as far as possible, militant work with a development of a human life that is as full as possible. If political work prevents some from carrying out a more human existence, they should be conscious of the fact that they can fall into dogmatic extremes, into cold scholasticism, into isolation from the masses. Traditional practices on the left must be overcome, such as a kind of fundamentalism, seriousness, rigidity, often heroic, but also not very attractive for the population in general and frequently sterile.

GOVERNABILITY. In years past it was believed that governance was achieved by having the most homogeneous leadership possible. Now what is required is leadership that better reflects the internal correlation of forces, because this helps members to feel that they are involved in the work. This can only happen if the party has achieved a new democratic culture, otherwise there is nothing but talk and the party becomes ungovernable. That can be many tactics but only one strategy.
The leadership must be elected more on the basis of their ideological and political positions than by their curriculum. That is why it is important for these different positions to be known among the members and through internal publications. Is also necessary to have the members make important decisions by means of internal plebiscites or referenda, although of course they cannot become saddled over every-day details where there is no mass option. Direct consultation with the base is an effective way of democratizing party decisions. Consultation can be brought about not only with members but also with sympathizers, those whom we can call being under the electoral influence of the party .This method is especially useful to designate a left-wing candidate for local government if what is needed is to win a governmental election and not simply to propagate the ideas of the party. Sometimes elections have been lost by putting forth a party platform based on internal prestige, expression of a particular correlation of internal forces, without taking into account the opinion of the population about the candidate. In Venezuela a referendum contributed to create a political situation favorable to the stepping down of president Andrés Pérez, opening the way for a new political situation in the country: it was the first time that a person in power resigned before the end of his term after being asked to by the parliament. No law established this kind of referendum, but neither was it prohibited. Massive citizen participation even before the results are known is by itself a political act. Another example are the consultas brought about by the EZLN in Mexico: the National Consultation for Peace and Democracy, by the Zapatistas in 1995 in which there was participation by one million, 300 thousand people, in a very special poll dealing with several themes.

THE RIGHT COUNTERATTACKS. The possibilities that the left has to take over many open spaces legally should not allow it to lose sight of the fact that the right respects the rules of the game only insofar as it is convenient for them to do so. There has never been an experience in the world in which people in power are ready to give up their privileges. They can tolerate and even encourage the presence of a left government if it puts into practice their policies and administrates the crisis. The area where it will always prevent any further activity is in attempts to build an alternative society . From this we can deduce that as the left grows in power and influence, it must be ready to face strong resistance by the groups most closely tied to financial capital, who will use legal and illegal means to prevent a program of democratic and popular transformations. It must be able to defend and extend the victories that have been achieved democratically.
The army can be invisible in the barracks but the fundamental wellspring of the bourgeois class in a parliamentary system is based on coercion. When there is a revolutionary crisis at the heart of the bourgeois power structure, it is absolutely expected that the rulers will turn from ideology to violence. Coercion determines action in a crisis. The army takes center stage in the class struggle where socialism is trying to be installed. This does not necessarily mean that we have to go back to the underground methods at the time of the dictatorships, methods which are no longer relevant thanks to the democratic openings in Latin America today, but it is necessary not to neglect questions of self-defense when circumstances require it and to have a good intelligence organization to be able to counter the steps taken by the enemy , and to be able to prepare a timely response. It’s the right, and not the left, that has historically closed democratic avenues.
It is necessary to bear in mind that certain political actions can have a military effect in the enemy camp, for example, the dispersion of forces in the territory, the weakening of its morale, etc. In a world that is dominated at a global level, it seems even more necessary to establish co-ordination and strategies of struggle at the regional and supra-regional level. Those that are excluded, marginalized, dominated and exploited on a world scale, must be integrated into the struggle, including those who live in developed countries. Coordination, cooperation and alliances between social and political subjects who struggle for emancipation need to have a worldwide identity. It is necessary to have a strategy that includes forces that operate in the great world power blocks, and to establish multilateral relationships with each one of them as a way of dislocating the political concentration of globalization. It is necessary to checkmate capitalism in the areas of state or non-state governments, in militancy or non-militancy of members, in party or non- party politics , in social movements, in scientific and technical complexes, in cultural and communications centers, in forms of understanding, and in self-directed organizations. The Revolution must be international, democratic, multiple and profound, or it will not be.
People are tired of speeches that do not correspond to the desired results, of leadership organizations that negotiate on their own for the supposed well-being of others; of gigantic machines that stifle the initiative, the action and the word of the individual. The objective of the social revolution is not only to struggle to survive, but to transform one’s direct and daily way of living, thinking and feeling; it’s necessary to get involved in the world of morality and love, creating a new structure of values. To wait for all this to happen by means of a mere transformation of the relations of production is to take an evolutionist and mechanicist tack that needs to be rejected. The new morality must tend toward the disappearance of the contradictions between social values and individual values; it needs to try to build a world of cooperation, solidarity and love. This fight to transform daily life must occur at the same time as the militant struggle, it doesn’t have to wait for the triumph of the social revolution, since it is the individual who must submit him/herself to a conscious process of self-education.
One must learn to fight daily against all alienating institutions and structures, seeking to substitute them, and inventing new ones, which in no way excludes the struggle for the great social and political transformations. If we are fighting for the liberation of women, we need to begin by transforming the relation man-woman in the heart of the family, to overcome the division of labor at home, to overcome macho culture. If we consider that our main work is among the youth, we most teach them to think for themselves, to take their own positions and be able to defend what they feel and believe. If we fight against racial discrimination we must be coherent in this in our own lives. If we fight against the alienation created by the consumer society, we must materialize this in our own personal life through personal austerity. One of the fundamental values that must be inculcated through education and self-education is in the consequences between thought and action, in the rejection of a double standard .
The most radical sectors are very skeptical in terms of the role that local governments can play in the accumulation of forces for social change: they feel that what these governments do is simply administrate capitalism, that they only serve as shock troops for neoliberal policies and they accuse them also of trying to co-opt popular movement leaders, which means that the movement instead of gaining strength becomes weaker. They feel that what is necessary is to have an insurrection to try to demolish the State. Those who feel the opposite, that we’re living in a period above ultraconservatism and that we are in a great disadvantage as far as the correlation of forces at both a world and local levels, feel that what we have to do is to accumulate organizational and political experience within the framework of legal bourgeois institutions to prepare the conditions for change, and we feel that access to the local governments by the left is a positive thing. We consider it a space that allows political and cultural conditions to advance in an autonomous organization. In order for left-wing governments to present a real, practical alternative it is necessary to make a sharp difference between them and authoritarian right-wing governments, and also between right or left-wing populists that today have been the majority in Latin America .

POPULAR PARTICIPATION AT A LOCAL GOVERNMENT LEVEL. Popular governments propose overcoming the profoundly antidemocratic traditional style of government, that concentrates power in few hands and ignores the majority of the population, deciding everything for it. What is needed is for the people to become the protagonists of society. We must put in practice an exercise of power at the local level to combat traditional malpractices: abuse of power, favoritism, the lack of term limits, and above all, powerlessness among the people. Those on the bottom must be become privileged, and solutions must be found for those who are always humiliated and homeless or institutionalized, without this meaning that we abandon our preoccupation for the city as a whole. Priorities must be turned upside down to pay the social debt that has been accumulated by the weakest sectors without abandoning those who have always been taken care of. Administrative transparency must be practiced, with periodic accountability under the control of the citizens. It’s not about diminishing the role of the state, but rather about de-privatizing it, that is, preventing that the state be used for the private interests of privileged groups, in other words, to democratize it.
One of the first questions facing a government is that of governability, something completely foreign to a left which has always been in the opposition. The left has at times participated in elections with the idea of making a government exclusively of workers, but very soon has been forced to admit that such a policy is not viable, because besides isolating them politically and socially, they need the parliament to approve fundamental reforms that will allow them to govern, for example taxes, the budget, etc. Very often access to the government is given by a relative majority. With just over a third of the votes one can become mayor. On the other hand it is not easy to find support in the legislature. This means that initially the majority of society does not agree with the political project of the left and it is necessary to find how to govern under those conditions. The only way to find it is by having a correct policy of alliances, something which the most radical sectors of the left do not understand. This policy of alliances serves the political propositions of the city government in the interests of the majority, by challenging the interests of the privileged minority. This minority tries to oppose and sabotage them, but it is possible to negotiate with some of the social sectors and to neutralize others. The natural base of support of these governments are the popular sectors, although they do not all support the left; we must remember that in Latin America the right has gained many votes among the most oppressed. These sectors only join the left when they are able to see that its actions—and not just its words----favor the popular interest.
In order to achieve the necessary majority and get its projects approved in the municipal chambers—where the left is in the minority–city governments use three types of movements.
First, in raising projects that are very well developed and so attractive and popular that it was difficult for legislators in the opposition to be against them if they want to keep their electoral support;
the second consists in trying to negotiate directly with the legislators of the difference benches, so that they can include in their proposals some of these ideas of their own projects; and
the third consists in mobilizing social sectors interested in these project to pressure the chambers.
Naturally it would be best to have a favorable correlation in the municipal chambers, so that it is not enough to elect the mayor, but one must work to have a majority in the municipal government. The probable alliances thus include the electoral arena: an electoral alliance that is wider assures a better correlation forces in the government.
One of the common problems in all these political organizations is that when they win for the first time a local government the best cadres are siphoned off from the political organizations into the government. These cadres have to take on tasks of leadership or advisory in the different administrative entities. The new institutional tasks and the enormous difficulties that they face by trying to put into practice an alternative government program gives them an experience that they did not heretofore have: they understand how the state apparatus works and is organized. They realize for the first time in the flesh what tremendous obstacles that the bureaucracy puts in the way of a transformational project .This makes them mature quickly and they learn that one thing is to be in the opposition and another thing is to be in the government. What is needed is a political team that can think beyond daily tasks, that can think in terms of great strokes, that can make critical evaluations on how things are going in the government, to correct the direction of how things are going in time if disorientation occurs or if new situations come up that demand action that has not been planned.
If the left government needs to have autonomy with respect to the party, this autonomy cannot be absolute, it cannot include questions of principle, since one is based on the other. It is not necessary to consult on all the decisions, because the rhythm of the office of mayor is much more dynamic than the party is, but it is necessary to discuss collectively the general line of work. Since within this margin of autonomy the government may put in practice measures which the political organization does not agree with, because it compromises it in the face of public opinion, the dilemma of public criticism is created. This means that certain responsibilities must be assumed–knowing when such criticism will be taken advantage of by the right to smear the government– or making it appear that the party supports a policy which it does not in fact support. If there is not enough maturity in the political organization, and the criticism is simply destructive, instead of trying to correct mistakes, public criticism can become counterproductive and weaken the popular will.
One of the greatest challenges of a government without much experience is to try to control the bureaucratic apparatus that it inherits. Adding to the legal obstacles, economic difficulties, the hostility of the central government that is no way interested in supporting it, is the problem of excessive or recalcitrant personnel. This is an inherited result of former political clients and cronyism, the apathy of the oldest public servants unwilling to change their habits because they’re comfortable in the old-style work and the lack of will by those who do not agree politically with the administration. Further, the government must combat the neoliberal arguments that the government is inefficient and that it needs to reduce state spending and privatize public services. The left government must demonstrate efficiency if it is to survive, and for that it needs to ration and modernize services without getting rid of the functionaries
Some of these local governments have managed to modernize without laying off anyone, recycling the workers as they are put on other activities. They are given courses to prepare them, proving that in this way the humanist concern for the defense of working conditions of the workers is not contradictory with modernizing state enterprises and public services.
In some city halls the problem has not been so much the existence of extra workers, but rather of inadequate geographic distribution. There are often, especially in the biggest cities, sectors of the population that are isolated from municipal services because they live far away from the center of the city. Many public functionaries are not disposed to lending services to areas that are very remote. One way of solving this problem has been to open jobs to public bidding, allowing outsiders to be hired. Those with the highest scores can choose where they want to work. The others have to go where they are assigned so they do not lose their jobs. Those who decide to work in remote areas get an additional salary.
Political organizations on the left generally only have experience in union work and think in economist terms. Traditionally the best leaders have been those who get the best material benefits for their workers. Added to this is the deteriorated situation that public servants often find themselves in, and the expectations that ushering in a left government create. The result is that there is great pressure by these workers to raise their salaries. Left-wing city halls are very sensitive to this situation: they know that a just salary is the means for the workers to recover their dignity. How to resolve this with limited material resources, and at the same time channel resources into social projects meant to satisfy the needs of all the poorest members of society?
In this area there have been some interesting initiatives: the first is tied to raising salaries consistent with the collection of taxes. This allows municipal workers to see that their work is tied to a global whole and not just to the city and its needs. At the same time, upon seeing this connection, those who are firm allies can agree to set about raising taxes and better the city treasury. When services are better people are more ready to pay taxes.
Another interesting initiative has been to form tripartite administrative-functionary-popular movement commissions to discuss the salaries of functionaries. Popular movements understand very well the need that public servants have in getting better salaries, but this does not mean that they are willing to give up the social projects that they need. In order for them to agree to raise salaries they must have better services. Public servants must understand that to defend public services they must maintain high quality, because a population is well taken care of is motivated to support and defend public services against privatization.
It’s not with authoritarianism, or a vertical style, or repression how these differences and the lack of discipline among public servants can be overcome. What has to be done is to discuss with the functionaries themselves what measures must come about, because if people participate in the decisions, they feel involved. The attitude that administrators have with respect to their workers is of vital importance for them so that they feel co-responsible for the services that they give, and are ready to work with greater efficiency. The great challenge is that these city mayors have had, has been to be respected without being authoritarian, and to combine this with respect for the autonomy that social movements must have. They have learned to resolve correctly the contradiction between, on the one hand, facilitating self-organizing and the mobilization of workers– (even when this mobilization criticizes the mayor or tries to pressure him/her for benefits) , and at the same time maintain authority among the different social groups on the other. Without authority, without respect, one cannot govern. This challenge is great because if the union leaders are from the right, they seek every opportunity to cause problems for a left-wing government.
When one is concerned about working conditions in the life of public servants, and one values their contribution to society and allows them to recover the dignity, this in itself allows the worker to increase his/her self-esteem and this in turn has positive results on worker efficiency. At the same time, when there is a better quality of services, workers feel more satisfied with themselves and are more apt to receive the appreciation of the population. This is expressed in many ways and constitutes a great stimulus to continue perfecting the service. The aim is to have a social project in which civil society, and especially the popular sectors, act as protagonists. In order to be effective with these formulations, the left governments have had to find formulas so that the people can participate in administration; discussing the measures to be adopted, defining priorities and fiscalizing government business in its different administrative areas. On the other hand, at the same time that institutional spaces are created for popular participation, autonomous organizations of the people must be developed. This is the only guarantee that the strategic project for a socialist society be viable in the future.
This has not been easy. When a popular government triumphs, not only does it face great skepticism and apathy, but in the face of a weak, fragmented and de-politicized popular movement, it can find a population that is accustomed to populism, to political clients and cronyism, ignorant of politics, simply ready to ask for things. In the popular assemblies, petitions can be gathered that widely overshoot the capacity of the municipal government to comply. Not every meeting is synonymous with democracy; meetings may not be productive if people do not have the right information, and if they are not politicized. The main problem is the lack of politization. To deepen democracy it is necessary to become politicized. The problem is how to reach the lowest level, how to reach the poorest of the citizen and politicize them, and give them the capacity to make their own decisions. It is fundamental to give information to the people. There is no democracy with people who are unequally informed.

PARTICIPATORY DEMOCRACY. A serious problem for these governments when they try to make contact with the population is that they only meet activists: the worker, the president of a neighborhood association; a housewife who is a leader in the community, activists who are politicized, but badly so, because they carry the vices and the fundamental defects of the traditional political system; populism, bossism, verticalism, corruption and manipulation of the popular movement. How to really reach the people and make them interested in participating in the state’s activities? One of the things that these governments have learned is that it is basic to start with the immediate needs of the people, and by this is meant their actual needs and not the ones we think are their needs. It is also important that administrative leaders and all those who do community organizing listen and are flexible enough to accept the people’s ideas, even if they are not their own. There can be technical criteria that are very valid, for example to place a bus stop in a particular location. If the people have a different idea, and the representative is not capable of convincing the population with his argument, the people will feel overwhelmed by his authority. The representative’s criteria are not always correct. In order for people to participate, there has to be a minimum of previous community organization, of technical people and materials, to be able to implement the ideas that come up. This is why self-organizing is important. It is necessary to have great confidence in the creative initiative of the people, considering that they can come up with solutions that may not have been thought of by the administrators. The key to reach the people and motivate them to participate in city government has been to bring the population together to discuss and decide what the mayor is or should be doing, within the limitations of his/her resources, and which programs should be prioritized.

THE PARTICIPATORY BUDGET. What defines the participatory budget is that in this case it is not just legislators or the governors behind closed doors who make decisions over the gathering of funds and public expenses, but it is the population, by means of debates and consultations, who assigns value to incomes and expenses, who decides where investments shall be made, what are going to be the priorities, and which public works have to be developed by the government. This is how the budget becomes participatory. It is interesting to observe how through perfectly logical expenditures the distribution of public resources, which had previously favored those with the highest income, is transformed. The participatory budget, by encouraging popular participation, especially by those most needy, is a powerful weapon for better distribution of resources throughout the city. The participatory budgets is also transformed into an instrument of planning and control over the administrators.
The problem of control and accountability is one of the elements that has been mostly forgotten, but nevertheless, it is one of the most fundamental if we are to have a democracy. Nothing is gained with deciding priorities, or getting resources for certain public works, if the people are not organized to bring these initiatives about, to guard that the resources that are used in the works are the ones to which they are intended, that they are not channeled in other directions, and that the works are carried out with the required quality. The lack of organized control by the people is what allows corruption and the channeling of resources against the collective interest. The participatory budgets is a process of participatory democracy, where, through a series of meetings and planning sessions, the population itself determines which works the government should bring about. Since the city is large, in order to favor the participation of the people, the city must be divided into several areas, or micro regions. The whole process begins when once a year the mayor is made accountable to each of these regions. Attendance is usually great. In Porto Alegre a thousand people attend the meetings. All who desire to attend are welcome. So many people participate, that in order to continue the discussion and reach conclusions, the neighborhoods elect representatives. Each of the areas elects delegates and advisors. In the first meeting participatory budget delegates elect delegates according to the number of people present. This motivates attendance, because when there are more people at the meeting, more delegates are elected for that region. Usually there is one elected for every 10 people present. The mayor gives information on the public works that have been carried out, those that are in the process of being carried out, and those that were not initiated, and why. There is great transparency. Later the delegates go throughout the neighborhoods and have a series of meetings with the neighbors to gather their demands. The neighbors establish what type of works have the greatest urgency in their neighborhood. The delegates estimate the cost of the works at their monthly meetings.
Once all the smaller meetings have taken place, there is a general meeting of the whole region. The government presents an estimate of the income and expenses for the following year, and each region turns in their priorities and demands. In this general meeting the advisors for the participatory budget are elected. Advisors have as one of their main tasks to decide what public works are going to be carried out in the city, taking into account the proposals of the administration and the needs of the different regions. After this, there are more specialized meetings of popular representatives. The budget committee, which meets weekly– has two advisors from each region, a representative from the city worker’s union, and a representative from the union of people’s associations of Porto Alegre, and two government representatives, who are not allowed to vote. The meeting is an organ of people’s power, it has the last word as far as what works will be approved by the city. Porto Alegre, With 1,300,000 inhabitants is in its fifth year of this experience and has increased popular participation to 15 or 16,000 people involved in city government decisions. If to this is added the participation of community associations and popular entities, the number is several tens of thousands of people. In Betim, one out of every ten people had a hand in discussing government priorities. In Caroní, a sports field has been built, and is repaired and maintained by the neighbors that use it.
The participatory budget is also an efficient instrument in the struggle against cronyism and the exchange of favors. Since the neighborhood decides which works are to be carried out and how the money is to be spent, the influence of self-appointed leaders, legislators and local strongmen is diminished. This has the effect of making everything more competent and of reducing bureaucracy. People are more satisfied with work that has been brought into existence by them. The quality of life is improved, and people are more ready to pay taxes. Probably the most significant achievement is to motivate citizen participation in the government of the city. The neighbors know and decide public policy in a concrete form, and this allows them to grow as human beings, because they have a newly found dignity–they are no longer beggars. They become politicized in the widest sense of the word, it allows them to have an independent opinion because they are no longer subject to manipulation; it turns them more and more into owners of their own destiny. This process allows them to break with the traditional alienation of community leaders who see problems as only affecting their own individual street. People begin to understand that their problems are tied to the national social situation, and even the international situation .This has nothing to do with cooptation by the state or with taking over the state. On the contrary, there is a nucleus of power outside the state, outside the executive, and outside the legislature and that is why it is a highly positive and revolutionary experience.
Autonomous organizations in society need to gather forces and gain control over present governments and begin to delve into areas that combine representative democracy with direct democracy in voluntary participation of spaces created by the administration: culture, health, citizenship, jobs, gangs, education, discrimination and racism. Counter propaganda by television and the press in the hands of the ruling class can been neutralized by this living democratic practice.
As one neighbor, Angélica Marighna put it; "I learned a lot, and am still learning: I have made a difference. I know that for those who think, act, reflect, order and plan their ideas, life is much better. I also saw how much information we were getting: data on how City Hall functions, on investments, taxes that are paid. We all pay taxes, not only the rich, but also the poor contribute to the public coffers, and thus we realized that we had a right to decide over that money. I feel happy and confident, and I feel like a full citizen, with a conviction that participatory democracy is the way to achieve socialism; so that people can share things, so that they can understand that it’s not only about them, but it’s about everybody, a community, a neighborhood, a city."
This process subverts the concept of traditional society, which is an individualist society, and merely tied to the rule of law. It transforms the citizenry into a collective citizenry, tied to demands that control the money and the state budget; a citizenry that lives in tension with the State, controlling and deciding side-by-side with it.
This experience is multiplied by many other initiatives that are being created by the city government, where more space is given to popular participation. In Porto Alegre, for example, there are citizen´s councils, such as; councils against discrimination and racism, a council of culture, a council of health, a council of social welfare, plus advisory councils. This is how citizens participate fully and directly. Local governments in the hands of the transforming left can be a weapon against neoliberalism, showing the world that the left not only says it’s better, but indeed is better. There is something no less important: these are indications of an alternative path. The responsibility is very great. They not only have the dreams of the people in their hands, but also part of the political future of the left.
REFORMS. The greatest danger for the revolutionary is to exaggerate the revolution, to not know the limits and conditions in which the revolutionary method is adequate and efficient. Almost all revolutionaries failed when they tried to write "revolution" in large letters and raise it to something romantic and divine, to lose their heads and the capacity to think, to analyze and prove with great sense and reflection at what moment in what circumstances and in what sphere of action they found themselves in. The early Marxists were always in favor of the struggle for reform even though they were aware that this alone does not take away from the ruling class. The problem is not to say yes or no reforms, but to examine when it is necessary to fight for reforms and what revolutionary harvest can be reaped from them. Neither the use of violence on one hand, nor the institutional promotion of reforms on the other, can be used to establish a line of demarcation between revolutionaries and reformists.
What criteria to use, then? The best definition of reformists are those who by means of reforms try to perfect the actual existing order. Revolutionaries are those who, on pushing for reforms, struggle at the same time, to modify them profoundly, so that there is a rupture with old order.

1.-If reforms are accompanied by a parallel effort to strengthen the popular movement so that greater numbers of people join the struggle
2.-If learning takes place as a result of an action by the left . An electoral campaign, for example, can be an excellent space to educate people, assuming it is expressly addresses the most important political questions; but it can also be just a simple exercise in marketing, which instead of raising consciousness, leaves one disoriented , or, simply does not add anything.
3.-To show a different political practice, one that does not allow left activity to be confused with traditional politics, and reflects at the same time an effort to show the limits of the institutions and the need of transforming them, avoiding the creation of any illusion that reforms are going to solve problems which actually demand revolutionary solutions.

Organizations that in the past used methods of armed struggle or intense political confrontations, must now hang on to their proposals of profound change in the new institutional scenario in new ways. New styles, rhythms and strategies can be adapted, but there are no changes in the substantive concepts.

REFORMIST OBSTACLES. Some reformist deviations are:
1.- The tendency to moderate programs without giving a political alternative, being content with the argument that politics is the art of the possible
2.- Calling for "responsibility and maturity" from union leaders and the working-class movement, instead of investing forces and time in encouraging the spirit of struggle. Working always in the area of negotiation, avoiding combative mobilizations with the pretext of not restraining the function of the State.
3.- The tendency to avoid conflict, to call for dialogue and peace, instead of calling for change. This does not mean that the left should refrain from working to establish the widest dialogue and alliances against neoliberal forces. It must learn to manage the confrontation–agreement dialectic.
4.- The tendency to passively occupy existing institutions without trying to change them, or to change the rules of the game.
How many times have we heard the left complaining of the adverse conditions for elections, and then not being able to show the results it aimed for? This same left neglects to denounce the fact that the rules of the game do not have a level playing field and does not bother with agitating in favor of electoral reform. On the contrary, in trying to get votes–instead of focusing on an educational campaign that allows people to grow in their organization and consciousness–it uses the same techniques to "sell" its candidates that the ruling class does .This means that in the case of an electoral failure, besides the frustration, the exhaustion and the debt-related issues of the campaign, the electoral effort results in little political growth, leaving the bitter sensation that everything has been in vain. The campaign would be very different if it was thought of as a teaching device, using the electoral space to strengthen consciousness and popular organization. Even if the results at the polls, are less than optimal, the time and effort invested would not be lost.
It is also important to remember that institutional democracy as it is now constituted offers not only advantages but also imposes restrictions. The great challenge is to discover how to maximize the former and minimize the latter, and how to accumulate forces in favor of change, and not in favor of the existing order, especially when participation in bourgeois institutions "legitimizes" the left, and how to continue building alternative institutions based on different social and political matters. The left must not fall into the deformations that are common in bourgeois political practices

CAREERISM. One of these deformations is political careerism, the idea than one must always move up, that there is something degrading about going back to being a simple member at the base. Many times the organization itself justifies this attitude by arguing that they cannot lose the investment that has been made in the preparation of the cadre, but in fact the experiences that have been acquired in one sphere can be used in another. This is especially useful in the case of the cadres who have acquired administrative experience. Another aspect of this is the use of the press for personal promotion and not as a means of ideological struggle against oppressors of the people

THE COURT ATMOSPHERE. Another pernicious element is to prefer being a player as opposed to working at the base. These cadres are seduced by the perfume of the elite and can no longer stand the smell of the people. The use bureaucratic barriers to not participate directly with the people and they inform themselves by means of groups of advisers and lose all possibility of taking the pulse of the people. They don’t seem to realize that the best disinformation mechanism is made up by those who should keep them informed. These advisors communicate to their bosses only that which is positive, ignoring difficulties, whether to not pile on too many worries on the candidate, or for the selfish reason of wanting to be congratulated by the good news that they bring.

COOPTATION. This great challenge is to not allow oneself to be co-opted by a system that has thousands of threads to trap the candidates in its net, from salaries that are higher than anyone in the popular movement can achieve, to a series of perks that accompany the job: airplane tickets, hotels, diets, paid advisors, even places to live, in addition to the social status that accompanies the job. It’s not a matter of governing for the sake of governing, and it’s not a matter of administrating a crisis, but it is about governing in a different way, showing at the local level what the left could do at a national level. A good local government is the best introduction, in the face of skepticism, that the left has.
One of the great challenges of the left is how to give to democratic institutions the ability to transform society, how to strengthen the value of democracy without legitimatising capitalism, and without abandoning the transformation project . If the left aspires to be something more than to be a good administrator, it must be capable of tying the local levels in with the national scene, to show the population the limitations of the neoliberal global project.
It is not easy for the Latin American left, accustomed to being in the opposition, to move over to the area of government. One of the greatest challenges is how to achieve being a party of government and continue being a party of struggle. The presence of a political group in the institutions can only be justified it reflects a much more energetic and massive opposition, constituted by thousands of workers, who oppose the regime in the streets, who struggle against it and forge with their struggles an alternative to change.
The only true opposition is mass struggle.
Popular government must be completely transparent, and be ready to submit to public control in terms of finances, in terms of state resources, as well in hiring. It must respect the autonomy of popular organizations, accepting as normal that there are tensions and contradictions within the government of the popular movement. This means, among other things, that it must avoid the tendency to incorporate into the administrative apparatus all leaders of the popular movement, but rather to encourage the autonomy of the movement even when it might have positions opposed to the government.
The great challenge of the left in this area at is that must be capable of fighting against electoral deviations that can show up in the following ways:

1.- The tendency to see the job as an end in itself and not as a means to serve the social transformation project, which is why many cadres hang onto their jobs and consider it a humiliation to go back to being simple members of the base.
2.- The connection with the popular movement only at elections and for electoral reasons.
3.- Individualism and the campaigns. Funds are gathered to support oneself and not for the party.
4.- Electoral disputes, as if members of the party were enemies.

The left has to fight against bourgeois styles of work, against the absence of control by the electorate over the representatives that elected them. The mandate must be sacred, it must respect the will of the electorate, and if for some reason the elected person no longer identifies with the electoral platform, he/she should resign.

THE MEDIA INFORMATION MONOPOLY. One of the reasons the left has accepted entering bourgeois institutions is the opportunity to take its program to the most backward sectors, that is, to turn the legislative chamber into a sounding board, a platform of denunciation, pointing out the abuses and injustices of the regime. Very often, however, the monopoly control exercised by the ruling class over the media can constitute a veritable wall of silence that prevents reaching these objectives, and that is very difficult to breach if the left has not managed to become a significant force. How to force the media to report more of its activities is another challenge for the left, one that can only be brought about with great creativity – as the Zapatistas have done– or by creating political situations that cannot be ignored, as was the massive march by the Worker’s Party to the capital of Brazil in 1987, or the painting of murals with democratic messages by children, as it was done in Caracas. Another of the challenges to the left is how to overcome the tremendous influence of audiovisual media monopolized by the right, whose messages permeate all of society through commercial "free" television, movies, radio, print, the schools, etc., especially among the poorest and the least able to defend themselves. People are often not able to establish a critical distance with the avalanche of messages, which allow the right to get support from these popular sectors In Latin America. Many feel defeated before they start, because they feel that the battle can only be waged in the same terrain, one which is completely unfavorable to the left.
The experience of the participatory budget–along with many other spaces of participation created by left administrations: culture, health, citizenship, etc., has left its imprint on the people. The counter-propaganda of television and the press has not been able to hide or distort this living democratic practice. There is now a public opinion which is independent, and each time is more difficult to manipulate.
To sum up: There are not only legal and illegal means of activity, there is an area that we can call a-legal, that is, an area that is neither legal nor illegal. The left needs to have a great deal of creativity to use this space effectively.
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* Exception must be made in the case of national and international revolutionary heroes, such as José Martí, Simón Bolívar or Fidel Castro.