Participatory Democracy, an alternative to the Developmental state and Constitutional Monarchy By Teodros Kiros
Contemporary Ethiopia has for too long hidden the landscape of its oppressive politics ብehind the banner of “ revolutionary democracy” propelled by the sluggish wind of the developmental state, a state which is neither developmental in a profound moral sense, nor a genuine state, organized by the spirit of disciplined revolution, anchored on a competent mastery of political economy, that is the mastery of an efficient management of scarce material resources.
On both counts the patient Ethiopian people have been fooled by elites, who are totally unqualified to represent the interests and passions of ordinary Ethiopians.
The developmental state is inherent elitist. Its organizing principle is an authoritarian belief that the masses are too unintelligent to think for themselves and to organize their moral lives, and that it is only the self-chosen elites, masquerading as learned men of letters who will represent them, stand for them and fight for them; yet all vigilant students of Ethiopian
politics of the past (under the old monarchy) and the present (under the tutelage of revolutionary democracy guided by the developmental state, observe that the contemporary Ethiopian state is disserving the people, whom it is suppose the manage democratically, that is allowing them to speak, to dissent,to march on the streets and to peacefully ask for regime change.
The present management of the economy is rapidly producing a deeply divided nation, with two major classes, an emerging bourgeoisie which is ready to consume all the commodities available in the burdened economy and a huge population, which lives in the middle ages, without a future and without hope for the children which it continues to bring to the dim Ethiopian world.
There are two conspicuous classes and a nervous middle class afraid that it will soon sink to the ranks of the Ethiopian poors who have long resigned to their fates.
This explosive situation cannot be remedied by the failed developmental state which is desperately guiding the economy by hand outs from the west and leasing land to outsiders in the name of developing the economy.
Huge masses of peasants in the Ethiopian country side are left out in the equation, and those Ethiopians who are forced to leave the green lands of the Ethiopian country side are flocking to an overpopulated and hemmed in Addis in search of a future and the future is not there. The future is still in the lands they left behind, and that is where development with a moral sense must go.
There the fate of the Ethiopian people will be decided by the efforts and direct participations of the people at their own neighborhoods via actual meeting that they will call, organize and attend to identify their resources and discuss how best to manage them. This crucial activity of self-representation is the living task of the people, and not the elites of the developmental state.
Participatory Democracy, the democracy of the people must be organized by the people’s new Party in direct contrast to the Tyrannical/oligarchic party that we must peacefully dismantle will be guided by a radically different vision of the Ethiopian person.
The new party will begin with the premise that the Ethiopian person, if given ample time, compassionate attention, material resources, and most importantly respect- can govern herself with the leader as a guide, a friend and a fellow traveler. This new leader is a not a commander, but a listener and a mindful participant in a dialogical context of giving and taking, directing and getting directed, leading and getting led.
The atmosphere that the new party must patiently build is that of deliberation and participation, thinking and acting.
The new party must dismantle the existing federal system, which diffuses power to tribes and ethnicities as a method of controlling political space as well as pacifying the population by delegating power to ethnic leaders whose class interests do not have anything to do with the interests of their ethnic groups. Infact these ethnic lords only advance their own material interests by living in expensive houses, by sending their children to expensive schools, by driving expensive cars, are not particularly competent, but are superb at passively taking orders and voting passively. The existing leaders of the regime are
waiters and not representatives, herds as opposed to vigilant voices of the groups that they are meant to serve. This is the core of the corruption that the new party must relentlessly overthrow by any means necessary.
Furthermore, the new basis for the recruitment of party leaders must be the national idea of Ethiopianity, expressed as the living activity of Ethiopians who consider themselves as individuals born to the Ethiopian homeland and who speak their own local languages in addition to the existing national language as a medium of communication. The corrosive DDT of Ethnicity, tribalism and class interests must be replaced by the national idea of Ethiopianity, universality and people’s interests.
This new culture will take time to build, but we must begin organizing the population by diffusing these ideas directly to the people’s ears so that they can hear them, weigh them and discuss them at home, at work places, even in prison cells, so that when we come to demand change, we will have a working vision for the new regime.
The new party will not approach the people with a blue print of the future but instead appeal to their intelligences, passions and experiences and give them forum to articulate what they want, and how they intend to achieve them. When we do so, we are extending respect and recognition of their capacities to think and govern themselves.
The new party listens, conducts meetings by involving the people to speak for themselves. The people will collectively decide the future of the nation in systematically held meetings, and then choose among themselves those representatives who will stand for them, speak for them, to the best of their abilities.
It is at these dialogical meeting that decisions will be made about delegating power on national issues, since we cannot all execute decisions at the same time. We must divide power among those who can discuss, legislate, judge and execute. The necessary details of dividing power will be collectively decided at the appropriate time and place by the people themselves.
Our motto should always be how the people should be governed is the activity of the people themselves.
Professor of Philosophy and English (Liberal Arts)
Berklee College of Music