MANIFESTO – work in progress
This Manifesto or Platform is a living and developing document! We don’t want to impose it, like so many parties do. Instead, what we are going to do is add new bits as we go on — everytime an interesting idea is suggested, or a constructive comment is posted. So, do post comments…
People of Armenia are confronted with problems of enormous magnitude: ever-growing poverty, widespread malnutrition, disease, cultural degradation, moral and ethical decadence, hopelessness, apathy and docile submission. Ecological problems and dangers further add to the multitude of problems. The economical indicators show that the national production is back at its pre-transition period. But these figures hide the basic fact of everyday life – that in the vast shadows of the silenced majorities the basic day-to-day concern is not existence, but survival. The existing political and economic system affects every aspect of Life, making a fulfilled, meaningful life of dignity and honour an impossibility for the vast majorities. Political power and wealth is increasingly becoming concentrated in the hands of the few thus preventing the ordinary people to participate in and benefit from the fruits of their long-term struggles, labour and achievements. This not just a problem, but an injustice, which is why it becomes a political issue.
The dominant political forces have been feeding masses with false hopes, nationalism, illusory patriotism, which can hardly fill empty stomachs of workers, peasants and city-dwellers. Our grandparents have worked hard to built a decent country and now we do not even thank them with comfortable and dignified pensions and healthcare. A childhood for our children is no longer a basic right, but a luxury. Youth with enormous potentials and creativity are forced to spend two years in the most appalling conditions of what is only called “army”. It is no longer a matter of saying that Armenia may one day become a Third World – now it is a matter of recognising and facing the grim fact that Armenia is a Third World, and taking radical measures accordingly.
People and politicians have been blaming and pointing fingers at particular individuals. But that is only a minor segment of the deeper set of problems that need to be taken into account – one must be considering the global political and economic system as a whole!
Our policies spring from the principles of minimal State, Co-Operation, Community, Land-ownership, pure Direct Democracy, Anti-fascism, Anti-imperialism, Anti-cultural imperialism, political and economic Self-Determination, Autonomy and Freedom(freedom of speech, thought, press and expression). We understand Freedom not as legitimised right to exploit and oppress other people, but as a power of individuals to collective participation in and control of their social, economic and cultural environment. We believe that Armenians are great people, who were deceived and continue to be deceived into the current disaster, and forced to believe that it was their choice. As a progressive force of our society we should maintain pessimism of the intellect and optimism of the will.
As our heraldic symbols we adopt the Tuning Fork (which can sometimes be more effective and destructive than AK47 or the Sword; it can also be more powerful. We demand Culture, not violence), a Hammer (which we think can be a philosophical and an artistic tool), the Pick (which is not only for digging deeper, but also for a deeper thought), a Fist of the Left Hand (which symbolises the human spirit, the protest, the discontent and the instinct to rebel, which is one of the progressive forces in society) and a Serpent Biting Its Tale (Toroboros) set in a circular pattern making up a Zero(which symbolises the ancient philosophy of Time and Being, which is also expressed by the “eternity” symbol that has been hijacked from its original meaning by the Nazis and other Nationalistic currents like the tseghakron “Republican Party”; Zero symbolises the Indestructible).
We intend to be a Movement and stay as a Movement – never as a political party.
We do not intend to be an Opposition, for being in Opposition means to to participate in the very Statist structure that homogenises and schematizes politics after its own Statist interest and momentum. We intend to stay beyond and abovethe oppositionist dichotomies.
The full Manifesto will be published here soon.
(What you see above are only few sketches. It is by far not the final thing. We plan to start a Forum for the discussion of ideas so as to come up collectively with a full version of the Manifesto, and to contantly refine it. Return soon for more. Also post comments with suggestions about what to include in the manifesto.)
P O L I C I E S
Doctrine: Self-Governance within Westphalean Statehood
We don’t need strong State, a big army or Nuclear Weapons for national pride. Instead, our Great Revolution and our uniquely and truely-Democratic Way of Life must become the basis of our pride. The guiding principles of these proposals are not Greed, Vanity and Lust for Power. We realise that the economic system that we propose may be slower then the profit-driven capitalist one, but it is Sustainable, Progressive and Socially Just. The guiding principles in this manifesto are: Liberty, Direct-Democracy, Socialism, Federalism, Justice, Culture, Ecology, Respect, Dignity, Equality & Diversity, Progress, Science, Sustainability and Solidarity.
Here is a very brief outline of what kind of changes we would like to see:
POWER, GOVERNANCE & CONSTITUTION. Power must not be centralized and concentrated. It should be disseminated to the Hamainqs (Communes) and Marzes. Hamainq will become the place were the real power is. Each Hamainq will have its own “parliament” (in the villages these can be constructed in the style of open air ancient-Greek theatres) so that everyone participates in the national decision-making process. Real Freedom is not the choice between central-left or central-right centralized government every 5 years, but the ability to choose, change and decide on the political structures around you. Real democracy is Direct Democracy. But it should be very well thought-through and full of checks and balances so as to avoid the danger of forcing the will of the majority mass on minority interest-groups (such as intellectuals or artists), as well as to avoid the risk of Demagogy. There should be a Federated system of Self-Governing Hamainqs and Marzes (similar to the Swiss model). There should be 2 chambers: The Senate(representing Marzes) and the Palace of Hamainqs(with 3000 seats of representatives who will be ellected dinamically – after each Hamainq’s quorum; this house will also have representatives from Unions, Trade Unions and Ethnic Minorities), and the Federal Revolutionary Council. Presidential and State powers should become minimal and symbolic. The President should be elected every 2 years. The Federal Minimal State should retain only minimal tasks such as (A) conducting diplomacy, (B) maintaining the professional army, (C) maintaining the independent and ellected Supreme Court.
CONTROL. Government should not censor speech, press, media or Internet. KGB should be abolished.
MILITARY. Military service should be voluntary. There should be no draft. There should be a small but, efficient Professional army, combined with decentralized Hamainq-controled Local voluntary Militia Brigades (fedayeens) who would have private gun ownership rights (but stored in the local fayeen camps). The Federal defense forces must also invest in Satellite technology and Satellite Guided Precision Missiles. Professional Army is also imperative for eliminating corruption and separating the militaristic thinking from the political life. Military must not have the right to vote – they must be a neutral force, whose sole task is to be the guardians of Amenian Democracy.
POLICE. The State must stand not above the People, but next to them. The State and the Police must be the servants of the People. In other words, the Police force must be restructured in such a way that it becomes not the power-arm of the State against its people, but hamainq-controlled public service. It will not have a centralized authority. It will also be renamed from “Miliciya” to “Hamainq Stewards”. They will not be allowed to carry guns in public, unless in special cases (i.e. raid or martial law) with special permission from Hamainq.
TAXES. Armenians don’t like the idea of taxes. This is a fact that has proven itself over and over again, and this is an integral feature that has been inherited over the centuries (one can even see it as early as in Sasna Tserer). This fact must form the basis for the tax policy, wic must aim at a transitional restructuring of the economy. Therefore, the taxes and duties should be minimised. And the tax system must be simplified. — Collectivist and Cooperative enterprises, as well as Syndicates, Trade Unions and Charities (and their employees) will be exempted from taxes (unless the Hamainq decides otherwise). Pensions must not be taxed. Peasants who enter into a Collectivist or Cooperative sceme, will be exempt from Land-taxes, and all other forms of direct Federal taxes. Activities like Art, Cinema will be exempt from taxes. The main tax will be the Council Tax(which will be directly controlled by Hamainq through Direct Democracy, and will be responsible for financing all local needs: roads, schools, healthcare, street-lights, public toilets, police (hamainq stewards), ). There will also be few Federal Taxes on PAYE basis: progressiveIncome Tax of employees of Companies and of Federal Governement (14% basic, 24% after AMD400,000 and 48% after AMD1,000,000); Heavy tax (40-75%) on companies that procure natural resources; 40% Corporate tax on profits by companies. Tax breaks will be reviewed and may be given to some companies which are export orientedor bring FDI. The Federal Governemnt must also aim to sign Double-Tax Treaties with as many countries as possible, especialy the EU and the countries were there are large Armenian Diaspora presence. There will also be Offshore Zones.
OFFSHORE ZONES. The Fedeal Government will choose the particularly impoverished territories and subject to Hamainq’s approval, declare them as Offshore Zones. The Corporate Taxes here will be 0-9%. Income Taxes of the employees will be as usual. However, both the Federal tax system and the Offshore Zones must be only a transitional feature of Armenian economy, until it is transformed into a federation of self-governing Hamainqs as its political system with self-governing Cooperatives and Collective enterprises dominanting its industrial, fiscal and economic system.
SPACE PROGRAM. The Federal Government of Armenia must establish its own Space Agency (Israel’s Space Agency, for instance, has a budget of just $1mln) and make its aim to send at least one reconnaissance satelliteinto space. We don’t need nuclear weapons to affirm national pride or strengthen our defence. Instead, we can have our own space research program. If Israel did it with their own Shavit rockets and Ofeq satellites, then so can we with our own Acedemia and many space researchers from the Soviet era. It will colaborate with the European and Russian space agencies.
Poverty Reduction Program. Scrap the current program, which was mostly designed by the IMF, and introduce a new economic program that is more socialistic, participatory and people-oriented, and that would not keep Armenia vulnerable to global market fuctuations as IMF proposals would result in effect. Emphasis must be placed on Cooperative and Collectivist production backed by the Know-How from Academia and the Scientific Community.
Poverty.This is the highest priority. Immediate work toward dealing with the problem of poverty, in a way that doesn’t base itself on the logic of “handounts”, but on the logic of Empowering collective efforts and removing the oligarchic and monopolistic obstacles. — The impact of the earthquake and the war in Artsakh are still felt. Nearly 450,000 people in Armenia are still living in conditions which are simply unacceptable. This is an immediate problem that cries for resolution. — One of the greatest flaws that has been informing the governmental policy hitherto, has been the view that internal economic life of Armenians can be viewed as somewhat isolated from the broader problem of global and ever-globalising financial configurations of late-modern corporate capitalism. Armenian economy is a small drop in a giant ocean of the Empire of the Capital. Every US invasion, every slightest fluctuation in dollar affects ordinary workers and peasants in numerous countries such as Armenia — Unions, cooperatives and voluntary labour associations, which are currently being crashed by the local oligarchs and governmental laws, will be established with the support from the government so as to provide a working structure that can help resolve this problem swiftly and efficiently. Such mode of organisation will minimise on corruption and inefficiency. This will also boost the construction, manufacturing and transport industries. Much of it will have to be done by establishing temporary cooperatives and voluntary labour programs. Empty talks on long term policies for reduction of corruption and attraction of foreign investments so as to finance the reconstruction is not the way to resolve the problem that has been crying out for IMMEDIATE resolution. If it means taking the spades in our own hands, laying the bricks by ourselves and rebuilding our own homes – then let is be so, and no-one must dare to stop us. The financing of capital goods and manufacturing materials will be provided by the government. The government will also provide the experts in construction, engineers, project managers, and help setting up the necessary organisational structures. The government will also work closer with the diasporan networks so as to raise more money for the reconstruction, though this will not be the key source of its financing. — Much of the cause of poverty in Armenia is the overall despair, loss of hope, erosion of traditions and the decadence and laziness that come in its train. This is something that my government promises to deal with throughout its administration period. An Armenian citizen must remember the days when Armenia was flourishing culturally, intellectually, socially and economically. An Armenian citizen must recall the days when the housing was guaranteed, when the telephone calls were free, when the electricity bills were insignificant, when even water bills were affordable and when having a rich table was not a question. It was taken away from us. But an Armenian citizen must recall all that so as to be able to bring it back.
OLIGARCHY: This issue must be dealt with on the dual principles of People’s ownership of wealth and the supremacy of People’s Right to Decide. Widespread reviews and audits will be initiated to investigate how the capitalist elite became so rich so fast. Serious audits will also be initiated to investigate tax-evasions and tax-avoidance since 1991. If and when the serious abuse and corruption in the process of acuisition of that wealth is unearthed, that concentrated wealth will be either Nationalized or Collectivized, subject to People’s Decision.
UNEMPLOYMENT & ECONOMIC ACTIVITY: Establishments of worker’s cooperative and syndicates, and credit unions must be encouraged and not taxed and crushed by local oligarchs. Peasants and Workers of Armenia, people who have not read Left-Wing literature are already forming cooperative enterprises and collectivist farming enterprises, but their efforts are crushed by local oligarchs backed by local police and State laws. This process must be totally reversed. Also, there must be Job Centers, where people can go and easily find work.
PRISON REFORMS. Immediate amnesty to political prisoners!!! The whole penal system and the logic of revenge upon which current penal system is set up must be re-thought. Prisoners must be treated still as citizens with rights of a human being. Prison sentence and penal law must incorporate not the logic of Revenge, but the logic of Giving a Chance to reform and unite in meaningful labour. Prisoners must also have rights to vote. There must be new programs to utilise prisoner’s labour for national benefit (road construction, metal works, production of equipment for energy and communication).
Furthermore, the prison reform must aim for itself a transformation of purpose. The aim of prison must no longer be Revenge, Punishment or confiscation of freedom, but a Reformation. The prisoner must be given a taste of meaningful labour and communal leaving.
ECOLOGY. The Armenian economy must become electricity orientated and gradually move away from gas and petroleum. Year after year this issue throws the governmental budgets into crises and the domestic prices into unpredictable fluctuations. The Government must engage in close cooperation with the EU and other concerned and interested parties to see a gradual phasing out of the Armenian NPP and its replacement with environmentally friendly renewable energy sources, such as wind turbines and solar panels.
Bio-diesel production will be set up and governmentally owned at the initial stage. This will boost the agricultural sector in Armenia and Artsakh
ENERGY and ELECTRICITY: The EU is already committed to developing a sufficient renewable energy sources in Armenia (i.e. wind turbines and solar panels). We must be committed to full fazing out the Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) and gradually replacing it with an equivalent non-polluting electricity supply. We must also remember that concentrated energy production, such as Metsamor NPP is, before anything, a security risk. The EU is already committed to grant Armenia EURO100mln for closing the Metsamor NPP. We must continue negotiations in those directions: with that kind of money Armenia will be able to start a Win-Turbine and Solar-Pannels factory and start producing alternative energy infrastructure for itself, and later for local export. In the meanwhile, the electricity tariffs must be reduced to 12 drams per kW/h at the initial stage, until the end of transition to Eco-friendly Energy. At later stage, when each Hamainq will have purchased its own Wind-Turbine or Solar-Farm, the electricity should become free of charge. Diesel: Furthermore, our economy is too dependent on external supply of oil products. Armenian cars run on petrol and gas (both of which are exported, expensive, polluting and distorting economical growth, as well as making Armenian economy dependent on oil-wars). Our industries run on petro-diesel, which does great irreparable damage to the environment and public health. We must develop our own sufficient BioDiesel production, thus utilising the ample agricultural land and creating tens of thousands more jobs.
EDUCATION, UNIVERCITIES, SCIENCE: Student-Culture is the progressive spirit of any society!!! University students must gain a sharp increase in their stipends. New Campus-based self-governing universities must be started. Georgian, Russian, CIS, Iranian, British, EU, Indian and Diasporan students must be allowed to study in Armenian State universities for the same fee as the Armenian students. A series of ties must be established on bilateral basis so as to allow for equal rights of students. Attracting foreign students is also important for spreading the Revolutionary ideas and Armenian influence abroad in the future.
Teachers, Lecturers and Researchers in the Academy of Sciences must be guaranteed a minimum wage.
TRANSPORT & COMMUNICATION: Establishment of a quasi-governmental entity responsible for the construction and maintenance of the railroads. This corporate body will be responsible for the renovation of existing rail network, construction of Gumri-Akhlkalak-Batumi fast-speed railroad, and construction of Yerevan-Megri-Tabriz railroad, as well as Khapan-Stepanakert railroad. — A similar self-governing entity must be responsible for conecting Armenia to the global fiber-optical grid. Ultimately, the aim must be to have Free internet service in every home. As for Armentel monopoly, it must be ended immediately.
The Revolution must not be violent! Historically, we have seen that violence kills the Revolution and establishes a stronger and more dictatorial State. In effect, violence reverses the revolution, and it becomes reactionary.
Instead, the revolution must be Gradual. It must start with a Movement that would start building Socialism from below – from the grassroots – starting from villages and peasants, to workers — starting from Culture, to mode of Production, to Radical Democracy.
Socialism must not, (and cannot), be imposed from top down. It must be (and can only be) built from bottom up.
Revolution must not be confused with Transition. There is no “Bright Future” or “Messianic Age” or absolute perfection at the end of the tunnel. Transition and Trasformation is Revolution’s initial stage. The Revolution itself must become permanent. Revolution itself must become a way of life – perfecting itself as it goes.
At the end of the initial constitutional, political and economic transformations the Armenian State must be renamed from “Republic of Armenia” to “Armenian Polity“, and the current Republican Tricolor inherited from the French Revolution shall be abolished.