‘Occupy monopolies’ through social media

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

This article is part of our special report EU-Ukraine Relations.

Social networks can act as a catalyst to help direct democracy prevail over current economic and political monopolies, writes Viktor Tkachuk from the "People First" organisation in Ukraine.

Viktor Tkachuk is the general director of the Ukrainian Foundation for Democracy -“People First”. He has over 20 years of experience working in governmental bodies at the highest level, including the Parliament, the National Security and Defence Council and the administrations of three presidents since Ukraine’s independence.

"History repeats itself. The cycle of relations between the rich and the poor again recalls a front line. The sees of a modern crisis of relations can be found in the triangle of the migration policy – social security – democracies practise. Migration of manpower resources takes place in the direction from the South to the North and West.

A slow process of assimilation and growth upon the social security system in the EU goes on. And this system hardly coped with the problems of maintenance of its own ageing population. European democracy hasn't coped with a new challenge. The fact that Germany, France and Great Britain admitted that the existing model of multiculturalism failed is a belated reaction of politicians of the European Union to it. But better late than never.

The use of the Internet and social networks for self-organising and coordinating protests has accelerated a total classical pre-revolutionary situation practically in each EU country. It looks like the most active citizens of the European continent aren't any more in a condition to tolerate a forcible marginalisation in the governance of development of their countries.

They have matured to the condition when they can rally themselves and make authorities listen to them. Any proof needed? Examples include the “Occupy Wall street” movement in the USA and its affiliates in Europe; massive strikes in Greece, Bulgaria and Romania; and protest actions in Great Britain and Italy which were hard to control. And this is only a beginning.

Even the "Arab Spring” in 2011 certifies the demand of “a street”, especially of young citizens, as to considering their aspirations to govern the development of the countries. Russian society also isn't lagging behind here. States have turned out to be unprepared to new electronic tools of organising societies.

Periodicity confirms another trend of a considerable strengthening of citizens' struggle for their political and social rights – not only with politicians, but also with their sponsor, corporate capital. Exactly in this triangle we are to search for an answer to the question concerning an image of the near future.

New risks and development resources are laid in the new model of interaction between citizens and corporations. The latter have passed national borders already a long time ago, have covered the whole world by networks of their representations and practice rigid monopolisation inside the countries. Due to the citizen passivity, we observe new models of monopolisation in the world.

The first one is traditional: it consists in the merging of private corporations with the aim of formation of monopolists in different market segments. For example, the number of major media corporations which control nearly all the information space in the USA has narrowed from 50 to six. As for the internet, which already has become the most popular media platform in the world, monopolists such as Google, Yahoo and Microsoft set the pace. What are the criteria of the cherished freedom of speech then?

The second one is mixed, when monopolisation occurs with the help and impulse of a state. For example, in Europe these are the processes of merging of E.ON and RWE energy concerns. In Italy it was the near 20-year rule of Berlusconi. In Russia there are state monopolies (Gazprom, Rosneft and others) which successfully continue to control the national economy.

The third one is political and corporate, it is when monopolisation occurs in the political sphere at first, and then is completely spread in the financial and economic spheres. Ukraine is an example where the authorities have secretly generated their control over all the big business, acting as a total monopoly.

The result in all three cases is identical – as a result of careless greed of corporations and citizen passivity, the public balance gets violated, which leads to a system crisis, the bankruptcy of political and economic systems.

However, citizens already don't wish to silently observe the monopolisation of the world economy and politics by corporations. Money running into billions, taken from the state budgets which are formed by citizen taxes, are spent in support of those very corporations. Let's remember that in 2008 both in the USA and the EU, in Russia and in Ukraine, billions were spent to keep corporations afloat.

Governments financed debts of corporations and banks before people, by means of people's money. And what do we have as a result? Corporations remained in the property of old owners. And states declared the necessity of reducing social payments and increasing the pension age for citizens.

Direct democracy is an answer. Corporations which have monopolised usual mass-media, have straddle the internet and have got the world hooked on it, will now receive the answer from citizens exactly from this direction. This means, first of all, that modern realisation of direct democracy is being integrally connected with electronic democracy tools.

Citizens directly get self-organised through social networks and successfully ask their governments how the bureaucracy plans to develop a public dialogue in future. How will it take care of citizen participation in the governance of their countries, instead of providing the patronage for the world corporations which monopolise the world for the sake of their own profits? How will authorities introduce a real citizen participation into the arrangement of their own countries?

People from Europe, the USA, Russia and states of the Northern Africa have undertaken the first steps. As a rule, no effective governments emerged in place of the destroyed dictatorships. People are getting the experience. And it is not always optimistic. States and corporations don't generate offers at all.

However, people will understand – their turn to govern their own countries has come. “People First” as a principle will get a breath and by means of direct democracy will give citizens a chance to compete with corporations."

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