Democracy and Detroit

March 29, 2013

There's been a sudden decline in democracy in Detroit as Michigan's Emergency Manager law attacks the city's people. Of course, US cities are not really democratic to begin with (although they're a touch more tractable than the national government): people need to fight for city-level accountability. Still, the very existence of such a transparent Shock Doctrine-style law is a violation of any notion of justice and suffrage.

What Detroit needs is more democracy and control by its citizens, not less. They've always needed more popular control over large corporations, factories, banks and City expenditures.

But there's no well-used mechanism for direct democracy these days, so the thinnest veneer of public interest, the council-manager system, has instead been blamed, and a dictatorship has been installed, intended both to hurt working people in unions as quickly as possible, and to feed corporations who want access to City contracts & resources.

I can't wait to see how the people of Detroit fight back.

The city has experienced something like an underground renaissance in recent years, fueled by rock-bottom rents, and proud urbanites finding hope amidst the crumbling infrastructure of an establishment that previously colonized their lives and dreams.

The place is vibrant. You only need to dig a little.

For example, look at the recent Oscar win by Searching for Sugarman, an extraordinary home-grown story.

Or take a new rock album American Twilight, from a transnational band that once featured in a poetic Wim Wenders movie, and which has now relocated to, and revived within Detroit: Crime & The City Solution.

Discussions, debate, and calls to action for revival and renewal in Detroit are everywhere. That's a good sign. As are the signs of workplace democracy and worker ownership among their neighbors in Ohio. Let's try to reverse the direction of the shock doctrine!