Autonomy: an idea whose time has come

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I tried to give an example of the yalakom people...autonomy is more than just self reliance and decision means a system, social economic, locally decentralized technology, a political system under peoples control, general assembly, direct democracy

Andreas Karitzis, e.g. is talking likewise of a systemic process, as we talked long ago in another thread, building an autonomous movement, self reliant economically, technically etc. with a political project, for the movement to transform the political system, something very much in the works presently here in Indigenous Maya Guatemala...happy to give concrete examples....

But as I stated before...curious about the social ecology movement taking place in Rojava, Kurdish Syria, which likewise is trying to buiold a social economic technology movement built on popular democratic and regionalist prionciples, again at the base of the Maya system of governance

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autonomy is more than just self reliance and decision making it isn't. everything else follows this. even systemic processes follows this. and i point to post #48 as evidence. these folks knew exactly what they were doing. this is the powerful center of change. lets talk about this more. ie what is the bio/reginal autonomy you spoke of? how does that work?

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture's more on the kurds.

Building Democracy without the State

“When people first came to our house a few years ago to ask if our family would like to participate in the communes, I threw stones at them to keep them away,” laughs Bushra, a young woman from Tirbespiye, Rojava. The mother of two belongs to an ultra-conservative religious sect. Before, she had never been allowed to leave her home and used to cover her entire body except her eyes.

“Now I actively shape my own community,” she says with a proud and radiant smile. “People come to me to seek help in solving social issues. But at the time, if you had asked me, I wouldn’t even have known what ‘council’ meant or what people do in assemblies.”

Today, around the world, people resort to alternative forms of autonomous organization to give their existence meaning again, to reflect human creativity’s desire to express itself as freedom. These collectives, communes, cooperatives and grassroots movements can be characterized as the people’s self-defense mechanisms against the encroachment of capitalism, patriarchy and the state.

At the same time, many indigenous peoples, cultures and communities that faced exclusion and marginalization have protected their communalist ways of living until this day. It is striking that communities that protected their existence against the evolving world order around them are often described in negative terms, as “lacking” something—notably, a state. The positivist and deterministis tendencies that dominate today’s historiography render such communities unusual, uncivilized, backward. Statehood is assumed to be an inevitable consequence of civilization and modernity; a natural step in history’s linear progress....


Democratic Confederalism in Rojava

The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), like many national liberation movements, initially thought that the creation of an independent state would be the solution to violence and oppression. However, with the changing world after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the movement began to develop a fundamental self-criticism as well as a criticism of the dominant socialist politics of the time, which was still very much focused on seizing state power. Towards the end of the 1990s the PKK, under the leadership of Abdullah Öcalan, began to articulate an alternative to the nation state and state socialism.

Upon studying the history of Kurdistan and the Middle East, as well as the nature of power, the current economic system and ecological issues, Öcalan came to the conclusion that the reason for humanity’s “freedom problem” was not statelessness but the emergence of the state. In an attempt to subvert the domination of the system that institutionalized itself across the globe over the span of 5,000 years as a synthesis of patriarchy, capitalism and the nation state, this alternative paradigm is based on the very opposite—women’s liberation, ecology and grassroots democracy.


Although clearly we share similar vision, the fundamental difference seems to be your assumption that autonomy systems, holistic, engaging all aspects of culture and society and economics and technology, just naturally flow from a process of empowerment and populist struggle above all in defence of mother earth/ecosystems/bioregions!

Whereas I assume that such movements can easily go astray, into reformist and political  opportunist directions propagated by leaders who want change now, power now ad nauseum.....

that vision must be enunciated, not in an authoritarian sense, but a vision set out in detail, in practice and strategy, that people in the populist moevements may consider, be influenced by!

Andreas Karitzis is a visionary, with a well developed understanding coming from his personal experience, a guide to consider!

His ideas must be flushed out in detail...e.g....we need to reshape the ground, and to do that we have to expand the solution space by shifting priorities, from political representation to SETTING UP AN AUTONOMOUS NETWORK OF PRODUCTION OF ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL POWER!.....

Yes I can explore more re bioregional autonomy...but the ground must be set! That we need to explore the vision, place it before the people in movement, to consider accept, modify reject as they wish...

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..if you look at the unist'ot'en camp facebook page at the top you see a pick of wolverine in honour of his passing. but before that the pic was of naomi klein sitting around with the camp and meeting. the camp has many many supporters and crowd funding. this is autonomy. this is leadership. the camp is connected to larger struggles via the first peoples. and also via klein who is connected to other movements both here in canada and internationally. and this is tugging at only one thread. there are thousands if not tens of millions of threads today globally.

..what i believe is going on is brand new. it's a system change and we have never been here before. were exploring our options. we are creating. there is no way you can control that. there will be those that may try but things are so scattered and autonomous it’s an impossible task. you join in because it’s like a snowball rolling down the hill. you build towards autonomy wherever it is you live. i don’t know how this fits with your or karitzis's outlook.

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DASIQOX TRIBAL PARK - Nexwagwez?an - There for us

Dasiqox Tribal Park - Nexwagwez?an – There for us - is a five minute video that is the first of a two part series about the Tsilhqot'in Nation's efforts to designate a portion of their territory as the Dasiqox Tribal Park.

This video was produced by Wilderness Committee and River Voices Productions
in partnership with Xeni Gwet'in, Yunesit'in and Friends of Nemiah Valley .

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The Commons Collaborative Economy explodes in Barcelona

Cities have personalities – they’re often described as we would people. They can be dry, manic, laid-back, iconic. Barcelona is what you might call a tonic. Always known as a vivid and creative city, Barcelona is taking the lead as an exemplary change agent on the European stage. Its DIY vigor and urgent form of citizen-level democracy are palpable, contagious, and best of all, effective.

This is a city that has been reinvented by activism. A formidable woman by the name of Ada Colau, herself a longtime front-line activist for housing rights, is now the mayor. As a woman, as an activist, as a mayor, she’s a good stand-in for the city itself and the radical positive changes it’s making.

But that’s not to say that Ada Colau is responsible for all the whirlwind political and civic change. Barcelona is not a city in reform from the top down; it’s a city in transformation from the bottom up, and up, and up. It’s taking on the challenges of economic and civic change from an inclusive and deliberate position, maturing its street-level praxis into a political force that won’t be contained by its own borders. It’s ready to share its hard-won knowledge and experience with others internationally....

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Defeating fear: lessons from Mexico’s housing movement

Los Panchos has taken back land and collectively built thousands of homes since the late-1980s. What could Global North movements learn from its successes?

"The biggest challenge was to defeat our fears,” proclaimed Mexican housing activist, Enrique Reynoso on a recent visit to London. As one of the epicenters of the European and North American housing crisis, London was an important stop on his recent European tour of grassroots movement spaces.

Enrique has been active in the Francisco Villa Popular Independent Leftist Organization (FPFVI in Spanish) since the 1980s. With even a glimpse into what Los Panchos (a shorthand for the FPFVI, based on the nickname of the Mexican revolutionary for whom the organization is named) have achieved since the mid-80s, this quote can sound like an oversimplification of some magnitude.

Can the creation of an alternative society of many thousands, built over decades on the principles of solidarity, cooperation and mutual aid, within what has been called “the perfect dictatorship,” really be chalked-up to “defeating fear”? But as simple as it sounds, the statement holds a profound and fundamental truth – that for most of us, collective power is daunting, even if we intellectually desire it and want to work towards it. Wherever we find ourselves in the world, fear is a barrier to change. But as Los Panchos have demonstrated, it is not an insurmountable one.

As cities across Europe increasingly-become domains of the ultra-rich, and as the many Global North housing movements remain largely wed to attempts to influence the machinations of representative politics (with notable exceptions), Enrique’s insight comes at a particularly critical moment. Will we keep repeating the patterns of A-to-B marches and petitions, or will we act together to find, create – and, when necessary – take, what we need to collectively survive in a housing market that is leaving more and more of us behind?


“We don’t want to grow individual neighborhoods,” Enrique emphasizes, “we want our neighborhoods to inspire others to take action where they are. Rather than grow the scale of our assemblies, we want these assemblies to multiply in other places, in whatever ways are appropriate.”

Demonstrating a similar ideological openness, Enrique says Los Panchos are reluctant to impose or commit to any particular political dogma:

We have learned not to put ideological labels on what we do. We have learned from too many different places. We are all anti-capitalist, but there are many ideas within that. Like the Zapatistas, we want to build a world where many worlds are possible. Our comrades may not be committed to socialism or communism, but they’re committed to transforming the world we’re in today.


Thanks for this timely info!.....

Can't help but reflect on the latest demo on the DTES demanding more social if anyone will listen!

Yet these people are in a great position to take action to guarantee their demands...which demands guts, foresight and of course autonomy!

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Workers’ Control in the Crisis of Capitalism

In February 2016, a dozen former workers of a small woodworks plant in the small Greek town of Patrida, some 60 kilometers from Thessaloniki, had had enough. Since 2008 they had been tricked by the owners. With a promise to pay back everything soon, the bosses did not pay the workers their full salary anymore, reduced working hours and announced bankruptcy without making it official. But the situation never improved and the workers never saw their money. Finally, in December 2015, the plant closed. The debt accumulated by the company in terms of unpaid salaries currently stands at around 700,000 euros.

The workers do not believe they will see any of this money. Instead they decided to take over the plant and run it under workers’ control. They contacted the workers of the recuperated factory Vio.Me in Thessaloniki asking for support. The workers from Vio.Me came and helped to build a struggle and restart production as soon as possible. They want to switch production to benches and sales booths for markets and kiosks—all products needed by common people and their communities. The workers are now getting in touch with cooperatives and collectives all over Greece and organizing and participating in mobilizations.

A Widespread Phenomenon

The workers in Patrida are doing the same thing thousands of workers have been doing over the past few years of capitalist crisis all around the world. Workplace recuperations became most visible and best known around the takeovers in Argentina in response to the crisis of 2001-‘02, when they became a widespread phenomenon. In early 2016, there were approximately 360 worker-recuperated companies in Argentina, involving some 15.000 workers; at least 78 worker-recuperated companies employing 12.000 workers in Brazil and almost two dozen in Uruguay. In Venezuela there are several dozen worker-recuperated companies, some managed jointly by workers and communities, and a handful have emerged in Mexico, India and Indonesia. In the course of the contemporary crisis, some 60 workplaces were recuperated in Argentina, two dozen in Venezuela, and a few in Italy, France, Greece, Bosnia, Croatia, the US, Egypt, Turkey and in Tunisia.

Even without previous experience of forming workers’ councils, collective administration—whether by means of assemblies or other mechanisms of direct democracy and horizontal relations—has often appeared as an inherent tendency of the worker base. And workers have proven that they can run factories under their control in most industries, including metal, textile, ceramics, food processing, plastic and rubber, print shops and others, as well as workplaces in the service sector, such as clinics, education facilities, media, hotels and restaurants....

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What Andrés Ruggeri describes for Argentina can be extended to most other recuperations around the globe:

One of the most interesting aspects of worker-recuperated companies is their relation with the communitarian, with the social, and that is what we are talking about when we say that none of the recuperations is recuperating itself alone. It is all about the movement, as there has been a lot of activism and militancy surrounding these recuperations. [There is] a much bigger movement with social links and social networks built around every recuperated company and around recuperated companies as such. [This movement] is very broad and very strong, it’s changing the very meaning of the companies. If the workers recuperate a company all alone, if they turn it into a cooperative and so on, no matter how radical the internal process is, if it is a company with only economic activities it would not have the transformative potential it has with the whole network surrounding the movement.

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Zapatistas and Indigenous Mexicans Create Parallel Government for Indigenous Autonomy

A coalition of indigenous Mexican communities has announced the creation its own, parallel government with the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN). Dubbed the Indigenous Governing Council (CGI), the parallel government will aim to promote autonomy for indigenous Mexicans.

“This council proposes to govern this country,” the EZLN said in a communique.

The EZLN is an indigenous guerrilla movement that waged an armed insurgency against the Mexican government throughout the 1990s. Today, the EZLN retains a presence in the highlands of the southern state of Chiapas, where it has been experimenting with a form of direct democracy that draws from anarchist and socialist traditions blended with indigenous practices.


The CGI’s Proposed Sructure

The representatives provided only limited details on how the CGI will actually function, though they expressed hope it will be a more comprehensive form of organization than the CNI. According to those who spoke to the press, the CGI will have a more permanent presence in indigenous communities than the CNI. El Proceso reported the CGI will have “commissions” on the community, regional, state and national level. The CGI will also reportedly have different administrative commissions, mirroring the Mexican government secretariats. Some of these are likely to include commissions of finance, environment, health, communication and security. According to El Proceso, there will also be a commission for “Mother Earth”, and an elders council.

Although the spokesperson will be the public face of the CGI, as an individual they will have no real power. Instead, all of the CGI’s decisions will be made by consensus among representatives of indigenous communities, who comprise the CNI’s assembly. These representatives will also be able to recall the spokesperson at any time if they feel they are not fulfilling their duties.

“Our resistances and rebellions constitute the power from below,” the EZLN said.

They continued, “We do not offer empty promises or actions, but rather real processes for radical transformation where everyone participates and which are tangible in the diverse and enormous indigenous geographies of this nation.”


Thanks for this....Here in Guatemala, the Ixil, the Conjobal and the Xinca Peoples are setting up autonomous friends of the Maya Kakchiquel are holding an Assembly tomorrow to discuss this idea in depth....It is the Maya Kakchiquel leadership in the past that have organized effective solidarity actions with Indigenous struggles in Canada.......

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Madrid as a democracy lab

An exuberant ecosystem of citizen practices and self-managed spaces has turned Madrid into an international reference of the urban commons.

During the occupation of Puerta del Sol in Madrid in 2011, the hackers at the core of Madrid's 15M developed a platform for anyone to make political proposals. Designed in free software, the Propongo platform allowed users to put forward ideas which could then be voted on. The operational arrangement was pretty simple: decentralized proposals, from the bottom up. The State of Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil), where participatory budgets came to light in 1989, used part of the Propongo code and its philosophy for the Digital Cabinet, its star citizen participation project.

In Spain, the political class turned its back on the Indignados. On the other side of Propongo, no one was there. No local, regional or state government listened to the new music coming out of the squares – and even less to the proposals. Meanwhile, collective intelligence and networking in the squares were developing sophisticated mechanisms for participation and deliberation, both online and face-to-face. The powerful technopolitics made in Spain conquered the hearts of activists all over the world. And the hearts of some foreign academics and politicians too. 

In May 2015, the so-called “citizen confluences”, overcoming the traditional political party formats, conquered the governments of the main cities in Spain. And part of the squares technopolitical intelligence was transferred to local governments. Hacktivists, programmers, assembly and participatory process facilitators went on to work for the institutions. Pablo Soto, a historical hacker from the peer-to-peer movement and one of the Puerta del Sol regulars, was one of them. In June 2015, Soto became the head of participation of the Madrid City Council. Ahora Madrid, Barcelona en Comú, Zaragoza en Común, among many other political confluences, began to rev up participation in the country’s main cities.

"All roads lead to Spanish cities, where they are experimenting with citizen empowerment tools like nowhere else in the world", noted Geoff Mulgan, head of Nesta in the UK. Two years after taking power in the so-called Cities of Change, participation has become one of the biggest disruptions. And hacker Soto’s Madrid is the city that has gone further down this road. From the networks to the territory, and vice versa, Madrid is turning the collective dream of the occupied squares of 2011 into public policies.....

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..from the above piece


More than 300.000 users strong, Decide Madrid is consolidating itself as the hegemonic space for participation in the city. It activates a variety of processes, debates, proposals, and projects. Its free software means that any city can adapt Consul to its needs, without any substantial investment, and set up a platform. From Barcelona to A Coruña, from Rome to Paris and Buenos Aires, dozens of institutions around the world have replicated the initial Decide Madrid core, thus setting up what Audrey Tang, Taiwan’s digital minister, calls a "liquid federation of cities". Ada Colau, the mayor of Barcelona, ​​praising the cooperative network of participation cities says: "It is very interesting that in Barcelona we have been able to carry out our first experience of digital participation, Decidim Barcelona, ​​adapting Madrid’s base code. Once we have had a first proposal, we have shared it with many municipalities throughout Catalonia".

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Radical Municipalism: Fearless Cities


The third response sees neighborhoods, towns and cities around the world emerge as the place to defend human rights, democracy and the common good. Neighbours and citizens are uniting in solidarity networks to address pressing global challenges, from access to housing and basic services to climate change and the refugee crisis. This new municipalist movement seeks to build counter power from the bottom up, challenging the dominance of the nation state and capitalist markets, putting power back into the hands of people.

Fearless Cities: the municipal hope

In June we participated in the first ever international municipal summit, which was organised by Barcelona en Comú, a citizen platform whose radical politics and rapid takeover of the City Hall has inspired activists and councillors around the world.

The summit brought together over 700 mayors, councillors, activists and citizens from more than 180 cities in more than 40 countries across five continents, including representatives from roughly 100 citizen platforms, all aiming to build global networks of solidarity and hope between municipalities.

The agenda—public space and the commons, housing, gentrification and tourism, the feminisation of politics, mobility and pollution, radical democracy in town and city councils, creating non-state institutions, socio-ecological transition, re-municipalisation of basic services, sanctuary and refuge cities—was a demonstration of the common challenges we face, and far removed from the dominant logic of economic growth to which national institutions, increasingly separated from the day-to-day reality of citizens’ lives, direct their attention.

With accessible ticket prices, child care provision, a bar run by an association of the unemployed, the main talks free to the public and the opening plenary held in one of the central squares, Barcelona en Comú remained true to their values of inclusion and participation. The conference involved an incredible diversity of people, not only as participants, but also filling the panels and leading the workshops. ‘This is the first panel I have ever seen that doesn’t include a single white male,’ commented one of the participants.

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..more from above


The emergence of citizen platforms

Since the financial crisis in 2007-8, citizen platforms have rapidly emerged across the globe. Their rise has been particularly strong in certain countries, such as Spain, where they now govern most major cities, as well as many towns and rural areas. These citizen groups are generally composed of independent candidates or of an alliance between independents and members of progressive political parties, with members frequently having roots in social movements. Ada Colau, for example, was at the forefront of the anti-eviction group, Platform for People Affected by Mortgages (Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca), before becoming mayor of Barcelona.

Some citizen platforms are elected on a particular agenda, such as Barcelona en  Comú, who came to power in 2015 promising to defend citizen rights, rethink tourism in the city, fight corruption, and radically democratise local politics. Others have crowd-sourced their agenda or don’t have an agenda at all. Indy Monmouth in Wales, for example, ran for election with the promise that they would take their lead from the community once they were elected. This desire to transform politics and put power back into the hands of people is one of the primary aims of citizen platforms and the municipalist movement.

Radical democracy and the feminisation of politics

Municipalism is concerned as much with how outcomes are achieved as with the outcomes themselves. The need to radically democratise and feminise the political space was a persistent theme throughout the Fearless Cities conference.

Barcelona en Comú described how the democratisation and feminisation of politics is key to transformation, by bringing marginalised voices into the debate; reducing hierarchy; decentralising decision making; enabling dialogue, listening and collective intelligence; re-evaluating what we understand by the term experts and seeing everyone as experts in their own day-to-day life, their neighbourhoods and their communities; placing care, co-operation, relationship and people’s lived experience at the heart of politics; and facilitating co-responsibility for where we live, for the environment and for each other.

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Libertarian municipalism and social ecology

The term municipalism stems from ‘libertarian municipalism’, a type of political organisation proposed by American social theorist and philosopher Murray Bookchin. It involves neighbourhood assemblies that practice direct democracy and seek to form a confederation of municipalities, as an alternative to the power of the centralised state.

This approach sees democratic communities as the driver of change, as the means by which we can redefine how we live together and our relationship with the natural world. Offering a holistic vision, the approach recognises the interdependent and eco-dependent nature of life and sees the ecological and social crises as inseparable.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture last quote from the above message of direction and hope

Local limitations and the rise of a global municipalist movement

The desire to access local government powers came, in part, from the limitations of protest and a wish to transform local institutions so that they could support social movements.

Along with the many success stories, councillors and mayors also spoke of the numerous challenges that they have faced on entering local government: age-old hierarchies, systems and traditions that are deeply embedded in their institutions; cuts to their budgets and resources; and the austerity, anti-immigration and other measures imposed from above.

Bit by bit, citizen platforms and progressive local politics are making headway, opening up spaces and redistributing power, but it’s often slower than originally hoped. Alongside citizen platforms, there is strong recognition of the fundamental role that social movements and non-state institutions have to play within the municipalist movement, in order to achieve the profound social and ecological change needed. These citizen platforms need strong movements on the ground that push for change from outside of the institution.

An important next step for this movement, and one of the main aims of the conference, is to form an international municipalist network. Putting technology at its service, the movement is spanning borders and becoming an interconnected web of place-based change that includes local government, social movements and non-state institutions.This comes from the recognition that we cannot work in isolation nor within the restrictions of national borders. Many of the most pressing challenges we face, such as climate change and the refugee crisis are global in nature and we need to work together to address them.

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..workshops and talks from the 2017 summit found here.

International Municipalist Summit


Ken Burch

The future may be in an urban global federation.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..a global federation derived from community assemblies to be specific ken.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture's a workshop in english, in audio or video. note the attendance of a vancouver city council member 

Policy roundtable 15: Mobility and pollution

This roundtable will present several ecofeminist mobility policies and discuss their role in combatting pollution while creating post-car cities.

Janet Sanz, Fifth Deputy Mayor for Ecology, Urban Planning and Mobility, Barcelona
Olga Margalef, Plataform for Air Quality, Catalonia
Andrea Reimer, Councilor for Environmental Action, Vancouver City Council
Silvia Casorrán, Platform for the Promotion of Public Transport, Catalonia
Javier Miranda Baz, Ahora Madrid and M129, Madrid

Ken Burch

epaulo13 wrote:

..a global federation derived from community assemblies to be specific ken.

As you say.  

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..ken, your a person of few words in this thread. do you have more thoughts re the municipalist movements that you aren't expressing? i'd like to hear them if you have..even if they conflict with my position.  

Understand Faircoin, the real economy of common people

Faircoin, a cryptocurrency that does not depend on states or banks and grows the real economy of ordinary people.

At the end of April 2014, Enric Duran, co-creator of the concept of Cooperativa Integral and co-founder of the Cooperativa Integral Catalana, began to develop the idea that it would end up being Faircoop, a cooperative for everyone and around the world. After intense research in the world of cryptomonedes, Enric chose the Faircoin criptomoneda because of its characteristics and history, and anonymus he developed the project. Later revealed his identity and shared his plan with other Faircoin developers to cooperate together.

Between the months of May and July of 2014 a promotional group with people of different groups like P2P Foundation, the Darkwallet or the Cooperativa Integral Catalana, and several individualities from around the world was formed. In September 17, 2014, Faircoop saw the light. Since then, local nodes have been built around the world and developing a broad economic ecosystem. Faircoin was especially important in 2015 in the economic crisis in Greece.

How does a cryptocurrency work?

A cryptomoneda is a digital currency, based on a decentralized and crypto-encrypted p2p (peer-to-peer, peer-to-peer) network. Being decentralized, there is no central bank to issue money, so it is not subject to the control of banks, governments or large corporations. The value of cryptocurrencies, as with traditional currencies, depends on the trust people give it, that is, the flow of supply and demand, so that the more exchanges there are and more people participate, more value tea.

This exchange, unlike fixed money, is produced directly between producers and consumers, without going through intermediaries, if we add that the decisions and their use and value are taken from the coordination of the local assemblies, it causes us to have a currency that It increases the values of trust, reciprocity and links between physical and real networks....


I think that Canada is too affluent for an alternative economy to develop but I do think that municipalities are getting more active than in the past. For example, the mayors getting together to oppose Energy East.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

 ..i see things a bit differently pondering. the struggles around the pipelines are both collaborative and community based. the leap's processes is community based. the indigenous movements are community based. the processes of transformation have already begun and will not go away once the pipeline issues are settled. qs is already a community based decision making structure. and it is only a matter of time before the free software developed in spain and used in other places in order to facilitate participatory decision making..will happen here. in canada.   

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..i post this piece not because i believe that we should choose by lot. i post for the criticisms of electoral democracy. 

Beyond Electoral Democracy


Today the American system of democracy exists in name more than in substance. The institutions continue to be wrapped in the symbols and ribboned in the ornaments of self-government. Yet the truth, widely known yet rarely acknowledged, is that the American political system is increasingly run not by the people, but by the rich. Plutocracy. Leading scholars of American politics Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page conclude their recent study with the observation that “the majority does not rule — at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes. When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites or with organized interests, they generally lose.”

What, then, is to be done? There has long been a conventional answer on the center-left: proportional representation and campaign finance reform — the former to enhance the representativeness of elections and the latter to reduce the distorting effects of money. This intuitive belief that the answer to our democratic problems is enhanced elections runs so deep that it is like an article of faith.


Money continues to play an important role, biasing elections towards the wealthy. Governments continue to be incredibly unrepresentative of the population — almost always composed of rich, white, middle-aged men. Even in Sweden, the young, the less educated, and the working class continue to be dramatically underrepresented (for instance, blue-collar workers make up about 9 percent of members of parliament despite comprising 41 percent of the electorate). And while more women now hold parliamentary seats, other groups have seen no improvement at all. In fact, over the last fifty years, the number of working-class members of the Swedish parliament has actually decreased.


Beyond this, political decision-making continues to be deeply partisan and divisive with precious little deliberation. Whether it is Norway’s Storting or Britain’s parliament, the typical scene is about as far from open, sincere debate as possible. The mudslinging, booing, clapping, stomping — the arrogance, rudeness, and bitter partisanship — resemble nothing so much as young boys in a schoolyard fight. Yet these are boys with armies and jails at their disposal.

This is not to minimize the important differences that do exist between political systems. Proportional representation and campaign finance regulations do improve the vitality of electoral systems. Nevertheless, the fundamental question remains: is electoral democracy really as good as it gets? Is this the “real utopia” that socialists should be striving for?

I think not.

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..more from the above piece.


Elections and Democracy

Everywhere that electoral democracy has been practiced — from the US to Brazil, from ancient Athens to the medieval Italian city-states — the same basic problems continually reemerge.

The first is that the electoral process is inherently biased in favor of the rich — thereby undermining the cherished democratic ideal of political equality — because the precondition to winning an election is having the time and resources to communicate with the public and mobilize support, and that will always be done more effectively by those who have more money. This means that electoral democracy, regardless of campaign finance rules, will always be somewhat tilted towards the affluent.

The second problem is that the logic of competitive elections undermines the conditions for meaningful deliberation. Electoral competition creates strong incentives to score points, to speak in slogans and soundbites and dog whistles, to pander in order to build support for one’s own legislative agenda, and to actively stir up mistrust in one’s opponents through mudslinging and focussing on wedge issues. Electoral competition also undermines learning because politicians who have taken a confident stand on an issue for many years will find it embarrassing (as well as disloyal to their party and constituents) to change their minds. Yet those who cannot change their minds in the face of new evidence are precisely the people we do not want making important political decisions.

These two problems are not the result of bad luck or poor institutional design. They flow from the inherent logic of the electoral mechanism itself. In other words, the electoral system actually undermines two central democratic values: political equality and deliberation.

Michael Moriarity Michael Moriarity's picture

Thanks for posting this, epaulo13. I have been intrigued for some time by the suggestion of selecting legislatures the same way we select juries. In my opinion, it would probably result in better policy decisions than elections produce. However, it is difficult to see any path from elections to this other form of representative democracy. Certainly, those who have won power through elections will not be likely to implement it. It is unfortunately merely an interesting hypothetical.

I believe, as I suspect you do, that to get to anything resembling democracy, we have to abandon the representative part, and develop some sort of bottom up system of direct democracy. It would have to include the economic, as well as political realms, like for example anarcho-syndicalism. The encouraging thing with this approach is that capitalist domination can be gradually undermined by workers taking over their workplaces. As the British Labour Party manifesto has shown, it is possible for even the severely flawed electoral system to move things in the direction of more direct democracy by facilitating worker owned enterprises.


Maybe the Senate could be expanded to 400 members and chosen by lottery?


This seems like an intellectual exercise only on a large scale. Not because it can't be done, but because the vast majority of people don't want it. (In Canada anyway)

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Michael Moriarity wrote:

I believe, as I suspect you do, that to get to anything resembling democracy, we have to abandon the representative part, and develop some sort of bottom up system of direct democracy. It would have to include the economic, as well as political realms, like for example anarcho-syndicalism. The encouraging thing with this approach is that capitalist domination can be gradually undermined by workers taking over their workplaces. As the British Labour Party manifesto has shown, it is possible for even the severely flawed electoral system to move things in the direction of more direct democracy by facilitating worker owned enterprises.

..exactly! building a new world inside the old is how i often describe it. 

 ..the labour manifesto is also about taking control at the local level which fits with the municipalist movements. what is exciting is not only have the tools been built to facilitate a participatory democracy but implementation has begun.'s an interesting take on economy.


Solidarity Economy as a Process

One of the great strengths and innovations of the solidarity economy movement is its ability to move beyond the factionalism that has so often weakened historical efforts to imagine and build other economies. Indeed, when faced with the question of economic alternatives, many activists have often been tempted to build or to seek a blueprint, a Big Plan, for how “the economy” should operate. While such “blueprints” for alternative economic structures can be very useful as tools for clarifying and motivating our work, they can be problematic as core social change strategies for at least two reasons. First, blueprints often miss the richness of what might emerge from a collective process of imagination and creation; no one person or group is capable of figuring out an economic structure for millions of others to live in. Second, they can lead to a very unfortunate choice of political paths: blueprint in hand, we either convince everyone that we’re right (unlikely) or take over the government and impose our plan on everyone (unethical). Either way, we’ve failed to build a substantially different kind of economy and society, and we’ve failed to live our values.

A solidarity economy approach takes a very different path. Beginning from a core belief that people are deeply creative and capable of developing their own solutions to economic problems, and that these solutions will look different in different places and contexts, a solidarity economy approach seeks to make existing and emerging alternatives visible and to link them in mutually-supportive ways. The core idea is simple: alternatives are everywhere and our task is to identify them and connect them in ways that build a coherent and powerful social movement for another economy. In this way, solidarity economy is not so much a model of economic organization as it is a process of economic organizing; it is not a vision, but an active process of collective visioning.



This thread is amazing.   Thanks epaulo and fellow babblers!   I hope to contribute later but doing some reading first.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture's an excerpt from a piece i recently posted in the venezuelan thread.



Chavez always said that the popular movement should not be an appendix of any institution or current, that we must be autonomous. I think it's necessary that popular organizations understand this now. We must have our own voice. Chavez always respected and encouraged our autonomy. The idea, of course, is not to be rebels without a cause. We are not anarchists. What we must do is be politically coherent and understand our role in history.

We have a legal structure that was fostered by Chavez and the people: the Laws of Popular Power. They establish a framework that is (to be somewhat redundant) popular and thus are an expression of grassroots democracy.

In the commune, the Citizens’ Assembly is the highest space for decision-making, the space where the whole community participates. Then comes the Communal Parliament, a body in which there is deliberation. The Communal Councils delegate their practical decision-making to the Communal Parliament. Again, these practical decisions follow the guidelines of the Citizens’ Assembly.

Some people understand democracy as the way to get access to positions of privilege. By contrast, our participative democracy is based on an assembly that saddles you with responsibilities, and if you do as collectively decided, then you have fulfilled your role as one part of the whole.

Our democracy is the democracy of the people, and that means that, when one is elected, one must separate oneself from any personal interests.

In a nutshell, in our commune the most important decisions are taken by the Citizens’ Assembly, whereas the Communal Parliament plans and executes. Operational decisions are taken at the level of the productive unit. In other words, we don’t call assemblies to solve operational problems. Then, of course, one must render accounts to the Assembly.

This is democracy as it plays out in El Maizal, with its particular mechanisms. But what I can say in general is that in the new democracy that is emerging, sectarian attitudes must disappear, personal power plays must be eliminated, and no one person can impose him or herself in the decision-making process.

The spirit of full participatory democracy lives in the commune.


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..i look forward to your input mobo.

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How Jackson, Mississippi Is Making the Economy Work for the People

Jackson, Mississippi, will be “the most radical city on the planet," Chokwe Antar Lumumba, the city's mayor, pledged at the People's Summit in Chicago, where he spoke last July after his landslide election win.

The promise is grounded in a plan. Through participatory democracy and building counter-power, Jackson is organizing, and co-designing, an escape from capitalism and structural racism. The plan is comprehensive, and transforming the economy with cooperatives is one pillar.

“We want [cooperatives] to become the dominant feature of our local economy,” Kali Akuno told The Nation. “It’s really about a localization of the economy, about maximum control in the community’s hands. These are the things we can do that protect us from the ravages of global capitalism.”

Akuno and Mayor Lumumba are co-founders of Cooperation Jackson, which launched in May 2014. For the solidarity economy they seek to build, cooperatives serve as a cornerstone.

Jackson, and the state of Mississippi, need change. It remains the poorest part of the U.S., with a predominantly African-American population that first survived slavery, then apartheid Jim Crow laws. The structural racism continues today, as Akuno shorthands the region's problems as the three P's: Prisons, Poverty and Paternalistic white supremacy....

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Cooperation Jackson

Building a solidarity economy in Jackson, Mississippi, anchored by a network of cooperatives and worker-owned, democratically self-managed enterprises.

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The ‘Preston Model’ and the modern politics of municipal socialism


But difficulty need not be impossibility—as can be seen in the path taken by the flagship Labour council of Preston in Lancashire. In a few short years Preston has gone from being one of the most deprived parts of the country to a model of radical innovation in local government through its embrace of community wealth building as a modern reinvention of the longstanding political tradition of municipal socialism. Community wealth building is a local economic development strategy focused on building collaborative, inclusive, sustainable, and democratically controlled local economies. Instead of traditional economic development through public-private partnerships and private finance initiatives, which waste billions to subsidize the extraction of profits by footloose corporations with no loyalty to local communities, community wealth building supports democratic collective ownership of—and participation in—the economy through a range of institutional forms and initiatives. These include worker co-operativescommunity land trustscommunity development finance institutions, so-called ‘anchor’ procurement strategiesmunicipal and local public enterpriseparticipatory planning and budgeting, and—increasingly, it is to be hoped—public banking. Community wealth building is economic system change, but starting at the local level.


Municipal socialism revisited

In the modern era of 24-7 news cycles and horserace political coverage, local politics rarely receives much attention. When local campaigns and politics are covered at all, it is usually because such elections are deemed to be a bellwether for the relative national political strength of the parties. This downgrading of local politics also extends to political analysts and activists, and often even to the political parties themselves, as can be seen in their reluctance to invest precious resources in local campaigns.

There are promising signs, however, that this is now beginning to change. With the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, municipal socialism has once again returned to the Labour Party’s agenda in a powerful way. “With amazing creativity in the toughest of times, we are seeing the first shoots of the renaissance of local government for the many, not the few—the rebirth of municipal socialism”, Corbyn proclaimed in February of this year.


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Depending on the country I think it can be very successful but I think Canada is too comfortable for it to spread beyond a very small minority. 

Let's  take a small example. We have a housing co-op called Milton Park in Montreal. It's famous. Decades ago a developer wanted to tear down a large number of buildings to replace them with a shopping complex. Tenants fought back and managed to win the right to transform their buildings into co-ops. This was around 40 years ago if I recall correctly. Co-ops have spread a bit but Montreal is still covered in Condos many subsidized as "affordable housing". Imagine if co-op development was subsidized instead of "affordable"condos for sale. 

 In Montreal we have community gardens, meals on wheels, art- co-ops, all kinds of community run services for all kinds of people. That is great. I don't think government should be percieved  as an outside organization that does stuff to us. That is a gift to the right. 

In a democracy government is the organization through which citizens act collectively. Citizens need to understand the government works for them. They are our employees not our masters. 


I understand that from an activist perspective the type of language used in this thread is needed but to convince people to move forward on individual ideas it can't be sold as an ideology or even as anti-capitalist and certainly not socialist. The words create barriers. 

I just posted on the following in a different thread:

Free internet after buying a modem and it is right here in Canada. It would save the majority of Canadians 50$ a month or more for life. That's huge. I'd charge everyone 20$ a month and put it towards recreational facilities or some other public good.

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Depending on the country I think it can be very successful but I think Canada is too comfortable for it to spread beyond a very small minority. 

..txs pondering

..there are places in canada where organizing can take place easier than other places. this is the way it is everywhere. here we can work with the leap and qs. both are predetermined to decision making from the bottom up. within the pipeline resistance as well.

Let's  take a small example. We have a housing co-op called Milton Park in Montreal. It's famous. Decades ago a developer wanted to tear down a large number of buildings to replace them with a shopping complex. Tenants fought back and managed to win the right to transform their buildings into co-ops. This was around 40 years ago if I recall correctly. Co-ops have spread a bit but Montreal is still covered in Condos many subsidized as "affordable housing". Imagine if co-op development was subsidized instead of "affordable"condos for sale. 

 In Montreal we have community gardens, meals on wheels, art- co-ops, all kinds of community run services for all kinds of people. That is great. I don't think government should be percieved  as an outside organization that does stuff to us. That is a gift to the right. 


..the idea is to bring these autonomous forces together as a way building a movement. so bringing together coops community gardens, the leap, environmentalists, independent socialists, ndp membership and qs membership..whatever and wherever it is applicable.

..these collaborations is how things came about in bacelona and madrid. a pipeline resistance group here in wpg is already based on such collaborations and struggle for community control. the time is ripe for for expansion.

In a democracy government is the organization through which citizens act collectively. Citizens need to understand the government works for them. They are our employees not our masters. 

..we don't live in a democracy which is why those organizing for direct participation is happening in the first place. the municipality though is the closest to democracy and within our reach.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Pondering wrote:

I understand that from an activist perspective the type of language used in this thread is needed but to convince people to move forward on individual ideas it can't be sold as an ideology or even as anti-capitalist and certainly not socialist. The words create barriers. 

I just posted on the following in a different thread:

Free internet after buying a modem and it is right here in Canada. It would save the majority of Canadians 50$ a month or more for life. That's huge. I'd charge everyone 20$ a month and put it towards recreational facilities or some other public good. demonstrate as a way of getting folks on board. again in bacelona and madrid they introduced software that made it possible for people to not just vote on where the wanted municipal funds to be spent but initiate projects. people came people participated.

..i lived in penticton for about five years. before i got there a fiber optics pilot project was started for a cost of $150,000. the city integrated all the city services with phones and internet. this included schools. the system created could have serviced all of pentiction which has a population of around 40,000. it exists today though i was told by an incoming mayor that it was only limited to city services and schools do to legal reasons. glad to see re your post the advancements made. postal workers want postal stations to become internet hubs.    

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..i came across this new site called "beautiful rising". i've just started exploring it but it is a toolbox. here is an excerpt from the first story.

Québec Student Strike

In a grassroots process, starting in 2010 and extending over a couple of years, Québec student unions, specifically the anarcho-syndicalist-inspired Association pour une Solidarité Syndicale Étudiante (ASSÉ), began publicly organizing toward an indefinite general strike to oppose rising tuition. In parallel, the ruling Liberal Party was pushing an unprecedented 80 percent tuition fee hike.The strike was rooted in a fundamental clash between two political visions: fully accessible post-secondary education squaring off against Québec’s political and corporate class applying an austerity-driven framework (see: THEORY: Neoliberalism).

In fall 2011, major protests began, with tens of thousands joining demonstrations against the proposed tuition hike and neoliberal policies more generally. Critically, these demonstrations were rooted in a process of direct democracy, as student general assemblies became the mobilization hubs of the strike.As momentum towards the strike grew, the governing Liberals arrogantly pushed ahead, refusing to open any real negotiations with students — a miscalculation that helped galvanize support for the student movement. As the 2012 winter semester began, one student general assembly after another voted to support a grève générale illimitée (an indefinite general strike).

On March 22, 2012, hundreds of thousands took the streets (see: TACTIC: Mass street action), marking the first of what would become monthly mass demonstrations backing the strike, all calling for the total abolition of post-secondary tuition.Strategically, ASSÉ moved to create an open, non-sectarian assembly process, gathering representatives from student unions across Québec, members of ASSÉ, and beyond. These gatherings, called CLASSÉ (Coalition large de l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante), would help chart the direction of the strike. CLASSÉ also included many members of the two more mainstream federations, the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec (FECQ) and Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ), which were being pushed by their members to actively join the strike movement (see: METHODOLOGY: Spectrum of allies).

A key turning point in the strike was the imposition of Bill 78 by the governing Liberals in May, after months of student demonstrations. This “special law” drastically undermined the fundamental right to protest, declaring all future protests in Québec illegal unless pre-approved by police. Fortunately for the student movement, the special law backfired and actually worked to invigorate greater non-student participation in the strike (see: PRINCIPLE: If protest is made illegal, make daily life a protest), including growing nightly casseroles demonstrations where thousands of sympathizers took to the streets banging pots and pans (see: TACTIC: Noise-making protest [cacerolazo]).Direct action became a key tactic for sustaining political momentum around the strike. ASSÉ created a public online calendar for the strike that quickly filled with autonomous actions, including many demonstrations carried out by decentralized networks of student activists and community members (see: PRINCIPLE: We are all leaders)....

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..what an amazing story/struggle..against all odds. an inspiration. 27 min it if you can.

On Contact with Chris Hedges: The Radical Transformation of Jackson, Mississippi

Kali Akuno, Co-Founder and Co-Director of Cooperation Jackson, discusses the radical transformation of Jackson, Mississippi through capitalism and the socialist alternative, Cooperation Jackson.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..another awesome autonomous project closer to home. shaped for and by the community to meet their needs. be sure to check out the video near the bottom for more info.

Nuxalk Nation Housing Program Breaks New Ground in Bella Coola

Nuxalk Nation is having a big impact on the landscape of Bella Coola and the lives of its members living there. The Nation has developed a groundbreaking housing program designed not only to build homes for its members, but to do so in an economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable way.

The homes are being built by apprentices from a Nuxalk-run carpentry program. The program connects Nuxalk students with skilled workers to construct buildings in their own community. Some of the projects created include a fisheries office, education building, chief’s building, and a new restaurant. The new longhouse designed restaurant was funded largely by Coast Funds and plans to open this Spring featuring a traditional First Nation inspired menu.

Nuxalk Nation is building four new sustainable homes for members of their community. Photo by Emilee Gilpin

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..part 1

Beyond Protest: Examining the Decide Madrid Platform for Public Engagement


In Part 1, we will explore the platform, which is among the best-of-breed new generation of open source civic technologies, and its myriad features. In Part 2, we will draw on open data from Decide to focus in more depth on how people use the site. In Part 3, we focus on recommendations for improvements to Decide and how to test their impact on the legitimacy and effectiveness of decision-making.

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Iceland's Slow-Burning Digital Democratic Revolution

For the last decade, Iceland has been a subject of democracy folklore. The country is often neglected due to its size and location, but when it receives attention it is almost mythologized. One reason for this is that the people there, from the bottom up, are innovating with digital democratic experiments. The folk are co-creating the law.


The Punchline is Digital Democracy

In 2010, comedian Jón Gnarr ran as mayor of Reykjavík advocating for “honesty and integrity, empathy, non-violent communication and … fun. We were going to try to have fun doing it.”

He ran initially as a joke – the self-declared "anarcho-surrealist" candidate – but he encouraged citizens to participate through a website, Better Reykjavík. Launched just before the elections, the site enabled citizens to input and up-vote proposals and initiatives for the council.

To everyone's surprise, not least himself, Jón won. [Icelanders use first names]. By last year, using the online platform, 70,000 of 120,000 Reykjavíkians had interacted – proposing, supporting or collaborating on proposals. As a result, over 750 crowd-sourced proposals were implemented, ranging from converting an ex-power station to a youth centre to increasing cycle lanes and gender-neutral toilets.

Eight Years On

“[The platform] is still embraced by the council. The user interface has been overhauled so it looks more modern and is more usable than ever,” said Halldór Auðar Svansson, a Pirate Party councillor since 2014 who chairs the city's Committee on Administration and Democracy.

“Better Reykjavík has been floundering a bit, participation has dwindled and it hasn’t really been developed any further," he added. "[The online platform] My Neighbourhood, though, has been flourishing better and there have been some improvements in the processes.”

Whereas Better Reykjavík is about making proposals for the whole city, My Neighbourhood brings it down to an even more local level. Six percent of the city's budget is spent on crowd-sourced proposals – which today mean Reykjavík is reclaiming its principle street from cars and offering a new walkway to the beach.


A Slow-Burning Revolution

Iceland's national political upheavals mimic its volcanoes. But things shift at bottom level, too. Compared to the days when Iceland nearly implemented a crowd-sourced Constitution, Halldór says there is less going on at the national level with digital democracy:

"But I do think that [the municipal democracy] has helped to keep the flame going. A few more municipalities have adopted the platform that Better Reykjavík runs for themselves, so more people think participatory tools are important... even standard practice at the local level," he said.

As an example, the Pirate Party went from outside rebels in 2013 to a firm place in Icelandic national politics, and are challenging now for a place in government. On the local level they now have two seats in Reykjavík and one in the town of Kópavogur.

"Our platform was very much based on transparency and eDemocracy although we did have some really fleshed out policy proposals, such as in welfare," Halldór added.

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Rosario, Argentina, Abandons The Establishment

"Not only do we denounce this model of the city... [where] we are left out, but we also take care of building the other model that can replace it. Now we want to do it among more. Among all. For all. This is an invitation to those who believe in going after dreams. We start, and we will wait for you. There is room for everyone here.”

So reads the opening statement of the Ciudad Futura [Future City) Party of Rosario, Argentina, which launched in 2013.

The political party formed by calling for people to join to “build the utopia''. In Argentina's third largest city, Future City now has three councillors and will challenge for the 2019 municipal elections. It continues to turn the vision of an inclusive and just city into a reality, working both inside and outside the city's institutional space.

Globally, radical municipalism offers a way of doing politics differently, reclaiming political control beyond the political class that created the multiple global crises facing capitalist civilization. But the dilemma facing Future City is an old one: how to stick to its radical roots. South America had a wave of leftist socialist governments in the last decade, although this trend has waned.

If it succeeds and grows, how does Future City avoid becoming part of the new political establishment and selling out its ideals?


Back to Future City's beginnings

Two social movements begin the story of Future City in its aim to build a utopia: Giros, which began fighting against property speculators pricing out and socially cleansing locals in the northern districts of Rosario, and M26, which began resisting the violence of the drug wars.

In 2005, these movements fused into Future City, expanding their remit into a bottom-up initiative to reclaim land, push for food sovereignty and provide education based on democratic principles. Today, the party has a cooperative cultural factory called Distrito Sie7e, where they gather on weekends and hold assemblies and workshops.

Working in this effort is also Tambo La Resistencia, a regional cooperative dairy farm that provides jobs and affordable milk to a district blighted by poverty and drug trafficking. And alongside it is another food cooperative that sells more than 400 products, providing locals with a healthy alternative to capitalist inflation.

Future City also runs a school, and now a university: the University of Doing. The school fills a gap missed by state provision. The university aims to fill an intellectual gap, preparing students not for managing a corporation or state job, but managing the commons. For instance, this includes showcasing how to transform a failed private enterprise and turn it into a social enterprise, something that is occurring more and more often in Argentina, South America and elsewhere – including Greece – due to the ongoing crises precipitated by capitalism.

Actively reclaiming the private as a commons relates directly to Future City's ethos, as reflected in the party's opening statement of action: “Politicians don’t just say what needs to be done, but do it.”

One foot in City Hall, one on the streets

Future City's decision to run for City Hall was made in a general assembly. To increase its membership and get it over the required threshold to run in the elections, the party presented a citizens solution: selling low-price milk.

Now, Future City is pushing an agenda to stop social exclusion and increase gender inclusion; for the regional elections it selected an all-women shortlist. This was deemed illegal under Argentina law, which asserts a minimum of 30 percent women, and therefore also 30 percent men in office. Importantly, this provoked a national debate about the continued male dominance of politics.

Another notable campaign was the councillors' support for mothers whose children benefit from medical marijuana, legalised in Argentina since 2017, for conditions including Aspergers. In many cases, the mothers could not afford it, so the party is supporting their claim to home-grow without reprisals from the city, and more broadly to make the medical decriminalisation inclusive.