From Democracy to Freedom

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Billions around the world have watched the familiar pageantry of the US Presidential race: Trump, the champion of the new extreme right, laying the groundwork for the despotism to come; Sanders, the partisan of an impossible dream, who nonetheless succeeded in luring disaffected millions back into electoral politics; Clinton, the despised representative of the status quo—around whom the hapless majority are forced to rally, since the future is sure to be even worse. Contemplating this bleak spectacle, some people object that this isn’t real democracy.

This talk about real democracy will be familiar to anyone who lived through the Occupy movement or one of its overseas equivalents. In 2011, from Tunis to Madrid and New York, movements triggered by the economic crisis turned into experiments with new forms of governance. By 2014, the luster of real democracy had begun to wear off: the Ukrainian revolution confirmed the right-wing appropriation of the discourse, while the movement that spread from Ferguson began with a riot, not an assembly. But next time revolution is on the agenda, we’ll surely hear more calls for “real” democracy. As long as democracy is the only paradigm we have for change, even anarchists will demand it.

Reflecting on the revolts of the preceding decade, we decided it was high time to get to the bottom of what democracy really is—and whether it’s what we want, after all. After years of research, discussion, and experimentation, we are excited present our conclusions in a massive new feature: From Democracy to Freedom.

In this text, we examine the common threads that connect different forms of democracy, trace the development of democracy from its classical origins to its contemporary representative, direct, and consensus-based variants, and evaluate how democratic discourse and procedures serve the social movements that adopt them. Along the way, we outline what it could mean to seek freedom directly rather than through democratic rule.

This is the flagship text in a series we will be publishing over the next several weeks, including testimony and critical analysis from participants in directly democratic movements around the world.

Read the feature.

Series: The Anarchist Critique of Democracy

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What is democracy, precisely? Will it ever deliver on what it promises? How significant is the difference between state democracy and direct democracy? Is anarchism a kind of direct democracy, or something else entirely? And how do democratic discourse and procedures serve the social movements that adopt them?

This spring, we’re publishing a ten-part series exploring these questions, presenting an anarchist analysis of democracy in all its forms. The flagship text, “From Democracy to Freedom,” traces democracy from its origins up to today, examining its representative, direct, and consensus-based variants. We’ll follow up with case studies from participants in several of the recent movements that have been acclaimed as models of direct democracy: 15M in Spain (2011), the occupation of Syntagma Square in Greece (2011), Occupy in the United States (2011-2012), the Slovenian uprising (2012-2013), the plenums in Bosnia (2014), and the Rojava revolution (2012-2016). We’ll conclude the series with guest contributions on the subject from Paul Z. Simons, Uri Gordon, and others.

To kick off the series, we’ve prepared an updated online version of our classic text on this subject, The Party’s Over. We also encourage everyone to read the English translation of Contra la Democracia (“Against Democracy”) from Spain. Here’s an incomplete syllabus for the whole series:

The Party’s Over
From Democracy to Freedom
From Democracy to Freedom Audio Zine
From 15M to Podemos: The Regeneration of Spanish Democracy
Destination Anarchy! Every Step Is an Obstacle (from Syntagma to Syriza)
Democracy and Autonomy in the Occupy Movement
“Gotovo je!”: Reflections on Direct Democracy in Slovenia
Born in Flames, Died in Plenums: The Bosnian Experiment with Direct Democracy
Lessons from Rojava: Democracy and Commune (Paul Z. Simons)
Democracy: The Patriotic Temptation (Uri Gordon)

You’re invited to form a reading group to participate in this project! We have set up a discussion platform where groups around the world can compare notes on the texts and the topic itself, in hopes of drawing on the conversation for a future episode of the Ex-Worker podcast. If you’re interested, get together some friends and write us at rollingthunder@crimethinc.com for details.

Further Reading

Democracy’s Bankrupt
Contra la Democracia
Malatesta: Neither Democrats, nor Dictators: Anarchists and Democracy and Anarchy

#47: The Anarchist Critique of Democracy

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#47: Introducing the Anarchist Critique of DemocracyIs Democracy what we’re fighting for, as anarchists? In episode 47 of the Ex-Worker Podcast, a contentious debate between Clara and Alanis on this topic sets the stage for an upcoming, in-depth engagement with the topic of Democracy. In addition, we clean out our backlog of listener feedback, clarifying our trash-talking of both the Bay Area and Adbusters in past episodes, as well as hearing from a listener in Australia about various online resources for finding out what’s happening with anarchist and anti-fascists in the land down under. NYC Anarchist Black Cross provides us with thorough political prisoner updates, and we share a review of the book Huye Hombre Huye, available from Little Black Cart. As always, the episode is bookended with global news updates, plus prisoner birthdays, a whole slew of upcoming anarchist bookfairs and other events and more.

You can download this and all of our previous episodes online. You can also subscribe in iTunes here or just add the feed URL to your podcast player of choice. Rate us on iTunes and let us know what you think, or send us an email to podcast@crimethinc.com. You can also call us 24 hours a day at 202–59-NOWRK, that is, 202–596–6975.

Rolling Thunder #10 PDF Now Available

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This morning we sent out the last copy of Rolling Thunder #10, and you know what that means—the full high-resolution RT#10 PDF is now available for free download. This issue was two years in the making and absolutely jampacked:

Rolling Thunder #10 begins with a reappraisal of the anarchist project in today’s context of crisis and technological transformation. From there, we chart the global trajectory of momentum from 2010 to 2012: the student movements in the US and UK—the insurrections in Tunisia, Egypt, and beyond—the occupation movements in Spain, Greece, and finally the USA, from its awkward beginnings in Wisconsin to its aftereffects in Oakland. For case studies, we focus in on the anti-police struggles that catalyzed the rise of confrontational anarchism in Seattle, and scrutinize how US immigration policy is applied on the ground at the border to explain how its actual objectives differ from its ostensible purpose. The issue concludes with a historical review of Canadian anarchism, following it from its origins through the 2010 Olympics and G20 riots and up to the present day. All this, plus a graphic history from Argentine anarchism, 24 pages in full color, and all the other bells and whistles you’ve come to expect from us times two. (114 pages)

Last month we added Rolling Thunder #12 (the most current issues) to the Rolling Thunder Bundle, which now contains issues #8, #11, and #12 for just $10. And, don’t forget, you can subscribe to Rolling Thunder to get future issues hot off the press, while also supporting the project and ensuring the journal’s continued existence.

Europe: Between Rape and Racism

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As Europe descends further into nationalism and xenophobia, we are seeing feminist, atheist, and progressive discourses appropriated to serve reactionary ends. Following the assaults in Cologne and the media feeding frenzy about “migrant violence,” many people have struggled to find a way to speak about the situation without minimizing the issue of sexual assault or contributing to the demonization of migrants. Yet displacement and sexual assault are not distinct issues—they are interrelated components of a larger context that must be confronted as a whole.

Read on for our analysis of racism and rape in the so-called migrant crisis.

To Change Everything in Ten More Languages

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Unfortunately, our efforts to update tochangeeverything.com have lagged behind the efforts of comrades around the world to produce versions of To Change Everything in their own languages. We will be updating the site on an ongoing basis, but in the meantime, here are the PDFs of ten more versions of the project, along with the videos for four of them. If you are interested in working on a version for your own language or region, please get in touch!


Català / Catalan

   Screen PDF (Single Page View) [4.4MB]


Français / French

   (continental)

   Screen PDF (Single Page View) [19.9MB]

   Print PDF (Color, Imposed) [21.1MB]


한국어/ Korean

   Screen PDF (Single Page View) [7.6MB]


Română / Romanian

   Screen PDF (Single Page View) [20MB]


Русский / Russian

   Screen PDF (Single Page View) [16.1MB]

Rolling Thunder #9 Full PDF Now Available

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We’ve just mailed out the last print copy of Rolling Thunder #9, and as such, we’re very happy to make the full issue available for download as a beautiful, high-resolution PDF. With issue #9 we were really hitting our stride, and its contents still hold up quite well:

How important is legitimacy—in our own eyes, in the eyes of potential allies, in the eyes of the public? How can anarchists cultivate it? What pitfalls does it hold? Rolling Thunder #9 explores these questions while reporting on the past six months of upheavals around the US. Following up on our coverage of the 2008 convention protests, this issue assesses anarchist action at the 2009 G20 summit, mapping conflict throughout the city and analyzing the strategies of the police and protesters. The accompanying Pittsburgh scene report examines the decade of local organizing that prepared the ground for this and other confrontations. Elsewhere herein, we scrutinize protest and resistance on campus—from the recent occupation movement to efforts to shut down fascist student organizations—and overseas in the Smash EDO campaign. All this, plus obscure Russian history, a reappraisal of the concept of “free speech,” and the usual stunning prose. No advertisements; 16 full-color pages.

We’ve taken this opportunity to add Rolling Thunder #12 (the most current issues) to the Rolling Thunder Bundle, now containing issues #8, #10, #11, and #12 for just $10. And, don’t forget, you can subscribe to Rolling Thunder to get future issues hot off the press, while also supporting the project and ensuring the journal’s continued existence. Our current plan is to release issue #13 this spring.

The Ex-Worker #45: 2015 Year in Review!

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#44: 2015 Year in Review! In our first episode of the new year, the Ex-Worker looks back over 2015 and its highlights, lowlights, and everything in between. We summarize some of the year’s key news developments, including tech developments and struggles around gender, anarchist publishing and media, a hilarious look at mass media coverage of anarchism, and our reflections on the last year of the podcast itself and our new year’s resolutions. You’ll also hear some analysis of some of the important themes within anarchism and revolutionary struggles in 2015, including an extended discussion on identity and solidarity, a review of the AK Press anthology “Taking Sides”, and reflections on our relationship to mass movements. The anarchist news website “It’s Going Down” contributes their end of year thoughts, a new project called “The Spaces Between” sets out to document US anarchism outside of its major urban hotspots, and a supporter offers an important update on NATO 3 prisoner Jared “Jay” Chase. We also received a number of detailed and inspiring year in review reports from anarchists around the world… but we’ll save those for our next episode.

You can download this and all of our previous episodes online. You can also subscribe in iTunes here or just add the feed URL to your podcast player of choice. Rate us on iTunes and let us know what you think, or send us an email to podcast@crimethinc.com. You can also call us 24 hours a day at 202–59-NOWRK, that is, 202–596–6975.

Report: To Change Everything US Tour

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Last month, we concluded the To Change Everything US tour, bringing together anarchists from Latin America, Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and North America to compare notes on the uprisings and social movements of the past decade. In the course of 65 days, we presented 59 events in 57 towns, speaking with well over 2000 people altogether. To hear an audio recording from one of the presentations, tune in to episode 44 of the Ex-Worker Podcast.

Many people have seen the booklet and video we are distributing on the theme To Change Everything; we wanted to follow up by initiating intercontinental conversations about strategy and liberation. In the digital age, it is more important than ever to meet and debate and form bonds in person. If you met us on this trip, please stay in touch and help brainstorm what we should do together next.

We had a wonderful tour. For those of us from the US as well as overseas, it is instructive to take in the entire country in a single continuous trip. It gives you the lay of the land. Here is what we saw.

Read the report.

The French 9/11

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We participated in the following dialogue with members of the French news source Lundimatin, comparing the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States with the situation in France today. This interview is available in French on their site.

Bonjour, France, and welcome to team War on Terror! For fourteen years, you’ve looked askance at us across the Atlantic, raising your eyebrows at US foreign policy. Now you get to have your own state of emergency, your own far-right party in power, your own warrantless wiretapping and waterboarding scandals and Department of Homeland Security. Where will you put your Guantanamo Bay? (Finally, French fries and Freedom fries will mean the same thing!) For maximum effect, consider starting a new war that has nothing to do with the cause of the attacks, so you can destabilize another region and draw additional populations into the conflict.

We Americans know all about this stuff. For decades now, the US has been the policeman of the world, while social democratic France has been its comfortable bourgeoisie. But in the 21st century, everyone has to take part in policing. To preserve France, the liberal alternative to the US, it is now necessary to copy the US model of anti-terrorism. Permit us to show you the ropes.

Read the discussion.