#48: From Democracy to Freedom Audio Zine

1a

#48: From Democracy to Freedom Audio Zine — Welcome back to the Ex-worker! We’re eschewing our typical format once again to bring you our second audio zine, a production of Crimethinc.’s new text From Democracy to Freedom. This release coincides with the announcement of an online platform for participating in decentralized reading groups and online discussions on this text as well as the others in the series exploring questions around democracy, and how we relate to it as anarchists.

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.

Anarchy and Democracy Reading Groups!

1a

This month, we are publishing a series exploring an anarchist analysis of democracy, including case studies from anarchist participants in directly democratic movements around the world. As an offline counterpart to the series, we invite you to organize discussion groups about the relation between democracy and anarchy. We’re not finished thinking through this topic, and we want your help engaging with these questions. Our hope is that together we can produce new ideas and tactics that can be put to use in the next wave of unrest.

To facilitate all this, we’ve prepared print-ready PDF of the flagship text in the series, “From Democracy to Freedom”:

From Democracy to Freedom imposed PDF [6.5mb]

To complement what we hope will be a network of such discussion groups, we’ve established a participatory forum utilizing our comrades’ platform Crabgrass, here:

we.riseup.net/democracyandanarchy

Here’s how to use the forums:

  1. Visit we.riseup.net and make yourself a user profile.
  2. Click on the “Settings” tab and configure your profile to match your needs.
  3. Click on the “Groups” tab at the top left of the page (next to the raven icon).
  4. From the “Groups” tab, select “Search” from your options on the left. Type “democracyandanarchy” into the search box and click “Search.”
  5. Join the “democracyandanarchy” forum by clicking on it and then clicking “Join Organization” on the left. This enables you to read and contribute to discussion threads.
  6. Commence critiquing the articles, posing and answering hard questions, summarizing the discussions you’ve had offline, and more!

Ideally, we’d like people to meet in person to discuss the texts, even in groups as small as two, and to use the online forum to compare your thoughts with other groups and pose each other questions. If you lack offline community, or want to share the discussion from your local group, we hope the forum can connect you with others who share your interests. The Ex-Worker podcast will draw material from the discussions on the forum to include in future episodes of the podcast.

You can draw from and add to a list of discussion questions for reading groups at the forum site. If you have technical questions about using Crabgrass or other Riseup services, try the Crabgrass Help Pages. You can also email us at rollingthunder@crimethinc.com.

Read on here for some discussion questions.

Steal Something from Work Day 2016

1a

Today we take a break from our ongoing series about the anarchist critique of democracy to observe an annual day of action, Steal Something from Work Day.

Today is April 15—in the US, the day that taxes are usually due to the federal government. Ironically, this time tax day has been moved back to Monday so the IRS can celebrate Emancipation Day—which the rest of us have no opportunity to celebrate, chained as we are to the grindstone. Slavery has been abolished, but wage slavery persists.

The government steals a part of our labor in the form of taxes. Our employers steal a part of our labor in the form of profit. And the necessity of working steals our lives, one day after another—it steals us from each other, forcing us to toil to keep the bills paid rather than being creative together or spending time with our children.

We can build towards a worldwide movement to abolish the imposed scarcities and controls that force this situation on us. But in the meantime, we have to be pragmatic, to do the best we can with the opportunities available to us. That’s why people all around the world celebrate April 15 as Steal Something from Work Day.

For this year’s heartening account of workplace theft and a selection of Steal Something from Work Day resources, read on.

Occupy: Democracy versus Autonomy

1a

The story goes that the very first gathering of Occupy Wall Street began as an old-fashioned top-down rally with speakers droning on—until a Greek student (and perhaps—an anarchist?) interrupted it and demanded that they hold a proper horizontal assembly instead. She and some of the youngsters in attendance sat down in a circle on the other side of the plaza and began holding a meeting using consensus process. One by one, people trickled over from the audience that had been listening to speakers and joined the circle. It was August 2, 2011.

Here, in the origin myth of the Occupy Movement, we encounter a fundamental ambiguity in its relationship to organization. We can understand this shift to consensus process as the adoption of a more inclusive and therefore more legitimate democratic model, anticipating later claims that the general assemblies of Occupy represented real democracy in action. Or we can focus on the decision to withdraw from the initial rally, seeing it as a gesture in favor of voluntary association. Over the following year, this internal tension erupted repeatedly, pitting democrats determined to demonstrate a new form of governance against anarchists intent upon asserting the primacy of autonomy.

Though David Graeber encouraged participants to regard consensus as a set of principles rather than rules, both proponents and authoritarian opponents of consensus process persisted in treating it as a formal means of government—while anarchists who shared Graeber’s framework found themselves outside the consensus reality of their fellow Occupiers. The movement’s failure to reach consensus about the meaning of consensus itself culminated with ugly attacks in which Rebecca Solnit and Chris Hedges attempted to brand anarchist participants as violent thugs.

How did that play out in the hinterlands, where small-town Occupy groups took up the decision-making practices of Occupy Wall Street? The following narrative traces the tensions between democratic and autonomous organizational forms throughout the trajectory of one local occupation.

This text is an installment in our series exploring an anarchist analysis of democracy.

Read on.

Destination Anarchy/Every Step Is an Obstacle

1a

In summer 2011, tens of thousands of people came together in Syntagma Square in front of the Greek parliament in Athens to express a complete rejection of the government and experiment with direct democracy. At the high point of the protests, over a hundred thousand people clashed with the authorities. Years later, many of the people who flooded Syntagma have poured into the ranks of the ruling party, Syriza, or the fascist party Golden Dawn. In this reflective account, a Greek anarchist narrates the events of 2011 and the developments since then, illustrating the ways that one day’s steps towards liberation become the next day’s obstacles and drawing out the questions that anarchists will have to answer to open the way to freedom.

Read the feature here.

This text is an installment in a series exploring the anarchist analysis of democracy, tracing the trajectories of directly democratic movements around the world.

From 15M to Podemos

1a

In May 2011, protesters inspired by the Arab Spring occupied plazas across Spain in lively anti-government demonstrations centered around directly democratic assemblies. This was the first of a wave of such movements that spread across Europe and the world. Five years later, the energy that began as a push for participatory politics has been channeled into the rise of new Spanish political parties. Is this a corruption of the discourse of the plaza occupation movement, or its logical conclusion?

Read the feature here.

This eyewitness account is an installment in our series exploring the anarchist analysis of democracy.

From Democracy to Freedom

1a

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

1a

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

1a

#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

1a

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.