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They Can't Represent Us!: Reinventing Democracy from Greece to Occupy

How the new global movements are putting forward a radical conception of democracy.
Mass protest movements in disparate places such as Greece, Argentina, and the United States ultimately share an agenda—to raise the question of what democracy should mean. These horizontalist movements, including Occupy, exercise and claim participatory democracy as the ground of revolutionary social change today.

Written by two international activist intellectuals and based on extensive interviews with movement participants in Spain, Venezuela, Argentina, across the United States, and elsewhere, this book is an expansive portrait of the assemblies, direct democracy forums, and organizational forms championed by the new movements, as well as an analytical history of direct and participatory democracy from ancient Athens to Zuccotti Park. The new movements put forward the idea that liberal democracy is not democratic, nor was it ever.

Reviews

  • “This book is written as a clear-eyed study of what the great popular uprisings of 2011, from Greece and Spain to Egypt to Occupy Wall Street have in common, and what movements in Latin American preceded them. But it might as well be a manifesto, a pamphlet like Common Sense or The Rights of Man or The Communist Manifesto, because it announces the failure of the centuries-long experiment of representative democracy and defines some of the characteristics of these direct democracies that have arisen in the ruins. It's a fierce book, a hopeful book, a brilliant book, and a necessary book, in this age when libraries are also arsenals of direct democracy.”
  • “The most substantial and comprehensive work on workers’ control and self-management today.”
  • “The movements documented in this volume succeeded in shutting cities down through tremendous shows of force. And when you shut down a city, you can actually stop capital accumulation … Until we start building a truly democratic society, we will continue to see our good ideas co-opted by capital.”
  • “Sitrin and Azzellini not only analyze what activists are doing but also let us hear what activists are thinking. The multitude of voices they gather here demonstrate the extraordinary wealth of theorizing in movements, particularly regarding democracy, and how activists engage creatively with political concepts and problems that are both abstract and concrete. This book clarifies some of the primary challenges facing movements today and helps us see paths beyond them.”
  • “... it's inspiring stuff, politically and intellectually, while the personal accounts vividly bring to life what it is like to be a part of what Sitrin calls 'everyday revolutions”

Blog

  • Unconditional Valls vs the ZAD

    October 2012 was the first time that many French people became aware of the ZAD (“zone à défendre”) in Notre-Dame-des-Landes, an agricultural region outside of Nantes in western France. There, long-term resident farmers had been joined by supporters to form an allied occupation intent on blocking the construction of the international airport dreamt of by the state since 1966.  (The term “ZAD” is an ironic reappropriation of the official designation of an area as a “zone d’aménagement différé” — the bureaucratic procedure put into place in anticipation of a large infrastructural project in order to begin the expropriations and expulsions necessary to clear the area). In October 2012, when the government launched an armed evacuation of “illegal” residents of the zone, destroying structures and razing homes, fierce resistance on the part of the inhabitants forced the armed forces to withdraw. A wave of massive demonstrations in support of the ZAD, involving sometimes up to 40,000 people, began, the most recent on October 8th of this year after the government announced another imminent military evacuation of the region.

    Below is a response from members of the ZAD, written for Collectif Mauvaise Troupe, and published in Le Monde earlier this month. Translated by Kristin Ross. 


    ZAD at Notre-Dame-des-Landes, 2012.

    As we write, the noise of helicopters tries to interfere with our concentration. Every day now, for some time, they have been circling around, high up where the airplanes don’t fly, recreating the sights and sounds of war and the threat of another conquest.

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  • A Few Hours with Chávez

    Hugo Chávez, military officer turned left-wing revolutionary, was one of the most important Latin American leaders of the twenty-first century. In My First LifeChávez narrates the story of his life in the years preceding his election as president in 1998. His interlocutor is Ignacio Ramonet, a former editor at Le Monde diplomatique who previously produced a similiar book with Fidel Castro. The post below is excerpted from Ramonet's introduction.

    To celebrate the publication of 
    My First Life, the book and many other titles on Latin America are currently on sale at a 40% discount



    At the age of forty-five, Hugo Chávez became one of the youngest presidents in Venezuelan history.

    His investiture was held on 2 February 1999. And less than two months later, on 25 April, he called as promised a referendum for a Constituent Assembly. He got 88 per cent of the votes. The Bolivarian Revolution was on the march. In July, members were elected to the Assembly. The Polo Patriótico, the president’s coalition, swept the board again, with 121 of the 128 seats. The new Assembly began work on the Fifth Republic’s Constitution, the text of which had to be ratified by a national referendum on 15 December 1999.

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  • Yanis Varoufakis on Syriza, anti-austerity European politics and Corbyn as election time beckons for Greece

    In under two weeks time, Greece will vote on who is to lead their country after the speedy resignation of Alexis Tsipras. Below is an interview with Greece's former finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis and leading academics from around the UK. This interview was first published on The Conversation website under a Creative Commons licence.

    Photo: Yves Herman/Reuters

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