Article VII – Putting This Constitution into Practice – How We Can Begin Now Where We Are
As for now, each city and town’s residents may begin to put this process into practice through direct action in anticipation of these methods becoming the legitimate authority of the city and the city becoming the legitimate authority politically.
1) All neighborhoods or small towns of all kinds everywhere in the world could begin immediately to set aside a time each month, say two weekend afternoons or weekday evenings, to hold assemblies, make decisions for themselves and set up a budget. This would immediately stand in a situation of “dual power” with regard to the established city council government. The idea is not conflict but to establish the greater moral authority, and democratic legitimacy of the assemblies.
2) Citizens could then declare a day, after several months or a few years of such practice, once established and once its authority had won over a critical mass of participants in the city, when they would refuse to go to work during that time because they intended to attend assemblies. They would demand that the existing authority authorize this new 4-day workweek (as noted above) but would not need to wait for that, for if an entire city refused to work on say Wednesday any longer it would become fact and other cities would follow.
3) Organizing through some association both a nonviolence self-defense training, which would serve for the struggle to establish the new system in the city, and a militia with training, now essentially legal in most parts of the United States and in some parts of the world. If the bearing of arms by citizens is not legal, the militia could exist anyway and train with innocuous instruments but show its organization, self-government, discipline and collective dignity. Under no circumstances should armed conflict with the existing police, or armed forces be undertaken.
4) Print and distribute their own money city-wide. Ithaca, New York deserves credit to have been the first to have attempted this approach to create community. Again, this can start as a nonprofit association and a “barter” system, but using money for what is really is: merely a points system to keep track of who owes what to whom for services rendered. Businesses, farmers’ markets, cooperatives and individuals can sign up and begin providing each other services using this currency. In some countries any income earned needs to be declared as income. Though if seen as merely a way to facilitate activity it could also be the practice to eliminate all such income at the end of the year and restart the distribution again the following year.
5) Set up cooperatives for buying, producing or any other activity to practice self-government.
6) Demand or set up where available land is to be had, community gardens and other methods to establish greater food self-sufficiency, and health and food sovereignty.
7) Establish well-organized food distribution systems through “Community-supported agriculture” (though I take Wendell Berry’s criticism of this particular title for these as reasonable) by making contact with local and nearby farmers to provide them a guaranteed market for their produce. Then, to create a critical mass of demand for locally produced and organic food to convince by protest, electoral power, or other means the local institutions such as hospitals, schools, universities, company cafeterias etc. to buy this locally produced food.
8) To set up cooperative “supermarkets” and buying groups to purchase in bulk that food and other products that near expiration date to be made available for local currency at a low price or free to the city’s citizens and those in need.
9) To set up, by pressuring even the existing city government, a local bank or credit union to serve as a place for all the city’s residents to set up an account.
10) Setting up cooperatives to provide other services, such as laundry services for the large institutions like hospitals, schools etc. in the city to start up a solid cooperative sector of the local economy.
11) Establishing a cooperative for local energy needs, and a public generator and utility, eventually freeing the city from dependence on oil companies, coal companies, utility companies and the like.
12) An alternative “Conflict Resolution” system where juries of city residents can utilize the option of temporary banishment from the city for those accused of medium-serious crimes as determined appropriate. Establishment of a Rehabilitation Collective for those who voluntarily turn themselves in and negotiation with the existing police, public prosecutor and public defenders offices (under public pressure by the movement of course) to accept this conflict resolution process as an easier way to obtain confessions, “convictions” and self-sentencing by those found guilty rather than the expense and violence of prisons (granted this one is the hardest to obtain under present conditions, but even establishing the alternative in the public mind is worth the effort).
13) Some initiative of engagement with the local police, such that the worldwide trend toward militarization of police is reversed or at least limited. For example to convince the police to no longer accept nationally-provided armaments and hardware. Again, a tough sell. But it takes the initiative.
14) Later to establish the assemblies as a legitimate form of authority recognized by law as the city’s ultimate governing bodies – this may in many places require changing regional, state or national law however.
15) A direct action initiative at a LATE stage (to put this first as I can imagine many of my anarchist friends wishing to do) to organize a city-wide withdrawal of taxes paid to national and state/regional governments IN COOPERATION with other cities doing the same (to have on city only do so would be suicide for the movement itself).
16) The preceding proposal for direct action tax withdrawal is only practicable for a network of cities that had first established significant levels of self-sufficiency in basic needs and also had well-established local currencies circulating AND which still had considerable access to products of the national or world market since until the establishment of a non-political agency to (acting more or less as the US Social Security Office does) supply the global currency for inter-city exchange such cities would be vulnerable to great economic hardship and the whole project could then easily lose support. Alternatively, a large network of like-minded cities could establish an alternative basis for exchange using a single currency between them (none has to change hands, just numbers in bank accounts in the publicly owned credit union/banks).
17) Knowing the possibilities of massive state repression at some point in this process the coordination of nonviolence self-defense groups citywide AND the local production of arms for self-governing militia should begin, not to provoke a conflict but merely to make clear to national states that military repression is not an option or at least would be a costly one.
18) Declaration of assumption of governing authority by cities, regions, and their coordination among themselves to begin to create the infrastructure for a planetary civilization based on universal access to citizenship for all, to provision of basic and comfortable subsistence for the needs of all, renewable energy, and self-government.
19) The neutrality of the coordinating agencies, based as they are on the retaking into the hands of citizens worldwide and their cities and townships as public spheres of participation and self-government are an end to the “state” as such though not to politics or political activity or government. These coordinating bodies have no authority, an act merely as oversight bodies to be sure that no is being exploited or oppressed at which point they must mobilize, on the basis only of being delegated coordinating bodies, the member cities to act together against a common problem or threat, or they act to coordinate the efforts for those projects, such as environmental repair, climate change reversal (mostly effected by these locally-organized changes but still needing some larger scale coordination), stopping any aggression by any given city or group, and for coordinating any infrastructure such as continental roadways, air travel (using renewable energy obviously) satellites, space exploration (we may be close to folding space to allow for “faster than light” space “travel” (by not moving at all of course according to Einstein’s General Relativity), and the like.
Thus these act more as juridical or mediating bodies and as delegated agencies to carry out tasks decided on by the citizens in their respective cities and townships, not as political institutions. This is in complete contrast to the existing United Nations, IMF, World Bank, WTO, G20, NATO and the rest. These global governance organizations will be abolished both by being disbanded by the movement of the self-governing cities and by the withdrawal of taxes to national states at the end of the process.
In many cases however, the penalty process involving enslavement or war crimes will apply to some of the heads of these organizations during their rule.
20) Thus, it would be possible to maintain an urban and global civilization in which everyone had a citizenship status, in which movement to where one wanted to live was much freer than today (the 1% minimum is roughly double the number of immigrants arriving annually to the US), in which the wage system and capitalism were abolished, in which money became a mere utility until it too no longer served, in which national borders and national armies were done away with, in which the global ecology could be restored and maintained, in which learning and teaching, healing, growing food, making useful and beautiful things, connecting human communities by transport and communications, could all be done for their own sake, rather than for profit. Where defending one’s community and keeping it safe, rehabilitating or where needed punishing of those who act violently or exploit without prisons or the death penalty, where in all probability ending war, and where community but universality at the same time in something that would be worthy of the name civilization would be possible without imperialism or conquest.
And we could start wherever we are, now, and indeed as these proposals indicate, many aspects of these have already begun, so we begin from something that already exists.
* The proposals here have come out of years of conversations with activists, comrades, friends and scholars, from studies of past societies, contemporary technologies, practical experience with cooperatives, community-supported agriculture, alternative political parties, green politics, socialist and communist politics, local initiatives to remake cities, studies of movements around the world and the like. I don’t take credit for them, they have been the result of the efforts of many people. Only the things that won’t work or are inadequate are my own.
The idea is to develop a political sphere that allows us to go from the experiences of direct democracy embodied in the many movements of 2011 (Indignados, Greek revolts, Occupy, the Arab Spring etc.) to the holding of a political sphere and self-governing it in a way that takes us past and out of capitalism. The city is big enough to allow for an “articulation” or ensemble of many “commons” activities including cooperatives and yet small enough to allow for citizen participation. It also allows for a vast diversity of ethnic and other backgrounds, and so allows for a localism that is not ethnically or conservatively based on specific customs. It defuses to some degree issues of immigration over national borders, since there are many cities one can go to. It allows for public ownership but citizen control and workers control, and avoids mass bureaucracy and state power, yet keeps politics. Indeed, it allows us to imagine everyone in the world having a citizenship status – here I had in mind the Medieval cities that allowed one to be a citizen if having escaped from serfdom for a year and a day. So, cosmopolitanism but local community as well.
So I do not name the following people and groups or cities because they would agree, approve or like this nor because they take any responsibility for any of my bad ideas, but merely to avoid plagiarism – I have learned so much from so many. Here is where I got most of this stuff from:
The Zapatista Autonomous Good Government Towns
A lot of friends, including but not limited to those thinking and practicing communing, among whom: Peter Linebaugh, Silvia Federici, George Caffentzis
Cleveland, Ohio and it cooperatives movement
Porto, Alegre, Brazil’s Participatory Budgeting
The Shakers Villages
The Amana Communities in Iowa
Ithaca, New York
Massimo De Angelis
And so many others whom I thank even if they don’t like this idea.