Order the spring issue here

The protest against the elites, against the government, against the bureaucracy and the representative democracy

The Yellow Vests Have the Word, The Case of DEGROWTH, Fearless Cities: A Guide to the Global Municipalist Movement
3 BOOKS ON ECOLOGY / From the Yellow Vests came new forms of organization within production, housing and consumption functions. And with "Degrowth", starting with very simple actions such as protection of water, air and soil. And what about the local?

First, France and the United States. Then Bellarus and Russia. Extensive demonstrations show that large sections of the population – during the greatest crisis since World War II – are turning to their political leaders. In 2020–21, the world is hit by a pandemic that increases social divides. And the battle for biodiversity and the climate has been put on hold. Old concepts no longer work – and we do not have the new ones in place. We are faced with a choice between a looming collapse or a difficult transformation process. The themes of the time challenge our judgment.

Hundreds of thousands of Frenchmen

In France, we witnessed the most extensive protests since 1968. De The manifestations of the Yellow Vests # in the period 2018-2020 did not immediately leave an opportunity to summarize the many images of riots and demonstrations.

It is therefore to be welcomed that Francophile Mads Christoffersen returned to his France and listened to a wide range of Yellow West activists to – with 68 interviews – try to uncover the movement's political character and its ambitions.

Simultaneously with the reception in Copenhagen for the publication of the book (November 2020), a relaunching "The Yellow Vests" – a large meeting had been convened in France. This reflected the themes that constituted the Yellow West's preliminary culmination: the movement's future structure, income and purchasing power, ecology, direct democracy and an international development of the movement. Due to the pandemic, the meeting had to be canceled.

Yellow Vests

Out of the blue emerged the Yellow Vests in the fall of 2018. President Macron had put an environmental tax on gasoline and after a month of expressed anger on social media, it exploded on November 17th. Hundreds of thousands of French people met so dressed in the yellow vests that in France it is mandatory to lie in every car. It quickly became apparent that the protest involved many types of accumulated discontent. There was the protest against the elites, against the government, against the bureaucracy and the representative democracy as it is practiced today. The very special thing about the Yellow Vests was that the only thing they were united on was what they were against. They were angry and against the system. Sure, they wanted change, but which ones they had no guesses about at the time. And none of the party-political constellations had, moreover, managed in any way to assert themselves among the many participants, who most often stood completely without political experience.

The uncertainty that the mutations of coronathe virus spreads only underlines everything
too clearly the importance of prioritizing «the local» in an eco-anarchist perspective.

It goes without saying that an accumulated dissatisfaction would have different expressions – whether it unfolded out in the French or it took place in Paris. However, there were certain commonalities in the manifestations, according to the book: There was speaking time for everyone at the meetings. Everyone's views should be heard and respected. And out of the many meetings at roundabouts and at the resistance they met from the police, new communities emerged. "These people have become my family," it was said among the participants, and in continuation of this, new forms of organizing basic functions in society emerged. Production, housing and consumption functions are just some of them.

As in 1968, a more fundamental critique of the political system now developed. Of the capitalist economy and its destruction of people and environment. Of the consumer society's meaningless waste of resources, the poor working and living conditions and of the public service in education, health and social assistance. All this laid the groundwork for demands for self-determination and for the introduction of direct democracy with e.g. citizen-initiated referendums, according to Kristoffersen.

Socio-ecological transformation

It was also in France that degrowthThe movement gained its first organizational expression at the International Research Conference in 2008 in Paris. With a background in i.a. the book Limits to Growth (1972) had in the period before developed a platform for criticism: «continued economic growth on a limited planet is not possible». And over the years, it has become an increasingly refined critique of systems, developed on the basis of predominantly intellectual environments in the countries of southern Europe and with the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona as the dominant academic domicile.

After a long series of international conferences and summer schools focusing on economic growth and its challenges, some of the movement's leading representatives now have the book The Case of Degrowth, which is an invitation to present strategies for a socio-ecological transformation, starting with very simple actions (protection of water, air, soil). In addition to emphasizing the need for "a simple living", the only recommendation to the reader is to contribute to developmental conversations.

One of the chapters deals with the sensibility of sharing and living a single life so that others are given the opportunity to live at all. The focus is on the common, to develop together and further develop social settings, where «the commons» get an expression. The case of Degrowth is an introduction especially for those interested in the financial devices.

Where the Yellow Vests appeared as a manifest rebellion without a strategic perspective, "Degrowth" appears as an even predominantly theoretical contribution to understanding what happens inside the engine room of capitalist society – added a desire for us as individuals to change lifestyles. The concept of «degrowth› does not leave an impression as to whether the content should be achieved within capitalism or not, let alone who should be the driving force behind such a transformation.

More important than emphasizing different – what should not lead to the inevitable disagreements in the movements – however, is to unite with the common backdrop that the survival of life on the planet – and especially humanity – is contrary to capitalism and productivityism and that one must therefore look for ways out of this destructive and inhuman system.

«Think globally – act locally»

Based on the close relationships and in relation to nature, the umbrella movement «Communities for Future» has been developed and established. As the UN at the Rio Conference in 1992 with Local Agenda 21 focused on «Think globally, think locally», so «Communities for Future» brings together a number of different change platforms with a focus on organization in the local and regional. These include about cooperatives that focus on ine working relationships; «Camphills» focusing on people with special needs; Global Eco-village Network focusing on soil cultivation; and ECOLISE – European Network for Community-led Initiatives on Climate Change and Sustainability.

Ada Colau in Barcelona

Today, diversity forms the basis for the establishment of local communities: the regenerative, the resilient, the therapeutic, design and planning (permaculture), all based on the close social and the relationship to nature.

A selection of these communities met in 2017 in Barcelona, ​​where former housing activist Ada Colau – elected mayor of Barcelona in 2015 – invited. For Ada Colau, top / bottom as well as us / "the other" are examples of divisions that are reductive and can be dangerous. In municipalism, these contradictions are sought to be abolished in such a way that we in our local communities can meet as equal people in inclusive communities.

Bow Fearless Cities – a Guide to the Global Municipalist Movement documents from the Barcelona Summit an informal network of organizations around the world that have helped transform cities in a bottom-up perspective. The book focuses in this development, on a feminization of politics and cross-cutting aspects of the municipal universe and finally on contributions that can support the municipal movement.

Realization of communities

The uncertainty that the mutations of coronathe virus spreads, only too clearly emphasizes the importance of prioritizing «the local» in one eco-anarchist perspective.

Debbie Bookchin – daughter of the American anarchist Murray Bookchin [see previous MODERN TIMES] – is a central figure in libertarian municipalism (which gives high priority to individual freedom and seeks to minimize the importance of state power). In the efforts to achieve the realization of local communities – based on direct democracy – there must be a showdown with hierarchy, oppression of women and patriarchy.

“Our most basic protection against disasters is to become locally based. That means
getting to know our neighbors, keeping in regular contact with them, participating in the community and "learning" from the nature around us and keeping us alive. "
David Abram.

A recurring theme here is that centralized states cannot implement "simple living" systems in the form of small, highly self-sufficient local economies, largely independent of the global economy. These can only be established by responsible citizens in communities who grope their way to events that function under their physical, biological and social conditions. But the state and municipalities can contribute by supporting the citizens with the right institutional framework that promotes the citizens' adjustment work.

In cooperation with the municipal administrations, it is a task to ensure basic human rights and dignity for all people, to promote an economy with social and environmental justice, on a democratization of institutions for people and ensuring the right of people to decide which city they wants to live in, and finally that the administrations take on an ethical commitment to the citizens.

The time has come to abandon the global picture of growth and prosperity and show that there are useful and attractive alternatives. All over the world, change is under way – also in France, the United States, Bellarus and Russia.

avatar photos
Niels Johan Juhl-Nielsen
Juhl-Nielsen resides in Copenhagen.

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