Libertarian Municipalism

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1. From the Wikipedia:

"Libertarian municipalism is a political program developed by libertarian socialist theorist Murray Bookchin, to create democratic citizens' assemblies in towns and urban neighborhoods. The assemblies in these free municipalities join together to replace the state with a directly democratic confederation.

Bookchin became an advocate of face-to-face or assembly democracy in the 1950s, inspired by writings on the ancient Athenian polis by H. D. F. Kitto and Alfred Eckhard Zimmern. For the concept of confederation, he was influenced by the nineteenth century anarchist thinkers. Bookchin tied libertarian municipalism to a utopian vision for decentralizing cities into small, human scaled eco-communities, and to a concept of urban revolution.

Libertarian municipalism uses the strategy of dual power to create a situation in which two powers—the municipal confederations and the nation-state—cannot coexist.

Bookchin's The Rise of Urbanization and the Decline of Citizenship (1986) is an overview of the historical conflict between city and nation-state, which also presents his municipalist program. In Burlington, Vermont, Bookchin attempted to put these ideas into practice by working with the Northern Vermont Greens, the Vermont Council for Democracy, and the Burlington Greens, retiring from politics in 1990. His ideas are summarized succinctly in Remaking Society (1989) and The Murray Bookchin Reader (1997).

While Bookchin long placed libertarian municipalism within the framework of political anarchism, in the late 1990s he broke with anarchism and in his final essay, The Communalist Project (2003), identified libertarian municipalism as the main component of communalism. Communalists believe that libertarian municipalism is both the means to achieve a rational society and structure of that society.

Another program in which independent communities form a confederation was written by the Swiss historian and philosopher Adolf Gasser. His work led an alternative proposal for a European community - Council of European Municipalities and Regions - which was co-founded by Gasser in 1951. It still exists today, but has limited power since the centralized European model became the European organization with the real power." (

2. Alexander Kolokotronis:

"Murray Bookchin, an American eco-anarchist who became a self-styled “communalist,” proposed the idea of “libertarian municipalism” — a notion that relied on the development of confederal political structures as a counter-power to the centralized nation-state.

In The Next Revolution, Bookchin broadly outlines a program and rough design of libertarian municipalism and anti-state confederalism of cities and towns. Within cities, he discusses the possibilities of advancing a minimum policy program and maximum program. The former meets demands for improved welfare of residents and generates pockets of direct participation and empowerment that can serve as stepping stones to more wholesale institutional transformation. The maximum program is one in which people power is at the center of this institutional transformation: here, decision-making power is transferred from municipal-level representative institutions to that of direct-democratic assemblies.

For Bookchin, one approach to achieving both the minimum and maximum program is to “electorally” engage “in a potentially important center of power — the municipal council,” so as to “compel it to create legislatively potent neighborhood assemblies.” More specifically, Bookchin writes that “communalists do not hesitate to run candidates in municipal elections who, if elected, would use what real power their offices confer to legislate popular assemblies into existence.”

Taken a step further, Bookchin writes that “a confederalist alternative would be based on a network of policy-making popular assemblies with recallable deputies to local and regional confederal councils — councils whose sole function, I must emphasize, would be to adjudicate differences and undertake strictly administrative tasks.”

Janet Biehl, Bookchin’s longtime intellectual partner, writes that “city charters or other constitutions would be altered to legitimate the power of the assemblies in local self-government.” Many on the Left — including anarchists — are paying closer attention to the role of constitutions. One may even take this further and look at possibilities for advancing a post-state monetary system that is consistent with confederalism, such as that outlined by Nathan Cedric Tankus.

Whatever the complications might be in terms of the relationship between policymaking and administration, representation and direct participation and other issues, Bookchin’s broader point is that municipalities can be the site of institutional transformation and the material bases for the construction of a viable counter-power." (


Alexander Kolokotronis:

"Other municipalities are following a more libertarian-municipalist line — or they are planning to. While Porto Alegre is often mentioned for its success in designing and implementing participatory budgeting, a number of municipalities have taken the principles of participatory budgeting one step further. For example, in Venezuela, 100 percent of the investment budget of the town of Torres is decided upon through participatory budgeting. Many cities in Spain have been sites of innovation for cooperative economics and participatory democracy.

Even in the US, a victorious mayoral campaign advanced a platform similar to that of libertarian municipalism. The Jackson Plan, promoted by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and the former Mayor of Jackson, the late Chokwe Lumumba, has three pillars: “Building People’s Assemblies”, “Building a Broad-Based Solidarity Economy — sometimes put as building “the Mondragon of the South” — and “Building a Network of Progressive Political Candidates.” (