Anarchy and Democracy Reading Groups!

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.

Discussion Questions for Reading Groups

Here are some of the discussion questions that reading groups and individual readers have proposed. Please add your own!

  • Which arguments don’t you find convincing in the texts? Make counterarguments!

  • What examples from your local experience illustrate the difference between anarchistic and democratic models for decision-making and action?

  • How can we use the word “democracy” to inform our conversations around our use of language?

  • In what ways are your personal relationships democratic? In what ways are they anarchistic?

  • Does this text (or series) offer anything new or of interest when it comes to how to live? Does it suggest ideas for new ways of living, within the world as it is and in a future world?

  • In a society that has championed democratic principles as the sacrosanct foundation of freedom itself, it can be very difficult to make a case for anarchistic organizing. Can you think of any examples of people making anarchistic values more comprehensible and convincing than democratic principles?

  • Is there more than one stateless alternative to democracy? Can you identify multiple irreconcilable stateless alternatives to it?

  • Arguably, democracy has spread around the world because it is an effective means of binding people together in formations that concentrate power, regardless of whether this is in the best interests of any the individual participants. Following Foucault, we can say that democracy is not just oppressive, it is productive. We can critique democracy on purely ethical grounds, but this does not equip us to supersede it or to defend ourselves against democratic states or projects. Are there examples of decentralized and autonomous networks that have been more efficient or more powerful than democratic institutions?

  • In what ways do the new social relations we see emerging in the age of social media already fulfill the demand for direct democracy that is just now appearing in the political sphere? In what ways are these relations already post-democratic? Insofar as they are post-democratic, are they all we would want from an alternative to democracy, or are they repressive or exclusive in other ways?

  • David Graeber’s “There Never Was a West” is one of the most compelling articulations of how an anarchist might embrace the language of democracy. Compare and contrast it with the arguments and historiography of the texts in the CrimethInc. series.