As we get deeper into this age where we are forced to rethink our institutions and decide the kind of democracy we want, Municipalism roars as a both powerful and feasible approach.
Municipalism is (in short) a set of methods – to be defined and constantly refined by citizens – for the collective management of a city. It suggests collaborative, transparent and open methods of participation and co-decision-making, and relies on the ability of building a confluence between views, leading to co-created solutions through the use of innovative political platforms – making it a natural approach for DiEM25 to engage in, reflect with and support.
Municipalism recognises the unique and incredible contribution that all citizens can have over the issues that are dear to them, and suggests an open and functional design of democracy: using collective intelligence activation approaches, professional facilitation of citizen discussions, and all kinds of welcoming structures for those who find it hard to participate (parents, minorities, etc).
To be clear, Municipalism is not a statically defined concept. It is a rather flexible, pragmatic approach calling for a large-scale distribution of power towards the citizens, neighborhood assemblies and communal centers. By adopting binding participatory decision-making methods it embodies a space for change and political experimentation. Municipalism is about creating communities and a culture that can outlast campaigns and political divisions. It wants to give a collective meaning to demands of social movements working on the ground and invites them to organize at grassroots level to obtain representation.
In this spirit, the FEARLESS CITIES event which took place in Brussels in September was a call for imagining Brussels as a Municipalist city. It brought together around 300 people from Brussels and around Europe (Antwerp, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Naples, Saillans, Berlin, etc) and was fully powered by professional facilitators and activators of collective intelligence – which invited them to think the concepts and dream the approaches and solutions for our city.
Among many workshops addressing topical (mobility, environment, housing, etc) and transversal (feminism, collaborative, international, etc) issues, DiEM25 embraced the initiative and actively co-organised workshops about the ‘Municipalization of Europe’ and the local economy.
This engagement is natural, as DiEM25 is as deeply invested in working with any initiative proposing a reflection on democratic practices, as it is aware that single level approaches will not work by themselves: The same way we cannot aim at democratising Europe if its cities are not walking that talk, Municipalist cities feel the growing need to reach out to other levels of power (regional, national, and European) to replicate their working methods and empower the much needed democratic spring that is quietly spreading around Europe with the newly established European Spring. DiEM25 wants to support the integration of these efforts, building learning bridges between radically democratic initiatives and actors, and fosters a culture of experimentation and empowerment all around Europe.
The Municipalist revolution
Municipalism allows people to experiment with their own power and with new concepts of community-design and collective decision-making practices. It is a fantastic opportunity to launch a democratic revolution, as it harvests the power of urban centers (where more than 50% of the EU population lives), with the proximity between people that these allow for. It forwards a narrative of participation and the ‘right to decide’, exploring peoples’ desire to experience political agency and building civic capacity in and with citizens.
Municipalists understand that the current patriarchal democratic design is not only losing its legitimacy throughout Europe – it is indeed helping to sustain an unsustainable status quo of power and economic inequalities, lack of transparency and a culture of abuse and impunity from those in power.
Instead, we propose a feminist approach to decision-making, based on collective practices, pragmatism, less dogmatism and proximity to the people, including in its functioning structures that demand constant popular participation and confluence as a method/principle of work. Feminist democracy recognises and fights against the current distribution of power in our system – between businesses and governments, citizens and governments – but also between men and women, between men and men as well as women and women who have different opportunities and powers in the society. In this sense, feminist democracy is transformative. It also recognizes the need to make the connection between people and problems. Without uniting and struggling together for a better society on the various points, no attempt at deep improvement will really succeed. Feminist democracy is a pillar of the Municipalist movement and is based on dialogue, mutual respect and consensus.
Now before the upcoming municipal elections in Belgium on 14 October, DiEM25 hosts its next ‘DiEM asks’ discussion on ‘Reclaim the city: Democratise Europe from the neighbourhood’ on 11 October at 8pm in Muntpunt, Brussels. This will be an important opportunity to re-think and redefine democracy from the bottom-up.
For this, we would like to invite you to learn more about these complementary democratic tools that we have today at our disposal, to pose your questions and make your suggestions, and brainstorm ways forward in this strategic and collective questioning of politics as usual.
How do we become fearless and reconnect with democracy – and with one another?
By Guilherme Serodio, Member of DiEM25’s National Collective in Belgium