Autonomy refers to self-governance, and freedom from external control or influence. Political autonomy is achieved when people have direct decision-making power over the places they live, without relying on others to take decisions from above. Economic autonomy is achieved when people can collectively provide for themselves what they need to survive – water, food, and all the necessities of life – without relying on others to provide everything for them. Cultural autonomy is achieved when people can fully express their culture and their beliefs, without having their culture degraded, and without being forced into another culture. All forms of autonomy are connected. For example: if people have their economic autonomy taken away, then those with resources can use this to exploit them and make demands of them in return for the resources for their survival, taking away their political autonomy, and can degrade their culture and take away their cultural autonomy. Autonomy is therefore necessary for our freedom. Autonomy can only be achieved collectively; we can only get what we need and manage the places we live in by working together. The autonomy of one can therefore only be achieved by working together with many.
Capitalism is a system of power which maintains the control of an elite class over society. Capitalism has three main aspects. Firstly, it is based on taking away society’s common resources and shared ways of life, to turn these resources into private commodities and force people to compete for a wage. Secondly, it is based on the nation state, to take away political power from the people and centralise it, where it can use its legal power, and military and police power to enforce capitalism. Thirdly, it is based on capitalist ideologies, which present capitalism as the best way to organise society, and create the illusion that free markets and the nation state make people freer. Capitalism can only exist through imperialism, colonialism, and racist exploitation of people around the world for the resources it needs, and it can only exist through the exploitation and control of women. Since capitalism rests on controlling society by dividing people, by taking away their common ways of life and their political power, we believe that capitalism represents a cage on society, and that we must free ourselves from capitalism.
Democratic confederalism is a way of organising society according to principles of direct democracy, freedom, and ecology. It is based on people living in democratic communities and it allows all groups to self-organise and have political autonomy. Confederation allows different communities, cities and villages to cooperate as a society for their shared needs, management, and self-defence. The economy is based on solidarity and cooperative models of production, and is under the direct democratic control of communities. This way of organising society has been successfully implemented by the Kurdish Freedom Movement in Rojava, North-East Syria, and is based on the political ideas of Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan.
Direct democracy is when ordinary people have full decision-making power over the management of their towns, cities, and villages. Decisions are not taken by ‘representatives’ or bureaucrats who claim to act ‘on behalf of’ us. In direct democracy, decisions are taken by the citizens. Citizens meet in citizens’ assemblies where they discuss, deliberate, and debate on issues relating to their communities and their society, and vote on the decisions they wish to take.
Dual power is a situation where an alternative political form of organising society has grown so widespread that it presents a challenge to the prevailing system. The situation is inherently unstable; the two powers must compete with one another for legitimacy until one wins over. Democratic confederalism and libertarian municipalism aim to organise society along lines of direct democracy, building up people’s freedom in democratic institutions to the point where new society can displace the capitalist system and win in a dual power situation. In this way, we can create ‘a new world from the shell of the old.’
Libertarian municipalism is a revolutionary programme to build political power on the local level, and then use it to challenge the power of the state and capitalism. Libertarian municipalism is based on direct democracy in citizens assemblies, the democratisation of power in local councils, and confederation between free cities, towns, and villages. There are many examples of radical and revolutionary municipalism around the world which have been inspired by libertarian municipalism and the written works of Murray Bookchin.
Social ecology is a social theory on the relationship between human society and the natural world, theorised by Murray Bookchin. Its argument is that the existence of domination and hierarchy within society leads to the domination of the natural world. Only a society of human freedom and equality can be ecological and repair its relationship with nature.