Reading List

A selection of texts about the relationship between anarchy and democracy. Please add your own suggestions!

Anarchists Who Use the Word “Democracy” Positively

“There Never Was a West” by David Graeber
also "here" on The Anarchist Library

The Democracy Project: A History, a Crisis, a Movement by David Graeber
(this pdf text is terrible)

“Democracy Is Direct” by Cindy Milstein

[ What is Communalism? - The Democratic Dimension of Anarchism ] Creepy (as usual) text from Murray Bookchin talking about the socialist and democratic dimensions of Anarchism

Anarchists Who Use the Word “Democracy” Critically

Proudhon on Representative Democracy

[Da Democracia à Liberdade (Séria da CWC traduzida para o portugues do Brasil) (CWC democracy series translated to Portuguese-BR)

Against Democracy by Coordination of Anarchist Groups
EN ESPAÑOL: Contra la Democracia, por los GAC (Grupos Anarquistas Coordinados) vozcomoarma.noblogs.org/?p=6039

"Democracy and Anarchy" by Errico Malatesta

"Neither Democrats nor Dictators: Anarchists" by Errico Malatesta

Debunking Democracy! by Bob Black
Yes, Bob Black is not the kind of person one might like to have over for a dinner party, but…

Democracy by Monsieur Dupont, from AJODA #60 (2005/06)

Democracy vs. Desire: Beyond the Politics of Measure by Andy Robinson, from AJODA #60 (2005/06)

Beyond Exclusion: Democracy and an Anarchist Ethic by Mitchell Halberstadt, AJODA #60 (2005/06)

Democracy and Conspiracy: Overlaps, Parallels, and Standard Operating Procedures by Lawrence Jarach, AJODA #60 (2005/06)

What is Democracy? by Peter Gelderloos, See Sharp Press (2004)

They Want to Oblige Us to Govern. We Won’t Yield to that Pressure (2014) by The Invisible Committe “To Our Friends”

Aos Nossos Amigos e Amigas em português do Brasil – Comitê Invisível

La haine de la démocratie by Jacques Rancière (PT: O ódio à democracia; EN: Hatred of democracy)

Discussion About Consensus

"Against Consensus, for Dissensus" by Jacob Stringer

 

Not sure if this is clear to new users, but y’all are welcome to edit this wiki page yourselves and add more titles to it!

 
 

I think this pro and con doesn’t work. I know books of critiques of democracy, that show problems e point some alternatives. For example, “the democracy project” shows how liberal democracy sucks but cheer with direct democracy.

I don’t have any suggestions yet on how organize better, sorry.

 
 

That’s a good point, Chúy. This is a wiki, so in theory any of us can reorganize the list. If you do figure out an idea for how to organize the list differently, I would say go for it! I’ll do the same, although, like you, I’m not sure I have a better idea yet.

 
 

we can add some in other lenguages too.
as we are inviting people from other places to join the discurrion, it can be useful for those who dont read english.
i just added Contra la Democracia in Spanish and the translation of From democray to Freedon to portuguese from Brazil

 
 

Just added the brazilian portuguese translation of To our friends above. I’m not sure if I got right the whole ‘create a page to share the pdf file’, so if you can’t download it please let me know so I can fix it heheh.

 
 

It’s alrigtht zarite, but I’m in your contacts. I think it will be working well because you put as a public archive

 
 

I just added Robert Graham’s selections from the text Proudhon published immediately after the February 1848 revolution in France—quite near the very beginning of modern day real-existing democracy. There’s some prescient stuff in there. For example:

DEMOCRACY presents itself as the form of government that best translates the sovereignty of the People.

“But, if I prove that democracy, just like monarchy, only symbolizes that sovereignty (…) if I prove that democracy, far from being the most perfect of governments, is the negation of the sovereignty of the People and the origin of its ruin—it will be demonstrated, in fact and in right, that democracy is nothing more than a constitutional despotism, succeeding a different constitutional despotism.”

“Who has the right to say to others, “It is through me that the People speaks”? How shall I believe that he who harangues five hundred applauding individuals from atop a soapbox is the People’s spokesman? How does the election by citizens, nay even their unanimous vote, have the faculty of conferring this sort of privilege, to serve as the People’s interpreter?” (Emphasis mine.)

“With a question on which hangs the honour and health of the Republic, the citizens are divided into two equal factions. On the two sides they bring to bear the most serious reasoning, the weightiest authorities, the most positive facts. The nation is in doubt, the Assembly is in suspension. One representative, without discernible motive, passes from right to left and turns the balance; it is he who makes the law.

And this law, the expression of some bizarre will, is supposed to be the will of the People! It will be necessary for me to submit to it, defend it, even kill for it! By a parliamentary caprice I lose the most precious of my rights, I lose liberty! And the most sacred of my duties, the duty to resist tyranny by force, falls before the sovereign noggin of an imbecile!

Democracy is nothing but the tyranny of majorities, the most execrable tyranny of all, for it is not based on the authority of a religion, nor on a nobility of blood, nor on the prerogatives of fortune: it has number as its base, and for a mask the name of the People…"

 
 

Great project!

Adding to Chuy’s point: The position of someone like David Graeber could maybe more fittingly be called “tactically pro”. For him it is primarily a question of what works rhetorically. If you read his work, all his references and inspirations are squarely outside the traditional “democratic canon” and much more placed in societies without a state.

The text “There never was a west” is partly about the difference between the history of democracy and the history of the word democracy. Those histories are radically different, and it is just recently that most people have come to see them as the same. For most of North Atlantic history, ‘democracy’ basically meant riots, pilfering, the force of the poor. During the middle of 19th century, it suddenly came to be adopted by statesmen, while simultaneously changing meaning to be synonymous with representation. Graeber’s argument is that the older meaning, that of ‘people power’ (not rule of the people – kratos, not arché) still has survived in the minds of most people. So the idea, however badly exercised, of “real democracy” does carry some meaning for many people. Most people know that their representative democracies are not actually that democratic. Rhetorically, Graeber is a pragmatist here: There is a tactical advantage of building on that intuition of democracy as people power and unearthing the forgotten history of anarchist practices throughout time in the name of that term, elites historically have used against them.

 
   

I’ve changed the headings from “pro” and “con” to “Anarchists Who Use the Word ‘Democracy’ Positively” and “Anarchists Who Use the Word ‘Democracy’ Critically”—a much overdue change, though perhaps still insufficient. If anyone has a better idea, please implement it!

Mite—as I’ve argued elsewhere on this page, I feel uneasy about arguments that there is a difference between the history of democracy and the history of the word democracy, on account of how that framework has been used to categorize phenomena that were much more interesting and egalitarian under the same heading as Spartan/Athenian/US/French/contemporary democracy, even if the participants never understood themselves as having anything in common with that lineage. Rather than describing more genuinely egalitarian and decentralized models in such a way that more interest and legitimacy accrues to the Athenian/Rousseau/US/contemporary understanding of the term, I’d love to hear about other language with which to describe the traditions and legacies we aspire to learn from as anarchists.