The Municipalist School is a space for self-training and knowledge exchange based on different experiences of municipalism throughout Europe. These are the materials of the first session, titled ‘Can municipalism change the institutions?’ and here you have a short description about this meeting and the speakers:

One of the common features of the municipalist experiences all over Europe is disseminating political power among citizens at the local level. This goal implies, on the one hand, a different relationship between the citizen and the urban space, based on the re-appropriation of common goods. On the other hand, it means the development of new tools and methods of political participation, allowing a dialectic confrontation for policy-making. Can these practices lead to the creation of new institutions from below? That is the central question in this meeting, moderated by Brais García, from Marea Atlántica (La Coruña, Spain). With Maria Francesca De Tullio, L’Asilo (Naples, Italy) and part of the Emerging Urban Commons Network, Mark Langdon, SANE (Glasgow, Scotland) and Bruno Cristofoli, La Belle Démocratie (France).


Can municipalism change the institutions?

Brais García Fernández, Marea Atlántica (Galicia, Spain)

The School of the European Municipalist Network opened with the session ‘Can municipalism change the institutions?’ on the 13th of May. The presentation and following discussion allowed the experiences and learnings from Saint-Médard-en-Jalles, Bordeaux, France; Naples, Italy; and Glasgow, Scotland to be shared with activists from all over Europe.

Click here to continue reading Brais García's report.

In order to think about the successes, limits and horizons of European municipalism, it is necessary to believe in commonality, taking into account the different scales and drawing inspiration from diverse examples both in form as well as substance. Only in this way can we learn from our local contexts. The contributions from colleagues undoubtedly contributed to this end, drawing a rich and diverse landscape.

Celebrating and acknowledging victories is essential for repeating and replicating them. This is why I do not want to miss the opportunity to recall some of the successes already achieved by municipalist movements in Europe.

The Neapolitan experience with free common spaces and their legal recognition is undoubtedly a benchmark in the management of urban commons. Maria Francesca de Tullio told us some of the key parts of the process to get to where they are today and the future projects of the Italian network of commons. One of the remarkable things about the Neapolitan experience is working outside the institution but with the institution. They are recognising the regulations and the law and working with them under a participatory and democratising logic.

The municipalist reality of Glasgow is probably less known than the Neapolitan one, but the experience of SANE (Solidarity Against Neoliberal extremism) is no less appealing. The People’s Plan for Glasgow and other work by SANE is based on working outside the institutions and fighting the neoliberal mindset through alliances with social movements. Furthermore, it stands out through its use of consultation processes to strengthen the work on neighbourhoods, as well as its capacity to enrich anti-capitalist discourses and practices through the understanding and inclusion of new struggles – such as the fight against the climate crisis.

The French experience is a valuable example that the basis of municipalism is in local democracy and participation. It is possible to focus on people if we are able to do so from the proximity and knowledge that enables day-to-day organising in a genuinely democratic and participatory way. The construction of the candidacy and the work in the institution is essential and inherent tools for municipalism in any city, large or small.

Municipalism in Europe has to be built from the generosity and common learning. Focusing on democracy and local social welfare also involves understanding, respecting and supporting the local autonomy of our fellow municipal leaders. This is how the question about the capability of municipalism to change institutions can be answered: fortunately, municipalism is already changing institutions. In each place in its own way, from inside or outside the institutions, understanding that each place works with very different pre-established conditions but with a common objective: to build a Europe of people and peoples through their enforcement and support of municipal projects.

Speakers presentations

Maria Francesca De Tullio

L’Asilo of Naples (Italy) and part of the “Emerging Urban Commons Network”. She spoke about the politics of the commons in the Municipal context and outside, specifically focusing on the space L’Asilo within the municipal framework of Naples, and their work for building a national and international network of the commons.

Mark Langdon

SANE (Glasgow, Scotland) focused on the recent SANE’s action: “The People’s Plan for Glasgow”.

Bruno Cristofoli

La Belle Démocratie (France). His intervention focused on the new culture of work between representatives and residents. In his experience in St. Medard en Jalles, Bruno promoted a participatory process towards the municipal elections and when elected, opened a discussion for rethinking internal governance of the collective, of the municipal administration, as well as of the municipalist organization.