In many parts of the world, communalism is a modern term that describes a broad range of social movements and social theories which are in some way centered upon the community. Communalism can take the form of communal living or communal property, among others. Communalism is defined as a theory of a society that is divided into several small, independent communes and the state is just a confederation of these communes.
Communalism is often associated with various branches of socialism, especially communism (and, in particular, religious communism or primitive communism) and anarchism. The term “communalism” is often used instead of “communism” as a way to denote those communal societies that are not based onMarxism.
It is sometimes said to put the interests of the community above the interests of the individual, but this is usually only done on the principle that the community exists for the benefit of the individuals who participate in it, so the best way to serve the interests of the individual is through the interests of the community.
As we have entered a new century we face great crises both in society and in the natural world. Today we are not only still witnessing poverty, hunger and devastating wars: enormous environmental dislocations even threaten the stability of the planetary climate and vital ecological processes, on which our human existence depends.
The crises we encounter have their roots in a society pitted against itself in hierarchical relationships and oppressive institutions, as well as in an economic system guided by no higher aim than profits. Capitalism is steadily destroying the world, not only through pollution and the reduction of biological diversity, but also through a cultural barbarism that pervades even the most personal spheres of life. Our period is marked by a sinister disintegration of human values and a simplification of social life, all created in the image of the marketplace. A direct result of our period of disintegration is the fact that humanity seem to lack any sense of meaning and directionality. This points to grim prospects for the continued development of human society and the reharmonization of our relationship to the natural world.
Although the general public acknowledges the fact that we are facing grave problems, it has been unable to discern possible solutions. Despite futile attempts to dismiss or relativize the ecological crises of our times, capitalist ideologues has nonetheless managed to present Capitalism as natural, eternal and unevitable, and has left very little space for alternative social visions. For a great deal, this is also caused by the failure of the Left in all its traditional forms, whether Marxist, social democratic or anarchist. Historically the Left has been in the foreground of presenting humane alternatives to oppression, injustice and barbarism, but today the remains of the Left are more concerned with how to function within the existing system, instead of constituting a fundamental challenge to it.
In these times in which resignation and cynicism is the prevailing mood, we proudly put forward a revolutionary and utopian vision of a free and rational society in which domination, oppression and injustice are abolished and the general interest of all people is garanteed. This vision, Communalism, builds on the best elements in the revolutionary socialist and libertarian tradition, but transcends the classical Marxist and anarchist ideologies. Communalism is firmly rooted in the secular tradition of the Enlightenment – we defend the liberatory potential of science, technology and reason – and oppose the current rise of irrational trends, mysticism and obscurantism.
The need for a viable social and political alternative to Capitalism and the nation-state is more pressing than ever, and visions of a free, cooperative society must find their political expression in a movement committed to fighting for a rational future. We must rebuild a principled Left that is able to assert itself as a promising presence on the social agenda and relentlessly fight for the changes necessary to ensure human progress. Considering the historical failure of classical socialist approaches in both its statist and communitarian forms, we claim Communalism to be the point of departure for the revival of a Left that upholds a principled commitment to a rational society.
Communalism presents a political alternative – libertarian municipalism – that explicitly seeks to empower municipalities and citizens through direct democracy. Such a democracy must be structured around the establishment and continual radicalization of popular assemblies coordinated in municipal confederations. These democratized municipalities will constitute the framework of a social and political system where the decisionmaking power remains at the grassroots level. An empowered citizenry must regain control over all the important social and political functions that today are in the hands of bureaucracies and privileged elites. In fact citizens must have the institutional means necessary to confront and challenge Capitalism and the state, and replace them with direct democracy and a moral economy. Unlike all other political tendencies, Communalism is based on the empowerment of the people through new popular institutions of municipal self-management.
Fundamental for this revolutionary philosophy is the need to recreate ideals of citizenship and a new political culture. Democratic institutions remain lifeless unless populated by an empowered citizenry eager to defend reason and expand social freedom. Radical movements must therefore focus on how to undertake the education for citizenship on which any kind of new politics ultimately rests, while fighting oppression, irrationalism, injustice and ecological destruction.
Communalism has united concepts of citizenship, politics and confederalism in a coherent theory and practice for social change. Every revolutionary project is indeed an educational one, and communalists seek to develop the most advanced revolutionary theory, capable of giving inspiration and direction to a new political movement.