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Reclaiming Public Services: How cities and citizens are turning back privatisation

Edited by Satoko Kishimoto and Olivier Petitjean - Transnational Institute, June 2017

You would be forgiven, especially if you live in Europe, to think that public services are by nature expensive, inefficient, maybe even somewhat outdated, and that reforming them to adapt to new challenges is difficult. It would seem natural to assume – because this is what most politicians, media and so-called experts tell us continuously – that we, as citizens and users, should resign ourselves to paying ever higher tariffs for services of an ever lower standard, and that service workers have no choice but to accept ever more degraded conditions. It would seem that private companies will inevitably play an ever larger role in the provision of public services, because everything has a price, because politicians have lost sight of the common good and citizens are only interested in their own individual pursuits.

This book, however, tells a completely different story. Sometimes it may feel as though we are living in a time when profit and austerity are our only horizons. In reality, below the radar, thousands of politicians, public officials, workers and unions, and social movements are working to reclaim or create effective public services that address the basic needs of people and respond to our social, environmental and climate challenges. They do this most often at the local level. Our research shows there have been at least 835 examples of (re)municipalisation of public services worldwide in recent years, some of them involving several cities. In total there have been more than 1600 cities in 45 countries involved in (re)municipalisation. And these (re)municipalisations generally succeed-ed in bringing down costs and tariffs, improving conditions for workers and boosting service quality, while ensuring greater transparency and accountability.

Read the text (PDF).

A Brief History of Anti-Capitalism, Pulled from a Dumpster

By Alex V. Barnard - Discard Studies, June 6, 2016

“Seeing all the waste exposes very clearly the priorities in our society, that making a profit is more important than feeding people, than preserving the environment, than making use of resources, than honoring peoples’ time, labor, love, and effort. What we see with waste is that once something cannot make money, it is discarded and of no value.”

The denunciation above came from a member of the group “,” a group which since 2005 has led “trash tours” through New York City with the aim of exposing and the wealth of waste produced by our food system and—as they claim—capitalism itself. While the freegan group I studied never had more than a dozen members, their evocations of “waste” echo widely across other contemporary movements. At Occupy Wall Street, authorities and activists battled over whether it was the occupiers or the financial system that were a waste of human effort and needed to “clean up” (Bolton, Froese, and Jeffrey 2016; Liboiron 2012). The encampments’ (re)use of waste and refuse, adopted the model of longer-running networks like Food Not Bombs: to repurpose capitalism’s detritus to provide food, housing, and transport for those living, voluntarily or involuntarily, on the margins of market society (Giles 2013; Heynen 2010).

Waste may be particularly symbolically and materially visible in contemporary anti-capitalism, but claims that capitalism is “wasteful” have haunted the economic system from the beginning. What the meaning behind movements’ evocations of “waste,” though, have varied across different capitalist “waste regimes” (Gille 2008): the configuration of modes of producing, representing, and politicizing waste that dominate in a particular historical moment. Only by seeing the long-running but evolving evolving politicization of capitalism’s waste can we see the specificity of how waste is used in contemporary anti-capitalist movements—which, in my new book (Barnard 2016), I describe in terms of the use of “ex-commodities” to challenge a neo-liberal “fetish of waste.”

Socialist Internationals in History

By Richard Greeman - Institute for Social Ecology, October 4, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

This study is based on the premise that any profound social transformation in our era of globalized capitalism would have to take place on a planetary scale. History has shown that revolutionary movements, when geographically isolated, are inevitably either crushed or assimilated into the capitalist world system. This internationalist conclusion first became apparent to working people during the 19th century as capitalism and the Industrial Revolution spread across Europe, and it was first elaborated theoretically by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in their 1848 Manifesto of the Communist League with its ringing conclusion: “Workers of the world, unite!”


In point of fact, the French socialist and feminist Flora Tristan (1803-1844), ahead of her time, was the first to call for a “universal union” of workers. Moreover, Tristan’s “union” was truly “universal” because she proclaimed the necessity of uniting “workers of both sexes” – in Working Class Unity (L’Union Ouvrière). It took two years before the International Workingmen’s Association, of which Marx was a founder, began to admit women as members and it was three years before a woman, the feminist Harriet Law, was added to the General Council.

Transitions towards New Economies? A Transformative Social Innovation Perspective

By Flor Avelino, et. al. - Transformative Social Innovation (TRANSIT), September 2015

There are numerous social innovation networks and initiatives worldwide with the ambition to contribute to transformative change towards more sustainable, resilient and just societies. Many of these have a specific vision on the economy and relate to alternative visions of a ‘New Economy’. This paper highlights four prominent strands of new economy thinking in state-of-the-art discussions: degrowth, collaborative economy, solidarity economy, and social entrepreneurship.

Taking a perspective of transformative social innovation, the paper draws on case studies of 12 social innovation initiatives to analyse how these relate to new economies and to transitions toward new economic arrangements. The 12 cases are analysed in terms of a) how they relate to narratives of change on new economies, b) how they renew social relations, and c) how their new economy arrangements hold potential to challenge established institutional constellations in the existing economy.

Read the text (PDF).

Some Thoughts on the Environmental Movement

By Flint Jones - December 2, 2014

In 2010, I was part of a workshop at the Renewing the Anarchist Tradition conference in Baltimore, MD.  Also on the panel were Michael Loadenthal and Chris Spannos. The panel was givein these questions:

  • What types of nonhierarchical organizational forms are applicable to the environmental movement as well as up to the challenge of contesting and ultimately offering a dual power to those forces that are destroying the planet and separating humans from the nonhuman world? 
  • How would a society based on anarchist principles resolve the ecological problems inherent in various aspects of the current system, from transportation to the food supply to energy production?

My answers, I think, still hold up: One thing that environmental movement has been successful at is atleast temporarily halting some kinds of ecological destruction;whether it’s stopping construction of a lumber mill or a nuclear power plant.  Unfortunately, many of these campaigns are quite localized andexamples of “Not In My Backyard” environmentalism.   Ecological destruction can then often relocate to a location in which thepolitical climate is more open to natural exploitation.  WhileNIMBYism might work in a limited matter in terms of conservation ofsome relatively underexploited bit of wilderness--it doesn’t matter where coal is being burned for it to effect global warming and climate change.  Stopping a particular environmental abuse in one location does not change the demand that stimulated that environmentally destructive process.  I grew up in rural West Virginia and my fatherworked the coal trains.  While many people have turned against mountain top removal or coal mining in general, the coal industry hasa simple effective slogan, “Coal keeps the lights on!”.   Until we either convince people to do without light, produce light with less energy or find another way to produce the light without coal... there is still going to be a huge demand for mining and burning coal--regardless of which ancient mountain they destroy in which county, state or country.

There has been considerable emphasis in the environmental movement in regards to influencing consumers to individually change their consumption practices.  One example is the advocacy of a vegetarian or vegan diet.  I’m a vegetarian, myself.  In terms of bringing about a shift in food consumption in the U.S. for environmental reasons--that movement has failed; and spectacularly so.  While the number ofvegetarians/vegans amounts to 3.7% of population (with 10% being vegetarian inclined), since the 1950s the per capita meat consumptionin the U.S. has increased from 150 to 200 pounds (even with the growth of vegetarianism).  Americans eat twice the global average for meat. At about 5 percent of the world’s population, we grow and kill nearly 10 billion animals a year, more than 15 percent of the world’s total. When we are talking about environmental problems we are talking about the collective impacts of all people.   In terms of the impact of diet upon the environment, we would have been more effective if we had encouraged the majority to only reduce their meat consumption or if we had limited meat production to only open range grass fed meat (rather than grain fed feed lots)--rather than convincing a tiny minority to eliminate meat entirely from their diet. Individual consumption patterns matter far less than the aggregate impact of all people. The infrastructure and industrial method of how energy and goods areproduced and delivered matter more than the specific product beingconsumed.

When white people start talking about overpopulation, I get nervous. Globally, the population growth rate has been reducing for some time. In many industrialized countries, there is now even negative population growth.  Population predictions have the global population growing to nine billion before declining--all the while the median age will increase.  The problem isn’t so much the sheer quantity of people but how those people use resources.  The third most populated country in the world is the United States. The problem is very much with the U.S. and. how it has been built up and consumes resources.  Outside of some black carbon from cooking fires, the carbon footprint of the poorest billion people on the planet is negligible. The impact of of 310 million folks in the U.S. is huge.  An average U.S. resident emits twice as much carbon dioxide as an European and 20 times as much as an African.  We must meet the needs and demands of nine billion peopleand a discussion on how to more rapidly decrease population in the next fifty years is as much a distraction as any kind of viablepolicy.  If noone in the U.S. environmental movement ever mentioned overpopulation again and we stuck only to a conversation about how to reduce our per capita resource use nationally--I think we’d be better off.

For similar reasons, attempts to form small autonomous communities within the U.S that are disconnected from the majority of the population will not solve our environmental problems.  This panel description suggested a dual power situation between our anarchist ecological ideas and presumably the status quo.  Given that climate change is a global phenomenon and any intentional anarchist community would share bio-region and watersheds with environmentally destructive capitalists states; there can be no parallel development.  We must systematically transform the current industrial mode of production and we can not wait to do that by building an separate alternative as merely a demonstration.  Green Potemkin villages will not change people’s mind or have any significant impact.  It’s not enough for asmall group of activists to create a back yard victory garden in abandoned lots to address our demands for food.  If we are serious about addressing the ecological destruction caused by our food production, we need large scale systematic change of how we grow food. If small urban farms can’t even provide all calories their farmers need, they certainly can’t meet the demand of all those people who are not farming.  The new society must be built literally in the shell ofthe old; not just down the road from it.  We must build organizations capable of winning immediate demands from the status quo.

It's Time to Take Over the Big Energy Firms

By staff - Fire Brigades Union, August 2014

How can we solve the problems of climate change, eliminate fuel poverty and improve energy security? Most politicians look to the market for solutions – but these plainly do not work.

The climate crisis has been caused largely by around 100 companies, which between them produced nearly two-thirds of the greenhouse gas emissions generated since the dawn of the industrial age.

Fifty of those fi rms are privately-owned – mostly oil companies such as Chevron, Exxon, BP and Royal Dutch Shell and coal producers such as British Coal Corp, Peabody Energy and BHP Billiton. Some 31 of the companies are state-owned companies such as Saudi Aramco, Gazprom and Statoil. Nine were government-run industries, producing mainly coal in countries such as China, the former Soviet Union, North Korea and Poland.

Everyone knows that heating and lighting our homes are basic necessities – yet the price of doing so continues to spiral upwards across the globe. It’s a disgrace that 25,000 people die of the cold every winter in the UK. Yet the government’s own projections say that gas prices are likely to go up over the next decade. Poorer families spend more than high earning households as a proportion of their spending on energy bills. This fuel poverty is a blight on the lives of millions – and a damning indictment of the welfare system in this day and age.

The UK has some of the least energy efficient households in Europe. Refurbishing, modernising and rebuilding the housing stock would make sense for improving living standards, reducing carbon emissions and creating hundreds of thousands of jobs. However the rule of the market does not and will not provide the investment needed.

Read the report (PDF).

Capitalism Must Die (Stephanie McMillan)

By Stephanie McMillan - Open Source, November 16, 2013

The purpose of this project is to contribute to a collective process of analyzing our objective conditions and clarifying concepts in service to the struggle to defeat capitalism. It rests on, and elaborates, several basic premises. Premises:

  • The capitalist system is evil and omnicidal. It needs to stop.
  • It will not disappear or collapse by itself. If allowed to continue, it will devour all life on Earth.
  • Capitalism can only be eliminated by overthrowing it in a collective revolutionary process. It can not be reformed out of existence, escaped, or replaced from within.
  • Capitalism is a continuously expanding mode of production. Capital struggles for its own self-reproduction. Capitalists accumulate surplus value, which is converted into more capital, through the exploitation of workers as they convert the natural world into commodities.
  • The fundamental contradiction of capitalism is capital vs. labor. Its manifestation is the social relationship of domination of one class (workers) by another (capitalists). Its expression is class struggle.
  • The working class, or proletariat, is in an antagonistic and strategic position in relation to capital. In liberating itself, it liberates all the dominated classes.
  • The proletariat is the only class able to offer an alternative to capitalism. All other classes will tend to reproduce it or some other form of class society.
  • In the current crisis of global capitalism, objective conditions are ripening for revolution, but subjectivity (ideology, or consciousness) is lagging, weakening popular mass struggles.
  • In order to fulfill its historical mission, the proletariat must become class conscious and appropriate its own theory, which is the synthesized knowledge gained from its own struggles.
  • Theory is collectively constructed in the process of class struggle. It can’t develop separate from practice. In the dialectical relationship between theory and practice, practice is primary and determinate. Theory is for the purpose of practice, to transform social relations.

PDF File

Ecosocialism in a Nutshell

Arranged by Stan Rosenthal (Socialist Environment and Resources Association) - Writers and Reader Cooperative, 1980; (republished by Ian Angus - Climate and Capitalism, November 13, 2013

This booklet outlines in cartoon form perhaps one of the most significant developments in contemporary politics--the blending of the traditional concerns of the Labour Movement with those of the fast growing rcological lobby into a new concept: Eco-Socialism.

It has been compiled from the relevant parts of Nuclear Power for Beginners since this was considered to be the best material available for publicizing the new ideas in the most concise and effective manner.

Not only does the booklet trace the coming together of the Greens and the Reds, but it shows how you can help turn their vision into reality.

Read the report (PDF).

Environmentalism and Gentrification

By Lizzy P - 2012

Sometimes movements for environmental justice fall into the trap of promoting gentrification. This text looks at how green consumerism, middle-class activist spaces, and even improved public transport can push poor people out of their homes, and how environmental activists can work against it. Written in an Australian context, print format:

PDF File

Recovered from

A Rebel Worker's Organising Handbook

By Zabalaza - August 2011

Almost everyone in this society is underpaid and over-worked. Many temps, contract and casual workers have very few rights, and permanent workers are still always under the threat of redundancy. Many people are massively exploited and ill-treated, and thousands are killed at or by their work each year. Millions more suffer stress, depression, anxiety and are injured.

The indignity of working for a living is well-known to anyone who ever has. Democracy, the great principle on which our society is supposedly founded, is thrown out the window as soon as we punch the time clock at work. With no say over what we produce, or how that production is organised, and with only a small portion of that product’s value finding its way into our wages, we have every right to be pissed off at our bosses.

At work in a capitalist society, we are forced to labour in return for a wage. Employers hire workers, and pay us less than the value of the work we do. The surplus amount is taken from us and turned into capital - profit for shareholders and corporate expansion. Thus all workers are exploited. Consequently, we all have a shared interest in getting a bigger share of the fruits of our labour, as well as in winning better working conditions and shorter working hours.

We can do this by organising at work. This pamphlet is a resource to assist all workers in improving our jobs in the here and now, and we also believe that by organising to fight, we build the seeds of a new world - not based on capitalist exploitation but on cooperation between workplace collectives where production is democratically decided by worker/consumer councils and working hours are slashed. Harmful or useless industries, such as arms manufacturing, or the banking and insurance industries, could be eliminated.

The real essentials, like food, shelter, and clothing, could be produced by everyone working just a few hours each week. Environmentally destructive industries purely concerned with profit, such as fossil fuel power plants could be converted to use clean, renewable energy sources.

Building this better world, and counteracting the day to day drudgery of today’s wage-slavery we think can best be done using direct action in the workplace. Direct action is any form of action that is taken directly by those infected without relying on union bureaucrats or politicians and which cripples the boss’s ability to make a profit and makes them cave in to the workers’ demands. Different ways of taking action are outlined here.

All of the tactics discussed in this pamphlet depend for their success on solidarity, on the co-ordinated actions of a large number of workers. Individual acts of sabotage offer little more than a fleeting sense of revenge, which may admittedly be all that keeps you sane on a bad day at work. But for a real feeling of collective empowerment, there’s nothing quite like direct action by a large number of angry workers to make your day.

Read More - Download the PDF version of this document.


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