Passive, spectator politics is not an option. It is up to the activists to prove that maintaining a party in movement is possible over the long term.
ETICA kindergarten, part of the Ciudad Futura movement. All rights reserved.
One of the major questions faced by the inheritors of the networked global uprisings of 2010--2011 is how to harness the demands and practices that emerged from these movements, and those that followed in their wake, to create new ways of doing electoral politics. A municipalist movement in Rosario, Argentina, may just have some of the answers.
Institutional politics is facing a crisis of legitimacy. Traditional political parties, with their professionalized, hierarchical way of operating and financial dependence on banks and corporations, have become increasingly discredited in the eyes of the growing number of people seeking new, more direct forms of democracy. In this context, activists, social movements and new political organizations across the world are confronted with a common dilemma: how to engage electorally and politically within state institutions without being co-opted or corrupted by them.
Some of the organizations currently wrestling with this question, in vastly differing contexts, include Momentum, the group attempting to revive the Labour Party in the UK; citizen platforms like Barcelona en Comú, currently governing the major cities of Spain, and the movement that swept Bernie Sanders to second place in the Democratic primaries in the USA. All have a common aspiration to create a new kind of ‘movement-party’ that rewrites the rules of the political game while maintaining the ability to participate effectively within formal state power structures.
Achieving this balance and creating open, participatory movement-parties that deprofessionalize and feminize politics will require a delicate balance of idealism and pragmatism; a willingness to manage the inevitable contradictions of public office while, at the same time, an ability to resist the often perverse incentives imposed by electoral and institutional dynamics.
One of the most inspiring examples of a movement-party in action is Ciudad Futura (Future City), the municipalist movement that won three seats on the city council of Rosario, Argentina, in 2015, making it the third largest party in the city and a contender for the 2019 mayoral elections. Ciudad Futura sums up its philosophy in a single word: ‘hacer’. In Spanish, ‘hacer’ is the verb of verbs, the action word of action words. Translating as both ‘to do’ and ‘to make’ in English, ‘hacer’ means both ‘to act’ and ‘to bring something new into being’. And that’s exactly what Ciudad Futura does; rather than getting bogged down in the abstract, theoretical debates that so often paralyze the left, the organization pours its energies into meeting people’s immediate needs in the neighbourhoods of Rosario.
It’s no coincidence that, before registering as a political party in 2013, Ciudad Futura had a decade-long history as two social movements, ‘Giros’ and ‘Movimiento 26 de Junio’. Over this period, both worked to construct economic, cultural and educational alternatives from beyond the walls of city hall. Thanks to the legacy of Giros and M26J, Ciudad Futura’s hundreds of activists now run a network of self-organized projects across Rosario, including the Etica secondary school & kindergarten, the Tambo La Resistencia dairy farm, the Distrito Siete cultural centre, and the food cooperative, Misión Anti-inflación, which helps people to deal with the impact of inflation.
The goal of standing in the city elections, the party’s councilor, Caren Tepp, has explained, was “to create a political tool that, while setting out a long-term horizon: socialism for the 21st century, can also materialize - here and now - fragments of a Future City that demonstrate that things can be done differently.” In this spirit, Ciudad Futura’s political programme is based on the experience it has gained from implementing its projects across the city. It is this idea -- that electoral and institutional activity is just one more tool at the service of the movement as a whole -- that is at the core of what defines Ciudad Futura as a movement-party.
Anti-Inflation Mission. Food cooperative, part of the Ciudad Futura movement. All rights reserved.