New report on North American municipalism




A superb new report from ISE associates Eleanor Finley and Aaron Vansintjan profiles many of the actions and organizations that are shaping the many varied currents of an emerging North American municipalist movement. They examine campaigns for economic democracy, municipal socialism, radical tenant organizing, mutual aid networks and the resurgence of Indigenous land defense, along with projects more explicitly linked to social ecology. A summary article can be found here, and the full report can be downloaded here.

Highlighting the need to understand municipalism in the context of settler colonialism, imperialism, and white supremacy, the authors argue that real democracy and communalism require deep reckoning with Eurocentric assumptions about land, citizenship, and participation. They also argue that, despite many difficulties and obstacles, radical municipalist experiments in the US and Canada have much to teach municipalists abroad.

They describe the unique difficulties that municipalist organizers face in the North American context:

The very institutions of local governance that municipalists rely on were weaponized as tools of segregation and gentrification. Municipal and neighborhood councils had the authority to divide schooling and housing, further excluding families of color from democratic participation and access to citizenship. To this day, neighborhood associations, school boards, and local councils in white-dominated jurisdictions are sites where racist whites viciously defend “their” town’s whiteness. Municipalists seek to empower neighborhood organizations and city councils, yet in the US and Canada, these very organizations were established through collective self-determination among whites as a means to prevent integration.

And they also point out some of the most important strategies that help point toward a promising way forward:

Photo c/o Los Angeles Tenants Union

The framework of decolonization is appearing in a growing number of diverse contexts, such as in colonial territories like Puerto Rico, Indigenous-led anti-pipeline resistance, and Southern Black movements and cooperatives. Decolonial perspectives on municipalism are being developed in organizations like the ARIDDSE and Black Socialists in America. Social ecologist Modibo Kadalie addresses these themes in his essay collection Pan-African Social Ecology, exploring how self-emancipated Black communities along the Gullah-Geechee coasts of Georgia and South Carolina allied with Indigenous peoples in their rebellion against the fledgling United States and practiced similar forms of direct democracy—drawing not only from North American Indigenous traditions but also African traditions as well. Projects like Cooperation Jackson, the People’s Movement Assembly, and Project South are as a living inheritance of the centuries-old Southern tradition of anti-colonial resistance and self-governance. Direct democracy is thus hardly a white, European or even ancient “Greek” invention, but rather a vast realm of political practices that colonization has tried—but ultimately failed—to destroy.

The summary article is at, and the full report at