Getting Free: Creating an Association of Democratic Autonomous Neighborhoods.

Author:Gordon, Uri
Position:Book review

Getting Free: Creating an Association of Democratic Autonomous Neighborhoods

James Herod

Lucy Parsons Center, Boston 2007 (AK Distribution)

164 pp., online at

This is a rewritten and updated edition of James Herod's counter-power manifesto, originally published (in photocopy) in 1998, and since then revised in three Internet editions under the name of Jared James.

Getting Free is a succinct and straightforward polemic, whose aim is 'to persuade revolutionaries to shift the sites of the anticapitalist struggle and to select new battlefields'--neighbourhoods, workplaces, and households--there 'to build the life that we want, and then fight to defend this life and our social creations from attacks by the ruling class' (1). The proposed strategy is therefore dedicated to 'gutting capitalism' by building alternative institutions for collective social life based on direct democracy.

Herod briefly presents a vision of a libertarian socialist society built of associated households, projects, peer circles and neighbourhood assemblies. He then gives quite short shift to a series of 'strategies that have failed', from Leninism, syndicalism and insurrections to single-issue campaigns, new social movements, dropping out, luddism, publishing and education (24-37). Some of these are rejected entirely; others 'should be subordinated to the main task'.

The alternative strategy is to 'stop participating in activities that support (finance, condone) the capitalist world and start participating in activities that build a new world while simultaneously undermining the old' (p.38). Presented next, again in short sections, are 'ways to begin gutting capitalism': forming neighbourhood, employee and housing associations, worker-owned businesses, local currencies, community land trusts and sustainable energy/food sources. Other proposals include resisting construction projects; supporting alternative media and unschooling; not becoming a soldier, a cop or a boss; beginning to break away...

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