The protest movement hounding capitalist elites from Seattle to Cancun and the global outrage at the military aggression of George Bush and Tony Blair are saying more than just 'no'. They are insisting that another world is possible. But if the momentum of these international movements is to grow, they must be rooted in local action to create greater democratic and economic justice in everyday life. Hilary Wainwright sets out on a quest to discover how people are creating new, stronger forms of democracy. Her journey starts in the deep south of Brazil, in Porto Alegre, where she explores the wider potential of the 'participatory budget', the Workers Party's radical model for public investment decisions. With the confidence this gives that participatory democracy can work, she goes home and joins residents in East Manchester - the origins of Britain's industrial revolution - as they test out the British government's promise of 'community-led' regeneration and use public money to try to rebuild shattered neighbourhoods.
She hangs out on a young, 'dream' estate on the outskirts of the commuter town of Luton where ex-squatters and ravers join with established residents' groups and local vicars to take control of public resources and forge a new social economy. Finally, in the northern city of Newcastle, she is a fly on the wall as council workers see off an attempt by British Telecom to take over local services and win the battle for a democratic public alternative. Wainwright concludes with a set of proposals for turning resistance into lasting institutions of participatory democracy - an embedded bargaining power against corporate and military elites. This, she argues, will require very different kinds of political parties from the ones currently alienating voters. Reclaim the State shows that the foundations for new political directions already exist, and provides imaginative and practical tools for building on them.
Hilary Wainwright is the editor of Red Pepper, as well as a writer and broadcaster. She is a research fellow of the International Labour Studies Centre at Manchester University, the Centre for Global Governance at the London School of Economics and of the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam. Her previous books include Arguments for a New Left, Labour: A Tale of Two Parties and, with others, Beyond the Fragments.