The 'yellow vests' who are experimenting with direct democracy

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Two months ago in the small town of Commercy in north-east France a group of 'yellow vest' protestors created a citizens popular assembly. It is gaining supporters: on January 26th around 30 delegations from across France will gather in the town. François Bonnet reports on a local experiment in what some yellow vests define as “libertarian municipalism”, a concept pioneered by American social theorist Murray Bookchin.

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It is 5.30pm on a Wednesday, darkness has just fallen and the general assembly can get underway. Around 50 members of the “yellow vest” (“gilet jaune” in French) social movement that has swept France in recent weeks are gathered around braziers in front of the hut, also known as the “cabin of solidarity”. It is a hut made of planks of wood built on November 20th in the days after the start of the movement on the main square in Commercy, a short distance from the town hall. A substantial agenda will be examined over two hours at the assembly, punctuated by regular votes.