free cities – Communalism and the Left
essays by murray bookchin compiled by eirik eiglad (beginning time of murray’s death 2006 – published 2008)
notes/quotes via kindle version from anarchist library [https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/murray-bookchin-eirik-eiglad-free-cities]:
creating free cities (eiglad)
Several notions in anarchism inspired Bookchin, but his ideas about municipal government, direct democracy, and confederation could not be contained within an anarchist framework. Breaking with anarchism, he urged left libertarian radicals to embrace a new set of ideas, indeed a new ideology – he called it communalism – that could transcend all classical radical theories, both Marxist and anarchist. As an attempt to revive Enlightenment radicalism, Bookchin intended communalism to be a coherent ideological platform upon which we might develop libertarian ideas today and provide the Left with a politics.
In these essays Murray made recurring references to his basic works, From Urbanization to Cities, The Ecology of Freedom, and Remaking Society, and though I have trimmed down the number of references here, I would strongly advise the reader unfamiliar with these works to consult them. Sometimes Bookchin would discuss the same idea in several places, such as the distinction between politics and statecraft, or his tripartite distinction between the political sphere, the social sphere, and the State. Suffice to say, again, readers will deepen their understanding of these ideas by exploring them further in Bookchin’s larger works.
“Nationalism and the ‘National Question,’” written in March 1993, was first published in Society and Nature 2, no. 2 (1994). It has long been one of my personal favorites among Bookchin’s essays, and I am happy to include it here as it gives a solid historical argument not only against statism but also against nationalism.
The 1990s debates over the nature of anarchism alienated Bookchin from the contemporary anarchist movement. Unfortunately he wrote no fundamental essays that explained his conclusions in great detail, although in retrospect we can see how Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism initiated his break with this ideology. Many of the features of “lifestyle anarchism” that he criticized were ones that he later concluded were symptomatic of anarchism as such. Murray explained his reasoning in a letter to Peter Zegers and the editorial board of Communalism (in November 2001), in which he considers even the more social forms of anarchism to be basically egoist. He also developed some of these ideas in a letter to Hamish Alcorn, written on July 30, 1999, just before his public break with anarchism. With Bookchin’s permission I have structured the essay “Anarchism as Individualism” around these two letters, incorporating as well some unpublished material from “Toward a Communalist Approach” and an early version of “The Communalist Project.” Despite its brevity, I think this essay may shed light on Bookchin’s reasons for breaking with anarchism – the political ideology with which he had been associated, and of which he had been a major representative, for four decades.
perhaps because he couldn’t let go of the min of min/max ness himself.. (later ref to gorz)
This essay contains his last important evaluation of the anarchist tradition from within, trying to emphasize its revolutionary, democratic, and socialist character. He later considered his efforts to have been an utter failure. Where he had earlier attempted to expand the federalist, cooperative, and municipalist trends within the anarchist tradition, he now tried to bring those valuable contributions into a new theoretical framework unburdened by the anti-social, anti-intellectual, and antiorganizational tendencies with which anarchism has always struggled.
min ness intro’d as an unburdening ness.. oi
The next essay, “The Future of the Left,” is in my view the jewel of this collection, tying all the other pieces together and giving this anthology its necessary coherence and breadth.
so.. all are his favs
Although I have edited the essay, nothing of substance has been omitted, and though it broadens the focus of this anthology far beyond the collection of “strictly political” writings I had intended, it is this piece that contains Bookchin’s most mature ideas. It is fully communalist, posing a set of challenging questions for our generation of radicals to consider, and even as a stand-alone essay it gives this book a scope that stretches far into the future.
For Bookchin, to advance libertarian municipalism meant to defend and build upon the ideals of the Enlightenment, which he considered the greatest tradition of social development. Based on communalism and social ecology, libertarian municipalism is a fundamental attempt to define a political humanism and to formulate and create a rational society.
It is my genuine hope that readers will seek to familiarize themselves with Bookchin’s ideas, here and in his other works, not as an academic exercise but as a way of preparing to change the world.
These essays are my final assessment of some 80 years of social reflections on the twentieth century. In a very real sense, they are the product of a lifetime of study and political work, distilled from a remarkable era of revolutionary history that spanned decades of social upheaval, from the 1917 Russian Revolution to the closing years of the twentieth century.
I make no pretense to claiming that these essays resolve any of the crises that beset the people who lived out the century. It would be remarkable indeed to know even how to properly define these crises, still less to be capable of solving them. I do not claim to be able to answer all of the questions we face, but they must be considered – hopefully as a basis for future and creative discourse. The questions we ask and the answers we give are socially and politically defining. Taken together, they actually form the battleground for the future of social life, and our responses are the basis for how we constitute ourselves as social beings.
i think that’s a distraction.. a cancer
I would like to suggest that these essays be seen as the political conclusions I have drawn from my historical and philosophical work in The Ecology of Freedom, The Philosophy of Social Ecology, Re-Enchanting Humanity, From Urbanization to Cities and last but not in the least The Third Revolution. Throughout these works I have tried to meld together the most challenging historical ideals into a body of theory that generally went by the name “social ecology”. These ideas combine as strands in a common thread: a search to understand the place of humanity in the natural world and the social factors that must be present if we are to actualize our ability (as yet incomplete) to bring to bear, in all the affairs of “raw” or first nature, a “sophisticated” or second nature informed by reason. By combining the words “ecology” and “freedom” I tried to show that neither nature nor reason could be properly conceptualized independently of the other; that the natural world could not be given any meaning without the social world or the human mind, that is, without the ability to abstract experience and generalize facts into far-reaching insights.
ecology of freedom.. et al
For most of human history, society, in effect, was familial, not civic; it was organized around blood ties (real or fictive), not legal tenets. Allocation of the means of life fulfilled necessities – especially rights and duties – among literal and figurative relatives in a nexus of shared, unquestioned responsibilities. Things were brought together in an indisputably “natural” manner, such that the “people” were unified – even more compellingly than by custom – by an inborn scheme of reality. They could not act otherwise, and their life-ways allowed for no discretion to follow any path other than what was given by the “eternal” nature of things.
The rise of organized communities – ultimately cities, civilization, and citizenship, as distinguished from habitats, customs, and folk – radically changed this state of affairs. Indeed, it marked the great rupture of Homo sapiens from merely a creative kind of animal into humans as such. The most powerful medium for achieving this radical new dispensation was a process of alienation called trade, a process that drastically remade the apprehension of reality from imagery into objectivity. The traditional world of imagination and analogical thinking gave way to a new world of systematic analysis and disciplined thought, engendered by commerce, efficient production, and careful calculation. Trade rewarded predictability based on objectivity, and knowledge based on reality, with power and wealth. To know meant to live in palpable touch with reality.
Knowledge ceased to be an end in itself; it became a tool, an instrument of control and manipulation. Yet ultimately it created a new world of thoughts and things, a new universe that redefined what it meant to be alive – generating an appetite for wealth, for competition, for growth for its own sake, for private ownership, and for power over men. What humans could imagine, they brought into existence. Even the transformation of human beings from earth-bound to flying creatures constituted a remarkable advance in the conversion of image into object – and no less significantly, it reduced a frightening mystery to a prosaic problem of engineering. Nuclear physics transformed vast, ineffable legends into problems of ordinary mathematics, no less unsolvable than the questions posed by Euclidean geometry.
But how was this even possible? The people who now grappled with the fantastic problems that had occupied human beings even several millennia earlier were, in fact, no longer the same people. Their outlook was no longer animistic, and they no longer lived in organic societies. Owing to their habitation in villages and cities, to their written literature and systematic modes of thought, to their careful retrospection and introspection, to their substitution of mythopoeic fantasy with rational thought, they were becoming humanized, rationalized, and civilized – veritably a new species.
Treated like a new gospel, this “scientific” socialism was regarded as evidence, not of dogmatism, but of learning and of modern intellectual certainty.
These essays, then, do not work from the notion that there can be an “end to history.” Defining history as having an ultimate end would dissolve it into a meaningless conundrum, bereft of experience and development. Yet the word history is one of the few that alternately denotes both completeness and dynamism. Within a given “stage” history has a completeness to itself, but in history as a “process” a given period “flows” into the next with no terminus, so to speak. We thus find ourselves faced with a conundrum, more like a Kantian syllogism that has to be accepted as a given, or what Hegel would call a contradiction.
history ness et al
Not only do the grand works of philosophy have intrinsic dual meanings, they also reflect significant institutional changes that societies have undergone with the passage of time, from eras of obeisance to kings and nobles to our own. Sweeping social changes in a surprisingly brief period of time have created a need for profoundly new social terms, indeed for a dictionary more inclusionary than we have today. Such a compilation of terms, or expansions in meaning of words in common use today, amounts to the formulation of a new system of ideas. As we educe one idea from the others, we can derive from every one the potentialities of less inclusive but profoundly meaningful offspring, with a variety of divergent developments.
profoundly new social terms..? rather.. idiosyncratic jargon.. et al
From this perspective, history becomes an open prospect that suggests the potentiality for a multitude of radically new forms. I presented one of a number of courses that this approach to a social dialectic might take in my book The Ecology of Freedom; alternative courses were put forward by non-European societies, particularly in the pre-Columbian Americas. It is not an idle endeavor to try to imagine what a handicraft society, whose economy was deliberately mixed and small-scale in character, might have looked like – as a “rational” society – in contrast to the medieval world that actually preceded urban society in Western Europe. It is not accidental that William Morris’s News from Nowhere, which describes such a society, has attracted so many admirers in our own time as a “model” utopia, especially among libertarian socialists and syndicalists.
As someone who lived out this era, I was variously regarded – or regarded myself – as a communist (including one who adhered to successive views held by Trotsky), a libertarian socialist, and in a rather spotty fashion, an anarchist. In the 1970s and 1980s I expressed my ideas forcefully in a rather romantic anarchist framework. Later, however, I found it increasingly difficult to reconcile anarchism with my basic views. In the 1990s it was gradually becoming clear to me that an ideology that does little more than hail the “autonomy of the ego,” and that conceives of “liberty” in extremely individualistic terms, can never produce basic social change. A lifestyle rather than an ideology, anarchism, I came to realize, is concerned more with individual behavior than with political change and allows little room for a creative political practice.
My own experiences in the labor movement (as a foundryman and later as an autoworker) in the 1930s and 1940s had long ago convinced me that making basic and lasting change requires organization (as the IWW martyr Joe Hill voiced just before his execution). But most of the anarchists I encountered resisted organization, sometimes vehemently. And when I tried to properly define politics (as the directly democratic organization of the free municipality by popular assemblies) as the very opposite of statecraft (rule by professional bureaucrats, ultimately through a monopoly of the means of violence), my once-close anarchist associates assailed me as “statist.” Democracy, they asserted, is itself a form of “rule,” by the majority over the minority. A preposterous rejection of majority voting in favor of consensus decision-making played a major role in ruining the huge American anti-nuclear movement in the 1980s and potentially makes any movement organization and institution (beyond a small group) dysfunctional. In the end I found that I had either to close my eyes to the compelling need for organization in praxis, and for democratic institutions in public affairs in a future libertarian society, or else completely recast my views. I chose to do the latter.
oi.. again.. to min ness as poison/cancer.. need to let go of any form of m\a\p
Reflecting as they do my most recent and, having passed the age of 80, my most mature ideas, these essays try to explain why social ecology can no longer be seen as a mere extension of traditional radical ideologies, either Marxist or anarchist. It is now my conviction that the ensemble of views that I call social ecology, libertarian municipalism, and dialectical naturalism should properly form the basis for a new libertarian ideology and politics – communalism – that takes full account of the sweeping changes that have occurred in capitalism since the failure of proletarian socialism in the second half of the twentieth century and that suggests the new methods that are needed to transform a market-based society into a truly libertarian socialist one.
no matter what you call it.. if still min ness ing.. still cancer ing.. still not new/diff.. just same song
The reader alone will decide whether these essays are correct or erroneous and whether my expectations for communalism are sound or fanciful, but their most essential purpose is to create a new departure from ideologies that were inspired by the problems of the Industrial Revolution of two centuries ago, a departure that takes full account of changing class relations and hierarchical forms, of demographical transformations and ecological dislocations, and of urbanization, to cite the most important factors.
yet not departing enough.. beyond changing ness
What I hold to, and what I try to impart through these essays, is my belief that the noblest role conscious human beings can play today is not only to seek the emancipation of people from the irrationalities of capitalist and hierarchical society but also to defend the Enlightenment and its message of reason in public affairs against the dark forces of irrationality, nihilism, and ultimately barbarism that stand at the gates of civilization. My own generation fought off Nazism and superstition with some success. The present and coming generations must have as their task to oppose the “dumbing down” of the human mind, its growing trivialization and juvenilization, and its appalling ignorance even of the recent past. . In the meantime, we still have time to build a coherent theoretical framework for our practice and to prepare for the “final conflict” that may yet come at some point in the present century.
oi.. so many red flags
1 – ecological crisis and need to remake society
Hence, more than ever today, it is imperative that we develop the consciousness and the movement to remove domination from society, indeed from our everyday lives – in relationships between the young and the elderly, between women and men, in educational institutions and workplaces, and in our attitude toward the natural world. To permit the poison of domination – and a domineering sensibility – to persist is, at this time, to ignore the most basic roots of our ecological as well as social problems – problems whose sources can be traced back to the very roots of our civilization.
Blaming technology for the ecological crisis serves, however unintentionally, to *blind us to the ways technology could in fact play a creative role in a rational, ecological society. In such a society, the **intelligent use of sophisticated technology would be direly needed to restore the vast ecological damage that has already been inflicted on the biosphere, much of which will not repair itself without creative human intervention.
Yes, we as individuals should change our lifestyles as much as possible, but it is the utmost shortsightedness to believe that that is all or even primarily what we have to do. We need to restructure the entire society, even as we engage in lifestyle changes and single-issue struggles against pollution, nuclear power plants, the excessive use of fossil fuels, the destruction of soil, and so forth. We must have a coherent analysis of the deep-seated hierarchical relationships and systems of domination, as well as of class relationships and economic exploitation, that degrade people as well as the environment.
full stop.. ie: a nother way
Perhaps the most disquieting feature of many radical groups today, particularly socialists who may accept the foregoing observation, is their commitment to at least a minimal state that would coordinate and administer a classless and egalitarian society – a non-hierarchical one, no less! One hears this argument from André Gorz and many others, who, presumably because of the many “complexities” of modern society, cannot conceive of the administration of economic affairs without some kind of coercive mechanism, albeit one with a “human face.”
andré gorz.. you.. all of us.. to date
we need to let go
The notion that human freedom can be achieved, much less perpetuated, through a state of any kind is monstrously oxymoronic – a contradiction in terms.
same to your min org/govt ness.. oi
Let me emphasize that confederalism should not be confused with federalism, which is simply the coordination of nation-states in a network of agreements that preserve the prerogatives of policy-making with little if any citizen involvement. Federalism is simply the state writ large, indeed the further centralization of already centralized states, as in the United States’ federal republic, the European Community, or the recently formed Commonwealth of Independent States – all collections of huge continental superstates that remove even further whatever control the people have over nation-states.
both are forms of people telling other people what to do.. let go
A confederalist alternative would be based on a network of policy-making popular assemblies with recallable deputies to local and regional confederal councils – councils whose sole function, I must emphasize, would be to adjudicate differences and undertake strictly administrative tasks. One could scarcely advance such a prospect by making use of a state formation of any kind, however “minimal.” Indeed, to juggle statist and confederal perspectives in a verbal game by distinguishing “minimal” from “maximal” is to utterly confuse the basis for a new politics structured around a participatory democracy.
oi oi oi
Libertarian municipalism may indeed begin in a limited way in civic wards, here and there, as well as in small cities and towns, but its aim is nothing less than the total remaking of society along rational, nonhierarchical and ecological lines.
ie’s of your min ness
2 – nationalism and the national question
The primacy the anarchists and libertarian socialists have historically given to the abolition of the state, the agency par excellence of hierarchical coercion, led directly to their denigration of the nation-state and of nationalism generally, not only because nationalism divides human beings territorially, culturally, and economically, but because it follows in the wake of the modern state and ideologically justifies it.
any form of m\a\p does that
What makes us human, apart from our ability to reason on a high plane of generalization, consociate into mutable social institutions, work cooperatively, and develop a highly symbolic system of communication, is a shared knowledge of our humanitas.
Goethe’s memorable words, so characteristic of the Enlightenment mind, still haunt as a criterion of our humanity: “There is a degree of culture where national hatred vanishes, and where one stands to a certain extent above nations and feels the weal and woe of a neighboring people as if it happened to one’s own.”
If Goethe established a standard of authentic humanity here – and surely one can demand more of human beings than empathy for their “own people” – early humanity was less than human by that standard. Although a lunatic element in today’s ecology movement calls for a “return to a Pleistocene spirituality,” they would in all probability have found that “spirituality” very dispiriting in reality. In prehistoric eras, probably marked by band and tribal social organization, human beings were, “spiritually” or otherwise, first and foremost members of an immediate family, second, members of a band, and ultimately, members of a tribe. What determined membership in anything beyond one’s given family group was an extension of the kinship tie: the people of a given tribe were socially linked to one another by real or fictive blood relationships. This “blood oath,” as well as other “biological facts” like gender and age, defined one’s rights, obligations, and indeed one’s identity in the tribal society.
Moreover, many – perhaps most – band or tribal groups regarded only those who shared the “blood oath” with themselves as human. Indeed, a tribe often referred to itself as “the People,” a name that expressed its exclusive claim to humanity. Other people, who were outside the magic circle of the real or mythic blood linkages of a tribe, were “strangers” and hence in some sense were not human beings. The “blood oath” and the use of the name “the People” to designate themselves often pitted a tribe against others who made the same exclusive claim to be human and to be “the People,” even among peoples who shared common linguistic and cultural traits.
just shows same song if go back in time too
A “second nature,” as Cicero called it, of humanistic social and cultural ties began to replace the older form of social organization based on the “first nature” of biological and blood ties, in which individuals’ social roles and obligations had been anchored in their family, clan, gender, and the like, rather than in associations of their own choice.
oi.. always spinach or rock
need: imagine if we ness
The eventual differentiation of the town populations into wealthy and poor, powerful and powerless, and “nationalists” who supported the monarchy against a predatory nobility, makes up a complex drama that cannot be discussed here.
In later years, even when speaking broadly of freedom and the oppressed, Marx and Engels considered the use of seemingly “inexact” words like “workers” and “toilers” to be an implicit rejection of socialism as a “science”; instead, they preferred what they considered the more scientifically rigorous word proletariat, which specifically referred to those who generate surplus value.
Cultural freedom and variety, let me emphasize, should not be confused with nationalism. That specific peoples should be free to fully develop their own cultural capacities is not merely a right but a desideratum. The world will be a drab place indeed if a magnificent mosaic of different cultures do not replace the largely deculturated and homogenized world created by modern capitalism. But by the same token, the world will be completely divided and peoples will be chronically at odds with one another if their cultural differences are parochialized and if seeming “cultural differences” are rooted in biologistic notions of gender, racial, and physical superiority. Historically, there is a sense in which the national consolidation of peoples along territorial lines did produce a social sphere that was broader than the narrow kinship basis for kinship societies because it such consolidation obviously is more open to strangers, just as cities tend to foster broader human affinities than tribes. But neither tribal affinities nor territorial boundaries constitute a realization of humanity’s potentiality to achieve a full sense of commonality with rich but harmonious cultural variations. Frontiers have no place on the map of the planet, any more than they have a place on the landscape of the mind.
The confederation of municipalities, as a medium for interaction, collaboration, and mutual aid among its municipal components, provides the sole alternative to the powerful nation-state on the one hand and the parochial town or city on the other. Fully democratic, in which the municipal deputies to confederal institutions would be subject to recall, rotation, and unrelenting public purview, the confederation would constitute an extension of local liberties to the regional level, allowing for a sensitive equilibrium between locality and region in which the cultural variety of towns could flourish without turning inward toward local exclusivity.
there’s a nother way
A municipalized economy would approximate a system of usufruct based entirely on one’s needs and citizenship in a community rather than one’s proprietary, vocational, or professional interests.
3 – nationalism and the great revolution
4 – the historical importance of the city
Let me state from the outset that I have never declared that libertarian municipalism is a substitute for the manifold dimensions of cultural or even private life. Yet even a modicum of a historical perspective shows that it is precisely the municipality that most individuals must deal with directly, once they leave the social realm and enter the public sphere. Doubtless the municipality is usually the place where even a great deal of social life is existentially lived, which does not efface its distinctiveness as a unique sphere of life.
As a project for entering into the public sphere, libertarian municipalism calls for a radical presence in a community that addresses the question of who shall exercise power in a lived sense; indeed, it is truly a political culture that seeks to re-empower the individual and sharpen his or her sensibility as a living citizen.
and it’s all about power
In fact, short of the hazy Neolithic village traditions that Marija Gimbutas, Riane Eisler, and William Irwin Thompson hypostatize, we will have a hard time finding any tradition that was not patriarchal to one degree or another. Rejecting all patriarchal societies as sources of institutional study would mean that we must abandon not only the Athenian polis but the free medieval communes and their confederations, the comuñero movement of sixteenth-century Spain, the revolutionary Parisian sections of 1793, the Paris Commune of 1871 – and even the Spanish anarchist collectives of 1936–37. All of these institutional developments, be it noted, were marred to one degree or another by patriarchal values.
No, libertarian municipalists are not ignorant of these very real historical limitations; nor is libertarian municipalism based on any historical “models.” Neither does anyone who seriously accepts a libertarian municipalist approach believe that society as it exists and cities as they are structured today can suddenly be transformed into a directly democratic and rational society. The revolutionary transformation we seek is one that requires education, the formation of a movement, and the patience to cope with defeats. As I have emphasized again and again, a libertarian municipalist practice begins, minimally, with an attempt to enlarge local freedom at the expense of state power. And it does this by example, by education, and by entering the public sphere (that is, into local elections or extralegal assemblies), where ideas can be raised among ordinary people that open the possibility of a lived practice. In short, libertarian municipalism involves a vibrant politics in the real world to change society and public consciousness alike, not a program directed at navel-gazing, psychotherapy, and “surregionalist manifestoes.” It tries to forge a movement that will enter into open confrontation with the state and the bourgeoisie, not cravenly sneak around them murmuring Taoist paradoxes.
oh my.. both same song
To examine what is really at issue in the questions of municipalism, confederalism, and citizenship, as well as the distinction between the social and the political, we must ground these notions in a historical background where we can locate the meaning of the city (properly conceived in distinction to the megalopolis), the citizen, and the political sphere in the human condition.
oi oi oi .. black science of people/whales law et al
The necessary conditions for freedom and consciousness – or preconditions, as socialists of all kinds recognized in the last century and a half – involved technological advances that, in a rational society, could emancipate people from the immediate, animalistic concerns of self-maintenance, increase the realm of freedom from constrictions imposed upon it by preoccupations with material necessity, and place knowledge on a rational, systematic, and coherent basis to the extent that this was possible. These conditions at least involved humanity’s self-emancipation from the overpowering theistic creations of its own imagination (creations largely formulated by shamans and priests for their own self-serving ends, as well as by apologists for hierarchy) – notably, mythopoesis, mysticism, anti-rationalism, and fears of demons and deities, calculated to produce subservience and quietism in the face of the social powers that be.
That the necessary and sufficient conditions for this emancipation have never existed in a “one-to-one” relationship with each other – and it would have been miraculous if they had – has provided the fuel for Cornelius Castoriadis’s rather disordered essays on the omnipotence of “social imaginaries,” for Theodor Adorno’s basic nihilism, and for frivolous anarcho-chaotics who, in one way or another, have debased the Enlightenment’s ideals and the classical forms of socialism and anarchism. True – the discovery of the spear did not produce an automatic shift from “matriarchy” to “patriarchy,” nor did the discovery of the plow produce an automatic shift from “primitive communism” to private property, as evolutionary anthropologists of the nineteenth century supposed. Indeed, it cheapens any discussion of history and social change to create “one-to-one” relations between technological and cultural developments, a tragic feature of Friedrich Engels’s simplification of his mentor’s ideas.
oi.. cornelius castoriadis et al
In fact, social evolution is very uneven and combined, which one would hope Castoriadis learned from his Trotskyist past. No less significantly, social evolution, like natural evolution, is profligate in producing a vast diversity of social forms and cultures, which are often incommensurable in their details. If our goal is to emphasize the vast differences that separate one society from another – rather than identify the important thread of similarities that bring humanity to the point of a highly creative development – “the Aztecs, Incas, Chinese, Japanese, Mongols, Hindus, Persians, Arabs, Byzantines, and Western Europeans, plus everything that could be enumerated from other cultures” do not resemble each other, to cite the naive obligations that Castoriadis places on what he calls “a ‘rational dialectic’ of history” and, implicitly, on reason itself. Indeed, it is unpardonable nonsense to carelessly fling these civilizations together without regard for their place in time, their social pedigrees, the extent to which they can be educed dialectically from one another, or without an explanation of why as well as descriptions of how they differ from each other. By focusing entirely on the peculiarity of individual cultures, one reduces the development of civilizations in an eductive sequence to the narrow nominalism that Stephen Jay Gould applied to organic evolution – even to the point where the “autonomy” so prized by Castoriadis can be dismissed as a purely subjective “norm,” of no greater value in this postmodernist world of interchangeable equivalences than authoritarian “norms” of hierarchy.
But if we explore very existential developments toward freedom from toil and freedom from oppression in all its forms, we find that there is a History to be told of rational advances – without presupposing teleologies that predetermine that History and its tendencies. If we can give material factors their due emphasis without reducing cultural changes to strictly automatic responses to technological changes and without locating all highly variegated societies in a nearly mystical sequence of “stages of development,” then we can speak intelligibly of definite advances made by humanity out of animality, out of the timeless “eternal recurrence” of relatively stagnant cultures, out of blood, gender, and age relationships as the basis for social organization, and out of the image of the “stranger,” who was not kin to other members of a community, indeed, who was “inorganic,” to use Marx’s term, and hence subject to arbitrary treatment beyond the reach of customary rights and duties, defined as they were by tradition rather than reason.
Moreover, the city has been the originating and authentic sphere of politics in the Hellenic democratic sense of the term, and of civilization – not, as I have emphasized again and again, of the state. Which is not to say that city-states have not existed. But democracy, conceived as a face-to-face realm of policy-making, entails a commitment to the Enlightenment belief that all “ordinary” human beings are potentially competent to collectively manage their political affairs – a crucial concept in the thinking, all its limitations aside, of the Athenian democratic tradition, and, more radically, of those Parisian sections of 1793 that gave an equal voice to women as well as all men. At such high points of political development, in which subsequent advances often self-consciously built on and expanded more limited earlier ones, the city became more than a unique arena for human life and politics, and municipalism – civicism, which the French revolutionaries later identified with “patriotism” – became more than an expression of love of country. Even when Jacobin demagogues gave it chauvinistic connotations, “patriotism” in 1793 meant that the “national patrimony” was not the “property of the King of France” but that France, in effect, now belonged to all the people.
oi.. seat at the table et al
Over the long run, the city was conceived as the socio-cultural destiny of humanity, a place where, by late Roman times, there were no “strangers” or ethnic “folk,” and by the French Revolution, no custom or demonic irrationalities, but rather citoyens who lived in a free terrain, organized themselves into discursive assemblies, and advanced canons of secularity and fraternité, or more broadly, solidarity and philia, hopefully guided by reason. Moreover, the French revolutionary tradition was strongly confederalist until the dictatorial Jacobin Republic came into being – wiping out the Parisian sections as well as the ideal of a fête de la fédération. One must read Jules Michelet’s account of the Great Revolution to learn the extent to which civicism was identified with municipal liberty and fraternité with local confederations, indeed a “republic” of confederations, between 1790 and 1793. One must explore the endeavors of Jean Varlet and the Evêché militants of May 30–31, 1793, to understand how close the Revolution came in the insurrection of June 2 to constructing the cherished confederal “Commune of communes” that lingered in the historical memory of the Parisian fédérés, as they designated themselves, in 1871.
one must read/explore to understand.. huge red flag
The civitas, humanly scaled and democratically structured, is the initiating arena of rational reflection, discursive decision-making, and secularity in human affairs. ..No one who reads the chronicles of Western humanity can ignore the rational dialectic that underlies the accumulation of mere events and that reveals an unfolding of the human potentiality for universality, rationality, secularity, and freedom in an eductive relationship that alone should be called History. This History, to the extent that it has culminations at given moments of development, on which later civilizations built, is anchored in the evolution of a secular public sphere, in politics, in the emergence of the rational city – the city that is rational institutionally, creatively, and communally. Nor can imagination be excluded from History, but it is an imagination that must be elucidated by reason. For nothing can be more dangerous to a society, indeed to the world today, than the kind of unbridled imagination, unguided by reason, that so easily lent itself to Nuremberg rallies, fascist demonstrations, Stalinist idolatry, and death camps.
we have no idea..
oi.. there never was a west ness
The cultural and social barbarism that is closing around this period is above all marked by ideologies of regression: a retreat into an often mythic prelapsarian past; a narcissistic egocentricity in which the political disappears into the personal; and an “imaginary” that dissolves the various phases of a historical development into a black hole of “Oneness” or “interconnectedness,” so that all the moments of a development are flattened out. Underpinning this ideological flattening is a Heideggerian Gelassenheit, a passive-receptive, indeed quietistic, “letting things be,” that is dressed up in countervailing Taoist “contraries” – each of which cancels out its opposite to leave practical reason with a blank sheet upon which anything can be scrawled, however hierarchical or oppressive. The Taoist ruler, who John Clark adduces in his writings, who does not rule, who does nothing yet accomplishes more than anyone else, is a contradiction in terms, a mutual cancellation of the very concepts of “ruler” and “sage” – or, more likely, a tyrant who shrewdly manipulates his or her subject while pretending to be self-effacing and removed from the object of his or her tyranny.
oi.. we have no idea what legit free people are like.. hari rat park law et al
The Chinese ruling classes played at this game for ages – just as the pope, to this day, kisses the feet of his newly ordained cardinals with Christian “humility.” What Marx’s fetishism of commodities is for capitalism, this Heideggerian Gelassenheit is for present-day ideology, particularly for deep ecology in all its various mutations. Thus, we do not change the world; we “dwell” in it. We do not reason out a course of action; we “intuit” it, or better, “imagine” it. We do not pursue a rational eduction of the moments that make up an evolution; instead, we relapse into a magical reverie, often in the name of an aesthetic vanguardism that surrenders reality to fancy or imagination. Hence the explosion these days of mystical ecologies, primitivism, technophobia, anti-civilizationalism, irrationalism, and cheap fads from devil worship to angelology.
Instead of retreating to quietism, mysticism, and purely personalized appeals for change, social ecology seeks to think out the kinds of institutions that would be required in a rational, ecological society; the kind of politics we should appropriately practice; and the political movement needed to achieve such a society. Should we fail to initiate new movements, based on new ideas, and advance new programs to mobilize the great mass of humanity, this planet may well be degraded beyond redemption socially even before it is degraded beyond redemption ecologically. It is this terrible prospect social ecology seeks to avert.
nothing new if appropriate ness et al..
5 – anarchism as individualism
In fact, the ideas of social and economic reconstruction that have in the past been offered in the name of “anarchy” have invariably been drawn to a great extent from Marxism and other forms of socialism. The fact that anarchism came wrapped in socialist concepts has often prevented anarchists from appearing as what they are: egoists.
If individuals must be free of constraint, anarchists have argued, so must the communes in a future society. (How communes could even exist when their members were all individually autonomous is an unresolved question.) Although Kropotkin called himself an anarcho-communist, he essentially agreed with Proudhon on his point: “the social revolution must be achieved by the liberation of the communes,” .. To bolster this notion, Kropotkin also rejects majority rule: he’s against people “submitting themselves to the majority-rule, which always is a mediocrity-rule.
only because we’ve not yet ever had legit free people.. (not yet ever seen an undisturbed ecosystem et al)
By the same logic, anarchists claim that the future society must be one bereft of laws and constitutions, because they necessarily restrict the sovereign autonomy of the individual. When Proudhon was a member of the French Chamber of Deputies, he once declared that he refused to vote for a particular constitution, not because he opposed the content of it, but simply because it was a constitution. I fail to see how any free society can be constituted rationally without a constitution – and for that matter, laws, ordinances, rules, and the like. This condemnation of all constitutions, laws, and institutions – claiming they are all equivalent to a state – as all “great” anarchist thinkers did and others today continually do, is to appeal to wanton chaos, indeed to a sociality that essentially depends on good instincts and, hopefully, education (to which Bakunin added custom and others, habit). Such thinking reveals not only the basic socio-biologism that underpins most anarchist theory (if one can use the word theory at all), but also the tendency of anarchists to refer back to primordial levels for their moral philosophy – genes, custom, habit, tradition, and the like.
oh my murray..
The tension between individualism and collectivism or communism would not exist if the interests of individuals could somehow be conceived to be the same as or at least compatible with the interests of the larger society. Bakunin and Kropotkin tried to do just that. Bakunin asserted that individual and social interests were indeed compatible, blaming the idea that individual and social interests did not always harmoniously converge on, variously, the state or the religious doctrine of original sin. Kropotkin went further, maintaining that individual morality was in the end identical to social morality: he gave a socio-biological basis to the instinct for mutual aid, saying that most creatures, from the simplest to the most complex, are driven by an urge to cooperate. This being the case, he believed, the individual – freed from the trammels of the state – would make choices in behavior and thinking that were in harmony with the needs of his or her society. Thus Kropotkin could write: ‘Humanity is trying now to free itself from the bonds of any government whatever, and to respond to its needs of organization by the free understanding between individuals pursuing the same common aims…. Free agreement is becoming a substitute for law. And free cooperation a substitute for governmental guardianship…. We already foresee a state of society where the liberty of the individual will be limited by no laws, no bonds – by nothing else but his own social habits and the necessity, which everyone feels, of finding cooperation, support, and sympathy among his neighbors‘
But this socio-biologically based cooperation rests, of course, on a fallacy. In fact, individuals have often placed their own personal interest above those of their community. Since Kropotkin, moreover, was always prone to highlight the steady advance of mutual aid in the world in which he lived, he would have had a hard time to explain the brutalities that occurred from 1914 onward, which opened one of the bloodiest periods in history. Alas, cooperation is not embedded in our genes. But it is on such genetically based cooperation that Kropotkin’s “anarcho-communism” rests; and when it collapses, so does the whole edifice. What remains, again, is the individual ego.
But this socio-biologically based cooperation rests, of course, on a fallacy. In fact, individuals have often placed their own personal interest above those of their community. Since Kropotkin, moreover, was always prone to highlight the steady advance of mutual aid in the world in which he lived, he would have had a hard time to explain the brutalities that occurred from 1914 onward, which opened one of the bloodiest periods in history. Alas, cooperation is not embedded in our genes. But it is on such genetically based cooperation that Kropotkin’s “anarcho-communism” rests; and when it collapses, so does the whole edifice. What remains, again, is the individual ego.
oi.. hari rat park law
Martin A. Miller, a Kropotkin biographer, wrote that “Kropotkin argued for the full and complete liberty of the individual‚ as the ethical basis of anarchism. He stopped short of falling into the trap of having to accept egoism and extreme individualism only because he believed in the innate sociability and passivity of man, when allowed to be free without constraint from above.” This belief too was mistaken. Lacking the linchpin that unites individualism and socialism, “anarcho-communism” and “anarcho-collectivism” become oxymoronic words, bereft of meaning.
Among anarchists, I find, such views are heinous. As Colin Ward puts it, “anarchy” is the wonderful society that, like soil, lies beneath the snow (of capitalism, the state, religion, and oppressive institutions generally); the snow only has to melt away, and then we will have our Wonderland. Kropotkin seems to have had no greater appreciation than other anarchist theorists for the mutual interaction between the legacy of domination and the legacy of freedom in history. Ward’s “snow” metaphor is moreover very much in tune with Bakunin’s continual reliance on an alleged instinct for revolution that lies latent in workers and peasants, and Kropotkin’s tendency to fall back on an instinct for mutual aid.
While I would argue that the rejection of any limitation on behavior is symptomatic of anarchism’s individualistic basis, the way anarchists are invoking “instinct” as an alternative social foundation not only makes a mockery of reason but also reduces us to a quasi-animalistic existence. The absence of any real historical sense – which makes anarchy possible anytime, even in the “affluent” societies of the Paleolithic and Neolithic – easily leads anarchists into primitivism and technophobia. Of course, the disregard for dialectical reason, indeed the antagonism toward it, fits in with the anti-rationalism that pervades much of anarchism; it is precisely the hypostatization of instinct, habit, and tradition, that leads anarchists into mysticism and anti-rationalism, and reinforces their proclivity for primitivism
Hence anarchism does not pay any attention to the “forms of freedom,” nor to the imperative material, technological, and cultural preconditions for a free and rational society. Few if any of the major anarchist theorists clearly faced the problem of such institutions, and certainly none of them today propose to deal with it. Dozens of questions and issues, ranging from philosophy to the interpretation of history, to the evaluation of politics, capitalism, organization, programs, and so on, simply remain beyond the purview of anarchism.
Apart from the syndicalists, many of whom were decidedly not anarchists, anarchism has shown little regard for institutions of direct democracy. In fact, the total identification of politics with the state leads anarchists to pit purely social actions and phenomena against the state, leading to incidents, “direct actions” such as “reclaiming the streets,” cooperatives, squats, and mere forms of merriment or theater that I can no longer take seriously as political work. Some of these actions are useful gymnastics or training on cooperation, but they exhibit no concern for or interest in power.
oi to power obsession
Libertarian municipalism, by contrast, is concerned with power – and who will have it. How can power be acquired and communally managed by the oppressed? In what libertarian institutions should it be collected? How does one move toward creating those institutions?
Popular assemblies, in my view, are the means by which direct democracy can be institutionalized. While anarchism has no politics, libertarian municipalism is intensely political. It is my hope that a libertarian municipalist program will resonate among responsible and thinking people who are concerned with where power will repose in a free and rational society.
oi.. so loaded
Libertarian municipalism is not only the end – the political infrastructure for the future society – but the means; a rare confluence of means and ends that has not been worked out in either Marxism or anarchism. Hence it is a matter of vital importance that when we run candidates to municipal elections, in order to achieve popular assemblies and confederal structures, they are as a matter of civic and political responsibility obliged to take office, or else there is no point in advocating a libertarian municipalist program. Thus to run candidates who will not occupy seats on city councils or similar institutions is to turn libertarian municipalism into a theater or propaganda for other ends. It does not show any true concern for how power will be institutionalized; indeed it makes a mockery of the potentialities of the municipality for creating an empowered people’s assembly.
*We are faced with a real dilemma. It is very difficult to govern or manage society from the “ground up” in an immensely populous and global world. ..Popular assemblies, which would ultimately validate laws and constitutions, **must operate with a deep sense of responsibility for one another by majority votes and within a framework that limits their right to walk out of a confederation without the consent of the majority of the entire confederation’s members.
*not if we imagine if we
I have come to the conclusion that these concerns merely float on the surface of a deeply flawed view of social reality. We must therefore clearly distinguish between anarchy and my ideas of libertarian municipalism. After 40 exhausting years in the anarchist scene, I’ve been forced to conclude that “anarchism” is more symptomatic of the decadence that marks the present era than a force in opposition to it.
everything to date.. marked by us being in sea world
It is my desire, in the time that I have left, to get out of the anarchist “loop” (as this generation likes to put it) before it turns into a noose and strangles me. I’ve tried to rescue a social anarchism, with social ecology and libertarian municipalism, from the rest of anarchism; but the response to these efforts have led me to conclude that this has been a failure among anarchists. With a few notable exceptions, they simply don’t want these ideas – and that is that. I would like to put all the distance I can between this scene and myself. Yet I would also like to believe that we can develop a synthesis of the best in Marx’s writings and in the anarchist tradition – a communalism that will be meaningful and relevant to serious, responsible people in the years ahead. This is the project that is now dearest to my heart, not an attempt to rescue movements and traditions that have been outlived by history.
6 – anarchism power & govt
The fact is that no society can exist without an orderly way of administering itself, which necessarily implies administration or regulation of some kind.
All states are governments, but not all governments are states. A government is a set of organized and responsible institutions that are minimally an active system of social and economic administration. *They handle the problems of living in an orderly fashion. A government may be a dictatorship; it may be a monarchy or a republican state; but it may also be a libertarian formation of some kind. **But without a rudimentary body of institutions to sort out the rights and duties of its members, hopefully in a democratic way, society would simply dissolve into a disorderly aggregation of individuals.
*aziz let go law et al
Indeed, the very notion of community is meaningless unless those who claim allegiance to it take on obligations that allow it to function, flourish, and meet everyone’s needs. Even self-government is therefore a form of government, for under systems of self-government community members contribute to its functioning. It is possible, and indeed necessary, for human beings to govern themselves in civilized and rational institutions. In fact, institutions as such are necessary for social organization.
Social revolutionaries have traditionally sought a social order that is concerned with “the administration of things, instead of the administration of men,” but people must first be organized institutionally in such a way that they can administer things. One, in effect, cannot be done without the other. Thus if a society is to socially own or control property, if it is to produce goods to meet the needs of all instead of allow profit for a few, if it is to organize a system of distribution so that all rather than an elite share equitably in the material means of life – then clearly definable administrative institutions have to be established that not only make them workable but also constrain irrational behavior. In short, forms of authority have to be created that are meant not to exploit or oppress human beings, but rather to ensure that some human beings are not exploited or oppressed by others and to ensure the means for acquiring the good life.
oi oi oi oi oi.. need to let go of any form of people telling other people what to do
Such institutions must exist in a society, even a libertarian one. Their absence would lead to a prevalence of chaos, disorder, instability, and disequilibrium – none of which necessarily has revolutionary or liberatory implications. That revolutions produce instability does not mean that instability is somehow a desirable condition or that it must produce a libertarian revolution. If “anarchy is the highest form of order,” as some anarchists have said, then it is also the highest form of administration and stability.
What kinds of governments, then, are not states? Tribal councils, town meetings, workers’ committees, soviets (in the original sense of the word), popular assemblies and the like are governments, and no amount of juggling with words can conceal that fact. They are organized institutions that serve generalized human needs, such as those of a revolutionary proletariat or peasantry, in a libertarian fashion. The end that a government serves, no less than its structure, is an integral part of its nature and definition.
we have no idea what our legit needs are..
A state, by contrast, is a government that is organized to serve the interests of a privileged and often propertied class at the expense of the majority. This historic rise of the state transformed governance into a malignant force for social development. When a government becomes a state – that is, a coercive mechanism for perpetuating class rule for exploitative purposes – it invariably acquires different institutional characteristics. First, its members are *professionalized to one degree or another, in order to separate them from the mass of the population and thereby impart to them an extraordinary status, which in turn renders them the full-time protectors of a ruling class. Second, the state, aided by **military and police functionaries, enjoys a monopoly over the means of violence. The members of a state’s armies and police may be drawn from the very classes they are organized to coerce – that is irrelevant; once they are separated from the population at large, uniformed, rigorously trained, disciplined, and placed in an explicit chain of command, they cease to belong to any class and become ***professional men and women of violence who are at the service of those who command them. The chain of command binds them together and places them at the disposal of their commanders.
*happens with any form of m\a\p
**happens w any form of m\a\p.. structural violence et al
***inspectors of inspectors et al
The tendency of anarchists to classify all governments as states is a mischievous distortion (just as the tendency of anarchists to identify constitutions and laws as such with statism verges on the absurd). Both tendencies are the product of a radical ego-orientation that denies the need for any constraints – indeed, that unthinkingly sees all constraints as evil.
This issue is by no means an idle discussion. It played a pivotal role during the Spanish Revolution of 1936–37, a history that even has profound implications for the future of left libertarian theory and practice.
Pure anarchism seeks above all the emancipation of individual personality from all ethical, political, and social constraints. In so doing, it fails to address the concrete issue of power that confronts all revolutionaries in a period of social upheaval. Rather than address how the people, organized into confederated popular assemblies, might capture power and create a fully developed libertarian society, anarchists have traditionally conceived of power as a malignant evil that must be destroyed. Proudhon, for example, once stated that he would divide and subdivide power until, in effect, it ceased to exist. Proudhon may well have intended that government should be reduced to a minimal entity, but his statement perpetuates the illusion that power can actually cease to exist.
Spain revealed the inability of this anti-intellectual, anti-theoretical, and ego-oriented ideology (however sincere and radical its adherents) to cope with the compelling issues of power and social reconstitution.
Power always exists, and it must always be institutionalized – whether in democratic forms like popular assemblies, committees, and councils, or perniciously, in chiefdoms, aristocracies, monarchies, republics, dictatorships, and totalitarian regimes. To suggest that power can be abolished, and that “everyone” may come to feel “personally empowered,” is to play with psychological fallacies that have in the past led more than one libertarian movement to come to grief. Confusion over the nature of popular power contributed to popular disempowerment, and to the disempowerment of popular institutions such as the sectional assemblies of 1794, the revolutionary clubs of 1848, the neighborhood committees of 1871, the soviets of 1917, and the committees and assemblies of 1936.
That which is “pure” exists only within the confines of the laboratory and the workings of the human brain. *In the real world, where real people, animals, and plants live, impurity is unavoidable; any development, change, or dialectic yields new elements and phenomena that instantly adulterate a seemingly pure process. Many of the stark dictums historically posed by the Left have been shown to belie the authenticity of the real world, yielding false results for social expectations. During the classical period of socialism many Marxists believed it inevitable that socialism would be achieved; similarly, many anarchists believe it inevitable that freedom can emerge without being conditioned by necessity. Unless those of us on the libertarian left are to accept the absurd notion of a decivilized “autonomous individual,” we must concede that society cannot exist without organized institutions that abridge pure autonomy by situating the individual within contextual limitations.
*rather.. in sea world
Social revolutionaries, far from removing the problem of power from their field of vision, must address the problem of how to give power a concrete institutional emancipatory form. To be silent with respect to this question, and to hide behind superannuated ideologies that are irrelevant to the present overheated capitalist development, is merely to play at revolution, even to mock the memory of the countless militants who have given their all to achieve it.
oi.. 61 et al.. oh my
7 – the revolutionary politics of libertarian municipalism
Libertarian municipalism in no way compromises with parliamentarism, reformist attempts to “improve” capitalism, or the perpetuation of private property
libertarian municipalism is revolutionary to the core,
More specifically, it aims for the confederal linking of libertarian communist municipalities, in the form of directly democratic popular assemblies as well as the collective control or “ownership” of socially important property.
huge compromise.. not to the core
In terms of its history as a civilizing tendency in humanity’s development, the municipality is integrally part of the sweeping process whereby human beings began to dissolve biologically conditioned social relations based on real or fictitious blood ties, with their primordial hostility to “strangers,” and slowly replace them by largely social and rational institutions, rights, and duties that increasingly encompassed all residents of an urban space, irrespective of consanguinity and biological facts. ..The municipality, however slowly and incompletely, formed the necessary condition for human association based on rational discourse, material interest, and a secular culture, irrespective of and often in conflict with ancestral roots and blood ties. Indeed, the fact that people can come together peacefully and share creatively in the exchange of ideas without hostility or suspicion today, despite our disparate ethnic, linguistic, and national backgrounds, is a grand historic achievement of civilization, one that is the work of centuries involving a painful discarding of primordial definitions of ancestry, and the replacement of these archaic definitions by reason, knowledge, and a growing sense of our status as members of a common humanity.
In great part, this humanizing development was the work of the municipality – the increasingly free space in which people, as people, began to see each other realistically, steadily unfettered by archaic notions of biological consanguinity, tribal affiliations, and a mystical, tradition-laden, and parochial identity. I do not contend that this process of civilization has been completely achieved. Far from it. Without the existence of a rational society, the municipality can easily become a megalopolis, in which community, however secular, is replaced by atomization and an inhuman social scale beyond the comprehension of its citizens – indeed, becomes the space for class, racial, religious, and other irrational conflicts.
Hence the municipality is the potential arena for realizing the great goal of transforming parochialized human beings into truly universal human beings, a genuine humanitas, divested of the darker animalistic attributes of the primordial world. The rational municipality in which all human beings can be citizens – irrespective of their ethnic background and ideological convictions – constitutes the true arena of a communalist society.
I do not presume to claim that a confederation of libertarian municipalities – a Commune of communes – has ever existed in the past. Yet no matter how frequently I disclaim the existence of any historical “models” and “paradigms” for libertarian municipalities, my critics still try to saddle me with the many social defects of Athens, revolutionary New England towns, and the like, as if they were somehow an integral part of my “ideals.”
they did exist and functioned with varying degrees of success for generations, if not centuries.
Indeed, it is the extent to which public issues are openly discussed in a city or town that truly defines the neighborhood as an important political and power space.
oi.. meetings.. talking.. defining
The spaces for political life may be multiple, but they are generally highly specific and definable, not random or ad hoc.
Libertarian municipalism is concerned with this political sphere, including aspects of basic civic importance, such as economic issues, as well as the many cultural factors that must play a role in the formation of true citizens, indeed, of rounded human beings.
In a very fundamental sense, the libertarian municipalist arena may be a school for educating its youth and its mature citizens;
We must bear in mind that the French revolutionary sections did not have any prior tradition on which to rest their claims to legitimacy
In doing so, we are direly in need of a movement – indeed, a responsible, well-structured, and programmatically coherent organization – that can provide the educational resources, means of mobilization, and vital ideas for achieving our libertarian communist and municipalist goals.
oi oi oi ..
But it always strives to physically as well as politically fragment the great cities, until it achieves the great anarchist-communist and even Marxian goal of scaling all cities to human dimensions.
Having reviewed carefully the course of almost every major revolution in the Euro-American world, I can say with some knowledge that, even in a completely successful revolution, it was always a minority of the people who attended meetings of assemblies that made significant decisions about the fate of their society. ..Even after an uprising is successful, it takes time for a substantial majority of the people to fully participate in the revolutionary process, commonly as crowds in demonstrations, more rarely as participants in revolutionary institutions.
The assemblies, regardless of their size, will have problems enough, without having to deal with indifferent bystanders and passersby. What counts is that the doors of the assemblies remain open for all who wish to attend and participate, for therein lies the true democratic nature of neighborhood assemblies.
What the critics might well ask – but seldom do – is how we are to prevent persuasive individuals from making demagogic attempts to control any popular assembly, regardless of size. In my view the only obstacle to such attempts is the existence of an organized body of revolutionaries – yes, even a faction – that is committed to seeking truth, exercising rationality, and advancing an ethics of public responsibility. Such a faction or organization will be needed, in my view, not only before and during a revolution but also after one, when the constructive problem of creating stable, enduring, and educational democratic institutions becomes the order of the day.
oi.. ie of structural violence et al
Hence, more than ever, any revolutionary left libertarian movement must, in my view, recognize the importance of the municipality as the locus of new, indeed often trans-class problems that cannot simply be reduced to the struggle between wage labor and capital. Real problems of environmental deterioration affect everyone in a community; real problems of social and economic inequities affect everyone in a community; real problems of health, education, sanitary conditions, and the nightmare, as Paul Goodman put it, of “growing up absurd” plague everyone in a community – problems that are even more serious today than they were in the alienated 1960s decade. These trans-class issues can bring people together with workers of all kinds in a common effort to seek their self-empowerment, an issue that cannot be resolved into the conflict of wage labor against capital alone.
oi.. those issues are irrelevant s/distractions..
growing up absurd et al
As parents and young people, they are concerned with the problems of acquiring an education, entering a profession, and the like. They are deeply disturbed by the decay of urban infrastructures, the diminution of inexpensive housing, and issues of urban safety and aesthetics. Their horizon extends far beyond the realm of the factory or even the office to the residential urban world in which they and their families live. After I had spent years working in factories, I was not surprised to find that I could reach workers, middle-class people, and even relatively affluent individuals more easily by discussing issues relating to their lived environments – their neighborhoods and cities – rather than to their workplaces.
need to quit reaching.. and listen
For the problem of globalization, there is no global solution.
Let me stress that when I speak of a moral economy, I am not advocating a communitarian or cooperative economy in which small profiteers, however well-meaning their intentions may be, simply become little “self-managed” capitalists in their own right. In my own community I have seen a self-styled “moral” enterprise, Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, grow in typical capitalist fashion from a small, presumably “caring,” and intimate enterprise into a global corporation, intent on making profit and fostering the myth that “capitalism can be good.” Cooperatives that profess to be moral in their intentions have yet to make any headway in replacing big capitalist concerns or even in surviving without themselves becoming capitalistic in their methods and profit-oriented in their goals.
Capitalist society has effects not only on economic and social relations but on ideas and intellectual traditions as well, indeed, on all of history, fragmenting them until knowledge, discourse, and even *reality become blurred, divested of any distinctions, specificity, and articulation. The culture that promotes this celebration of diffuseness and fragmentation – a culture that is epidemic in American colleges and universities – goes under the name of poststructuralism or, more commonly, postmodernism. Given its corrosive precepts, the postmodernist worldview is able to level or homogenize everything that is unique or distinctive, dissolving it into a low common denominator of ideas.
*oi.. rather sea world data blurred ..
If the word “citizen” applies to every existing thing, and if the word “community” embraces all relationships in this seemingly “green” world, then nothing, in fact, is a citizen or a community. Just as the logical category “Being” is rendered as mere existence, Being can only be regarded as interchangeable with “Nothing.” So, too, “citizen” and “community” become a universal passport to vacuity, not to uniquely civic conditions that have been forming and differentiating dialectically for thousands of years, through the ancient, medieval, and modern worlds. To reduce them to an abstract “community” is to ultimately negate their wealth of evolutionary forms and particularly their differentiation as sophisticated aspects of human freedom.
As a revolutionary politics, libertarian municipalism must nonetheless be conceived as a process, a patient practice that will probably have only limited success at the present time, and even then only in select areas that can at best provide examples of the possibilities it could hold if and when it is adopted on a large scale. We will not create a libertarian municipalist society overnight, and in this era of counter-revolution we must be prepared to endure more failures than successes. Patience and commitment are traits that revolutionaries of the past cultivated assiduously; alas today, in our fast consumerist society, the demand for immediate gratification, for fast food and fast living, inculcates a demand for fast politics. Individuals who are prone to adopt a fast lifestyle over one that acknowledges the need for slow growth, with all its disappointments, would do well to learn the art of throwing bricks and painting graffiti rather than commit themselves to the educational responsibilities required by a libertarian municipalist movement. What should count for us is whether libertarian municipalism is a rational means for achieving the rational culmination of human development, not whether it is suitable as a quick fix for present social problems.
Nor should we fetishize consensus over democracy in our decision-making processes. Consensus, as I have argued, is practicable with very small groups in which people know each other intimately. But in larger groups it becomes tyrannical because it allows a small minority to decide what will be the practice of a large or even sizable majority; and it fosters homogeneity and stagnation in ideas and policies. Minorities and their factions are the indispensable yeast for maturing new ideas – and nearly all new ideas start out as the views of minorities. In a libertarian group, the “rule” of the majority over a minority is a myth; no one expects a minority to give up its unpopular beliefs or to yield its right to argue its views – but the minority must have patience and allow a majority decision to be put into practice. This experience and the discussion it generates should be the most decisive element in impelling a group or assembly to reconsider its decision and adopt the minority’s viewpoint, spurring on the further innovation of practices and ideas as other minorities emerge. Consensus decision-making can easily produce intellectual and practical stagnation if it essentially compels a majority to forgo a specific policy in order to please a minority.
need to let go of decision making.. it is unmooring us
Among the other issues we must at some point consider are the place of law or nomos in a libertarian municipalist society, as well as constitutions that lay down important principles of right or justice and freedom. *Are we to vest the perpetuation of our guiding principles simply in blind custom, or in the good nature of our fellow humans – which allows for a great deal of arbitrariness? For centuries oppressed peoples demanded written founding constitutional provisions to protect them from arbitrary oppression by the nobility. With the emergence of a libertarian communist society, this problem does not disappear. For us, I believe, the question can never be whether law and constitutions are inherently “authoritarian,” but whether they are rational, mutable, secular, and restrictive only in the sense that they prohibit the abuse of power.
Finally, we must assert the historic right of speculative reason – *resting on the real potentialities of human beings as we know them from the past as well as the present – to project itself beyond the immediate environment in which we live, indeed, to claim that the present irrational society is not the actual – or “real” – that is worthy of the human condition. Despite its prevalence – and, to many people, its permanence – the present society is untrue to the project of fulfilling humanity’s potentiality for freedom and self-consciousness, and hence it is unreal in the sense that it is a betrayal of the claims of humanity’s greatest qualities, the capacity for reason and innovation.
oi.. greatest capacities.. oi..
But where change exists, so too do possibilities. The times cannot remain as they are – any more than the world can be frozen into immobility. What we can hope to do is to preserve the thread of rationality that distinguishes true civilization from barbarism – and barbarism would indeed be the outcome of a world that is permitted to tumble into a future without rational activity or guidance. For those who will a world of freedom and self-consciousness, there can be no accommodation with the status quo.
8 – the future of the left
How, in short, did it come to pass that the classical era, marked by its coherence and unity in revolutionary thought and practice, gave way to a completely decadent era in which incoherence is celebrated, particularly in the name of a postmodernism that equates chaotic nihilism with freedom, self-expression, and creativity – not unlike the chaos of the marketplace itself?
It consistently adopted reformist programs designed to gain higher wages, shorter working days, longer vacations, and improved working conditions until thunderous events drove it to revolutionary action – together, it should be added, with non-proletarian strata. Virtually none of the classical socialist movements, it is worth noting, appealed to the workers as people, such as parents, city dwellers, brothers and sisters, and individuals trying to live decent lives in a decent environment for themselves and their offspring.
Most conventional Marxist theorists to the contrary, the worker is first of all a human being, not simply the embodiment of “social labor” that is definable in strictly class terms. The failure of classical socialism to make a human and civic appeal to the worker – even to seriously consider him or her as more than a class being – created a warped relationship between socialist organizations and their alleged “constituency.” ..The attempt to redefine the proletariat and make it a majority of a national population lost all credibility when capitalism began to create a huge “salariat” of office employees, managers, sales people, and an army of service, engineering, advertising, media, and governmental personnel who see themselves as a new middle class deeply invested in bourgeois property through stocks, bonds, real estate, pensions, and the like, however minor these may seem by comparison with the big bourgeoisie.
This revelatory interpretation of how Anarchy makes its appearance in the world lies at the core of the anarchist vision. Anarchy, it would appear, has always been “there,” as Isaac Puente, the most important theorist of Spanish anarchism in the 1930s, put it, save that it was concealed over the ages by an historically imposed layer of institutions, entrenched experiences, and values that are typified by the state, civilization, history, and morality. Somehow, it must merely be restored from its unsullied past like a hidden geological stratum.
Can there be action without theory and insight into the nature of social ills and an understanding of the measures needed to resolve them? Can the activist even act meaningfully and effectively without drawing upon the rich body of experiences and ideas that have grown up over the years and that can show us the dangerous pitfalls that lie below the surface, or the many strategies that have been tested by earlier generations?
In what likely directions is capitalist society developing in the coming century, and what are the most basic problems it is raising for humanity? Is there any special sector, class, or group in society to which we must appeal if we are to hope to create a revolutionary movement? .. This mystification has not entirely been dispelled, but even so we must ask: which part of society can play a leading role in radical change today?
ie: imagine if we
Not only workers but the public must be educated in the reality that our emerging ecological problems stem from our irrational society.
oi.. intellect ness et al
A revolutionary Left that seeks to advance from protest demonstrations to revolutionary demonstrations must resolutely confront the problem of organization. I speak here not of ad hoc planning groups but rather of the creation and maintenance of an organization that is enduring, structured, and broadly programmatic. Such an organization constitutes a definable entity and must be structured around lasting and formal institutions to make it operational; it must contain a responsible membership that firmly and knowledgeably adheres to its ideals; and it must advance a sweeping program for social change that can be translated into everyday practice. ..The organization’s program must be the product of a reasoned analysis of the fundamental problems that face society, their historical sources and theoretical fundaments, and the clearly visible goals that follow from the potentialities and realities for social change.
One of the greatest problems that revolutionaries in the past faced (from the English revolutionaries in the seventeenth century to the Spanish in the twentieth) was their failure to create a resolute, well-structured, and fully informed organization with which to counter their reactionary opponents. Few uprisings expand beyond the limits of a riot without the guidance of a knowledgeable leadership. The myth of the purely spontaneous revolution can be dispatched by a careful study of past uprisings (as I have attempted in my own work on The Third Revolution). Even in self-consciously libertarian organizations, leadership always existed, even in the form of “influential militants,” spirited men and women who constituted the nuclei around which crowds transformed street protests into outright insurrections.
oi oi oi
By contrast, the bourgeoisie and its statesmen knew only too well how to organize themselves, thanks to their considerable experience as entrepreneurs, political leaders, and military commanders. But the workers too often lacked the knowledge and experience so vital to developing an overview. It remains a tragic irony that insurrections that were not defeated outright by superior military forces often froze into immobility once they took power from their class enemies and rarely took the organizational steps necessary to retain their power. Without a theoretically trained and militant organization that had developed a broad social vision of its tasks and could offer workers practical programs for completing the revolution that they had initiated, revolutions quickly fell apart for lack of further action. Their supporters, zealous at the outset and for a brief period afterward, soon floundered, became demoralized for want of a thoroughgoing program, lost their élan, and then were crushed physically.
Every revolution, indeed, even every attempt to achieve basic social change, will always meet with resistance from the elites in power. *Every effort to defend a revolution will require the amassing of power – physical as well as institutional and administrative – which is to say, the creation of a government. Anarchists may call for the abolition of the state, **but coercion of some kind will be necessary to prevent the bourgeois state from returning in full force with unbridled terror.
Law as such is not necessarily oppressive: indeed, for thousands of years the oppressed demanded laws, as nomos, *to prevent arbitrary rule and the “tyranny of structurelessness.” In the free municipality, law must always be rationally, discursively, and openly derived and subject to careful consideration. At the same time we must continually be aware of **regulations and definitions that have harnessed oppressed humanity to their oppressors.
*oi.. freeman structure law (?) et al
**ie: any form of m\a\p
reactionary .. reinforces the existing social order
that’s what any form of m\a\p does
david on creative refusal included.. et al
The ills that currently exist, however troubling, seem correctable without challenging the premises of the existing society.
Radically new technologies, still difficult to imagine, will undoubtedly be introduced that will have a transformative effect upon the entire world
ie: tech as it could be
But no greater damage could afflict human consciousness than the loss of the Enlightenment program: the advance of reason, knowledge, science, ethics, and even technics, which must be modulated to find a progressive place in a free and humane society. Without the attainments of the Enlightenment, no libertarian revolutionary consciousness is possible. In assessing the revolutionary tradition, a reasoned Left has to shake off dead traditions that, as Marx warned, weigh on the heads of the living, and to commit itself to create to a rational society and a rounded civilization. A Marxism that retains a meaningless focus on proletarian hegemony, and an anarchism that has never stirred the “soil” beneath the “snow” of reason, civilization, and technics, may well serve to make irrelevant the components of past revolutionary ideologies that are still vital, components whose lasting achievements our time greatly needs.
9 – toward a communalist approach
Anarchism (which should not be confused with syndicalism and communism) in its pure form meant little more than unrelenting resistance to and protest against attempts by society and particularly the state to confine individual liberty. It appealed mainly to marginal, déclassé elements, ranging from the dispossessed to idiosyncratic artists and writers.
Communalism is in every way a decidedly political body of ideas that seeks to recover the city or commune in accordance with its greatest historical traditions, and to advance its development. It seeks to create popular assemblies as vital decision-making arenas for civic life. It advances a civic ethics predicated on reason, and a municipalized economy.. In advancing these goals, communalism seeks to actualize the traits that potentially make us human.
These ad hoc, often chaotic and “spontaneous” anarchic escapades in autonomy, even in “temporary autonomous zones,” usually express individualistic, indeed egocentric, impulses that in practice lead to demands for the unrestricted rights of sovereign individuals without requiring of them any obligatory duties. Anarchists and their affines often dismiss obligations of any sort as authoritarian or worse. But one of the great maxims of the First International, to which all factions subscribed, was Marx’s slogan: “No Rights Without Duties, No Duties Without Rights.” In a free society, as revolutionaries of all kinds generally understood, we would enjoy freedoms (“rights”), but we would also have responsibilities (“duties”) we would have to exercise. The concept of individual autonomy becomes meaningless when it denies the obligations that every individual owes to society as social responsibilities.
Pragmatically, a communalist polity requires a written constitution and, yes, regulatory laws, to avoid a structurelessness that would yield mindless anarchy. The more defined the rights and duties of citizens are, the more easily can they be upheld as part of the general interest against the intrusion of petty tyrannies. It is not the clarity of definitions that has oppressed humanity; rather, wrong definitions have been used cannily to uphold privilege and domination. Indeed, constitutions and laws served to free the ancient bondsman of arbitrary despotism and even women of patriarchal control. From the earliest times oppressed peoples have raised the demand for constitutions and laws; in their absence “barons” (to use Hesiod’s term in the seventh century BCE) arbitrarily inflicted rule and terror on the masses. Anarchist demands to eliminate law as such, without providing for substantive ways to avoid the oppressions of structurelessness and arbitrary behavior, have produced mayhem and tyranny more reliably than liberty and autonomy. Historically, constitutions and laws have indeed been oppressive, often grossly so, but this raises the question of their content, not the fact of their existence. Indeed, only a peculiarly egocentric mentality will assume that a rationally constituted society and a rationally formulated body of laws must necessarily violate personal autonomy and hence social freedom. Nothing more clearly sheds light on the individualistic basis of present-day anarchism and its Proudhonesque origins than this personalistic fear of any limitation on individual behavior. Taking recourse to biologistic “instinct” as a guide to a libertarian lifestyle, rooting freedom in human nature and in prehistory, anarchists inadvertently petrify freedom rather than ensure it.
To reduce constitutions and laws ipso facto to trammels that bind free will is to make a mockery not only of reason but of humaneness – for what remains of the human being, after this reduction, is little more than animality and biology.
Communalism, in effect, declares that each individual should act with full regard for the needs of all, and that democracy decidedly includes the rights of a dissenting minority to freely and fully express itself. Within a confederation over broader regional areas the decisions of individual assemblies merge with those of all the assemblies; thus the popular decisions of the entire confederation are taken as a single assembly.
Assuredly, a failure to deal rationally and humanely with necessity, which cannot be evaded in any aspect of life, is the most certain path to oppression and worse. Pure anarchism, whose crude individualism regards the ego as a natural entity rather than a socially formed subject, tends to negate everything about capitalist society and seek out its opposite without any qualifications, as though a libertarian society is the mere negation of bourgeois society. In its most extreme form, this express individualism demands the disbanding of society as such; hence the fascination of so many anarchist writers with primitivism, their technophobic outlook, their aversion to regulation of any kind, and indeed their hatred of necessity.
Communalism demands great advances in theory (not its denigration) as well as permanent activity (in the form of firmly established institutions, deeply rooted in a community and marked by their continuity) – not ad hoc escapades that dissipate after a demonstration, riot, or the establishment of a “temporary autonomous zone.” If activism is reduced to demonstrations, riots, and TAZs, then revolution is nothing but a few hours of frolicking, after which the real authority of the state and ruling class takes over. Capitalism has nothing to fear from frolicking; indeed, its fashion designers and lifestyle specialists are only too eager to turn juvenile expressions of dissent into highly merchandisable commodities.
also has nothing to fear from any form of m\a\p
No less disturbing is the passion that many devotees of pure anarchism exhibit for consensus as a form of decision-making. The veneration of individual autonomy can become so radical that it would permit no majority, no matter how large, to override even “a majority of one,” as some anarchist writers have put it. In this extreme fetishization of individualism, the core anarchic concept of the all-sovereign ego stands, in all its splendor, against the wishes of the majority. By permitting the self-sufficient ego, by its merest inclinations, to override the wishes of the community, anarchism becomes untenable. Coordinated political organization become impossible,
oi.. need to listen to every voice.. (every itch-in-the-soul) .. everyday.. to be legit free
ie: imagine if we
The establishment of an organization places certain constraints on the autonomy of its members, but that in itself does not necessarily make it authoritarian. “Libertarian organization” is not a contradiction in terms. In the early twentieth century leading Spanish anarchists had opposed the very formation of the CNT because it was an organization and as such demanded of its members the fulfillment of onerous duties. But organization as such is not authoritarian.
well.. yeah it does.. yeah it is.. any form of m\a\p
To begin with, politically concerned individuals who feel the need to explore communalist ideas and practices may form a study group in a given neighborhood or town. The study groups seek to inform and develop those interested in social and political change into fully competent individuals and leaders. At a time when the knowledge of philosophy, history, and social theory has retreated appallingly, the objects of study may range from immediate political issues to the great intellectual traditions of the past. Minimally, however, the group should give social theory and the history of ideas pronounced attention, particularly insofar as these subjects enlarge members’ understanding of a municipalist approach to democracy and social change.
The study groups, whose members are by now composed of individuals who are committed to a serious exploration of ideas, should begin to function within the neighborhood, town, or city in which they are located. They seek to enter and remain in the public domain – to be a continual revolutionary presence by virtue of their ideas, their emphasis on organization, their methods, and their goals. Communalists refuse to withdraw from the public domain in the name of individual sovereignty, artistic expression, or self-absorption. They wear no ski masks, either metaphorically or physically, and do not allow mindless dogmatic assumptions and simplifications to stand in their way. They are always accessible and transparent, involved and responsible. They can be expected to establish a well-informed, carefully structured organization, if possible with neighborhood branches.
The organization’s goals should be carefully formulated into a concrete program, based on communalist principles, that consistently demands the formation of policy-making municipal popular assemblies. As a component of a minimum program, no issue is too *trivial for communalists to ignore, be it transportation, recreation, education, welfare, zoning, environment, housing, public safety, democracy, civil rights, and the like. The primacy that communalists give to the establishment and development of popular assemblies does not mean that they ignore other issues of concern to the citizenry. To the contrary they resolutely *fight – both within municipal institutions and outside them – for all steps to improve civic life in their communities and elsewhere. On specific issues, such as globalization, environmental problems, ethnic and gender discrimination, communalist organizations freely enter into coalitions with other organizations to engage in common struggles, but they should never surrender their ideological or organizational independence or their claim to their own independent action. Their identity, ideas, and institutions are their most precious possessions and must never be impugned in the interests of “unity.”
*trivial/fighting ? rather.. distracting.. oi
The communalist organization, while always retaining its identity and program, initiates regular public forums to engage in discursive, face-to-face democratic exploration of ideas – partly to spread its program and basic ideas and partly to create public spaces that provide venues for radical civic debate, until actual popular assemblies can be established. While it will clearly become involved in local issues, its primary focus should be the public domain where real power is vested: municipal elections, which allow for a close association between communalist candidates (for city councils or their equivalents) and the people.
The ablest members of the communalist organization should stand in municipal elections and call for the changing of city charters so as to legally empower the municipal assemblies. The new communalist organization should expressly seek to be elected to municipal positions with a view to using charter or extralegal changes to significantly shift municipal power from existing state-like and seemingly representative institutions to popular assemblies as embodiments of direct democracy. Where no city charter exists that can be changed electorally, communalists should attempt (both educationally and organizationally) to convene direct democratic assemblies on an extralegal basis, exercising moral pressure on statist institutions, in the hope that people will, in time, regard them as authentic centers of public power with the expectation that they can thereby gain structural power. Communalism never compromises by advocating delegated or statist institutional structures, and in contrast to organizations such as the Greens, it refuses to exist within the institutional cage of the nation-state or to try to gild it with reforms that ultimately simply make the state more palatable.
any form of m\a\p as cage.. so.. all the above.. all of history.. oi
life/living not about debate/discussion/decision making
A communalist group or movement that refuses to run candidates in municipal elections where it can, and thereby removes its focus on the centers of institutionalized municipal power, will shrivel into an ad hoc, rootless, sporadic, polymorphous form of anarchic protest and quickly fade away. It will be communalist in name only, not in content. It is concerned not with the locus of power but with mere defiance at best, which leads nowhere or terminates in frolicking with the system at worst. In the communalist vision, public assemblies in confederation are a means for destroying the state and capitalism, as well as the embodiments of a rational society. To hop from demonstration to demonstration without attempting to recreate power in the form of public assemblies by taking control of city councils (which means practicing politics in opposition to parliamentary statecraft) is to make a mockery of communalism
oh my murray
An advanced, highly conscious political organization should provide leadership, yet always retaining its independence institutionally and functionally. By the same token, not everyone in an organization has the same level of experience, knowledge, wisdom, and leadership ability. Leadership that is not formalized will be informal, but it will not disappear. Many individuals in revolutionary groups were outright leaders, whose views had more significance than others; it is a disservice to perpetuate the deception that they were simply “influential militants.” Leadership always exists, however much libertarians try to deny the fact by concealing its existence beneath euphemisms.
oi.. expert in the room et al..
Finally, communalism is not simply a vehicle for establishing a communalist polity and the appropriate institutions. It is also an outlook that includes a philosophical approach to reality as well as society and toward the natural world as well as human development. It contends that the ongoing crisis in our culture and values stems not from an overabundance of civilization but from an insufficiency of it. It defends technological development, used rationally and morally, as reducing labor and creating free time that potentially allows citizens to participate in public affairs, time for creativity, a reasonable abundance in the means of life, and even, in a rational and ecological society, the ability to improve upon the impact of natural forces. Post-scarcity abundance (not to be confused with the mindless consumerism fostered by capitalism) must be wisely tempered and controlled by municipal assemblies and the free confederal institutions that an emancipated society can create.