Debbie Bookchin is a widely-published journalist and author whose work has appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Nation, and numerous other publications. She served as press secretary to Bernie Sanders when he served in the U.S. House and she recently co-edited a book of essays by her father, Murray Bookchin, called The Next Revolution: Popular Assemblies and the Promise of Direct Democracy (Verso Books 2015).
Debbie joins Brett to discuss the life and work of her father, Murray Bookchin, as well as the Rojavan Revolution, the rise of fascism, Social Ecology, Marxism, Anarchism, her father’s legacy, and much, much more!
Todd Lewis and Nexus discuss issues that pertain to dissident intellectuals with a decentralized bent.
By Murray Bookchin (1974)
The city has completed its historic evolution. Its dialectic from the village, temple area, fortress or administrative center, each dominated by agrarian interests, to the polis and medieval commune during an era when town and country were in some kind of equilibrium, to the bourgeois city which completely dominates the countryside, now culminates in the emergence of the megalopolis, the absolute negation of the city.
No longer can we speak of a clearly defined urban entity with an authentically collective interest or outlook of its own. Just as each phase or moment of the city ha its own internal limits, the megalopolis represents the limits of the city as such — of civitas as distinguished from communitas. The political principle, in the form of the state, dissolves the last vestiges of the social principle, replacing all community ties by bureaucratic ones.
Personified space and the human scale disintegrate into institutional space and urban gigantism, hierarchically grounded in the impersonal domination of one human by another and the destruction of nature by a rapacious society motivated by production for the sake of production. This “anti-city,” neither urban nor rural in any traditional sense, affords no arena for community and genuine sociation. At most, the megalopolis is a patchwork of mutually hostile enclaves or ghettoes, each of which is internally “united” not by a positive harmony of creative impulses but rather by a negative hostility toward the stranger on its perimeter. Physically, morally, and logistically, this urban cancer is in rapid decay. It does not function on its own terms as an arena for the efficient production and marketing of commodities.
To say that this creature is breaking down is an understatement: the megalopolis is an active force in social dissociation and psychic dissolution. It is the negation of the city as an arena of close human proximity and palpable ‘ cultural tradition, and as a means of collecting creative human energies. To restore urbanity as a meaningful terrain for sociation, culture, and community, the megalopolis must be ruthlessly dissolved and replace by new decentralized eco-communities, each carefully tailored to the natural eco-system in which it is located.
Murray Bookchin is something of a saint in the anarchist community. His ideas on social ecology and what he termed “libertarian municipalism” and “communalism” have influenced generations of self-declared leftists, and he was frequently cited as an ideological force behind the anti-globalization and Occupy Wall Street movements.
Bookchin became especially influential in Kurdish circles after Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), adopted his ideas to advance a vision of “democratic confederalism,” a vision his followers later attempted to implement in northeast Syria — with the help of the US military.
What is not often mentioned, however, is that — like many of his anarchists and “libertarian socialist” peers — Bookchin was very soft on imperialism, and in some cases downright apologetic.
Specifically, Bookchin was a Zionist who publicly whitewashed and even rationalized Israel’s crimes against humanity. He also frequently demonized independent post-colonial governments in the Global South, echoing imperialist propaganda and chauvinistic myths about countries targeted by the United States for regime change.
It’s always great to go back and revisit this classic essay by Murray Rothbard that I think offers some of the best analysis of modern ideological history yet devised.
In this work, Rothbard is analyzing the origin and meaning of the terms Left and Right, arguing correctly that “true” conservatism is the defense of the ancient regime against the rise of classical liberalism and the Enlightenment intellectual culture that was the foundation of liberalism, with classical liberalism and its descendants representing the “true” Left. I’m frequently asked by bemused right-wing friends why I consider myself to be a leftist, to which my standard reply is, “Because I am not a monarchist, a feudalist, a medievalist, or a theocrat.”
Rothbard’s interpretation of progressivism, socialism, communism, and fascism are also interesting, and, I think, largely correct in the sense that all of these are at least partial repudiations of the liberal tradition in favor of the retention of elements of the Old Order. Progressivism and socialism were only partial repudiations of liberalism, but fused the liberal legacy with scientism to be imposed by means of the public administration state. Communism and fascism were complete repudiations of the liberal tradition, with their thought rooted in Counter-Enlightenment thinkers like Rousseau and Hegel, even if they accepted certain other aspects of modernity such as science, technology, industrialization, secularization, etc.
I generally concur with Rothbard’s line of thinking on this, except I think his critique of classical liberalism didn’t go far enough. In this piece, Rothbard essentially outlines the classical anarchist interpretation of modernity in everything but name, and embraces proprietarian anarchism rather than syndicalism or anarcho-communism as an economic model.
This is the direction I’ve been saying the Left should be moving is for the past 20 years.
By Alexander Kolokotronis
In the era of Trump, we will need to consolidate counter-power via participatory democracy and economic self-management at the local level.
he mass protests across the United States in response to Donald Trump’s presidential election victory constitute a palpable and growing potential for the formation and constructive utilization of various anti-fascist fronts and coalitions. While these might be limited to protest and survival in typical Trump strongholds, the situation is markedly different in urban settings.
In many cities, anti-Trump demonstrations have included far-left groups, immigration-rights advocates, Black Lives Matter activists, reproductive rights supporters and a number of other political actors. Amidst calls for “people power,” these different movements together chanted “not my president!” and vocalized their support for so many other groups that have been marginalized, ridiculed and discriminated against by the president-elect.
People power need not be confined to a chant. The formation of anti-fascist coalitions provides the opportunity to convert these dreams and aspirations into a concrete and transformative program at the municipal level. What role can anti-fascism play in building this alternative?