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(en) Britain, AFED Organise! #81 - Letters -- Dear Organise!

Date Sat, 07 Jun 2014 22:56:58 +0300

I went into Waterstone’s bookshop the other day and there on display-no less! Was John P. Clark’s recent text The Impossible Community: Realising Communitarian Anarchism (Bloomsbury 2013). ---- The book consists of a useful, worthwhile and engaging collection of essays, mostly on substantive philosophical issues relating to anarchism, that is libertarian socialism. But sadly John Clark seems distant to distance himself from his early mentor, and several essays display a marked tendency to denigrate and decry the work of Murray Bookchin. ---- With little real acknowledgement, Clark embraces much of Bookchin’s own legacy, specifically relating to Bookchin’s advocacy of social ecology, dialectical analysis and social anarchism (or communalism). Clark, however, does not merely engage in a scholarly critique of Bookchin’s oeuvre- a perfectly legitimate exercise- but rather never loses an opportunity to discredit, belittle or defame Bookchin as an abstract theorist, and as quite incapable (unlike Clark!) of understanding the profundity of Nietzsche’s(utterly reactionary!) philosophy.

Take, for example, Clark’s discussion
of Bookchin’s well-known critique of
radical individualism: Social Anar-
chism or Lifestyle Anarchism: An
Unbridgeable Chasm (1995). This
discussion can only be described as
a complete fabrication and misrep-
resentation of Bookchin’s anarchism.
For Bookchin in his polemics made
a radical dichotomy between radical
individualism and social anarchism,
not, as Clark quite falsely contends,
between freedom and social solidar-

Social anarchism, as for the libertar-
ian communists Bakunin and Kro-
potkin, entailed a unity of liberty and
equality, liberalism and socialism,
freedom (and self-realisation) and
social solidarity. This was encapsu-
lated by Bookchin in the concept
of social freedom. Bookchin’s social
anarchism, otherwise known as lib-
ertarian socialism or anarchist com-
munism, is thus wilfully distorted by

As anarchy (and anarchism)had, in
the United States at least, come to
be identified with primitivism and
radical individualism-whether that
of the anarcho-capitalists (Murray
Rothbard), Stirnerite individualists
( Jason McQuinn) or Nietzschean
aesthetes and post-ideologists
(Hakim Bey), Bookchin in his last
years renounced the term “anar-
chism” and embraced instead that of
“communalism”- by which he meant,
of course, libertarian socialism, or
anarchism, as understood by genera-
tions of radical anarchists, past and

Clark, however, in contrast, putting
a new label on an old wine bottle- in
typical academic fashion- describes
the anarchism of Kropotkin and Re-
clus as “communitarian anarchism”.
Attempting to maintain his distance
from Bookchin, Clark therefore
makes a rather facile and unwar-
ranted dichotomy between libertar-
ian socialism and communitarian

It is rather a pity that Clark does not
engage with Bookchin in a more
appreciative, scholarly and dialecti-
cal fashion- though in a footnote he
does admit that he was attempting to
re-affirm Bookchin’s “vision”. He has
an odd way of going about it!

Few social anarchists, of course, have
embraced Bookchin’s libertarian
municipalism as a political strategy
–or insurrectionism, for that mat-
ter- but this is no reason for denigrat-
ing his legacy in the manner of this
rather ungracious philosopher, who
like every media celebrity these days,
proclaims his “activism” from the
roof tops!

Brian Morris
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