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(en) Anarchism, Marxism and the Future of the Left, Interviews and Essays 1993-1998, by Murray Bookchin. Thrall #19

From Thrall <thrallnet@yahoo.com>
Date Sun, 8 Jul 2001 12:59:23 -0400 (EDT)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

  Anarchism, Marxism and the Future of
  the Left, Interviews and Essays
  1993-1998, by Murray Bookchin.
  AK Press, Edinburgh and San Francisco,
  Reviewed by Fydd

  All too often class-struggle anarchist literature is out of
  date. The bulk of it was written over 50 years ago.
  Classics like Peter Kropotkin's The Conquest of Bread
  (1892) and Alexander Berkman's What is Communist
  Anarchism? (1928) are good expositions of libertarian
  communism, but often seem quaint and irrelevant to
  the conditions of today. Thankfully, Bookchin's
  Anarchism, Marxism and the Future of the Left may be
  the first leftist anarchist book which presents a
  reasonably coherent and revolutionary anti-capitalist
  vision which is relevant to the here and now for many,
  many years.

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  In an important, well argued and easy to read book,
  Bookchin forcefully notes the obvious: we have seen
  the triumph of capital since the 1980s; this has resulted
  in increasing working hours, decreasing pay packets,
  increasing alienation, mass unemployment and
  poverty, increasing misery, and the brink of an
  ecological crisis. This makes a revolutionary
  anti-capitalist politics all the more relevant and urgent.
  Bookchin notes that only through a libertarian
  communist revolution can we get rid of capitalism and
  the misery it produces. Such a revolution does not
  involve replacing the capitalists with a new set of
  bosses as in the USSR or China. It does involve the
  complete destruction of the class system and the state,
  and its replacement by a decentralised federation of
  ultra-democratic workers' councils and neighbourhood

  Yet in a time when capitalism is encroaching upon
  almost every aspect of life, Bookchin ironically claims
  that the left today has little understanding of capitalism.
  This can be seen in the current "anti-capitalist"
  movement, which often confuses the ideology of the
  free market with capitalism as a whole. To Bookchin,
  who has been involved in revolutionary leftist politics
  since the 1930s, the tradition of revolutionary socialism
  seems lost. The book is somewhat of a
  semi-biography, with Bookchin interviewed about his
  experiences as a radical since the 1930s (in the 1930s
  he was a Stalinist, then a Trotskyist, before moving to
  anarchism in the 1950s). In comparison to the left of
  the 1930s, Bookchin looks with dismay at the current
  left, and notes that many leftists don't even understand
  what capitalism is, how it operates and how to get rid
  of it.

  Bookchin essentially argues we need to rediscover
  socialism, that is, libertarian socialism. Anarchists
  need to also rediscover the socialism in anarchism.
  Many of the basic concepts of the leftist anarchist
  tradition have been lost. For example, many anarchists
  now view anarchism as a form of liberalism rather than
  socialism and completely distrust any talk of class.
  Thus means, as Bookchin notes, anarchism is losing
  its traditional left-wing core, and thus is fast becoming
  an unthreatening version of liberalism with a bourgeois
  emphasis on the freedom of the individual, on personal
  autonomy (a notion that suits capitalists just fine).
  "Anti-statism isn't enough. Many reactionaries and
  even corporate bandits are against state intervention
  too. In my view, unless socialism is an integral part of
  anarchism, then anarchism becomes self-indulgence.
  Anarchists who aren't socialists might as well just call
  themselves individualists." (p. 125). So Bookchin
  claims what is sorely needed is a serious, coherent,
  organised, revolutionary anarchist left which is
  well-versed in anarchist socialist theory.


          The book is not perfect. It's often coloured
          by unnecessary personal grudges,
          especially the article "Whither anarchism?".
          It would have been far more interesting if
          Bookchin were interviewed by (say) a
          critical left-wing revolutionary anarchist
  rather than a sympathetic interviewer. But the major
  weaknesses of Bookchin are his belief in "libertarian
  municipalism" and his vanguardism.

  Bookchin's libertarian municipalism is a fundamental
  misinterpretation of the communal dimension of
  anarchist communism. Anarchist communists claim
  that the new society would be composed of a
  "commune of communes". This doesn't mean
  middle-class hippies experiencing temporary
  adventures in poverty, but a network of self-governing
  communities. Local neighbourhoods and their services
  would be run by democratically elected neighbourhood
  councils (whilst workplaces would be run by the
  workers themselves through workers' councils). These
  councils would have open meetings which anybody
  could attend, regular elections which would elect
  temporary delegates who could be recalled at any
  instant. These neighbourhood councils have, along
  with workers' councils, been a feature of all working
  class revolutions over the last century.

  Bookchin has twisted this revolutionary approach by
  forming a reformist, leftist party with a green tinge for
  local body elections. His libertarian municipalism is not
  anarchist because it involves people surrendering
  control over their lives to a bunch of representatives,
  rather trying to establish direct democracy. Bookchin is
  not consistent in his opposition to the state: local
  government is part of the state. If Bookchin's leftist
  green party got into power at local government level,
  no matter how well intentioned, it would sell-out its
  supporters just as the German Greens have. Why
  doesn't Bookchin apply his criticisms of the dismal
  failure of national Green Parties around the world to
  establish "non-party parties" to his own local body
  Green Party?


  Bookchin also claims we need an organised vanguard
  to lead a revolution. This is a very touchy issue.
  Bookchin claims such an organisation, if it avoids the
  Leninist centralised model of leadership and retains its
  internal democracy, will not develop into an
  institutionalised minority in power after the revolution.
  This argument is unconvincing. Any leadership,
  anarchist included, is in a position of power, and power
  corrupts, as we saw with the leadership of the FAI and
  CNT in revolutionary Spain in 1936. Whilst a revolution
  does need a balance between spontaneity and
  organisation, instinct and reason, it doesn't need a
  vanguard imposing its vision from above on the

  Despite its support for vanguardism and a reformist
  local body party, Anarchism, Marxism and the Future
  of the Left is important because it points out the
  obvious: that what is relevant now is leftist anarchism.
  And it's about time someone pointed this out. The book
  is well worth reading by anyone interested in the future
  of the left and leftist anarchism.

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