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Murray Bookchin

Murray Bookchin: Anarchism without the Working Class

By Wayne Price - Anarkismo, December 3, 2015

Although he died in 2006, Murray Bookchin is recently in the news.  Staid bourgeois newspapers report, with apparent shock, that part of the Kurdish revolutionary national movement has been influenced by the ideas of Murray Bookchin, a U.S. anarchist (Enzinna 2015).  However, I am not going to discuss this development here. My topic is not how Bookchin’s political philosophy may apply to the Kurds in Rojava (important as this is), but how it might apply to the U.S.A. and other industrialized and industrializing countries.

Nor will I review the whole range of Bookchin’s life and work (see White 2008).   Bookchin made enormous contributions to anarchism, especially—but not only—his integration of ecology with anarchism.  At the same time, in my opinion, his work was deeply flawed in that he rejected the working class as playing a major role in the transition from capitalism to anti-authoritarian socialism.  Like many other radicals in the period after World War II, he was shaken by the defeats of the world working class during the ‘thirties and ‘forties, and impressed by the prosperity and stability of the Western world after the Second World War. Previously a Communist and then a Trotskyist, he now turned to a version of anarchism which rejected working class revolution.

This was not the historically dominant view held by anarchists.  Bakunin, Kropotkin, Malatesta, Makhno, Goldman, Durrutti,  the anarcho-syndicalists and the anarcho-communists—they believed that  “anarchism is a revolutionary, internationalist, class struggle form of libertarian socialism…. Syndicalism [revolutionary unionism—WP] was a form of mass anarchism…and the great majority of anarchists embraced it.” (Schmidt & van der Walt 2009; 170)  For them, the “broad anarchist tradition” was “‘class struggle’ anarchism, sometimes called revolutionary communist anarchism….” (19)

However, in his 1969 pamphlet, “Listen, Marxist!” (republished in Bookchin 1986; 195—242), Bookchin denounced “the myth of the proletariat.”  He wrote, "We have seen the working class neutralized as the ‘agent of revolutionary change,’ albeit still struggling within a bourgeois framework for more wages [and] shorter hours….The class struggle…has [been]…co-opted into capitalism…. " (202) The last collection of his writings repeats his belief, “…The Second World War…brought to an end to the entire era of revolutionary proletarian socialism…that had emerged in June 1848” (Bookchin 2015; 127). By an “era of revolutionary proletarian socialism,” he did not mean there had been successful workers’ revolutions, but that there had been mass working class movements (Socialist, Communist, and anarchist), with a number of attempted revolutions.

He wrote, “…The worker [is] dominated by the factory hierarchy, by the industrial routine, and by the work ethic….Capitalist production not only renews the social relations of capitalism with each working day…it also renews the psyche, values, and ideology of capitalism” (Bookchin 1986; 203 & 206). (Why these deadening effects of industrial capitalist production did not prevent the existence of a movement for “revolutionary proletarian socialism” for an “entire era” from 1848 to World War II, he did not explain.)

Bookchin did not deny that there still were workers’ struggles for better wages and shorter hours, but he no longer saw this low level class conflict as indicating a potential for a workers’ revolution.  Nor did he deny that workers might become revolutionary, but only, he said, if they stopped thinking of themselves as workers, focused on issues unrelated to their daily work, and regarded themselves as declassed “citizens.”

Socialist Internationals in History

By Richard Greeman - Institute for Social Ecology, October 4, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

This study is based on the premise that any profound social transformation in our era of globalized capitalism would have to take place on a planetary scale. History has shown that revolutionary movements, when geographically isolated, are inevitably either crushed or assimilated into the capitalist world system. This internationalist conclusion first became apparent to working people during the 19th century as capitalism and the Industrial Revolution spread across Europe, and it was first elaborated theoretically by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in their 1848 Manifesto of the Communist League with its ringing conclusion: “Workers of the world, unite!”

SIDEBAR

In point of fact, the French socialist and feminist Flora Tristan (1803-1844), ahead of her time, was the first to call for a “universal union” of workers. Moreover, Tristan’s “union” was truly “universal” because she proclaimed the necessity of uniting “workers of both sexes” – in Working Class Unity (L’Union Ouvrière). It took two years before the International Workingmen’s Association, of which Marx was a founder, began to admit women as members and it was three years before a woman, the feminist Harriet Law, was added to the General Council.

Murray Bookchin: The Bernie Sanders Paradox: When Socialism Grows Old (1986)

By Murray Bookchin - Socialist Review issue 90, November & December 1986

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The posters that appeared all over Burlington — Vermont’s largest city (pop: 37,000) in the winter of 1980-81 were arresting and provocative. They showed an old map of the city with a label slapped across it that read: “For Sale.” A bold slogan across the top, in turn, proclaimed that “Burlington Is Not for Sale,” and smiling amiably in the right-hand corner was the youngish, fairly well-known face of Bernard Sanders, sans tie, open-collared, almost endearingly shy and unpretentious. The onlooker was enjoined to rescue Burlington by voting for “Bernie” Sanders for mayor. Sanders, the long-time gubernatorial candidate of Vermont’s maverick Liberty Union, was now challenging “Gordie” Paquette, an inert Democratic fixture in City Hall, who had successfully fended off equally inert Republican opponents for nearly a decade.

That Sanders won this election on March 3, 1981, by only ten votes is now a Vermont legend that has percolated throughout the country over the past five years. What gives Sanders almost legendary qualities as a mayor and politician is that he proclaims himself to be a socialist — to many admiring acolytes, a Marxist — who is now in the midpoint of a third term after rolling up huge margins in two previous elections. From a ten-vote lead to some fifty-two percent of the electorate, Sanders has ballooned out of Burlington in a flurry of civic tournaments that variously cast him as a working-class hero or a demonic “Bolshevik.” His victories now make the New York Times and his trips outside of Burlington take him to places as far as Managua, where he has visited with Daniel Ortega, and to Monthly Review fundraising banquets, where he rubs shoulders with New York’s radical elite. Sanders has even been invited to the Socialist Scholar’s Conference, an offer he wisely declined. Neither scholarship nor theory is a Sanders forte. If socialist he be, he is of the “bread-and-butter” kind whose preference for “realism” over ideals has earned him notoriety even within his closest co-workers in City Hall.

The criss-crossing lines that deface almost every serious attempt to draw an intelligible sketch of the Sanders administration and its meaning for radicals result from a deep-seated paradox in “bread-and-butter” socialism itself. It trivializes this larger issue to deal with Sanders merely as a personality or to evaluate his achievements in the stark terms of lavish praise or damning blame. A sophomoric tribute to Sanders’ doings in the Monthly Review of a year ago was as maladroit as the thundering letters of denunciation that appear in the Burlington Free Press. Sanders fits neither the heaven-sent roles he is given in radical monthlies nor the demonic ones he acquires in conservative letters to moderate dailies.

To dwell heavily on his well-known paranoia and suspicious reclusiveness beclouds the more important fact that he is a centralist, who is more committed to accumulating power in the mayor’s office than giving it to the people. To spoof him for his unadorned speech and macho manner is to ignore the fact that his notions of a “class analysis” are narrowly productivist and would embarrass a Lenin, not to mention a Marx. To mock his stolid behavior and the surprising conventionality of his values is to conceal his commitment to thirties’ belief in technological progress, businesslike efficiency, and a naive adherence to the benefits of “growth.” The logic of all these ideas is that democratic practice is seen as secondary to a full belly, the earthy proletariat tends to be eulogized over the “effete” intellectuals, and environmental, feminist, and communitarian issues are regarded as “petit-bourgeois” frivolities by comparison with the material needs of “working people.” Whether the two sides of this “balance sheet” need be placed at odds with each other is a problem that neither Sanders nor many radicals of his kind have fully resolved. The tragedy is that Sanders did not live out his life between 1870 and 1940, and the paradox that faces him is: why does a constellation of ideas that seemed so rebellious fifty years ago appear to be so conservative today? This, let me note, is not only Sanders’ problem. It is one that confronts a very sizable part of the left today.

Murray Bookchin and the Kurdish resistance

Joris Leverink - RoarMag.Org, August 9, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The introduction to the new book The Next Revolution: Popular Assemblies and the Promise of Direct Democracy (Verso, 2015), explains how Murray Bookchin – born to Russian Jewish immigrants in New York City in 1921 – was introduced to radical politics at the age of nine when he joined the Young Pioneers, a Communist youth organization. This would be the start of his ‘life on the left’ in which he would turn from Stalinism to Trotskyism in the years running up to World War II before defining himself as an anarchist in the late 1950s and eventually identifying as a ‘communalist’ or ‘libertarian municipalist’ after the introduction of the idea of social ecology.

Even though Bookchin never even attended college – except for a few classes in radio technology right after World War II – he wrote dozens of books and published hundreds of academic articles, besides founding several journals and setting up the Institute for Social Ecology in 1974. Possibly his most important contribution to radical politics was to (re)introduce the concept of ecology to the arena of political thought.

Bookchin opposed the ideas and practices of the emerging environmentalist movements, accusing them of advocating mere “technical fixes” of capitalism, counter-posing it to an ecological approach that seeks to address the root causes of the systemic problem. In his view, capitalism’s fatal flaw lay not in its exploitation of the working class, as Marxists believe, but rather in its conflict with the natural environment which, if allowed to develop unopposed, would inevitably lead to the dehumanization of people and the destruction of nature.

The Next Revolution includes the 1992 essay The Ecological Crisis and the Need to Remake Society. In it, Bookchin argues that “the most fundamental message that social ecology advances is that the very idea of dominating nature stems from the domination of human by human.” For an ecological society to develop, first the inter-human domination must be eradicated. According to Bookchin, “capitalism and its alter-ego, ‘state socialism,’ have brought all the historic problems of domination to a head,” and the market economy, if it is not stopped, will succeed in destroying our natural environment as a result of its “grow or die” ideology.

For years, Bookchin sought to convince anarchist groups in the US that his idea of libertarian municipalism — which, in his own words “seeks to reclaim the public sphere for the exercise of authentic citizenship while breaking away from the bleak cycle of parliamentarism and its mystification of the ‘party’ mechanism as a means for public representation” — was the key to making anarchism politically and socially relevant again.

EcoUnionist News #24

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, January 17, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Stories:

Carbon Bubble:

Green Jobs and Just Transition:

Other News of Interest:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC

Potential, Power and Enduring Problems: Reassembling the Anarchist Critique of Technology

A Response to Rojava: An anarchosyndicalist perspective

By Hüseyin Civan (from DAF) - November 3, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The effects of social revolutions are not limited by the effect of struggle against political and economical powers in the geographical region where the revolution happens. It's important to see their effect on other different regions along with the intellectual and practical changes this effect brings. Being talked about with Kobanê Resistance ,Rojava Revolution gets more important now to see this effect more clearly.

The reaction and attack of the state and capitalism against what's happening in Rojava, is expected at this point. However, we need to turn our face to the internal debates in social opposition at the same time.

It's necessary to emphasize that such debates are an important resort for understanding what the effect of Rojava is. Since the start of this process, anarchist comrades' behaviors towards understanding Rojava and taking up with the resistance has been quite important for remembering the international solidarity, which we aren't familiar to see in such an organized manner. Again we have experienced that solidarity is our greatest weapon.

This manner of solidarity that was created between anarchists inevitably made the resistance in Kobanê a headline especially among anarchists all around the world.

The paper "Rojava: An anarcho-syndicalist point of view" which was published on several different sites is one of the reflections of this headline. This evaluation of the paper especially aims to correct information about Rojava Revolution and Kobanê Resistance, instead of pointing out positive and negative sides of the paper and making a simple criticism.

Considering different comments may form with the different perspectives of anarchist organizations in different geographical regions; I focused the criticism of paper on the matter of incomplete evaluation of Kurdish freedom struggle and Rojava Revolution. Political criticism against a community which is in a life or death struggle under war conditions can't be made ignoring this condition. Even so if said criticism has certain prejudices and was formed with sharp generalization. And of course, if a huge people's movement is evaluated with a degrading manner...

An Anarchist Communist Reply to ‘Rojava: An Anarcho-Syndicalist Perspective’

Anarkismo Editors Group - YouTube, November 1, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Web Editor's Note: The IWW EUC did not repost the article, from the WSA publication Ideas and Action, to which this article responds initially; therefore following article is posted in interest of discussion:

Note from the Original Article: This text is a response to the article Rojava: An Anarcho-Syndicalist Perspective by K. B., recently published on the Ideas and Action website of the North America-based Workers Solidarity Alliance (WSA). In the article, there is an attack on the Rojava revolution in the Middle East, an event in which the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) has played a key role.

This response is not published in bad faith or with ill intentions towards the writer or their organisation but, rather, in order to clarify and share our thinking regards the question of anarchist support both for national liberation movements and what is, for us, a very important and inspiring struggle playing out in the Middle East. The aim is to have a frank, and comradely, debate that takes us all forward.

This text is a response to the article Rojava: An Anarcho-Syndicalist Perspective by K. B., recently published on the Ideas and Action website of the North America-based Workers Solidarity Alliance (WSA). In the article, there is an attack on the Rojava revolution in the Middle East, an event in which the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) has played a key role. This response is not published in bad faith or with ill intentions towards the writer or their organisation but, rather, in order to clarify and share our thinking regards the question of anarchist support both for national liberation movements and what is, for us, a very important and inspiring struggle playing out in the Middle East. The aim is to have a frank, and comradely, debate that takes us all forward.

Why Is The World Ignoring The Revolutionary Kurds in Syria?

By David Graeber - Boston IWW, October 8, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

In 1937, my father volunteered to fight in the International Brigades in defence of the Spanish Republic. A would-be fascist coup had been temporarily halted by a worker’s uprising, spearheaded by anarchists and socialists, and in much of Spain a genuine social revolution ensued, leading to whole cities under directly democratic management, industries under worker control, and the radical empowerment of women.

Spanish revolutionaries hoped to create a vision of a free society that the entire world might follow. Instead, world powers declared a policy of “non-intervention” and maintained a rigorous blockade on the republic, even after Hitler and Mussolini, ostensible signatories, began pouring in troops and weapons to reinforce the fascist side. The result was years of civil war that ended with the suppression of the revolution and some of a bloody century’s bloodiest massacres.

I never thought I would, in my own lifetime, see the same thing happen again. Obviously, no historical event ever really happens twice. There are a thousand differences between what happened in Spain in 1936 and what is happening in Rojava, the three largely Kurdish provinces of northern Syria, today. But some of the similarities are so striking, and so distressing, that I feel it’s incumbent on me, as someone who grew up in a family whose politics were in many ways defined by the Spanish revolution, to say: we cannot let it end the same way again.

Western blind spot: the Kurds' war against Islamic State in Syria

By Derek Wall  - Open Democracy, September 29, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

A victory for the Kurds and their allies in Syria would be a victory for all who seek a future dictated by neither fundamentalists nor imperialists, writes Derek Wall. Is that why NATO members' have taken no effective action to help Syria's Kurds resist Islamic State - even as Kobane is set to fall, and with 160,000 Kurdish refugees trapped at the Turkish border?

The current narrative from Cameron and Obama is simple: the head-chopping Islamic State is a threat to all of humanity, so western forces need to return to the Middle East.

Yet this narrative is far from supported by the empirical evidence. Non-existent weapons of mass destruction and non-existent Islamic fundamentalist jihadists were used to justify the invasion of Iraq in 2003 by George Bush and Tony Blair.

Iraq was transformed from secular totalitarianism to chaos: in turn, chaos and opposition to occupation seeded a jihadist movement.

Western support for opponents of Assad in Syria gave the so-called 'Islamic State' an opportunity to take territory. ISIS was able to seize huge quantities of heavy weaponry supplied by the USA and its allies.

Thus, if US intervention has created or at least massively accelerated the growth of a monster, critics argue that more intervention will no doubt provide the Islamic State with more weapons, more support and more chaos on which to thrive.

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