An interview with Murray Bookchin (Burlington 20-7-1994)

-Despite the increasing disillusion that people in western countries have with professional politicians, we see that to a large extent instead of seeking to create a new liberatory project they turn to charismatic but demagogic “leaders” such as Berlusconi in Italy. Lepen in France, Zirinofski in Russia and Pero in the U.S.A..What do you think stops them from seeking solutions towards an authenticly democratic society?

M.B.: There are many reasons why they turn quite frequently to the right than to other movements. The first reason is that these other movements have not come into existance yet and formulated a coherent and well-organized political approach. The socialists, the social democrats, the communists and the anarchists – at least the anarcists that I am familiar with in the U.S., in Great Britain and to a certain extent in a number of countries in Europe – hane not formulated a politics. They don’t have one;none of them.The social democrats or the democratic party of the Left say in the case of Italy, while it tries to appear as a clean movement in contrast of the dirty christian-de- mocrats who everyone kicked out from office for many crimes, is still regarded by many people as the same old stalinist party that virtually did nothing or did very little for the italian people; workers, peasents, middle-class and the like. They still have the old state and parliamentary programmes that they believed in, that they advanced before they changed their names.So many people see this merely as a change of name.Signifintly the anarchists, at least people who call themselves anarchists -say in the case of Italy but one can also speak of England and one can of the U.S.-have in most cases, not in all, but in most cases, drifted to a personalistic politics. The best evidence of this is that one of the better sellers of the Black Rose Books right now, I am told, is a book called “The Politics of the Individualism”. If you read this book, there is no idea of collectivism or socialism, whatever.I am not talking of authoritarian socialism and I am not talking of a totaletarian collectivism. The writer of this book who speaks in my opinion, at least theoretically for a very fundamental tendency in the anarchist Scene – I can’t call it a movement, it’s a scene at best – advocates a politics of individual action, of individual self-expression. Whether she and her name is L.Susan Brown calls herself an anarchocommunist or not the basic thrust of this book is that the individual is the center piece, in fact the individual is the alpha and omega of everything that is called anarchism. This is very close to Max Stirner’s point of view.And there are formulations that she advances that could almost represent Margaret Thatcher when she says “there is not such thing as society there are only individuals”. The social democrats are totaly discredited operating within the system and in fact benefiting from the system. For them politics involves their getting into state power and with that all the rewards that state power has to offer:power influence, graft, you name it;and prestige of course.

So, understandingbly people are looking for a way out. And when something new new arises that has the resourses and can mobilize enough public attention to advance a coherent alternative to this repulsive party system, that exists -I use Italy as a striking example but it applies all over the U.S.. North America in fact and much of Europe.People are confronted with this repulsive system built on privilege, graft, corruption and everything you can think of.Look almost anywhere; in anger, if nothing else; almost an unthinking anger.Now Berlusconi working with organiza- tions that at least – and I have no agreement with these organizations quite obviously but working with organizations like the Nothern League, which talks of grassroots democracy and municipal control by the way among other things dispite the fact that Bossi, the leader of the Northern League, went into the government, he still talks of local democracy and local control, incidently a programme that should be advanced by anarchists, who are turning more and more into individualists accordingly he attracts a great deal of attention. Of course he explicits a great deal of racism, which he denies he is doing right now but he does it. The racism is not so much ethnic as it is really social-economic. The north of Italy is very different from the center and especially from the south of Italy.I ‘ve even heard anarchists comrades call the southern companions “africans”. This is within the anarchist movement itself. So, here comes a man with a great deal of money, with a lot of resourses, with a great deal of economic support, partly his own, partly that of the ruling classes, and in a coalition with fairly well-organized groups, particularly neo-fascist groups and the Northern League and obviously he, at least in the coming period, is going to be the man who they ‘ll vote for.Nobody else is making a presence felt in Italy today.No movement is appearing that is advancing a new politics or is even formulating a new politics. That is one of the main reasons.

The other reason quite obviously is that Berlusconi, Bossi and the others in the fascist movement have tremendous resourses at their disposal. They have radio, TV, movies;I mean Berlusconi alone seems to be a working media giant of unparalleled proportions. He seems to own half the TV stations and he has resourses and ways and means of reaching the public. That’s one aspect of the situation. Another aspect that I don’t think can be denied is that we are beginning to see more and more of what capitalism is doing to the psyche, to the individual and to collectivities. It is breaking down many traditions, it’s underminning the basis for a political culture and replacing it with a supermarket culture and so you don’t engage in politics. You go into a supermarket called capitalism where you shop to what is the most widly advertised, most presentable and presumably the most attractive product.

These two factors, these two sides of the picture, that there are movements that do come forward that present a coherent approach as an alternative to a more traditional one, even though they are not really very coherent and not very much of an alternative, on the one side, and the fact that a political culture is not being created from the ground up, so the people tend to engage in consumerism, political consumerism are at the present time responsible for the tendency of the right to take over, or large bourgeois parties to take over under new names.

And finally there is a very great misunderanding of what the collapse of the Left means. That’s my third reason. The collapse of the Iron Curtain, which I would welcome as an opportunity for producing an emancipatory type of socialism- whether with the black flag.or the red flag or the pink flag or the green flag,I coudn’t care which, but at least a left alternative,- has somehow been viewed as the collapse of the Left as such. And this is due to great deal to the demoralisation of the Left.The new Left turned out to be a renegade. It has sold out.Most of its outstanding figures have either gone into bourgeois politics, have become millionaires, have become professionals or worse have become academics and are curently under the name of postmodernism and other such ideas polluting the mind of students.So, there is no no nucleus that one could have inherited from the past around which to build. There is no continuity between the issues that capitalism has raised from the beginning of its history through its development to the 20th century.There is no debate going on around that.The new Left, for which I had such great hopes, at least as a potentiality, has turned out to be one of the most obfuscating and misleading at least the figures who made up the new Left have turned out to be the most obfuscating and misleading element right now.Today to go into a college is not to get educated but to get miseducated – I can say that at least for the U.S..You learn nothing. What you do is, especially when you go to graduate school, you get into the hands of many of these ex-, dissolutioned, played out, middle-aged baby boomer new leftists or basically academic yuppies and what you get is postmodernist theory: with its moral relativism, with its idea that the text has an autonomy of its own, with its idea that language is mo more creative than anything else, with its idea that social relationships are a matter of no real concern – it’s what you say, or how you verbalize and on top of that the idea also of the dissolusion, dissipation of a bunch of middle-aged baby boomers, middle-aged now who are tired and worn out and are basically using the most specious theories to advance their careers. Theories that are based on idialism, not on idialism in an ethical sense but in a purely subjective sense. What you do is you get psychotherapy. That’s what you get today for an education and the graduate schools of the U.S. and to some extent in the english-speaking world.

Those are very deadly combination of factors and they have to be demolished one by one by one.All three of those factors have to be dealt with, trully confronted.

-And how should and could a social ecological movement to address that paradox?

M.B.: First of all we have to create a social ecological movement.We don’t have one. We have the idea of a movement.The first step in creating a social ecological movement is to crete social ecologists. To create social ecologists who will not do what the old new-left did; give up very quickly. Who will not reach mid-life crisis, like so many of the people I met from the new Left, who when they reached forty they said “oh my god”. Danny Cohn Bendit is one of the most disguasting examples of this phenomenon but I can think of others like Cornelious Castoriadis, who now writes almost entirly for the academic journals and I can think of still others. They get old old meaning forty or thirty-five or thirty-eight or forty-one, forty-two- and they say “what I am gonna do with my life ?”.Do you know what are gonna do with their life?They are gonna get old and they are gonna die.But they ask that question, they worry, they are big worriers. So, the first thing we have to do is to create a solid core of social ecologists who will
not so this sort of thing.

Secondly, we have to clearly formulate and educate ourselves in the theory of social ecology.And social ecology is very far-reaching.It is not simply gardening: that you can get elsewhere.I assure you Cornell University, which opposed to organic gardening years ago, will give you now endless courses in organic gardening because it’s very fashionable.It’s not only a question of building- with all due respect, another neighbrouhood little group that will servise the neighbourhood whether with medical, food, legal and various resourses. The bourgeoisie would love you to do that. You would save them a lot of money. That’s no challenge to the system. What it mainly does is ingratiate you with the people.I ‘ve been involved in all of these activities over my life; I must tell you that; trade union organizing and when I left the factory nothing happened. I didn’t win a socialist one single worker over to socialism when I was a and engaged in trade union activity. Then after that I got involved in the civil rights movement as well as in anti -nuclear movement and in movement after movement after movement.In the civil rights movement I was involved directly in neighbourhood activity.And I am only using myself as an example because I’ve had this experience from beginning to end. We held rent strikes, we squattred, we did everything. You know this was done in the 1963-64. This is not new.It was also done a generation ago and it was done three generations ago. Where very high minded and often radical people go out into the neigh- bourhood and work in a very humanetarian way, I can’t do anything but commend them from a psychological standpoint, they do nothing more than improve the condition. And the result is that the bourgeoisie either will take it over, they will give them money, buy them or even if they prevent their activities, they bourgeoisie will get around picking them up again in the name of the New Deal, in the name of the New Frontier in the name of Square Deal you know we have a whole bunch of deals in the U.S..And in the name of “new democrats” like Bill Clinton. Unless that type of activity leads to the education of ordinary people, then all you ‘re doing is functioning as servants of the social order, whether you like it or not whether you mean it or not. You improve things whithin the existing irrationality. You make the existing irrationality seem rational.

So, what is very important?What is the most important thing one can do right now?First of all one must build a very good core of social ecologists. And that means understanding not simply the value of organic gardening and the value of alternative institutions like food, whatever you like, medical clinics.It also involves very profoundly the question of educating those people who are ready to be educated into the ideas of social ecology.First of all to think in a certain way. Secondly, to understand and pick up the continuity of the capitalist development and follow it and understand what capitalism is and what its laws of development are. Thirdly, to understand how to make a critique.Fourthly, how to work together as social ecologists.Fifthly, how to explore their culture and provide alternatives. And finally, to really get out into the public sphere. Now, the only area I know out in the public sphere is the municipality.And many of these things that I ‘ve described up to the public sphere may be done by a study group, may be done by a school. But getting out into the public sphere seems to be the one paralysis I continually encounter.Possible because of an anarchist tradition that says “you don’t engage in politics” although that is a very wrong tradition. Not because it’s anarchist; because the old anarchists didn’t even say that.It’s what the new anarchists say today who try to take ideas and turn them into a dogma, so that they feel safe and secure.

-Given that the capitalist market is an arena in which competing economic and by extension social and political interests clash how could we create a genuine public sphere whish promotes the universal interest?

M.B. Say that whether in Montevideo or in Burlington or in Montreal or in Paris or in Milan, in Athens, in all of these cities, you have give or take fifty or sixty really knowledgeable people, who know what social ecology is.They understand its philosophy, its idea of dialectic.If you don’t think that way, forget it; you are going to be working the way you solve a geometric equation and that’s very mechanical. If you don’t understand or have a good background in traditions of radicalism and history, then you ‘ll never learn from the past. You’ll always live in an eternal present and mistakes will be made over and over and over again that were dealt with in the past and resolved in the past theoretically and practically. And additionally if you don’t develope a new sensebility and a new organization then you ‘re not going to be effective. The great advantage that Berluskoni or the Northern League or the fascists have is that they know how to organize. The point is we don’t want to organize the way they organize, but we still have to organize.Now, we have to cross the magic line and run for local office. And we don’t do that by simply running as a candidate in a city council but we must run as candidates and city counsillors. We are calling for democracy.We ‘re calling for a wider participation. We ‘re calling for the empowerment of people. Those are universal questions.We ‘re not only calling for better living conditions, which may primarily be of concern of the poor people.I grant you that that would involve, depending the country you are talking about, ten, fifteen, twenty percent of the population who are desperately poor and need help. And by the way they are often not those that are most likely to leap to generalizations. You have to be relatively comfortable, relatively, in order to act as a public agent today. Otherwise people who are not relatively comfortable spend their time trying to survive. Day to day, I know. What you have to appeal to primarily is a very large section of the population that is ensecure materially but it has not been completly devastated economically – not the homeless, I believe in helping the homeless but what you are basically doing is helping them.I am not talking about people who incapable because of desperation of forming generalizations. But there is a very large and growing population of people who while they feel they are losing their status and position economically in the present society, are still interested in, if they have the opportunity, acting upon their own fate.And that does not mean just getting a better job.They are also thinking what their children are going to be confronted with.Remember we are all people who or most of whom are going to have children or are concern with young people. They wonder about what their elders are going to be faced with or what they are going to feel in old age. You know people are asking questions like that no matter what class they come from unless they are very wealthy.People are asking such questions now.”What’s going to become of me when I get old? This is becoming the biggest psychosis of the baby boomers now who are reaching forty, fifty years of age.”What am I going to do with my life after this?I ‘d better invest in stocks and bonds”. That has led in the U.S. to an enormous growth of mutual funds.People invest money in mutual funds, so that they hope that they will get something back when they reach sixty or sixty-five.Mny people have been dropped from jobs because of the changing nature of the technology and industry because they are fifty years of age and that’s regarded as too old. There is a lot of talk about retraining them. So, people generally in vast numbers feel economically insecure. Not to speak of young people who feel they have no place for the future at all; that life will end for them at the age of thirty or thirty-five.At least we find this in the U.S.,in american cities.

So, what’s growing up more and more today is not so much the idea of strong trade unions that already has virtually disappeared from the U.S.; what is growing up today is no longer a specific class interest except for the ruling classes themselves. They have a specific class interest. What is growing up today is, one,” what kind of society are we going to have in the future such that I will be secure, such that I can predict how I will live both in a healthy way and in a comfortable way”.And secondly,” what about my children?” And young people are thinking about that as well. And thirdly, you have massive ecological dislocations which effect everybody.At the present time we are coming into “a conflict with nature”. And I put this in quotes because I think the word nature has to explained. It’s not a simple thing like looking out of the window what a beautiful mountain or something like climbing or hiking. That’s the current ecology image of nature; redwood forest, who knows what, wolves. That’s what they are out for.That’s what they are out to protect. And people are. genually concerned about the ozone layer and now getting ultraviolet indices with the weather report,anything more than five is dangers. those dangers. And you should cover up. And we never had that ten years, fifteen years, twenty years ago.And I was involved in ecology for some forty-add years. Who ever heard of the diminution of the ozone layer leading to figures that tell us whether it is safe to stay in the sun.It was regarded as the most normal thing in the world, to stay in the sun and look healthy.But what I am talking about applies to a vast range of ecological problems that are now global in nature, as well as local problems. In Russia today, particularly in Ukraine, almost all the nuclear reactors are known to be potential Chernobyls.Crakcs have been found in nuclear reactors all over the world, which was incidently quite predictable when we were fighting the construction of nuclear power stations in the 1950s.And you know that programme really got started in the 1950s.The oil tankers are destroying and one must not forget there was a big fight about this large areas, costal areas of the world. There are oil problems, petroleum spillage problems every day. You don’t hear about them. What you only hear about are the catastrophic ones. The changing in climate right now is producing panic. In whole parts, at least of the U.S. where there is flooding in the south, drought in the west. There are planetary dislocations that are taking place that are utterly inexplicable without having reference to climatic changes produced by the growing greenhouse effect.So, general interests are coming together here. The question is whether or not a movement knows how to use those general interests and one of the best things that many people are afraid of is that they are going to lose their freedom to act on these general interests which brings us to the idea of a participatory democracy. People are potentially more vulnerable to demands for a participatory democracy than they have ever been in any time that I recall, including the 1960s when it was mainly an elite group. The Northern League in Italy grew up not simply on the basis of what is called “racism”. They deny they are racists now. They grew up primarily on the basis of ideas that would be much more similar to those of Proudon and Kropotkin, namely the local democracy and the right to secede from Italy.And they worked their way from the bottom up. The same thing is happening with the new Right today in the U.S..They work on the basis of local institutions .They take over school boards, they take over city councils.Take over every district, kind of sanitary district or pollution district, that they can and, using the power from the base, they really have a strategy of controlling the overall direction of the country.Everybody I know of on the Right is doing it.But I know nobody of the Left without exception except for a few people, who we are in contact with who are doing things of this sort.

So, a general interest does exist. It’s a constellation of interests. The society is insecure.I am not talking of the poorest. They already are down on the buttom. I am talking of people in the middle, who are by the way a majority of most industrialized countries of the world today.All feel insecure. They don’t know what their future is.And even though they are making a good deal of money they expect to lose in the end.The bourgeoisie is destroying all the safety nets (like social security and the welfare state) that emerged in the so called pre-liberal consensus, social democratic consensus. Do you know that if you are seventy years of age you cannot enter a hospital in Sweeden anymo- re?Do you know that if you are sixty-five years of age you cannot enter a hospital in England, unless you are not in the national health system?They are now rationing health, they are telling you have to die.Do you think that people feel incecure?Of course.Do you believe that they are worried about not only their own material security but also the ecological dangers that are now coming in together in a tremendous constellation of hazards, global hazards?Of course they feel insecure. And finally do you think that they are not worried about losing their democratic liberties, which have been taken away from them by bureaucracies, coorporate bureaucracies? Yes. So, I would say that if you bring this picture together we are talking about a programme of issues which can reach millions of people if there is an organized movement and there is an attempt to really engage in politics as I define it as distinguished from statecraft on the one side and distinguished from mere socialising on the other which unfortunately far too many libertarians seemed to be focused on.

Who do you think was proven right in the debate that Bakunin started with Marx a hundred and fifty years ago?

M.B.: Who was right whether Bakunin or Marx?They were both proven equally right and equally wrong, I am sorry to tell you.I still have to fall back on Marx’s Capital to understand the dynamics of capitalist growth.Bakunin gave no theory of that.In fact, Bakunin left it up to Marx to do it.I still respect many insights into capitalism, historical and otherwise, that Marx gave me and his attempt to develop a mode of reasoning, this mainly left to Frederic Engels, that I would call dialectic, although I do not accept dialectical materialism of Marx anymore than I accept dialectical idealism of Hegel.But at least that mode of thought.On the other hand Bakunin was very correct in stressing confederation rather than the nation-state on which Marx primarily leant.Bakunin was correct in calling for communal liberty which many anarchists would like to forget he did. He actually suggested that anarchists should run for city councils, and this was not when he was a young man; this was only a year or two before he died. And that is there on paper which many self-styled anarchists, even people who profess to be bakunianists, have written out of his writings.I know one case in fact in Italy where that was literally taken out of the writings. In other words Bakunin was purged by bakunianists.Both he and Proudon were right in stressing the need for development from below, namely from the communal level, through a confederal and what I would call a communalist, meaning community oriented basis.

On the other hand, both of them were wrong in certain respects. And who can blame them?They lived a hundred fifty years ago. They were not entirely correct in understanding the trajectory of capitalism; that capitalism would become as world wide and penetrate every aspect of the society although both Marx and Bakunin were afraid of that. They were. They explicitly stated it. And I don’t have reference in my memory.My mind is not a card file so I can’t tell you where but they explicitly stated that they were concern about the enbourgeoisesment of the proletariat.Bakunin in fact stressed that. And Marx was concerned that people would accept capitalism as a normal social order given by nature. You know,”that’s the way we are meant to live”. Without any historical sense whatever.I would say that both did not understand the importance of ecology and what it meant to stress the “domination of nature”.We cannot dominate nature anymore you can dominate the chair you are sitting on. It’s meaningless. You are talking about controlling animals or certain natural forces, that’s one thing.But the word “domination”, which is a social term, is misplaced here. They were not aware of what it means to simplify the natural world as capitalism is doing by turning the organic into the inorganic, turning wood into lumber.They were not aware of the consequences of certain forms of organisation.Bakunin by the way was a centralist inspite of all the talk about him. He believed in the in the secret brotherhood.Marx even less of a centralist but still a centralist.

So, we have to go beyond that.We have to develop a naturalistic dialectic which is neither idealistic nor materialistic. Hegel or Marx.We have to realize that capitalism is now permeating the whole society.We have to think of technology in new ways.Both Bakunin and Marx welcomed any kind of technological advance practically. Admittidly Bakunin was more worried about a scientific elite which I don’t believe exist today. There is a capitalist elite but it’s not scientific. They just know how to use science. And all of them were wrong when they thought of the proletariat as being in one way or another a hegemonic class. Bakunin would include the peasantry and would include the lumpen proletariat, that is the’riff-raff” of the society, as they were called. I believe Bakunin was dead wrong about that. The lumpen proletariat is vicious and moves toward fascism.It does not move towards any radicalism that we would agree with.But still Bakunin was oriented toward the workers and peasents and Marx was oriented toward the proletariat and both of them believed that there would be an inexorable class war, which has not transpired and on the terms that they believed that occur, namely that capitalism would in one degree or another self-destruct.Capitalism is not self-destructing.Up to now it’s been the the most stable social order history has seen since the Middle Ages. And if anything, it is spreading and spreading and spreading like cancer. There is not one area in the world any longer that’s impervious to capitalist relationships and capitalist economics which is largely wha capitalist relationships consist of.

So, I believe that the fight between Bakunin and Marx has no meaning anymore we can learn from both of them but we have to go beyond both of them. If we don’t go beyond both of them and stay with Bakunin and go back to 1860 and 1870 then we will become a cult like the anabaptists or the jacobins or the bonapartists.I mean that’s ridiculous.Anarchism today in fact, if you are to mention Bakunin and Marx, the kind of anarchism that I am seeing in the U.S. is more and more not becoming Bakunin or Marx; it’s becoming Max Stirner.”The ego and its own”. “Anarchy desire armed” or “Fifth Estate”, which is against reason, rationality.Against organization. Or the kind of drivel that appears in this book here.”The politics of individualism”; the crassest form of individualism in which there is a denial of society as such,only individuals which is, as I said what Margaret Thatcher said.

What’s the importance of anarchism in your thought?

M.B.: Well, I am an eco-anarchist.I don’t believe that the word anarchism has any meaning unless you put a word in front of it. an adjective to describe the anarchism you are talking about.Remember there are people who are stirnerists and draw their tradition from either Locke or from John Stuart Mill.I have nothing in common with these people. The fact that they call themselves anarchists has about as much meaning to me as the fact that Bill Clinton calls himself a new democrat.He is a new republican. It doesn’t mean anything to me to use the word anarchism without a word in front of it.Am I collectivist? Am I a communist? Am I a syndicalist? Because all of these different tendencies in anarchism are in marked and bitter conflict with each other. There are as much in conflict with each other in many respects as the traditional distinction between anarchism and marxian socialism.Kropotkin defined anarchism as a form of socialism. When people who call themselves anarchists come out and say they are against any form of collectivism, what have I got in common with them if they call themselves anarchists? What have I got to do with them?I find them to be obfuscatory.They are creating more confusion. When people who call themselves anarchists go around and say that direct action is throwing a brick and that’s it.No organization. When anarchists are against organization then I tell that such people either belong in an asylum or should join the petty-bourgeoisie which is what that ideology may appeal to in its classical era. You know, I go out and take care of myself or I go out and take care of my friends. That’s Berlusconi. That is not anarchism to me.I have more in common with a socialist who is a democrat than I have with a stirnerist, who calls himself or herself an anarchist.So, the word anarchism must always be modified by an adjective.Are you an anarcho-communist?Are you a social anarchist?Are you a syndicalist anarchist?Are you a stirnerist or individualist anarchist?And remember that between an individualist anarchist and any form of collectivist there is a chasm that is unbridgeable. And between the syndicalists and the communists there are enormous differences that have been already resolved by history, mainly the ineffectuality of the working class to be hegemonic stratum in the existing society and achieving the revolution.

So, I am a communist anarchist or I am a libertarian communist.And people must know that this was a major dispute within the spanish anarchists. The question of what to call oneself was a major dispute in the latter part of the last century among the spanish anarchists. They were not sure whether they wanted to call themselves anarchists or to call themselves libertarian communists. The most common cry in the CNT was “viva communismo libertario”.It was not “viva l’ anarchia”. They only cried “viva l’anarchia” basically on two occasions. When you are gonna get shot, so you cry “viva l’ anarchia” and then you got shot.Or when you went to a funeral, in which everybody cried “viva l’ anarchia”. But when you went among the people you cried “viva communismo libertario” most of the time. That was the magor cry that the spanish anarchists used and that was the name they wanted to take in preference to the word anarchism. The reason why is because anarchism is even more muddied up than socialism.At least in socialism they believe in some form of collective life. There are far too many anarchists who are anti-collectivists, like L.Susan Brown, Max Stirner, possibly William Godwin although more vageuly so.And I see this in everyday life in terms of the life-styles that many people who call themselves anarchists follow. They are purely individualists like Jerry Rubin;’Do your thing?”. Well I don’t give a damn about their thing. think.I am interested in changing the society, not letting them just simply find self-expression.And they are not changing the society by finding self-expression. And I must add to this a very important point:art will not change the society.It’s a great thing, it’s fine, it’s beautiful, it’s heroic, it’s wonderful. But it can be used by a Hitler or it can be used by a Bakunin.Hitler used great art. Not that I liked it but the Nuremberg rallies?Tremendous festivals.Imagination soared in the Nazi movement. They had banners, they kissed blood flags. They went from flag to flag and they all stood there and cried “Sieg heil”. And they talked in ecological terms sometimes about the earth and the volk and the race. All biological facts tht some ecologists play around with. And many anarchists that I am running into today are deep ecologists. They are. They are much more concerned with saving the forest – and I believe that is a laurdable concern, but they are much more concerned with saving the forest than doing anything on the social scene. They are much more concerned with stopping the vivisection of animals by the way the majotity of animal rights activists in England today who are going crazy right now are anarchists-than they are with doing something about the slums in the towns and the new town movement, the new municipal politics that are developing in England, to which they are for the most part oblivious.

So, I therefore have taken the opportunity starting with your question about Marx and Bakunin to cover the whole range of my concerns.I am an anarchist communist, but I am not an anarcho-individualist which to me is a total petit- bourgeois. And from my point of view is a political foe.Someone I would oppose as much as I would oppose any liberal or right-winger.

In the old Left the revolutionary subject was the proletariat and a new society would be organized around the workplace. What do you see as the revolutionary subject today and where would the decision-making of the new society lie?

M.B.: It’s exactly the idea that I don’t see a revolutionary subject that I think that a classless society becomes possible. The contradiction within the old Left was that they wanted to use class antagonisms and I believe that class antagonisms do exist but they wanted to use that as the primary way to create a classless society. They lost track of the contradiction that lies in using a means that is the very opposite of achieving a certain end, namely class differences. Now, this is not to say- and let me stress this- that I do believe that we live in a classless society. On the contrary, we do. We live in a completly class society.We live in economically exploitative society.But the definitions of classes outside bourgeoisie itself are becoming vague.Not only in fact but more significally in the consciousness of people.Americans today call themselves middle-class no matter where they are, unless they happen to be people who live in a ghetto who are obviously oppressed and at that particular point they identify themselves more by their racial identity than they do by any class identity.Other than that, there seem to be only two classes at least in the consciousness of american society, although I believe that is a myth. Yet it’s a very effective myth. The proletariat sees itself as middle class. The shopkeepers see themselves as middle class.Professionals see themselves as middle class .And the only question is whether they are middle class, ghetto dwellers, lumpens, imigrants, chicano or displaced blacks or Asians.And that’s the only issue that they face.

So, what we are witnessing today, due to the very changes that are going on in the technology itself and in the factory system, is that the proletariat thinks of itself less and less as a class of labour and more and more as a class of the middle class.So, first of all the subject that Marx and to a great extent many anarcho-communists and syndicalists especially the syndicalists – viewed as their main vehicle for transforming society is now be– ginning to contract to insignificance. Both in terms of numbers and much more imortantly in terms of its consciousness. The class consciousness I saw fifty, sixty years ago, has largely disappeared in highly industrialised countries. There are always exceptions.But it’s disappearing, and with each generation more and more of what is left disappears. The subject now is oppressed humanity. That is the historical subject.And it’s a meaningless thing to call it a subject.For once we are creating a kind of transclass form of social phenomenon that calls for a radical new politics.I mean if feminesm has any potentia- lity for challenging hierarchy, it is as a transclass phenomenon. All women being oppressed.If ecologism has any possibility of becoming a transclass phenomenon, it’s that everybody is being poisoned or ruined on this planet. If community and democracy have any value as transclass phenomena,it is because people feel disempowered.

So, we are witnessing today transclass phenomena emerging that cut across what is left of the traditional class consciousness that existed among different strata. When workers really knew that they were workers and hated the bosses. When the bosses knew that they were really bosses and hated the workers and tried to exploit them.And the middle class was afraid to sink into the working class. These notions now are giving way to the idea of an oppressed humanity, in which people can develop shared identities partly on the basis of the fact that they are oppressed as women, partly on the basis of the fact that they are oppressed in one way or another as human beings from different ethnic groups. This does not mean that I advocate a strong ethnic politics. This is a reason for people to get together, not to seperate from one identity into another identity.And this is a very compelling reason why people can form a transclass political culture based on ecological problems and democracy. When I encounter anarchists who tell me that democracy is the rule of the minority by the majority and therefore they are not democrats, they don’t believe in democracy, then I say they don’t believe in society as such and I don’t want to bother talking to them. They are free to attack me all they want.I am not interested in what they think, if I can’t change their view.And I am running into people like that. L.Susan Brown goes on and say that democracy is not anarchism. It’s the rule of the minority by the majority.In which case she doesn’t believe in any insti- tutions, in which case she doesn’t believe in any organization, in which case, to use her own words, society is made up of a collection of individuals.

In your writings you often make reference to the athenean polis and the athenean model of democracy.How you think such a model could be applied in contemporary society and particularly in very large urban centres?

M.B.: Let me stress that the athenean polis is not a model I wouldn’t want to go back to the athenean polis.I do not regard the athenean polis, based on slavery- not based on slavery but dependent upon slavory- dependent upon patriarchy, dependent upon a, however free, warrior society and however rational it may have been, I would not regard this as a model. What I regard as remarkable about the athenean polis is that, in spite of the fact that it accepted slavery,in spite of the fact that was patriarchical, in spite of the fact that was engaged in continuing warfare and empire building – remember that the second athenean League was nothing to admire, that Pericles more or less (I think I am right about my facts, I am not sure) put together is nothing to admire, bringing the treasury over to Athens, that’s no model, it must be very clear that the athenean so called democracy was not a model – but was remarkable is that everyone in the Medi- terrenean basin had the same features, patriarchy, slavery, in one form or another, and imperialism. That existed in Athens. However, Athens produced something new, a bubble. A bubble coming out of the soup, of what could be called the grim civilization around the Mediterrenean basin.And this bubble was the ecclesia, however you pronounce it.And the agora. And the idea that while a minority, a substantial minority, made decisions, they made decisions according to two basic ideals – whether they lived up to these ideals or not is not the point; that they even formulated them is something so unique in the history of humanity, certainly up to that time, that we have not even in later ages quite approximated it.-And that was the basic idea of reason guiding the discussion and discussion being directly face to face. In other words, in so far as a certain section of the population, males, and a considerable part of the population although, not the majority, constituted themselves into a body politic and their politics really counts cause that’s what I mean by politics.I don’t mean statecraft and I don’t mean merely social the way you earn your living, who your friends are, who you sleep with; I don’t care about that, what you do at home.-I am talking of the genuine body politic and the culture based on rationality, discourse, discussion. Not on violence but on discussion. To the extent that they tried to approximate that they inrtoduced not a model but they provided evidence that humanity could achieve such institutions. That’s the point. They showed that human nature does not work against the ecclesia as a life form of a political organization. It does not work against rationality as a mode of arriving at decisions. That is very important.

Just as I go back to Wintu Indians in my book (The Ecology of Freedom).Not to demonstrate the the beauty and wonder of tribal life.I wouldn’t want to go back to tribal life with its superstition and its magic. And let me tell you this quite frankly which everyone wants to ignore; human sacrifice and the rest. There was a great deal of that. And warfare as well as parochialism. But still when I point to certain features of tribal life, it is because we are discussing human nature. I find that within and only within a given tribal community so- called primal or primitive community, use whatever word, people didn’t exchange things but distributed them. That they went by a as free principal of usufruct -namely who ever needed something was to use it even if somebody else had made it. That they went by an unspoken irreducible minimum for everyone. It was assumed that everyone should have the means of life. These are marvellous features but that doesn’t mean that I want to go back to tribalism. That doesn’t mean that I want to join with certain primal peoples who cut the guts of somebody and spring ritual and sacrificies, who go to war and kill the great majority of an opposing tribe. That doesn’t mean that I want to live in a spirit world based upon dreams more than anything else and in which ghosts and ancestors fleed in and out and govern my life. That doesn’t mean that I believe in their religious practices, however naturalistic they seem, namely sympathetic magic, painting deer and bison on the wall of caves, for example.In the first place it is ridiculous to call it naturalistic. They had nothing but nature around them. How could they be unaturalistic?They didn’t have anything around them but forests, wild life. Their whole conceptual world and imagery was based on skins that they removed from animals that they killed, meat that they ate, herds that they followed, forests that they saw. There were no temples sticking up out of the wilderness to give them a sense of contrast.If you were raised in nothing but a city, then you would have nothing but an urban culture, wouldn’t you?You need the contrast in order to make Nature emerge with a capital N as a concept.It doesn’t emerge as a concept. And for most of those people” nature” was actually their habitat. It was their habitat, like this room is my habitat, like the Institute may be your habitat.So, let’s not confuse a habitat with a world view.Sure, they wanted to control their habitat. They wanted their habitat to be congenial to them. They wanted to be able to get food from their habitat, shelter from their habitat, safety from their habitat. And that habitat happened not to be cities happened not to be villages. It happened to be forests, animals, savannas, mountains.So, they were naturalistic. But only we that know something other than what we using the language of picture post-cards – call nature, can understand that nature even exists as a concept. They could not formulate that concsept.

I know I ‘ve gone very far afield from the greek polis, but it’s important for people to understand that we always have to interpret any reality if we are going to be intelligible and rational in terms of its historical conditions. And by the way Marx taught us that. We owe a great deal to Marx for doing that although he is not the only one. And Bakunin accepted that.He called the state a socially necessary evil.Anarchists would like to erase that also. But Kropotkin repeated it in his famous anarchism article in the encyclopedia Britannica.He said the state is a socially necessary evil.So far as that one formulation is concern, Marx wouldn’t have any dissagreement with that. The only thing is that he wanted to use the state.Marx, that is. Bakunin believed he shouldn’t.

One of the criticisms that a lot of people who are even enthusiastic about athenean democracy have about its applicability today is that Athens was much smaller, that the times ware much simpler and that we live in very complex societies and what we now call cities are in fact large urban sprawls.What do you think is the applicability of a direct democratic politics into cities and urban centres of today?

M.B.: For years the ecology movement, at least for the past twenty years -there wasn’t much of an ecology movement twenty years ago,let me tell you that quite frankly called for decentralization. And suddently when I start talking about decentralized politics, which in theory they agree about, they start raising questions like what are we going to do with the big cities.I find that amusing. Either ecologists are for decentralization or they are not. That’s number one. But number two, let’s even take the big cities and metropolitan areas that we have today.In my political views I am not suggesting changes that depend exclusively on size. They have as much to do with structure. You can put in – and this was even suggested in New York city, one of the largest cities in the world, eight million people – a series of town halls. This was not an anarchist suggestion, the anarchists were busy in New York throwing bricks at windows or painting A with circles around them and talking about this from a lived experience. I was arguing with them all the time.Mayor John Lindsan suggested, as mayors before him had suggested, that in order to win public support there should be a whole bunch of town halls around New York city so that people would have – as he put it – a direct relationship with the city government. And in principle this is absolutely possible. They never did it. In fact when mayor Ed Koch tried to hold town meetings in New York, he was so abused by his audiences that he stopped holding them. But he could have held them. And so I would say that you could hold five hundrend town meetings in New York or a thousand. I don’t know. It’s a question of logistics. And these people could sit down and debate and then form confederal councils,say in Bronx, in Brooklyn, in Queens, in Staten Island, in Manhatan. (I will take New York as an example.I hope that’s agreeable to you. But in principle it can apply to London or it can apply to Athens or to Los Angeles.) And there these confederal councils can function by sifting out what the decisions are, trying to adjudicate them, bringing them back to the town meetings again, let them finally make the decision and on an overall vote of all the town meetings, majority versus minority, come to a decision as to what they want.And that could be reflected through a city council in which people do not make policy. They merely administer the policy desicions that are made by the assemblies. This is a major difference, that I would say exists between communal anarchists, like myself, and Marx. Because Marx believed that administration and policy making should be combined in the same body, and that’s dangerous. That’s dangerous. That is typical of Marx’s quasi-authoritarian tendencies; to give representatives this enormous ammount of power; not only to make policy but execute it.Policies will be made by the people. Administrators will execute the policy under the direct purview of the people who would be looking at everything they are doing, placing them under the direct democratic scrutiny, the right to recall, and also mandating them whether on borough- type of councils, Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens in New York, or for the city as a whole. Then the city would have to undertake the possibilities of decentralization, physical decentralization. Modern- day centralization of cities is basically something that is servicable to capital. It is not an intrinsic feature of society as such.It is largely structured. And in the U.S. the large cities have grown up along the east coast, the west coast and certain midwest centres, to take one striking example, are overwhelmingly the result of the needs of capital. That’s where the jobs are. That’s where the financial centres are located. Those are the areas where the market exists. And the bourgeoisie wants compact markets. Those are the areas where you can throw people against each other in competition for jobs, because you have so large numbers of people looking for a relatively smaller number of jobs.These are all institu- tionally valuable to capital. There are not inherent social attributes.Society doesn’t have to be that way.If we are talking about a politics based on radical social change following even the widely touted idea of decentralization, we can within these large areas organize into politically smaller units.Physically it may be large but politically and institutionally it may be more humanly scaled. That’s number one.A second thing that we can demonstrate from history is that large cities were able to form politically smaller units in direct face to face democracy. The most striking example is that the second largest city in the western world, Paris, in 1793 with a population that ranged from seven hundred thousand to a million people, formed forty-eight sections, most of which were so radical that Robespierre had to execute hundreds and hundreds of the leaders of the radical Left in these sections and destroy the power of the sections.I can’t go into the details of that. One would have to explore the history of the French Revolution itself. Now, it’s easy to say “well seven hundred thousand people are not eight million”. But what time are we talking about? We are talking of a time when nothing could go faster than a horse! We are talking of a time when seven hundred thousand people in a city was the equivalent in our own day. given our own technology, our own means of transportation, and our own means of communication, of ten million in a city. It’s amusing for me to hear people say “well seven hundred thousand people wasn’t that much”. What if the numbered a million?Whould it be too much?They still would have worked out the sections. They may have numbered a million.We don’t know for sure how many they numbered. We know that they were seven hundred thousand or more. Yet they run Paris and they fought a revolution for a period approximately a year and a half on the basis of the sectional face to face democracies, forty eight of them, and still proved that they could feed Paris, proved that they could manage public affairs and drive the revolution more and more to the left until Robespierre crushed them.And to crush he them literally had to round up their leaders and execute them.And at various points these sections nearly took the power, except that they were betrayed by the Paris Commune and by the infamous Jean Paul Marat who everybody thinks was a great revolutionary hero.He was not..

So, it can be done. And we will always recognize that this is a transitional step, if we believe in decentralization, even for ecological reasons, of large urban centres, and we recognize that large urban centres, if they continue to grow, are just going to become worse and worse all the time. From an ecological point of view, consider what is going on in Mexico city, where the air literally is unbreathable and people have to take, for a given number of pesetas or pesos, a shot of oxygen for a minute. There are little installations all through Mexico city, so you can breathe the oxygen and then continue to function for x number of minutes or hours, whatever it may be. Then under those circumstances why should I assume that we can’t reinstitutionalize even in Mexico city along neigbourhood lines or along quartiers or along wards in which you can have many town meetings which co-ordinate together.By the way this happened in Boston too. Before the middle of the 19th century Boston, which already was growing enormously, divided up its city government into x number of wards with town meetings in each ward.

So, the problem of trying to establish a participatory democracy even in a giant megalopolitan area is exclusively a question of logistics which can easily be overcome today and hopefully not by electronic media but in real face to face democracy. And remember that these are only transitions.I am advocating what is after all a minimal programme or a minimum programme, as we used to call it in the old Left.Then a programme that is called a transitional programme has to be elaborated to finally meet what is the maximum programme, the decentralization of all the large cities and their relocation.Or the relocation of people. And I believe that can be done really on a voluntary basis. The relocation of people throughout the entire continent, not just on the eastern seaboard and the western seaboard and certain portions of the midwest. And I believe that, however congested your field is, this can by done in Europe. And I believe certainly in Africa and Latin America for sure. We are also developing technologies that will make it possible for such decentralization to take place. They will not be dependent upon oil, they will not be dependent upon coal.Solar energy now is becoming so sophisticated that it is no longer a re- mote idea that solar power is competitive with fossil fuels.It is now known to be increasingly competitive just I could go on and on with from a purely cost-benefit analysis. technics and agriculture that go far beyond the old plough forms of agriculture. That’s disappearing now.Plough agriculture is going. What is happening now is a new form of agriculture, mechanised as it may seem, in which the seed is planted amidst the very stubble of the last year’s crop. They don’t dig the soil anymore. There were about two hundred and fifty thousand ploughs that they were manufactured say twenty, thirty. forty years ago in the U.S. every year. Now there are two thousand five hundrend.Not because agriculture or food production is diminishing in the U.S.-I am giving you statistcs that I have but because people are now turning to a new kind of machine that simply plants the seed right amidst the stubble.

You know these things are predictions that I made.I talked in “Toward a Libertory Technology” about air- conditioned harvests, that are now the rule. Every harvester is today air conditioned. These predictions that were made in 1963 and 1964 and written up in 1965 are now fact today.Did you have personal computers in 1965? Read “Toward a Libertory Technology”, published in 1965, where it said that the computer will eventually become miniaturised until it will be possible to put it on a desk. That’s the very words I used. Now, these predictions did not come out of any genius.They come out of a dialectical sense of a logic of technological development which tends to move increasingly towards miniaturization and a certain roundedness and versatility.

So, however far away I have stayed again from the original question I submit to you that decentralization is possible functionally.I emphasize the distinction that must be drawn between policy and decision-making. The people must make the decision. The policy can be executed on the very careful public scrutiny by the people, who mandate and control and watch and choose and continually have the freedom to engage in politics as I have defined it in its greek sense, its hellenic sense. Remember what’s being presupposed all along the way;that we must have a technology that will free people from arduous toil or else they will not, except from very limited periods of time, have the opportunity to engage in political life.Freedom in politics presupposes freedom in economics. And one of the most important steps that has to be taken economically is to free people from the toil that prevents them from engaging in political life.I am now more emphatically a post-scarcity theorist than I ‘ve ever been during the 60s, since I published “Post scarcity Anarchism”. I would emphasize that more than ever and also talk about the choices they can make that only a post-scarcity opportunity allows them to do.It must be borne in mind that here I come up against all those who oppose civilization theoretically.They oppose civilization. They believe civilization is our greatest disease. They get this from Heidegger and they get this from Nietzsche. They don’t know where these ideas come from.I am talking of self-styled anarchists who preach a return to the primitive or the new primitive, who believe that agriculture was our original sin.And there are profound reasons why I frankly have nothing in common with these people, whose ideas potentially can be used by extremely reactionary forces today.

The newsletter of the Green Party in Norway recently characterized your ideas on Libertarian Municipalism as typically american and seem to imply that they have no relevance to countries like Norway. What opportunities do you see for the application of a libertarian municipalist politics in countries where the nation-state has very much confused the society and where traditions and ideas on confederalism are almost totally absent?

M.B.: That’s wonderful.I get the same argument from everybody.They say “well, you live in New England”, not even in America. You know New England has town meetings and they go on to say “well, the people in the rest of the America don’t think of town meetings”. (Actually they do although they have all kinds of misconceptions about what town meetings are). There is something galling about a statement like that.We only work with what the bourgeoisie gives us, you understand. The bourgeoisie has gotten us unaccustomed to town meetings, so we have to start from that.Capitalism has got us accustomed to making money, so we start with that. That will lead you to green capitalism, won’t it?We only have to work with ideas that people are accustomed to.Namely the ideology that the bourgeoisie itself creates and instills in their mind. This is an unspeakable arrogance. In other words, we can’t do anything new.You see the people in Norway don’t know what a town meeting is, they don’t know what confederation is, so we are not going to talk about that. They work with the idea that the state is all that you can have.So, therefore we only going to work with the state. And if they only work with the idea that there is profit, then they work with profit.And if they only word with the idea that it has to be private property. we work with private property. And if they happen to work with the idea that should be a genocide of the remaining jews of Norway, we work with that idea. And if they believe in population control and sterilization by force, we work with that idea.Do you follow the logic of that stupidity?We will only talk to the people of Norway in terms of those things that the bourgeoisie puts in their head through television. And we will try to make it even more effective.So, the people of Norway are not accustomed to town meetings, local democracy,confederation. They are accustomed to the nation-state. to monarchy. You know in Sweden it’s a monarchy.So, we must word with that.We must all be monarchists but good monarchists, green monarchists. And we have nothing but a parliament, so we must work with nothing but the state. The idea that people have to be educated into something which they may have even forgotten; the idea that we as human beings are inovative; we introduce new ideas; that that’s what destinguishes us from animals is about as empty in the green movement as it is in a vacuum out in space.I find that the utmost contempt for people.Behind those ideas are real self-serving elitists who want to get into the state:who want to reinforce the idea that it is not practical to have a democracy; that we the greens, elite greens, will run the government for the people, because afterall they are not accustomed to manage anything for themselves anyway.One must fathom their arrogance; one must take the full measure of the elitism and contempt that these movements have.No, they are not practical for them; my ideas on Libertarian Municipalism are not meant to be practical to those greens who are looking for public office in the state and they are trying to find bureaucratic agencies to administrate.I agree; we have nothing in common. It’s not practical for them.

The real question is whether or not a movement can develop in Norway, in Sweeden or elsewhere, that will not expect the bourgeoisie to hand us what we want but that will have to fight for.And in the fight we will overthrow capitalism together with all the things that they think we should know or have. You see, there is a very crucial point here; Libertarian Municipalism is not a movement of protest. It’s a movement of contest. If libertarian municipalists sit around and talk about “we want Libertarian Municipalism, we want to oppose racism and this and that and that”. that is not enough. That protest, dramatic as it may be – and far too many people among liberals and anarchists and socialists believe that is the alpha and omega politics for them – that’s the beginning and end of politics for them. They believe that is what Libertarian Municipalism is and that we have to be given these agencies by the bourgeoisie. Do you understand? This is a wonderful idea. The bourgeoisie must give us anarchism or socialism or green ideology before we will work with the idea. If it happens that in Oslo they decide “yes, we are going to give you Libertarian Municipalism”, then the greens will come along with us.To hell with that. The point behind Libertarian Municipalism is to create a force that exist in tension with the state, because my purpose is not to improve the existing social order, to make an irrational order seem rational. My purpose in emphasizing Libertarian Municipalism is to start a fight; a fight of historic proportions. And every time they give a little something, we want three times as much. And if that means that we have to be the minority all the time, my god, when have ideas for social change been started up because they were majority views? Did Bakunin or Marx expect everyone to agree with them in the 1860s? They were educators. They were out to transform consciousness.We never work with the given consciousness, which is what the norwigean greens do; and not only the norwigean greens.Let me tell you frankly I have heard the same argument in Freedom Press in London.I have heard the same argument in Anarchy Desire Armed.I have heard the same argunemt in the New Left Review.I have heard the same argument in DSA (Democratic Socialists of America), in the socialist press. The same arguments; everyone of them. If the bourgeoisie will give us Libertarian Municipalism, then we ‘ll fight for it. Then people’s consciousness will change. It’s not the job, you understand, of revolutionaries to change consciousness.It’s the job of the revolutionaries to make the most of existing consciousness. Well, under those conditions I could become a good nazi instead of a bad nazi during the third Reich.After all, the German people loved their Fuhrer. Well I want the Fuhrer to be a nice Fuhrer.And maybe we can reform the nazi party. Maybe we can improve it.And if centralization is the main theme of the third Reich, its main goal, then we want a nice centralization; green centralization.Do you see what I am trying to say?

We are not a movement of protest. We are a movement of contest. We are not a movement that works with what the ideology of the bourgeoisie and its state gives us or the institutions that they allow us to have. We want to create them in spite of, in fact against what the bourgeousie wants to have. In fact, if the bourgeoisie gave it to us, we have a lot of trouble.We now have to radicalize them even more.Let me make a very important point here that has historical proportions. The forty-eight sections, that I talked about and that so many radics celebrate during the French Revolution, were originally fifty districts that Louis the 16th created in Paris in 1789 at the very beginning to elect deputies to the Estates General. And then they were supposed to go home. The point is they didn’t go home; they stood there.So, the first thing they did was they did not do what they were given. They remained behind in permanent session.Later on, when a constitutional monarchy was established, the quasi-republican republican government was afraid of these sixty districts.So, they said ‘let’s make them largerr, they will get weaker”. So, they turned the sixty districts into forty eight sections. Their goal was in fact to weaken local democracy but what happened was that the people took over these forty eight sections and made them more and more revolutionary until finally they overthrew the monarchy, until finally they kicked out the girondins, until finally they created a situation in which they wanted the Paris Commune to take over the whole city; not the national assembly or the Convention. And called upon thirty thousand communes throughout France to form a huge confederation.One of the most revolutionary moves that was made. In other words they took everything the monarchy gave them for its own purposes or that the liberals gave them for for their own purposes, namely districts and sections, and they mutated them. They were not accustomed to setting like this before. They never had these districts, they never had these sections.

That’s my answer to the norwigean what do they call themselves again? Oh, the Green Party, that’s what they call themselves. I see, good. Why don’t call for a green monarchy.You know that’s happening these days.Rudolf Bahro might agree with them.

What are your visions of the future?

M.B.: You are asking a very broad question. Let me speak personally.I am abso- lutely not in the least interested in becoming famous or becoming powerful. The reason why is that I don’t expect to be powerful or famous before I am dead. And then I won’t be very powerful or famous.I am a very old man, relatively old. In fact by the standards of my generation very old. By the standards of your generation, I don’t know. When you start pushing the middle of your seventies, you are not exactly middle-aged anymore. You are old.I can’t travel. I would love to go to Montevideo.Nothing would please more than to take a beautiful Panamerican or whatever plane they have – I don’t know what airline takes you there – and come to Montevideo and sit around and drink with you and dance and then go to Greece.I would love to go to Greece and see the Parthenon.I would love to see all the monuments and walk in the agora.I can’t do it.People steal my ideas left and right, so why bother? The only thing wrong about becoming famous is that they take out pieces of the ideas and they bastardize them. They attach them to alien ideologies.So, the socialists pick up what I have to say and I start hearing of what is called “civic republicanism”. That’s the new name for Libertarian Municipalism. That’s James O’Connor and “Capitalism, Nature and Socialism”. He starts telling me on the phone” you know, you ‘ve really had an influence on me.I call it civic republicanism”. Now we don’t talk to each other, so I am sure that he will say that he originated it.It doesn’t truble me.What is he marry it to?What is he blended it to?He blends it to a basically authoritarian minimal-statist socialism. Having a minimal state is like having a minimal death. The state does not stay minimal anymore than death is minimal. A minimal state always turns into a maximum state. It may take fifty years, it may take a hundred years, it may take five years.So when I find that my ideas on Libertarian Municipalism are taken over in the name of “civic republicanism “to support the idea of a minimal state, I grow angry because it means that ideas that belong to one body you know, it’s like organ replacement.Do you know what I am saying?It’s like replacing one organ by another which is meant to function in a very different kind of body.And these ideas are always being picked up.So, my main concern is identifying them as mine is basically a concern that the integrity of the whole body of ideas be retained. words, what I am concerned with is that it is not only Libertarian Municipalism. It’s social ecology, its dialectical naturalism, it’s a certain vision of a decentralized society based on confederalism. It’s based on a dinstict philosophy, economics, technology, view of history.Now there are many people who call themselves social ecologists who do not have my view of history, although they are very good friends.Some people are very influenced by that archipelago of ideas called “the imaginary”.I personally have great differences with that, but I get along with these people because they are comrades. They are friends. They are willing to learn. I am willing to learn.We can have a dialogue. But let me make it very plain. What I ‘ve written about history appears in “History, Civilization and Progress”. A work that has to be examined and enlarged if I had the time.And that will appear in the new version of “The Philoshophy of Social Ecology” So, my ambitions are to stay in Burlington.I don’t want to go anywhere. I wish I could but I can’t go anywhere and I operate within the two hundred mile radius of Burlington.

My second goal is to give people what I have learned over the past seventy years. What I have leared. I have come from a very different world and the continuity between that different world and this world must be preserved. And the issues that were raised on the Left two hundred years ago have to be kept alive however much they have been transformed by historical development. We cannot forget the past. This is not a new beginning. This may very well be a new ending, but not a new beginning. Disputes still survive going back to the earliest revolutions that are posed that remain issues for us to this very day. That’s why I am writing a book called ” Third Revolution” which will cover popular movements and revolutionary history from the peasant wars in 1525 up to the spanish civil war. And it will give people an understanding of what a revolution really is. Today they don’t know what a revolution is anymore and many people unfortunately seem to take capitalism for granted.So my goal therefore is to educate and to write essays and to get into arguments, mainly not because I want to defeat somebody in an argument.I will never change this woman’s mind, L.Susan Brown, but I am going to write a review of this book.My goal is to influence people who read this book or who are concerned with the issues that are raised by this book.We are still fighting Max Stirner.I though that was dead and burried two hundred years ago practically and yet we are still fighting him today. We are still fighting mysticism.E.P.Thompson on William Blake, where the author goes on to state E.P. Thompson, the great dean of socialist history in Britain, the one who wrote “The making of the english working class” – that communism is the highest form of mysticism. Well, that’s a new one on me.So these arguments are still taking place with the crazy romantics, with the Nietzscheans, with the Heideggerians, with all the postmodernist junk that is now miseducating people. As I say it is a danger to go to a graduate school today in the U.S..You come out knowing less, not more. You suffer from shrinkage of the mind, not enlargement of the mind. So that’s my second goal; to educate and to bring my experiences to bare.

The third thing that I would like to see and I hope I could see in my life, I am not sure, is the organization of a genuine social ecology movement. A movement. And a movement that does not only educate, which is terribly important, because that’s one of the main goals of our time. To educate individuals into a better understanding of the world in which they live. You can’t just educate everyone into dialectical naturalism, you can’t just educate everyone into certain views that I have about Libertarian Municipalism. As it is, much of the education is largely individual or to a small degree in a study group collectively. But I want to see a network of study groups throughout the world.

The fourth thing- and this is very important to me and I scream it aloud – is that particularly people who regard themselves as libertarian, whether as libertarian communists or libertarian socialists or libertarian communalists or eco-anarchists, I would urge them to cross that bloodline, step over into electoralism – not parliamentarism; into electoralism. I draw a distinction between electoralism and parliamentarism.I want to see them, if I have anything to do about it and I can only do what I can do, I can’t force them, to cross the line from non-electoral activity into electoral activity on a local scale. And this causes more high blood pressure among anarchists that I know of than any single thing that I could think of. It is like I was an AIDS virus.People strangly enough in various parts of the world want me to talk about libertarian municipalism, and then they don’t want to do it.It’s though Bakunin sat on their shoulder, and they don’t even read Bakunin in many cases. They say “stop it,don’t listen to him, plug your ears”.

You asked me what I want to do.That’s my future.Now I don’t have an elaborately long future ahead of me because if I live ten years, how old would I be? Eighty four?Do you know how people who are eighty four and have arthritis look like?They lie in bed, they drool down the mouth, they are old, they look around, they have a vacant stace and they look at Murphy Brown. But she is old already by that time, so they look at somebody else on television.I mean my life is obviously and transparently reaching its end. The only thing is that I don’t know what the date is or what the disease will be.So I have no vested interest in power. And I don’t believe that when you die it means a thing that you are remembered.I don’t think that Mozart is very happy right now because everybody loves his music.I don’t think Beethoven feels delighted. After you die do you know where you are?Exactly where you were before you were ever born. So that the scope of my ambitions.

What I would like to see happen in the world and happen to capitalism?Well, I am an old revolutionary. That’s the one thing I ‘ll never give up.I ‘ll never make any compromise with the social order.I don’t regard my libertarian muni- cipalist views as being compromises. I regard them as the only politics that’s left.What would I have left if I were for argument sake a young anarchist today? Well, let me think. I could go into the factories and try to organize syndicalist trade unions. By the way. I spent enough time in the factory so I know that you can’t do it.And I know that capitalism has changed enough such that you will not be able to do it.Two, I could decide to run for mayor of Burlington or maybe governor. That would be rewarding.People will push me around on a wheel chair and for three hours a day I will ring the door bell and say “vote for me”.I can become a Democrat or a Republican. Throw up everything that I ever lived for and become the opposite of what I was for seventy four years.I can make a lot of money.I can use money.I don’t need a lot of it. And there are only two ways you make money these days; a little bit or a hell of a lot, nothing in between.Let’s be very frank.No, I should give up everything that I stood for and die not the way I lived but the opposite of the way I lived? No. So I therefore am no threat to anybody.I am not a threat to anybody’s status or to anybody’s control.power, interest whatever you like.

So it’s mainly education. Well I would like very much as for people from Montevideo and other places to come to Burlington.I can’t go to where they are. And spend time.I am willing to give out of the limited amount of time I have left in my life a certain amount of time every year to talk to them on to one to one close seminar basis.I think they should go to the Institute for Social Ecology, but I want to get hold of them for one week, talk to them and deal with them on a very close four to five hours a day seminar.Maybe for week may be for two weeks. I would ask them to pay me money only to cover the fact that otherwise that time would be spent earning a livehood.I do earn my livelyhood by writing. But I am not talking of wealth. That’s what I would like.So when they go back at least they know social ecology as I know it and not the way they hear it from other people.I am not saying that other people don’t give it to them.I am saying I know what I can I give. Now, a lot of people are going around calling themselves social ecologists – I am not talking of the Institute who are in no sense of the word social ecologists. Peter Prucker cannot call himself social ecologist.He is a big buisnessman who writes for buisness cooperations.Rudolf Bahro is a professor of social ecology at Humboldt University (in Berlin).I regard him as a neo-fascist. Andre Gorz I am told calls himself a social ecologist. You know what I think of Gorz?I explained it very frankly in a review of his book “Ecology as Politics”.I think he is Parisean idiot. That’s the lowest thing I could say about him.So people call themselves social ecologists.Let them do that. But I know what I mean by social ecology, and I would like to have the opportunity to explain what I mean and then people could make up their own mind.But that’s all my function is right now. That’s all it can be. And I can’t do what Arne Naess does.Play a game of tennis and climb a mountain. And I can’t fly all over the world the way he does or Castoriadis does or the way Bahro does, the way a whole bunch of people do.

Do I answer your question? Oh, what should I answer? Tell me your question.

I want you to talk more about your dreams.

M.B.: My dreams?You mean my vision?


M.B.: My vision is that a tremendous social ecology movement will develop in key countries of the world that will gradually, when historical forces come together with the ideas – remember the two have to come together, is capable of creating a rational society. And I have described that rational society in detail in several books.It will be confederal.It will be communal.It will be based on municipal control of property because otherwise it will have to be either nationalist control It will be a or private control.What other choices do you have? community in which people will not meet together as workers, as farmers, as craftspersons, as professionals, but as citizens; in which they ’11 have to do such a little amount of work apart from what they are inclined to do because of technological  development, that they can think about ideas and cultivate themselves and turn themselves into poets and philosophers. That I think is the human destiny implicitly speaking in terms of potentialities. Those are my ideas.I ‘d like to see that happen to a gradual development of a movement and the spread of ideas.

Does that answer your question?I thought you were talking about what I personally wanted to do.

I think that the potentialities of your thoughts are in the future in the young people who will take your ideas and transcend them.

M.B.: I absolutely believe that nothing stands still and everything has to be transcended.I have no argument with you about that.But it’s not going to be by going backward to individualism. It’s not going to be by going to be by going backward to syndicalism. It’s not going to be by going backward to statism. You know in Norway they don’t give us assemblies and people have forgotten. It’s not going to be by going back to that.It has to be by going forward.I don’t know what that forward horizon is.I don’t know what’s on that horizon.I only live within my lifetime. Now if it’s transcended, nothing will make me happier, especially after I am dead.

If that’s OK I have another question.One of the arguments that a lot of people actually mostly self-style anarchists, to use your expression, have given against Libertarian Municipalism is that they think that the Libertarian Muni- cipalism is not really anti-statist, that all is trying to do is to reduce the state to the size of a city, partially I think being confused by what historians have often called Athens and other cities as being city-states. How do you define the state, and why is a municipality or a city potentially not a state, even though today municipalities all over the world are often created by the state and simply subdivisions of the state?

M.B.: The state must be accurately defined as a professionalised body of people be they bureaucrats, elected officials, or people who descend from one royal family to another or one nobility to another, into a dinstict position in which one, they are separated from the people – they are called presidents, congressmen, deputies what ever you like -.Bureaucrats by the way are a tremendous part of the state. In the U.S. they number not a few thousands, they number millions. They are separated into institutions in which they have a complete monopoly of (one) the making of policy and (two), of violence, which is ultimately the basic weapon on which every state must rest when it meets with intractable and dangerous opposition. Violence. That violence can take the form of police actions to limit democratic rights and even take the form of policies that restrict the freedoms of the individual and the freedoms of the community.Remember I never see the individual outside of the community.And that’s why I cannot tolerate anarcho-individualism, which conceives of the individual as being apart from the collective, in fact in opposition to the collective. (And that state power is exercised partly not only through violence, and tradition.People as the Green Party in Norway says are not accustomed to running things on local level- in this little tiny country with only four million people they cannot run things on a local level. Allright I laugh. They are not much bigger than many cities.) Tradition. But ultimately, two, they depend very much upon producing a statist mentality by taking over what should really belong to the political realm. What do I mean by that?They begin to take over cities more than they have to. They begin to install their representatives in the city more that they have to.For example in England I ‘ve discovered they have things called “Quangos”. There is the city council on the one hand and there are these little corporate layers called quangos on the other side, which ostensibly are not governemental agencies that fix parks, roads. You know everything is being privatised in England today to an extent unbelievable elsewhere in the world. They are privatising garbage collection, they are privaitising the mail, they are privatising everything.And these quangos take control of these privatised services in the city. They decide whether there will be a park or not. The city council does not make that decision. They do. Do you know why? Because they ‘ve given the money from the centralised state. They get money directly from the House of Parliament and from the government, from the ministry. And they are not elected, they are appointed. They are the managers of the city, and nobody can challenge their view. The only way their actions can be challenged is through the Houses of Parliament, specifically the House of Commons. And now a battle is taking place in England that nobody seems to know about. You would never know this from reading the press, the “libertarian” press. A battle is taking place all over the place.I talked with a friend who is in the middle of the struggle to demolish, diminish, destroy the power of these quangos and give the power more and more to neigbourhoods. There is no coherent movement.It’s being done almost semi-spontaneously because people can’t stand it anymore. Needless to say I haven’t heard one anarchist manifesto yet coming out calling for civic democracy, face to face libertarian democracy. Because Bakunin doesn’t mention it they think. Forgive me if I get a little angry with that.Now you see they take over the functions that belong in political realm. They even belong in the political realm under what we use to call bourgeois democracy, forget about anarchy, socialism, feudalism anything you like. The one thing that people used to control was first of all the educational system on the local level and second thing, they controled the police.I am not saying that these are all wonderful forms of control, but at least they had that.A third thing they controlled was the right of eminent domain that is to say that certain area should not be built upon just because that is private property.They controlled local taxes,sales taxes, property taxes.And the quangos are taking all these away from them. And there is a genuine feeling of hatred them in England. It’s called thatcherist municipalism.I have a whole literature right here, discussing it.I ‘ve been reading it from beginning to end. And here is a perfect point of friction.Here is a perfect basis for confrontation.But nobody has theorised it.It takes place on an ad hoc basis, that is event by event, issue by issue, step by step.It hasn’t been theorised.It certainly has not been theorised from a libertarian point of view. The marxists did more theorising on this. They called it Municipal Socialism. Back in the days when the Greater London Council existed and there was a tremendous fight going on about disbanding not only the Greater London Council but the Greater Manchester Council which was run I think, if I am right about the city, by the Trotskiests.But the Trotskiests and the Socialists were not really interested in municipal control. They were interested in state control. This was a stepping stone to the state. That’s why it’s necassery to understand the theory of Libertarian Municipalism completly. If it isn’t the form of contestation with the state, it’s merely towards going up to the state. Take the Greens in Germany. The german Grunen have thousands of people in the city councils of Germany today. But because they are realos and social democrats they never once called a conference of the city councillors, green city councillors, to formulate a municipal policy for the green party, repulsive as this green party is. They never took that step.For them, thousands of people in the city councils were merely stepping stones for each one of these thousands trying to become a state councillor, going into the Landtag and then, you know, with the career of all careers that Daniel Cohn-Bendit, my favourite anarchist from 1968, dreams of to become a minister in the government.Or the autonomist Joschka Fischer, black-flag Joschka Fischer, who is now the Hessian minister of enviroment, who now dreams of getting into the federal government. That’s why this has to be kept a theory that retains its revolutionary basis and premises.

Or there is another alternative; live your life, letting your desire take you over.Commune with nature.Go back and read Schelling or Keatsor Hoelderlin, to follow Heidegger’s two more or less eco-tastes.Go back to the romantics. You are going backwards. You know that, don’t you?The you is inpersonal. One goes backward when one does that.

So, that’s why is very important to have an educated – and I an going to use a terrible world – vanguard.But do you know what the newspaper in the U.S.. that was turned out by anarchists in the 1930s was called?” Vanguard “. And let me show it to you because I want you to see and I want you to understand.if I may. the difference between having a leninist general staff and having an avantgarde. It’s the new Left that created the myth that a vanguard – and by the way produced one vanguard after the other – is elitist. It’s no more elitist to speak of an avantgarde in politics that it is elitist to speak of an avantgarde in art. What we are talking about is that some people are more conscious than others. And some people are totally unconscious. I have news for you; some people remain unconscious just before the revolution, during the revolution and after the revolution.But I feel obliged to show you the first most important anarchist periodical to appear in the U.S. in the 1930s.”Vanguard”.I beg you to look. And what I mean by vanguard a leninist general staff, is not a marxist general staff be more precise.I mean by that a network organised and institutionalised but with no powers other than the power of persuasion. And finally if anarchism is not democracy, I am no anarchist.If one person can stop a a majority of ninty nine percent or even of fifty one percent from making a decision that it doesn’t like and it therefore won’t debate, then they should go off somewhere to Polynesia and find an island. Nobody says that they cannot change the opinion of that majority. That’s not rule. And if organization is to be made synonymous not only with vanguard but with leninism, then I am a leninist. If we cannot have an organization we are nothing but a collection of individuals each one doing what he or she wants to do. This is not anarchy. You know what this is?This is chaos. It’s not only unreal. It’s absurd. Because we are all products of a culture to one degree or another.Humanity is vastly formed by our collective lives. And the idea that society is simply a collection of autonomist,monadic individuals – the theory is by the way bourgeois liberalism, will lead to the crudest form of egotism – if that’s what society, is I would say that such people who call themselves anarchists live up to Marx’s description of anarchism as a petit bourgeois ideology.It’s mainly a fun ideology.Have good time or commit suicide by throwing a bomb.Choose either way.

Therefore I am a collectivist, a profound collectivist. I believe in organization and structure. And if this antagonizes me, at this age I don’t care who hates me.You must understand that.But I am telling what must be told. That is the truth as I see it. And let me say something about imagination. The most imaginative painter I could think of was a spanish. His name was Francisko Goya.He was a revolutionary.He was brilliant.He did the Capricios. Francisko Goya who together with Honore Daumier are my two great painters, I love them both, they stand out above all others did a drawing that was always been misunderstood.”The sleep of reason produces monsters”, that’s what he says, which everyone believed meant that reason produces monsters.But Goya fortunately told us what he really meant. And I am going to quote what he actually said:”Imagination deserted by reason begets impossible monsters. United with reason, she is the mother of all arts and the source of their wonders”.Imagination can bring you to fascism or to anarchism; fascism without reason: anarchism with reason. Where anarchists abandon reason. they have permitted imagination to drift anywhere: they have permitted reason to fall asleep .And when it falls asleep it produces monsters. And I see that happening today.Particularly among people who are disciples of the politics of individualism. For this is not a theory of reason. It’s a theory of abstract freedom in which the collective plays no role. The community has no structure. The individual drifts by himself or herself.And such an individual can easily wind up in a Nuremberg rally in 1936 or wind up on the battle fronts of the spanish Aragon front in 1936 under the black and red flag.

On the cover of “Vanguard” there is a quote for the purposes of administration.”Not government above men but the administration of things”. That goverment should be just that, administration, not policy.

M.B.: Do you know what the banner of the Solidaridad Obrero of the anarchist newspaper in Spain was? No rights without duties, no duties without rights” I can show it to you from a picture going back to the last century. Anyone who believes that we can go around with rights and no duties is not an anarchist in my opinion.Such an individual is a liberal.

“No rights without duties-No duties without rights”.

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