The global community is facing a serious ecological problem. Unless we change our way of living we may be passing on to our children a world with rising sea levels, extreme weather conditions, and disrupted ecosystems. According to governmental studies done in the UK and EU, a global average temperature increase of over 3 degrees Celsius would cause irreversible changes to our environment, the effects of which may include a potential rise of the sea level of up to 7 meters and widespread water and food shortages.
Nathan Rive of the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo says that if we are to have any chance of preventing the average temperature from increasing over 2 degrees, “we would have to cut global emissions by 80 percent by 2050.”
How can we stop consuming resources and producing carbon at such high levels? Is it possible to do so and still maintain the level of comfort that we have in modern life? Are we willing to make the changes necessary, when the ultimate effects of our actions (or inaction) will not manifest until decades from now? We have the technology now that can help, but investment in these technologies on a massive scale is needed immediately if we hope to see the changes we need in place in time to make a difference. Government programs like carbon taxes might help motivate our industries to pollute less. However, in places like the European Union and the UK where such laws have been enacted, carbon reduction is still falling short of their goals. In addition, the US is the largest producer of carbon emissions per capita and is currently without comprehensive carbon emission regulations.
Don’t give up hope yet! There exists today a solution that could drastically reduce the energy consumption and carbon emissions of the modern citizen, and it does not require new technology or a drastic reduction in quality of life. It is not anything new or complex; in fact it is something we all learned in Kindergarten. It is called sharing.
Case in Point: Twin Oaks Community
The bylaws of my home, Twin Oaks Community in Virginia, list ecological sustainability as just one of the many purposes of our community’s existence. The primary intention of our community at its founding was to create a culture of cooperation, sharing, and equality. We certainly do care about ecological sustainability and hold many discussions on how we could do better. However, we have put most of our energy into finding ways to live cooperatively, communally, and comfortably.
Only 10 percent of our residents are grid-electricity-free, we have no buildings built with cob or strawbale, and we live with most of the comforts of modern life. Despite our lack of green technologies and our lifestyle of modern conveniences, members of our community consume far less resources than those in our neighborhood, in some cases by over 80 percent less!
Below is a breakdown of our resource consumption and how it compares to that of other people in our climate.
The average Virginia resident uses about 530 gallons of gasoline per year.(1)
Twin Oaks consumed about 15,267 gallons of gasoline in 2007.
With an average adult and child population of 96, that would put our consumption at 159 gallons per person.
That is 70 percent less gasoline consumed!
The average Virginia resident uses 13,860 kWh of electricity per year.(2)
Twin Oaks consumed 268,065 kWh in 2007.
With an average adult and child population of 96, that would put our consumption at 2792 kWh per person.
That is 80 percent less electricity consumed!
The average Virginia natural gas consumer uses 302 therms of natural gas.(3)
Twin Oaks consumed 16,221 therms of natural gas in 2007.
With an average adult and child population of 96, that would put our consumption at 169 therms per person.
That is 44 percent less natural gas consumed!
The average American produces 1460 pounds of trash a year.
Twin Oaks produced 18,780.00 pounds of solid waste in 2007.
With an average adult and child population of 96, that would put our production at 196 pounds per person.
That is 87 percent less solid waste produced!
Twin Oaks Community has a fleet of 12 vehicles that we share between all our members. Each day one person runs into town to collect the day-to-day needs for us all. They also ferry people to their various destinations like doctor appointments or the library. By sharing our vehicles and carpooling, we are able to drastically reduce the amount of gasoline we use.
We all live in nine communal houses, each with different norms and culture. We use carbon-neutral wood to heat our houses. By sharing common space and having dormitory style housing, we consume much less energy to light and heat our homes than we would if we were to live in individual houses.
We serve lunch and dinner each day in a single building for our whole community. We are able to use much less energy to cook our food when we are using one kitchen to feed 90 people than we would if we each cooked our own meals.
What food and general necessities we do not produce ourselves, we buy in bulk. Because of this we greatly reduce the amount of packaging that comes onto our property. We send much less solid waste to the local landfill then we would if we were each to purchase our goods in individually wrapped packages.
By sharing so much we are able to live comfortably, but also greatly reduce our resource consumption and carbon output. Government programs and new technologies will be important in reducing our culture’s output of carbon into the atmosphere, but there are things that we as individuals can do today to significantly reduce our contribution to global climate change.
Here are a few examples:
1. Join a food co-op! Use your collective buying power to save money, while also reducing the packaging and energy used to deliver your food to your table. If there is not one in your area, start one! http://www.coopdirectory.org.
3. Join a housing co-op! Share a house with other like-minded souls, and share food costs and cook communal dinners together. You will save much more money and resources over living alone! directory.ic.org/records/coops.php.
4. Join an intentional community! There are thousands of communities out there with varying degrees of resource sharing and cooperation. ic.org.
5. Join an egalitarian community! Pool your income together with other folks to live a more sustainable and equitable life with your neighbors. Share resources to reduce your carbon footprint! theFEC.org.
6. Do you already live communally? Do an energy audit and see how your community is doing compared to others that live in your climate. Publish this information and let people know how effective cooperation and sharing is as a tool to battle climate change! Please send copies of your energy audits to email@example.com.
As times get harder, people will be looking for alternatives to our unsustainable economic model. We do need to look towards technology to help us and we do need our governments to regulate industry and lower emissions. These are issues of national and international politics and are beyond the reach of the average person.
However, by sharing more with members of our communities, we really can make significant and meaningful difference in our personal impact on the environment. We have the power to turn this crisis into an opportunity. By being examples for others to follow, perhaps we can make the necessary changes our world needs…one community at a time.
1. http://www.nationalpriorities.org/nppdatabase_tool (comparing 2005 numbers to our 2007 numbers)
Copyright © Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC) and Communities: Life in Cooperative Culture · communities.ic.org · Reprint only with permission.
The FIC publishes Communities magazine, the Communities Directory, the Intentional Communities Website (www.ic.org), and supports all forms of cooperative living. Please consider a donation to support our efforts.
|Bucket Von Harmony is a member of Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia. Twin Oaks Community has served as an example of cooperative living for 41 years. Bucket serves as Co-Secretary of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities and is on the Twin Oaks Membership Team. Bucket also gardens, home schools a six-year-old, cooks dinner for 100 people, and makes tofu.|
(Click a photo to enlarge)
In Communities, we like to feature personal stories about real experiences, rather than abstract theories or dry analyses. In this article, our editor plunges into the fun. He asks that you imagine listening to the following story around a crackling campfire, and remember that “I” is just a figure of speech, and might just as easily be “you”…
I’d never been one who tried too hard to conform, but my marching to a different drummer became decidedly more pronounced in high school. There are various ways to describe what happened: you could say that trees started to speak to me, or that long-distance running connected me with the natural world in new ways, or that an earth-centered spiritual awakening led me to find that that “God,” increasingly elusive in church, resided in the outdoors instead. Whatever the explanation, I started to take my guidance from ecologically-oriented voices that seemed at times audible only to me, but which spoke clear as crystal and left little doubt about what I needed to do.
One might think that “marching to one’s own drummer” would lead one away from community, into isolation and even hermithood. But in fact this particular drummer led me invariably toward community, which I discovered to be inextricably intertwined with ecology. Although I was marching without a map, with little idea where I’d end up, the outcomes seem inevitable in retrospect.
Here are just a few of the off-beat marching orders I received and the mysterious places they took me:
I had never liked cars. As a young child, I had to be coaxed to get into them, and I never experienced that automotive fascination that many boys develop. I disliked the noise, the fumes, the confinement, the danger, and, as I learned more about them, their other impacts (ecological, social, economic, political). In the wake of the mid-’70s oil crisis, I wrote an editorial in my high school newspaper inveighing against excessive car use. Most of my classmates, meanwhile, eagerly anticipated and then celebrated the day when they were allowed to drive and own a car. I walked, biked, ran, and tried to stay out of motor vehicles. The drummer I was marching to told me that the world could not sustain them. At the time, it seemed like a potentially lonely path.
But as I continued my education and explored different ways of living, my resolution to avoid the need for a private car produced unexpected results. The best way I could see to be free of vehicle dependence was to live and work in the same place—better yet, to seek out ways of living that seamlessly combined living and working in direct relationship with the land. (My drummer had also told me that, despite my suburban roots, revelation was to be found rurally.)
With the ability to be car-free in my daily life as a top priority influencing every decision, I have spent most of my adult years living and working together with others in land-based intentional communities and on small organic family farms. In the modern world, rural survival on one’s own or even in a nuclear family can almost require a private motorized vehicle. But joining with others to create a local economy on a piece of land reduces the need to leave it, and makes combined trips and shared vehicles feasible. I did in fact eventually acquire a car, which I use occasionally (hopefully for good causes, including cultivating community connections beyond our 87 acres), but upon which I have never depended for my livelihood.
Now, in addition to gardening and helping develop my community’s land as an educational center and nature sanctuary, I also telecommute to my other job (crafting a magazine out of other people’s words—except when, as in the current case, my own bubble out in possibly overwhelming abundance). None of these essential activities requires a car. I sometimes go weeks without getting into one—whereas I bi cycle every day, both around our own land and into the neighboring forest. I do not miss those hours stuck in traffic—in fact, I never even had to experience them. Instead, I am happy to have spent my life among pedestrians, and discovered community in the process.
“Stop Watching Television!”
My drummer sometimes lacked subtlety, and cast things in black and white that did in fact possess a few shades of gray. By the end of high school, I had identified television as one of the key elements keeping people detached from real life, out of touch with their inner selves, separated from one another, and cut off from the natural world. In my view, it was entirely evil, and I had fantasies of some kind of cosmic pulse that would simultaneously incinerate all televisions and force people to start actually living again. (Since then, I’ve decided to relax my judgments and cut Mr. Rogers, at least, a little slack. I know that there is, in fact, some “good stuff” on television, though not enough to make me want to have one in my life.) I resolved to be TV-free once I left home—a resolution I have kept. At the time, this seemed like another lonely-making, solitary choice.
It turned out to be anything but that. Not owning or watching television propelled me into a multitude of television-less experiences among people who were also looking for something more real. Neither my inner nor outer explorations during and after college could have happened in the same way in an environment featuring a television—they were simply incompatible with a mesmerizing image- and noise-making machine being anywhere within sight or earshot. I lived outside, worked with Native Americans, learned to garden, and ultimately settled into a rewarding, TV-free life on farms and in intentional communities. In community, homemade culture and direct personal experience have proven so much more satisfying than manufactured culture and vicarious experience that television has never even tempted me. I’ve discovered that the world of birds living all around us here in the country, in three dimensions and surround-sound, fascinates me more than could anything on a screen. I’ve also learned to play the guitar, an almost endless source of do-it-oneself entertainment, often even better when shared with others.
Saying “no” to television made it possible for me to eventually say “yes” to community. As long as I have community in my life, I am staying unplugged (unless, for example, it’s for a large-group Inauguration viewing at the local organic eatery, or for a Fred Rogers tribute show watched for old times’ sake at my parents’ house).
“Eat Low on the Food Chain”
Once again, that nonconformist, earth-minded drummer put a bee in my bonnet during high school, in the form of a vegetarian friend who urged me to read Frances Moore Lappé’s Diet for a Small Planet. Once I had started thinking about food—its origins, its impacts, its larger implications—I could not retreat back into ignorance or not caring. I became the sole vegetarian in my family and one of only two I knew in my school. This looked like another surefire path toward social isolation.
Since then, I have gone through a number of different phases, often for many years at a stretch: ovo-lacto-vegetarianism, situationally-dictated omnivory, pure veganism combined with a commitment to organic food, modified veganism, all-organic-mostly-vegetarianism-with-occasional-fish-or-fowl-thrown-in, etc. However, I have never returned to a standard American diet, and my food choices (tending toward the macrobiotic vegan much of the time, and the sustainably grown all of the time) would be considered strange by most people.
In the communities I’ve lived in, by contrast, my food choices are not strange—sometimes, especially in the presence of raw foodists, they seem downright middle-of-the-road. In these communities, we’ve eaten a significant portion of our own, homegrown whole foods—especially vegetables and fruits—and seen food as having not only health and spiritual but also political and ecological implications. Eating in ways that minimize our ecological footprints aligns us with the global community, and brings us together as a local community as well. My “small planet” food choices, far from isolating me, have helped me find communities in which I share common values with others.
“Read and Write Consciously or Not at All”
At a certain point in my education, I realized that, even though I’d dispensed with the unreality of television, I was still living mostly vicariously, through words. I had read about many more things than I’d ever experienced. I had learned how to write but felt I had little of substance to write about: I was passionately—and tiresomely—familiar only with the labyrinthine workings of my own mental circuitry. Limited by my academically-bound situation, and out of touch with almost everything outside of it, I realized that I had fled from the world of feeling and experience into a world of word-dominated thinking.
I decided to take a fast from the written word. For an entire summer, I read nothing (except for interpretive signs on Cape Cod National Seashore and an American Youth Hostel guidebook) and wrote nothing. I focused instead on my and others’ feelings (even if unexpressed) and on the land around me, unmediated by words and without other distractions. I began a process of immersion learning in the language of the natural world, and in my own feelings and relationships within that world. I joined a school that lived, learned, slept, and woke outside every day, exploring the vast areas of wild America to which my suburban upbringing had never exposed me. Before reading or writing anything (once I broke my fast), I tried to gauge whether it would bring me closer to understanding the actual nature of life and the world, or whether it was just human-generated distraction, mass-produced entertainment, overintellectualized delusion, or philosophy divorced from the earth. If it was any of the latter, I skipped it. Like television, irrelevant words would have taken me away from, rather than toward, the kind of integrated ecological life I envisioned. I recognized that words could distract as well as communicate. I returned to reading and writing only cautiously, and, to the best of my ability, consciously.
Since then, my involvement with words has always been a byproduct of my life, rather than something defining my actual reality. In my first few years of college, being wrapped up in words had isolated me. Initially, backing away from words isolated me even more. But it also opened me up to the real world, a prerequisite to finding real community. Like freedom from television, it allowed me to experience new situations more fully, open my senses more completely to the natural world, and make actual connections with people. Rather than creating imaginary situations on paper (or in a computer hard drive, or in cyberspace), I found that I could discover and build real relationships. I was also able to recognize the limitations of human language and tune in more fully to the language of the land and its creatures. I experienced both human and non-human community in ways that most books I’d read had at best only hinted at, and that I could never have described beforehand except in the most general, theoretical terms.
“Get Back to the Land!”
Getting back to the land is not something that most people born and raised in a New York City suburb ever do. That path hadn’t even occurred to me during most of my formative years, since I’d had the impression that farmers and rural people were “dumb”—that’s why they lived in the country. No, I hadn’t actually met anyone fitting this description, or ever lived in the country or on a farm myself, but from what I could gather from the media and from word on the street, rural people talked slowly, did boring physical work, inbred, and chewed tobacco, all sure signs of nonintelligence. In other words, blind prejudice and ignorance kept me from ever aspiring to rural life.
This all changed, in several different phases, as my drummer became more insistent. First, local wild edible weeds caught my interest. Then the notion grabbed me of not only running and bicycling outdoors, but living outdoors. My traveling environmental education program got me used to being outside almost all the time, and also familiarized me with some of this continent’s original outdoor livers, whose endangered cultures still survived to a degree. I decided I wanted to live like a Native American, and, when I had a chance, I acted on that desire, moving to a reservation for a year and a half and becoming the only white employee in a center for developmentally disabled Hopis. While there, I received a further marching order (channeled through a Hopi client of the center): I needed to learn to grow my own food. This led me to study organic gardening, which created a role for me to fulfill once I ended up going “back to the land” via organic farms and intentional communities. I also started to study local ecologies, especially plants and birds, allowing me to contribute in other realms of eco-education.
While those voices beckoning me to live in more direct relationship with the land seemed at first to be promising a lonely, socially marginalized existence, the exact opposite turned out to be the case. Each phase of my entry into more integrated ecological living brought me into new kinds of community. Some, like the Hopi Center and the organic farms I worked on, were “unintentional” community, but community nonetheless. The intentional communities in which I’ve settled have been rural and committed to education, thereby developing much larger extended communities beyond their own boundaries. I’ve never had so little interaction with others as I did in my last couple years in the heart of urban/suburban civilization, and I’ve never had so much human interaction as I’ve had way out in the country, becoming rural folk myself, enjoying being connected to the land together with others through organic gardening and other forms of immersion in the landscape. Getting away from human and civilized distractions has helped me discover not only the natural world and how dependent we all are on it, but, surprisingly, the world of people as well.
“Focus on Life, Not on Money”
I grew up in a family that had enough money—not too much, but enough to meet our basic needs. Most of the people in our town, however, had significantly more material wealth than they actually needed. This did not prevent them from striving for more, and transferring that orientation toward money and things to their offspring. My parents instilled different values in me, reinforced as I grew up by poets like William Wordsworth:
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
I recognized that, while money is not necessarily the root of all evil, it is often associated with the squandering of our time and energy in its pursuit, the degradation of the quality of our human relationships, the distraction and demoralization of our spirits, the plundering of the earth’s resources to meet manufactured demand for nonessential items, and other forms of destruction of the natural world. As a conscientious objector, I also saw that tax dollars fueled the war machine. I resolved to have as little to do with money as possible: to spend little, and therefore to need to earn little. Aspiring to be “downwardly mobile,” to follow Henry David Thoreau’s example rather than John D. Rockefeller’s, I sensed myself in the distinct minority in my economically privileged town.
Despite its reputedly low survival value (about which I didn’t care, since I had my marching orders), I doggedly pursued voluntary poverty. Fresh out of college, I moved into my first house: a tent, pitched on the aforementioned Native American reservation. I spent in the low double-digits per month for food, cooked with free fuel (the sun) in a solar cooker, lived unhooked from the electrical grid (a small solar panel and rechargeable flashlight supplied my lighting needs), traveled on a $50 used bicycle, and had few other expenses. I became a full-time volunteer, knowing that my several thousand dollars of savings could last me quite a while in this situation. Meanwhile, my own unique experience in the heart of Native American country could not have been purchased at any price. I spent all my time with the developmentally disabled in an ancient culture—taking them for walks on land that their ancestors had known for thousands of years, and helping them cope with daily tasks made challenging by their disabilities (many of which resulted, no doubt, from the uranium mining perpetuated by the white culture for which I could never hope to do full penance). Even after being hired as “direct care staff” several months into my time there, I continued to volunteer during the hours that I wasn’t employed. Despite donating 20 percent of my salary back to the Center, I still saved enough money to bridge me through a number of the years which followed, in which I pursued “right ways to live” rather than money. All of my needs were already met, and I was surrounded by the kind of community that most of us from nonindigenous “settler” culture can only envy for its longevity, depth, and cultural richness.
When I felt the call to leave that culture and return to my own, I also knew that I could never in good conscience return to a resource-intensive lifestyle. And as luck would have it, in pursuing organic food-growing and eco-agricultural education, I chose one of the least remunerative, yet most rewarding, paths that modern society has to offer—one in which community, whether “unintentional” or intentional, is a most essential component. My second organic gardening internship turned out to be in an intentional community and educational center dedicated, among other things, to voluntary simplicity, self-reliance, and “deconsumerizing.” Shared efforts and shared resources made many things possible in this setting that no amount of money could have bought—and with negligible or even positive impacts on the natural environment. I have lived in settings with similar ecological orientations (all manifested, of course, slightly differently) ever since.
Over the years, I have relaxed my attitude somewhat toward money: I no longer see it as necessarily a virtue not to earn it or spend it, and I have gradually done more of both. But my cautious attitude and valuing of “life” over money have stayed with me, continued to bring me together with others sharing similar values and similar paths, and made my life “rich” with forms of nonmonetary wealth that can never be owned or horded, but only shared.
I’ve found that, more than anything we can do (or refrain from doing) as lone individuals, community has an unrivaled ability to lessen the toll we take on the earth, establish new relationships between the human and non-human worlds, and inspire and educate both ourselves and others. This “community” does not need be strictly intentional in structure, but it does need to involve both intention and action: a commitment to sharing that reflects the truth that we are all interdependent parts of the web of life.
Perhaps my drummer wasn’t so off-beat after all.
Copyright © Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC) and Communities: Life in Cooperative Culture · communities.ic.org · Reprint only with permission.
The FIC publishes Communities magazine, the Communities Directory, the Intentional Communities Website (www.ic.org), and supports all forms of cooperative living. Please consider a donation to support our efforts.
|Chris Roth is editor of Communities and a long-time communitarian with a predilection for growing organic vegetables.|
Imagine a world where wealth is measured not by how much you have, but by how much you give to others. Imagine people in a huge house full of stuff being considered “poor” because they never pass any of it along to someone else. Imagine going out on a summer day and seeing sign after sign posted, not for a Rummage Sale, but for a Giveaway. There would be the same tables heaped with clothes, knickknacks, and books—but no price tags.
Sound impossible? It’s not. It’s actually a very old idea, and it has appeared in cultures around the world. The modern consumer culture is fairly new, and it isn’t perfect. So let’s consider some alternatives that would work in a community context.
Benefits of Generosity
Many traditional cultures around the world have an economy based not on buying and selling, but on giving. The constant exchange of gifts fosters an intricate network of social connections. You give and receive gifts among your relatives, friends, neighbors, and coworkers. This encourages people to get to know each other’s likes and dislikes. It also limits the gap between those who have the most and those who have the least, in terms of material goods. This translates well into modern intentional communities.
On a personal level, giving teaches you to let go of things you no longer need, instead of clinging to them. Practice in giving away material goods makes it easier to release old habits or ideas that have become more trouble than they’re worth. The Buddhist principle of dana paramita encompasses nonattachment and generosity; it is part of the path to enlightenment and the relief of suffering. Consumerist society pressures everyone to want things. If you can avoid wanting things, or turn off the “wanting” without acquiring things, then you can enjoy more contentment and suffer less yearning.
Also, helping others makes us feel good. It’s fun to watch someone open a present and see their face light up. When bad things happen—such as a flood or a house fire—generosity can relieve some of the stress both for the victim and the bystanders. You can’t undo the damage, but you can donate clothes, furniture, food, or other necessities to replace what was lost. Then you don’t have to stand around feeling totally helpless, and the victims can begin to recover.
Finally, gift giving creates a sense of abundance. When we give things away, that reminds us that we have more than we really need. This cultivates gratitude and appreciation for the things we choose to keep. Wiccan tradition advises, “All that you do returns to you three times over.” Likewise, Inuit people have a saying, “The gift must move.” It’s like water: stagnant water yields no power, but flowing water can turn a millwheel. When we move the energy of generosity, and the gifts themselves, they gain momentum and bring greater abundance into our lives.
How Cultures Give
Different cultures have different customs and names relating to their traditional expressions of generosity. You can find examples in history and in fiction. Some survive today, but it’s a challenge to go against the consumer culture.
The Inuit, and other peoples along the northwest coast of the United States and Canada, have a custom they call “potlatch.” A potlatch is a big community party centered around a host who gives away huge quantities of food, blankets, beads, and other practical and luxurious items. The event also includes speeches by the host and guest(s) of honor, dancing and singing, a sumptuous feast, and games. Potlatches can express mourning or celebration of major life events.
The concept of a gift-driven economy is so incomprehensible to European-derived society that the government of British Columbia actually banned the practice of potlatch from 1887 to 1951. They mistakenly believed that it caused poverty, when in fact, it served to distribute wealth more evenly among the community.
Lakota culture has the “giveaway” ceremony: “We hold onto our otuhan, our give-aways, because they help us to remain Indian. All the big events in our lives—birth and death, joy and sadness—can be occasions for a give-away.” In times of sorrow, the give-away allows grieving people to externalize their pain. There is a Lakota saying for this: “Give until it hurts.” A person would give away most or all of their worldly goods, and exercise their grief for four days. After that, their friends and relatives would come give them gifts, and the grieving person would start to feel better, having released the feeling instead of bottling it up.
Furthermore: “A wopila—a thanksgiving for something good that happened to a person—is also a time for giving away things.” Such a ceremony might be held when a young girl becomes a woman, or a couple gets married, or a baby is born. The host gives away presents to express appreciation for the good fortune in his or her life, and to share that fortune with friends and family.
Give-away customs also appear in fiction: “Hobbits give presents to other people on their own birthdays. Not very expensive ones, as a rule, and not so lavishly as on this occasion; but it was not a bad system. Actually in Hobbiton and Bywater every day in the year was somebody’s birthday, so that every hobbit in those parts had a fair chance of at least one present at least once a week. But they never got tired of them.”
Nor were the presents necessarily new, as revealed by one of Tolkien’s linguistic notes: “for anything that Hobbits had no immediate use for, but were unwilling to throw away, they called a mathom. Their dwellings were apt to become rather crowded with mathoms, and many of the presents that passed from hand to hand were of that sort.” Fans of Middle Earth have been known to hold “Hobbit birthday parties” at which the host gives away presents.
Occasions for Giving
The modern consumerist culture marks special occasions by having guests give presents to the celebrant. Conversely, a gift-exchange culture marks special occasions by having the celebrant give presents to the guests. Thus, any occasion when mainstream society would give gifts to someone is a suitable occasion for someone to host a give-away instead. Of course, there are many other reasons for a give-away, too. Here are some to get you started.
A girl approaching womanhood, or a boy approaching manhood, would give away toys, clothes, and other outgrown items associated with childhood. Similarly, a teenager headed for college—an adult experience—would give away items associated with adolescence.
A married couple whose last infant has reached kindergarten might give away all the baby things: crib, changing table, infant clothes, bottles, etc. to new parents.
A retired couple might sell their house to buy a recreational vehicle and spend their golden years traveling—and hold a give-away to disperse most of the things in their house; everything that wouldn’t fit in the RV.
Someone who just moved into a new home could hold a give-away to thank all the friends who helped them move, or as a way to meet their new neighbors.
Someone might host a “Hobbit birthday party” and give presents to all their friends and relatives, then compare that with an ordinary present-receiving birthday party to see which was more fun.
A person joining or leaving an intentional community might hold a give-away to mark the transition.
The intentional community culture is less acquisitive than the mainstream, but more diverse than traditional tribal cultures. We’re more likely to make presents, to pass along used items, or to give services, rather than always buying something new as a gift. We’re less likely to equate cash or goods with success, happiness, and abundance. But we’re also scattered in bunches across the world, and many communities consist of unrelated people from divergent backgrounds. That’s different from what used to be the norm throughout most of human history. Things that work for mainstream folks, or that worked for our ancestors, may not always work for us now.
We often reject consumerist principles without necessarily knowing what to use as a replacement. Nor can we simply adopt customs wholesale without considering their context and implications. What we can do is study the alternatives, making an informed choice about the values we choose to express and the cultural life we want to live. Then we can adapt—or invent—customs to fit our objectives.
* * *
1. “Dharma Talk: Six Principles of Enlightened Living: The Six Paramitas and the Three Trainings,” a presentation delivered February 20, 1995, at the regular Monday night Dzogchen sitting group in Cambridge, MA. http://www.dzogchen.org/teachings/talks/dtalk-95feb20.html
2. René R. Gadacz, “Potlatch,” The Canadian Encyclopedia, 2006. http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0006431
3. John (Fire) Lame Deer and Richard Erdoes, Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions, Washington Square Press, New York, NY, 1972, p. 37.
4. Lame Deer and Erdoes, Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions, p. 37.
5. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, Ballantine Books, New York, NY, 1965, pp. 50-51.
6. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, p. 26.
Copyright © Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC) and Communities: Life in Cooperative Culture · communities.ic.org · Reprint only with permission.
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|Elizabeth Barrette writes nonfiction, fiction, and poetry in the fields of alternative spirituality, speculative fiction, and gender studies. She supports the growth of community in diverse forms and is active in local organizations. Her favorite activities include gardening for wildlife and public speaking at Pagan events and science fiction conventions. Visit her blog at gaiatribe.geekuniversalis.com.|
Whether the twenty-first century will be the most radical of times or the most reactionary – or will simply lapse into a gray era of dismal mediocrity – will depend overwhelmingly upon the kind of social movement and program that social radicals create out of the theoretical, organizational, and political wealth that has accumulated during the past two centuries of the revolutionary era.
The direction we select, from among several intersecting roads of human development, may well determine the future of our species for centuries to come. As long as this irrational society endangers us with nuclear and biological weapons, we cannot ignore the possibility that the entire human enterprise may come to a devastating end. Given the exquisitely elaborate technical plans that the military-industrial complex has devised, the self-extermination of the human species must be included in the futuristic scenarios that, at the turn of the millennium, the mass media are projecting – the end of a human future as such.
Lest these remarks seem too apocalyptic, I should emphasize that we also live in an era when human creativity, technology, and imagination have the capability to produce extraordinary material achievements and to endow us with societies that allow for a degree of freedom that far and away exceeds the most dramatic and emancipatory visions projected by social theorists such as Saint-Simon, Charles Fourier, Karl Marx, and Peter Kropotkin. (1) Many thinkers of the postmodern age have obtusely singled out science and technology as the principal threats to human well-being, yet few disciplines have imparted to humanity such a stupendous knowledge of the innermost secrets of matter and life, or provided our species better with the ability to alter every important feature of reality and to improve the well-being of human and nonhuman life-forms.
We are thus in a position either to follow a path toward a grim “end of history,” in which a banal succession of vacuous events replaces genuine progress, or to move on to a path toward the true making of history, in which humanity genuinely progresses toward a rational world. We are in a position to choose between an ignominious finale, possibly including the catastrophic nuclear oblivion of history itself, and history’s rational fulfillment in a free, materially abundant society in an aesthetically crafted environment.
Notwithstanding the technological marvels that competing enterprises of the ruling class (that is, the bourgeoisie) are developing in order to achieve hegemony over one another, little of a subjective nature that exists in the existing society can redeem it. Precisely at a time when we, as a species, are capable of producing the means for amazing objective advances and improvements in the human condition and in the nonhuman natural world – advances that could make for a free and rational society – we stand almost naked morally before the onslaught of social forces that may very well lead to our physical immolation. Prognoses about the future are understandably very fragile and are easily distrusted. Pessimism has become very widespread, as capitalist social relations become more deeply entrenched in the human mind than ever before, and as culture regresses appallingly, almost to a vanishing point. To most people today, the hopeful and very radical certainties of the twenty-year period between the Russian Revolution of 1917-18 and the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939 seem almost naïve.
Yet our decision to create a better society, and our choice of the way to do it, must come from within ourselves, without the aid of a deity, still less a mystical “force of nature” or a charismatic leader. If we choose the road toward a better future, our choice must be the consequence of our ability – and ours alone – to learn from the material lessons of the past and to appreciate the real prospects of the future. We will need to have recourse, not to ghostly vagaries conjured up from the murky hell of superstition or, absurdly, from the couloirs of the academy, but to the innovative attributes that make up our very humanity and the essential features that account for natural and social development, as opposed to the social pathologies and accidental events that have sidetracked humanity from its self-fulfillment in consciousness and reason. Having brought history to a point where nearly everything is possible, at least of a material nature – and having left behind a past that was permeated ideologically by mystical and religious elements produced by the human imagination – we are faced with a new challenge, one that has never before confronted humanity. We must consciously create our own world, not according to demonic fantasies, mindless customs, and destructive prejudices, but according to the canons of reason, reflection, and discourse that uniquely belong to our own species.
What factors should be decisive in making our choice? First, of great significance is the immense accumulation of social and political experience that is available to revolutionaries today, a storehouse of knowledge that, properly conceived, could be used to avoid the terrible errors that our predecessors made and to spare humanity the terrible plagues of failed revolutions in the past. Of indispensable importance is the potential for a new theoretical springboard that has been created by the history of ideas, one that provides the means to catapult an emerging radical movement beyond existing social conditions into a future that fosters humanity’s emancipation.
But we must also be fully aware of the scope of the problems that we face. We must understand with complete clarity where we stand in the development of the prevailing capitalist order, and we have to grasp emergent social problems and address them in the program of a new movement. Capitalism is unquestionably the most dynamic society ever to appear in history. By definition, to be sure, it always remains a system of commodity exchange in which objects that are made for sale and profit pervade and mediate most human relations. Yet capitalism is also a highly mutable system, continually advancing the brutal maxim that whatever enterprise does not grow at the expense of its rivals must die. Hence “growth” and perpetual change become the very laws of life of capitalist existence. This means that capitalism never remains permanently in only one form; it must always transform the institutions that arise from its basic social relations.
Although capitalism became a dominant society only in the past few centuries, it long existed on the periphery of earlier societies: in a largely commercial form, structured around trade between cities and empires; in a craft form throughout the European Middle Ages; in a hugely industrial form in our own time; and if we are to believe recent seers, in an informational form in the coming period. It has created not only new technologies but also a great variety of economic and social structures, such as the small shop, the factory, the huge mill, and the industrial and commercial complex. Certainly the capitalism of the Industrial Revolution has not completely disappeared, any more than the isolated peasant family and small craftsman of a still earlier period have been consigned to complete oblivion. Much of the past is always incorporated into the present; indeed, as Marx insistently warned, there is no “pure capitalism,” and none of the earlier forms of capitalism fade away until radically new social relations are established and become overwhelmingly dominant. But today capitalism, even as it coexists with and utilizes precapitalist institutions for its own ends (see Marx’s Grundrisse for this dialectic), now reaches into the suburbs and the countryside with its shopping malls and newly styled factories. Indeed, it is by no means inconceivable that one day it will reach beyond our planet. In any case, it has produced not only new commodities to create and feed new wants but new social and cultural issues, which in turn have given rise to new supporters and antagonists of the existing system. The famous first part of Marx and Engels’s Communist Manifesto, in which they celebrate capitalism’s wonders, would have to be periodically rewritten to keep pace with the achievements – as well as the horrors – produced by the bourgeoisie’s development.
One of the most striking features of capitalism today is that in the Western world the highly simplified two-class structure – the bourgeoisie and the proletariat – that Marx and Engels, in The Communist Manifesto, predicted would become dominant under “mature” capitalism (and we have yet to determine what “mature,” still less “late” or “moribund” capitalism actually is) has undergone a process of reconfiguration. The conflict between wage labor and capital, while it has by no means disappeared, nonetheless lacks the all-embracing importance that it possessed in the past. Contrary to Marx’s expectations, the industrial working class is now dwindling in numbers and is steadily losing its traditional identity as a class – which by no means excludes it from a potentially broader and perhaps more extensive conflict of society as a whole against capitalist social relations. Present-day culture, social relations, cityscapes, modes of production, agriculture, and transportation have remade the traditional proletariat, upon which syndicalists and Marxists were overwhelmingly, indeed almost mystically focused, into a largely petty-bourgeois stratum whose mentality is marked by its own bourgeois utopianism of “consumption for the sake of consumption.” We can foresee a time when the proletarian, whatever the color of his or her collar or place on the assembly line, will be completely replaced by automated and even miniaturized means of production that are operated by a few white-coated manipulators of machines and by computers.
By the same token, the living standards of the traditional proletariat and its material expectations (no small factor in the shaping of social consciousness!) have changed enormously, soaring within only a generation or two from near poverty to a comparatively high degree of material affluence. Among the children and grandchildren of former steel and automobile workers and coal miners, who have no proletarian class identity, a college education has replaced the high school diploma as emblematic of a new class status. In the United States once-opposing class interests have converged to a point that almost 50 percent of American households own stocks and bonds, while a huge number are proprietors of one kind or another, possessing their own homes, gardens, and rural summer retreats.
Given these changes, the stern working man or woman, portrayed in radical posters of the past with a flexed, highly muscular arm holding a bone-crushing hammer, has been replaced by the genteel and well-mannered (so-called) “working middle class.” The traditional cry “Workers of the world, unite!” in its old historical sense becomes ever more meaningless. The class-consciousness of the proletariat, which Marx tried to awaken in The Communist Manifesto, has been hemorrhaging steadily and in many places has virtually disappeared. The more existential class struggle has not been eliminated, to be sure, any more than the bourgeoisie could eliminate gravity from the existing human condition, but unless radicals today become aware of the fact that it has been narrowed down largely to the individual factory or office, they will fail to see that a new, perhaps more expansive form of social consciousness can emerge in the generalized struggles that face us. Indeed, this form of social consciousness can be given a refreshingly new meaning as the concept of the rebirth of the citoyen – a concept so important to the Great Revolution of 1789 and its more broadly humanistic sentiment of sociality that it became the form of address among later revolutionaries summoned to the barricades by the heraldic crowing of the red French rooster.
Seen as a whole, the social condition that capitalism has produced today stands very much at odds with the simplistic class prognoses advanced by Marx and by the revolutionary French syndicalists. After the Second World War, capitalism underwent an enormous transformation, creating broad new social issues with extraordinary rapidity, issues that went beyond traditional proletarian demands for improved wages, hours, and working conditions: notably environmental, gender, hierarchical, civic, and democratic issues. Capitalism, in effect, has generalized its threats to humanity, particularly with climatic changes that may alter the very face of the planet, oligarchical institutions of a global scope, and rampant urbanization that radically corrodes the civic life basic to grassroots politics.
Hierarchy, today, is becoming as pronounced an issue as class – as witness the extent to which many social analyses have singled out managers, bureaucrats, scientists, and the like as emerging, ostensibly dominant groups. New and elaborate gradations of status and interests count today to an extent that they did not in the recent past; they blur the conflict between wage labor and capital that was once so central, clearly defined, and militantly waged by traditional socialists. Class categories are now intermingled with hierarchical categories based on race, gender, sexual preference, and certainly national or regional differences. Status differentiations, characteristic of hierarchy, tend to converge with class differentiations, and a more all-inclusive capitalistic world is emerging in which ethnic, national, and gender differences often surpass the importance of class differences in the public eye. This phenomenon is not entirely new: in the First World War countless German socialist workers cast aside their earlier commitment to the red flags of proletarian unity in favor of the national flags of their well-fed and parasitic rulers and went on to plunge bayonets into the bodies of French and Russian socialist workers – as they did, in turn, under the national flags of their own oppressors.
At the same time capitalism has produced a new, perhaps paramount contradiction: the clash between an economy based on unending growth and the desiccation of the natural environment. (2) This issue and its vast ramifications can no more be minimized, let alone dismissed, than the need of human beings for food or air. At present the most promising struggles in the West, where socialism was born, seem to be waged less around income and working conditions than around nuclear power, pollution, deforestation, urban blight, education, health care, community life, and the oppression of people in underdeveloped countries – as witness the (albeit sporadic) antiglobalization upsurges, in which blue- and white-collar “workers” march in the same ranks with middle-class humanitarians and are motivated by common social concerns. Proletarian combatants become indistinguishable from middle-class ones. Burly workers, whose hallmark is a combative militancy, now march behind “bread and puppet” theater performers, often with a considerable measure of shared playfulness. Members of the working and middle classes now wear many different social hats, so to speak, challenging capitalism obliquely as well as directly on cultural as well as economic grounds.
Nor can we ignore, in deciding what direction we are to follow, the fact that capitalism, if it is not checked, will in the future – and not necessarily the very distant future – differ appreciably from the system we know today. Capitalist development can be expected to vastly alter the social horizon in the years ahead. Can we suppose that factories, offices, cities, residential areas, industry, commerce, and agriculture, let alone moral values, aesthetics, media, popular desires, and the like will not change immensely before the twenty-first century is out? In the past century, capitalism, above all else, has broadened social issues – indeed, the historical social question of how a humanity, divided by classes and exploitation, will create a society based on equality, the development of authentic harmony, and freedom – to include those whose resolution was barely foreseen by the liberatory social theorists in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Our age, with its endless array of “bottom lines” and “investment choices,” now threatens to turn society itself into a vast and exploitative marketplace. (3)
The public with which the progressive socialist had to deal is also changing radically and will continue to do so in the coming decades. To lag in understanding behind the changes that capitalism is introducing and the new or broader contradictions it is producing would be to commit the recurringly disastrous error that led to the defeat of nearly all revolutionary upsurges in the past two centuries. Foremost among the lessons that a new revolutionary movement must learn from the past is that it must win over broad sectors of the middle class to its new populist program. No attempt to replace capitalism with socialism ever had or will have the remotest chance of success without the aid of the discontented petty bourgeoisie, whether it was the intelligentsia and peasantry-in-uniform of the Russian Revolution or the intellectuals, farmers, shopkeepers, clerks, and managers in industry and even in government in the German upheavals of 1918-21. Even during the most promising periods of past revolutionary cycles, the Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, the German Social Democrats, and Russian Communists never acquired absolute majorities in their respective legislatives bodies. So-called “proletarian revolutions” were invariably minority revolutions, usually even within the proletariat itself, and those that succeeded (often briefly, before they were subdued or drifted historically out of the revolutionary movement) depended overwhelmingly on the fact that the bourgeoisie lacked active support among its own military forces or was simply socially demoralized.
Given the changes that we are witnessing and those that are still taking form, social radicals can no longer oppose the predatory (as well as immensely creative) capitalist system by using the ideologies and methods that were born in the first Industrial Revolution, when a factory proletarian seemed to be the principal antagonist of a textile plant owner. (Nor can we use ideologies that were spawned by conflicts that an impoverished peasantry used to oppose feudal and semifeudal landowners.) None of the professedly anticapitalist ideologies of the past – Marxism, anarchism, syndicalism, and more generic forms of socialism – retain the same relevance that they had at an earlier stage of capitalist development and in an earlier period of technological advance. Nor can any of them hope to encompass the multitude of new issues, opportunities, problems, and interests that capitalism has repeatedly created over time.
Marxism was the most comprehensive and coherent effort to produce a systematic form of socialism, emphasizing the material as well as the subjective historical preconditions of a new society. This project, in the present era of precapitalist economic decomposition and of intellectual confusion, relativism, and subjectivism, must never surrender to the new barbarians, many of whom find their home in what was once a barrier to ideological regression – the academy. We owe much to Marx’s attempt to provide us with a coherent and stimulating analysis of the commodity and commodity relations, to an activist philosophy, a systematic social theory, an objectively grounded or “scientific” concept of historical development, and a flexible political strategy. Marxist political ideas were eminently relevant to the needs of a terribly disoriented proletariat and to the particular oppressions that the industrial bourgeoisie inflicted upon it in England in the 1840s, somewhat later in France, Italy, and Germany, and very presciently in Russia in the last decade of Marx’s life. Until the rise of the populist movement in Russia (most famously, the Narodnaya Volya), Marx expected the emerging proletariat to become the great majority of the population in Europe and North America, and to inevitably engage in revolutionary class war as a result of capitalist exploitation and immiseration. And especially between 1917 and 1939, long after Marx’s death, Europe was indeed beleaguered by a mounting class war that reached the point of outright workers’ insurrections. In 1917, owing to an extraordinary confluence of circumstances – particularly with the outbreak of the First World War, which rendered several quasi-feudal European social systems terribly unstable – Lenin and the Bolsheviks tried to use (but greatly altered) Marx’s writings in order to take power in an economically backward empire, whose size spanned eleven time zones across Europe and Asia. (4)
But for the most part, as we have seen, Marxism’s economic insights belonged to an era of emerging factory capitalism in the nineteenth century. Brilliant as a theory of the material preconditions for socialism, it did not address the ecological, civic, and subjective forces or the efficient causes that could impel humanity into a movement for revolutionary social change. On the contrary, for nearly a century Marxism stagnated theoretically. Its theorists were often puzzled by developments that have passed it by and, since the 1960s, have mechanically appended environmentalist and feminist ideas to its formulaic ouvrierist outlook.
By the same token, anarchism – which, I believe, represents in its authentic form a highly individualistic outlook that fosters a radically unfettered lifestyle, often as a substitute for mass action – is far better suited to articulate a Proudhonian single-family peasant and craft world than a modern urban and industrial environment. I myself once used this political label, but further thought has obliged me to conclude that, its often-refreshing aphorisms and insights notwithstanding, it is simply not a social theory. Its foremost theorists celebrate its seeming openness to eclecticism and the liberatory effects of “paradox” or even “contradiction,” to use Proudhonian hyperbole. Accordingly, and without prejudice to the earnestness of many anarchistic practices, a case can made that many of the ideas of social and economic reconstruction that in the past have been advanced in the name of “anarchy” were often drawn from Marxism (including my own concept of “post-scarcity,” which understandably infuriated many anarchists who read my essays on the subject). Regrettably, the use of socialistic terms has often prevented anarchists from telling us or even understanding clearly what they are: individualists whose concepts of autonomy originate in a strong commitment to personal liberty rather than to social freedom, or socialists committed to a structured, institutionalized, and responsible form of social organization. Anarchism’s idea of self-regulation (auto-nomos) led to a radical celebration of Nietzsche’s all-absorbing will. Indeed the history of this “ideology” is peppered with idiosyncratic acts of defiance that verge on the eccentric, which not surprisingly have attracted many young people and aesthetes.
In fact anarchism represents the most extreme formulation of liberalism’s ideology of unfettered autonomy, culminating in a celebration of heroic acts of defiance of the state. Anarchism’s mythos of self-regulation (auto nomos) – the radical assertion of the individual over or even against society and the personalistic absence of responsibility for the collective welfare – leads to a radical affirmation of the all-powerful will so central to Nietzsche’s ideological peregrinations. Some self-professed anarchists have even denounced mass social action as futile and alien to their private concerns and made a fetish of what the Spanish anarchists called grupismo, a small-group mode of action that is highly personal rather than social.
Anarchism has often been confused with revolutionary syndicalism, a highly structured and well-developed mass form of libertarian trade unionism that, unlike anarchism, was long committed to democratic procedures, (5) to discipline in action, and to organized, long-range revolutionary practice to eliminate capitalism. Its affinity with anarchism stems from its strong libertarian bias, but bitter antagonisms between anarchists and syndicalists have a long history in nearly every country in Western Europe and North America, as witness the tensions between the Spanish CNT and the anarchist groups associated with Tierra y Libertad early in the twentieth century; between the revolutionary syndicalist and anarchist groups in Russia during the 1917 revolution; and between the IWW in the United States and Sweden, to cite the more illustrative cases in the history of the libertarian labor movement. More than one American anarchist was affronted by Joe Hill’s defiant maxim on the eve of his execution in Utah: “Don’t mourn – Organize!” Alas, small groups were not quite the “organizations” that Joe Hill, or the grossly misunderstood idol of the Spanish libertarian movement, Salvador Seguí, had in mind. It was largely the shared word libertarian that made it possible for somewhat confused anarchists to coexist in the same organization with revolutionary syndicalists. It was often verbal confusion rather than ideological clarity that made possible the coexistence in Spain of the FAI, as represented by the anarchist Federica Montseny, with the syndicalists, as represented by Juan Prieto, in the CNT-FAI, a truly confused organization if ever there was one.
Revolutionary syndicalism’s destiny has been tied in varying degrees to a pathology called ouvrierisme, or “workerism,” and whatever philosophy, theory of history, or political economy it possesses has been borrowed, often piecemeal and indirectly, from Marx – indeed, Georges Sorel and many other professed revolutionary syndicalists in the early twentieth century expressly regarded themselves as Marxists and even more expressly eschewed anarchism. Moreover, revolutionary syndicalism lacks a strategy for social change beyond the general strike, which revolutionary uprisings such as the famous October and November general strikes in Russia during 1905 proved to be stirring but ultimately ineffectual. Indeed, as invaluable as the general strike may be as a prelude to direct confrontation with the state, they decidedly do not have the mystical capacity that revolutionary syndicalists assigned to them as means for social change. Their limitations are striking evidence that, as episodic forms of direct action, general strikes are not equatable with revolution nor even with profound social changes, which presuppose a mass movement and require years of gestation and a clear sense of direction. Indeed, revolutionary syndicalism exudes a typical ouvrierist anti-intellectualism that disdains attempts to formulate a purposive revolutionary direction and a reverence for proletarian “spontaneity” that, at times, has led it into highly self-destructive situations. Lacking the means for an analysis of their situation, the Spanish syndicalists (and anarchists) revealed only a minimal capacity to understand the situation in which they found themselves after their victory over Franco’s forces in the summer of 1936 and no capacity to take “the next step” to institutionalize a workers’ and peasants’ form of government.
What these observations add up to is that Marxists, revolutionary syndicalists, and authentic anarchists all have a fallacious understanding of politics, which should be conceived as the civic arena and the institutions by which people democratically and directly manage their community affairs. Indeed the Left has repeatedly mistaken statecraft for politics by its persistent failure to understand that the two are not only radically different but exist in radical tension – in fact, opposition – to each other. (6) As I have written elsewhere, historically politics did not emerge from the state – an apparatus whose professional machinery is designed to dominate and facilitate the exploitation of the citizenry in the interests of a privileged class. Rather, politics, almost by definition, is the active engagement of free citizens in the handling their municipal affairs and in their defense of its freedom. One can almost say that politics is the “embodiment” of what the French revolutionaries of the 1790s called civicisme. Quite properly, in fact, the word politics itself contains the Greek word for “city” or polis, and its use in classical Athens, together with democracy, connoted the direct governing of the city by its citizens. Centuries of civic degradation, marked particularly by the formation of classes, were necessary to produce the state and its corrosive absorption of the political realm.
A defining feature of the Left is precisely the Marxist, anarchist, and revolutionary syndicalist belief that no distinction exists, in principle, between the political realm and the statist realm. By emphasizing the nation-state – including a “workers’ state” – as the locus of economic as well as political power, Marx (as well as libertarians) notoriously failed to demonstrate how workers could fully and directly control such a state without the mediation of an empowered bureaucracy and essentially statist (or equivalently, in the case of libertarians, governmental) institutions. As a result, the Marxists unavoidably saw the political realm, which it designated a “workers’ state,” as a repressive entity, ostensibly based on the interests of a single class, the proletariat.
Revolutionary syndicalism, for its part, emphasized factory control by workers’ committees and confederal economic councils as the locus of social authority, thereby simply bypassing any popular institutions that existed outside the economy. Oddly, this was economic determinism with a vengeance, which, tested by the experiences of the Spanish revolution of 1936, proved completely ineffectual. A vast domain of real governmental power, from military affairs to the administration of justice, fell to the Stalinists and the liberals of Spain, who used their authority to subvert the libertarian movement – and with it, the revolutionary achievements of the syndicalist workers in July 1936, or what was dourly called by one novelist “The Brief Summer of Spanish Anarchism.”
As for anarchism, Bakunin expressed the typical view of its adherents in 1871 when he wrote that the new social order could be created “only through the development and organization of the nonpolitical or antipolitical social power of the working class in city and country,” thereby rejecting with characteristic inconsistency the very municipal politics which he sanctioned in Italy around the same year. Accordingly, anarchists have long regarded every government as a state and condemned it accordingly – a view that is a recipe for the elimination of any organized social life whatever. While the state is the instrument by which an oppressive and exploitative class regulates and coercively controls the behavior of an exploited class by a ruling class, a government – or better still, a polity – is an ensemble of institutions designed to deal with the problems of consociational life in an orderly and hopefully fair manner. Every institutionalized association that constitutes a system for handling public affairs – with or without the presence of a state – is necessarily a government. By contrast, every state, although necessarily a form of government, is a force for class repression and control. Annoying as it must seem to Marxists and anarchist alike, the cry for a constitution, for a responsible and a responsive government, and even for law or nomos has been clearly articulated – and committed to print! – by the oppressed for centuries against the capricious rule exercised by monarchs, nobles, and bureaucrats. The libertarian opposition to law, not to speak of government as such, has been as silly as the image of a snake swallowing its tail. What remains in the end is nothing but a retinal afterimage that has no existential reality.
The issues raised in the preceding pages are of more than academic interest. As we enter the twenty-first century, social radicals need a socialism – libertarian and revolutionary – that is neither an extension of the peasant-craft “associationism” that lies at the core of anarchism nor the proletarianism that lies at the core of revolutionary syndicalism and Marxism. However fashionable the traditional ideologies (particularly anarchism) may be among young people today, a truly progressive socialism that is informed by libertarian as well as Marxian ideas but transcends these older ideologies must provide intellectual leadership. For political radicals today to simply resuscitate Marxism, anarchism, or revolutionary syndicalism and endow them with ideological immortality would be obstructive to the development of a relevant radical movement. A new and comprehensive revolutionary outlook is needed, one that is capable of systematically addressing the generalized issues that may potentially bring most of society into opposition to an ever-evolving and changing capitalist system.
The clash between a predatory society based on indefinite expansion and nonhuman nature has given rise to an ensemble of ideas that has emerged as the explication of the present social crisis and meaningful radical change. Social ecology, a coherent vision of social development that intertwines the mutual impact of hierarchy and class on the civilizing of humanity, has for decades argued that we must reorder social relations so that humanity can live in a protective balance with the natural world. (7)
Contrary to the simplistic ideology of “eco-anarchism,” social ecology maintains that an ecologically oriented society can be progressive rather than regressive, placing a strong emphasis not on primitivism, austerity, and denial but on material pleasure and ease. If a society is to be capable of making life not only vastly enjoyable for its members but also leisurely enough that they can engage in the intellectual and cultural self-cultivation that is necessary for creating civilization and a vibrant political life, it must not denigrate technics and science but bring them into accord with visions human happiness and leisure. Social ecology is an ecology not of hunger and material deprivation but of plenty; it seeks the creation of a rational society in which waste, indeed excess, will be controlled by a new system of values; and when or if shortages arise as a result of irrational behavior, popular assemblies will establish rational standards of consumption by democratic processes. In short, social ecology favors management, plans, and regulations formulated democratically by popular assemblies, not freewheeling forms of behavior that have their origin in individual eccentricities.
It is my contention that Communalism is the overarching political category most suitable to encompass the fully thought out and systematic views of social ecology, including libertarian municipalism and dialectical naturalism. (8) As an ideology, Communalism draws on the best of the older Left ideologies – Marxism and anarchism, more properly the libertarian socialist tradition – while offering a wider and more relevant scope for our time. From Marxism, it draws the basic project of formulating a rationally systematic and coherent socialism that integrates philosophy, history, economics, and politics. Avowedly dialectical, it attempts to infuse theory with practice. From anarchism, it draws its commitment to antistatism and confederalism, as well as its recognition that hierarchy is a basic problem that can be overcome only by a libertarian socialist society. (9)
The choice of the term Communalism to encompass the philosophical, historical, political, and organizational components of a socialism for the twenty-first century has not been a flippant one. The word originated in the Paris Commune of 1871, when the armed people of the French capital raised barricades not only to defend the city council of Paris and its administrative substructures but also to create a nationwide confederation of cities and towns to replace the republican nation-state. Communalism as an ideology is not sullied by the individualism and the often explicit antirationalism of anarchism; nor does it carry the historical burden of Marxism’s authoritarianism as embodied in Bolshevism. It does not focus on the factory as its principal social arena or on the industrial proletariat as its main historical agent; and it does not reduce the free community of the future to a fanciful medieval village. Its most important goal is clearly spelled out in a conventional dictionary definition: Communalism, according to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, is ”a theory or system of government in which virtually autonomous local communities are loosely bound in a federation.” (10)
Communalism seeks to recapture the meaning of politics in its broadest, most emancipatory sense, indeed, to fulfill the historic potential of the municipality as the developmental arena of mind and discourse. It conceptualizes the municipality, potentially at least, as a transformative development beyond organic evolution into the domain of social evolution. The city is the domain where the archaic blood-tie that was once limited to the unification of families and tribes, to the exclusion of outsiders, was – juridically, at least – dissolved. It became the domain where hierarchies based on parochial and sociobiological attributes of kinship, gender, and age could be eliminated and replaced by a free society based on a shared common humanity. Potentially, it remains the domain where the once-feared stranger can be fully absorbed into the community – initially as a protected resident of a common territory and eventually as a citizen, engaged in making policy decisions in the public arena. It is above all the domain where institutions and values have their roots not in zoology but in civil human activity.
Looking beyond these historical functions, the municipality constitutes the only domain for an association based on the free exchange of ideas and a creative endeavor to bring the capacities of consciousness to the service of freedom. It is the domain where a mere animalistic adaptation to an existing and pregiven environment can be radically supplanted by proactive, rational intervention into the world – indeed, a world yet to be made and molded by reason – with a view toward ending the environmental, social, and political insults to which humanity and the biosphere have been subjected by classes and hierarchies. Freed of domination as well as material exploitation – indeed, recreated as a rational arena for human creativity in all spheres of life – the municipality becomes the ethical space for the good life. Communalism is thus no contrived product of mere fancy: it expresses an abiding concept and practice of political life, formed by a dialectic of social development and reason.
As a explicitly political body of ideas, Communalism seeks to recover and advance the development of the city (or commune) in a form that accords with its greatest potentialities and historical traditions. This is not to say that Communalism accepts the municipality as it is today. Quite to the contrary, the modern municipality is infused with many statist features and often functions as an agent of the bourgeois nation-state. Today, when the nation-state still seems supreme, the rights that modern municipalities possess cannot be dismissed as the epiphenomena of more basic economic relations. Indeed, to a great degree, they are the hard-won gains of commoners, who long defended them against assaults by ruling classes over the course of history – even against the bourgeoisie itself.
The concrete political dimension of Communalism is known as libertarian municipalism, about which I have previously written extensively. (11) In its libertarian municipalist program, Communalism resolutely seeks to eliminate statist municipal structures and replace them with the institutions of a libertarian polity. It seeks to radically restructure cities’ governing institutions into popular democratic assemblies based on neighborhoods, towns, and villages. In these popular assemblies, citizens – including the middle classes as well as the working classes – deal with community affairs on a face-to-face basis, making policy decisions in a direct democracy, and giving reality to the ideal of a humanistic, rational society.
Minimally, if we are to have the kind of free social life to which we aspire, democracy should be our form of a shared political life. To address problems and issues that transcend the boundaries of a single municipality, in turn, the democratized municipalities should join together to form a broader confederation. These assemblies and confederations, by their very existence, could then challenge the legitimacy of the state and statist forms of power. They could expressly be aimed at replacing state power and statecraft with popular power and a socially rational transformative politics. And they would become arenas where class conflicts could be played out and where classes could be eliminated.
Libertarian municipalists do not delude themselves that the state will view with equanimity their attempts to replace professionalized power with popular power. They harbor no illusions that the ruling classes will indifferently allow a Communalist movement to demand rights that infringe on the state’s sovereignty over towns and cities. Historically, regions, localities, and above all towns and cities have desperately struggled to reclaim their local sovereignty from the state (albeit not always for high-minded purposes). Communalists’ attempt to restore the powers of towns and cities and to knit them together into confederations can be expected to evoke increasing resistance from national institutions. That the new popular-assemblyist municipal confederations will embody a dual power against the state that becomes a source of growing political tension is obvious. Either a Communalist movement will be radicalized by this tension and will resolutely face all its consequences, or it will surely sink into a morass of compromises that absorb it back into the social order that it once sought to change. How the movement meets this challenge is a clear measure of its seriousness in seeking to change the existing political system and the social consciousness it develops as a source of public education and leadership.
Communalism constitutes a critique of hierarchical and capitalist society as a whole. It seeks to alter not only the political life of society but also its economic life. On this score, its aim is not to nationalize the economy or retain private ownership of the means of production but to municipalize the economy. It seeks to integrate the means of production into the existential life of the municipality, such that every productive enterprise falls under the purview of the local assembly, which decides how it will function to meet the interests of the community as a whole. The separation between life and work, so prevalent in the modern capitalist economy, must be overcome so that citizens’ desires and needs, the artful challenges of creation in the course of production, and role of production in fashioning thought and self-definition are not lost. “Humanity makes itself,” to cite the title of V. Gordon Childe’s book on the urban revolution at the end of the Neolithic age and the rise of cities, and it does so not only intellectually and esthetically, but by expanding human needs as well as the productive methods for satisfying them. We discover ourselves – our potentialities and their actualization – through creative and useful work that not only transforms the natural world but leads to our self-formation and self-definition.
We must also avoid the parochialism and ultimately the desires for proprietorship that have afflicted so many self-managed enterprises, such as the “collectives” in the Russian and Spanish revolutions. Not enough has been written about the drift among many “socialistic” self-managed enterprises, even under the red and red-and-black flags, respectively, of revolutionary Russia and revolutionary Spain, toward forms of collective capitalism that ultimately led many of these concerns to compete with one another for raw materials and markets. (12)
Most importantly, in Communalist political life, workers of different occupations would take their seats in popular assemblies not as workers – printers, plumbers, foundry workers and the like, with special occupational interests to advance – but as citizens, whose overriding concern should be the general interest of the society in which they live. Citizens should be freed of their particularistic identity as workers, specialists, and individuals concerned primarily with their own particularistic interests. Municipal life should become a school for the formation of citizens, both by absorbing new citizens and by educating the young, while the assemblies themselves should function not only as permanent decision-making institutions but as arenas for educating the people in handling complex civic and regional affairs. (13)
In a Communalist way of life, conventional economics, with its focus on prices and scarce resources, would be replaced by ethics, with its concern for human needs and the good life. Human solidarity – or philia, as the Greeks called it – would replace material gain and egotism. Municipal assemblies would become not only vital arenas for civic life and decision-making but centers where the shadowy world of economic logistics, properly coordinated production, and civic operations would be demystified and opened to the scrutiny and participation of the citizenry as a whole. The emergence of the new citizen would mark a transcendence of the particularistic class being of traditional socialism and the formation of the “new man” which the Russian revolutionaries hoped they could eventually achieve. Humanity would now be able to rise to the universal state of consciousness and rationality that the great utopians of the nineteenth century and the Marxists hoped their efforts would create, opening the way to humanity’s fulfillment as a species that embodies reason rather than material interest and that affords material post-scarcity rather than an austere harmony enforced by a morality of scarcity and material deprivation. (14)
Classical Athenian democracy of the fifth century B.C.E., the source of the Western democratic tradition, was based on face-to-face decision-making in communal assemblies of the people and confederations of those municipal assemblies. For more than two millennia, the political writings of Aristotle recurrently served to heighten our awareness of the city as the arena for the fulfillment of human potentialities for reason, self-consciousness, and the good life. Appropriately, Aristotle traced the emergence of the polis from the family or oikos – i.e., the realm of necessity, where human beings satisfied their basically animalistic needs, and where authority rested with the eldest male. But the association of several families, he observed, “aim[ed] at something more than the supply of daily needs” (15); this aim initiated the earliest political formation, the village. Aristotle famously described man (by which he meant the adult Greek male (16)) as a “political animal” (politikon zoon) who presided over family members not only to meet their material needs but as the material precondition for his participation in political life, in which discourse and reason replaced mindless deeds, custom, and violence. Thus, “[w]hen several villages are united in a single complete community (koinonan), large enough to be nearly or quite self-sufficing,” he continued, “the polis comes into existence, originating in the bare needs of life, and continuing in existence for the sake of a good life.” (17)
For Aristotle, and we may assume also for the ancient Athenians, the municipality’s proper functions were thus not strictly instrumental or even economic. As the locale of human consociation, the municipality, and the social and political arrangements that people living there constructed, was humanity’s telos, the arena par excellence where human beings, over the course of history, could actualize their potentiality for reason, self-consciousness, and creativity. Thus for the ancient Athenians, politics denoted not only the handling of the practical affairs of a polity but civic activities that were charged with moral obligation to one’s community. All citizens of a city were expected to participate in civic activities as ethical beings.
Examples of municipal democracy were not limited to ancient Athens. Quite to the contrary, long before class differentiations gave rise to the state, many relatively secular towns produced the earliest institutional structures of local democracy. Assemblies of the people may have existed in ancient Sumer, at the very beginning of the so-called “urban revolution” some seven or eight thousand years ago. They clearly appeared among the Greeks, and until the defeat of the Gracchus brothers, they were popular centers of power in republican Rome. They were nearly ubiquitous in the medieval towns of Europe and even in Russia, notably in Novgorod and Pskov, which, for a time, were among the most democratic cities in the Slavic world. The assembly, it should be emphasized, began to approximate its truly modern form in the neighborhood Parisian sections of 1793, when they became the authentic motive forces of the Great Revolution and conscious agents for the making of a new body politic. That they were never given the consideration they deserve in the literature on democracy, particularly democratic Marxist tendencies and revolutionary syndicalists, is dramatic evidence of the flaws that existed in the revolutionary tradition.
These democratic municipal institutions normally existed in combative tension with grasping monarchs, feudal lords, wealthy families, and freebooting invaders until they were crushed, frequently in bloody struggles. It cannot be emphasized too strongly that every great revolution in modern history had a civic dimension that has been smothered in radical histories by an emphasis on class antagonisms, however important these antagonisms have been. Thus it is unthinkable that the English Revolution of the 1640s can be understood without singling out London as its terrain; or, by the same token, any discussions of the various French Revolutions without focusing on Paris, or the Russian Revolutions without dwelling on Petrograd, or the Spanish Revolution of 1936 without citing Barcelona as its most advanced social center. This centrality of the city is not a mere geographic fact; it is, above all, a profoundly political one, which involved the ways in which revolutionary masses aggregated and debated, the civic traditions that nourished them, and the environment that fostered their revolutionary views.
Libertarian municipalism is an integral part of the Communalist framework, indeed its praxis, just as Communalism as a systematic body of revolutionary thought is meaningless without libertarian municipalism. The differences between Communalism and authentic or “pure” anarchism, let alone Marxism, are much too great to be spanned by a prefix such as anarcho-, social, neo-, or even libertarian. Any attempt to reduce Communalism to a mere variant of anarchism would be to deny the integrity of both ideas – indeed, to ignore their conflicting concepts of democracy, organization, elections, government, and the like. Gustave Lefrancais, the Paris Communard who may have coined this political term, adamantly declared that he was “a Communalist, not an anarchist.” (18)
Above all, Communalism is engaged with the problem of power. (19) In marked contrast to the various kinds of communitarian enterprises favored by many self-designated anarchists, such as “people’s” garages, print shops, food coops, and backyard gardens, adherents of Communalism mobilize themselves to electorally engage in a potentially important center of power – the municipal council – and try to compel it to create legislatively potent neighborhood assemblies. These assemblies, it should be emphasized, would make every effort to delegitimate and depose the statist organs that currently control their villages, towns, or cities and thereafter act as the real engines in the exercise of power. Once a number of municipalities are democratized along communalist lines, they would methodically confederate into municipal leagues and challenge the role of the nation-state and, through popular assemblies and confederal councils, try to acquire control over economic and political life.
Finally, Communalism, in contrast to anarchism, decidedly calls for decision-making by majority voting as the only equitable way for a large number of people to make decisions. Authentic anarchists claim that this principle – the “rule” of the minority by the majority – is authoritarian and propose instead to make decisions by consensus. Consensus, in which single individuals can veto majority decisions, threatens to abolish society as such. A free society is not one in which its members, like Homer’s lotus-eaters, live in a state of bliss without memory, temptation, or knowledge. Like it or not, humanity has eaten of the fruit of knowledge, and its memories are laden with history and experience. In a lived mode of freedom – contrary to mere café chatter – the rights of minorities to express their dissenting views will always be protected as fully as the rights of majorities. Any abridgements of those rights would be instantly corrected by the community – hopefully gently, but if unavoidable, forcefully – lest social life collapse into sheer chaos. Indeed, the views of a minority would be treasured as potential source of new insights and nascent truths that, if abridged, would deny society the sources of creativity and developmental advances – for new ideas generally emerge from inspired minorities that gradually gain the centrality they deserve at a given time and place – until, again, they too are challenged as the conventional wisdom of a period that is beginning to pass away and requires new (minority) views to replace frozen orthodoxies.
It remains to ask: how are we to achieve this rational society? One anarchist writer would have it that the good society (or a true “natural” disposition of affairs, including a “natural man”) exists beneath the oppressive burdens of civilization like fertile soil beneath the snow. It follows from this mentality that all we are obliged to do to achieve the good society is to somehow eliminate the snow, which is to say capitalism, nation-states, churches, conventional schools, and other almost endless types of institutions that perversely embody domination in one form or another. Presumably an anarchist society – once state, governmental, and cultural institutions are merely removed – would emerge intact, ready to function and thrive as a free society. Such a “society,” if one can even call it such, would not require that we proactively create it: we would simply let the snow above it melt away. The process of rationally creating a free Communalist society, alas, will require substantially more thought and work than embracing a mystified concept of aboriginal innocence and bliss.
A Communalist society should rest, above all, on the efforts of a new radical organization to change the world, one that has a new political vocabulary to explain its goals, and a new program and theoretical framework to make those goals coherent. It would, above all, require dedicated individuals who are willing to take on the responsibilities of education and, yes, leadership. Unless words are not to become completely mystified and obscure a reality that exists before our very eyes, it should minimally be acknowledged that leadership always exists and does not disappear because it is clouded by euphemisms such as “militants” or, as in Spain, “influential militants.” It must also be acknowledge that many individuals in earlier groups like the CNT were not just “influential militants” but outright leaders, whose views were given more consideration – and deservedly so! – than those of others because they were based on more experience, knowledge, and wisdom, as well as the psychological traits that were needed to provide effective guidance. A serious libertarian approach to leadership would indeed acknowledge the reality and crucial importance of leaders – all the more to establish the greatly needed formal structures and regulations that can effectively control and modify the activities of leaders and recall them when the membership decides their respect is being misused or when leadership becomes an exercise in the abusive exercise of power.
A libertarian municipalist movement should function, not with the adherence of flippant and tentative members, but with people who have been schooled in the movement’s ideas, procedures and activities. They should, in effect, demonstrate a serious commitment to their organization – an organization whose structure is laid out explicitly in a formal constitution and appropriate bylaws. Without a democratically formulated and approved institutional framework whose members and leaders can be held accountable, clearly articulated standards of responsibility cease to exist. Indeed, it is precisely when a membership is no longer responsible to its constitutional and regulatory provisions that authoritarianism develops and eventually leads to the movement’s immolation. Freedom from authoritarianism can best be assured only by the clear, concise, and detailed allocation of power, not by pretensions that power and leadership are forms of “rule” or by libertarian metaphors that conceal their reality. It has been precisely when an organization fails to articulate these regulatory details that the conditions emerge for its degeneration and decay.
Ironically, no stratum has been more insistent in demanding its freedom to exercise its will against regulation than chiefs, monarchs, nobles, and the bourgeoisie; similarly even well-meaning anarchists have seen individual autonomy as the true expression of freedom from the “artificialities” of civilization. In the realm of true freedom – that is, freedom that has been actualized as the result of consciousness, knowledge, and necessity – to know what we can and cannot do is more cleanly honest and true to reality than to avert the responsibility of knowing the limits of the lived world. Said a very wise man more than a century and a half ago: “Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please.”
The need for the international Left to advance courageously beyond a Marxist, anarchist, syndicalist, or vague socialist framework toward a Communalist framework is particularly compelling today. Rarely in the history of leftist political ideas have ideologies been so wildly and irresponsibly muddled; rarely has ideology itself been so disparaged; rarely has the cry for “Unity!” on any terms been heard with such desperation. To be sure, the various tendencies that oppose capitalism should indeed unite around efforts to discredit and ultimately efface the market system. To such ends, unity is an invaluable desideratum: a united front of the entire Left is needed in order to counter the entrenched system – indeed, culture – of commodity production and exchange, and to defend the residual rights that the masses have won in earlier struggles against oppressive governments and social systems.
The urgency of this need, however, does not require movement participants to abandon mutual criticism, or to stifle their criticism of the authoritarian traits present in anticapitalist organizations. Least of all does it require them to compromise the integrity and identity of their various programs. The vast majority of participants in today’s movement are inexperienced young radicals who have come of age in an era of postmodernist relativism. As a consequence, the movement is marked by a chilling eclecticism, in which tentative opinions are chaotically mismarried to ideals that should rest on soundly objective premises. (20) In a milieu where the clear expression of ideas is not valued and terms are inappropriately used, and where argumentation is disparaged as “aggressive” and, worse, “divisive,” it becomes difficult to formulate ideas in the crucible of debate. Ideas grow and mature best, in fact, not in the silence and controlled humidity of an ideological nursery, but in the tumult of dispute and mutual criticism.
Following revolutionary socialist practices of the past, Communalists would try to formulate a minimum program that calls for satisfaction of the immediate concerns of the masses, such as improved wages and shelter or adequate park space and transportation. This minimum program would aim to satisfy the most elemental needs of the masses, to improve their access to the resources that make daily life tolerable. The maximum program, by contrast, would present an image of what human life could be like under libertarian socialism, at least as far as such a society is foreseeable in a world that is continually changing under the impact of seemingly unending industrial revolutions.
Even more, however, Communalists would see their program and practice as a process. Indeed, a transitional program in which each new demand provides the springboard for escalating demands that lead toward more radical and eventually revolutionary demands. One of the most striking examples of a transitional demand was the programmatic call in the late nineteenth century by the Second International for a popular militia to replace a professional army. In still other cases, revolutionary socialists demanded that railroads be publicly owned (or, as revolutionary syndicalists might have demanded, be controlled by railroad workers) rather than privately owned and operated. None of these demands were in themselves revolutionary, but they opened pathways, politically, to revolutionary forms of ownership and operation – which, in turn, could be escalated to achieve the movement’s maximum program. Others might criticize such step-by-step endeavors as “reformist,” but Communalists do not contend that a Communalist society can be legislated into existence. What these demands try to achieve, in the short term, are new rules of engagement between the people and capital – rules that are all the more needed at a time when “direct action” is being confused with protests of mere events whose agenda is set entirely by the ruling classes.
On the whole, Communalism is trying to rescue a realm of public action and discourse that is either disappearing or that is being be reduced to often-meaningless engagements with the police, or to street theater that, however artfully, reduces serious issues to simplistic performances that have no instructive influence. By contrast, Communalists try to build lasting organizations and institutions that can play a socially transformative role in the real world. Significantly, Communalists do not hesitate to run candidates in municipal elections who, if elected, would use what real power their offices confer to legislate popular assemblies into existence. These assemblies, in turn, would have the power ultimately to create effective forms of town-meeting government. Inasmuch as the emergence of the city – and city councils – long preceded the emergence of class society, councils based on popular assemblies are not inherently statist organs, and to participate seriously in municipal elections countervails reformist socialist attempts to elect statist delegates by offering the historic libertarian vision of municipal confederations as a practical, combative, and politically credible popular alternative to state power. Indeed, Communalist candidacies, which explicitly denounce parliamentary candidacies as opportunist, keep alive the debate over how libertarian socialism can be achieved – a debate that has been languishing for years.
There should be no self-deception about the opportunities that exist as a means of transforming our existing irrational society into a rational one. Our choices on how to transform the existing society are still on the table of history and are faced with immense problems. But unless present and future generations are beaten into complete submission by a culture based on queasy calculation as well as by police with tear gas and water cannons, we cannot desist from fighting for what freedoms we have and try to expand them into a free society wherever the opportunity to do so emerges. At any rate we now know, in the light of all the weaponry and means of ecological destruction that are at hand, that the need for radical change cannot be indefinitely deferred. What is clear is that human beings are much too intelligent not to have a rational society; the most serious question we face is whether they are rational enough to achieve one.
1. Many less-well-known names could be added to this list, but one that in particular I would like very much to single out is the gallant leader of the Left Socialist Revolutionary Party, Maria Spiridonova, whose supporters were virtually alone in proposing a workable revolutionary program for the Russian people in 1917-18. Their failure to implement their political insights and replace the Bolsheviks (with whom they initially joined in forming the first Soviet government) not only led to their defeat but contributed to the disastrous failure of revolutionary movements in the century that followed.
2. I frankly regard this contradiction as more fundamental than the often-indiscernible tendency of the rate of profit to decline and thereby to render capitalist exchange inoperable—a contradiction to which Marxists assigned a decisive role in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
3. Contrary to Marx’s assertion that a society disappears only when it has exhausted its capacity for new technological developments, capitalism is in a state of permanent technological revolution—at times, frighteningly so. Marx erred on this score: it will take more than technological stagnation to terminate this system of social relations. As new issues challenge the validity of the entire system, the political and ecological domains will become all the more important. Alternatively, we are faced with the prospect that capitalism may pull down the entire world and leave behind little more than ashes and ruin—achieving, in short, the “capitalist barbarism” of which Rosa Luxemburg warned in her “Junius” essay.
4. I use the word extraordinary because, by Marxist standards, Europe was still objectively unprepared for a socialist revolution in 1914. Much of the continent, in fact, had yet to be colonized by the capitalist market or bourgeois social relations. The proletariat—still a very conspicuous minority of the population in a sea of peasants and small producers—had yet to mature as a class into a significant force. Despite the opprobrium that has been heaped on Plekhanov, Kautsky, Bernstein et al., they had a better understanding of the failure of Marxist socialism to embed itself in proletarian consciousness than did Lenin. Luxemburg, in any case, straddled the so-called “social-patriotic” and “internationalist” camps in her image of a Marxist party’s function, in contrast to Lenin, her principal opponent in the so-called “organizational question” in the Left of the wartime socialists, who was prepared to establish a “proletarian dictatorship” under all and any circumstances. The First World War was by no means inevitable, and it generated democratic and nationalist revolutions rather than proletarian ones. (Russia, in this respect, was no more a “workers’ state” under Bolshevik rule than were the Hungarian and Bavarian “soviet” republics.) Not until 1939 was Europe placed in a position where a world war was inevitable. The revolutionary Left (to which I belonged at the time) frankly erred profoundly when it took a so-called “internationalist” position and refused to support the Allies (their imperialist pathologies notwithstanding) against the vanguard of world fascism, the Third Reich.
5. Kropotkin, for example, rejected democratic decision-making procedures: “Majority rule is as defective as any other kind of rule,” he asserted. See Peter Kropotkin, “Anarchist Communism: Its Basis and Principles,” in Kropotkin’s Revolutionary Pamphlets, edited by Roger N. Baldwin (1927; reprinted by New York: Dover, 1970), p. 68.
6. I have made the distinction between politics and statecraft in, for example, Murray Bookchin, From Urbanization to Cities: Toward a New Politics of Citizenship (1987; reprinted by London: Cassell, 1992), pp. 41-3, 59-61
8. Several years ago, while I still identified myself as an anarchist, I attempted to formulate a distinction between “social” and “lifestyle” anarchism, and I wrote an article that identified Communalism as “the democratic dimension of anarchism” (see Left Green Perspectives, no. 31, October 1994). I no longer believe that Communalism is a mere “dimension” of anarchism, democratic or otherwise; rather, it is a distinct ideology with a revolutionary tradition that has yet to be explored.
9. To be sure, these points undergo modification in Communalism: for example, Marxism’s historical materialism, explaining the rise of class societies, is expanded by social ecology’s explanation of the anthropological and historical rise of hierarchy. Marxian dialectical materialism, in turn, is transcended by dialectical naturalism; and the anarcho-communist notion of a very loose “federation of autonomous communes” is replaced with a confederation from which its components, functioning in a democratic manner through citizens’ assemblies, may withdraw only with the approval of the confederation as a whole.
10. What is so surprising about this minimalist dictionary definition is its overall accuracy: I would take issue only with its formulations “virtually autonomous” and “loosely bound,” which suggest a parochial and particularistic, even irresponsible relationship of the components of a confederation to the whole.
11. My writings on libertarian municipalism date back to the early 1970s, with “Spring Offensives and Summer Vacations,” Anarchos, no. 4 (1972). The more significant works include From Urbanization to Cities (1987; reprinted by London: Cassell, 1992), “Theses on Libertarian Municipalism,” Our Generation [Montreal], vol. 16, nos. 3-4 (Spring/Summer 1985); “Radical Politics in an Era of Advanced Capitalism,” Green Perspectives, no. 18 (Nov. 1989); “The Meaning of Confederalism,” Green Perspectives, no. 20 (November 1990); “Libertarian Municipalism: An Overview,” Green Perspectives, no. 24 (October 1991); and The Limits of the City (New York: Harper Colophon, 1974). For a concise summary, see Janet Biehl, The Politics of Social Ecology: Libertarian Municipalism (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1998).
12. For one such discussion, see Murray Bookchin, “The Ghost of Anarchosyndicalism,” Anarchist Studies, vol. 1, no. 1 (Spring 1993).
13. One of the great tragedies of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Spanish Revolution of 1936 was the failure of the masses to acquire more than the scantiest knowledge of social logistics and the complex interlinkages involved in providing for the necessities of life in a modern society. Inasmuch as those who had the expertise involved in managing productive enterprises and in making cities functional were supporters of the old regime, workers were in fact unable to actually take over the full control of factories. They were obliged instead to depend on “bourgeois specialists” to operate them, individuals who steadily made them the victims of a technocratic elite.
14. I have previously discussed this transformation of workers from mere class beings into citizens, among other places, in From Urbanization to Cities (1987; reprinted by London: Cassell, 1995), and in “Workers and the Peace Movement” (1983), published in The Modern Crisis (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1987).
15. Aristotle, Politics (1252 [b] 16), trans. Benjamin Jowett, in The Complete Works of Aristotle, Revised Oxford Translation, ed. Jonathan Barnes (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984), vol. 2, p. 1987.
16. As a libertarian ideal for the future of humanity and a genuine domain of freedom, the Athenian polis falls far short of the city’s ultimate promise. Its population included slaves, subordinated women, and franchiseless resident aliens. Only a minority of male citizens possessed civic rights, and they ran the city without consulting a larger population. Materially, the stability of the polis depended upon the labor of its noncitizens. These are among the several monumental failings that later municipalities would have to correct. The polis is significant, however, not an example of an emancipated community but for the successful functioning of its free institutions.
17. Aristotle, Politics (1252 [b] 29-30), trans. Jowett; emphasis added. The words from the original Greek text may be found in the Loeb Classical Library edition: Aristotle, Politics, trans. H. Rackham (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1972).
18. Lefrancais is quoted in Peter Kropotkin, Memoirs of a Revolutionist (New York: Horizon Press, 1968), p. 393. I too would be obliged today to make the same statement. In the late 1950s, when anarchism in the United States was a barely discernible presence, it seemed like a sufficiently clear field in which I could develop social ecology, as well as the philosophical and political ideas that would eventually become dialectical naturalism and libertarian municipalism. I well knew that these views were not consistent with traditional anarchist ideas, least of all post-scarcity, which implied that a modern libertarian society rested on advanced material preconditions. Today I find that anarchism remains the very simplistic individualistic and antirationalist psychology it has always been. My attempt to retain anarchism under the name of “social anarchism” has largely been a failure, and I now find that the term I have used to denote my views must be replaced with Communalism, which coherently integrates and goes beyond the most viable features of the anarchist and Marxist traditions. Recent attempts to use the word anarchism as a leveler to minimize the abundant and contradictory differences that are grouped under that term and even celebrate its openness to “differences” make it a diffuse catch-all for tendencies that properly should be in sharp conflict with one another.
19. For a discussion of the very real problems created by anarchists’ disdain for power during the 1936 Spanish Revolution, see the appendix to this article, “Anarchism and Power in the Spanish Revolution.”
20. I should note that by objective I do not refer merely to existential entities and events but also to potentialities that can be rationally conceived, nurtured, and in time actualized into what we would narrowly call realities. If mere substantiality were all that the term objective meant, no ideal or promise of freedom would be an objectively valid goal unless it existed under our very noses.
From the previous website ISSUE # 2 NOVEMBER 2002
Seldom have socially important words become more confused and divested of their historic meaning than they are at present. Two centuries ago, it is often forgotten, “democracy” was deprecated by monarchists and republicans alike as “mob rule.” Today, democracy is hailed as “representative democracy,” an oxymoron that refers to little more than a republican oligarchy of the chosen few who ostensibly speak for the powerless many.
“Communism,” for its part, once referred to a cooperative society that would be based morally on mutual respect and on an economy in which each contributed to the social labor fund according to his or her ability and received the means of life according to his or her needs. Today, “communism” is associated with the Stalinist gulag and wholly rejected as totalitarian. Its cousin, “socialism” — which once denoted a politically free society based on various forms of collectivism and equitable material returns for labor — is currently interchangeable with a somewhat humanistic bourgeois liberalism.
During the 1980s and 1990s, as the entire social and political spectrum has shifted ideologically to the right, “anarchism” itself has not been immune to redefinition. In the Anglo-American sphere, anarchism is being divested of its social ideal by an emphasis on personal autonomy, an emphasis that is draining it of its historic vitality. A Stirnerite individualism — marked by an advocacy of lifestyle changes, the cultivation of behavioral idiosyncrasies and even an embrace of outright mysticism — has become increasingly prominent. This personalistic “lifestyle anarchism” is steadily eroding the socialistic core of anarchist concepts of freedom.
Let me stress that in the British and American social tradition, autonomy and freedom are not equivalent terms. By insisting on the need to eliminate personal domination, autonomy focuses on the individual as the formative component and locus of society. By contrast, freedom, despite its looser usages, denotes the absence of domination in society, of which the individual is part. This contrast becomes very important when individualist anarchists equate collectivism as such with the tyranny of the community over its members.
Today, if an anarchist theorist like L. Susan Brown can assert that “a group is a collection of individuals, no more and no less,” rooting anarchism in the abstract individual, we have reason to be concerned. Not that this view is entirely new to anarchism; various anarchist historians have described it as implicit in the libertarian outlook. Thus the individual appears ab novo, endowed with natural rights and bereft of roots in society or historical development.
But whence does this “autonomous” individual derive? What is the basis for its “natural rights,” beyond a priori premises and hazy intuitions? What role does historical development play in its formation? What social premises give birth to it, sustain it, indeed nourish it? How can a “collection of individuals” institutionalize itself such as to give rise to something more than an autonomy that consists merely in refusing to impair the “liberties” of others — or “negative liberty,” as Isaiah Berlin called it in contradistinction to “positive liberty,” which is substantive freedom, in our case constructed along socialistic lines?
In the history of ideas, “autonomy,” referring to strictly personal “self-rule,” found its ancient apogee in the imperial Roman cult of libertas. During the rule of the Julian-Claudian Caesars, the Roman citizen enjoyed a great deal of autonomy to indulge his own desires — and lusts — without reproval from any authority, provided that he did not interfere with the business and the needs of the state. In the more theoretically developed liberal tradition of John Locke and John Stuart Mill, autonomy acquired a more expansive sense that was opposed ideologically to excessive state authority. During the nineteenth century, if there was any single subject that gained the interest of classical liberals, it was political economy, which they often conceived not only as the study of goods and services, but also as a system of morality. Indeed, liberal thought generally reduced the social to the economic. Excessive state authority was opposed in favor of a presumed economic autonomy. Ironically, liberals often invoked the word freedom, in the sense of “autonomy,” as they do to the present day.
Despite their assertions of autonomy and distrust of state authority, however, these classical liberal thinkers did not in the last instance hold to the notion that the individual is completely free from lawful guidance. Indeed, their interpretation of autonomy actually presupposed quite definite arrangements beyond the individual — notably, the laws of the marketplace. Individual autonomy to the contrary, these laws constitute a social organizing system in which all “collections of individuals” are held under the sway of the famous “invisible hand” of competition. Paradoxically, the laws of the marketplace override the exercise of “free will” by the same sovereign individuals who otherwise constitute the “collection of individuals.”
No rationally formed society can exist without institutions, and if a society as a “collection of individuals, no more and no less,” were ever to emerge, it would simply dissolve. Such a dissolution, to be sure, would never happen in reality. The liberals, nonetheless, can cling to the notion of a “free market” and “free competition” guided by the “inexorable laws” of political economy.
Alternatively, freedom, a word that shares etymological roots with the German Freiheit (for which there is no equivalent in Romance languages), takes its point of departure not from the individual but from the community or, more broadly, from society. In the last century and early in the present one, as the great socialist theorists further sophisticated ideas of freedom, the individual and his or her development were consciously intertwined with social evolution — specifically, the institutions that distinguish society from mere animal aggregations.
What made their focus uniquely ethical was the fact that as social revolutionaries they asked the key question — What constitutes a rational society? — a question that abolishes the centrality of economics in a free society. Where liberal thought generally reduced the social to the economic, various socialisms (apart from Marxism), among which Kropotkin denoted anarchism the “left wing,” dissolved the economic into the social.
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as Enlightenment thought and its derivatives brought the idea of the mutability of institutions to the foreground of social thought, the individual, too, came to be seen as mutable. To the socialistic thinkers of the period, a “collection” was a totally alien way of denoting society; they properly considered individual freedom to be congruent with social freedom, and very significantly, they defined freedom as such as an evolving, as well as a unifying, concept.
In short, both society and the individual were historicized in the best sense of this term: as an ever-developing, self-generative and creative process in which each existed within and through the other. Hopefully, this historicization would be accompanied by ever-expanding new rights and duties. The slogan of the First International, in fact, was the demand, “No rights without duties, no duties without rights” — a demand that later appeared on the mastheads of anarchosyndicalist periodicals in Spain and elsewhere well into the present century.
Thus, for classical socialist thinkers, to conceive of the individual without society was as meaningless as to conceive of society without individuals. They sought to realize both in rational institutional frameworks that fostered the greatest degree of free expression in every aspect of social life.
Individualism, as conceived by classical liberalism, rested on a fiction to begin with. Its very presupposition of a social “lawfulness” maintained by marketplace competition was far removed from its myth of the totally sovereign, “autonomous” individual. With even fewer presuppositions to support itself, the woefully undertheorized work of Max Stirner shared a similar disjunction: the ideological disjunction between the ego and society.
The pivotal issue that reveals this disjunction — indeed, this contradiction — is the question of democracy. By democracy, of course, I do not mean “representative government” in any form, but rather face-to-face democracy. With regard to its origins in classical Athens, democracy as I use it is the idea of the direct management of the polis by its citizenry in popular assemblies — which is not to downplay the fact that Athenian democracy was scarred by patriarchy, slavery, class rule and the restriction of citizenship to males of putative Athenian birth. What I am referring to is an evolving tradition of institutional structures, not a social “model.” Democracy generically defined, then, is the direct management of society in face-to-face assemblies — in which policy is formulated by the resident citizenry and administration is executed by mandated and delegated councils.
Libertarians commonly consider democracy, even in this sense, as a form of “rule” — since in making decisions, a majority view prevails and thus “rules” over a minority. As such, democracy is said to be inconsistent with a truly libertarian ideal. Even so knowledgeable a historian of anarchism as Peter Marshall observes that, for anarchists, “the majority has no more right to dictate to the minority, even a minority of one, than the minority to the majority.” Scores of libertarians have echoed this idea time and again.
What is striking about assertions like Marshall’s is their highly pejorative language. Majorities, it would seem, neither “decide” nor “debate”: rather, they “rule,” “dictate,” “command,” “coerce” and the like. In a free society that not only permitted but fostered the fullest degree of dissent, whose podiums at assemblies and whose media were open to the fullest expression of all views, whose institutions were truly forums for discussion — one may reasonably ask whether such a society would actually “dictate” to anyone when it had to arrive at a decision that concerned the public welfare.
How, then, would society make dynamic collective decisions about public affairs, aside from mere individual contracts? The only collective alternative to majority voting as a means of decision-making that is commonly presented is the practice of consensus. Indeed, consensus has even been mystified by avowed “anarcho-primitivists,” who consider Ice Age and contemporary “primitive” or “primal” peoples to constitute the apogee of human social and psychic attainment. I do not deny that consensus may be an appropriate form of decision-making in small groups of people who are thoroughly familiar with one another. But to examine consensus in practical terms, my own experience has shown me that when larger groups try to make decisions by consensus, it usually obliges them to arrive at the lowest common intellectual denominator in their decision-making: the least controversial or even the most mediocre decision that a sizable assembly of people can attain is adopted — precisely because everyone must agree with it or else withdraw from voting on that issue. More disturbingly, I have found that it permits an insidious authoritarianism and gross manipulations — even when used in the name of autonomy or freedom.
To take a very striking case in point: the largest consensus-based movement (involving thousands of participants) in recent memory in the United States was the Clamshell Alliance, which was formed to oppose the Seabrook nuclear reactor in the mid-1970s in New Hampshire. In her recent study of the movement, Barbara Epstein has called the Clamshell the “first effort in American history to base a mass movement on nonviolent direct action” other than the 1960s civil rights movement. As a result of its apparent organizational success, many other regional alliances against nuclear reactors were formed throughout the United States.
I can personally attest to the fact that within the Clamshell Alliance, consensus was fostered by often cynical Quakers and by members of a dubiously “anarchic” commune that was located in Montague, Massachusetts. This small, tightly knit faction, unified by its own hidden agendas, was able to manipulate many Clamshell members into subordinating their goodwill and idealism to those opportunistic agendas. The de facto leaders of the Clamshell overrode the rights and ideals of the innumerable individuals who entered it and undermined their morale and will.
In order for that clique to create full consensus on a decision, minority dissenters were often subtly urged or psychologically coerced to decline to vote on a troubling issue, inasmuch as their dissent would essentially amount to a one-person veto. This practice, called “standing aside” in American consensus processes, all too often involved intimidation of the dissenters, to the point that they completely withdrew from the decision-making process, rather than make an honorable and continuing expression of their dissent by voting, even as a minority, in accordance with their views. Having withdrawn, they ceased to be political beings — so that a “decision” could be made. More than one “decision” in the Clamshell Alliance was made by pressuring dissenters into silence, and through a chain of such intimidations, “consensus” was ultimately achieved only after dissenting members nullified themselves as participants in the process.
On a more theoretical level, consensus silenced that most vital aspect of all dialogue, dissensus. The ongoing dissent, the passionate dialogue that still persists even after a minority accedes temporarily to a majority decision, was replaced in the Clamshell by dull monologues — and the uncontroverted and deadening tone of consensus. In majority decision-making, the defeated minority can resolve to overturn a decision on which they have been defeated — they are free to openly and persistently articulate reasoned and potentially persuasive disagreements. Consensus, for its part, honors no minorities, but mutes them in favor of the metaphysical “one” of the “consensus” group.
The creative role of dissent, valuable as an ongoing democratic phenomenon, tends to fade away in the gray uniformity required by consensus. Any libertarian body of ideas that seeks to dissolve hierarchy, classes, domination and exploitation by allowing even Marshall’s “minority of one” to block decision-making by the majority of a community, indeed, of regional and nationwide confederations, would essentially mutate into a Rousseauean “general will” with a nightmare world of intellectual and psychic conformity. In more gripping times, it could easily “force people to be free,” as Rousseau put it — and as the Jacobins practiced it in 1793-94.
The de facto leaders of the Clamshell were able to get away with their behavior precisely because the Clamshell was not sufficiently organized and democratically structured, such that it could countervail the manipulation of a well-organized few. The de facto leaders were subject to few structures of accountability for their actions. The ease with which they cannily used consensus decision-making for their own ends has been only partly told, but consensus practices finally shipwrecked this large and exciting organization with its Rousseauean “republic of virtue.” It was also ruined, I may add, by an organizational laxity that permitted mere passersby to participate in decision-making, thereby destructuring the organization to the point of invertebracy. It was for good reason that I and many young anarchists from Vermont who had actively participated in the Alliance for some few years came to view consensus as anathema.
If consensus could be achieved without compulsion of dissenters, a process that is feasible in small groups, who could possibly oppose it as a decision-making process? But to reduce a libertarian ideal to the unconditional right of a minority — let alone a “minority of one” — to abort a decision by a “collection of individuals” is to stifle the dialectic of ideas that thrives on opposition, confrontation and, yes, decisions with which everyone need not agree and should not agree, lest society become an ideological cemetery. Which is not to deny dissenters every opportunity to reverse majority decisions by unimpaired discussion and advocacy.
I have dwelled on consensus at some length because it constitutes the usual individualistic alternative to democracy, so commonly counterposed as “no rule” — or a free-floating form of personal autonomy — against majority “rule.” Inasmuch as libertarian ideas in the United States and Britain are increasingly drifting toward affirmations of personal autonomy, the chasm between individualism and antistatist collectivism is becoming unbridgeable, in my view. A personalistic anarchism has taken deep root among young people today. Moreover, they increasingly use the word “anarchy” to express not only a personalistic stance but also an antirational, mystical, antitechnological and anticivilizational body of views that makes it impossible for anarchists who anchor their ideas in socialism to apply the word “anarchist” to themselves without a qualifying adjective. Howard Ehrlich, one of our ablest and most concerned American comrades, uses the phrase “social anarchism” as the title of his magazine, apparently to distinguish his views from an anarchism that is ideologically anchored in liberalism and possibly worse.
I would like to suggest that far more than a qualifying adjective is needed if we are to elaborate our notion of freedom more expansively. It would be unfortunate indeed if libertarians today had to literally explain that they believe in a society, not a mere collection of individuals! A century ago, this belief was presupposed; today, so much has been stripped away from the collectivistic flesh of classical anarchism that it is on the verge of becoming a personal life-stage for adolescents and a fad for their middle-aged mentors, a route to “self-realization” and the seemingly “radical” equivalent of encounter groups.
Today, there must be a place on the political spectrum where a body of anti-authoritarian thought that advances humanity’s bitter struggle to arrive at the realization of its authentic social life — the famous “Commune of communes” — can be clearly articulated institutionally as well as ideologically. There must be a means by which socially concerned anti-authoritarians can develop a program and a practice for attempting to change the world, not merely their psyches. There must be an arena of struggle that can mobilize people, help them to educate themselves and develop an anti-authoritarian politics, to use this word in its classical meaning, indeed that pits a new public sphere against the state and capitalism.
In short, we must recover not only the socialist dimension of anarchism but its political dimension: democracy. Bereft of its democratic dimension and its communal or municipal public sphere, anarchism may indeed denote little more than a “collection of individuals, no more and no less.” Even anarcho-communism, although it is by far the most preferable of adjectival modifications of the libertarian ideal, nonetheless retains a structural vagueness that tells us nothing about the institutions necessary to expedite a communistic distribution of goods. It spells out a broad goal, a desideratum — one, alas, terribly tarnished by the association of “communism” with Bolshevism and the state — but its public sphere and forms of institutional association remain unclear at best and susceptible to a totalitarian onus at worst.
I wish to propose that the democratic and potentially practicable dimension of the libertarian goal be expressed as Communalism, a term that, unlike political terms that once stood unequivocally for radical social change, has not been historically sullied by abuse. Even ordinary dictionary definitions of Communalism, I submit, capture to a great degree the vision of a “Commune of communes” that is being lost by current Anglo-American trends that celebrate anarchy variously as “chaos,” as a mystical “oneness” with “nature,” as self-fulfillment or as “ecstasy,” but above all as personalistic.
Communalism is defined as “a theory or system of government [sic!] in which virtually autonomous [sic!] local communities are loosely in a federation.” No English dictionary is very sophisticated politically. This use of the terms “government” and “autonomous” does not commit us to an acceptance of the state and parochialism, let alone individualism. Further, federation is often synonymous with confederation, the term I regard as more consistent with the libertarian tradition. What is remarkable about this (as yet) unsullied term is its extraordinary proximity to libertarian municipalism, the political dimension of social ecology that I have advanced at length elsewhere.
In Communalism, libertarians have an available word that they can enrich as much by experience as by theory. Most significantly, the word can express not only what we are against, but also what we are for, namely the democratic dimension of libertarian thought and a libertarian form of society. It is a word that is meant for a practice that can tear down the ghetto walls that are increasingly imprisoning anarchism in cultural exotica and psychological introversion. It stands in explicit opposition to the suffocating individualism that sits so comfortably side-by-side with bourgeois self-centeredness and a moral relativism that renders any social action irrelevant, indeed, institutionally meaningless.
Anarchism is on the retreat today. If we fail to elaborate the democratic dimension of anarchism, we will miss the opportunity not only to form a vital movement, but to prepare people for a revolutionary social praxis in the future. Alas, we are witnessing the appalling desiccation of a great tradition, such that neo-Situationists, nihilists, primitivists, antirationalists, anticivilizationists and avowed “chaotics” are closeting themselves in their egos, reducing anything resembling public political activity to juvenile antics.
None of which is to deny the importance of a libertarian culture, one that is aesthetic, playful and broadly imaginative. The anarchists of the last century and part of the present one justifiably took pride in the fact that many innovative artists, particularly painters and novelists, aligned themselves with anarchic views of reality and morality. But behavior that verges on a mystification of criminality, asociality, intellectual incoherence, anti-intellectualism and disorder for its own sake is simply lumpen. It feeds on the dregs of capitalism itself. However much such behavior invokes the “rights” of the ego as it dissolves the political into the personal or inflates the personal into a transcendental category, it is a priori in the sense that has no origins outside the mind to even potentially support it. As Bakunin and Kropotkin argued repeatedly, individuality has never existed apart from society and the individual’s own evolution has been coextensive with social evolution. To speak of “The Individual” apart from its social roots and social involvements is as meaningless as to speak of a society that contains no people or institutions.
Merely to exist, institutions must have form, as I argued some thirty years ago in my essay “The Forms of Freedom,” lest freedom itself — individual as well as social — lose its definability. Institutions must be rendered functional, not abstracted into Kantian categories that float in a rarefied academic air. They must have the tangibility of structure, however offensive a term like structure may be to individualist libertarians: concretely, they must have the means, policies and experimental praxis to arrive at decisions. Unless everyone is to be so psychologically homogeneous and society’s interests so uniform in character that dissent is simply meaningless, there must be room for conflicting proposals, discussion, rational explication and majority decisions — in short, democracy.
Like it or not, such a democracy, if it is libertarian, will be Communalist and institutionalized in such a way that it is face-to-face, direct and grassroots, a democracy that advances our ideas beyond negative liberty to positive liberty. A Communalist democracy would oblige us to develop a public sphere — and in the Athenian meaning of the term, a politics — that grows in tension and ultimately in a decisive conflict with the state. Confederal, antihierarchical and collectivist, based on the municipal management of the means of life rather than their control by vested interests (such as workers’ control, private control and, more dangerously, state control), it may justly be regarded as the processual actualization of the libertarian ideal as a daily praxis.
The fact that a Communalist politics entails participation in municipal elections — based, to be sure, on an unyielding program that demands the formation of popular assemblies and their confederation — does not mean that entry into existing village, town and city councils involves participation in state organs, any more than establishing an anarchosyndicalist union in a privately owned factory involves participation in capitalist forms of production. One need only turn to the French Revolution of 1789-94 to see how seemingly state institutions, like the municipal “districts” established under the monarchy in 1789 to expedite elections to the Estates General, were transformed four years later into largely revolutionary bodies, or “sections,” that nearly gave rise to the “Commune of communes.” Their movement for a sectional democracy was defeated during the insurrection of June 2, 1793 — not at the hands of the monarchy, but by the treachery of the Jacobins.
Capitalism will not generously provide us the popular democratic institutions we need. Its control over society today is ubiquitous, not only in what little remains of the public sphere but in the minds of many self-styled radicals. A revolutionary people must either assert their control over institutions that are basic to their public lives — which Bakunin correctly perceived to be their municipal councils — or else they will have no choice but to withdraw into their private lives, as is already happening on an epidemic scale today. It would be ironic indeed if an individualist anarchism and its various mutations, from the academic and transcendentally moral to the chaotic and the lumpen, in the course of rejecting democracy even for “a minority of one,” were to further raise the walls of dogma that are steadily growing around the libertarian ideal, and if, wittingly or not, anarchism were to turn into another narcissistic cult that snugly fits into an alienated, commodified, introverted and egocentric society.
— September 18, 1994
 L. Susan Brown, The Politics of Individualism (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1993), p. 12. I do not question the sincerity of Brown’s libertarian views; she regards herself as an anarcho-communist, as do I. But she makes no direct attempt to reconcile her individualistic views with communism in any form. Both Bakunin and Kropotkin would have strongly disagreed with her formulation of what constitutes “a group,” while Margaret Thatcher, clearly for reasons of her own, might be rather pleased with it, since it is so akin to the former British prime minister’s notorious statement that there is no such thing as society — there are only individuals. Certainly Brown is not a Thatcherite, nor Thatcher an anarchist, but however different they may be in other respects, both have ideological filiations with classical liberalism that make their shared affirmations of the “autonomy” of the individual possible. I cannot ignore the fact, however, that neither Bakunin’s, Kropotkin’s nor my own views are treated with any depth in Brown’s book (pp. 156-62), and her account of them is filled with serious inaccuracies.
 Liberals were not always in accord with each other nor did they hold notably coherent doctrines. Mill, a free-thinking humanitarian and utilitarian, in fact exhibited a measure of sympathy for socialism. I am not singling out here any particular liberal theorist, be he Mill, Adam Smith or Friedrich Hayek. Each had or has his or her individual eccentricity or personal line of thought. I am speaking of traditional liberalism as a whole, whose general features involve a belief in the “laws” of the marketplace and “free” competition. Marx was by no means free of this influence: he, too, unrelentingly tried to discover “laws” of society, as did many socialists during the last century, including utopians like Charles Fourier.
 See Kropotkin’s “Anarchism,” the famous Encyclopaedia Britannica article that became one of his most widely read works. Republished in Roger N. Baldwin, ed., Kropotkin’s Revolutionary Pamphlets: A Collection of Writings by Peter Kropotkin (New York: Vanguard Press, 1927; reprinted by Dover, 1970).
 I have never regarded the classical Athenian democracy as a “model” or an “ideal” to be restored in a rational society. I have long cited Athens with admiration for one reason: the polis around Periclean times provides us with striking evidence that certain structures can exist — policy-making by an assembly, rotation and limitation of public offices and defense by a nonprofessional armed citizenry. The Mediterranean world of the fifth century B.C.E. was largely based on monarchical authority and repressive custom. That all Mediterranean societies of that time required or employed patriarchy, slavery and the State (usually in an absolutist form) makes the Athenian experience all the more remarkable for what it uniquely introduced into social life, including an unprecedented degree of free expression. It would be naive to suppose that Athens could have risen above the most basic attributes of ancient society in its day, which, from a distance of 2,400 years we now have the privilege of judging as ugly and inhuman. Regrettably, no small number of people today are willing to judge the past by the present.
 Peter Marshall, Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism (London: HarperCollins, 1992), p. 22.
 Barbara Epstein, Political Protest and Cultural Revolution: Non-Violent Direct Action in the 1970s and 1980s (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991), especially pp. 59, 78, 89, 94-95, 167-68, 177. Although I disagree with some of the facts and conclusions in Epstein’s book — based on my personal as well as general knowledge of the Clamshell Alliance — she vividly portrays the failure of consensus in this movement.
 The association of “chaos,” “nomadism” and “cultural terrorism” with “ontological anarchy” (as though the bourgeoisie had not turned such antics into an “ecstasy industry” in the United States) is fully explicated in Hakim Bey’s (aka Peter Lamborn Wilson) T.A.Z.: The Temporary Autonomous Zone (New York: Autonomedia, 1985). The Yuppie Whole Earth Review celebrates this pamphlet as the most influential and widely read “manifesto” of America’s countercultural youth, noting with approval that it is happily free of conventional anarchist attacks upon capitalism. This kind of detritus from the 1960s is echoed in one form or another by most American anarchist newssheets that pander to youth who have not yet “had their fun before it is time to grow up” (a comment I heard years later from Parisian student activists of ’68) and become real estate agents and accountants.
For an “ecstatic experience,” visitors to New York’s Lower East Side (near St. Mark’s Place) can dine, I am told, at Anarchy Café. This establishment offers fine dining from an expensive menu, a reproduction of the famous mural The Fourth Estate on the wall, perhaps to aid in digestion, and a maître d’ to greet Yuppie customers. I cannot attest to whether the writings of Guy Debord, Raoul Vaneigem, Fredy Perlman and Hakim Bey are on sale there or whether copies of Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed, The Fifth Estate and Demolition Derby are available for perusal, but happily there are enough exotic bookstores nearby at which to buy them.
 Quoted from The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1978).
 I should emphasize that I am not counterposing a communalist democracy to such enterprises as cooperatives, people’s clinics, communes, and the like. But there should be no illusion that such enterprises are more than exercises in popular control and ways of bringing people together in a highly atomized society. No food cooperative can replace giant retail food markets under capitalism and no clinic can replace hospital complexes, any more than a craft shop can replace factories or plants. I should observe that the Spanish anarchists, almost from their inception, took full note of the limits of the cooperativist movement in the 1880s, when such movements were in fact more feasible than they are today, and they significantly separated themselves from cooperativism programmatically.
 For Bakunin, the people “have a healthy, practical common sense when it comes to communal affairs. They are fairly well informed and know how to select from their midst the most capable officials. This is why municipal elections always best reflect the real attitude and will of the people.” Bakunin on Anarchy, Sam Dolgoff, ed. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1972; republished by Black Rose Books: Montreal), p. 223. I have omitted the queasy interpolations that Dolgoff inserted to “modify” Bakunin’s meaning. It may be well to note that anarchism in the last century was more plastic and flexible than it is today.
Throw It Against the Wall
Gandhi said something about life being an experiment. Experiments drive discovery. We gather the best information available, from books, stories, old people, previous experiments, and try something new in service to our thought dreams. “If my thought dreams could be seen they’d probably put my head in a guillotine.” Dylan is right: thought dreams are dangerous. I’m not suggesting the following is very dangerous. It’s actually quite ordinary—quite practical—just some observations from experiments with my own personal economy. But it does involve a process of dreaming, experimenting, and then observing—the stuff of creation. When we’re creating (or co-creating) our world instead of accepting our world, we do become empowered. An empowered people can be dangerous to disempowering tendencies.
Wal-Mart came to Cottage Grove, Oregon, in ‘94, convinced the city council to change local zoning laws, and got the go-ahead to build a 108,000-square-foot warehouse store. In 2006, desiring expansion, Wal-Mart applied for another zoning change that would permit the construction of a 160,000-square-foot super center. Public hearings were called, yes/no buttons made, positions taken, and after six hours of testimony spanning three days, not much was surprising: well-dressed corporate lawyers; polarized atmosphere; emotional testimonies from those for and those against. It didn’t take me long to put my anti-zoning-change sentiments into words which I delivered unemotionally in the fog of a waning fever. The hearing continued on at a boring pace, reaching a peak of monotony during the testimony of my fellow “againsts,” whose collective voice became tortuously redundant and, I hate to say it, a bit self-indulgent.
The highlight of the public hearing for me was the testimony of the “fors.” They helped exercise my internal sound receptors of empathy that, on occasion, allow me to pull out of the emotive mud of a polarized landscape and hear the concrete needs of “the other.” What I heard coming from the “other side” was I’m poor, whether from low-paying work or a fixed income, and I depend on low-cost goods to get by. I could understand that. I can also, by all conventional standards, be considered poor. I make between $200 and $400 dollars a month, heat my home and cook with wood, cut my costs when I can. I don’t have running water. I’m not subsidized by wealthy parents. I live in a school bus.
An amusing tension arose. Here I am in much the same predicament as many from Clan Super Size, but instead of a desperate sense of scarcity and need for low-cost goods, I feel embraced by a world of hope and abundance. I feel secure while others feel vulnerable. I feel my needs are taken care of while others feel life is too expensive. What was the difference? This tension sparked observation.
Sharing the Surplus, Natural Giving, and the Community Context
Several months ago I was in need of space to park my bus. I wanted to be two miles outside of town, hopefully near the bike path with the potential to run an extension cord from a garage or outside outlet for electricity. The deadline for moving was past and I was starting to feel anxious to unburden my generous host. That Thursday during the Cottage Grove community’s weekly social gathering—a mix of homegrown goods, tight spacing, and free locally made wine—I was introduced to a friend of a friend. After some friendly formalities, the subject of pursuit came up and she promptly offered me a space to park my bus: two miles outside of town, across from the bike path, near an electrical outlet. In return she asked for dry firewood and help with projects around the property.
This event was a first glimpse into a new way of looking at my personal economy. Over time, these same types of exchanges replayed over and over, generating a pattern. Slowly, words came to describe the pattern, not complete but like the first rough sketches of a living document. At its most fundamental level, it is members of a community sharing their surplus in the service of each others’ needs. One might call it a needs-based economy.
Permaculture teaches us to share the surplus. When we give away our surplus we can give it joyfully because, by definition, it is extra. It is not an act of charity where we create personal scarcity, but an act of sharing abundance. Sharing our surplus is as natural as giving away two-day-old baked goods destined for the compost, cuttings from a prolific raspberry patch, or squash from a bountiful harvest. When we receive a gift of surplus we can do so with dignity because we are confident we are not receiving more than can be comfortably given.
Marshall Rosenberg reminds us that giving to someone in the service of his or her need is satisfying. To illustrate this idea, he suggests recalling the last time we helped fulfill someone’s need, thinking on it for a moment and noticing how we feel. This exercise, as he describes, always produces smiles and satisfaction the world around.
These ideas, though complete in their own right, are most satisfying when practiced in the context of community. Community can be understood as an intertwined latticework of people connected by a shared place and/or shared aspirations. Sharing our surplus and giving in the service of each others’ needs works well in community because a community is a cooperative project that gives back. Each individual act of giving is seen in relation to and as a part of a greater whole. We don’t give aimlessly in a fragmented social landscape but intentionally and joyfully in the service of a larger project. When we give within a community we also feel a sense of security—almost like a smart investment—because a community reciprocates and responds, based on its humanity, to our changing needs. A group of people is far more resourceful than one alone.
As winter approached I was in need of space. My host had a surplus of space and was in need of a certain type of skill, which I was able to provide. Since living at the two-mile marker I have brought her dry firewood, helped paint a wall, remove a shelf, unclog a drain, clean junk from the yard, plant trees, and landscape. Going into spring our agreement has been fruitful and rewarding.
Living in a Needs-Based Economy
The willingness to exchange goods and services directly is essential to a needs-based economy because it changes the way we see the world. When we begin looking at our life as a mosaic of needs rather than a system of alienating labor and consumption, we transcend currency and put ourselves in touch with the abundance generated by an entire community.
It is common for someone to have the following thinking: “I need money so that I can buy the things I lack.” This line of thinking is limiting and internally conflicting. It disconnects us from what we actually want and calls on a disempowering currency to mediate between us and our dreams. Instead, if we are able to envision our needs without currency, we open ourselves to the abundance of an entire community’s surplus facilitated by people’s tendency towards natural giving.
As winter arrived in Oregon, I soon discovered that living in the equivalent of a giant metal mailbox could be quite cold. Heat became an immediate priority. Wood was the natural choice, so I began my search for a stove and dry firewood, both of which I thought would be difficult to find as those more prepared began to calculate the heating power of their now dwindling reserves. On some of the colder mornings, as I lay under five layers of insulation watching my breath take shape in taunting cold-smoke signals above me, I considered the stoves listed for sale on craigslist and the pick-up trucks of firewood waiting and ready for delivery in downtown Cottage Grove. But, as things became desperate, a friend of a friend offered his old wood stove, just the right size, being stored in an abandoned trailer outside of town. No one was using it so he said I could have it for at least the winter. After heating with kiln-dried, quick-burning, industrial forestry waste for a while, I received a pickup truck load of dry hardwood and fir from a family of land stewards. So for most of the winter I stayed mostly warm.
By exchanging goods and services directly, we resist the tendency to do unfulfilling, alienating work. Robert Heilman describes life as an industrial logger in rural Oregon: “Alienation is an occupational disease, one that afflicts each of us when we sell our time for money. It brings a numbness of spirit that makes all sorts of horrible situations seem routine.”
Instead, when we exchange directly, both giver and recipient benefit. In giving, we become connected to the act of creation, which is exhilarating. We once again become masters of our own time, liberated from the inevitable exploitation of a boss-wage system. Time becomes abundant and quality and joy can once again be incorporated into our work. Anything created by caring hands is infused with a uniqueness and life—easily seen in the difference between a modularized suburbia and a handmade home, or between a generic store-bought card with a “birthday check” enclosed, and a gift made with care and attention. In this way we become involved in each other’s lives and allow parts of our internal and external landscapes to be shaped by our neighbors’ artistic and clever natures. By exchanging directly we strengthen a culture of natural giving and shared surplus.
The thought of working for a wage to purchase a stove and cord of firewood now seems silly when faced with the possibilities available in a connected community. When the rains stop, I will gladly replace the amount of wood that was given to me or perhaps double the amount or triple, or perhaps I’ll just be helpful in some other way needed by the generous givers. When living within an economy based on joyful giving, two doesn’t always equal two, but instead we are freed to give equal to the immense gratitude we feel upon receiving a gift from the heart.
Freed to Serve
I volunteer between eight and 20 hours a week for Cottage Grove’s low-powered community radio station KSOW, often doing the small and mundane things that just need a body and half a brain to complete. I do this joyfully because it contributes to the larger community project, the radio station needs it, and I enjoy music. I have the time to volunteer largely because my needs are efficiently satisfied by an abundant community. The community has freed me to serve the community. I’m not strapped with the high everyday costs of my low-income brethren, but have fortunately marginalized, with the power of community, the need for US currency in my life. I work between 10 and 20 hours a week for bread money, most of which goes to food and the bus remodeling project. This abundance of time has allowed me to explore those things which make me feel most alive. And an economy that helps people come alive is an economy we desperately need.
(Click a photo to enlarge)
Walk 20 miles away from the ocean, and South Portugal becomes dry and dusty in summer and devoid of people in any season. What had been a lush landscape for centuries, with oak forests, white stucco villages, and vegetable gardens and pastures, was destroyed in the 1940s to create industrial cereal production for Spain during the civil war. Now the landscape seems slowly to be turning into a desert. Villages are dying. Food is imported. Only very few farmers continue their hard work under difficult economic and ecological conditions.
One of them is Claudio, a farmer in the Alto Alentejo. His 4000 hectare (10,000 acre) site, inherited from his father, includes beautiful nature reserves and extended cork oak and olive groves. Employing 20 workers, he started with the vision of reestablishing the original extensive cultivation of cork, pork, and Biodynamic vegetables. And he is doing just that. But to maintain the farm under tight economic conditions, he has developed intensive mass animal farming with thousands of pigs and turkeys. “If I didn’t farm this way, I would have to fire my workers, and I feel responsible for them. What could I do?” His wife left him two years ago, taking their two daughters with her. Maybe this was not the only reason, but she could not stand the mass slaughters and the tension her husband is living under. Living alone in his big farm house, Claudio is urgently looking for an alternative and a new start in his life.
Fernando grew up in a little village in the Baixo Alentejo. Like all his classmates, he left for Lisbon to study and become an engineer. Before he finished the studies, his father died and Fernando had to return home. Now he runs the apiary with 2000 bee hives. He produces organic honey but has to sell it for a low price to the industry, as the market for organic products is still too small. Thus his income is limited, and after 12 hours of daily work he feels very tired. He is 38 years old, smart, good looking, and speaks several languages. However, living rurally with his mother makes it difficult for him to find friends and a mate: the average age in the village is 52.
Fernando’s and Claudio’s stories illustrate the situation in many similar places. Sustainability is a complex issue: it involves politics, economics, and ecology, and it definitely involves cultural, social, and human conditions. If living in the countryside does not become more interesting for young people, we can never hope to have nature and land maintained and cared for.
The peace community of Tamera did not come to the Alentejo originally to help this situation. In fact, it came because innovative and enthusiastic local authorities and the abundance of sun were good conditions for its aim of building a global peace model based on solar technology. However, 160 people living, working, and studying together make a difference—internationally by peace training, education, and nonviolent actions, and regionally by teaching ecological skills and creating a regional network for food and water sustainability.
The Tamera community decided that it would stop buying food from supermarkets by the end of 2010, and by then would also produce all its own electricity using solar energy. Why is this so important for a peace project? Because industrial production of food is a sort of war. Electricity comes from the plug, fuel from the petrol station, coffee from the supermarket, water from the tap, and steak from the butcher. Those who look a bit deeper than this will see the cruelty of today’s industrial globalisation at the origin of our everyday consumer goods. Behind nearly every product you will find suffering, ignorance, and violence. Even those who are aware of it, and don´t want to support it, find it difficult to become independent from these connections.
The need to find another strategy is not only a matter of ethics. An incident which happened two years ago in Portugal makes this clear. At a time of high oil prices, the drivers went on strike, and the fuel was no longer distributed. After one day, there was no petrol in many gas stations. After two days, the first supermarkets had empty shelves. After three days, two drivers who wanted to prevent strike-breakers from working were driven over. That quickly can the supply system collapse; and that thin is the layer of social peace.
An obvious solution for the insanity of globalisation is regionalisation: to reestablish the regional supply which global trade destroyed, and to do it with socially and ecologically friendly means. Every region of the world should be able to meet its basic needs for food, water, and energy. The special goods desired from further away could be bought or bartered from other countries.
The task of Tamera—building a model for a peace culture—includes showing that regional food and energy autonomy is possible without lowering quality of life. In order to do so, one team at Tamera is working on the permaculture water landscape, where a part of the food needed is grown. The community also produces olive oil, honey, and herbs. Another team develops a regional network for sustainability. Its aims are to share knowledge about ecological skills, share the supply and production of basic food, water, and energy needs, and cultivate social contacts.
Tamera started to meet local farmers and traders, and so we met Claudio. Very quickly, we agreed on a win-win-situation: starting in 2010, he will produce olive oil, rice, cereals, oat flakes, and vegetables especially for the needs of Tamera. Additionally he will give Tamera all the things he cannot sell and would have to destroy. This arrangement gives Claudio the possibility of producing independent of the market. Therefore he is not forced to throw away fruits that are too small or don’t have the normal shape. He will even earn much more than the market price, and Tamera will get valuable organic food at a reasonable cost.
Now, in the spring of 2010, we stand in the stable which last year held 3000 turkeys. Their shouts still seem to fill the air. But the stable is empty, and soon it will be a place to store cereals. Having seen the new economic possibilities in his cooperation with Tamera, Claudio has taken the risk to eliminate, step by step, his industrial livestock farming. Even more hopeful, on a visit to Tamera he saw the possibilities of permaculture. Now, two ecologists from Tamera will advise him on how to build a water landscape on a part of his land. Thus Claudio will join the movement to reforest the land and bring back the water. “My vision is to save this beautiful land and make a part of it a retreat and educational place for city people to learn natural cycles.”
Agreements like this could become the basis for cooperatively meeting basic needs in the future, with communities telling farmers what they need, and farmers growing it for them.
Not all the foods we commonly consume are produced in Portugal. For example, neither sugar cane nor sugar beets are cultivated in this country anymore. But there is something much better and healthier than sugar to provide sweetness: honey.
Twelve bee hives at Tamera are not enough for our needs, and so we got to know Fernando. Buying organic honey from Fernando is cheaper than buying honey in the supermarket, and still, by selling to Tamera, he earns nearly double what he would by producing for industry. Tamera coworkers also help to move the bee hives. As Silke from the ecology team says, “This is synergy: We help Fernando, but the bees in our permaculture landscape help us. They are the most important insects for pollinating our fruit trees.“
Four times a year, Tamera invites interested people for an open Saturday. Those are days to get to know some of our sustainable tools and methods. For most of our neighbours, permaculture, compost toilets, solar energy systems, and strawbale buildings are still very exotic. School classes and University students come to observe in practice the ecological systems they have studied. Local farmers, politicians, teachers, and journalists enjoy this day; they see the presence of water in every season, lunch cooked by solar energy, and an abundance of food growing without fertilizers. Representatives of the beautiful neighbouring village Amoreiras come to see a plant-based system for water purification to decide if they want to build it in their village too. At the same time, the visitors also experience something which has been lost in the villages: a vital social life of different age groups. This is what can bring life back to the villages.
Bringing back sustainability and saving the rural areas means reestablishing the regional circuits that have been cut down in the times of industrialisation. In order to bring back life to the countryside, the connections and synergies have to be reinvigorated on a new and modern level, such as between producers and consumers, between water and trees, between bees and trees, between young and old people. And even between men and women, as the example of Fernando shows: on one of the open Saturdays at Tamera, he met Ilona, an Italian woman. Now she is preparing to move to his farm. “Although I love him very much, I could not imagine following Fernando onto his remote farm without having a place like Tamera nearby. We can always go there and meet friends, get inspiration, have cultural life.”
In the end, even an international community like Tamera has to face the fact that one day—maybe after peak oil, after the next financial crisis, or after climate change—it will not be global contacts that will help us to survive. Instead, it will be the surrounding region and the neighbourhood, with stable and trustful networks. Now is the time to develop them.
|Leila Dregger, 50, freelance journalist from Germany, former publisher of a women’s magazine and book writer, joined Tamera in 2003. She works in Tamera’s political network office especially to build a bridge to the Portuguese people. Her aim is to establish a school for peace journalism in Tamera. For more about Tamera, its visitor programs, and Summer University (July 25-August 5, 2010), see http://www.tamera.org.|
A Statement of the Advisory Board (1)
Widespread political confusion exists in present-day society in which it is difficult not only to single out radical alternatives to the present social condition but difficult even to discern the concrete differences between the existing political tendencies. None of the traditional ideologies seem to be able to provide the inspiration and guidelines for a principled political practice, least of all for revolutionary activism.
Rarely, if anywhere, have serious attempts been made to maintain ideological integrity. The result has been a farrago of self-contradictory positions. Today we see high-profile anarchists favoring a strong centralized state, while leading Social Democrats advocate privatization and deregulation, and even avowed Marxists drifting toward old mystical philosophies. This ideological obscurantism is not limited to certain outstanding individuals; it pervades large sectors of the radical population. Indeed, much that passes for radical movements today partly find their expression in the timely popularity of oxymoronic notions like “market socialism” or the “welfare state.”
Earlier it was possible, and often quite easy, to discern the ideological differences between various political tendencies, and particularly to distinguish radicals from defenders of the established order. But today this is no longer the case – the political climate has changed to such an extent that confusion, and not clarity, characterizes politics. If we choose to look closely at the various parties that have seats in the world’s parliaments, it is almost impossible to point out clear demarcation lines, even between traditional ideological opponents, like conservatives and social democrats, or liberals and radicals, or even communists and nationalists. Principles continually boil away into a soup of compromises, power plays, horse-trading, and careerism.
Even more disturbingly, awareness of this problem is minimal among today’s radical tendencies, who exert a low level of consciousness about their own politics and practice. When radicals today, for instance, demand that governments acquire greater control over the market economy, they are often unknowingly reinterpreting traditional demands of social democrats and liberals, even though they might in the next breath oppose social democracy and liberal reformism. (2) Social Democracy is itself a good example on the deterioration of political consistency following our times. The social democrats had a broad range of demands that were supposed to gradually introduce socialism in developed western countries. Today, in many European countries, social democrats have had long parliamentary experience, and hold many positions in government; they no longer seek a socialist future, but are content with mere improvements in the status quo. To be sure, the trajectory of Social Democracy has had some continuity from the days of August Bebel and Wilhelm Liebknecht onwards, a trajectory marked by compromises and mediocrity, but this does not conceal the fact that the ideological climate in the world of the Gotha-program was markedly different from our own, and the very “movements” following Anthony Giddens’ “Third Way” and the “Neue Mitte” are bereft all features of traditional Social Democracy, save perhaps rhetoric. (3) A similar obscurantism marks other traditional political tendencies, even as the whole political spectrum has shifted to the right.
This political obfuscation of ideas and principles is eagerly defended by certain influential academic currents, and spiced with tasteless comments that there are no “great narratives” anymore, indeed that the “age of ideologies is gone.” Today what legitimates a political viewpoint is not its principled coherence and ideological consistency but the personal taste of those who might consider supporting it. This development is particularly tragic because it removes real content from political discourse, along with the objective of creating a free and just society. After all, it is impossible to stick to principles without a clear ideological definition of these principles. Despite the fact that postmodernism is immersed in radical verbiage, it is unfortunately only the existing system that profits from beliefs that “ideology is dead.” On the same “postmodern” shelf we find such statements like “there are no truths” and “there are no standards for right or wrong”, as if the individual constitutes the beginning and the end of the universe. The current relativization of ethical judgments is intimately connected to a more deep-seated problem; namely a social system that is fostering the formation of isolated monads instead of rounded and responsible human beings – according to the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher there is no such thing as society, only individuals. (4) This view is gaining ever more adherents in the western world, even in radical circles. When it becomes hard to convince people that something called society does in fact exists, that it encompasses more than the mere sum of its individual participants, and that human beings share a common history that surpasses our individual perceptions of it, then it becomes alarmingly clear that capitalism, as an amoral economic system, has fostered the near complete relativization of social life and ethics, with grave consequences for the continued development of what we properly can call society.
If we are led into believing that all ideologies are dead, we cannot create any ideological alternatives to the status quo. And if we are led to believing that there are no ideological alternatives, we have in fact already succumbed to capitalist ideology, extolling the supremacy of the existing state of affairs, and an irrational – indeed, antisocial – system. Unless we allow ourselves the possibility of developing and shaping alternatives that can challenge the prevailing ideas, then the existing social order is what we will have left. Francis Fukuyama’s claim that capitalism represents “the end of history” will thus become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Such claims, no matter how absurd, create tailor-made Orwellian discontinuities between the past, the present and the future that limit human action to mere animal adaptation, and render all cultural or political involvement beyond pure self-interest simply meaningless.
The prospect that capitalism will come to represent “the end of history,” the actual culmination of human culture, is particularly grim. The market system, driven by its incessant need to generate more profits at the expense of both people and the environment, causes problems that restlessly haunt our society. Despite the fact that the world today has an unprecedented capacity to create and sustain a society without material scarcity, carried forward by a range of extensive scientific and technological revolutions, we have yet to solve the important social problems of exploitation and oppression. Now only a tiny percentage of the world’s population is in a position to enjoy the benefits of this progress. At the same time the market has expanded into new areas, in desperate attempts to satisfy an insatiable appetite for profits – globalizing its economy and, through “privatization” schemes, eating heavily into the public sector, while commodification has reached the point where even genes can be patented, bought, and sold for money. The rich are still getting richer, and the ruling minorities are still finding new ways to manipulate their subjects into consenting to be ruled, while the destruction of our natural environment is reaching appalling proportions. Society is pitted against itself, by a multitude of hierarchical stratifications, and against the natural world. Living conditions for a large part of humanity are miserable, warfare is continual, social insecurity is growing, disempowerment is widespread, and our cities are culturally imploding; at the same time disturbances in the climate and the cyclical processes that sustain life on this planet may be calling into question the continued existence of human beings and other complex life-forms. For radicals the present dismissal of theory and ideology is therefore highly disconcerting: in a society that condemns the majority of humanity to insecurity, desperation, and disempowerment while creating grave ecological instability for the world as a whole, serious social alternatives are direly needed.
At present, unfortunately, no alternatives are visible. Not only are all the seemingly radical parties narrowly focused on feathering their own nests without even trying to provide credible alternatives, but there is no revolutionary extra-parliamentary movement that manages to seriously challenge the hegemony of corporate managers and state leaders. What is striking today is not that the general public necessarily supports the existing system, but that most people commonly withdraw in seclusion of their personal lives.
To be sure, the picture is not entirely dismal. The worldwide series of protests against the G-8, the International Monetary Fund, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, the European Union and the World Trade Organization has produced a new radical awakening, revealing a degree of popular discontent with this economic system that, given a growing level of consciousness and experience, has the potential to constitute a political challenge. Increasingly since the demonstrations in Seattle, November 1999, the protesters have critiqued the very “soul” of capitalism: the expansion of the market, its profit-motive and even the existence of private property.
Still, neither a critique nor a protest movement in itself constitutes an alternative. The alternative to capitalism does not consist of people in the streets shouting slogans and carrying placards – at best these manifestations can only point to one. But in order to point to an alternative, a movement must have a practical substance: it must have organizational continuity and a conscious ideology that is able to clarify the alternative, explaining how it is possible to achieve it, and why it is worth fighting for. Far from embodying these qualities, the current resistance to “globalization” remains highly fragmented and ideologically confused, sadly pulling in many different and even contradictory directions. It mirrors the pathways of the Internet, as some have pointed out: a large network that knits together small autonomous groups, forming a movement of “hubs and spokes.” According to one of its leading figures, the author of No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies, Naomi Klein, the movement against corporate, economic globalization deserves “the chance to see if, out of its chaotic networks of hubs and spokes, something new, something entirely its own, can emerge.” (5) Most spokespeople for the new protest movement seem to find Klein’s approach to be sound. But those who care to examine the experience of generations will know that “chaotic networks of hubs and spokes” never will get anything moving, least of all moving urgently forward. Frankly, given the centuries-long history of radical movements, it should be unnecessary to invent the wheel anew. Today’s radical movements should try to learn from and build on past ideas and experiences, not dismissing them altogether in hopes that “something entirely its own” will emerge.
The “anti-globalization” movement is not the first movement to fail to learn from history or to reject coherent theory and programmatic commitment. Certain elements in the various Green movements that emerged in the late seventies vehemently claimed they represented a new alternative because they were “neither Left nor Right, but up front.” This vacuous indifference to their place in the history of radicalism soon condemned the Greens to a repetition of most mistakes made by the Social Democrats. Equally, today’s communitarians, who argue that creating cooperative enterprises constitutes a radical alternative that is capable of challenging capitalism, naively repeat errors the cooperative movement made in the 19th century and in the end replicate its absorption into the market economy. In July 1936 the Spanish anarchists found themselves at the outbreak of the very social revolution they had been yearning for through seventy painful years and had a far better position to challenge the ruling classes of their day than today’s “anti-globalization” movement. Yet their lack of a coherent theory and program left them with no political direction at that crucial moment. Lacking directionality and torn by devastating internal conflicts they capitulated disastrously to liberal politics. This capitulation was criticized by the most conscious elements in the libertarian movement. But the anarchist and syndicalist movement as a whole was unwilling and incapable of responding to appeals for a revolutionary theory and a revolutionary program. In the event, they finally clashed with the liberal government and the Stalinists in Barcelona, during May 1937, and suffered a definitive defeat. Despite the great differences between the revolutionary workers movement in Barcelona 1936–37 and the multifaceted protest movement of Seattle and Genoa they face some alarmingly similar problems. Unsolved, these problems are mortal for any movement that seeks to challenge the established social order. Unfortunately very few in the “anti-globalization” movement have recognized this difficulty, focused as that movement is on protesting. Politically this “movement of movements” is reactive, and not creative. Participants in the demonstrations raise a wide range of demands, and no attempt is made to unify them either ideologically or organizationally. Besides, most of the demands raised by the movement are remarkably reformist, like the widely discussed demands for the so-called Tobin tax. (6) But few participants seem to be troubled by this vacuum: on the contrary, they celebrate its diversity and open-ended nature. It will be all the harder to lead humanity out of the deep-seated social and ecological problems of our time if the de facto leaders of radical movements permit and even advocate a laissez-faire attitude to questions of ideology, organization, and the need for systematic change.
What seems to justify the existing skepticism to “big narratives” is the fact that the great “isms” of the past have become irrelevant. None of the radical ideologies that once mobilized, inspired and educated large masses of workers and citizens provide a credible alternative today. All known concepts of socialism, communism, syndicalism and anarchism are drained of vitality yet haunt us like ghosts of an era far gone – the era of the old Left. The dream of a classless society has been ravished and betrayed so severely that its traditional symbols no longer seem to warrant a renewal. In the Soviet Union Stalin and his defenders made communism synonymous with some of the worst crimes against humanity, while Social Democrats, after years of parliamentary wear, have become staunch supporters of the market economy. Syndicalism has been reduced to a mere echo of its past, almost like the revolutionary working class of the last century. Anarchism, which once denoted a stateless society founded on “the brotherhood of Man,” has been drained of all its social content. Although it has experienced a revival in recent years, the anarchists themselves, who have immersed themselves in a moralizing individualism or play at innocuous communitarian projects, have reduced it to a cultural lifestyle. Does this mean that the shortcomings of earlier attempts to formulate ideological alternatives are inherent in ideology as such? In our view, the challenge is not to dismiss ideology per se, but to develop a richer and more sophisticated approach that suits the demands of our time.
Confusion and historical disappointments should not lead to desperation and apathy: distancing oneself from political struggles is the definite guarantee that nothing will be solved. Today’s movements need a radical ideology with which they can maintain their opposition to the status quo. Radicals need to have not only lofty ideals of freedom and solidarity but also a solid body of theory and practice to give reality to these ideals and even advance beyond them. Every social ideal must find its adequate political expression, and today we urgently need a political movement that can articulate in programmatic form humanity’s innermost aspirations. We must carefully select the best principles and theories that radical movements have developed, fearlessly reject those that are patently obsolete, and create a new synthesis suited for present conditions. It must be relevant to our times and the vast changes that have occurred since the day when the steam engine formed the basis of an “Industrial Revolution.” We must go beyond all traditional forms of socialism and anarchism to create a truly new Left that can theoretically inspire a vital political movement in the struggle to achieve the broader ideals of freedom, equality and solidarity. These traditional ideals are still very much present; what counts today is to create a new radical ideological synthesis that can fulfill them: a coherent set of fresh ideas that can endow new political movements with the will and ability to fight against the oppression of human beings and the destruction of the natural world. We are convinced to have found such an alternative in Communalism.
What is Communalism?
Communalism is a revolutionary political ideology, with long historical roots in progressive tendencies, ideas, and institutions. It is deeply embedded in the democratic heritage, which first emerged as a conscious political expression in the Athenian polis some 2 500 years ago, with its remarkable set of institutions of face-to-face democracy, its concept of citizenship and the conscious formation of its citizens through a lifelong civic education of paideia and the existence of everyday civic duties. This communal democratic tradition broadened its scope in the communes of the European Middle Ages, which had communal systems of resource-allocation and formed far-reaching leagues of free cities, then it played a prominent role in the revolutions that shook Europe and North America in the eighteenth century. An equally important root from which Communalism has developed is the revolutionary tradition, that constitutes a continuous legacy of freedom – forgotten by much of the Left today in its generalized state of confusion – in which popular movements have fought injustice, oppression, and exploitation of all kinds, while expanding our ideals of social and political freedom. The struggle for rights and freedoms, as well as a healthy secularism, has above all been planted and cultivated by this revolutionary tradition, while its fruits have been harvested by social development as a whole. Communalism seeks to continue this legacy of freedom by enlarging upon the revolutionary tradition’s most advanced theories and demands and creating the organizations necessary to embody them. Rooted in the Enlightenment, Communalism offers generous prospects for human education and rationality as well as for the practical achievement of historical progress.
Communalism has recently found its coherent theoretical expression, in the works of the radical thinker Murray Bookchin, whose writings on social ecology give Communalism a revolutionary practice of libertarian municipalism, as well as a historical analysis, a dialectical philosophy of nature and society, an ethics of complementarity, and a political economy. (7) Above all, Communalism is a revolutionary political ideology that aims at creating a rational society and ethical norms of production, innovation, and distribution through direct democracy.
The word Communalism first came into use around the time of the Commune of 1871, when in the wake of the Franco-Prussian War the highly centralized and bureaucratic French state all but collapsed and the citizens of Paris established a revolutionary government, boldly challenging other French communes to confederate and to form an alternative to the state. The historical importance of this challenge must not be understated: it pointed to a confederalist alternative for Europe at a time when its modern nation-states were still in the making. Ever since Karl Marx published his pamphlet, The Civil War in France, only two days after the last resistance of the communards was crushed, radicals of all sorts have tended to glorify the Commune. Friedrich Engels described the Commune as the first demonstration of the “dictatorship of the proletariat,” while anarchists have used the Commune as a symbol of the “spontaneous expression” of a “bold and outspoken negation of the state,” to use Michail Bakunin’s words. But not only did the Commune fail to immediately socialize property, its actual structure was little more than an extremely radical city council. Marxists went on to create “proletarian” states that did not even remotely resemble the revolutionary Commune of Paris, while anarchists got immersed in syndicalism, assassinations, and essentially communitarian enterprises. But in its essence, the Commune of 1871 envisioned a new political system based on municipal democracy, and if it had lived longer than its hectic two months it could have given tangible meaning to the radical demand for a “social republic” that had been raised in the Parisian revolutions of 1848, indeed transcending this demand with its call for a “Commune of communes.”
The French word commune signifies a town, a city, or even a moderately small territorial unit that has political and administrative tasks, and it is derived from the Latin adjective communis, which means “common” or “communal.” (8) It refers to a local government and local authorities, or what is usually known as a municipality in English. Commune has a richer meaning: it embodies a constellation of rich civic values, loyalties, rights, and duties. As Bookchin has pointed out, the municipality is the most immediate sphere people all enter as soon as they cross the doorstep of their homes. It is a unique public sphere in which they can communicate in a face-to-face manner. The commune gives to human community not only form, but also a new human content, based on solidarity and shared responsibilities that go beyond family life. Potentially, at least, it is a realm of reasoned secularity – of politics – that extends beyond the blood tie of the family, clan, or tribe. Communalism attempts to actualize these potentialities and nourish them by advancing the markedly progressive aspects of Western civilization – that is, a “realm of cities.” Through its libertarian municipalism it seeks to recover this sphere of real politics – the full engagement of all citizens in public affairs – as distinguished from bureaucratic forms of public life that usually marks the state. Communalism singles out the truly democratic commune as the rational form of politically organizing society.
Communalists maintain that confederations of free municipalities or communes constitute the political components of a future rational society. To really understand the uniqueness of the Communalist approach we have to recognize how fundamentally it focuses on the municipality. But, for Communalists, it implies not only a territorial administrative unit; it is also potentially a free municipality in the form of a self-conscious political community, and it is this historical goal that informs the Communalist project, whether we deal with Spanish municipios, German gemeinden or Scandinavian kommuner. This historical goal informs the Communalist understanding of the municipalities we are dealing with not only in the future but here and now. Many radicals criticize libertarian municipalism from a purely instrumental viewpoint – either complaining about the gigantic size of many cities today, or the fact that municipal councils run cities like corporations, or the fact that they in many ways are extensions and copies of the nation-state. Undoubtedly, this is true, and these problems will remain real and indeed probably worsen in the years to come. Still, they do not disqualify the Communalist approach, but merely points to challenges confronting anyone who seek to fundamentally change society. Communalists are by no means content with the municipalities as they appear today, and our ideal city does not exist, nor has it existed earlier in history. (9) Accordingly, we seek to engage ourselves fully in rooting out state-like and market-based features of present municipalities – radically expanding their communal dimension. (10)
The effort to radically democratize municipalities involves the recreation of a public sphere, where people can come together as citizens – to meet, discuss, and make civic and economic decisions – in radically new popular institutions. Today, liberal, “radical,” and bourgeois politicians alike weep crocodile tears about the loss of community and citizenship, while desperately concealing their own role in the cunningly orchestrated “political” circus that steadily erodes all popular influence on politics. In contrast to virtually all other currents on the political spectrum, Communalist demands for popular empowerment are more than rhetoric to fool an already weary public. Indeed, Communalism is founded on precisely the empowerment of ordinary citizens – it is our very raison d’être.
The Communalist commitment to popular empowerment stands in unconditional opposition to centralization and statecraft. Communalism in fact, is unwavering in its resistance to the nation-state, which it views as the instrument par excellence for spreading popular disempowerment. The nation-state reduces the whole concept of citizenship to a mockery, confining citizens to the passive role as mere taxpayers, clients, or voters. The dynamics of this structure replaces the right to policy-making by the public, by the chosen or elected minority of so-called “representatives” that govern the state. The nation-state is by definition based on the professionalized exercise of power and claims to have, with its police and armed forces, a monopoly of the use of violence in society. It has thus been a perfect tool for the ruling elites, gradually wiping out the “amateurish” characteristics of more democratic systems of government and making proud citizens into servile subjects. History has shown that states may even develop a particular interest of their own, which in modern times can be seen by bureaucratic developments in China and the former Soviet Union. This is a development that, in varying degrees, is true also for the most “democratic” of our Western nation-states.
Nonetheless, the state has unfortunately been esteemed by many radicals, particularly Marxists. Marx famously described the state as a mere instrument serving a ruling class, which meant that under capitalism all states were bourgeois states. Accordingly, in the transition from capitalist control over society to socialism, the workers’ movement had to replace the bourgeois state with a workers’ state, indeed by a proletarian dictatorship, which was to function merely as an effective instrument for the proletariat. Marx later allowed for the gradual introduction of socialism through legislation in certain European countries. Different perspectives on the socialist transition and the role of the state split the Marxist movement into several opposing tendencies by the time of World War One, in which Social Democracy and Leninism was the most influential opponents. Nevertheless, they shared a common assumption that the state was an instrument that could be used for socialist ends: one sought to gradually take over and transform the bourgeois state, while the other sought to build a new “workers’ state.” (11) Both tendencies confusedly but vigorously supported the concentration of power in a state apparatus looming over the people. Marxist theory, in fact, has been central in fostering radical acceptance of the state, with grave consequences for the revolutionary movement as a whole.
Since the days of the International Working Men’s Association various radical tendencies tried, through heated debates, to explore the practical role of the state in the coming socialist revolution. Unfortunately, the question of the state remained unresolved in crucial historical moments, even amongst the most advanced sections of the revolutionary movement, resulting in immense human tragedies: in Russia in 1917–18 the Bolsheviks, eager to take and expand state power, initiated a devastating centralizing process that rapidly vitiated the council movement; in Spain in 1936 the anarchist movement and particularly the syndicalist CNT refused to institutionalize a decentralized workers’ power and immediately eliminate the tottering Catalan state, thereby allowing the bourgeoisie to regain control and literally wipe out the workers’ movement. The issue of state power haunts us even more today when many radicals tend to regard the nation-state as the main bulwark against capitalist globalization, without the provision of any credible alternatives for popular resistance to the power of capital. At the time of the Russian and the Spanish revolutions large workers’ movements, guided by ideologies and theories, provided direction for the revolutionary masses. Today, instead of large mass movements and an ideology providing clear guidelines for radical action, we have “movements” that only act in protest and “ideologues” who refuse to present alternatives.
No, we must be absolutely clear about the true function of the nation-state, indeed of any state. Although its historical role may be more complex than Kropotkin suggested, the state now plays a highly regressive role, not only in substantiating capitalist dominance and expansion but in reducing many communities to virtually empty shells and citizens to impotent monads. With its oversized apparatus of professional politicians and bureaucrats, it represents a standing threat to the revival of a public sphere and the recovery of authentic citizenship. Not only will the state try to absorb attempts to democratize society and drain it of content, but conceding power to the nation-state is to literally assure it being taken from the citizens. As Bookchin has pointed out: if one allows power to be placed in the hands of a minority, one simultaneously accepts it being taken from the majority. For the state to exist and flourish it must colonize and control all political sublevels, such as municipalities, counties, and regions, allowing them as little power as possible. Although modern republican systems provide some leeway for municipalities and regions, this is due to popular resistance and constitutional bonds. A state needs no Robespierre, Napoleon or even Stalin to professionalize and centralize its power; it will, if it gets the chance, eradicate the independence and self-confidence of municipalities and their citizens. (12) Equally, it will sap the democratic ideals of radicals who enter the state, replacing these ideals with bureaucratic aspirations. Despite the shock the German Social Democrats caused by voting in favor of war credits in 1914, this was a completely logical act for a party who had entered the state to reform it. Attempts to make a “long march through the institutions” in order to fundamentally change them have invariably led to the fundamental change of the radicals themselves, as recently witnessed by the degeneration of Die Grünen in Germany who, as soon as they entered state offices, divested their claims to be a grassroots movement of all meaning.
Nor is the claptrap of state corruption prevented by creating new state institutions instead of taking part in the “bourgeois state” – it just sheds the underlying contempt for citizens’ control of its various disguises. When radicals aim at building a “workers’ state” or a “people’s state,” they have already sidestepped the necessity of building a genuine popular power. A state, by its very nature as a professional apparatus for wielding power, can never serve as a means for decentralization and popular empowerment, no matter how “proletarian,” “popular,” “universal,” “radical” or even “minimal” it claims to be.
The only radical current that has fostered a seemingly consistent opposition to the state in all its forms has been anarchism, which rejects the view of state as a benevolent instrument both in the present society and in a future society. Anarchists have always had distaste for the Hobbesian claims that the state brought about human progress, by freeing us from “the war of all against all.” Although usually providing a rather simplistic and ahistorical view of the state, anarchists often provided important correctives to the widespread belief that the state always is necessary for a society merely to exist.
Anarchism has however been ambiguous about other important issues, particularly organization, institutions, and power. Thus anarchists have all too often relied on “self-organization,” based on the masses’ supposed “revolutionary instincts” or, more generally, their “spontaneous creativity.” Anarchism has rarely concerned itself with the positive forms of freedom; indeed, its main preoccupation has been with a negative concept of “freedom from,” which is validly associated with liberalist thought, albeit in a sincere rejection of oppression and all forms of rule. All too often, anarchism has made political organization synonymous with party hierarchies, institutions synonymous with the state, and power synonymous with oppression, which has led to more confusion than clarification. Lacking concrete alternatives, it has offered very few tangible correctives, with the result that their “anti-authoritarianism” is vacuous as today’s volatile cries against “technocracy,” “consumerism,” and “politics.”
This political vacuity has in fact made the anarchist commitment to decentralization no less troubling than the Marxist commitment to centralization. Indeed, anarchists have advanced many varied utopian visions but very few practical organizational alternatives. Confusing state with government or even with power as such is dangerously misleading and makes anarchism a fallacious “alternative” for a radical movement today. The anarchist critique of centralized power is certainly welcome and necessary, but it cannot lead us into eschewing power as such. Still anarchists usually do refuse precisely to engage in the struggle for popular power. Generally, they seek to create “liberated spaces” and “autonomous zones” within the capitalist system and beyond the tentacles of the state. (13) Despite the fact that anarchism frequently resists definition (it has multiple and often highly contradictory forms), anarchists usually aspire to create collectives, affinity groups, and voluntary interest bodies that are guided by anti-authoritarian and mutualist principles. These kinds of groups are to gradually emerge through consciousness-raising and the force of example. In this communitarian vision, many small enterprises are expected to function independently of mass society, steadily spread out in all spheres of society, and in time multiply sufficiently to erase all forms of oppression, including the state. Many anarchists also voice the need for communes of sorts, but they have no ideas about how these communes shall be organized, or what forms its freedoms will take. (14) More generally, they do not know how to go from a society pervaded by hierarchies and classes to a fully liberated society. Hence their “anti-authoritarian” alternatives most commonly amount to changes in personal attitudes and lifestyles and when it comes to initiating a transitional period they usually have no clear strategic ideas whatsoever. As Bookchin points out, anarchism has proven utterly unable to free itself from the reverence for the individual autonomy, even though no human being ever is completely autonomous: we are all products of our adolescence and social settings, as well as the common history and cultural heritage of humanity itself.
By insisting upon autonomy, freedom from all rule and methods of consensus to reach joint decisions, anarchists feed into the present mystique surrounding the “sovereign individual.” A consistent radical focus should properly be on the social forms that make possible assertive, reasoning, and ethical individuals. The reason why communalists place our focus on the municipality is exactly because it can be restructured and communally improved. It is in democratized and socialized municipalities that we can actualize a truly humane society, and maintain socially important services as education, health care, and defense as well as production and distribution, while cultivating popular supremacy. When important public services are controlled by citizens in a public sphere, they are not likely to be perverted by a desire for profits or by a particularistic interest inherent in bureaucracies.
A Communalist Society
In today’s mystified world, with its vast and remote institutions, the need to decentralize society to the level of human scale is acute. Not only is such decentralization necessary for making possible a direct democracy, but it has become a pressing social and ecological need as well. A human scale will by necessity be a municipal scale, since it is only the municipalities, by virtue of their extent as well as their intimacy, that have the potential to embody genuine human communities. Here human beings can govern themselves without being subjected to a remote state apparatus and manage economic affairs without a capricious market. Indeed, in placing their main focus on restructuring municipalities, Communalists struggle to create genuine communities that allow our distinct human qualities to fully emerge and institutionalize themselves. These municipalities will indeed be more than the mere sum of its citizens; rather they will constitute truly politicized communities that imbue citizens with values, hope and purpose – in stark contrast to the daily trivialization of citizens by our current “political” system. In a Communalist society, all inhabitants will be encouraged to become active political participants. Far from representing a static “end of history” such a system of communal government will logically seek to continually sophisticate itself through the conscious work of its citizen’s assemblies. The most rational forms of social organization will always be the ones that express our most human features.
The need to decentralize society to a genuine human scale and to recreate a public sphere has often been ignored by radical activists who have narrower political aims. Radical currents have been severely weakened by attempts to mobilize and empower people exclusively on the basis of their particular identities, most notably on their economic (class) status but also on their biological or even their subcultural status. By perpetuating reductionist notions of biological or economic – that is, not universally human – characteristics as our defining qualities, these approaches conform to an alienated and fragmented society. (15) By criticizing identity politics, we do not mean to deny the fact that many people are systematically excluded from a decent and fulfilling life. Biological and economic factors obviously play a focal role in the oppressions that exist in today’s society, and important social struggles have to be fought out in order to make marginalized social groups fully able to participate in political life. Political empowerment and social liberation is mutually conditioned. Radicals must be actively engaged in improving the conditions for marginalized social groups, but never allow single issues to dim the sight of our common human future, laying at the roots of our biological, economic, and subcultural identities.
In contrast to present society, where individuals are raised to be self-centered and egoistical and social groups are incessantly pitted against one another, a rational society will, through its institutions and culture encourage solidarity and humaneness. It will consciously cultivate the political community through active citizenship, giving rise to the reasonable and self-confident civic being, whose partner is the caring and empathic human being. (16) Being a citizen complements and enriches being human. The ideal of citizenship transcends our various biological identities and empowers us as political beings. Indeed, it is through citizenship that the members of a given municipality can transcend parochialism and develop a common identity, a tolerance that knows no geographical borders, and a passionate dedication to the common good. (17)
The historical emergence of the city in the “urban revolution” (which may have been more fundamental than the agrarian revolution that preceded it) had far-reaching consequences for social life. The city provided a space that was open to strangers – something that did not exist in tribal societies, confined as their members were to their own ancestral lineage and confined as their outlook was to mythic cosmologies. The city increasingly defined one’s place in society according to residence and occupation, allowing a self-conscious citizenry to gradually emerge. No longer was the tribe or clan the fundamental social unit. With the city, humanity took a qualitative leap from the quasi-animalistic ties defining tribal communities to truly social institutions and cultural ties. New cultural and economic relationships pushed the importance of biological categorizations to a secondary position (without ever really abolishing them; as witnessed by the gross disproportions in power, wealth, and status that notoriously accompany gender, age and ethnicity today). Citizenship, stretched no longer along bloodlines but along clear territorial lines, made possible the unity of humanity qua human, which later was expressed through universalistic religious teachings and universalized laws. People could come together, as human beings, to collectively decide civic affairs. Citizenship is the political concretization of humanitas – the ideal of a common human identity.
In this process, the cities generated a new public sphere, which was distinctly civil and increasingly political. The public sphere now consisted of forums and arenas in which citizens met, debated and ultimately decided upon the shared issues in their communities. In this public sphere dialogue assumed a new centrality in which, hopefully, the most reasoned argument prevailed, thereby purging decision-making of its old mythical and religious elements. The creation of politics (defined as face-to-face democratic self-government, as distinct from the purely social forms of production and socialization that preceded and worked in tandem with it, and the statecraft that was later to pervert it) was the culmination of the shift toward distinctly civic communities. This process is clearly visible in the Athenian polis of the fifth century B.C.E. Here citizens took great pride in the fact that they were all capable of governing themselves through active citizenship. Despite its serious shortcomings as a democratic society in its treatment of women, slaves, and strangers, the Athenian polis and other examples still remain important sources for inspiration about the institutions and cultures that can nurture a face-to-face democracy. A Communalist society will build upon a revived public sphere, latent in all towns, cities, and neighborhoods today, and refine it by creating a confederalist political framework in which this public sphere may flourish and develop on a broad scale.
By recreating a direct democracy we seek to initiate the creation of a rational society, which is necessarily a long process. A Communalist society will be rational to the extent that it manages to institutionalize principles of humaneness and citizenship. The extent to which we actualize our human potentialities will always be the definitive standard to judge the development of social life. Although rooted in the nascent drive towards subjectivity, complexity and complementarity we discern in first nature or what properly can be defined as biological evolution we must turn to history itself to find the most fertile achievements in ethics, art, freedom and security. Ideals of communes, democracy, and solidarity are educed from the unfolding of our social history, as recurrent yet unfulfilled potentialities that point to a more humane future. (18) Communalists seek to contribute to their actualization by creating a society that nurtures our most generous human qualities.
In a rational society economic life would be guided exclusively by moral and ecological perspectives. The fundamental demand that all citizens shall contribute to the common welfare according to their own abilities and receive goods from the community according to their needs will underlie all economic development. As Marx and other socialist theorists pointed out, no pre-capitalist economy was subject to more market controls than the present one – and in a rational society there is decidedly no room for one. Questions of production and distribution will thus cease to be considered part of the “amoral” discipline of analyzing the fluctuations of the market for profitable ends and ceaseless searches for possible areas for capital expansion. Rather, economics will become a matter of ethical concern, notably, developing the productive forces for the common good – incorporating ecological concerns – in order to abolish scarcity and raise the living standard for all, and to heighten the citizens’ sensibility of collective material responsibilities, bringing humanity from an oppressive “realm of necessity” to a more expansive “realm of freedom.” To ensure this process toward an ethical economy, we must seek to politicize economic life: to place the economy under direct popular control and ultimately to municipalize all socially necessary resources and means of production.
Communalists seek to create a stable institutional framework for a confederalist democracy and an ethical economy. Still, an analysis of the practical functions of social structures does not explain their geist, any more than an autopsy is able to explain the mental state of a human being. It may be easy to think of a society merely as a set of functions or practices in a purely instrumental manner, and many radicals seem to do this when decrying the injustices of the present social order in the belief that simple mechanisms like new progressive enterprises, more referendums or increased state control over corporations will ease the damage inflicted by capitalist globalization. Entangled as they are in market society, they do not point to the fundamental ways leading out of our present material and cultural misery. A society is more than its constellation of mechanical arrangements: it must seek to bring meaning to its citizens and to the world, something that today’s society is woefully incapable of doing. A communalist society or indeed any social structure is worth no more than the values it seeks to foster amongst its citizenry and the hope it conveys to its young.
All societies, from the earliest tribal bands, to the most advanced capitalist countries, have consciously and subliminally educated new generations into their existing customs, rituals, wisdom, and values. All societies obviously socialize their members. The ancient Athenians not only created sophisticated democratic institutions such as the ekklesia, or citizens’ assembly, but also consciously formed their citizens to become competent political actors. The notion of paideia, the lifelong formative process of cultivating the public personality of Athenian citizens, was as fundamental to the Greek democracy as the agora, or public square, and the ekklesia. Public responsibility and a collective identity were further nurtured through civic festivals and religious rituals, as well as through its armed citizen detachments who formed the hoplite army and the citizen-manned navy. In a certain sense we can understand each Athenian institution as being educational. The Athenian ideal of rounded, competent, and self-confident citizens starkly contrasts with the bleak notions of constituents in modern nation-states. Any strategy for achieving true democracy today must include strategies for recreating modern equivalents of the ancient ideals of paideia. The future system of Communalist democracy will foster the participation of its citizens in all civic institutions and thereby, through democratic practices, teach them democratic ideas and mutual responsibility. Our aim is to create not merely new institutions but citizens who are fully able to populate this democracy and enhance its vitality. In a rational society citizens would be educated in democratic politics and human solidarity, in collective duties and personal integrity, as well as in an ecological sensibility that duly recognize our proper place in the natural world.
A reharmonization of society’s relationship with the natural world is a call to sanity, contrary to what some influential elements in the ecology movement seem to think. Antihumanistic tendencies often claim that human beings are merely parasites on the “natural world” and should regard themselves as humble members of a “biospheric democracy” or the “council of all beings.” Human arrogance and civilization, it is claimed, has created our dismal ecological dislocations. The solution that is proposed is that human beings should deny their distinct human qualities and accept a passive subordination to the “laws of nature.” But, as Bookchin has repeatedly pointed out, the problem is not that human beings are too civilized, but rather that they are not civilized enough. Capitalist corporations and state industries may claim to represent human interests and progress when they are destroying the biosphere, but these claims are utterly false, as are biocentrist claims that it is human beings as such (and their values) that are destroying the world. Let us not shuffle the cards: both human beings and nonhuman nature suffer severely from capitalist exploitation, yet, despite many obstacles, it is quite possible to create an ecological society. Deep ecology’s attempts to replace Promothean humanism with a rustic “ecological consciousness” and a prescribed return to the values of a primordial past is just as dangerous as contemporary attempts to legitimate predatory capitalist practices.
A rational ecological society, by contrast, would create a culture where our uniquely human qualities, like empathy, rationality, and ethics are put at the service of natural and social evolution. The potentiality for such a culture to exist is denied both by the established society and by mystical ecologists. The way to an ecological society leads forward, and Communalists will seek to bring human communities as much as possible into harmony with the natural world, advancing a balanced social ecology, ultimately to a point where the contradictions between society and the natural world are greatly alleviated by a complementary relationship between the two. In a Communalist society, confederal networks of democratized municipalities would be creatively tailored as much as is feasible to the ecology of the regions in which they are located.
No beautiful words, however, should be allowed to veil the difficulties that face the achievement of such a society. Our democratized communities will definitely not be achieved merely by persuasion and good intentions. Radicals must be prepared to engage in the struggle to empower existing municipalities so that ordinary men and women can have the power to decide the destiny of their society.
Building a Communalist Alternative
Calls for a “new politics” and for specific initiatives to expand grassroots-democracy have often suffered from lack of clarity both in their analysis and written proposals. We must emphatically clarify the structures needed for a genuine democracy to emerge and provide answers to the question of power. New democratic institutions must be consolidated by a new confederal constitution that clearly spells out the rights and responsibilities in a municipal confederation. We must consciously structure our proposed new democracy to succeed both in its educational role as well as its practical ability to function.
There are no other means by which the people can decide the course of social development than demanding that power must reside in the hands of the people as a whole. A new form of government, a collectively organized popular power, should replace the state and capitalism. And if we are to organize such a popular power we have to clarify how it is to be achieved. Many well-intentioned but naive radicals seem to believe that if we spread power widely, so that we have a so-called minimal state, small-scale market economy, and limited power distributed amongst various popular institutions, we will have created an adequate political alternative. But these new radical structures will eventually be marginalized or absorbed by the strong antidemocratic thrust of the state and the market. Any credible alternative must aim at challenging, confronting, and ultimately replacing the seemingly omnipotent capitalist system, in all its various mutations. Power must be centered somewhere, and Communalists hold resolutely that it should not be in councils, committees, collectives, or states but hold resolutely that power must remain in municipal popular assemblies, as here the most direct form of democracy is possible.
The struggle for control over social development is ongoing, and we must not allow very real, albeit often concealed, tensions to be obscured under the myth of a “pluralist” approach, placing all good intentions on an equal footing. We cannot overlook real differences in policy and practice that arise in popular assemblies. Communalists are actively engaged in political life and in social struggles, working with initiatives trying to expand popular power. Revolutionaries have done so for centuries, although not always consistently so: the Bolshevik demand for workers’ councils in the summer of 1917, for example, starkly contradicted the brutal centralizing efforts of the Bolshevik Party after gaining state power to impose its control over all grassroots institutions. Immediately after the February Revolution the tensions between Kerensky’s Provisional Government and radical efforts to organize new workers’, peasants’ and soldiers’ councils (soviets) became very sharp and was temporarily resolved when the Bolsheviks took power in October 1917. In addition, a new tension arose between the soviets and the new Bolshevik dictatorship that soon had to be confronted. Either one side or the other had to have final power. Unfortunately Russian revolutionaries were not able to defend their newly gained freedom from the corrosive encroachment of the Bolshevik Party. This tragedy may chiefly be assigned to their inability to resolve the question of power, or to clearly define which institution – the soviets or the Party – was to have political control. The soviets’ loss of power made possible the complete bureaucratization of Russia and the later Stalinist manipulations and distortions of the entire revolutionary movement into the nightmare of gulags, party despots and the NKVD. The Spanish anarchists were confronted by the same paradoxical dilemma in the exciting July days of 1936, when they first refused to take power and institutionalize workers control, and again, only a few months later, when they placed four leading cenetistas in the liberal Republican government, abandoning all their principles. (19) These tragic mistakes strangled the revolutionary movement long before the Falange of General Franco gained military control over Spain. Acting as though power somehow existed in a vacuum, and believing that simply ignoring it could dissolve it, proved disastrous as the workers were systematically deprived of the institutional means for defending their freedom. Fortunately there are lessons to be learned from history so that we will not be “condemned to repeat it,” and an important lesson is not to allow this fatal ambiguity of who shall have the power follow in the wake of a revolutionary upheaval.
We face this challenge even today, as a result of the confusion surrounding the issue of power and democracy in the new movements against “globalization”, particularly among the more anarchistic elements, who often claim that power as such is an “evil” that should be abolished. This demand is not without historical precursors in the anarchist movement. As the Spanish anarchosyndicalist CNT amazingly stated; “There is no such thing as revolutionary power, for all power is reactionary by nature.” (20) As Bookchin has emphasized: The fact must be faced that power is a social reality; it exists, it is tangible, and it is institutionalized. Power also resides somewhere, it simply cannot be centralized and decentralized at the same time – there will always be one institution with the power to effectuate political decisions.
Communalists strive to draw power down to municipalities in order to share it equally among citizens, through a politics of libertarian municipalism. The fact that today’s municipalities copy the state to the best of their ability and, even worse, try to imitate competitive business corporations does not mean that they cannot be radically transformed, democratized, and indeed rendered truly communal entities. Municipalities have a different history from the nation-state – in fact, they precede its emergence – and we must build upon their unfulfilled potentialities. Popular empowerment can only happen, we insist, through a thorough empowerment and restructuring of the communities in which people live. Only municipalities allow for direct citizen participation and control over public affairs; indeed, it is only in municipalities that people can be empowered as citizens, not as “consumers,” “voters,” “constituents,” or participants in instantaneous opinion polls. Logically, Communalist politics aims at strengthening the municipalities and turning them into direct democracies, to ensure complete citizens’ control.
Achieving communal power must by no means lead to regional isolation and parochial localism. Open cooperation must transcend local or “bioregional” boundaries, and the many policies decided by the various municipalities must be structurally coordinated. This does not mean that power must be centralized; if we develop confederal forms of cooperation, power can very well remain at the level of the municipal assemblies. Policymaking is the exclusive privilege of the municipal assemblies, while administration is easily handled by councils and committees. The confederations, which themselves have long historical roots, renders possible interregional cultural exchange, administration, coordination, and distribution of resources. A confederation by no means constitutes a state or statelike forms of organization, since a confederation lacks any apparatus of systematized violence above the people, and since amateurs will govern society at all times – confederal deputies are totally answerable to and recallable by the assemblies they represent and must bring all decisions to the popular assembly for their approval, modification, alteration, or rejection.
Logically, as Communalists are working for municipal democracy and confederal forms of government, we consistently advocate the municipalization of the economy. If the political democracy is to function and create the sufficient preconditions for equal participation, the people as a whole must control all aspects of economic production and distribution. Libertarian municipalism calls for placing factories, workshops, land, housing, and other socially important property under municipal control. Municipalization differs markedly from traditional radical notions that they should be controlled entirely by the workers in councils and committees that are located on their premises. Syndicalism is based on the idea that trade unions should overthrow the capitalist class by a general strike and take power in society. Communalists are highly critical of archaic demands for workers’ control but will fight earnestly to abolish private property, end exploitation of labor, and secure the final transition to an ethical economic system. A class struggle between wage laborers and capitalists certainly exists, but the classless society must be struggled for and won by an empowered citizenry that possesses full control over the fate of society.
The Municipalities of the Future
History is filled with exciting communal institutions that make possible this project for human emancipation. It is interesting to note that in European history, revolutionary defenders of civic freedoms have invariably been called comuñeros, communards, or communalists. During the tumultuous late Middle Age free cities dotted Europe, often allying in strong political and military leagues, contesting the contemporary centralizing efforts of Carolingian heirs, who were brutally forging the emerging European nation-states at the direct expense of municipal freedoms. These cities and towns repeatedly claimed their right to independence and confederation in bloody fights against nobles and monarchs. Even today the ideal of a “Commune of communes” remains a latent threat to modern nation-states.
To nurture this ideal and create a Communalist society a coherent set of radical ideas is indispensable. Any serious alternative to the capitalist system must also fight the ideological obscurantism that rides on the contemporary tide of cultural barbarism. As Communalists, our ideological alternative must constitute a coherent whole and always be linked to practical politics. Although changing social circumstances and new political experiences must inform ideology, this ideological alternative rests on several fundamental principles that radicals must staunchly defend in both words and practice.
A radical alternative can become a reality only if it has an underlying ideology as well as a responsible movement that is willing to militantly oppose all forms of oppression, exploitation, and violations of human rights while fighting for new structures that can give form to social freedom. In this struggle radicals must develop and advance conscious strategies for citizen empowerment, while they wholeheartedly engage in municipal politics.
Communalism, and its politics of libertarian municipalism, can bring radicals out of the reformist cul-de-sac of Realpolitik and futile communitarian efforts. We cannot change society by throwing illegal street parties, sending petitions to politicians, or holding large protest rallies. We must build a new political organization, guided by a clear set of principles and bylaws, which seek to collectively provide the spearhead of larger radical movements for democracy and social change. Our political practice must seek to heighten social consciousness and provide the most relevant solutions to our current problems. They must be presented to the public through a broad range of plans, programs, reports, campaigns, and projects. Communalists are actively engaged in popular movements, public forums, radical fronts, and citizens’ initiatives, as well as in running candidates in municipal elections – always seeking to restructure our municipalities and radically change existing society. As a result of our Communalist activities we hope to function as a political vanguard, continually seeking to attain the municipalities of the future.
Capitalism does not have the honor of being the best history can yield. On the contrary, it functions like a tumor ultimately ravaging both society and the natural world, while diluting all our humane institutions and values. The municipality offers the promise of a future in which we finally can become truly human. Capitalism has had its day; it must be replaced by an ecological, humanist and democratic alternative.
1. This article was drafted by Eirik Eiglad, based on the ideas of Murray Bookchin.
2. Despite parliamentary commitments to neo-liberalist policies, state regulations remain indispensable mechanisms for balancing the instability of the market, and social democracy may well gain a broad revival as economic crisis intensifies, something the growth of new movements like ATTAC (Association pour une Taxation des Transactions financières pour l’Aide aux Citoyens) indicate.
3. After the fall of the Berlin wall, leading European Social Democrats reformulated their political position, defining their proper place now in the center and not to the Left, as seen in the “Third Way” embodied by the politics of Britain’s Tony Blair, or in the “Neue Mitte” (The “new center”) promoted by Germany’s Gerhard Schröeder.
4. “And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families.” This quote is from an interview in Woman’s Own, 3 October 1987, pp. 8-10.
5. Naomi Klein, “The Vision Thing,” in The Nation, July 10, 2000, p. 21. Emphasis added.
6. The demand for a taxation of financial transactions that, due to an editorial by Ignacio Ramonet in Le Monde Diplomatique December 1997, contributed to the formation of ATTAC.
7. For an overview of the ideas of Murray Bookchin, see The Murray Bookchin Reader, ed. Janet Biehl (London: Cassell, 1997) and Remaking Society: Pathways to a Green Future (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1989). For the Communalist political approach, known as libertarian municipalism, readers should particularly consult Bookchin’s From Urbanization to Cities: Toward a New Politics of Citizenship (London: Cassell, 1995), and Janet Biehl’s clear exposition in The Politics of Social Ecology: Libertarian Municipalism (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1997).
8. It must be absolutely clear that we use the word commune in the continental sense, as a municipality (and as a potentiality for a free political community); not in the sense of a cooperative or collective, a relatively small group of people sharing premises and responsibilities.
9. The Communalist ideal has never existed in history, anymore than socialism, communism, anarchosyndicalism, or, in its “pure” form, capitalism.
10. From a dialectical perspective, the purpose of revolutionary organizations is to help bring the free communes or municipalities into existence, thereby transcending their current state as limited political entities. (To use Hegelian language, the commune an sich should not to be regarded as a standard for revolutionary demands, but we have to educe its logic, recovering its true nature as a commune für sich. The commune an und für sich will be a liberated human community.)
11. The intent of Social Democracy was to base their state on a majority (unlike the Bolsheviks), in a fundamental transformation of the bourgeois state, as they believed that the workers eventually would become the majority.
12. An observation that in no way denies the fact that there are degrees of centralization and of statecraft.
13. Even at the height of the October Revolution most Russian anarchists were amazingly not engaged in practical politics. Instead they were involved in building communitarian enterprises, like the Moscow collectives (eventually stormed by the newly established secret police, the Cheka, in December 1918). This lack of political strategy actually caused many anarchists to join the Bolsheviks.
14. Anarchist notions of communes vary a great deal (the Spanish anarchosyndicalist CNT even called for economic or industrial communes), but the actual form and content of their communes have remained hopelessly undefined. Despite his admiration for medieval free cities, even Peter Kropotkin was unable to clearly define this libertarian ideal, assigning it a multitude of meanings in his writings.
15. These flaws haunt the weary adherence to traditional class analysis, with due focus on the hegemonic role of the proletariat in effecting major social change. Today only marginal sects still follow these formulas rigidly, but rather popular radical currents still seriously try to persuade us to follow strategies for empowering people qua “producers” and “consumers,” some even presenting detailed schemes for integrating “increased influence” into “humanized” market exchanges – prime examples of the deep impact that capitalist thinking has had on radical theory.
16. The adjective civic describes a connection to a city, town, or municipality, not only a distinction from military or ecclesiastical issues. See The New Oxford Dictionary of English, ed. Judy Pearsall (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998). Words like civic, civil, citizen, city and even civilization have a common etymological origin in the Latin concept of civitas, a “union of citizens,” again suggesting that cities – and not states – provided the real incentives for the development of politics and of citizenship.
17. Citizenship implies actualizing our human potentiality as political beings and is therefore a universal concept. Indeed, only a revitalization of citizenship makes possible a real “globalization from below,” as confederalism and cosmopolitanism are historically and logically connected to this ideal.
18. This essay does not attempt to explore the rich and fecund philosophical soil in which Communalist ideology is rooted. See Murray Bookchin, The Philosophy of Social Ecology: Essays on Dialectical Naturalism (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1995) for a thorough introduction.
19. It must be emphasized that power was actually given to the CNT-FAI in July 1936, first by the workers who had victoriously resisted the fascist rebellion in Barcelona, looking to the anarchists for leadership, then by Lluis Companys, the head of the Catalan state, who politely offered to let the CNT-FAI establish its own government! This fact is revealed in most of the general works on the Spanish Revolution, even though anarchist authors usually downplay CNT–FAI’s refusal of Companys’ offer. For an interesting anarchist exposition, see Agustin Guillamón, The Friends of Durruti Group: 1937–1939 (Edinburgh and San Francisco: AK Press, 1996).
20. Quote used to introduce part 5, “Anarchism in Action,” in Peter Marshall, Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism (London: Fontana Press, 1993), p. 429. Emphasis added.
From the previous website ISSUE # 1 OCTOBER 2002
Theory does not hold a high status in current radical movements. (1) “Don’t theorize!” seem to be the watchword of many self-designated radicals today, instead emphasizing activism and protest. Not only does much of what currently passes for the Left have a strong anti-theoretical thrust, but some new social movements even promote irrationalism as a virtue. Consequently they are embedded in a quagmire of pragmatism, lifestyle orientations, and apolitical attitudes. Alternatives to this intellectual degeneration are direly needed. Social ecology and its communalism stand out in this respect with a coherent political philosophy and a revolutionary approach. (2)
The Emergence of Social Ecological Communalism
Social ecology emerged in response to the decline of a traditional radicalism that had been based exclusively on the struggle between wage labor and capital. After the Second World War, radically new developments in capitalism diminished the numerical size of the proletariat. At the same time the success of social-democratic parties in several parts of the Western world relieved some of the most immediate economic and social problems created by the market economy, leading to a close collaboration between trade unions and governments in making capitalism more palatable. In the following years, despite the claims of Marxists, it became clear that the workers’ movement did not constitute the hegemonic force for social change.
In the early 1960s a new radicalism developed around new issues that burst onto the social agenda. Women’s oppression and ecological devastation, racism and the Vietnam war led to strong new social movements, along with a variety of citizens’ initiatives – none of which could be encompassed by movements based on factory-oriented issues. These radical tendencies greatly influenced popular attitudes. But regrettably, their movements had strong limitations and did not actualize their potentialities to become truly liberatory social forces.
In fact, they remained fragmented and were often appropriated, in an eclectic manner, by the existing culture. This resulted in an upsurge of “identity politics” and the decline of coherent radical approaches that call for fundamentally altered social relationships. Several struggles were melded with existential and even personal issues, dismissing the need for more in-depth theoretical inquiry, and their organizations became strictly issue-oriented and of an ad hoc nature. This development within the “new social movements,” as they were to be called, was coupled with developments within the universities: after the failure of the Left to implement a liberatory and cooperative society, hundreds of disillusioned radicals swarmed into the universities and, in the name of anti-totalitarianism, started an academic crusade against the objectivity of the revolutionary project. (3)
Disgusted by the dogmatism and authoritarianism of the established workers’ parties, which had led to Stalinist totalitarianism in the East and social conservatism in the West, these academics did not stop by criticizing vulgar Marxism and authoritarian forms of organization. In the name of postmodernism, ethical relativism, and “social deconstructionism,” they pursued their opposition to totalitarianism in a paranoid manner. Progress was dismissed as an illusion, education was depicted as authoritarian, ideology was considered dogmatic, and reason itself was dismissed – features that define any meaningful social theory. As they withdrew from the public sphere and into universities, they disdained even the very values that had inspired revolutionaries for more than a century and a half. Instead of redefining the revolutionary project, these former radicals essentially abandoned it wholesale, at most engaging in ad hoc criticisms of certain features of the existing society.
But the basic relationships that make up this society still have to be fundamentally altered. Not only does the social problem of exploitation still exist, but other forms of alienation and oppression demand our attention as well, like growing centralization, social homogenization, and the commodification of ever-greater spheres of cultural life. Furthermore, ecological imperatives make it necessary for us to reconsider society’s role in the biosphere. The roots of these evils are basically located in social structures of domination and particularly in the economic system of capitalism. The dynamic of the market economy and its competitive imperatives will continually reap profits at the expense of human beings and the biosphere. A revolutionary social approach is obviously needed to do away with capitalism and hierarchies once and for all. Such an endeavor must transcend traditional forms of socialism and anarchism, and certainly everything that passes for “leftism” or “radicalism” today. Nonetheless we must retain the best features of the traditional Left, like its commitment to reason, its constructive utopianism, its class analysis, and its participation in public life and social struggles – while broadening them. We cannot allow our politics to be arbitrary; rather, we must ground it both ideologically and historically in radical social theory and the revolutionary tradition.
Social ecology, responding to this challenge, has come up with a coherent political philosophy. Initially launched in 1964 by the radical American thinker Murray Bookchin, this approach united the liberatory ideas of social anarchism with ecological issues and still managed to retain the best of the Marxist tradition, especially its critique of capitalism. (4) Its project for revolutionary social change took the form of libertarian municipalism. The creation of an ecological society requires a large-scale decentralization of social life to a human scale and a transition to ecological forms of production. According to this social ecological analysis, capitalism and the state are essentially the main causes of the present social and ecological crisis and must be eliminated, along with all forms of hierarchy and domination. Radical activists have to create new liberatory social relations and institutions. The fundamental solution to our social and ecological problems is to empower the people and to create a libertarian socialist society.
Social ecology led to the development of a communalist ideology – maintaining this fundamental analysis – that gives us a vision of a rational ecological society, as well as a tangible framework for radical social and political practice. The politics of communalism – libertarian municipalism – defines an attempt to strengthen and restructure the municipalities at the expense of the centralized state. It aims at creating and empowering popular assemblies in the municipalities and making them forums where all citizens collectively can participate in shaping their own future. These popular assemblies will decide upon all important community issues, like education, defense, health care, production, and distribution. The democratic municipalities will unite and form confederations, a form of interregional organization, in which individual members of a confederal council are mandated and recallable by their respective popular assemblies.
Communalists make a clear distinction between the democratic assemblies, which make all policy decisions, and councils and committees, which undertake administrative and coordinative functions. These municipal confederations must challenge, confront, and ultimately replace the state and centralized power as such. Communalism will furthermore replace capitalism with a municipalized economy, guided by principles of sharing and solidarity. Democratized municipalities will be carefully tailored to their natural surroundings, by means of ecological technologies and knowledge, trying to create an ecological balance between land and city.
Although libertarian municipalism has been consciously articulated through social ecology circles the last thirty years, it nonetheless has deep roots in social struggles. Historically, communalist politics is anchored in the age-old struggle between the independence of the cities and the imperialistic ambitions of the state. On the one hand, citizens in the past fought to preserve and expand civic virtues and municipal freedoms, and on the other, nobles, kings and emperors made every effort to suppress local autonomy and confederation. (5) This tension has exploded from time to time in bloody civil wars and revolutionary upheavals, most notably in the Great French Revolution of 1789-94 and in the Paris Commune of 1871, wherein citizens of Paris demanded the replacement of the French state by a confederation of municipalities. (6)
Communalism as a Dialectical Approach
While postmodernism and its philosophical and ethical relativism have focused their attention on the ideological legitimation of the status quo, social ecologists launched a feasible alternative for a revival of a radical Left with a view toward fundamentally altering this society. (7) Nevertheless, communalism is more than the political theory and practice of libertarian municipalism. One has to explore communalism as a coherent political philosophy to be able to fully understand its revolutionary social approach. It contains not only a libertarian politics and a nonhierarchical social analysis but also a philosophy that give communalism its developmental and ethical thrust – namely, dialectical naturalism.
Dialectical naturalism is a way of understanding society and the natural world by explaining them as developmental phenomena. (8) In this respect nature is its own evolution, just as society is its own history. Biological or cultural phenomena cannot be properly explained merely in terms of their fixity, their form, or their factual existence; they must be cumulatively connected to their past and their future. A naturalist dialectics must explore their potentialities and their internal logic, in order to educe what they should become if reason is to prevail. The ethical “should be,” which can be objectively grounded, must always be a guideline for challenging and correcting the existing state of affairs, and to guide us beyond the reformism, pragmatism, and subjectivism promoted by radicals today. Such a dialectical understanding, with its tremendous ethical implications, is indispensable to an explanation of the political dimension of communalism.
First of all, dialectical naturalism anchors the struggle for a rational society in humanity’s long and painstaking development towards more expansive forms of social consociation and human subjectivity. More specifically, it places this struggle in the context of society’s potentialities for cooperation, freedom, and self-consciousness. Since history has not been a unilinear expansion of freedom and self-consciousness, humanity should seek to consciously develop cooperative and libertarian institutions that further its own development. (9) Thus, a libertarian socialist society is not a personal choice or an “imaginary” (as advanced by certain recent social ecologists) but is to be regarded, after thorough studies of the emergence of human culture and its social institutions, as social organization in its most rational form. Communalists consider the present society as irrational and seek out what is rational in human history in an attempt to improve the human condition, and to remake our relationship between society and the natural world. Such a dialectical analysis negates the apparent “reality” of global state capitalism, as well as the pragmatic “realism” of reformist politicians, lobbyists, and activists, for the actualization of humanity’s potentialities for social freedom and rationality. (10)
Second, a dialectical approach is necessary to understand the latent tension between the state and the municipality. This historical conflict is in its essence antagonistic, and a revival of community life and municipal democracy can be actualized only with the destruction of the state. In contrast to the municipality, which potentially and in its full actualization is a vibrant direct democracy, the state, a centralized and professionalized apparatus with a social monopoly of violence, is by virtue of its internal logic never democratic but totalitarian, as the last century has shown. From time to time this latent tension between the municipality and the state bursts out in ravaging social conflicts, but mostly the conflict is a silent one, in which municipal freedoms steadily lose ground to professional statist elites. There can be no compromise with the state in creating a libertarian and ecological society, because all power that municipalities achieve will be at the expense of state power, and vice versa. This recognition is one of the main features of libertarian municipalism and defines its proper historical role.
Finally, communalists bring this dialectical approach into the sphere of activism. Communalism declares that confederations of democratic municipalities make up the institutional framework of a rational and ecological society. The revival of the public sphere would provide a vast scope for radical activists. Communalists, to be sure, must develop clear programs for how they can gradually make this vision come true. The social revolution we yearn for involves a long and uneven process. Carefully elaborated programs are therefore essential and constitute a dialectical moment of our activist work. Ultimately calling for a total remaking of society along libertarian and egalitarian lines, our programmatic demands help us to act as revolutionaries in a period of reaction. In fact, communalist programs are the link between our ideals and the reality in which we live. These programs make it possible for us to retain our utopian aspirations while we engage in practical politics and activism.
This capitalist society obliges communalists to take the most committed stance against it, yet everyone has to acknowledge that revolutionary change involves a process of maturation. A social revolution will not be the result of someone snapping two fingers or throwing a brick, especially today, when we are not likely to mobilize great masses of people under the banners of municipal democracy and social revolution. (11) The Great French Revolution was itself the result of a long social maturation by the citizens of Paris and became possible only after nearly a century of Enlightenment social thought and philosophy.
This is not to say that we are obliged to wait until the population spontaneously rises, or confine ourselves to merely spreading ideas. Communalism advances a politics that aims at mobilizing, educating, and empowering the people through the establishment of popular assemblies and the introduction of a radical social agenda. (12) In this respect, the social revolution will be the “final conflict” that defeats capitalism and the state once and for all. Insofar as social processes are not predetermined, the creation of a rational society must be the most conscious endeavor on the part of radical activists: “The world of facts is not rational but has to be brought to reason.” (13) Radicals have to bring a rational society to its actualization by rational insight and purposeful will, for which a dialectical approach and organized human agency are indispensable.
Karl Marx clearly understood this responsibility when he stated that we should seek not only to understand the world but also to change it. (14) Communalist organizations must develop programs and thereby bring their philosophical approach from the realm of social analysis and theory to the realm of political activism. Programmatic demands can present radical municipalist ideas in a clear and concise manner. More specifically, those demands must range from our ideal of a future society to our most immediate concerns. In revolutionary theory this escalation has been properly designated as maximum demands and minimum demands, as well as the necessary transitional demands. The idea of maximum and minimum programs was first consciously developed by the Socialist International and still has considerable validity today. A programmatic practice helped the growth and influence of many socialist parties and radical organizations, but alas, their limited understanding of the state led not to a socialist society but to their own eventual degeneration and cooptation.
Communalists must draw from this programmatic approach to create the most adequate revolutionary practice suited to our time. It is obvious that communalists should engage in everyday social struggles and participate in everyday political life. In this respect communalism adds a new dimension to traditional anarchism and socialism, because it recovers political life as an authentic sphere of revolutionary activity. Engagement and participation need not take the form of liberal reformism if we visualize our long-term aims by radicalizing all our demands at every phase along the way. Communalist demands must place immediate struggles within the context of more profound social questions and make the need for a revolutionary change more urgent in the consciousness of the people. There are material, cultural and psychological needs which have to be met before a revolution will be successful, and communalists respond to this with their programs and activities.
The dialectics of communalist programs lies in their developmental intention, in the radical escalation of demands. During the Great French Revolution of 1789-94 there was a tide of new revolutionary institutions, many of which – ironically – were created by the monarchy and the national assembly but were mutated by the people to meet their growing needs and democratic aspirations. The Parisian sections, for example, were constructed out of the district electoral assemblies that were established by the monarchy to choose deputies to the Estates-General. With the establishment and empowerment of the sectional assemblies, the opening of these sections to the most impoverished segments of society, and the election of a large number of committees that undertook various responsibilities, this revolution reached sweeping proportions and even threatened the Jacobin state itself.
Unfortunately the revolutionaries failed to secure their sectional democracy and the revolution itself, largely due to their lack of organization and their failure to develop a coherent theory to guide their practice. Revolutionaries today cannot afford to let events blindly overtake the course of social revolution but must learn about the accomplishments, defeats, and shortcomings of past revolutions from careful historical studies. Communalism unites libertarian aims with libertarian means, and radical activists should work to introduce and gradually develop revolutionary institutions, as well as foster a new Enlightenment. Preparation and organization are crucial for the revolutionary project and the transition to a libertarian and ecological society. Radicals should use programmatic formulations and presentations as an indispensable key to this transition.
Nonetheless, I must emphasize that communalist programs are not intended to provide a blueprint for social reorganization. The utopian dimension of the revolutionary project is necessary to preserve the vision of a rational future. Above all, we have an ethical commitment to render the world rational, and no program or plan can ever be a substitute for this dialectical understanding. Rather, it complements it with practical action and democratic forms of organization.
Potentialities and the Need for Programmatic Change
A liberatory political movement must educe potentialities in communities and cultures, and these moments must be captured in its programs. These programs have to be flexible and adapted to local situations, addressing the pressing needs of the time by offering radical solutions to immediate problems. But although the minimum demands must be applied locally and regionally, certain maximum demands are required if the program is to remain communalist, such as the abolition of all forms of hierarchy and domination, the establishment of municipal confederations, and the implementation of a new system of moral economics. In short, communalists will fight for these demands with the intention of finally destroying the limits that capitalism and the state impose upon us and of actualizing a rational society.
The content of these programs can be educed from the liberatory potentialities latent in local traditions, institutional structures, social struggles, cultural traits, and especially human history itself. (15) To facilitate their actualization, communalists must give these programs a coherent and articulated form. Almost daily, issues come up that call for public attention, such as the closing of a school, the pollution of a river, racist attacks on immigrants, or the building of a shopping mall. When such issues arise, communalists should voice their opinion everywhere and relate particular issues with more general ones.
Consider, for example, a social problem such as the current attack on public services. In many parts of the industrial world, neoliberal capitalism is ravaging the welfare gains that once helped capitalism survive past crises. In Norway today, public services are gradually being destroyed in the name of privatization and rationalization, as if people, community life, and culture were expendable products to be abandoned or even sold in the marketplace. Many people clearly understand this, but they find it difficult to act against this process or even voice their opinions on the matter. Popular resistance to this policy is usually limited to working within the capitalist framework. In this respect, communalists have a great deal to offer with their ideas on municipalization, confederalism, and the establishment of popular assemblies. One may take nearly any kind of social or ecological problem, restate it in terms of a communalist program, and thereby seek to direct popular attention to the cause of a problem and not merely its effects.
In contrast to postmodernism and post-structuralism, communalism advances a coherent set of ideas that are socially relevant and applicable to our times. Its fundamental aim is to eliminate this bourgeois social order that impoverishes society and destroys the natural world. Once a true social force, the Left has now lost ground to an array of individualistic “imaginaries,” mysticism, various spiritualisms, and particularistic identities, or through personal rebellion. Capitalism and the state seem to be thoroughly entrenched and self-confident, and it will require a serious response – ultimately a determined, organized, and truly political movement – to shake their foundations. These institutions will not disappear of themselves, or because of changes in personal behavior or benevolent communitarian enterprises – an empowered people must overthrow them. This is not a game, an academic exercise or a theatrical act, and radical activists cannot do without the theoretical, political, and lived practice involved in social change – all united in a body of coherent political ideas.
Communalist programs can be formulated and presented differently, but they ultimately rest on the stamina and long-range commitment of the organizations that present these demands. Revolutionary communalists must build strong organizations that will energetically voice their demands and seek to expand social consciousness, as well as participate in restructuring municipalities. All countries and regions have their own specific traditions for popular government, while they share universal potentialities for citizenship and social revolution. Much depends on whether revolutionaries are able to take advantage of these possibilities, with education and empowerment, in order to bring humanity into a new historical stage of development.
1. This essay was originally published in Left Green Perspectives # 40 (February 1999). It has been slightly revised for publication here. (It was written a year before the resurgence of worldwide radical protests against “globalization,” marked by the large demonstrations in Seattle, November 1999, but has by no means lost its relevance.)
2. For a general overview of social ecology and communalist politics, the reader should study at least Murray Bookchin’s Remaking Society: Pathways to a Green Future (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1989), and Janet Biehl’s The Politics of Social Ecology: Libertarian Municipalism (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1997).
3. This academic current became widespread in France after the failure of the May-June events in Paris 1968.
4. Murray Bookchin’s “Ecology and Revolutionary Thought” was first written in 1964 and was republished in Post-Scarcity Anarchism (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1986). The first time libertarian municipalism was advanced was in an editorial by the Anarchos Group, “Spring Offensives and Summer Vacations,” Anarchos, no. 4 (June 1972), also written by Murray Bookchin.
5. For a thorough study of the historical and theoretical foundations of libertarian municipalism, see Murray Bookchin, From Urbanization to Cities: Toward a New Politics of Citizenship (London: Cassell, 1995).
6. Marxists and anarchists alike have cherished this political legacy, but it is only with libertarian municipalism that this “assemblyist” and “communard” tendency has received a careful theoretical, historical, and programmatic consideration.
7. Several radical theorists have tried to ground the struggle for a democratic politics on “social imaginaries” (Castoriadis) or a “democratic relativism” (Fotopoulos), but their categories tend to dissolve into the subjectivist arbitrariness of postmodernism, and they fail to explain why we should choose certain “imaginaries” or political approaches over others.
8. For a further elucidation of dialectical naturalism, see Murray Bookchin, The Philosophy of Social Ecology: Essays on Dialectical Naturalism (Montreal: Black Rose Books, rev. ed. 1995), as well as Janet Biehl, “Dialectics in the Ethics of Social Ecology,” in Finding Our Way: Rethinking Ecofeminist Politics (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1991). Bookchin’s Re-enchanting Humanity: A Defence of the Human Spirit Against Antihumanism, Misantropy, Mysticism, and Primitivism (London: Cassell, 1995) gives these philosophical ideas a historical embedding.
9. For a discussion of the difference between our human potentialities for creating a libertarian society and our capacities for building totalitarian regimes, see “History, Civilization and Progress” in Bookchin, Philosophy of Social Ecology, pp. 159–161.
10. The distinction that Hegel made in Science of Logic between “reality” (Realitaet) and “actuality” (Wirklichkeit) is fundamental to what we regard as the “real.”
11. The recent protests in Seattle, Prague and Genoa has certainly been massive mobilizations, but their contents have been vague, and – instead of producing a mature form of political creativity – are limited to mere acts of protesting. The struggle for a rational society must be a process of popular enlightenment and radical organization.
12. The popular assemblies will themselves be the most appropriate institutions to introduce and fight for our programmatic demands. (They will certainly be arenas for class struggle, as the demand for an end to exploitation is a crucial component of a communalist agenda.)
13. Herbert Marcuse, Reason and Revolution: Hegel and the Rise of Social Theory (Boston: Beacon Press, 1941), p. 156, emphasis in original.
14. “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.” Karl Marx, Theses on Feuerbach, in The Marx-Engels Reader, ed. Robert C. Tucker (New York and London: W.W. Norton & Co., 1972), p. 145.
15. See Dan Chodorkoff, “Social Ecology and Community Development,” in Society and Nature, vol. 1, no. 1 (1992); and Janet Biehl’s “The Revolutionary Potential of the Municipality,” speech delivered at the Libertarian Municipalism Conference in Plainfield, Vermont, 1999 (Unpublished manuscript); and particularly Murray Bookchin’s “The New Municipal Agenda,” pp. 201–245, in From Urbanization to Cities.
From the previous website ISSUE # 6 MARCH 2005
Bundan çok değil 500 yıl öncesine kadar doğa kendi kendisini idare edebiliyor, kendi iç dinamikleriyle kendisini yenileyebiliyor ve tehditleri savuşturabiliyordu. Ancak içinde bulunduğumuz zamana geldiğimizde durum farklılaştı ve doğa kendi kendisini yenileyemez bir hale geldi.Bunun en büyük nedenlerinden biri elbette insanların nüfuslarının muazzam derecede artması, isteklerin ve tüketimlerinin tavan seviyeye gelmesi ve bu isteklerini karşılamak için modern aletlerle doğa büyük bir saldırı içine girmesi en önemli sebep olarak karşımıza çıkıyor.
İlkel toplum zamanları ve göçebe yaşamın tercih edildiği zamanlarda doğaya verilen tahribat çok azdı. İnsanlar ihtiyaçları kadar ağaç kesiyor, balık tutuyor, avlanıyor ve bitki topluyordu. Ayrıca sürekli olarak yer değiştirmelerinden dolayı bir bölgeyi terk ettiklerinde, oradaki doğa da kendi kendisini yenileme imkanı buluyordu. O dönemlerde insanların kullandığı alet edevatlar da doğaya yıkım yaratmaya zaten pek elverişli değildi; basit baltalar, taştan oyulmuş mızrak uçları, ok ve yay g,b, aletlerle zaten bu insanların doğadan alabilecekleri sınırlıydı.
Ancak modern topluma geldiğimizde işler değişti. 10 saniyede 3 metre çapında bir ağacı deviren makinalar, tek çekişte onlarca ton balık avlayabilen balıkçı tekneleri, biçerdöverler, otomatik av silahları, oluk oluk benzin tüketen motorlu araçlar,vb. Modern aletlerle doğaya karşı neredeyse topyekün bir savaş ilan edilmiş durumda. Tabi bu adaletsizlik karşısında doğanın da yapacağı bir şey yok tabi ki…
İşte bu noktada bilinçli insanlar da doğayı korumak ve kendisini koruyamayan doğanın saflarında bulunmak amacıyla doğa ve çevre hareketlerini örgütlemeye başladılar. Zaten yazımın konusu da bu mücadelede kullanılan yöntem ve stratejileri incelemek ve hangi yöntemin daha mantıklı olduğunu tartışmaya açmak..Bu kısa girişten sonra konumuza girelim…
Mücadelenin ilk başlangıcı hiç de bizi şaşırtmayacak bir dönemde; Sanayi Devrimi sonrasında denk gelmektedir. İlk olarak İngiltere’de 1850’lerde “Back To Nature” hareketini kuran birkaç sanatçı ve bilim insanı bu konuda dikkat çekmek üzere bir mücadeleye girmişlerdi. Tabi o dönemlerde çok da ses getirecek bir mücadele olmadığını dönemin kaynaklarından öğrenebiliyoruz. Bunun en büyük nedeni elbette o dönem insanlarının yeni gelen sanayi devriminin sarhoşluğu içinde olmasını gösterebiliriz.
Ancak doğa hareketlerinin bugünkü halini almaya başlaması tam olarak 1960’ların sonu olarak karşımıza çıkıyor. Savaş Karşıtı hareketlerin içindeki birçok insan, Vietnam Savaşı’nın sona ermesi ve 68′ hareketinin bitmesinden sonra çeşitli doğa hareketlerinin kurucusu ve aktivisti olarak karşımıza çıktılar. Bu dönemde çeşitli metodları ve stratejileri benimseyen bu örgütlerin kimisi halen varlığını sürdürmekte, kimisi ise ismini tarihe gömerek mücadelenin dışında kaldı.Şimdi bu mücadele metodlarını benimseyen yapılanmaları baz alarak bu metodları başlıklar altında irdeleyelim…
Hayvan ve Toprak Kurtuluşu Mücadelesi
Bu mücadelenin ortaya çıkışı 1963 yılında İngiltere’de kurulan Hunt Saboteurs Association ile başlamaktadır. Bu mücadelenin en önemli özelliği lidersiz olması ve merkezi örgütlenmeye karşı olmasıdır. Bu mücadeleyi benimseyen insanlar kendi yerellerinde “Hücre” adı verilen küçük ve gizli yapılanmalar kurarak eylem yapmaktadırlar.
Mücadelede esas olan doğaya zarar verdiği bilinen kurum-şirket ve kişilere karşı, mal ve maddi kayba uğratıcı “doğrudan eylem” yapmaktır.Yapılan eylemlere eko-sabotaj veya kısaca “ekotaj” adı verilmektedir.Eylemciliğin temelinde hiçbir şekilde hayvanlara, insanlara (doğa dümanı olsa da) fiziki zarar verilmemesi esas alınmaktadır.Ancak yapılan eylemlerde bugüne kadar yaklaşık 20 aktivist karşı taraftan gelen saldırılar neticesinde hayatını kaybetmiştir.
Bugün dünyada bu mücadeleyi benimseyen Earth Liberation Front (Dünya Kurtuluş Cephesi) 1992’de kurulmuş ve 17 ülkede hücreye sahiptir, Animal Liberation Front (Hayvan Kurtuluş Cephesi) 1976; ki bu örgüt 1963 Yılında Hunt Saboteurs Association içerisinde çalışmaya başlamış ve1972 yılında Band Of Mercy adı altında kurulmuştur, Earth First! (Önce Dünya!) 1979 yılında kurulmuştur ve 19 ülkede örgütlüdür.
Greenpeace ilk kurulduğunda birkaç eko sabotaj eylemi yapmış olsa da daha sonra değineceğimiz pasifist eylem modelini benimsemiş ve bu eylem tarzını terketmiştir.
Eylem metodu olan ekotajlarla bugün birçok ülkede doğaya karşı yapılan saldırıları püskürtmeyi başarmışlardır.Ekotaj’da kullanılan metodlara baktığımızda hayvanları çiftliklerden alarak güvenli bir ortama kaçırma, bombalama, kundaklama, doğadan acımasızca toplanan kürk-deri vb. Maddeleri boya ile kullanılamaz hale getirme, yumurta atma, ağaçlara çıkarak kesilmelerini engellemek, iş makinelerini bozarak kullanılamaz hale getirmek gibi uygulamalar karşımıza çıkmaktadır. Genel olarak deney laboratuarları, ilaç firmaları, kereste şirketleri, mezbahalar, kürk ve besi çiftlikleri, bankalar, kargo şirketleri, sirkler ve hayvanat bahçelerini hedef almaktadırlar.
İlk başta her türden insanın bir araya gelerek kurduğu bu yapılanmalar, 1990’lı yıllardan sonra anarşist mücadeleye doğru bir kayma yaşamaya başlamış ve özellikle Yeşil Anarşist mücadeleyle etkileşim haline geçmiştir. Türkiye’de 2000’li yıllarda ilk hücreler ve eylemler yapılmaya başlamış ve bugün birçok ilde de hücreler olduğu bilinmektedir. Bu mücadele biçimi birçok devlet tarafından 2. Dereceden Terör sorunu olarak kabul edilmekte ve aktvisitler büyük hapis cezalarına çarptırılmaktadır. Ancak bu durum mücadelenin büyümesine herhangi bir olumsuz etki yapmamaktadır.
Bu mücadele biçimi şüphesiz ki en çok ses getiren ve en başarılı mücadele biçimi olarak göze çarpmaktadır. Bugün eylemlerin verdiği maddi zararlardan dolayı birçok doğa sömürücüsü tesislerini kapatmak zorunda kalmıştır. ELF’in 1998 yılında Vaşakların yoğun yaşadığı bölgeye kurulan bir kayak merkezine yaptığı saldırı sonrasında tesis 12 Milyon dolar zarara uğramıştır. Bu saldırı o kadar ses getirmiştir ki, daha sonra burada kamuoyu baskısıyla vaşaklar için koruma alanı oluşturulmak zorunda kalmıştır. Bu konuda daha ayrıntılı bilgiyi bahsettiğimiz örgütlerin internet sitelerinden takip edebilirsiniz.
Bu metodu kullanan örgütlerin temeli genel olarak 68’lerdeki hipi hareketi ve pasifist gruplara dayanmaktadır. Genel olarak bu örgütlerin hepsinin çalışma metodları ve yapıları birbirinin aynıdır.Zaten bu metodu benimseyen örgütlerin sayısı da çok fazla değildir.
Bu metodu uygulayan örgütlere baktığımızda karşımıza ilk olarak çıkan örgüt olarak Greenpeace çarpmaktadır. 1972 Yılında nükleer savaşa dikkat çekmek için ortaya çıkan Don’t Make A Wave Comitee hareketinin devamı olarak kurulan örgüt şu anda 42 ülkede ofise sahiptir.
İlk başta bahsettiğimiz radikal hareketlerin aksine liderlik ve hiyerarşiye sahip olan örgüt, Amsterdam merkezli olarak dünyada çeşitli kampanyalar ve eylemler yapmaktadır. 1977 yılında Paul Watson önderliğindeki bir grup, Greenpeace’i fazla uzlaşmacı ve pasifist bularak Sea Shepherd adlı örgütü kurmuşlardır.
Bu eylem metodunu kullanan bir diğer grup ise Küreselleşme Karşıtı hareketlerin içindeki eski sosyalistler ve bazı dejenere marksistlerdir. 1999 yılında Seattle ayaklanmasında anarşist grupların mücadelede aşırı şiddet kullandığını savunan bu gruplar, daha sonra yapılan küreselleşme karşıtı protestolarda pasif direniş eylem metodunu seçmişlerdir.
Diğer bir grup olan PETA’da bu metodu seçmiştir. Örgüt genel olarak eylem yaptıkları ülkelerdeki ünlü kişilere çıplak eylem yaptırarak konuyu kürk, deri ve et sanayisine çekmeye çalışmaktadır.Örgüt ayrıca vejetaryenlikle ilgili birçok bilgilendirici çalışma da yapmaktadır.
Bu metodu savunan gruplar hiçbir şekilde saldırıya uğrasalar dahi şiddete başvurmamayı tercih etmektedirler. Yaptıkları eylemlerde coplanırken, gaz yerken, gözaltına alınırken hareketsiz kalarak gözaltına alınmayı kabul ederler. Eylem şekli olarak ülkelerin ve şehirlerin büyük yapılarından iple sarkarak pankart açmak, balina gemilerinin çevresinde botlarla taciz turları atmak, kendilerini firma ve devlet kurumlarına zincirlemek, eylemlerde çan-boru-düdük çalmak ve dansetmek, çıplak eylem yapmak,vb vb..
Bu örgütlerin bir diğer özelliği de çok büyük maddi güçleri olmasıdır. Özellikle PETA ve Greenpeace gibi örgütler “destekçi” adı verdikleri bireysel bağışlardan çok büyük paralar kazanarak yukarıda belirttiğimiz eylemleri gerçekleştirmeye harcamaktadır. Yapılan büyük ve uluslarası kampanyaların sonuca ulaştığı da pek görülmemektedir.Örneğin 33 yıldır süren fok avlarına karşı kampanyada bugüne kadar olumlu bir yol alınmamıştır. Hatta durum daha da vahim bir duruma gelmiştir. Aynı şekilde balina avlarına karşı yapılan kampanyalarda da 20 yıldır herhangi bir gelişme olmamıştır. Bu metodu seçen grupların devletlerden, şirketlerden, kurumlardan sponsorluk kabul etmemelerine rağmen çok büyük maddi güce sahip olmamalarının en büyük nedeni “reklam ve lansman” güçlerinden kaynaklanmaktadır. Özellikle Greenpeace örgütü ve küreselleşme karşıtları, yer aldığı her türlü eylemi sanki kendisi yapmış gibi lanse ederek kendi reklamını yapmayı (10.000 kişilik eylemde 50 kişi bile olsalar), basına geçilen haberleri manipüle etmeyi bir yol olarak tercih eder.
Yukarıda yazdığım sebeplerden ötürü bu gruplar bugün birçok ülkede doğa korumacı diğer örgütlenmeler tarafından “istenmeyen örgütler” ilan edilmiştir.Türkiye’de de durum aynıdır.
İdeolojik Olarak Doğa Mücadelesi
Bu aslında doğa koruma mücadelesinin içindeki diğer gruplarla ilintili halde olan kişilerin temsil ettiği hareketlerdir. Yukarıda irdelediğimiz örgütlerin eylemlerini desteklemek,teorik altyapısını ve lobi faaliyetlerini yürütmek gibi amaçları vardır. Örnek vermek gerekilirse Greenpeace ile Yeşiller Hareketi’nin; Earth First’le de anarşist grupların resmi olmayan bir bağı vardır.
Genel olarak bakıldığında ilk göze çarpan politik hareket Yeşiller Hareketi olarak karşımıza çıkmaktadır. Özellikle Avrupa’da azımsanamayacak bir güce sahip olmasına rağmen, elitist yapısından dolayı gelişmekte olan ülkelerde ve 3.Dünya Ülkeleri olarak tanımlanan ülkelerde pek de taraftarı olmadığı söylenebilir. Genel olarak eskiden sosyalist olan ve daha sonra liberal mücadeleye kayan kişiler tarafından çalışmalar yapmaktadır. Lobi faaliyetleri ve kamuoyu oluşturmak gibi stratejik politikaları benimserler.
Bir diğer grup ise anarşiyi savunan gruplar tarafından mücadele eden örgütlerdir. Anarşi’nin temelinde doğayla uyum ve ekosistemin devamlılığı gibi düşünceler olsa da, bu konuda esas mücadeleyi Yeşil Anarşi hareketi içerisinde bulunan kişiler yürütmektedir.
Yeşil Anarşistler içerisinde anarko primitivistler ve sosyal ekolojistler olmak üzere iki grup öne çıkmaktadır. Burada kısaca değineceğimiz grup anarko primitivistler olacaktır. Temelde ilkelciler Uygarlık Karşıtlığı, Tekno Endüstriyel Sistemle Mücadele ve İlkele Dönüş üzerinden mücadele yürütürler. Eylem metodu olarak ekosabotaj ve doğrudan eylemi benimseyen bu gruplar, birçok açıdan Hayvan-Toprak Kurtuluşu veren örgütlerle dayanışma ve eylem birlikteliği içerisindedirler.
Kısaca hem doğa koruma mücadelesi yürüten eylemci grupların kısa tarihine göz atmış olduk, hem de bu grupların metodları hakkında kısaca bilgi vermiş olduğumu düşünüyorum.Burada anlattığım gruplar dışarısında eylem grupları olmayan ve alan-tür koruma çalışmaları yapan STK’lar olduğunu da belirtmemizde fayda var.
Yukarıda anlattığımız metodlara bakarak en doğru ve işe yarar metodun ne olduğunu tartışarak en doğru yöntemi seçmemiz gerçekten de çok önemli.Ancak mantıklı bakıldığında iple sarkıp pankart asmanın ya da çıplak olarak protesto yapmanın, düdük çalmanın ne gibi bir faydası olacağını da idrak etmemiz mümkündür. Esas olarak doğa ve çevre sorunu ilk başta da anlattığım üzere bir uygarlık ve nüfus sorunudur. Bu sebeple uygarlığın yıkılması için mücadele etmeden yukarıdaki hangi yöntemi uygularsak uygulayalım kesin bir sonuca ulaşamayacak, yalnızca günü kurtarmış olmakla kalacağımızı her zaman hatırlamamız gerekmektedir.
Bir sonraki sayıda Hayvan ve Toprak Kurtuluşu ile ilgili daha geniş bir yazı yazarak bu konuyu daha detaylı bir biçimde sizlere anlatmaya çalışacağım…
Ekoloji, bilimsel veya siyasal olmasına bağlı olarak, ayrı ama birbiriyle ilişkili iki yaklaşım içerir. Ben bu yazıya bunların birbiriyle ilişkili yönleri değil de daha çok amaçları arasındaki farklılık üzerine odaklanarak başlayacağım. Bilimci ve anti-politik dogmatizmin yeni bir versiyonunu üretmekten kaçınmak için, siyasal yaklaşımın “bilimsel bir analizin mutlak anlamda kaçınılmaz” ürünü olarak sunulmaması gerekiyor. Zira bu dogmatizm, “diamat” versiyonunda, siyasal pratikleri ve kavramları bilimsel olarak kanıtlanmış zorunluluklar düzeyine çıkartmaya çalışarak sahip oldukları özgül siyasal karakteri yadsımaktadır.
Bir bilim olarak ekoloji, uygarlıkla yeryüzündeki ekosistem (yani, insan faaliyetinin [yeniden] üretilemeyen bağlamı, doğal temeli) arasındaki etkileşimi konu alır. Sanayi sistemlerinin tersine doğal ekosistem kendini kuşaklar boyunca sürdürme ve yeniden düzenleme kapasitesine sahiptir, sözkonusu kapasite de içerdiği büyük çeşitlilik ve karmaşıklık sayesinde onun kendi kendisini düzenleyip daha da büyük bir karmaşıklık ve çeşitlilik düzeyine evrilmesini sağlar. Sözkonusu kapasite doğayı rasyonalleştirip üzerinde tahakküm kurma, onu tahmin edilebilir ve hesaplanabilir kılma eğilimindeki teknikler yüzünden tahrip olur. Edgar Morin’in yazdığı gibi, “teknolojik cerrahlarımız biyolojik çevrimleri bozmakla kalmayıp asal kimyasal bağlara da müdahale etmektedirler. Bizim verdiğimiz cevap ise, bu kötülüklerin etkilerini tedavi eden ama aynı anda nedenlerini de pekiştiren denetim teknolojilerini geliştirmek olmuştur.”1
Demokrasİye KarŞI Uzmanlar
Bu noktadan çıkarak iki olası yaklaşım geliştirilebilir. Bunlardan ekosistemin bilimsel olarak incelenmesine dayanan birincisi, ekolojik anlamda hangi tekniklerin ve kirlenme eşiklerinin desteklenebilir olduğunu belirlemeye çalışır: başka bir deyişle, ilgi alanı ekosferin kendini-yenileme kapasitelerinden ödün vermeksizin endüstriyel teknosferi geliştirmeyi, sürdürmenin koşulları ve sınırlarıdır. Bu yaklaşım endüstriyalizmden ve onun araçsal akla dayanarak kurduğu hegemonyadan köklü bir kopuşu içermez. Ama doğal kaynakların yağmalanmasını sınırlayıp, onun yerine hava, su, toprak, ormanlar ve okyanusların rasyonel bir biçimde uzun vadeli olarak işlenmesini geçirme gereksinimini kabul eder; kaynakların boşa akışının sınırlanmasını ve yeniden çevrim politikalarının ve doğal ortamı tahrip etmeyen tekniklerin geliştirilmesini içerir.
Dolayısıyla “doğal ortamın korunması” politikaları –siyasal ekolojinin tersine– doğayla ilişkileri edilginleştirmeye ya da onunla “uzlaşmaya” yönelik değildirler; doğayı derli toplu tutmayı, koruyup yönetmeyi amaçlar, en azından doğanın daha temel önemdeki yenilenme kapasitelerini korumanın zorunluluğunu akıllarında tutarlar. Bir bütün olarak insanlığın çıkarları tarafından belirlenecek türden önlemler, devletlerin karar alma mekanizmalarında bulunanları ve tek tek tüketicileri sınırlamakta izleyeceği çizgiler tümdengelim yoluyla bu zorunluluk’tan çıkarılacaktır.
Ekolojik sınırların devletler tarafından tanınması, yasaklar, idarî düzenlemeler, vergiler, sübvansiyon ve cezalar aracılığıyla ifade edilecektir. Bu da toplumun “hetero-düzenlenişinin” artmasına yolaçacak; toplumsal aktörlerin isteminden bağımsız olarak toplumun işleyiş tarzları az çok “çevre-uyumlu” hale getirilmiş olacaktır. Tüketici davranışlarını ve yatırımcıların kararlarını, onaylamak, hattâ anlamak zorunda olmadıkları bir amaç doğrultusunda yönlendirmek için “düzenleyici araçlar” –idarî otoriteler ve fiyat yapısı gibi– kullanılacaktır. Yönetim, bireylerin güdü ve çıkarlarını kendilerine yabancı kalan bir sonuç yönünde işler hale getirmeyi başarmış olacağı için bu amaca ulaşılacaktır. Malî ve parasal hetero-düzenlemenin şöyle bir avantajı vardır (en azından savunucuları bunu iddia ederler): Toplumsal aktörlerin zihniyet, değer, motivasyon veya ekonomik çıkarlarında herhangi bir değişiklik olmasına gerek kalmaksızın çevre-uyumluluk hedefine ulaşılmasını sağlayacaktır. Oysa tam tersi doğrudur: hedefe bu motivasyon ve çıkarlara seslenilmesi ve aynı zamanda bunların manipüle edilmesi yoluyla ulaşılacaktır. Bu yüzden bunun takibi Habermas’ın “yaşam-dünyasının kolonileştirilmesi” dediği şeyin genişletilmesini içerecektir: sistemin idarecileri tarafından mevcut bireysel motivasyonların, bireylerin herhangi bir amacına tekabül etmeyen sonuçlar üretmek için kullanılması sözkonusu olacaktır.
Dolayısıyla endüstriyalizm ve piyasa mantığı bağlamında ekolojik sınırların tanınması teknobürokratik iktidarın genişlemesi sonucunu doğurur. Bu, tipik olarak antipolitik bir nitelik taşıyan pre-modern bakış açısından kaynaklanan bir yaklaşımdır. Devlete ve onun uzmanlarına genel çıkarın içeriğini değerlendirme ve bireyleri buna tabi kılma yolları yaratma görevi vererek uzmanerki lehine siyasal olanın özerkliğini ortadan kaldırır. Tümel tikelden, insanlığın yüce çıkarları bireyin özgürlüğünden ve özerk yargı yetisinden koparılır. Dick Howard’ın gösterdiği gibi,2 siyasal olan daha en baştan ikikutuplu yapısıyla tanımlanır: Siyasal olan, bireyin köklerini özerkliğinde bulan hakları ile bu hakları bir yere yerleştiren ve koşullayan bütün toplumun çıkarları arasındaki tekrar tekrar yeniden düzenlenen kamusal dolayım girişimi olmalıdır ve başka bir şey de olamaz. Bu iki kutup arasındaki gerilimi ortadan kaldırmaya meyleden her şey siyasal olanın, hem de modernliğin yadsınmasıdır; bu uzmanerkleri için özellikle doğrudur, çünkü bunlar bireylerin özerk yargı yetilerini reddedip onları, kavrayışlarının ötesindeki bir davanın yüce çıkarlarını temsil etme iddiasında olan “aydınlanmış” bir otoriteye tâbi kılar.
Ekolojik girişimin belirsiz niteliği işte burada ortaya çıkar. İktidar aygıtları tarafından benimsenir benimsenmez bu aygıtların gündelik hayat ve toplumsal ortam üzerindeki baskısını sıkılaştırmalarının bir bahanesi ve aracı haline gelir ve siyasal ve kültürel bir hareket olarak ekolojik hareketin kendisinin başlangıçtaki özlemleriyle çatışmaya başlar. Hareketin teknokratik kanadı ile radikal-demokratik kanadı arasındaki iç bölünmenin altında yatan neden budur.
Ekolojik hareket, çevrenin bozulmasından ve hayat niteliğinin insanın hayatta kalma sorununu gündeme getirmesinden çok önce doğmuştur. Ekolojik hareket aslen gündelik kültürün ekonomik ve idari iktidar aygıtları tarafından yıkılmasına karşı çıkan kendiliğinden bir protestodan doğmuştur. “Gündelik kültür” deyimiyle, bireylerin etraflarındaki dünyada ikamet etme biçimlerini yorumlamalarını, anlamalarını, bunun sorumluluğunu üstlenmelerini sağlayan sezgisel bilgi ya da (Ivan Illich’in verdiği anlamda) yerel know-how toplamını, alışkanlıkları ve davranış kural ve tarzlarını kastediyorum.
Hareketin korunmasını talep ettiği “doğa” doğalcıların ya da bilimsel ekolojinin doğası değildir. Yapıları ve işleyiş biçimleri sezgisel olarak kavranabildiği için, duyularla ve düşünceyle ilgili yetilerin tomurcuklanmasına duyulan bir ihtiyaca tekabül ettiği için; tanıdık yapısı bireylerin, hiçbir zaman resmen öğretilmesi gerekmeyen eğilimlerini kullanarak içinde yollarını bulmalarını, onunla etkileşimde bulunmalarını, “kendiliğinden” onunla iletişime girmelerini sağladığı için “doğal” görünen bir çevredir sözkonusu olan. Dolayısıyla “doğanın savunulması”, esasen faaliyetlerin sonucunun gerçekleştirilmelerine neden olan niyetlere tekabül ettiği; bir başka deyişle, toplumsal bireylerin bu sonucu kendi eylemlerinin ürünü olarak gördüğü, anladığı ve kabul ettiği bir dünya olarak tanımlanan bir yaşam-dünyasının savunulması olarak anlaşılmalıdır aslında.
Bir toplum karmaşıklaştıkça işleyiş biçimleri sezgisel olarak daha az kavranabilir hale gelir. Üretim, yönetim, ticaret ve hukukta kullanılan ayrıntılı bilgi toplamı tek bir birey ya da grubun kapasitesinin kaldıramayacağı kadar hacimli bir hale gelmiştir. Bunların herbiri önceden kurulmuş örgütsel prosedürlerce, aygıtlarca, bireylerin arayabileceği her şeyin ötesinde olan bir sonuç yaratmak için eşgüdümlenmesi ve düzenlenmesi gereken kısmi ve uzmanlaşmış bir bilgi gövdesini içerirler yalnızca. Yani karmaşık bir toplum büyük bir mekanik aygıta benzer; toplumsal bütün işleyiş biçimleri bireylerin bir bedenin organları ya da makinenin parçaları gibi işlevsel olarak uzmanlaşmış olmalarını gerektiren bir sistemdir. Kendi içinde her ne kadar karmaşık ve ilerlemiş olsa da, toplumsal bütünün sistematik taleplerine uymak için uzmanlaşmış hale gelen bilgi, artık bireylerin dünyada bir yön bulmalarını, yaptıklarına anlam vermelerini ya da çabalarının katkıda bulunduğu girişimin anlamını kavramalarını sağlamaya yetecek ölçüde kültürel kaynak içermemektedir. Sistem yaşam-dünyasını, sezgisel olarak kavranmaya, pratik ve duyusal olarak kullanılmaya açık dünyayı işgal eder ve marjinalleştirir. Bireyleri bir dünyaya sahip olma, onu birbirleriyle paylaşma şansından yoksun bırakır. İşte direniş bu gaspın çeşitli biçimlerine karşı çıkılmasıyla yavaş yavaş ortaya çıktı.
Sonraları ekolojik hareket haline gelecek şeyin ilk tezahürleri,3 önce Kuzey Amerika’da, sonra da Avrupa’da, megateknolojilere karşı çıkmışlardı, çünkü özel sanayi kolları ve/veya kamusal yönetimler bunların yararına yurttaşların yaşadıkları ortamı ellerinden alıyorlardı. Çevre dev sanayi makinesinin taleplerini karşılamak için tahrip edilmiş, teknolojikleştirilmiş, betonlaştırılmış ve sömürgeleştirilmişti. Bu makine, “doğal” dünyadan geri kalan çok az şey üzerinde yaşayanları buralardan çıkmaya zorluyor, saldırganlığı giderek artan tacizlerle kovuyor ve daha da kötüsü, bireylerin nasıl birlikte yaşayacakları, nasıl üretip tüketecekleri konusunda kendi başlarına karar verme haklarının sermaye ve devlet tarafından ihlal edildiğini simgeleyen teknik aygıtlar adına kamusal alana el koyuyordu.
Bu ihlal özellikle nükleer güç örneğinde netlik kazanmıştı. Reaktör inşa programı, teknik açıdan akılcı, toplumsal açıdan gerekli seçenekler diye yutturulmaya çalışılan siyasal ve ekonomik kararlara dayanıyordu. Enerji talebinde son derece keskin bir artış olacağı tahmininde bulunan program, tasarlanan bu ihtiyaçların karşılanması için en ağır teknolojilerden oluşan güçlü konsantrasyonlardan yana oluyor ve mesleki gizlilik yemini ettirilip yarı-militer bir disipline tâbi tutulan teknisyen gruplar yaratılıyordu. Kısaca, ihtiyaçların ve bunların karşılanma biçimlerinin değerlendirilmesi, geniş halk kitlelerinin ulaşamadığı varsayılan üstün bir bilgi çatısı altına sığınan bir uzmanlar kastının işi haline gelmişti. Program bir yandan yurttaşları kapitalist endüstriler yararına vesayet altına alırken, bir yandan da devlet aygıtının hakimiyetinin genişletilmesinin mazereti oluyordu.4
Profesyonelleşmenin –ve ona eşlik eden hukuki formülizasyonun, uzmanlaşmanın– yerel bilgiyi (vernacular knowledge) değerden düşürdüğü ve bireylerin kendilerini denetleme kapasitesini yok ettiği bütün alanlarda aynı vesayet altına alma işlemi daha yaygın biçimde uygulanır. Bunlar Ivan Illich’in şiddetle suçladığı “güçsüzleştirici meslekler”dir.
Bu özdenetim kapasitesinin, başka bir deyişle, bireylerin, grupların ve toplulukların varoluşsal özerkliğinin ortadan kaldırılmasına karşı çıkma, ekoloji hareketinin özgül bileşenlerinin köklerinde yatar: mülksüzler arasındaki öz –ve karşılıklı– yardımlaşma ağları; alternatif tıptan, kürtaj hakkından, “onurlu bir biçimde” ölme hakkından yana hareketler; çeşitli dilleri, kültürleri, bölgeleri vs. savunan hareketler. Temel motivasyon her zaman, uzmanların yönetimine karşı, nicelleştirmeye ve parasal kaygılara karşı, bireyin özerkliğinin ve kendi kendini belirleme kapasitesinin yerine ticarî, bağımlılığa dayanan alışveriş ilişkilerinin geçirilmesine karşı “yaşam-dünyasının” savunulması olmuştur.
Hareket, en azından görünüşte, katıksız bir biçimde “kültürel” nitelikteydi. Ana dertleri, seçmen müşterilerinin çıkarları doğrultusunda sistemi yönetme iktidarına sahip olmak olan siyasal partilerin, ekoloji hareketi sadece anti-politik bir hareket olarak görünmeleri tabiidir. Bu hareketin temel kaygısı hayatı “değiştirmek”, kaybedilmiş özerklik ve toplumsal şenlik alanlarını yeniden kazanmaya çalışarak hayatı sistemden ve bu sistemin yöneticilerinden kurtarmaktı.
1972’de görünüşte kültürel bir nitelikte olan bu taleplere, bir grup İngiliz bilimadamının Blueprint for Survival adlı bir rapor yayımlaması ve bunun hemen ardından da Roma Kulübü‘nün The Limits to Growth adlı raporu hazırlamasıyla nesnel bir zemin verilmiş oldu. Endüstriyel ekonomilerin büyümesinin sonsuza kadar sürdürülemeyeceğinin, kapitalist gelişme ve tüketim modelinin yıkıcılığının, “daha fazla”nın ille de “daha iyi” anlamına gelmeyeceğinin farkına varılması üretimin tekniklerinin ve hedeflerinin, dolayısıyla da hayat tarzının radikal bir biçimde değiştirilmesi gerektiğini açığa çıkarıyordu. Ekoloji hareketinin “kültürel” talepleri böylelikle baskın endüstriyalizmden ve onun büyümeyi bir din haline getirmesinden acil olarak vazgeçilmesi gerektiği yönünde (bilimsel olarak tanıtlanabilen) nesnel bir gerekçe elde etmiş oluyordu. Yani çevrecilik siyasal bir hareket haline gelmişti. Yaşam-dünyasının savunulması”5 genel geçerlilikten yoksun kısmî, yerel bir özlem değil, genel olarak insanların ve bir bütün canlılar dünyasının çıkarlarıyla uyumlu bir şeydi.
Ancak bunun tersi doğru değildir: gördüğümüz gibi, insanlığın ekolojik çıkarlarının farkına varılması (bu bireyin bakış açısından arzulanan bir şey olsa dahi) mutlaka, yaşam-dünyasının savunulması, daha doğrusu yeniden ele geçirilmesi biçimini alır denilemez. Aksine, bu farkına varış teknokratik bir biçim alıp idari alt-sistemin uyguladığı kısıtlama ve manipülasyonların daha da sıkılaşmasına yol açabilir. Siyasetin sahip olduğu özgül özerkliği yadsımadan ve ekosistemin ihtiyaçlarından söz ediş biçimi diyalektik materyalizmin yasalarından söz eden “diamat”ınkinden hiç de daha az totaliter olmayacak “zorunlu” ya da “bilimsel” bir diktatörlük oluşturmadan siyaseti bir zorunluluk ya da bilim üzerinde temellendiremezsiniz.
O halde siyasal ekolojinin karşısındaki sorun, ekosistemin ihtiyaçlarının, kendi bildik dünyaları içinde kendi hedefleri peşinde koşan özerk bireylerin kişisel muhakeme kabiliyetleri tarafından hesaba katılmasını sağlayacak pratik kipliklerin tanımlanması sorunudur. Bu, zorunluluğun geriye dönüşlü (retroactive) olarak normatiflikle birleştirilmesi, açarak söylersek, yaşantılanan ve nesnel zorunlulukların algılanma biçimini etkileyen ihtiyaçlara karşılık gelecek şekilde nesnel zorunlulukların normatif davranışlar haline dönüştürülmesi sorunudur. Bu da demokrasi sorunundan başka bir şey değildir.
Marx’a göre bu, endüstriyalizmin genelleştirilmiş özyönetimin nesnel koşullarını ve bunun için gereken öznel kapasiteyi yaratmasından sonra çözülebilecek bir sorundu. Bunun sonucunda ortaya, “toplumsallaşmış insanın, birleşmiş üreticilerin doğa-insan etkileşimini rasyonel bir biçimde yönetip, kör bir gücün tahakkümü altına girmektense onu kollektif denetimleri altına aldığı; bunu da asgari miktarda enerji harcayarak ve kendi insanî doğalarına en yakışan, en uygun koşullarda yaptıkları” (komünist) bir toplum çıkacaktır. “Ama bu her zaman bir zorunluluk alanı olarak kalacaktır. Gerçek özgürlük alanı, insan güçlerinin kendi içinde bir amaç olarak gelişmesi, sadece bu zorunluluk alanını temel alarak gerçekleşebilse bile, onun ötesinde başlar.”6
Başka bir deyişle, zorunluluk, bir yanda asgari emek ve azami tatmin, öte yanda “doğayla etkileşimin” rasyonel –herkesin anlayabileceği– bir biçimde yürütülmesi yönündeki ikili normatif talebe uygun olarak örgütlü üreticiler tarafından üstlenilir. Burada sözü geçen rasyonalite, endüstrinin devasa büyüklüğü ve karmaşıklığının tahakkümü altına girmektense kendi kendilerini yönetecek örgütlü üreticilerin üretim araçlarını geliştirmelerini ve ekosistemin idamesini içermektedir.
Özyönetim bağlamında özgürlük, “örgütlü üreticilerin” değişik üretim araç ve yöntemlerindeki her üretim birimi için gereken emeğin niteliği ile niceliği arasında; ama aynı zamanda karşılamak istedikleri ihtiyaç ya da istekler yelpazesiyle harcayabilecekleri çaba miktarı arasında da bir denge tutturma yetilerine dayanmaktadır. Bilinen, sıradan normlara dayanan bu denge tutturma yetisi, mesela üretkenliği azaltmak pahasına daha rahat ve daha zevkli (“insan doğasına daha uygun”) çalışma yollarının benimsenmesine neden olabilir; aynı zamanda gereken çaba miktarını azaltmak uğruna gereksinimleri ve istekleri kısmaya da neden olabilir. Pratikte, harcanan çaba düzeyinin istenilen tatmin düzeyine göre düzenlenmesine ya da aranan tatmin düzeyinin insanların harcamak istedikleri çaba düzeyine uyumlu hale getirilmesine yarayan norm, yeterlilik normudur.
İmdi, bir yeterlilik normunun oluşturulması, ihtiyaçların ve harcanan çabanın sınırlandırılmasını gerektirse de ekonomik rasyonalite ve rasyonalizasyonun özü olan azami çıktı arayışıyla bağdaşmaz. Aslında ekonomik rasyonalite, pre-kapitalist toplumlarda hiçbir zaman özüne uygun bir biçimde ifade edilmemiştir. Bu toplumlarda ekonomik rasyonalite, üreticiler arasında ve tüccarlar arasında serbest pazarlardaki serbest rekabeti engellemek için yapılan anlaşmalarla sınırlı kalmıştır (Karl Polanyi’nin deyimiyle söylersek, bu anlaşmalarla “örülmüştür”). Bu rasyonalite, kendi üretim araçlarının sahibi oldukları ve sonuçta emeklerinin yoğunluğunu ve süresini kendileri belirlemekte özgür oldukları sürece, üreticilere dayatılamazdı.
Geçinmek için yapılan üretimin çöküşü ve pazar için yapılan üretimin genişlemesi hiçbir şeyi değiştirmedi: korporasyonlar ya da loncalar kendi tanımladıkları farklı nitelikler için sabit fiyatlar belirliyorlar ve her türlü rekabeti men ederek bunları tüccarlara dayatıyorlardı. Üreticiler ve tüccarlar arasındaki ilişkiler değişmez bir biçimde sözleşmeye dayanıyordu ve tüccarlar serbest pazar rekabetinden korundukları için kazançlıydılar. Yeterlilik normu –zanaatkâr için yeterli ödeme, tüccar için yeterli kâr– geleneksel hayat tarzına öyle bir kök salmıştı ki işçilere daha yüksek ücret vaadetmekle onları daha yoğun ya da daha uzun çalıştırmak mümkün değildi. İşçi için, diyor Max Weber, “daha fazla kazanmak, daha az çalışmak kadar cazip değildi. Olabildiğince fazla çalışırsam günde ne kadar kazanırım? diye sormuyordu kendine, geleneksel ihtiyaçlarımı karşılayan ve daha önce de aldığım 2.5 markı kazanmak için ne kadar çalışmalıyım diye soruyordu.”7
Kapital’in birinci cildinde, atölyelerin ve ilk “makineleşmiş fabrikalar”ın patronlarının, işçilerini düzenli olarak tam gün, her gün ve her hafta çalıştırmakta ne kadar güçlük çektiklerine işaret eden o muazzam literatürden söz eder Marx. İmalatçıların çoktan yaptıkları gibi işçileri üretim araçlarının mülkiyetinden yoksun bırakmak yeterli değildi; aynı zamanda zanaatkârlar da ortadan kaldırıldıktan sonra üretim birimi başına işçilere verilen parayı da azaltmak gerekiyordu, böylece kendi yeterliliklerini sağlamak için daha çok çalışmaya zorlanacaklardı; bu amaca ulaşmak için onları üretim araçlarının kontrolünden mahrum etmek ve emek miktarı, yapısı ve yoğunluğunun, hammaddenin kendisinden kaynaklanan kısıtlamalar biçiminde sunularak işçilere dayatıldığı bir düzenleme ve işbölümü tarzını zorla kabul ettirmek gerekliydi.
Makineleşme bu sonucu elde etmenin ideal yöntemiydi. İşçiler tarafından yönlendirilen ve kullanılan üretim araçları yerine bir otomat, yani kendi kendini hareket ettiren bir güç tarafından harekete geçirilen makineler kondu… Makine hiçbir biçimde tekil işçinin çalışma aracı olarak görünmez… İşçinin, sadece bir faaliyet soyutlamasına indirgenmiş faaliyeti her yönüyle makinenin hareketi tarafından belirlenip düzenlenir… Makinenin cansız organlarını inşâ ediliş biçimleri gereği bir otomat gibi amaçlı bir biçimde davranmaya zorlayan bilim, işçinin bilincinde varolmaz; makinenin kendisinin gücü olarak, yabancı bir güç olarak makine yoluyla işçinin üzerinde eylemde bulunur.
Canlı emeğin sermaye kavramının içerdiği nesnelleşmiş emek tarafından sahiplenilmesi, makinelere dayanan üretimde bizzat üretim sürecinin karakteri olarak konumlanır. Tekil işçi “bu mekanizmanın canlı bir aksesuarı” haline gelir sadece; “bireysel emek kapasitesinin değer-yaratıcı gücü yok denecek kadar azdır; makinelerle sağlanan muazzam miktarlarda üretim ürünü ile üreticilerin dolaysız ihtiyacı ve dolayısıyla doğrudan kullanım değeriyle arasındaki her türlü bağlantıyı söker atar.”8
Bunu açıklamanın en iyi yolu çalışma aracının böylelikle işçi tarafından temellük edilemez hale gelmesidir ve işçinin üründen ve bundan böyle işçinin dışında, dile getirilmeyen bir zorlama olarak varolan emeğin kendisinden bu biçimde kopması, yerine getirilmesi talep edilen nicelleştirilmiş, önbelirlenmiş ve sıkı sıkıya programlanmış görevlerin maddî düzenlenişinin bir parçası olur.9
Üretimin, doğrudan üreticilerin kararlarından koparılabilmesi; üreticilerin ihtiyaçlarıyla istekleri arasındaki ilişkiden, bu ihtiyaçları karşılamak için göstermeye hazır oldukları çaba miktarından ve bu çabanın yoğunluk, süre ve niteliğinden bağımsız hale gelmesi ancak bu üç yönlü mülksüzleştirme temelinde mümkün olur.
Bu üç yönlü mülksüzleştirme ayrıca kapsamı giderek daralan işlevsel uzmanlıkların ortaya çıkmasına, tek bir üretim süreci içinde çok farklı disiplinlerden gelen ve birbirleriyle bağlantılandırılamayan bir teknik ve bilimsel beceri yığınının birikmesine de yolaçar; bu becerilerin üretken bir biçimde organize edilmesi de yönetici bir kadroyu ve yarı-militer piramitvari bir yapıyı gerekli kılar.
Sanayileşme, sermaye birikimi sadece bu temel üzerinde mümkün olmuştur. Sadece doğrudan üreticilerin üretim araçlarından ve üretimin sonucundan koparılması sayesindedir ki bu üreticilerin kendi ihtiyaçlarının ötesinde artık (surplus) üretmelerini sağlamak ve bu “ekonomik artıkları” üretim araçlarını çoğaltıp güçlerini arttırmak için kullanmak mümkün olmuştur. Bir an endüstriyel üretim araçlarının başlangıçta üreticilerin kendileri tarafından geliştirilmiş olduğunu varsayalım: o zaman girişimleri anlamaları ve denetlemeleri mümkün olacak: hem kendi ihtiyaçlarını, hem de emeklerinin doğasını ve yoğunluğunu sınırlama işini kendileri yapacaklardı. Sonuç olarak sanayileşme, büyüklük ve karmaşıklıkları üreticilerin organizasyon gücünün ötesinde olan konsantrasyonlar yaratmayacaktı. “Ekonomik kalkınma” belli bir eşiğin ötesine gidemeyecek, rekabet sınırlanacak, “doğayla etkileşim” yeterlilik normu tarafından yönetilmeye devam edecekti.
Doğrudan üreticilerin üretim üzerindeki gücünü ortadan kaldıran sermaye en sonunda üretimi insanların gerçek ihtiyaçlarından koparıp azami kâr ölçütüne göre belli ihtiyaçları ve bunların karşılanma biçimlerini öne çıkarmaya başlayabildi. Bu yolla üretim her şeyden önce sermayenin büyümesinin bir aracı haline geldi; üretim öncelikle sermayenin ihtiyaçlarına hizmet eder; üretimin insanî ihtiyaçlara da hizmet etmesinin tek nedeni sermayenin ürünlerini tüketecek insanlara ihtiyacı olmasıdır. Ama bunlar artık “doğal”, kendiliğinden ihtiyaç ve istekler değil, sermayenin kâr ihtiyacını karşılamak için üretilmiş olan ihtiyaç ve isteklerdir.
Sermaye hizmet ettiği ihtiyaçlardan kendi büyümesi için yararlanır; bu da ihtiyaçların büyümesini getirir. Yani gelişmiş kapitalizmin tüketim modeli sermayenin mümkün olan en büyük miktarda mal devri yaratma ihtiyacının ürünüdür. Bu yüzden sermayenin kullanımında azami etkinliğe ulaşmak, ihtiyaçların karşılanmasında azami etkisizliği, azami miktarda artığı (waste) gerektirir.
Eğer işçiler çalışma saatlerini ihtiyaç duyduklarını düşündükleri gelire göre ayarlayabilselerdi üretimin bu biçimde özerkleşmesi çok daha güç olurdu. Üretkenlik ve ücretler arttıkça, çalışan nüfusun giderek artan sayıda bir kesimi daha az çalışmayı ve kendi tüketimlerini kendileri sınırlamayı seçerler, daha doğrusu seçebilirlerdi. Gerçekten de bu eğilim anarko-sendikalizmin doruğunda yeniden ortaya çıktı; mesela Poulot’nun sözünü ettiği10 “sublimes simples” ve “vrais sublimes”nin Paris metal sanayiinde gerçekleştirdikleri fasılalı çalışma, yani haftada üç ya da dört gün çalışma uygulamasında.
Yeterlilik normuna uygun olarak özsınırlamaya dayanan hareketlerin bu şekilde yeniden ortaya çıkmasına karşı, 1910’da İngiltere’de istihdam koşullarıyla ilgili yeni ve katı düzenlemeler yürürlüğe kondu; buna göre sadece tam gün çalışmayı kabul eden insanlara iş verilecekti. Sermaye tam gün çalışmayı bir istihdam koşulu haline getirerek sadece emek üzerindeki hakimiyetini –öngörülebilir çıktı ve üretim maliyetleriyle birlikte– pekiştirmekle kalmıyor; tahakkümünü işçilerin hayat tarzlarını da içine alacak şekilde genişletmiş oluyordu. Böylelikle işçilerin hayatında bir yandan sermayenin hizmetindeki işlevsel ücretli çalışmadan öte yandan da yine sermayenin hizmetindeki tüketimden başka bir şeye yer kalmıyordu.
Toplumsal birey bir işçi-tüketici, sermayenin hem kendisine verilen ücretlere, hem de satın aldığı mallara bağımlı bir “müşterisi” olarak tanımlanıyordu. Tükettiği hiçbir şeyi üretmeyecek, ürettiği hiçbir şeyi tüketmeyecek ve sermayenin tanımladığının dışında hiçbir kamusal toplumsal varoluşa sahip olmayacaktı: çalışmadığı zamanlar özel hayatına, eğlenceye, dinlenmeye, tatillere ayrılacaktı. Çalışma saatlerinin azaltılması talebi patronların her zaman en çok karşı koydukları talep olmuştur. Bunun yerine daha uzun süreli ücretli tatiller ihsan etmeyi yeğlemişlerdir. Çünkü tatiller aktif yaşamın programlı bir biçimde kesilmesinin mükemmel bir örneği; gündelik varoluştan kopuk, normal hayatı yeni boyutlarla zenginleştirmek, ona daha büyük bir özerklik ve mesleki rol dışında bir içerik vermek için hiçbir şey yapılmayan katıksız bir tüketim dönemidir.
TOPLUMSAL BİR PROJE
Karmaşık sanayi toplumlarında sadece işçilere kendi çalışma miktarlarını sınırlama hakkı (başka bir deyişle, kendi çalışma zamanlarını seçme imkanı, “seçilmiş zaman” hakkı) vererek üretim ve tüketimi çevreye uyumlu olacak bir biçimde yeniden yapılandırmak mümkün değildir. Aslında üretim hacmi ile çalışılan saatler arasında hiçbir korelasyon yoktur. Makineleşme giderek daha az emek harcanarak giderek daha fazla mal üretilmesini sağlayarak bu korelasyonu ortadan kaldırdıktan sonra, “emek, üretimin ölçüsü, çalışma zamanı da emeğin ölçüsü olmaktan çıkar.” (Marx). Dahası, gerekli emek hacmindeki azalma genelde potansiyel aktif nüfusa yarar sağlamadığı gibi, ne çalışanlara, ne de işsizlere özgürleşme ya da daha fazla özerklik umudu getirir. Son olarak, özsınırlama için bir referans noktası işlevi görecek, ortak olarak kabul edilmiş hiçbir norm yoktur. Bununla birlikte çevreye uyumlu bir sanayi uygarlığına giden tek otoriter-olmayan, demokratik yol hâlâ özsınırlamadır.
Bu proje kesinlikle aşılamaz bir şey değildir. Esas olarak, geleneğin, hayat tarzının, gündelik uygarlığın içerdiği, ortak bir yeterlilik normu için temel vazifesi görebilecek her şeyin ve aynı zamanda daha az çalışıp tüketmenin daha iyi ve daha özgür bir hayata açılmamıza yardımcı olabileceği gibi bir ufkun kapitalizm tarafından ortadan kaldırıldığına işaret eden bir projedir bu. Ancak ortadan kaldırılanların yeniden inşa edilmeleri imkansız değildir. Ama bu restorasyon mevcut gelenek ve korelasyonlara dayandırılamaz: kurumlaştırılmalıdır; bu siyasal, daha doğrusu eko-siyasal bir mesele ve eko-sosyal bir projedir.
1980’lerde Alman ve diğer Avrupa Yeşilleri tarafından enine boyuna tartışılan ve şimdilerde Fransız siyasal ekoloji hareketinde ele alınan eko-sosyal bir siyaset, temel olarak, daha az çalışıp daha az tüketme ile herkes için daha fazla özerklik ve varoluşsal güvenlik arasındaki ilişkiyi siyasi olarak yeniden gündeme getirmeyi amaçlar. Başka bir deyişle, bu siyaset, çalışma saatlerindeki genel bir azaltımın herkese, insanların daha önce sadece kendileri için aradıkları avantajları, yani daha özgür, daha rahat ve zengin bir hayat getireceği yolunda bireylere kurumsal garantiler verilmesini talep eder. Böylece özsınırlama bireysel seçim düzeyinden toplumsal bir proje düzeyine kaydırılır. Artık geleneksel temellerinden mahrum olan yeterlilik normu siyasal olarak tanımlanmalıdır.
Burada başka yerlerde uzun uzadıya tartıştığım meselelerin ayrıntılarına girmeyeceğim. Burada sadece eko-sosyal bir siyasetin şunları içerdiğini belirtmek istiyorum: çalışma süresinden (bu süre sadece azaltılabilir) ve hatta çalışmanın kendisinden bağımsız olarak yeterli gelir garantisinin verilmesi; toplumsal olarak gerekli emeğin herkesin çalışabileceği (hem daha iyi koşullarda, hem de daha az çalışabileceği) bir biçimde yeniden düzenlenmesi; çalışma dışındaki zamanın bireylerce kendi seçtikleri faaliyetler için kullanılabileceği özerklik alanları yaratılması. Bu faaliyetler bireylerin piyasaya ve meslekî veya idarî gözetime olan bağımlılıklarını azaltıp karşılıklı yardımlaşma şebekeleri, hizmet değiştokuşları, gayrıresmi kooperatifler vs. gibi dayanışma ve toplumsal şenlik (conviviality) ağları kurmalarına izin veren mal ve hizmetleri kendilerinin üretmesini içerir. Zamanın özgürleşmesi, bireylerin heteronom, işlevsel olarak uzmanlaşmış emekten kurtuluşları, farklı hayat ve faaliyet alanlarının bölünmüşlüklerine son vermek ve kendi kendine örgütlenmiş mübadele ilişkilerini teşvik etmek amacıyla mimari, şehir planlaması, kamusal donanım ve hizmetler, kent ve kır ilişkileri vs. hakkında yepyeni düşünceler üretilmesini talep eden genel bir siyaset olarak kavranmalıdır.
Yani siyasal ekoloji, üretim ve tüketim tarzındaki ekolojik açıdan zorunlu değişimleri, hayat tarzında ve toplumsal ilişkilerde normatif anlamda istenen değişimler için bir basamak olarak kullanır. Ekolojik anlamda canlı çevrenin savunulması ve bir yaşam-dünyasının yeniden kurulması birbirini koşullayan ve destekleyen süreçlerdir. İkisi de hayatın ve canlı çevrenin ekonominin tahakkümünden kurtarılmasını ve ekonomik rasyonalitenin geçerli olmadığı faaliyet alanlarının geliştirilmesini gerektirirler. Aslında bu uygarlık kadar eski bir taleptir. Marx’ın sık sık 1821’de yazdığı kitapçıktan alıntılar yaptığı, adı bilinmeyen Ricardocu iktisatçıdan Keynes ve Leontieff’e modern iktisadın önde gelen isimlerinin hepsi “gerçek zenginlik ölçüsü”nün “kendi içinde bir amaç olarak değerlendirilen” (Marx’ın Grundrisse’de kullandığı terimle, die sich als Selbtzweck gilt) faaliyetlere ayrılan net zaman olduğunu belirtmişlerdir. Bu da ekonomik faaliyetin, sadece kendisi dışında bir şeye hizmet ettiği zaman bir anlam kazandığını söylemek demektir. Zira iktisat “bilişsel-araçsal akıl yürütme tarzının” bariz bir örneği, verili bir hedefi elde etmek için araçların etkililiğini hesaplayıp en etkili olanı seçmenin bilimidir. Kullanılan araçlardan ayrı amaçlara uygulanamaz ve kendi başına hangi amaçların peşinde koşulması gerektiğini belirleyemez. Kendisine bir amaç verilmediğinde en etkili araçlarına sahip olduğu amaçları seçer; kendi rasyonalitesinin geçerli olduğu alanın genişletilmesi hedefini benimseyip, hayat ve hayatın doğal temelleri dahil tüm alanları bu alana tâbi kılar.
Ekonomik rasyonalitenin tüm diğer rasyonalite biçimleri üzerindeki bu hakimiyeti kapitalizmin özünü oluşturur. Kendi başına bırakıldığında bütün hayatı ve böylece kendini de ortadan kaldıracak olan bir dinamiktir bu. Eğer kapitalizmin bir anlamı varsa, bu anlam sadece kendisinin bertaraf edilmesinin koşullarını yaratması olabilir. Kapitalizmin bertaraf edilmesi, teşebbüslerin ekonomik anlamda rasyonel bir biçimde yönetilmesinin (yani sabit ve döner sermayenin her biriminden maksimum verim elde etmeyi amaçlayan yönetimin) bertaraf edilmesi olarak değil, teşebbüslerin yönetim ve yaratımı alanında maksimum verim ölçütlerinin başka ölçütlerle ilişkili olarak görecelileştirilmesi olarak anlaşılmalıdır. Bu başka ölçütler kamusal kararlarda ve bireysel davranışlarda egemen hale geldikleri, ekonomik rasyonaliteye ekonomik-olmayan hedeflerin hizmetinde ikincil bir rol verildiği zaman toplum kapitalizmden çıkıp farklı bir uygarlık kurmuş olacaktır.
Bu dönüşümleri hangi toplumsal güçlerin gerçekleştirebileceği sorusunun cevabını klasik sınıf analizi veremez. Sınıfların karşı karşıya gelmesi yoluyla tayin edici önemde bir zaferin kazanılabileceği merkezî bir cephe yoktur. Başka bir ifadeyle, cephe her yerdedir; çünkü sermayenin iktidarı hayatın her alanına dağılmıştır. Fakat aynı zamanda “zihniyet değişimi”nin, “değerlerdeki mutasyonun” (Almanlar’ın Werteswandel dediği şey) işçi sınıfı ve hakim sınıfın yönetimdeki kısmı dahil toplumun bütün sınıf ve düzeylerini boylamasına kestiğinin farkında olunmalıdır. Geleneksel işçi sınıfında hâlâ endüstriyalist büyüme ve tüketim ideolojisi egemen olmasına rağmen, halihazırda bazı “Yeşil” sendikalar ve sendikacılar da vardır (özellikle İngiltere ve Hollanda’da). Böyle de olsa ücretlilerin çoğunluğu daha yüksek ücretleri değil, daha çok boş zaman istediklerini söylerken, üst kademe yöneticilerinin bazılarının da dahil olduğu çok büyük bir çoğunluk boş zamanlarında yaptıkları faaliyetlerin kendileri için işlerinden daha önemli olduğunu söylüyor. Çok büyük bir çoğunluk için çalışma hayatı –karmaşıklık düzeyi ne olursa olsun– hayatlarına anlam veremeyecek kadar uzmanlaşmaya dayalı beceriler ve son derece yoksul kültürel kaynaklar içeriyor. Son olarak, yönetici sınıf içinde sanayinin ve kalkınma modelinin ekolojik açıdan dönüştürülmesinden yana olan modernist bir unsur bulunuyor. Bunun nedeni de sadece gelecekte çok önemli bir yer edineceğini düşündükleri bir akıma şimdiden ayak uydurup rekabet yarışında öne geçmek istemeleri değil; Kuzey’in sanayileşme ve tüketim modelinin Güney’e ihraç edilmek şöyle dursun, Kuzey’de bile sürdürülemeyeceğini; böyle bir ekolojik dönüşüm olmazsa doğal çevrimlerdeki, uygarlıklar ve toplumlardaki yerinden çıkışın insanlığı barbarlığa götüreceğini fark etmeleri. Büyük felaketlerin yaklaştığını haber veren birkaç sınırlı facia günümüzde oluşmaya başlayan sosyo-kültürel mutasyonu hızlandırıp toplumları siyasal ekoloji yönünde hareketlenmeye itebilir.
1 Edgar Morin, La Vie de la vie, Paris 1980, s. 94-95.
2 Özellikle From Marx to Kant’ın ikinci basımının önsözü, Londra 1992; ayrıca bkz. The Marxian Legacy adlı yetkin çalışması, Londra 1988. Ben de Adieux au prolétariat, Paris 1981 (Elveda Proletarya, çev. Hülya Tufan, Afa Y. 1984) adlı kitabımın son bölümünde benzer bir siyaset tanımı yapmıştım.
3 Tabii ki bu geçmiş dünyanın imhasına karşı çıkan tek protesto biçimi değil. Şovenizm, ırkçılık, yabancı düşmanlığı, antisemitizm vs. de değişen bir dünyanın kavranamayan ve tehditkar karmaşıklığının reddedilmesinin örnekleridir. Bilinen düzenin ortadan kalkışı kötü amaçlı dışgüçlerin komplosu ve hakim sınıfların yozlaşmışlığı ile açıklanır. Başka bir deyişle, sezgisel olarak kavranamaz bir hale gelmiş bir gerçekliğe sezgisel olarak kavranabilen nedenler atfedilir.
4 La prophétie antinucléaire (Paris 1980) adlı çalışmada Alain Touraine ve diğer yazarlar nükleer santrallerin tehlikesini vurgulayan hareketin temel motivasyonunun korku değil (tartışmanın, siyasal içeriğine zarar verecek bir biçimde kısır bir teknik dalaşma yönüne gitme tehlikesi de olmasına rağmen), uzmanların takındıkları her şeyi bilme havasına saldırma isteği olduğunu gösteriyorlar.
5 The Limits to Medicine, Londra 1977, The Right to Useful Unemployment, Londra 1978 ve Shadow Work, Londra 1981.
6 Karl Marx, Capital c. 3, Harmondsworth 1978, s. 959.
7 Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Londra 1971, s. 60.
8 Karl Marx, Grundrisse, Harmondsworth 1973, s. 692-5.
9 Başka bir çalışmamda makinelerin ve içerdikleri bilimin “kollektif üretici işçi” (Gesamtarbeiter, bir dizi ayrı, dağınık, işlevsel olarak uzmanlaşmış kollektifi anlatan bir terim) tarafından da temellük edilemediğini, bunun da kollektifler arasında, nihai ürün üzerinde denetim kurmalarını sağlayacak bir itilaf oluşmasını neredeyse imkansız kıldığını göstermiştim. Bu tür bir kontrol, yukarıda sözü edilen kopuş ve mülksüzleşmeyi yeniden üreten (Kombinatlar’da ya da da eski GDR’de olduğu gibi) bir örgütlenme ve yönetimi gerektirirdi.
10 Bkz. Denis Poulot, Le sublime, ou le travailleur comme il est en 1870 et ce qu’ il peut être, Paris 1980. Ayrıca bkz. Christian Topalov’un mükemmel incelemesi, “Invention du chômage et politiques sociales au debut du siecle”, Les Temps Modernes 496/497, Kasım-Aralık 1987.
(from the 'Introduction' to bolo'bolo) The following text of bolo'bolo is taken from Midnight Notes #7 (June 1984). Contact: Midnight Notes, P.O. Box 204. Jamaica Plain, MA 02130 U.S.A.. bolo'bolo by ibu If you dream alone, it's just a dream. If you dream together, it's reality. --Brazilian folk song (Ibu, a Midnight Noter, originally wrote bolo'bolo in German. It will soon appear in its full version in a pamphlet in English. It has three parts: an 'introduction' discussing the shape of the Planetary Work Machine and how to kill the machine; bolo'bolo proper, a discussion of ibu's ideas and desires toward a possible arrangement of societies in the world; and notes on bolo'bolo which discuss many things from utopias to psychologies, from technical issues of food production to social relations. We print only here an edited version of the 'introduction'. We urge our readers to order the pamphlet, advertised on the previous page. [ad for Semiotext(e) FOREIGN AGENTS SERIES. Contact: Autonomedia, Box 568, Brooklyn, NY 11211 U.S.A.] Why do we print this piece, aside from the fact that we enjoy it and want to spread it around? First, it presents in clear and direct form a picture of the aspects of the Planetary Work Machine (capital) which is, in many regards, a concentrated version of the work machine discussed in our "Work/Energy Crisis and Apocalypse." [Midnight Notes #3] Thus pared down, it might be more accessible and thus useful as a tool of struggle. Second, ibu presents a provocative critique of traditional left political action. Third, a part we do not print, bolo'bolo can help us think more clearly about just what it is we are struggling for; our printing the intro might encourage more people to get the pamphlet. Perhaps, as ibu observed, producing a piece such as bolo'bolo is itself a product of our defeat as in defeat we take time to reflect, speculate, etc. that we cannot take when we are on the offensive. Still, we ought to make what best we can of our defeat, to help us make our next cycle of struggles are effective. Fourth, we have sharply attacked the left in this and previous issues. We have offered many of our own 'realpolitik' observations as to how we might proceed instead of down the path and over the cliff with the left. Perhaps lurking over our shoulders is our 'second reality' and we must consider both what the second reality can be and how to make the move from the reality we don't want into the one we do want. --Midnight Notes) A Big Hangover Life on this planet isn't as agreeable as it could be. Something obviously has gone wrong on our space-ship called Earth. But what? Maybe a fundamental mistake was made when nature (or somebody else) came up with the idea of "human". Why should an animal walk on two feet and start thinking? It seems we haven't got much choice: we've got to cope with this error of nature, with ourselves. Mistakes are made in order to learn from them. In prehistoric times our deal seems not to have been so bad. During the Old Stone Age (50,000 years ago) we were few, food (plants and game) was plentiful and survival required only a little working time and moderate efforts. To collect roots, nuts, fruits or berries (don't forget mushrooms) and to kill (or with even less effort, to trap) some rabbits, kangaroos, fish, birds, or deer, we spent about two or three hours per day. In our camps we shared meat and vegetables and enjoyed the rest of the time sleeping, dreaming, bathing, dancing, making love or chatting. Some of us took to painting on cave walls, carving bones or sticks, inventing new traps or songs. We roamed across the country in gangs of 25, with as little baggage and property as possible. We preferred the mildest climates, like Africa, and there was no "civilization" to push us into deserts, tundras or mountains. The Old Stone Age must have been a good deal--if we can trust the recent anthropological findings--for we stuck to it for several tens of thousands of years, especially if compared to the 200 years of actual industrial nightmare. Then somebody must have started playing around with seeds and plants and invented agriculture. It must have seemed a good idea, for we didn't have to walk far to get enough food. But life became more complicated and toilsome. We had to stay in the same place for at least several months to store the seeds for the next crop and to plan and organize work on the fields. Fields and harvest also had to be defended from our nomadic gatherer hunter cousins who kept thinking that everything belonged to everybody. Conflicts between farmers, hunters and cattle breeders arose. We had to explain to others that we "worked" to accumulate our provisions--and they didn't even have a word for "work". With planning, with-holding of food, defence, fences, organization and the necessity of self-discipline we opened the door to specialized social organisms like priesthood, chiefs, armies. We created fertility-religions with rituals to stay convinced of our lifestyle. The temptation to return to the free life of gatherers/hunters must have always been a threat. Whether it was the patriarchate or matriarchate: we were on the road to statehood. With the rise of ancient civilizations in Mesopotamia, India, China, and Egypt, the equilibrium between humans and natural resources was definitely ruined. The future breakdown of our spaceship was programmed. Centralized organisms developed their own dynamics and we became the victims of our creations. Instead of two hours per day we worked ten hours and more on the fields and constructions of the Pharaohs and Caesars, we died in their wars and were deported as slaves where they needed us. Those who tried to return to their former freedom were tortured, mutilated, killed. When they started industrialization, it wasn't any better. To crush the peasant rebellions and the growing independence of craftsmen in the towns, they introduced the factory system. Instead of foremen and whips, they used machines. They dictated our rhythm of work, punished us automatically with accidents, kept us under control in huge halls. Once again progress meant working more and under more murderous conditions. The whole society and the whole planet was turned into one big Work-Machine. And this Work-Machine was at the same time a War-Machine for all those within and without who dared oppose it. War became as industrial as work. Indeed, peace and work have never been compatible: You cannot allow yourself to be destroyed by work and prevent the same machine from killing others, you cannot refuse your own freedom and not attack the freedom of others. War became as absolute as work. The early Work-Machine produced strong illusions of a "better future". After all, if the present was so miserable, the future could only be better. Even the working class organizations were convinced that industrialization would lay the basis for a society of more freedom, more free time, more pleasures. Utopians, socialists and communists believed in development and in industry, in "progress". Marx thought that with its help, humans would be able to hunt, make poetry and enjoy life again. Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro and others demanded more sacrifices to build a new society. But socialism only turned out to be another trick of the Work-Machine to extend its power in areas where it was lacking. The machine doesn't care if it is managed by transnational companies or state bureaucracies. Its goal is the same everywhere: steal our time to produce steel. The industrial War-and-Work Machine has definitely ruined our space-ship and its future: the furniture (jungles, woods, lakes, seas) is torn to shreds; our playmates have been exterminated or are sick (whales, birds, tigers, eagles); the air stinks and is out of balance (CO2 , acid rain); the pantries are being emptied (fossil fuels, metals) and self-destruction is programmed (nuclear holocaust). We can't even feed all the passengers of this wrecked vessel. We've been made so nervous and irritable that we're ready for any kind of nationalist, racial or religious war. For many of us, the nuclear holocaust is no longer a threat, but seems to be a welcome deliverance from fear, boredom, oppression and drudgery. 5000 years of civilization and 200 years of accelerated industrial progress have left us with a terrible hangover. "Economy" has become a goal in itself and we're about to be swallowed by it. The hotel terrorizes its guests: But we are guests and hosts at the same time. The Planetary Work Machine The monster that we have let grow and that keeps our planet in its grip is the Planetary Work Machine. If we want to transform our spaceship into an agreeable place again, we've got to dismantle this Machine, to repair the damage it has done and to come to some basic agreements on a new start. So our first questions must be: How does the Planetary Work-Machine manage to control us? How is it organized? What are its mechanisms and how can they be destroyed? It is a Planetary Machine: it eats in Africa, digests in Asia and shits in Europe. It is planned and regulated by international companies; the banking system; the circuit of fuels, raw materials and other goods. There are a lot of illusions about nations, states, blocs, First, Second, Third or Fourth World- these are only minor subdivisions, parts of the same machinery. Of course there are distinct wheels and transmissions that exert pressure, tensions and frictions on each other. The Machine is built on the basis of its inner contradictions: workers/capital, private capital/state capital (capitalism/socialism), development/underdevelopment, misery/waste, war/peace, women/men, etc. The machine is not a homogenous structure, it uses its internal contradictions to expand its control and refine its instruments. Unlike fascist or theocratic systems or like Orwell's 1984, the Work-Machine permits a "sane" level of resistance, unrest, provocation and rebellion. It digests unions, radical parties, protest movements, demonstrations and democratic changes of regimes. If democracy doesn't function, it uses dictatorship. If it's legitimation is in crisis, it has camps, prisons and torture in reserve. All these modalities are not essential for understanding the functioning of the machine. The principle that governs all activities of the Machine is economy. But what is economy? Unpersonal, indirect exchange of crystallized life-time. We spend our time producing some part which is assembled with other parts by somebody we don't know to make a device that, in turn, is bought by somebody else we don't know for an unknown goal. The circuit os these scraps of life is regulated according to the working time that has been invested in its raw materials, its production and in us. The means of measurement is money. Those who produce and exchange have no control over their common product and so we have situations where rebellious workers are shot by exactly those guns they helped produce. Every commodity is a weapon against us, every supermarket an arsenal, every factory a battleground. This is the dynamic of the Work-Machine: split society into isolated individuals, `blackmail' us each separately with the wage or violence; use our working time according to its plans. Economy means expansion of control by the Machine over its parts more and more dependent on the Machine. We are all parts of the Planetary Work Machine--we are the Machine. We represent it against each other. Whether we are developed or not, waged or not, working alone or as employees- we serve its purpose. Where there is no industry, we "produce" workers to export to industrial zones. Africa has produced slaves for America, Turkey produces workers for Germany, Pakistan for Kuwait, Ghana for Nigeria, Morocco for France, Mexico for the U.S. Untouched areas can be used as scenery for the international tourist business: Indians on reservations, Polynesians, Balinese, Aborigines. Those who try to get out of the Machine fulfill the function of picturesque "outsiders" (bums, hippies, yogis). As long as there is the Machine, we're all inside of it. It has destroyed or mutilated almost all traditional societies or driven them into a demoralizing defensive position. If you try to retreat to a "deserted" valley in order to live quietly on some subsistence farming, you'll be found by a tax collector, a draft-agent or by the police. With its tentacles the Machine can reach virtually every place on this planet within hours. Not even in the most remote part of the Gobi desert can you be sure to take an unobserved shit. The Three Essential Elements Examining the Machine more closely, we can distinguish three essential functions, three components of the international workforce and three "deals" the Machine offers to different fractions of ourselves. The functions (A,B,C) can be characterized as follows: A) Information: planning, design, guidance, management, science, communication, politics, production of ideas, ideologies, religions, art, etc.: the collective brain and nerve-system of the Machine. B) Production: industrial and agricultural production of goods, execution of plans, fragmented work, circulation of energy. C) Reproduction: production and maintenance of A-, B-, and C-workers, making children, education, housework, services, entertainment, sex, recreation, medical care, etc. All these functions are essential to the Machine. If one of them fails, it will sooner or later be paralyzed. Around these functions the Machine has created three types of workers, although overlap occurs; e.g., reproduction requires more than one type of worker. The three types of worker are divided by their wage-level, 'privileges', education, social status, etc., as follows: A) Technical-Intellectual Workers, mostly located in advanced (western) industrial countries; highly "qualified", mostly white, male and well-paid; e.g., computer engineers. B) Industrial Workers and employees, located in not yet "de-industrialized" areas, in "threshold countries", socialist countries; average or miserably paid, male or female, of varying "qualifications"; auto-workers, electronic assembly-workers (female). C) Fluctuant Workers, oscillating between small agriculture and seasonal jobs, service workers, housewives, unemployed, criminals, hustlers; largely women and people of color without regular income in metropolitan slums or in the Third World, often at the edge of starvation. All these types of workers are present in all parts of the world, just in different proportions. Nevertheless it is possible to distinguish three zones with a typically high proportion of the respective type of workers: A-workers: advanced industrial (Western) countries: U.S., Europe, Japan. B-workers: socialist countries or industrializing countries: USSR, Eastern Europe, Taiwan, Singapore. C-workers: Third World, agricultural or "underdeveloped" areas of Africa, Asia and South America and in slums everywhere. The "Third Worlds" are present everywhere. In New York there are neighborhoods that can be considered parts of the Third World. In Brazil there are industrial zones, in socialist countries there are strong A-elements. But there is a difference between the United States and Bolivia, between Sweden and Laos, etc. The Machine's power to control is based on its ability to play the different types of workers against each other. High wages and 'privileges' are not conceded because the Machine particularly likes certain kinds of workers more than others. Social stratification is used for the purpose of maintenance of the whole system. The three kinds of workers are afraid of each other. They are kept divided by prejudices, racism, jealousy, political and religious ideologies and economic interests. The A- and B- workers among us are afraid of losing their standard of living, their cars, houses and jobs. At the same time they complain about stress and envy "idle" C-workers. C-workers in turn dream about consumer goods, stable jobs and an "easy" life. All these divisions are exploited by the machine in various ways. The Machine no longer even needs an extra ruling class to maintain its power. Private capitalists, bourgeois, aristocrats and chiefs are mere left-overs without any decisive influence on the material execution of power, The machine can do without capitalists and owners, as the example of the socialist states and state enterprises in the West demonstrates. They're not the problem. The real oppressive organs of the Machine are other workers: police, soldiers, officials, managers. We're always confronted with the metamorphoses of our own kind. The Planetary Work-Machine is a social mechanism in which people are pitted one against the other to guarantee its functioning. So we must ask ourselves: Why do we put up with the Machine? Why do we accept a kind of life we obviously don't like? What are the advantages that make us forget our discontents? The contradictions that make the Machine work are the same internal contradictions faced by every worker: they're our contradictions. Of course the Machine "knows" that we don't like this life and that it is not enough just to repress our wishes. If it were simply based on repression, productivity would be low and the costs of supervision would be too high. That's why the chattel- slave system was abolished. In reality, one half of us accepts the Machine's deal and the other half revolts against it. The Machine does have something to offer. We give it a part of our life-time, but not all. In return, it gives us a certain amount of goods, but not as much as we want and not exactly what we want. Every type of worker has its own deal and every worker has its extra-deal again, depending on its job and specific situation. As everybody thinks s/he is better off than somebody else (there's always somebody who is worse off), s/he sticks to his/her own deal and distrusts all changes. So the inner inertia of the Machine protects it against reforms and revolutions. Only when a deal becomes too unequal does dissatisfaction and readiness to change the situation arise. The actual crisis, which is visible mainly on the economic level, is caused by the fact that all deals the system has to offer have become unacceptable. A-, B-, and C-workers have protested recently, each in its own way, against the respective deals. Not only the poor but also the rich are dissatisfied. The Machine is about to lose its perspective. The mechanism of internal division and mutual repulsion is about to collapse. Repulsion is turning against the Machine itself. (The remainder if this section, "Three Deals in Crisis", discusses in detail the particular deals made by each type of worker. We have omitted it from this printing due to lack of space. The deals discussed are titled "The A-Deal: Disappointed at consumer society"; "The B-Deal: Frustrated by socialism"; "The C-deal: The development of misery". This entire section is in the pamphlet from Autonomedia. --Midnight Notes) The End of Realpolitik Misery in the Third World, frustration in the socialist countries, deception in the West; the main dynamic of the Machine is actually reciprocal discontent and the logic of the lesser evil. What can we do? Reformist politicians propose to change the Machine, to make it more humane and agreeable by using its own mechanisms. Political realism tells us to proceed by little steps. Thus the microelectronic 'revolution' is supposed to give us the means for reform. Misery shall be transformed into mobilization, frustration into activism and disappointment shall be the basis of change of consciousness. Some of the reformist proposals sound quite good: 20-hour-work-week, equal distribution of work, guaranteed minimal income (e.g. negative income tax), elimination of unemployment, use of free time for mutual and decentralized self-administration in enterprises and neighborhoods, creation of an "autonomous" sector with low- productivity-small-enterprises, investments in middle and soft technologies (also for the Third World), reduction of private traffic, conservation of energy (no nukes, insulation, coal), investments in solar energy and public transportation, less animal proteins (more self-sufficiency in the Third World), recycling of raw materials (aluminum), disarmament, etc.. These proposals are reasonable and even realizable and certainly not extravagant. They form more or less the official or secret program of the alternativist socialist-green- pacifist movements in Western Europe and the United States (and in other countries). Should it be realized, the Work-Machine would look much more bearable. But even these "radical" programs only imply a new adjustment of the Machine, not its destruction. As long as the Machine (the hard, heteronomous sector) exists, self-management and "autonomy" can only serve as a kind of recreational area for the repair of exhausted workers. And who can prevent us from being ruined in 20 hours as much as we've been in 40? As long as the monster isn't pushed into space, it'll continue devouring us. Additionally the political system is designed to block such proposals or to transform reforms into a new impulse for the development of the Machine. The best illustration of this fact is the politics of the reformist parties. As soon as the Left gets the power (e.g. in France, Greece, Spain, Bolivia, etc..) it gets entangled in the jungle of "realities" and economic necessities and it has no choice other than to enforce exactly those austerity-programs it attacked when the Right was in charge. Instead of Giscard it's Mitterand who sends the police against striking workers. Socialists have always been good police- ministers. The "recovery of the economy" (i.e. of the Work-Machine) is the basis of all national politics, and reforms have to prove that they encourage investments, create jobs, increase productivity, etc.. The more "new movements" enter Realpolitik (as the Greens in Germany), the more they get into the logic of a "healthy economy", or they disappear from the political game. Besides destroyed illusions, increased resignation and general apathy, reformist politics don't achieve anything. The Work-Machine is planetary and all its parts are interconnected; any national reformist policy will simply increase international competition, play the workers of different countries against each other and make more perfect control over us. It is exactly this experience that has led more and more voters to support neo- conservative politicians like Reagan, Thatcher or Kohl. The most cynical representatives of the logic of the economy are preferred to leftist thinkers. The self-confidence of the Machine has become shaky. Nobody dares fully believe any longer in its future, but everybody clings to it. The fear of experiment is greater than the belief in demagogical promises. Why reform a system that's going to collapse anyway? Why not try to enjoy the few positive aspects of respective personal or national deals with the Machine? Thus why not put in charge positive, confident, conservative politicians? They don't even promise to solve such problems as unemployment, hunger, pollution, the nuclear arms race. Or if they do, they make clear that those are not their priorities. They're not elected to solve problems, but to represent confidence and continuity. For the "recovery", only a little calm, stability and positive rhetoric is needed: the security to cash in on profits made by present investments. Under these conditions the recovery will be much more terrible than the crisis. We don't have to believe in Reagan or Kohl, just keep smiling together with them and forget about our doubts. The Work-Machine supports doubts badly in this situation, and with neo-conservative regimes we're at least left alone until the end of the next recovery or catastrophe. Besides agitation, bad mood and remorses, the Left hasn't anything better to offer. Realpolitik has become unrealistic, because reality is at a turning point. All or Nothing The Planetary Work-Machine is omnipresent and it cannot be stopped by politics. So, will the Machine be our destiny until we die at 65 or 71? Will that have been our life? Have we imagined it like this? Is ironical resignation the only way out, as it helps us to hide our deception during the few years we still have to live? Maybe everything's okay and we're just a little bit too dramatic. Let's not fool ourselves: even if we mobilize all our spirit of sacrifice and all our courage, we can't achieve anything. The Machine is perfectly equipped against political Kamikazes, as the fate of the RAF, the Red Brigades, the [text damaged -Ed.], [the] Tupamaros and others have shown. It can coexist with armed resistance and transform it into a motor of its perfection. Our attitude isn't a moral problem, not for us and even less for the Machine. Whether we kill ourselves, manage to get an extra-deal, find an opening or a refuge, win in the lottery, throw Molotov-cocktails, join a left-wing party, scratch ourselves behind the ear or run amok, we're finished. In this reality there's nothing else to get. Opportunism doesn't pay off. Career is a bad risk as it causes ulcers, psychoses, marriages, obligations. Bailing out means self- exploitation, ghetto, meetings. Cleverness is fatiguing. Stupidity is annoying. It would be logical to ask ourselves questions like these: "How would I like to live?" "In What kind of society or nonsociety would I feel comfortable?" "What are my wishes and desires, independent from their realizability?" And all this not in a remote future (reformists always talk about the next 20 years) but in our lifetime. while we're still in good health, let's say within five years... Dreams, ideal visions, utopias, yearnings, alternatives; aren't those just new illusions to seduce us once again into participating in progress? Don't we know them from the neolithic, the 17th century and today from science-fiction and fantasy-literature? Do we succumb again to the charm of history? Isn't future the only thought of the Machine? Is there only the choice of joining the Machine's dreams or refusing any activity? There are kinds of desires that are censured scientifically, morally, politically when they arise. The ruling reality tries to stamp them out. These are the dreams of the second reality. Reformists tell us that it's shortsighted and egoistic to follow our own wishes. We should fight for the future of our children. We should renounce (car, vacations, heating and our needs and desires) and work hard, so that they'll have a better life. This is a curious logic. Isn't it exactly the renunciation and sacrifice of our parent-generation, their hard work in the 50s and 60s, that has caused the mess that we are in today? We're those children, for whom they have suffered and worked. For us, our parents bore two wars, a crisis, and built the nuclear bomb. They were not egoistic, they obeyed. Anything built on sacrifice and renunciation just demands more sacrifices and more renunciation. Because our parents haven't respected their egoism, they cannot respect ours... It is not the Third or Fourth World that is the most underdeveloped, it's our egoism of wishes. Other political moralists could object that we're not allowed to dream of utopias while millions die of starvation, others are tortured in camps, deported and massacred, or deprived of the most basic human rights. While the spoiled children of the consumer society compile their list of wishes, others don't even know how to write or have time to wish. Yet, some of us die of heroin and others commit suicide or are mentally ill: whose misery is more serious? Can we measure misery? And even if there wasn't any misery: are our desires unreal, because others are worse off or because we think we could be worse off? Precisely when we act only to prevent the worst or because "others" are worse off, we make it possible and let it happen. In this way we're always forced to react on the initiatives of the Machine. There's always an outrageous scandal, an incredible impertinence, a provocation that cannot be left unanswered. And thus our 70 years go by-- and those of the others who are "worse" off. The Machine can keep us busy, because it wants to prevent us from becoming aware of our immoral dreams. When we act for ourselves, the Machine gets into trouble. As long as we only (re-)act on the basis of "moral differences" we'll be powerless dented wheels, exploding molecules in the engine of development. And as we're weak, the Machine has more power to exploit the weaker ones. Moralism is a weapon of the Machine, realism is another. The Machine has formed reality and it has trained us to perceive reality in the Machine's way. Since Descartes and newton it has digitalized our thoughts and reality; it has laid yes/no-patterns over the world and our spirit. We believe in reality because we're used to it. As long as we accept the digital culture to pulverize our dreams, sentiments and ideas. Dreams and utopias are sterilized in novels, films and commercialized music. But reality is in crisis, every day there are more cracks and the yes/no- alternative turns more and more into simply an apocalyptic threat. The Machine's ultimate reality is its self-destruction. Our reality, the second reality of old and new dreams, cannot be caught in the yes/no-net. It refuses apocalypse and status quo at the same time. Apocalypse or Evangel, end of the world or utopia, all or nothing: there aren't any other realist possibilities. In this reality, we choose one or the other lightheartedly. But in between attitudes like "hope", "confidence" or "patience" are just ridiculous and pure self-deceit. There's no hope. We have to choose now. Nothingness has become a realistic possibility, more absolute than nihilists have dared to dream. In this regard the Machine's achievement must be acknowledged. Finally we've got nothingness! We can kill all of us together! We don't have to survive! Nothingness is about to become a realistic way of life with its own philosophy (Cioran, Schopenhauer, Buddhism, Glucksmann), its fashion (black, uncomfortable), music, housing style, painting, etc.. Apocalyptists, nihilists, pessimists and misanthropists have good arguments for their attitude. After all, if we transform into values "life", "nature" or "mankind", there are only totalitarian risks, biocracy or ecofascism. When we sacrifice freedom to survival, new ideologies of renunciation arise and contaminate all dreams and desires. The pessimists are the real free, happy and generous. The world will never be supportable again without the possibility of self-destruction, as the life of the individual is a burden without the possible exit of suicide. Nothingness is here to stay. On the other hand "all" is also quite appealing. It is much less probable than nothingness, badly defined and poorly thought out. It is ridiculous, megalomanic and self-conceited. Maybe it's only around to make nothingness more attractive. bolo'bolo bolo'bolo is part of (my) second reality. It's strictly subjective, because the reality of dreams can never be objective. Is bolo'bolo all or nothing? It's both and none of them. It's a trip into second reality like Yapfaz, Kwendolm, Takmas and Ul-So. Down there there's a lot of room for many dreams. bolo'bolo is one of those unrealistic, amoral, egoistic maneuvers of diversion from the struggle against the worst. bolo'bolo is also a modest proposal for the new arrangements in the spaceship after the Machine's disappearance. Though it started as a mere collection of wishes, a lot of considerations of their realization accumulated around it. bolo'bolo can be realized worldwide within five years, if we start now. It guarantees a soft landing in the second reality. None of us will starve, freeze or die earlier than we would today in the transition period. There's very little risk. Of course general conceptions of a post-industrial civilization are not lacking in these days. Be it the eruption of the Age of Aquarius, the change of paradigms, ecotopia, new networks, rhizomes, decentralized structures, soft society, new poverty, small circuits, third waves, prosumer societies: the ecological or alternativist literature grows rapidly. Allegedly soft conspiracies are going on and the new society is already being born in communes, sects, citizens' initiatives, alternative enterprises and block associations. In all these publications and experiments there are a lot of good and useful ideas, ready to be stolen and incorporated into bolo'bolo. But many of these futures or futuribles (as the French say) are not very appetizing: they stink of renunciation, moralism, new efforts, toilsome rethinking, modesty and self- limitation. Of course there are limits. But why should there be limits of pleasure and adventure? Why are most alternativists only talking about new responsibilities and almost never about new possibilities? One of the slogans of the alternativists is: Think globally, act locally. Why not think and act globally and locally? There are a lot of conceptions and ideas, but what's lacking is a practical global (and logical) proposal, a kind of common language. There has to be an agreement on some basic elements, if we don't want to stumble into the Machine's next trap. In this regard, modesty and (academic) prudence is a virtue that threatens to disarm us. Why be modest in the face of impending catastrophe? bolo'bolo might not be the best and most detailed and certainly not a definitive proposal for a new arrangement of our spaceship. But it is not so bad and can be acceptable to many people. I'm for trying it as a first attempt and seeing later what happens. Substruction In case we like bolo'bolo, the next question will be: How can it be realized? Isn't it just another real-political proposal? In fact, bolo'bolo cannot be realized with politics, there's another road, a range or roads, to be followed. If we deal with the Machine, the first problem is obviously a negative one: how can we paralyze and eliminate the Machine's control (i.e., the Machine itself) in such a way that bolo'bolo can unfold without being destroyed in its beginnings? We can call this aspect of our strategy disassembly or subversion. The Planetary Work Machine has got to be dismantled-- carefully, because we don't want to perish with it. Let's not forget, that we're part of the Machine, this it is us. We want to destroy the Machine but not ourselves. We only want to destroy our function for the Machine. Subversion means to change the relationship among us (the three types of workers) and towards the Machine (which in turn faces each type of worker as a total system). It is subversion and not attack, because we're all inside the Machine and have to block it from there. It will never confront us as an external enemy. There will never be a front-line, nor headquarters, nor uniforms. Subversion alone will always be a failure, because with its help we might paralyze a certain sector of the Machine, destroy one of its functions, but it will be able to reconquer it and occupy it again. Every space obtained by subversion has to be filled by us with something "new", something "constructive". We cannot hope to eliminate first the Machine and then--in an "empty" space--to establish bolo'bolo: we'd always come too late. Provisional elements of bolo'bolo, seedlings of its structures, must occupy all free interstices, abandoned areas, conquered bases and prefigure the new relationships. Construction has to be combined with subversion into one process: substruction. Construction should never be a pretext to renounce subversion. Subversion alone only creates straw fires, historical dates and heroes, but it doesn't leave concrete results. Construction and subversion are both forms of tacit or open collaboration with the Machine. Dysco Dealing first with subversion, we have to state that every type of worker, every functionary of the Machine and every part of the world has its own specific potential of subversion. There are different ways of doing damage to the Machine and not everybody has the same possibilities. A planetary menu of subversion could be described as follows: A- Dysinformation: sabotage (of hardware or programs), theft of machine-time (for games or private purposes), defective design or planning, indiscretions (e.g. Ellsberg and the Watergate scandal), desertions (scientists, officials), refusal of selection (teachers), mismanagement, treason, ideological deviation, false information (to superiors); effects can be immediate or long run (seconds, years). B- Dysproduction: opting out, low quality, sabotage, strikes, sick-leaves, shop-floor assemblies, demonstrations in the factories, mobility, occupations (e.g., the struggles of the Polish workers); effects--medium term (weeks, months). C- Dysruption: riots, street blockades, violent acts, flight, divorce, domestic rows, looting, guerilla warfare, squatting, arson (e.g., Sao Paulo, Miami, Soweto, El Salvador); effects--short term (hours, days). Of course all these acts also have long-term effects; here we are only talking about their direct impact as forms of activity. Any of these types of subversion can damage the Machine, can even paralyze it temporarily. However, each of them can be neutralized by lack or misapplication of the two others, because their impact is different depending on time and space. Dysinformation remains inefficient if it's not applied to the production or physical circulation of goods or services. In that case it becomes purely an intellectual game and destroys itself. Strikes alone can always be crushed because nobody prevents the police from intervening by dysruptive actions. Dysruption is quickly finished, because the Machine controls supply from its production-sector. The Machine knows that there will always be subversion against it, that the deal between it and the different types of workers will always have to be bargained for and fought out again. It only tries to stagger the attacks of the three sectors so that we cannot support and expand our struggles to multiply each other and become a kind of counter-machine. Workers who have just won a strike (dysproduction) are angry at unemployed demonstrators who prevent them with a street blockade from getting to their factory on time. A firm goes bankrupt and the workers complain about engineers and managers. But it was a substructive engineer who willingly produced a bad design and a manager who wanted to sabotage the firm. The workers lose their jobs, take part in unemployment demonstrations, there are riots...police (workers) do their job. The Machine transforms the isolated attacks of different sectors into idle motion. For the machine, nothing is more instructive than attacks and nothing more dangerous than long periods of calm, because in this case it does not know what is going on inside the organisms of its own body. The Machine cannot exist without a certain level of sickness and dysfunction. Partial struggles are the means of control and a kind of fever thermometer that provides it with imagination and dynamism. If necessary, it can even provoke struggles to test its instruments of control. Dysinformation, dysproduction and dysruption would have to be joined on a mass level in order to produce a critical situation for the Machine. Such a deadly conjuncture can only come into being by the overcoming of the separation of the three functions and worker-types, and the separation can only be overcome by and through struggles in the various sectors. There should emerge a kind of communication with which the Machine is not designed to deal: dyscommunication. The name of the final game against the Machine is thus ABC-Dysco. Where can such ABC-dysco-knots develop? Hardly where the workers meet in their Machine functions, i.e. at the workplace, in the supermarket or in the household. A factory is organized division and the unions only mirror this division, but don't overcome it. On the job the different interests are particularly accentuated: wage, position, hierarchy and privileges all build up walls. In the factories and offices workers are isolated from each other, the noise level is too high, the tasks absorbing. ABC-dysco is not likely to happen in the economic core of the Machine. But there are domains of life--for the Machine mostly marginal domains--that are more propitious for dysco. The machine hasn't digitalized and rationalized everything: religion, mystic experience, language, native place, nature, sexuality, all kinds of spleens, crazy ideas, fancies. Life as a whole slips away from the Machine's patterns. Of course the machine is aware of its insufficiency in these fields and tries to functionalize them economically. Religion becomes sect-business, nature can be exploited by tourism and sport, the love for one's country degenerates into an ideological pretext for weapons industries, sexuality is commercialized by the sex-business, etc. There's no need that couldn't be turned into a commodity, but as a commodity it gets reduced and mutilated. Certain needs, however, are particularly inappropriate for mass-production, above all those of authentic, personal experience. The conversion succeeds only partially, and more and more people are becoming aware of "the rest". The success of the environmental movements, of the peace movement, of ethnic or regionalist movements, or certain forms of "new religiousness" (progressive or pacifist churches), or homosexual subcultures, is probably due to this insufficiency. Whether identities are newly discovered or created that lie beyond the logic of economy, there have been ABC-knots. As 'war objectors', intellectuals, employees, women and men have met. Homosexuals gather regardless of their jobs. Indians, Basques or Armenians struggle together--"a kind of new nationalism" (or regionalism) overcomes job and educational barriers. The Black Madonna of Czestochowa might have contributed to unite Polish workers, intellectuals and farmers. It is no accident that in recent times such types of movements have reached high levels of strength. Their substructive power is based on the multiplication of ABC-encounters that have been possible in their framework. One of the first reactions of the Machine has always been to play off against each other the elements of these encounters and to establish the old mechanism of mutual repulsion. The above-mentioned movements have only produced superficial and short-lived ABC-dysco. In most cases the different types just touched each other on a few occasions and slipped back once again into their everyday division. Those of us involved created more mythologies than realities. In order to exist longer and to exert a substantial influence, we should also be able to fulfill everyday tasks outside the Machine: we should also comprise the constructive side of substruction. We should attempt the organization of mutual help, moneyless exchange, of services, of concrete cultural functions in neighborhoods. In this context we should create anticipations of bolos, of barter-agreements, of independent food-supply, etc. Ideologies (or religions) are not strong enough to overcome barriers such as income, education and position. As ABC-types, we have to compromise ourselves in every day life. Certain levels of self- sufficiency, of independence from state and economy, must be reached to stabilize such dysco-knots. We cannot work 40 hours per week and still have the time and energy for neighborhood initiatives. ABC-knots can't just be cultural decorations, they should be able to replace at least a little fraction of money- income to get some free time. What these ABC-dysco-knots can look like practically can only be discovered through practice. Perhaps they will be neighborhood centers, food-conspiracies, farmer/craftsman exchanges, energy coops, communal baths, car-pools, etc. All kinds of meeting points that can bring together all three types of workers on the basis of common interests are possible ABC-dyscos. (Midnight Notes reminds the reader of ibu's warning that subversion must not be avoided in the guise of construction: the two must be united as substruction.) The totality of such ABC-Knots will disintegrate the machine, produce new conjunctures of subversion, keep in motion all kinds of movements in an invisible manner. Diversity, invisibility, flexibility, lack of names, flags and labels, refusal of pride of honor, avoidance of political behavior and representative temptations can protect such knots from the eyes and hands of the Machine. Information, experiences and practical instruments can be shared in this way. ABC-dysco-knots can be laboratories for new, puzzling and surprising forms of action as they can use all three functions and the respective dysfunctions of the Machine. Even the brain of The Machine doesn't have access to this wealth of information, because it must keep divided the thinking about itself (principle of competencies and divided responsibility). ABC-dysco-knots are not a party, not even a kind of movement, coalition, or umbrella- organization. They're just themselves, the cumulation of their single effects. They might meet in punctual mass-movements, test their strength and the reaction of the Machine, and then disappear again in every-day-life. They combine their forces where they meet each other in practical tasks. They're not an anti- Machine movement, they are the content and material basis of the destruction of the Machine. Due to their conscious non-organizedness, ABC-knots are always able to create surprises. Surprise is vital, as we're in a fundamental disadvantage in [the] face of the Machine: we can be 'blackmailed' by the constant threats of death or suicide pronounced by the Planetary Machine. It cannot be denied that guerilla- warfare as a means of subversion can be necessary in certain circumstances (where the Machine already is killing). The more ABC-knots, network and tissues there are, the more the Machine's instinct of death is awakened. But it's already part of our defeat is we have to face the Machine with heroism and rediness for sacrifice. Somehow we have to accept the Machine's `blackmailing'. Whenever the Machine starts killing, we should retreat. We shouldn't frighten it. It must die in a moment when it doesn't expect it. This sounds defeatist, but it is one of the lessons we can learn from Chile, from Grenada, from Poland: when the struggle can be put on the police or military level, we're about to lose. Or if we win, it's exactly our police or military aspect that will have won and not ourselves: we'll get a "revolutionary" military dictatorship. When the Machine takes to mere killing, we have obviously made a mistake. We should never forget, that we are also those that shoot. We're never in front of the enemy, we are the enemy. This fact has nothing to do with non-violence- ideologies: you can be very violent and still not kill each other. Damage (to the Machine) and violence are not necessarily linked. It wouldn't serve us either to put flowers into the soldiers' button-holes or be nice to the police. They cannot be cheated by symbolism, by arguments and ideologies-- they're like us. But maybe the policeman has neighbors, the general is gay, the soldier has heard that his sister is active in some ABC-dysco-knot. When there are enough dyscos, there are as many security-leaks and risks fir the Machine. We've got to be careful, practical and discreet. When the Machine kills, there aren't yet enough ABC-dysco-knots. Too many parts of its organism are still in good health and it can hope to save itself by a violent operation. The Machine won't die of a heart attack, but it can die of ABC-cancer, becoming aware of it when it's too late for any operation or radiation, These are the rules of the game. Those who don't respect them, must quit the game (and will be heroes). Substruction as a (general) strategy is a form of practical meditation. It can be the following Yantra, that combines substruction (movement aspect) and bolo (the future basic community): [see included .GIF--Ed] Trico The Work-Machine has Planetary character, so a successful bolo'bolo-strategy must also be planetary from the beginning. Purely local, regional or even national dysco-knots will never be sufficient to paralyse the World-Machine as a whole. West, East and South must start simultaneously to subvert their respective functions inside the Machine and to create new constructive anticipations. What is true for the three types of workers on a micro-level is also true for the three parts of the world on a macro-level. There must be planetary dysco-knots. There must be tricommunication between dysco knots. The Planetary Trick is trico. Trico is dysco between ABC-knots in each of the three major parts of the world: western industrial countries, socialist countries and underdeveloped countries. A trico-knot is the encounter of three local ABC-knots on an international level. Anticipations of bolos will get in contact in this trico-knot manner. Of course these contacts must be established outside of governments, of international or development-aid organizations. The contacts must function directly between neighborhoods, between everyday initiatives of all kinds. There must be a trico between St. Marks Place (New York), Gdansk North-East 7, Mutum-Biyu (Nigeria); or: Zurich-Stauffacher, Novosibirsk/Block A 23, Vuma (Fidji), etc.. Such trico knots could first originate on the basis of accidental personal acquaintances (on tourist trips, etc.). Then they could be multiplied by the activity of already existing tricos, etc.. The practical use of a trico-knot (and there must be one) can be very trivial in the beginning: exchange of necessary goods (medicine, records, spices, clothes, equipment) that should be moneyless or at least very cheap. It is obvious that since the exchange of goods presently isn't equal between the three parts of the world, the Third World-partner will need a lot of basic products to make up for the exploitation by the world market, and also need a lot of material for the construction of a basic infrastructure (fountains, telephones, generators). Nevertheless this doesn't mean that trico is just a type of aid for development. The partners will be aware of creating a common project, the contact will be person to person, the aid will be adapted to the real needs and will be based on personal relationships. Even under these difficult conditions exchange won't be one-sided. A-dysco-knots will give material goods (as they have plenty of them), but they'll get much are cultural and spiritual "goods" in exchange: for example, they can learn a lot from life- styles in traditional villages about nature, mythology, human relations, etc.. As we've said, every deal, even the most miserable one, has some advantages: instead of frightening ourselves with the disadvantages of the other deals, we'll exchange those elements that are still valuable and strong. The trico-knots permit the participating ABC-dysco knots to unmask the mutual illusions of their deals and to stop the division-game of the World-Machine. Western dyscos will learn about socialist everyday life and will get rid of both socialist propaganda and red-baiting anti-communism. The Eastern partners will have to give up their illusion on the Golden West and at the same time they'll become immune to the official indoctrination in their own countries. Third- World-dyscos destroy development-ideologies and socialist demagoguery and will be less vulnerable to `blackmailing' by misery. All this won't be an educational process, but a natural consequence of tricommunication. A Western dysco-knot might help the Eastern partner get a Japanese stereo-set for free--needs are needs--even those created by the Machine's advertising strategies. In the process of expansion of tricos, of closer exchange and of the growing of bolo'bolo-structures, authentic wishes, whatever they might be, will become predominating. Perhaps dances and fairy tales from Africa will be more interesting than disco, Russian songs more attractive than cassette-recorders. Planetary substruction from the beginning is a precondition for the success of the strategy that could lead to something like bolo'bolo. If bolo'bolo remains just a spleen of a single country or a region, it's lost, it'll be another impulse for development. On the basis of tricommunication those planetary relationships come into being that will disintegrate the Nation-States and the political blocks. Like the dysco-knots, the trico-knots form a network of substruction that will paralyze the World Machine. Out of tricos there will grow barter-agreements (fenos), general hospitality (sila) new culturally defined regions (sumi) and a planetary meeting point (asa'dala). The trico- network will also have to block the war-machines of the single countries from inside and thus be the real peace-movement, precisely because they're not primarily interested in "peace" but because they've got a common, positive project. (Here we break off. Generally the rest is the description by this ibu of bolo'bolo. Sorry...you'll have to get the pamphlet to find out what it says. In our previous issue, by the way, we said that we would explain the various symbols we overlaid on some of the pages. The symbols are from bolo'bolo and are explained in the forthcoming pamphlet. --Midnight Notes) A bolo is an autonomous community corresponding to the anthropological unit of a tribe (a few hundred individuals). The name is an example of a fictional auxiliary language (or rather, a basic vocabulary) intended for use in a bolo-based global community, called asa'pili. asa'pili terms: • ibu "individual, person" • bolo "community, village, tribe" • sila "hospitality, tolerance, mutual aid" • taku "personal property, secret" • kana "household, hunting party, family, gang" • nima "way of life, tradition, culture" • kodu "agriculture, nature, sustenance" • yalu "food, cuisine" • sibi "craft, art, industry" • pali "energy, fuel" • sufu "water, water supply, well, baths" • guno "house, building, dwelling" • belo "medicine, health" • nugo "death, suicide pill" • pili "communication, science, magic, language, media" • kene "communal work, communal initiative" • tega "district, town" • dala "committee, council, assembly" • dudi "foreigner, spy, observer" • fudo "city, trading area, bioregion" • sumi "region, linguistic area, island" • asa "earth, world" • buni "gift, present" • mafa "depot, warehouse" • feno "treaty, agreement, trade relation" • sadi "market, stock market, fair" • fasi "travel, transport, traffic, nomadism" • yaka "disagreement, war, violence"
The pseudonym P.M. (the most common initials in the Swiss telephone directory, mostly spelled in lowercase, p.m.) is used by an otherwise anonymous Swiss author (born 1946), best known for his 1983 anarchist / anti-capitalist social utopia bolo’bolo, publishing with the paranoia city verlag of Zürich.
- anti-otoriter / anarşizan
- antropoloji, arkeoloji
- bu topraklar
- ekokoy – permakultur
- ekolojist akımlar
- ekotopya heterotopya utopyalar
- kadın ve doğa / ekofeminizm
- kent yasami
- kir yasami
- komünler, kolektifler
- kooperatifler vb modeller
- savaş karşıtlığı
- sistem karsitligi
- somuru / tahakkum
- sınırlara hayır
- tarim gida GDO
- türcülük, doğa / hayvan özgürlüğü
- totoliterlik / otoriterlik
- tuketim karsitligi
- yerel yönetimler
- yerli – yerel halklar
- yeşil kapitalizm