Iain McKay about the communalism of Murray Bookchin

Iain McKay wrote a review of Social Ecology and Communalism, a book that contains four essays of Murray Bookchin (with an introduction of Eirik Eiglad).

You can read the review here.

The fact that Bookchin started to oppose anarchism at the end of his life from a left-libertarian perspective makes many anarchists angry.
Iain McKay even writes at the end of his article:
It is a shame that he ended such a fruitful political life by writing such rubbish. Hopefully, his post-anarchist work will be ignored in favor of his real, important and still relevant contributions to libertarian theory—along, of course, with his silly “libertarian municipalism” fetish which became his undoing.

He could only write this after a long text with insinuations that there was a big difference between Bookchin as an anarchist and Bookchin as a communalist. But in the last four decades (and more) of his life, Murray Bookchin had a lot of communalist ideas and was much more a social anarchist than an anarchist. And so, McKay gives people the idea that Bookchin was close to anarchosyndicalism for a long time, just like McKay is. (Maybe McKay even calls himself an anarchosyndicalist, I don't know).

It's a shame that McKay does not describe the history of social anarchism, eco-anarchism or communalism at all here. Which makes me think that he does not know so much about that.
Many people of the libertarian left are afraid of criticizing anarchism, probably because it is criticized so much in the mass media. Bookchin did not have to be afraid of doing that, because even at the end of his life many people thought of him as being an anarchist.


Two reviews

Remaking Society by Murray Bookchin

I have read parts of it before, certainly enjoyed reading the last few chapters. It's an excellent book to start with from Murray if you haven't read any of his books. It might be his most important work because it's a good introduction to 'early' social ecology and has been translated in several languages. He just seems a bit too positive about anarchism in it, athought it's clear that this work stands very much into the libertarian socialist tradition and isn't at all about being an individualist.

Finding Our Way. Rethinking Eco-Feminist Politics. By Janet Biehl

This is one of those books I always thought I should fully read once, just after I had started reading it. I read half of it more than ten years ago. I think I picked it up again several times but found it hard to read further, so this time I started with the beginning of the book again and then later I could more easily switch to the second half of the book because it was more easy to grasp the logic behind it.
I have read other stuff from Janet. This very long text was the most difficult one to read, it can be very philosophical sometimes, with words I did not find easy to understand so I had to take the dictionary and open it all of the time.
It's also mostly about female writers, apart from Murray Bookchin, so it can be good for male readers who don't mind a bit of subcultural genderbending. The genderbending didn't fully scare me. I'm used to it because sometimes I go to feminist meetings of twenty or thirty people present, and then there can be just a few men there. If they want to be called men, that's not always the case either.

One of the things I learned from this book is that ecofeminist Ynestra King has been less into social ecology than I thought she has been. Well, it's even harder to find texts from King in Belgium than from Janet Biehl, so... This book of Janet is the best work available to understand what's good about ecofeminism and what isn't.
Something that I really liked reading from Biehl was this : "Let me make it quite clear that I do not contend that personal life must be sacrificed to political life. Quite to the contrary, I believe that the two of them have to coexist in a balanced, rational and truly ecological manner. Attention to the personal in itself is and will always be of great individual as well as social concern. Human beings have vital needs for self-expression, love, play, a relationship with a particular place, with nonhuman nature, as well as intimate relationships with other people."
That an interesting book like this received little appreciation in the ecofeminist movement really is a shame, no wonder she doesn't seem to be much interested in ecofeminism anymore. It's an excellent work this book.



Chumbawumba, nice lyrics.


Summer gatherings in Sweden

From September 17th to 21st 2008 the European Social Forum (ESF) is being held in Malmö, in the south of Sweden. More than 20,000 people are expected to participate in the forum, which is a meeting place for social movements in Europe.
For five days seminars and workshops will be mixed with culture, music, activism and demonstrations. The forum is more than a meeting, it is a chance to put forward alternatives and visions for the future.
For more information about the ESF...

One of the groups participating is Democratic Alternative (Demalt): “Democratic Alternative would like to invite our affiliates to come and take part in this forum. We see this as a great possibility to be part of developing social movements, to make contacts, to make plans together and to bring our perspectives to the discussion.”

Demalt will also be organizing a summercamp (6-10 august) of its own in Sweden (Motala) called Politics for the future 2008.
How can global warming be stopped? How can we adapt our communities and societies to renewable energy and less energy use?
How can people steer society in a direction towards solidarity and ecological sanity?

With this years summer gathering scandinavian organisation Democratic Alternative is focusing on these issues.”
The primary languages of the program will be a mix of swedish and norwegian, but if there are participants who want to come from abroad the people from Demalt will look at their capacity to provide translation.

For more information...


A tribute to Murray Bookchin : some recent texts from Janet Biehl

A Remembrance of Murray Bookchin

Janet Biehl wrote this text for Adbusters...
I moved to Burlington, Vermont in January 1987 because I had heard that Murray Bookchin would be teaching in his living room - giving lectures on dialectical philosophy and the history of popular revolutions - and that curriculum intrigued me more than any graduate program. Why study political theory in graduate school, I thought, and write articles that six people will read, when a new movement was brewing, the ecology movement, raising endless new issues that were crying out to be discussed? For that, I gave up my rent-stabilized apartment and headed north.


Bookchin’s Originality
– A Reply to Marcel Van der Linden

From the text:

In 2001 the researcher Marcel Van der Linden attempted to account more fully for the dedication. Having examined the writings of Weber and Bookchin, he wrote an article called “The Prehistory of Post-Scarcity Anarchism” in which he offered up a list of some ideas that both men had espoused. Unfortunately Van der Linden made no effort to explore the intellectual relationship between the two men, or even to prove that influence, one way or the other, occurred; he simply closed his article by stating that Murray Bookchin was “partially original.”



Remembering Murray Bookchin

"Murray Bookchin, the visionary social theorist and activist, died on July 30th at his home in Burlington, Vermont. Chaia Heller has been involved for over 20 years with the Institute for Social Ecology co-founded by Bookchin in 1974. She talks about her friend and mentor."

Listen to this recent interview here.


EuroMayday Aachen 2008: transnational parade of precari@s and migrants

Mayday! Mayday! Emergency call from Aachen / Aquisgranum (near Koeln/Cologne)

On the First of May in Aachen / Aken / Aix-la-Chapelle / Aquisgrana / Aquisgrán / Akwizgran / Ahan, ancient carolignian city, Nicolas Sarkozy will present Angela Merkel with the EU Oscar, the Prix Charlemagne. Irony of the calendar, syndicalist MayDay this year coincides with catholic Ascension Day, when the Eurocracy Awards are traditionally handed out.

The duo congratulates itself for having finally shielded the EU from the social demands of the people, who scream for an end to free-market theology in europe. The new european diarchy is turning the continent into a police state and would be happy to erase the heretic meaning of MayDay, and the Anarchist and Socialist traditions of europe along with it.

This year for MayDay, two worlds clash together: the global movement vs strong-armed governments; grassroots networks and squatted social centers vs EU power; Utopian Society vs Capitalist Market; the radical europe of multitudes vs the conservative Europe of élites.

We are gonna spoil the party of the powerful, by raising hell in Aachen and holding our own party: the EuroMayDay Parade, the transeuropean demonstration of all precarious and migrants against workfare, discrimination and border controls held in more than twenty cities.

We, the EuroMayDay Network cannot accept that MayDay is turned into the Ascension Day into stardom of the two failing sovereigns of Christian, NATO Europe. We reject Charlemagne as symbol of Europe, just as we denounce the neoliberalism of the Barroso Commission and the monetarism of Trichet's Central Bank.

Forced to live in precarious hell, we're going to trash the heaven of EU élites. Don't miss it: shame the twin rulers of Europe, expose their authoritarian arrogance, join the thousands coming to Aachen (close to Cologne) for the strongest protest against the core of europower ever mounted.

Show Angie and Sarko what the European movement against neoliberalism and militarism is capable of. Come to the special EuroMayDay Protest+Parade+Party that collectives in Aachen, Liège, Maastricht, and other cities of the region are organizing. Facilities, accommodation and food will be provided to protesters in Aachen in the days immediately before and after the First of May.

Activists, artists, hackers, unionists, migrant associations, queer collectives, critical cyclists, media creatives, leftist radicals of all stripes – red, black, green, pink, purple, silver – are coming to Aachen and other EuroMayDay Parades to join the fight.
First of May in Aachen:

morning: EuroMayDay PROTESTS nearby Rathaus where Karlspreis is given to Merkel by Sarkozy
afternoon: EuroMayDay PARADE starts nearby site of protest
evening: MayDay PARTY in public park

No Borders, No Workfare, No Precarity.
Join Us also in the MayDay Parades in Berlin, Copenhagen, Hamburg,
Lisbon, Milano, Malaga, Maribor, Tokyo, and many other cities!

fighting precarity and inequality since 2004


"Police in Japan act more subtly“

Japanese activist says about G8-protest

Go Hirasawa mobilizes against the G8-summit in Japan with the group „No G8! Action“.
Is the protest culture there very much different (than in Europe)? Go Hirasawa says that in Japan, open violence is not that common.

GO HIRASAWA is lecturer of film studies at the Tokyo University and a media activist. Very recently, he has coordinated the retrospective of the Japanese director Koji Wakamatsu at the international film festival Berlinale.

Taz: Mr. Hirasawa, you were in Heiligendamm during the G8-summit last year. How did you find the protests?

Go Hirawasa: There were ten people from Japan taking part at the protest. Especially, the camps were a special experience for us. There were so many people from all over the world; that was a wonderful opportunity to exchange information and to discuss.

TAZ: Were there also things which were strange to you?

Oh yes, this never-ending search for consensus. In Germany or Europe, every part of the strategy or the tactics of the protest is discussed with everybody, and that takes so long. I found it very interesting, but it did not seem very practical at all.

TAZ: How is it in Japan?

We choose respectively one or two persons for each action or protest, who then decided on behalf of a bigger group. „Commandant” may not be the right expression, but these people bare responsibility. The age of the persons in charge does not play a role; what plays a role are the experiences and the ability to make the right decisions at the right time. Once you get arrested in Japan, you can stay in police custody for 23 days. For that reason, it is very important to prepare well for actions and to plan with the group. Spontaneous actions are less suitable.

TAZ: At previous summits in Europe or the US, activists have criticized often that the police react disproportionately, and that there were assaults. Do you expect similar situations in Japan?

We expect a very similar situation during the summit like in Heiligendamm. Thus, the police in Japan operate differently than in Europe; open violence is not so common, they act rather subtly, for example, they try to intimidate political activists by visiting them at home. On the other hand, they also try to arrest organizers of protests in the run-up to the summit. And if there are no concrete grounds for the search, or if they cannot clearly name any “leaders”, they just construct something. This is a very typical procedure of the Japanese police.

TAZ: Are Japanese people critical towards the G-8 summit?

Most of the Japanese do not have even a slight doubt about the legitimacy of the G8 or the capitalist economic system. I have the impression that people in Europe are more critical about that. We hope that we can spread such a prevailing mood also in Japan, so that people do not just take things how they are but begin to put them into question and challenge them.
Until now, Europe and America play a main role in criticizing neo-liberalistic globalisation. I hope that this will change.

TAZ: Are there differences between the leftists in Japan and Germany?

Leftist groups in Germany are networked well among themselves. I was impressed that they succeeded in building up a broad coalition against the G8 summit. In Japan, the leftists are totally at odds with each other. The groups fight against each other instead of fighting together for their aims.

TAZ: Which are the main groups?

There are lots of anti-militaristic groups, and labor unions, of course. There is also the New Left-wing, although it is no longer new, because it was founded in the 60s, and comprises, e.g., the trotzkyists. Besides, there are also younger movements since the 1980’s: Movements against poverty, against homelessness or against discrimination against people with disability, and in the meantime, the May-Day movement.

TAZ: Does the anti-globalsation movement exist in Japan?

Yes. In the meantime, it is one of the largest movements in Japan. The „Battle of Seattle“ in the late 1990’s has marked a beginning point for this subject in Japan. During the G8 in Genoa, there was a demonstration to the Italian embassy, out of which an anti-globalisation group named Anti-Capitalist Action (ACA) was founded. Another important convention for the movement in East- and South-East-Asia was the WTO-Conference in 2005 in Hong Kong
This was a very good place to get to know each other and for exchange. It also strengthened mutual solidarity. It’s the island position which often isolates the movements in Asia geographically. For this reason, we very much hope that, for the protest at Lake Toya, we will obtain large support from the international activists in Japan, but also by global solidarity actions.

TAZ: Where does your group „No G8!Action“ place itself?

We define ourselves as decentralist and anti-authoritarian. No G8! Action was founded in May 2007, in the run-up to G8 in Rostock. The fundaments of our activities are the key points of the network Peoples Global Action. (www.agp.org)

TAZ: The next G8-summit takes place on the island Hokkaido. What kind of place is this?

Hokkaido is a relatively poor region and very much characterized by agriculture. Five years ago, a city went bankrupt for the first time in the Japanese history.

TAZ: How come?

Japan is an unbelievably centralized country. Companies, industry, the administration, everything is concentrated in the large cities in the center, i.e. Tokyo and Osaka. Therefore, the regions in the north and south have little income, they live on agriculture, partly with income from the military bases. So, the situation in Hokkaido is pretty much the same as in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (rural region near German G8). The people there are angry with the government, because the G8 takes place in their region and because they have the problems with the security precautions and the protests.

TAZ: Can you connect your actions to the existing local problems?

We try. Hokkaido is not just a region with economic problems. There are also Ainu. Ainu are an indigenous people; they lived in Hokkaido until Japan colonised their island. Until today, they have to fight for their rights. The group, which prepares the protests there, has also organized a meeting with the indigenous people and tries to network with them.

TAZ: Which other political subjects are currently discussed in Japan?

Especially the growing differences between the poor and the rich. The neo-liberal reform by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has worsened the difference and has led to big problems. Contrary to Germany, there are almost no social protections in Japan. Many young people live in extreme precarious situations, are homeless and live from part-time jobs. At least these young precarious workers have began to organize themselves in recent years. They play the main role in the mobilisation against the G8-summit.

TAZ: You have written in a paper, that the neo-liberalism in Japan goes hand-in-hand with neo-nationalism.

Of course, neo-liberalism in Japan comprises the same elements like elsewhere: a discourse which requires less governmental intervention but more market, the privatisation of public tasks. But to execute such a program, you need a stabilising factor, i.e. a comparison. In Japan, this factor was the nationalism. The anger caused by the neo-liberal reform shall be directed towards the outside of Japan. At the beginning, this tactic was quite successful, but – however - no longer. Unfortunately, Japan with its extremely developed capitalism still leads the way in Asia.

TAZ: The Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda has pronounced that the main subjects of the G8 will be Africa and Climate Change.

Japan very much cares about its good reputation in the international society, and this attitude can be seen in the choice of these subjects. However, the Japanese government has showed recently and over and over, how little they care about actually doing something against the climate change. The sole thing it has done is to support Japanese companies to develop more efficient technologies. But until now, this turned out to be less successful: the CO2-emmissions in Japan in the last years has not decreased, but increased by 6%. At the same time, there is a certain awareness about climate change by the people.

TAZ: Does the left-wing deal with that topic?

It barely does. In Japan, environmental protection is a subject which is very strongly dominated by the economy, they talk about technology, innovation and efficiency. For the left-wing, it is not really attractive to deal with that subject. Leftist groups try to work with another understanding of environment, which is not limited to nature and climate. Environment can be understood in a more general sense, as the entourage, the world where people are living.

Interview Juliane Schumacher.
(Translation done in Berlin).
You can find the original text here.


7th International alternative bookfair, 8th of March 2008

It's an anarchist bookfair, but clearly non-sectarian, as it also invites a lot of non-anarchist groups or speakers. From 11h to 14h, there will be workshops in English. The entrance is for free.

The location? Not far from a train station in Ghent, north of Belgium.

Stalls are mostly from Belgium or The Netherlands, but there are also some initiatives from other countries :

Active Distribution

United Kingdom

United Kingdom


Kaffee Libertad

Alternative Libertaire

CIRA (Suisse)

Journal La Brique

No Pasaran


You can find out more about the location here.


Listening to Aisha

"If you like what you hear on The Soulful Expression, please support us by picking up a CD and spreading the word! But by all means do all that you can to support the preservation of our culture and music!"
Aisha Angela Taylor


The libertarian left in Belgium

Libertarian socialism in Belgium never got many chances. In the 19th century it gained some ground within the workers' movement. Radical intellectuals who supported the poor were much influenced by the ideas of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. Workers and farmers also got the support of anarchists active in the First International. The historian Jan Moulaert has done much to get the story of the anarchists in the Belgium of the 19th century much known.
The Social democrats gave a boost to alternative economy in cities like Gent, they had the money for it. And because of this, the libertarian left became marginal again. At the beginning of the 20th century, anarcho-communism and the libertarian left were gaining ground in Mechelen, a city not far from the capital Brussels. This gave hope to the movement in the Dutch speaking part of the country (the north), anarchism mostly had been happening in the French speaking part of the country. But two World Wars virtually destroyed the movement in Belgium.
The counterculture of the sixties made anarchic tendencies influential again. One of the people responsible for that was Hem Day (picture), an anarcho-pacifist and a friend of the Spanish anarchist leader Buenaventuri Durruti.
A famous writer called Louis Paul Boon started to sympathize a lot with anarcho-syndicalism. Other anarchists were active with actions against militarism in the seventies, like refusing military service, and in the nineties also more and more with squatting and ecological direct actions.
A journal called Alternative libertaire received many readers in Belgium and France. Cities like Liège, Brussels and Gent attracted many anarchists and other radicals to be active in.
Philosophers like Leo Apostel, a libertarian marxist, and Roger Jacobs did much to infuse the movement with social theory. Jacobs also did a lot to get Murray Bookchin more known in Belgium and the Netherlands.
In Belgium, the libertarian left of the 21st century could be described as a movement in which the ideologies of those active in its main center, the Anarchist Center in a big city called Gent, are very important. This place is in the north of Belgium, not far from the border with The Netherlands.
What is the Anarchist Center? In their own words... "The Anarchistisch Centrum is a meeting place for individuals and groups active in Gent with anarchism and/or direct action. Anarchism means for us that we want to work in an anti-authoritarian way at an ecological society in which all power is equally divided." Ideas are spread by several independent media centers, indymedia.
I think the anarchism of the now in Belgium is a lot like that of Sweden, but with less syndicalist influences and a lot more people interested in squatting, because the laws around it are not that strict. It's also close to the anarchism of the Netherlands.
Recently, two people started a new project. Their website, www.anarchyisorder.org, is almost fully in English. The portal site of anarchist groups in Belgium is anarchie.be