006 – Communalism



welcome to this episode of the revolution and ideology podcast I'm Nick Lee and I'm Jarrod Benson in this episode we are going to be briefly discussing Murray Bookchin concept of communalism Jarrod has received I didn't intentionally did not send him any readings or background information on today's topic so I'm going to just go through a brief introduction and we'll be getting his thoughts on it live without any previous readings or information at all I'm going to be reading a series of quotes as we go through this all the quotes that I'm reading from today come from book Chan's writing toward a communalist approach which was written some time in 2006 we'll put this in the show notes for you to read it's really accessible and pretty short it's about 20 22 pages something like that so definitely a quick read basically this is book Chen's new theory for social change and social organization he starts out by providing a critique of Marxism and anarchism which I'll skip mostly here we don't need his critiques of those two theories it is interesting I don't actually know about this till I said the researching books in more that he breaks away from anarchism towards the end of his life and his theory of communalism is basically his new theory for what he thinks should happen I am gonna the the jumping-off points gonna be answering the question that he basically does which is why we need a new theory beyond Marxism and anarchism and he provides three main points he says capitalism has changed first of all his first critique of Marxism is that it applies really well to like the period after the Industrial Revolution when Marx is writing but not really well to modern times so he says quote significantly capitalism has changed in many respects since world war ii it has created new generalized social issues that are not limited to wages hours and working conditions notably environmental gender hierarchical civil and democratic issues the problems raised by these issues cut across class lines even as they exacerbate or modified problems that once gave rise to the classical revolutionary movement he says as a result of these changes that our definition of freedom has changed as well quote older definitions of freedom while preserving certain unassailable components became inadequate in the light of later historical advances so two older revolutionary theories and movements while losing none of their insights and lessons become inadequate with the passage of time as the emergence of new issues necessitate broader programs and movements then finally he says the proletariat are no longer the revolutionary class he suggests that this term itself is outdated quote nor can the poet Ariat his class identity is being subverted by an immense middle-class hope to speak for the majority of the population capitalism is inflicting generalized threats on humanity sweeping problems such as globalization climate changes that may alter the very face of the planet challenges to civil rights and traditional freedoms and the radical transformation of civic life are a result of rampant urbanization other issues have yet to emerge as a result of the immensely transformative technologies that will make the coming century unrecognizable a new revolutionary movement must be capable of dealing not only with the more familiar issues that linger on but with the new more general ones that potentially may bring the vast majority of society into opposition to an ever-evolving and challenging capitalist system so what do you think about those main reasons that he says we need a new revolutionary theory there's a lot there to digest so I mean have you had to do like a little bit of a recap for me but right off the bat one thing that kind of like jumped out to me was his critique of using 19th century language to combat 21st while 20th and 21st century problems that's one of my main criticisms for the various layers of Marxist we seem to swim in and out of and and yeah I mean that's it's very difficult you you can't use the same terminology you can't use the over the same oversimplified way of looking at the world between bourgeoisie and proletariat it it's it's dated it's it's gone again we talked about it in an earlier podcast don't remember what episode it was but yeah it Marx laid down some very important groundwork for us regarding like historical materialism and understanding of course the way things function but as far as the specific idea of the socialist / socialist revolution turned whatever communist democracy or dictatorship of the proletariat or choose your terminology they're all relatively interchangeable at this point and I get that I've probably ruffled some feathers there by saying they're interchangeable but all of these people are talking about the same thing and and we're acting like we're still dealing with like you know especially in the developed world right this industrial revolution mentality it's gone it's not coming back can we try and make like blanket statements that there is still a proletariat but is that how complex is that proletariat is it the guy that works for like whatever a defense contractor Raytheon filling out Excel spreadsheets and the Taco Bell employee and somewhere in the middle what would that be like middle management at Sears like I mean is that all proletariat or do they all have the same experiences it's it's it's not going to work anymore right we have to evolve so that's my first thing I really do appreciate him calling this out because it's it's gone right hammer and sickle is not gonna be a thing capitalism has changed which I think we don't even need to know I mean it's definitely changed and that's actually you know if I want to give it some sort of credit for whatever reason it is highly malleable and and for that purpose this ideology / economic system / infiltrate an infiltrator of the political system has proven to be ridiculously malleable we always like to use that example right like how at one point what do we like to use a recording music hip hop right how at one point hip hop was music of resistance and then all of a sudden now we're using it to be fancy right like you know if we want to talk about ideas or whatever goochy goochy goochy goochy it's I mean that's that's how malleable it is it can take anything even movements that are seeking to challenge like the prevailing ideology and of course systems that are attached to it and ramifications of those systems and then somehow like absorb them and then regurgitate them by co-opting I mean it's actually for that purpose I would argue yeah you got to give I guess capitalism some credit in that regard but here's the key right like the climate is is the clincher right yes people have been suffering for a very long time and capitalism is not like the only thing that we can blame our ideologies class goes through numerous ideologies that predate capitalism that led to insane acts of human rights violations across time and space imperialism and colonialism and some would argue regarding colonialism that that was just feeding capitalism but regardless like these ideologies and the way people that that operated in them that predates capitalism but the one that that's really driving at home more more than any is what capitalism capitalism's war on the earth right like that's that's the thing that we have to understand makes this so much different now and why looking at it through the lens of what some would call is an industrialist Marxist lens is not going to be a way for us to move forward by any stretch of the imagination so right right now um yeah and you didn't send me anything on I remained intentionally ignorant but I'm a fan right now this guy so book Jin and like what we know about book chan in general is this is part of this theory of social ecology so if Marx you say is coming from from an industrialist lens then book can very clearly is coming from and ecological and environmentalist lens for sure we know that already just based on some of the other readings and research we know about book Chan already okay that you so what does communalism let's jump into it and get right to it I just have bullet points in quotes so we can begin to get an understanding of this theory and how it goes down I do appreciate he provides like a tactical way for this how they should be implemented so we'll build up to that first off the emphasis is on cities he uses the term municipalities he says quote socialist revolutionary Theory seldom attributed an important place to municipalities on closer inspection the civic nature of most modern revolutions points to the fundamental role that municipalities have played as incubators of social development and the functions they have performed in fulfilling humanity's potentialities communalism not only recaptures these functions but a beyond and as an effort to constitute the developmental arena of mind and discourse by contrast modern urbanized cities reduced citizens to mere code dwellers who live in close physical proximity to one another or to taxpayers who expect the city to provide them with goods and services in return for revenue as such communalism sees the municipality as the potentially as potentially a transformative development beyond organic evolution into the domain of social evolution indeed for communalist the municipality is the domain where a mere adaptation to changing environments is supplanted by proactive association based on the free exchange of ideas the creative endeavor to bring consciousness to the service of change and the collective vehicle where necessary to intervene in the world with a view toward ending environmental as well as economic insults the municipality once it is freed from hierarchical domination and material exploitation indeed once it is recreated as a rational arena for human creativity and all spheres of life is potentially the ethical space for the good life it is also potentially the school for the trend for the formation of a new human being the citizen who has shed the archaic blood ties of tribalism and the hierarchical impulses created by differences in ethnicity gender and parochial exclusivity and he continues so basically he's saying we have to emphasize the city as a concentration of people and we have to break down the fact that citizens of cities have been fully removed from any participation in political civic duty and he says what we have to do is sort of have a resurgence of this activity so right now we're all basically mindlessly navigating our life city life and he taught you he says code welling right we're clothed welling in the city but we don't actually like live with one another we're not interacting with one another it's just cities full of millions of individual people that aren't actually being creative together or generating anything together or even having discourse with one another and the first step in his movement is to foster this within the cities so what do you think about this again there's a lot there like the I guess kind of segue from your most recent thought on that regarding the city I would argue that it's not even just a city like this is infiltrated households right like that households are merely just Co inhabitants at this point right like the idea of a family even if we want to use the ultra cliche Western notion of nuclear family is now more about cohabitation in many regards right from generation to generation to generation right like we see this and part of it is this very urban urban suburban Minds tied to of course materialism and all of those things right like a new understanding of the public sphere even regarding social media all of that kind of works together to create this weird sort of individualism even within the household and of course if you extrapolate that into cities of millions it's going to be the same thing in the cities right there is there is lack of a community even if you against suburbia actually also fits the mold as well how many of our sub suburban people know like their neighbors and block parties and maybe we romanticizing like this whatever 1950s 60s idea of the suburban like whatever what it was supposed to be like utopia especially given that that utopia was not really a utopia especially if you were a person of color or in many cases of woman or something along those lines but still like this idea of being with people not like just being around people but being with people right like and I fully think that's what what needs to happen the earlier part that you were talking about regarding like how we use the space in the cities it was very interesting to me because I had a pretty cool quote from a student yesterday I think we were doing a unit on colonialism or something along those lines and you know I was mocking the idea of going to Mars and because they were talking about the most recent what SpaceX launch or something along those lines and and yeah I mean I freely admit that I called that just like that is a I don't remember my exact language but yet is that the best endeavor is that the best way to spend our time effort like is that something that's worth it Mars is is not really habitable you can't do it we're not going to be able to pull it off the way people think regarding but regardless it was a colonial mentality that was I that's what we were talking about a student shined in it knows much more about science than I do and he's like yeah you're the word you're looking for is Mars can't be terraformed and I was like okay terraformed and then he said something very profound to me he's like shit how can we even terraform Mars when we haven't figured out how to terraform earth and I thought that was like a pretty cool statement cuz there's a lot packed into just you know a very short little quote from him and that's the idea if and I don't want to you know make language for butch in in there in here but if he's arguing that the next step in our social evolution is to be able to terraform our cities then i would be that would be something that we actually I would agree with we have to do and there are certain cities examples in Germany that are being better at this you know Costa Rica went what was it two years ago they went something like I don't want to misquote it though three four months on on completely renewable energy something that somewhere along those lines right there are there are efforts being made but I would argue there are just as many counter efforts and those counter efforts are still exponentially more powerful and and and that's where we have to talk hopefully he has ideas in there on how we can challenge these counter efforts from these systems of power these capitalist systems of power whether it's it's it's oil money or current governments again the US government UK government would be too highly problematic governments regarding this so yeah so he talks a lot about I don't want to read the whole quote here but how in the beginning citizens of a city had a moral obligation to participate in the politics of the municipality and to protect the well-being and the safety of all other citizens but his main point is that this slowly over time has eroded away to a point where like we didn't remember that that was a thing obviously and none of us feel a moral obligation to our fellow citizens or to take part in the political process or manage the day-to-day activities of the city in a way that protects the safety and well-being of everyone else that lives there and his his theory of communalism is that we need to foster that and recreate that that sense of moral obligation to take care of each other within the city so the next point is he says communalism seeks a democratic collectivist social order quote communally seek to create a democratic collectivist social order communalism calls for the full straight of coordination of all public enterprises like in federal committees whose members are the responsible voices of the popular assemblies without the assent of the citizenry as a whole in a confederation wide vote no policymaking confederal decision can be valid so here we get into the political theory we'll go through the tactics in a second but basically his theory is that all power should be put into public assemblies based on various things and that this idea of like a representative democracy with City Council members and like all the stuff that needs to be eroded and that the city should be fully ruled and run by these collection of Confederations at the neighborhood level and these public assemblies where we can have this discourse public discourse and the decisions we made coming out of these committees and assemblies rather than the politicians a sort historically is that's not even like a super novel idea right like Cleisthenes broke Athens up into into these things called Demi's are some argue that's where we got the word of course democracy from right like what was it like the tribunes in the roman republic right like the plebeian tribunal and of course the military tribunal these things already existed are overly romanticized First Nations examples of like the Iroquois League of Peace and power that we've brought up in Prior episodes of how they used to have these councils where they would any important decision it doesn't matter what that decision was any important decision of course was put into these council hands and these councils had to answer to just about every member of the nation so it's not even a wholly original idea I mean we're looking back at history in this regard the difficult part that I'm hoping we find out about is how do you now apply that to in this case if we're talking about a municipality the size of maybe I don't even know let's let's use local let's stay local like let's say Denver what is it in the metro area three three and a half million people in the metro area how do you apply it to that number of human beings that that'd be the interesting piece so well you didn't know that's because you haven't read this reading but he actually uses Greece as they okay cool sweet when people have moral duty he uses grease as the example but that eroded away and well and even in that example right like like for a while there the the Elector there was no even electoral process for these councils right it was all done by lottery so and oftentimes it was either annually or biannually so you had a vested stake to quote-unquote stay up on the issues because you didn't know when you were going to be serving right it was completely random some say it's kind of like a draft being drafted into this position but it makes it naturally cultivates a vested stake in being abreast of the hot topics of the time so yeah you definitely are gonna have more active citizens there so the next question is what happens to property here's a quote on that he says property in a communalist Society will be municipal eyes and its overall management place in the hands of popular assemblies so basically all property is controlled by the city which is controlled by the people by these popular assemblies what do you think about that I think that's interesting I'm trying to remember exactly how what is it the 49th District in Chicago that experiment that was running I don't know at least a decade a decade and a half ago where they actually had distributed I don't they were making every choice but I think it was budget based choices that they had the direct democracy in and the evidence at that time revealed that yeah people were more interested people were engaged they got out together and met each other and worked together to clean up parks and while he shoot create parks then clean keep them clean and determine where the budget would be best spent so yeah naturally like again you see that engagement people if Foster's agency is the word we like to use oftentimes in class for these individuals I think it's cool interesting in Colorado Springs like Clara Springs Utilities is a municipal owned utilities company the difference here between what Bookchin would want and what exists in Collard Springs is that the City Council members the board of colors from utilities is comprised of the city council members so in theory it's like a representative board of directors but that has obviously its whole host of problems on its own so the difference is for communalism on the monetization of the position not the monetization I'm not sitting here and saying our City Council members are well paid for their position as City Council members you obviously everyone knows that's not a thing but even the campaign as you personally experienced is monetized so that you can have that position and then of course are you really who are your stakeholders are they the citizens of in our town Colorado Springs or are they well we know the Koch brothers for example invested in certain candidates when you were running so yeah like who are the stakeholders here then he says this requires constant a Constitution and laws and this is a first big break with anarchism that we're gonna see so he says quote pragmatically a commute communalist polity requires a written constitution and yes regulatory laws to avoid a structure lessness that would yield mindless anarchy the more defined the rights and duties of citizens are the more easily they can be upheld as part of the general interest against the intrusion of petty tyrannies historically constitutions and laws have been oppressive often grossly so but this raises the question of their content not the fact of their existence in indeed only a peculiar peculiarly egocentric mentality will assume that a rationally constituted society and a rationally formulated body of laws must necessarily violate personal autonomy and hence social freedom now I'm getting a little hesitant and then you start yeah the minute you start writing down laws right thanks Hammurabi way back in the day um yeah the minute you start writing down laws you're seeking some sort of again you're seeking permanence you're lacking the ability to be malleable and to be able to adapt to situations that are naturally going to be happening we see that with basically every constitution that's ever bitten been written dating back to of course the Athenian example through Rome through of course did you know the United Kingdom and the eventual United States and so on and so forth like what you do is yeah you you start to create there becomes an aura like around this document the document itself becomes something that is that is holy and something that should be venerated rather than a piece that is merely a guide in my opinion in fact here's the thing like I guess before I even go too far like guide is even pushing it too far if I'm honest I get in my I don't see any written law I guess in my dream vision I don't know that that's possible we have to of course be able to navigate between like what your utopia is and what reality dictates so and and that's where we often find ourselves oscillating between both you and I like this is what we want but can we actually have that has history bore this out could we have a rational society that works together and gives people agency and and have that happen without having guidelines without an outline can we even do that in a classroom with students when we assign something here write me something on whatever write me something on social movement well we would then get 70 emails asking for a guide sheet and a rubric and bla bla bla bla bla like that I guess I'm hesitant I'm hesitant right now like I don't know which way to go eh I hate law I hate any form of written law that's my dream but B is that real in the example I gave of I mean a moderately sized city like Denver or something with three and a half million people or at least in the metro area including the suburbs of course but yeah I like is that a thing I don't I'll admit to this was my first big sort of red flag pun intended but the reason that I actually like communalism that I thought a lot about it is because it's specifically what you said where like my utopia vision and like my real life vision I tried to like reconcile the two and it's often impossible the reason I appreciate this is because I think it's a practical real-world something that could actually happen right like when we start having conversations about like in 2019 the poet area overthrowing the booze Razi like that's utopic yeah absolutely that could actually potentially happen in real life I have some critiques obviously at the end but anyway okay so laws we have a problem with as should be shocking to no one okay then he goes into basically I broke it down into I think like a nine point plan or something as I was reading through that's actually kind of yeah anyways I'll just dive right into it so he says first step form study groups he says to begin with politically concerned individuals who feel the need to explore communalist ideals and practices may form a study group in a given neighborhood or town shit we're already there what is this podcast yeah the study group seeks to inform and develop those interested in social and political change into fully competent individuals and leaders so that's step one that's nothing new obviously people do this all the time number two enter into the community and this one I like the study groups who members are now composed of individuals who are committed to a serious exploration of ideas should begin to function within the neighborhood town or city in which they are located they seek to enter and remain in the public domain to be a continual revolutionary presence by virtue of their ideas their emphasis on organization their methods and their goals communalist refused to withdraw from the public domain in the name of individual sovereignty artistic expression or self absorption they wear no ski masks either metaphorically or physically and do not allow mindless dogmatic assumptions and simplifications to stand in their way he's killing my Zapatistas he's killing him yeah um hard pass like I mean I don't think that there can be I mean again these points I get what he's trying to accomplish but they seem sort of like they're making certain assumptions that people can do these things but the people that I think he's assuming can do these things come from some sort of privileged area that maybe others yeah I mean especially regarding the mask situation right like that you can't expect everybody to be part of this process the same way that's I guess the issue so the transition is a process once you get to the community perhaps then you can work on it but the transition as a process like yeah you're coming from very different points of departure right let me be blunt if you are a white straight male you could probably pull this off like again without any in a different way in our society then you could if you were a female person of color or something along those lines right like so so to assume everybody can just kind of be able to do the same thing in the transition process is problematic so to defend him slightly he doesn't assume that so what is he saying maybe I miss not everyone has to take part okay maybe I misconstrued what do you see so there needs to be a vanguard okay I want to use that word okay all right number three formulate a concrete program quote the organization's goals should be carefully formulated into a concrete program based on communalist principles that consistently demands the formation of policy making municipal popular assemblies as a component of a minimum program no issue is too trivial for communalist to ignore be a transportation recreation education welfare zoning environment housing public safety democracy civil rights and the like and then I have three a he mentions working with other groups which I kind of like on specific issues such as globalization environmental problems ethnic and gender discrimination communalist organizations freely enter into coalitions with other organizations to engage in common struggles but they should never surrender their ideological or organizational independence or their claim to their own independent action their identity ideas and institutions are their most precious possessions and must never be impugned in the interests of unity yeah I mean it kind of you know calms the tensions for people that might assume some of these movements these movements if they move forward or like separatist or isolationist or something along those lines so yeah I mean that's that all of those points are good as far as like any topic being relevant for people to decide on together yeah yeah I think that's good I mean I get it yeah I mean it has kind of opened the way for maybe some some way for the the assumed hierarchy that would form I know it's not supposed to be but I kind of feel like there would be at least initially an assumed hierarchy well got cuz I'm gonna get to that oh okay – maybe infiltrate maybe private matters on certain regards like I said I mean it's kind of open in that regard but I have this as number four by the way I made up these nine points just pulling them out of the reading so it's not like he provided this nine point plan No you should have had bullet points yeah number for transitional programming my note here is escalating from reform to revolution so this is what he says quote while working on these issues they always seek to enlarge them baby in the communalist to reveal through a transitional program their deep-seated roots they escalate chrysler reforms into radical demands seeking to expand every civil and political writer the people by creating the institutional power to formulate decision making policies and see to their execution the implications of solving these problems is a call for revolution in social relations that is the achievement of a maximum program based on the confederation of municipal ists assemblies in which property is steadily municipal eyes and subjected to coordination like in federal administrative bodies I love it I love it it's kind of like you're not forming the the revolution the proletariat and throwing off their chains and that like kind of regard it's a different type of revolution and this in in you you are creating with these councils in the municipality right like this this reflexive relationship where there is there's like communal back scratching going on you can only do that if you have these relationships established so in this way the revolution merely D legitimizes in this case since where I was talking about it the state by merely like again making demands but you can make those demands if you have enough allies and and this is the thing I'm hoping he gets to you stop participating in the state so if this is so in this regard it would be like a neighborhood in in again we keep using Denver coverings as the example cuz that's where we're at but right that would be like an entire area of town working together and merely just doing things together and D legitimizing the state by no longer using the state apparatus and any of its like arms right any of its any of it any any of its tentacles would be probably a better word for it than arms right so you start finding ways to produce your own food you start finding ways to access your own water and yes you're gonna get like again you're gonna get the attention in this case of utilities companies or grocers or whoever but at that like that's how you deal Ajith Imai ziz you just keep doing it regardless of what potential sanctions may come because those sanctions are not going to hit an entire community those sanctions will hit individuals of individuals are trying to do these types of things but they will not hit an entire community to be blunt our current states don't have the balls to do that but that's the other problem is the individuals don't have the balls to ever actually do it to ever actually just to have that agency so I'm glad that he has these points but now we have to talk about how you how you actually form these relationships the thing I appreciate it at this point is what we talk about all of the time is continually escalating the problems until you get to the point that is the actual source of the problem and not just a symptom of the problem like it we use whatever he says transportation here right yes of course we need to address the issue of transportation but the communalist project is to continually escalate that issue until we get at the real root of why don't we have adequate public transportation and so that's what you're suggesting here which I think we both appreciate because that's one of our biggest critiques of movements nowadays addressing symptoms rather than problems number five is to hold public forums quote the communalist organization while always retaining its identity in program and this is regular public forums to engage in discursive face-to-face democratic exploration of ideas partly to spread its program in basic ideas and partly to create public spaces that provide venues for radical Civic debate until actual popular assemblies can be established nice and theory I guess here's one thing as I kind of think about like the traditional reaction of states over the last four or five decades again particularly of course here in the West we argue of course the right to peaceably assemble and things along those lines are protected or of course in France to challenge their systems of power under the third part of the rights of man and citizen but but increasingly like the police state is making these types of things more and more difficult right like I mean we just got done having a conversation with another a colleague here about Standing Rock and the use of El rads and those types of things well that was public discourse taking place right there clearly in protest point to a specific topic that was of course the running of a pipeline through sacred land but regardless we saw the reaction it was overwhelming force so what kind of protections would be there in this case our states have proven that no amount of people at that point is too many for them to use outright violence and then of course the response from those at these public events is panic fear and and and so they win they run home they don't want to be arrested they don't want to so that's I mean it's nice on a piece of paper how can we make it applicable mhm okay number six this is where we take a hard dive for me personally but he says participation in municipal elections yeah hard dive for me – don't low kids and so quote Wally will clearly become involved in local issues it's primarily focus should be the public domain where real power is vested municipal elections which allow for a close association between communalist candidates for City Council are their equivalents and the people the ablest members of the community communalist organization should stand at municipal elections and call for the changing of City charters so as to legally empower the municipal assemblies now this is where he addresses your comment of like clearly not everyone's going to be equally want to stand out in the public and make these claims but he says in the beginning it's the ablest members that will go out and run for the municipal positions in the municipal elections now then he says that's only what you could do if you can legally change the charter suit through the action of like a City Council he says if Wingull changes are not possible quote where no city charter exists that can be changed electoral ii communalist should attempt both educationally and organizationally to convene direct democratic assemblies on an extra legal basis exercising moral pressure on status institutions and the hope that people will in time regard them as authentic centers of public power with the expectation that they can thereby gain structural power communalism never compromises advocating delegated or status into institutional structures and in contrast to organizations such as the greens it refuses to exist within the institutional cage of the nation-state or try to guild it with reforms that ultimately simply make the state more palatable so he's basically saying hearing what I've numbered number six that the strategy is to from the people from the communalist movement to win elections and take positions of power within the city and then change the city charter to actually in a legal sense give the power to the people's assemblies so what do you think about it no I don't agree with it I don't agree especially in our current systems here in the West that that's even remotely a possibility like it's nice and we all want to believe it right especially over the last couple of years if anyone's been paying attention right with the political situation that was obviously a poor joke but regardless like even over the last like this last year where quote-unquote the liberal left has been you know gaining ground both federally and locally right like and in states right that these are things that we assume we want to assume we've put our eggs in this basket will lead to real lasting reform at least not revolution of course you don't you know you don't vote if you want to revolt but regardless like these are things that we are hoping lead to real lasting reform but we've been playing this broken record for the better part of two centuries and we're still on the same damn trajectory and and so I don't see how more participation in a system that is meant to extrapolate things like competition and hierarchy and status and all of those things in any way shape or form any participation in that is going to lead to any sort of change and the creation of some sort of communal communal state I don't see it you can't update the city charters that way I don't think I mean you can update the city charges I suppose if you have every City Council member but even if that's the case States will step in we know this like there is a clear chain of command any clear way of doing things that that power will not just willingly cede over that's my biggest critique here also is we're under the illusion of having any sort of say-so and the fact that we vote is a it's just a damn ritual to feed into this illusion sorry I didn't mean to cut you off but yeah like what were you gonna say aside from my personal hatred for electoral politics the problem I have with this is that politics even at the city level it's not a political game it's an economic game and the people with the most money always win the economic game so my question here would be and my main critique is how do these communal ist's with I'm assuming not nearly as much resources as the capitalists of the city stand a chance in these city elections and then even once they get elected stand a chance in getting enough votes to change the city charter or etc especially since like who they're competing with are the ones weaving the narrative right they've infiltrated the K through 12 system and have been telling students in their 9th grade civics class that this is of course a perfect political situation and the best thing you can ever do is vote and we're that stupid sticker at the end of it you know every Tuesday evening right like they it's not just that you are are challenging the system in that way the people in the positions of power you're challenging in this way the unwashed masses and you're not going to win you're not going to win those unwashed masses right they are going to have to be coerced through given actual real alternatives so the second part is what I agree with you need to create real alternatives you need to create what we'll be talking about in a future episode like cooperation Jackson like real alternatives or even historically speaking right you need to create there's a Pope and there's an anti Pope sorry its investors investiture controversy stuff but yeah like that was up that was a legitimacy thing right regarding the investiture controversy right you have a Emperor and you have an anti Emperor you have a Pope and an anti Pope and they're naming these different positions basically to to try and and win the hearts and minds of the people one for the church one for of course the the the the the non the non ecclesiastical leadership right like that's what that was and of course the legitimacy eventually went back to the church that's fine they were able to co-opt the program or even another good example of this is where a new Capitol was formed during turkeys war for independence right right you have Istanbul had been the traditional capital empire but mustafa kemal ataturk and of course his cohorts are looking to deal Ajith amaizing so he just starts a new capital and Ankara which to this day is still the capital and slowly but surely through of course in this case some combat as well and violence that becomes the legitimate hub the legitimate center of political of the political process which is kind of interesting because the other city remained the commercial center but again these are there are examples throughout history where there are certain places and institutions of power and rival institutions have sprung up and have been able to gain gained the legitimacy over time yeah no argument there much more compelled by the extra legal yeah strategy than the actual taking part in municipal elections because it's just such a huge drain on time and resources for any organization that it ends up in my opinion at least being an absolute waste of time I would much rather invest in creating the alternate institution that has in the end more power than the traditional political structure right and the examples I gave are also is trying to create states and powers so they're not like examples that I would like I agree with their dis they're like what they were actually like their dialectic and what they were trying to accomplish but the mere fact that their action was to create these extra legal ways of doing things that's something that has been tried and and proven okay number seven is to form public assemblies so he says this can happen at any time in the process but specifically if you've gotten political power or even extra political power you'll need to form public assemblies where the people come together and the hash out and decide on political Civic issues everything from transportation to blah blah blah everything he listed before I mean this is the day-to-day management of the city these public assemblies will handle this he does address specifically I have this as 7a what if no one participates in these public assemblies this is what he says if a majority of a neighbourhood town or city choose to attend an assembly meeting and become participants in making important decisions all the better but if only a few are sufficiently interested in the political fate of their community to attend it so be it the Assembly's decisions carry same weight regardless of whether the number of people present is a dozen a hundred or several thousand political decisions should be made by politically involved citizens under no circumstances should poor attendance be a public assembly sorry under no circumstances should poor attendance at a public assembly be an excuse to abandon a direct and discursive democracy in favour of anonymous voting at polls which renders politics impersonal and non-discursive hmm I don't know that I have a lot to really build upon there I mean yeah it's interesting in a way I don't know I mean one thing that I do like here which is not unique to Bookchin but this idea of discursive democracy because one of the theories against the democracy that we have now which about I strain to even call democracy but it's to use his word it's non-discursive right we all watch the television ads in the television debates and then we go and like check a little box and put it in a box and then we know who wins and you don't even talk about it don't forget the sticker man yeah you don't even talk about it like barely at all with your friends and like you don't have debates about like it's just personal individual decision that basically your individual opinion has no bearing on the outcome so it's completely non discursive I do I think there is lively debate but that lively debate is not centered on issues that lively debate is centered on like emotional topics I do think I do think there is debate like is any way I fully disagree there's debate between the candidates and we see it on television but no one's sitting around their dinner table being like who are you voting for oh I'm voting for this person and they're having intellectual rational debates about politics that never fucking happens I think I've seen it happen quite a bit or maybe I've just experienced it quite a bit I've seen it happen and then of course then then everybody finds out at least in my own personal experience that I'm not doing that and then that opens up a whole new debate well yeah yeah if you're not voting you can't complain right the old cliche like adage or you know America I love it or leave it yeah pinko commie Punk or something along those lines something super like right yeah whatever yeah yeah I do think it's more appealing to have a democratic process where everyone's physically present in a location to make decisions and hash things out with their neighbors like I think that's that's appealing whether that's real life or not is a whole other conversation yeah number eight this is another hard dive for me but it doesn't matter it is to establish leaders in the movement quote a serious libertarian organization would establish not only leaders but also means by which the membership may recall leaders who view whose views and behaviors they oppose and effectively modify their activities on the other hand frivolous opposition to leaders for its own sake should never be tolerated one of the most scandalous features of anarchist organizations when they exist has been the dizzying individualism that promote permits neurotic personalities to disrupt meetings and activities as expressions of selfhood uh okay so first and foremost like his use of the word libertarian just like he would accuse the Marxists of using words that are dead that word is dead to me well he's talking about libertarian socialism in this case got it still dead because of its connotation sorry the words been hijacked by very different people with different ideology and thus that has killed the word you're gonna have to find something else or you are going to confuse your audience you like that words gotta go so again libertarian whether we like it or not has been taken and co-opted by other groups and so should no longer be used I refuse to use it regarding what what they're trying to accomplish here like that can't be a thing right like these whatever that's a whole different topic but that's the first thing that language is gone secondly regarding leadership yeah like you said hard dive I don't know that leadership is I mean I guess just I just I just debate that leadership for certain issues what I've seen again historically speaking is necessary right you cannot some certain situations just require somebody to just step up and and and and take one for the team and guide people whatever that might be a CEO in a military you can't vote on every topic right when you're under fire or something along those lines or in in sports or something along those lines right like sometimes we just need leadership even of course our romanticized primitive indigenous whatever we want to call them right these anarchists of the past even they of course had positions where people would just rise to the occasion how they make sure there were always checks and balances to ensure that wasn't a thing right now I don't see that there was any way for these leadership's to be checked except for people to be voicing in what he calls a frivolous manner their concerns with the leadership essentially we're looking to silence those voices because they are representative of like some individualistic selfhood is what he used that seems wildly problematic again so what he's saying is I mean here he's attacking like egoist anarchism and he's saying you absolutely cannot let these meetings be derailed by the anarchist that's going to stand in the crowd and to all ends fight the fact that there might be a leader he's saying that has to be eliminated right off the bat or we'll get nowhere but and he does address your previous point I mean it's not specific he doesn't give us like a guideline or anything but he says the leaders must be recallable by the membership of the public assemblies at any time I mean this is a classic anarchist debate of light between the individualist anarchist and like the theory that like you just said sometimes there needs to be leaders and if we all voluntarily enter into a situation where we have decided this person is an expert it should be a leader then what's the problem with that you know I mean well and sometimes the situation just calls for it like again should we create like whatever some sort of art curriculum at the community level yes naturally the person with art talent should take the leadership in that crew in the creation of this program and there it shouldn't even be a debate that would be like a consensus thing like we trust person x2 to leave this artistic program in our municipality so that's what you're suggesting is that the public assembly is the same thing could happen we would all vote and like we support person X to be a leader of this assembly and anytime we can recall them if we disagree with what they're doing and their leadership capacity it's basically saying one of my critiques though is that this is right for corruption very clearly especially in modern times yes maybe that could have worked backwards like the iroquois example that you give you know in class or whatever but now it's highly questionable for me whether or not i mean I feel like I already immediately corrupted but what we've seen it happen in organizations that we will not name names like you know very close to our community that we're trying to create egalitarian well first organizations and then of course take it to these big city level and then of course maybe even bigger and better than that but even in this case we've seen this happen in these very organizations and it breaks them apart every single time okay number nine maintain the communalist philosophical outlook he said quote finally communalism is not simply a vehicle for establishing a communalist polity and the appropriate appropriate institutions it is also an Outlook that includes a philosophical approach to reality as well as society and toward the natural world as well as human development it contends that the ongoing crisis in our culture and values stems not from an overabundance of civilization but from an insufficiency of it it defends technological development used rationally and morally as reducing labor and creating free time that potentially allows citizens to participate in public affairs time for creativity a reasonable abundance in the means of life and even an irrational and ecological society the ability to improve upon the impact of natural forces post-scarcity abundance not to be confused with the mindless consumerism fostered by capitalism must be wisely tempered and controlled by municipal assemblies and the freaking federal institutions that an emancipated society can create so he's basically saying the last thing you have to do is part of this movement has maintained this philosophical outlook you have to keep thinking in these ways much bigger much beyond just the local municipality and the local polity that you will have created through this movement which is nice I mean the technological advancement looking out the idea of advancement for looking out again the philosophy has to be very different than consumptive but more like again in the egalitarian world outlook it's the old cliche right now we have to technology and the advancement to feed seven and a half billion people on this planet why are we not doing so someone argue it's the philosophy it's it's it's the philosophies that are attached that are of course upholding systems are the reasons why that's not happened in capitalism being paramount of the among those however I am still a little bit hesitant and this is why sometimes you accused me of being maybe an anarchic primitive Istavan van sment for advancements sake is is very capitalist even if there is no consumption aim at the end I still think like again maybe we're advancing it philosophically for the betterment of our fellow humans I I don't I mean it goes back to like the whole Marx thing right like where Marx would argue that we we need that capitalism is a necessary step for his communist vision because capitalism will provide us the innovative tools that will make communism a reality well it's already done that right we could have a direct democracy in every nation on this planet well we don't even need nations but that's a whole different story but technically we could have a direct democracy everywhere right we have cellphones capitalism is giving us all of this technology the internet regardless every decision made at a national a state a provincial a city a county level could be made by every citizen of that place via the cellphone why is it not happening well that's who's saying we should do basically ok that's what he's saying we should do we already have that power why are we not doing it he's arguing its philosophical he's arguing it because we need to seize power at the municipal level and then we can implement policies that would bring that about that's where were you and I have a problem with that I do want to say there he's not saying technological advancement purely for the sake of progress on its own right he says specifically here reducing labor time creating free time creativity time time to participate in public affairs reasonable abundance in the means of life and a rational and ecological society with the philosophical change how do you implement the philosophical change so yes again numerous societies of the past have reached points of sustainability in terms of like their advancement and how they were able to again stay have this reciprocal relationship with the world around them with the people around them etc etc etc numerous societies have achieved that but yes those societies found some sort of magic area of advanced and kind of kind of I don't want to say stayed static because that's kind of a derogating term but like hovered in that zone right how do we get there given the philosophical socialization we shoot indoctrination of the capitalist Minds that we have now that's generational like that first generation is not going to even understand that right so that's a generational program so you're gonna have to implement in this case an education system right a system of education that champions this type of philosophy and is taking again one generation to a level that generation will take them to another level etc etc Sara until we get back to this more circular mindset regarding how we do things whether it's technologically whether it's of course distribution of resources whether it's maintaining reciprocal relationships like that's going to that's you cannot do that overnight there is no there is no switch even those of us that want to consider ourselves more community minded or anarchist minded or even the Communists out there that think you still think it's a possibility we think we want those things only because we don't have those things I do find it hard to believe you and I included if we were put in that situation if we would overnight be able to just be like I don't know what's a good example I have a car here Michael here are the keys to my car now not in my pocket but set on some sort of desk right like does that make sense so we're instantly we're ready for this this whole transition I know that I mean kind of like maybe grasping it at some interesting like anecdotal like ideas here tied to my own personal beliefs boy things you're taking us in another direction like that's not at all what he's saying you and I both have a problem with like the anarcho primitive this mindset but that's not what he's saying at all he's saying that technol technologies should be advanced and developed but it should only be advanced and developed to increase the quality of life for people globally so no I perfectly understand what he's saying I'm arguing the idea of advancement for improving the quality of life has already been co-opted by the capitalist mindset and so for that to actually to separate the two but I think he would argue that it actually the technological advancement has not been to increase the quality of life it's been for profit and that's the problem okay yes that's what it has been for however we are dealing with millions of human beings who have been alized into thinking that the newest LG is an actual improvement for humanity does that make sense and you're gonna have to break the two apart I mean that's exactly what you're saying at number nine yes yeah I'm saying that part is important but what I'm questioning is how you you're not gonna do this overnight like that's gonna be a generational process so I agree with the fact that you're gonna have to do this to break the philosophy and that's the way you get advancement to advancement for the real improvement of humanity rather than the illusion of the improvement of humanity but I think where sometimes naive thinking again even those of us that want this like right this second could make that like transition yeah I don't that's why I don't do suggesting that that's why it's the last no I'm not even saying he suggested that I'm just raising critiques for for our audience that are probably having questions this is how you overnight in like in quotes relatively overnight can gain power and give it to public assemblies but then the last thing you need to do is exactly what you were saying maintain and change this philosophical outlook so that technological advancement etc etc etc everybody said yeah all right we'll stop there cool brief over banana book Chin's communalism we actually wanted to have this conversation because we are exploring we're going to be talking about in future episodes Kurdish autonomous movements and acollins Democratic and federalism etc so this is sort of laying the groundwork for those conversations so thank you for listening to this episode of revolution and ideology you can get with us on revolution in ideology calm if you want to email us you can do that at hello at revolution and ideology calm once again I'm Nick Lee and I'm Jared Benson we'll talk to you next time

2 thoughts on “006 – Communalism

  • At 20:26 To be fair to Bookchin while not personally taking a stance on the matter, Bookchin is not suggesting laws should have permanence or a lack of maleability. In fact he specifically advocates the opposite. Under our current political organs of control laws have a permanence just like political parties and politicians do as well but under a communalist system laws can be "recalled" in the same sense that leaders can. Bookchin brings up that Bakunin's replacement for laws is custom, which Bookchin argues is totally reactionary and irrational. Custom enshrines cultural norms. Bookchin argues for laws in order to prevent the entrenchment of custom, with the caveat that laws should be very precisely and narrowly defined. The more explicit/clear a law is the easier it can be challenged.

    TLDR: Bookchin doesn't argue for laws because it will enshrine something, rather he argues for laws because it will do the opposite. His claim is that laws are easier to challenge than custom (specifically when people have directly democratic political organs)

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