Liberty Blitzkrieg: The Next Revolution by Murray Bookchin

Michael Krieger at Liberty Blitzkrieg has a short review/discussion of Murry Bookchin’s collected essays published as The Next Revoltion: Popular Assemblies and the Promise of Direct Democracy. Bookchin believed that the ideal was for people to make decisions for themselves in public assemblies or municipalities.

…While there are numerous key points on which Bookchin and I would have disagreed spiritedly, that’s not the purpose of this piece. Aside from being a wealth of information and knowledge (he closely studied nearly every major revolution in the Euro-American world), his greatest service here is a framework through which to understand human governance and how and why it’s all gone so terribly wrong. Many of his themes cover ideas and realizations I’ve come to on my own, but the clarity with which he describes certain key concepts helped refine my thinking. The purpose of this post is to outline some of these ideas…

In The Need to Remake Society he writes:

To create a state is to institutionalize power in the form of a machine that exists apart from the people. It is to professionalize rule and policy-making, to create a distinct interest (be it of bureaucrats, deputies commissars, legislators, the military, the police, ad nauseam) that, however weak or however well intentioned it may be at first, eventually takes on a corruptive power of its own.

One would have to be utterly naive or simply blind to the lessons of history to ignore the fact that the state, “minimal” or not, absorbs and ultimately digests even its most well-meaning critics once they enter it. 

The notion that human freedom can be achieved, much less perpetuated, through a state of any kind is monstrously oxymoronic – a contradiction in terms…

In Cities, he explains:

But democracy, conceived as a face-to-face realm of policymaking, entails a commitment to the Enlightenment belief that all “ordinary” human beings are potentially competent to collectively manage their political affairs — a crucial concept in the thinking, all its limitations aside, of the Athenian democratic tradition and, more radically, of those Parisian sections of 1793 that gave equal voice to women as well as all men.

Bookchin was a huge supporter of direct democracy, in other words, of the people making decisions for themselves within their own communities. He envisioned this being done in a face-to-face manner within public assemblies. Like myself, Bookchin believed this sort of thing would only work properly (and resist statist tendencies) if employed at the local level. He understood that centralization leads to statism and vice versa.

So what did Bookchin see as the ideal political unit for self-governance? He saw it in the municipality…

Further, in Libertarian Municipalism: A Politics of Direct Democracy, he notes:

Today, with the increasing centralization and concentration of power in the nation-state, a “new politics” — one that is genuinely new — must be structured institutionally around the restoration of power by municipalities…it presupposes a genuinely democratic desire by people to arrest the growing powers of the nation-state and reclaim them for their community and region.

Importantly, Bookchin believed such self-governing, decentralized municipalities should be connected with one another in a system called confederalism. He defines the term in his essay, The Meaning of Confederalism:

What, then, is confederalism? It is above all a network of administrative councils whose members or delegates are elected from popular face-to-face democratic assemblies, in the various villages, towns and even neighborhoods of large cities…

What humans employ for governance in 2019 primarily consists of “states,” i.e. professional power, as opposed to people power. The general public is made up of electoral constituents, not free citizens participating in the governance of their communities. Bookchin was in favor of decentralized, local rule via direct democracy in contrast to today’s world governed by centralized mega states showcasing a facade of democracy in order to mask an underlying corporate oligarchy or bureaucratic technocracy.

One thing I didn’t expect to see in his work, but proved a pleasant though sobering surprise, was an admission that people themselves need to change in order to successfully implement the sort of governance model he advocates. Since the public is so used to being mere subjects, it’ll be a monumental task to transform them into actual engaged citizens…

Click here to read the article at Liberty Blitzkrieg.