Appendix B: Epitaph to Bookchinism (a Blast from the Past)

How surprised – and then, how unsurprised – I was to come across evidence of a fracas 30 years ago between Bookchin (not yet a Professor or Director) and the American Section of the Situationist International. The Situationists adjudged to be unacceptable Bookchin’s articles about the French uprising of 1968 which had appeared in the Rat, an underground newspaper in New York City. Presumably these articles are identical or substantially equivalent to the ones Bookchin reprinted in 1971in Post-Scarcity Anarchism. Situationists (although not the Americans among them) influenced and prominently participated in the events of May-June 1968. With his usual prudence and courage, Bookchin timed his arrival in Paris for after the insurgency ended. Since the 1930’s he has always managed to sit out every even slightly revolutionary situation which might have been even slightly hazardous to his health. Anyway, the SI’s American Section (then known as “the Council”) produced a critique, rejected for publication by the Rat, which I have not seen and almost nobody else has either. For present purposes I am interested, not in the merits or content of this critique, but in how characteristically Bookchinist was Bookchin’s way of dealing of it:

“The Council wrote its ‘Reply to Murray Bookchin Concerning His Theories of the Recent French ‘Revolution’ in response to the last of Bookchin’s series of articles appearing in the Rat. The editor of that New York paper rejected the reply on the grounds that it was over the heads of the readership, and that it lacked entertainment value. We were also told that some of the editor’s old friends did not understand that the Rat just really wanted to make a buck.

“The ‘Reply’ was mimeographed (with a comment on its fate with the Rat), distributed by hand, and eventually sent out in the general mailing announcing the Council’s dissolution and the plans for this magazine. Before the mailing, a copy was sent to Bookchin (and his ever loyal followers, Herber and Keller). He immediately contacted us, asking if we would either print an answer that he would write in reply or consent to his sending it out to the mailing list which would be receiving the ‘Reply.’ The answer, naturally, was no.

“It was, according to him, our ‘democratic’ responsibility to allow him to answer directly to those who had received the ‘Reply,’ but not apparently his democratic responsibility to see that our ‘Reply’ find its way to those who had received his commentary. Failure to do so naturally signified that we were neither open nor democratic, thus attempting to place us in a position of helping him disseminate his ideology. The obvious duplicity – and attempted manipulation – behind this little charlatanism has found echo in subsequent developments.

“It does not seem to have occurred at all to Bookchin that he could have printed the ‘Reply’ and his answer in his own magazine Anarchos, which has since appeared; that nothing of any of this has been made public by him; that rather he has gone about spreading rumors from ear to ear about undemocratic practices which we engage in.

“Bookchinism, peculiar American variety of anarcho-bolshevism, is comprised of three main theoretical fetishes: ecology, technology and false historicism (as Bookchin’s Greek ecclesia of the future). Its effective practice is manipulative, in memory of Leninist humanism.

“Having broken with Bookchin already in December 1967 over his spirited defense of sacrificial militants and mystics, we will only add that our concern is with individuals consciously engaged in the qualitative negation of class society (which, for Bookchin, does not exist, or if it exists, does not matter). From this base, real dialogue only takes place in the active process of demystification. To step aside to banter with an ideologist who publicizes the fact (Anarchos, books, speeches, lectures, etc.) would be to give up all and re-enter the old world on its rules.”