The world is on fire, and people everywhere are standing up. All the more power to them, may they never rest until all their demands are met in full.
There is a real international solidarity between the protesters of all nations, and that solidarity is the only thing capable of bringing down the transnational oligarchic forces these protesters are up against. The internet is doing what acid did in the 1960’s. It’s waking people the fuck up, it’s making free thinkers out of people. The power the governments of the world traditionally held over their people’s minds is melting into air. It’s making them think for themselves and question authority. It’s making active citizens out of them, not mere subjects or mindless drones.
People seem to know what they are against but not what they are for and that scares me. No one dreams anymore and I can only imagine what could come to fill such a void. And they don’t dream because they are afraid to dream because of the horrors of the past but without dreaming history will just repeat itself anyways.
People are waiting for “the government” to listen to them. No, you are the government. The power is in your hands. There’s more of you than there are of them. What the people need is a coherent plan, a program of concrete political demands and action. The 5 demands in Hong Kong is brilliant, but what about a real transitional program? Above all they need in this period of increasingly revolutionary spontaneity is self-organization, self-discipline, and self-defense.
Protesting can only get the government to kneel if those in power consider giving into the people’s demands acceptable losses. We are yet to see if that is the case, and every situation is different. When they do not give in or grant concessions the protests either die down and the people return to servitude or they rise the fuck up and overthrow the whole bloody system. Nothing frightens those in power more than revolution.
The ruling class isn’t going to address income inequality when it is inequality’s sole beneficiary, when it’s very existence as a class hinges on its existence. The ruling class fails to see that the era of civil liberties it ushered in way back in 1776 demands a radical expansion in the modern age, and that it itself is today the biggest hindrance to the people in achieving that end. The people want positive liberty and rightfully so. It was as absurd to speak of a right to healthcare in 1776 as it was to speak of freedom of the press in preliterate society. The people today demand their rights, not just the essential liberties of all civilized society (freedom of the press, speech, religion, information, privacy, etc.) but also positive liberties. They rightfully demand the right to housing, healthcare, education, employment or subsistence and a dignified existence for all. They react to the ruling classes’ utter nihilism towards the ecological crisis with the utmost disdain, yet they fail to see broadly that the economic system of capitalism itself, not overpopulation or technology, is incompatible with an ecologically sustainable future. And the clock is ticking.
But the problems of today cannot rely on the formulas of the past, formulas that came about in an era of material scarcity during the early stages of the industrial revolution. If “an ounce of action is worth a ton of theory” then today’s leftists are placing far more of an emphasis on 100 year old theory than on an actual ruthlessly critical analysis of failed revolutions and the new chains they replaced the old with. Hence mere Trotskyism, anarchism, and even Marxism do not go far enough in addressing the problems of today and offering viable, working solutions. They offer fine criticisms of the prevailing order, but the problem is with what comes the day after the revolution. Only a political praxis that takes the best of both traditions while transcending them altogether, that learns from the mistakes of the past, that is rooted in an uncompromising respect for democracy, human rights, individual liberty and ecological sustainability, is worthy and capable of addressing the most pressing needs of the citizens of the world today. We need a new politics for the 21st century.
Luckily such a project already exists. It has a name, and it may be our only hope.
Ironically such a political praxis has sprouted up already in the least expected region of the world; the middle east. In the area of Northern Syria known as Rojava, where every Kurd there who has read more than a couple books knows who Murray Bookchin is. Yet in his home country of the United States, the name of one of the greatest social theorists of the twentieth century is hardly ever mentioned let alone known. For years Rojava has been a thriving example of what the Kurds call democratic confederalism, a form of Bookchin’s own political theory called communalism adapted to the Middle East. Even in the most seemingly impossible of conditions (civil war, semi-feudal poverty, ISIS reaction, etc.) the people of Rojava managed to set up a working, secular direct democracy in the middle east of all places, a democracy that respects the rights of minorities and women. Here is a politics that genuinely liberates, not abstractions such as “society”, “the proletariat”, “the people” or “history” but actual individuals at the grassroots level. Within the communalist project we see exemplified in Rojava today lies not only the solution for the problems of democracy in the middle east, but the solution for the problems of democracy, human rights, and long-term ecological sustainability everywhere.
I will not go into the specifics of communalism here, my intention is merely to bring it to the attention of the reader, in whose mind I hope a seed will be planted. The protesters of the world in every country, not the least of which the social radicals, should use the power of the internet to “Google/DuckDuckGo Murray Bookchin”. Communalism, I am convinced, may be now our only hope. Protesters all over the world, especially its most radical elements, should take Bookchin’s ideas to heart and study them with an open mind. I am convinced now that the future everywhere can, and perhaps will, belong to communalism.
“Human beings are much too intelligent not to have a rational society; the most serious question we face is whether they are rational enough to achieve one.”
-Murray Bookchin (The Next Revolution, p. 30)