Men make their own history
But they do not make it just as they please
Searching for living traditions of revolution, we went through Murray Bookchin’s –Next Revolutions. Seeing the way governments are installed and dethroned, after reading Bookchin’s book, one question reverberated uneasily
Do we live in the Era of Counter-revolution?
A politics of the 21st century
In his book-Bookchin tries to assert that the commune, town or city, or more broadly, the municipality is not merely a ‘space’ created by a given density of human habitations. In terms of its history as a civilizing tendency in humanity’s development, the municipality is integraly part of the sweeping process whereby human beings began to dissolve biologically conditions social relations based on real or fictitious blood ties, with their primordial hostility to ‘strangers’ and slowly replace them by largely social and rational institutions , rights , and duties that increasingly encompassed all residents of an urban space, irrespective of consanguinity and biological facts.
What is rational society?
In a complex writing, full of seeming contradictions, Bookchin traces history of the polis-city , and the concept of citizenship. He warns that without the existence of a rational society, the municipality can easily become a megapolis, in which community, however, secular, is replaced by atomization and an inhuman social scale beyond the comprehension of its citizens- indeed the space for class, racial, religious, and other irrational conflicts.
Case of the Dialysis unit
During the 2011 revolution, one spirited young nephrologist was warned not to make any further statement about condition of the Dialysis units in the city. Four years down the line, one of his friends is making efforts to organize a new wing of the dialysis unit , trying to get the maintenance staff to fix a generator and ensure line of flow of materials, medicines, for lab, not to mention about the air conditioner.
“Without the Filipino engineer-this would not be possible” says this community organizer.
“The Egyptian staff have all left. We have an increase in number of dialysis patients.”
Another engineer-a Libyan tells quietly of the many efforts this doctor turned social organizer has made.
“But even he, with all his contacts, resources, energy, cannot ensure security,” remarked the engineer. “For that we wait for the UN mandated government.”
Search for Historical Models
Bookchin tells that though there are no clear historical models, we can see as educational fields and try to learn from cities ranging from classical Athens, to the free cities of the medieval world, the town meetings of the American revolutions, the sections of the Great French revolution, or the anarchosyndicalist collectives that emerged in the Spanish Revolution.
“How do we maintain our supply lines, by any of these models? The dialysis cannot stop-3 sessions a week- four hours each” the community organizer told grimly as we went through the different theories of Bookchin.
“When the Level 4 alerts are announced-the nationals go to their embassies. I saw this in 2011, and again –in 2014. The Filipino embassy will not entertain an Indian. The Indian embassy is already stretched for resources. So where does that leave the ‘international worker’ who made the municipality of Zanzour-the largest in Tripoli his life.” Another discussion point came forward.
Bookchin’s book raises many interesting possibilities like Confederalism.
What is Confederalism?
It is above all a netword 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.
Learning from Farmer’s Rewards and Water harvesters
“I heartily endorse the proposition that any plan which exploits the raw materials of a country and neglects the potentially more powerful manpower is lopsided and can never tend to establish human equality”
Amongst these loud shoutings –(backed by Gunfire and even missiles) where each party feel that they and only they are right, we tried to search for some Whispers.
In his book-India in Slow Motion-Mark Tully writes about in depth about many issues relating to farmers.
In his chapter-Farmer’s reward he went into the agrarian movement of Karnataka and pressed one of the veterans of the farmer’s movement-Hemant Panchal. In this he traces the philanthropic urge, the attraction to the ultra left, the assertion that revolution wasn’t brought brough by the people but by activists, and Panchal’s own journey of wanting to do something concrete other than being anti-government.
Reading is one thing and putting into practice is another.When Hemant was just 19, be bought 10 acres of land in a remote part of Northern Karnataka and went to ‘become part of a village’.
So it was politics which broke the agrarian movement? Mark Tully to Hemant Panchal
In this chapter-Mark Tully pressed Hemant Panchal about the long-term impact of the agrarian movement.
Hemant Panchal admitted- “Not much.As the movement grew in Karnataka and spread to other stats, its hold on the farmers was recognized by politicians, but this is where the trouble came. The politicians wanted to take over the movement and they did this by co-opting our leaders. Many of them made their careers on the backs of the farmers.”
“So it was politics and politicians which broke the movement,” Mark Tully suggested.
“Will, yes, but the fact is that the farmers respected those of us who did not go into politics. Our mistake was to protect and give our support to political leaders who didn’t have direct contact with people.”
Next stop-Palm City-Zanzour?
Searching for living traditions of revolution we went through these books on Liberaterian Municipalism, read from examples of Agrarian movement of India
(leave aside the label..anarchist, syndicalist, anarcho-communist, Marxist, Islamist-Salafist-Sufi-Daeish…..in a place where one University professor and veteran of organizing Reading Groups for over 4 decades said… “Here the proletariat does not even know that a term proletariat exists”)
My friend is worried.
Will the UN mandated government be secure inside the capital?
Or is it more secure in the suburb Zanzour..where his dialysis unit too is there, which grows even in these trying conditions.
Note– A Reading Group-and Journal of Reading can be a very potent tool to map various processes, amidst the cacophony of voices-each thinking that they, and only they are right.