Remembering Murray Bookchin

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by David Rosen
CounterPunch
December 2, 2015

Thumbing through the Sunday, November 29th New York Times Magazine, there was a surprisingly revealing article by Wes Enzinnanov, “A Dream of Secular Utopia in ISIS’ Backyard.” The article discusses the efforts by Kurdish rebel faction to created a revolutionary society in what the author calls, “a sliver of land in the far north of Syria: Rojava, or ‘land where the sun sets.’’’

The article is important because it provides an invaluable snapshot of an alternative popular movement that has gained some small amount of land and power amidst the Syrian crisis. It is opposed to Bashar al-Assad, including the Russians and Iranians, as well as the Islamic State. Because it is affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), it is on the U.S. terrorist list but, due to the exigencies of war, it appears to be unofficially supported by the U.S./NATO-backed Syrian opposition.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the article was stumbling upon Enzinnanov’s extensive discussion of the role Murray Bookchin, the anarcho-communist and radical environmentalist, played in the development of the thinking of Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK’s leader. While imprisoned in Turkey, he came across Murray’s writings — who the writer calls “an obscure Vermont-based philosopher” — and underwent a radical conversion, what a scholar called, from a ‘‘Stalinist caterpillar to libertarian butterfly.’’

Amidst the buffoonery of the 2016 Republican presidential horserace, rightwing operatives like Ron and Rand Paul have come to exclusively define the “libertarian” movement. However, the term has a long history within the left, especially among non-Marxists-Leninist.

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