- As Bookchin says,
in our cities, citizens are shrinking to the status of anonymous “constituents” of elected representatives. Their principal function is to pay taxes, to do the onerous work-a-day job of maintaining the present society, to reproduce, and to decorously withdraw from all political life – a domain that is reserved for the state and its officialdom.
Our cities are dissolving into enormous, alienated urban belts. The citizen is reduced to a passive agent. They are mere recipients of ‘services’. These services are provided by bureaucratic agencies, and in this way politics has been fully degraded into statecraft.
Those who practice statecraft are cynical, professional manipulators of power. You may know them personally, you may have grown up with them.
Politics is now a ‘business’. It is regarded as successful if it produces fiscal surpluses, and is regarded as a failure if it is burdened by deficits. The key principle behind statecraft, politics, is to operate ‘efficiently’ - that is, to produce surpluses as large and bountiful as possible.
The ethical content of civil life has been nullified. The life of a municipality, the proper size for a political community, has been replaced by an “entrepeneurial mentality” that emphasies the pecuniary and brutally economic factors of life – as Bookchin enumerates: income, expenses, growth, and employment.
Power has been almost perfectly centralised. So to has wealth. Fewer and fewer hands practice the cynical politics of statecraft, and control the lives of the many.
The power that should be claimed by the people is wielded by the state and by monopolistic economic entities.
A gap is opening up between the enormous bureaucratic state, and the municipal life of citizens. The state is becoming more remote and anonymous.
The personal lives of people, their municipal life, increasingly serves their direct needs. As Bookchin says,
We do not go to the nation-state to find suitable schools for our children, for jobs, culture, and decent places in which to live. Like it or not, the city, [the municipality], is still the most immediate nevironment which we encounter and with which we are obliged to deal, beyond the sphere of the family and friends, in order to satisfy our needs as social beings.
We are obliged to seek out counter- institutions that stand opposed to the power of the nation-state. The municipality presents itself as the site for such a set of antagonistic and parallel institutions to the state.
This approach is about building a movement. It is not about seizing and building individual municipalities which single communities merely restructure their lives on their own.
This is about establishing a movement which alters one community after another and establishes a system of confederal relations between municipalities. It is a movement which will eventually form a regional confederal power in its own right.
The state knows, far better than any other entity, how destabilising demands for local control can be to its authority.
That is why I propse that we establish an organisation which seeks to seize back control of municipalities from the state and radically democratise them, and devolve their power.