DEMOCRACY & NATURE: The International Journal of INCLUSIVE DEMOCRACY
vol.8, no.2, (July 2002)
The libertarian press, Democracy & Nature and the ‘libertarian’ ethics of Social Anarchism
The libertarian press has generally shown an attitude of indifference towards Democracy & Nature in general and the project of inclusive democracy in particular, an attitude that has lately turned to outright hostility. Presumably, this is not unconnected to the severe critique in D&N of what passes as an anarchist ‘movement’ today, i.e. a set of currents (not a movement anyway) more akin to what Bookchin rightly castigated as life-style anarchism, than a real antisystemic movement like the old libertarian socialist movement used to be. To mention a few examples, the British Total Liberty magazine, which expresses a ‘pragmatic’ view of anarchism, published a couple of years ago a vitriolic attack against the inclusive democracy project, mainly criticising it as utopian because it did not involve a market mechanism and money! ―readers can see the full exchange at the following address:
Similarly, the US-based Institute for Anarchist Studies hosts in its website links even to broad Left networks and magazines, such as Znet, but deliberately ignores D&N and the Inclusive Democracy project.
Very recently, the American Alternative Press Review (mainly sympathetic to life-style anarchism views) dismissed D&N as an academic journal ‘with little relevance for radical political movements’(!) and accompanied this distorted picture of D&N with a dishonest critique of editorial practices with respect to the ‘John Clark affair’, based exclusively on the views of John Clark! ―readers can see the full exchange at the following address:
Finally, in the last issue of Social Anarchism was published an article by John Clark in which, once again, he provides a fully distorted picture of the events that led to the publication in D&N of the original paper he presented at a 1995 social ecology conference (see D&N vol. 5 no. 3, November 1999, pp. 523-561 and Takis Fotopoulos’ reply in the same issue pp. 561-576) rather than of his redrafted version. As soon as we were informed about this, Takis wrote a polite letter to the editor of SA, in which D&N even offered an exchange between the two journals and he asked for a right to reply. The initial reaction of the editor of SA was that 'If you can stick to 550 words (one of our pages) that would almost guarantee that we would run it this spring. Longer than two pages will seriously stretch us and I am not certain we could fit it in’. However, as Takis thought it would be much more interesting to SA readers to develop a brief theoretical critique of Clark's stand on democracy and discuss, in this context, the misrepresentation of his relation to D&N rather than simply deal with the latter ―something that could easily give the impression of a sterile exchange― he sent a brief article of about 5,000 words entitled ‘John Clark and Democracy’ ―readers can see this text at the following address:
However, the editors of SA refused to publish this article on the grounds that 'it far exceeded our available space and it was too centered on Clark, as opposed to the underlying issues'! And this was said at the same time that the whole point of writing an extended article was to examine the underlying issues! At that stage we decided to take the original offer and Takis wrote a two-page article which was centered on Clark’s distortions about D&N with no theoretical discussion of his views, so that no excuse could be used again about exceeding the prescribed length (this article is reproduced below: ‘John Clark and Democracy & Nature’). To our astonishment however the editors of SA refused to publish even this brief text and, after several reminders from our end about the case, we heard that the reason was that the ‘revision was still longer than what we had requested and was still filled with invective’! —readers can make up their minds about the case if they visit the following address where the entire exchange is published:
It is therefore obvious that the editors of SA did not even have the honesty to grant D&N the right to reply, as both Total Liberty and APR have done, and any self-respecting journal, ‘bourgeois’ or not still does. Instead, they proceeded to an outright attempt to censor our journal when it attempted to defend itself against untenable accusations, which they had no qualm in publishing in the first instance!. One can only wonder, if this is the type of ‘libertarian’ ethics that SA wishes to substitute for ‘bourgeois’ ethics, and thus whether the struggle for this is worth the candle…
Takis Fotopoulos, Editor
Alexandros Gezerlis, Assistant Editor
John Clark and Democracy & Nature
John Clark showed once more how economical he is with the truth when in his latest tirade on Murray Bookchin he found it appropriate to distort, yet again, the events that led to the publication of a draft of his paper in Democracy & Nature, The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy, as well as those related to the non-inclusion of his name in the International Advisory Board of the journal, after the change over from Society and Nature. I will try below to give a brief description of the facts as we recognise them in D&N.
Clark writes that he circulated several copies of the draft version of a paper called ‘Beyond the limits of the city’ (a revised edition of which was later published under the title ‘Municipal Dreams’ in Andrew Light’s collection, Social Ecology after Bookchin, Guilford, 1998) in 1995 for comments and that ‘one of these quickly made its way to Murray Bookchin who wrote for the journal Democracy and Nature a forty-four page attack on this unpublished manuscript’ (SA p. 25) . He then goes on to describe how ‘after trying for several years to get the editors of D&N to publish the final version of his article’ he finally agreed to the publication of the unrevised draft (SA p 39) in order to draw the conclusion that all this was presumably part of a victimisation campaign against him because he had not exhibited ‘a certain degree of servility and continued to gloss over the growing theoretical problems that (he) saw in Bookchin’s own work’. For the same reason he speculates that he was also ‘removed from the International Advisory Board of Society and Nature (later Democracy and Nature: The Journal of Inclusive Democracy) without consultation or even notification by the “inclusivists” in charge’ (ibid. p. 39).
However, Clarks’ description of the facts is not only utterly economical with the truth but also completely distorted, as several people involved in these events could testify.
First, Clark does not mention the crucial fact that the draft of his paper was also the full text on which the talk he gave in Danoon (Scotland) at the Social Ecology gathering in 1995 was based. This text was circulated for comments among the participants of this gathering (including myself). Therefore, this was definitely not the usual circulation by an author of a number of copies of a manuscript among friends and colleagues for comment prior to publication --as Clark describes it. What followed and how a copy made its way to Bookchin had nothing mysterious about it either. When I read the text I saw it, (for the reasons I explained in an expanded version of this article which was not accepted by the editors of SA), as an outright attack on direct democracy –the political project of D&N—apart, of course, from an attack on Bookchin’s libertarian municipalism. I therefore sent a copy of this talk to Bookchin (then still a member of the IAB) in the hope that an interesting dialogue would follow between Bookchin and Clark on the issue of direct democracy and libertarian municipalism. So, when Bookchin sent us a reply to be published in the Dialogue Section of the journal , another member of the Editorial Board wrote to Clark asking him formally for a permission to publish the copy of the speech. Unfortunately, Clark was not willing to have it published but insisted (as it was of course his right) that we should publish instead a revised version of it. However, as Bookchin's reply was based on the original text of the talk, and given that when we asked him whether he would be willing to rewrite his reply on the basis of a revised version of Clark’s paper he refused to do so, the editorial board decided to go ahead with the publication of Bookchin’s critique. This was because we did not wish to publish a final draft of Clark’s paper without Bookchin’s reply and in the hope that Clark might change his mind later and allow us to publish his original text—as indeed happened a few years later. This is why we also accompanied the publication of Bookchin’s critique with an editorial statement declaring that 'unfortunately, we are not able to also publish John Clark's talk since the author has not allowed it to be reprinted' (D&N vol. 3 no 3).
Second, Clark was not ‘removed’ from the IAB of the journal. In fact, he was a member of the IAB of Society & Nature up to the last issue of it (vol 3 no 1). However, in 1995, as the editors announced at the time, ‘ideological differences, (described in the announcement), intensified or emerged for the first time between the editorial board of the journal on the one hand and the publisher of the Greek edition, primarily, as well as some members of the advisory board on the other’. These differences, together with some irresolvable disagreements about the future direction of the journal, led to a break with the Greek publisher, making inevitable the relaunching of the journal with a new title and different aims -- both stressing the journal’s new main goal to promote a project for (inclusive) democracy. Given the disagreements with members of the IAB mentioned in the statement this also involved a restructured IAB. The editors decided at the time, as it was their right, not to include in the new IAB those members of the old IAB who were presumably hostile to the new project of the journal and Clark was an obvious candidate for this given the views he expressed earlier on direct democracy (see the exchange with Clark in Democracy & Nature, vol 5 no 3 and also in :
This is the only reason his name (together with that of another IAB member—although for different reasons) was not included in the new IAB –a fact which had nothing to do with Clark’s relation to Bookchin, as he falsely describes the events. This becomes obvious anyway by the fact that the very issue, which included Bookchin’s critique of Clark’s paper, also included Bookchin’s resignation letter from the IAB, principally, because of his disapproval of the journal’s new direction, as was expressed in the contents of the first issue under its new title (see D&N vol 3 no 2).
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This is the only reason his name
with that of another IAB member—although for different reasons) was not
included in the new IAB –a fact which had nothing to do with Clark’s
relation to Bookchin, as he falsely describes
the events. This becomes obvious anyway by the fact that the very issue,
which included Bookchin’s critique of Clark’s paper, also included
Bookchin’s resignation letter from the IAB, principally, because of his
disapproval of the journal’s new direction, as was expressed in the contents
of the first issue under its new
title (see D&N vol 3 no 2).