So, looking at examples from southern Europe—solidarity networks in Greece, self-organization in Spain or Turkey—these seem to be very crucial for building social movements around everyday life and basic needs these days. Do you see this as a promising approach?
I think it is very promising, but there is a clear self-limitation in it, which is a problem for me. The self-limitation is the reluctance to take power at some point. Bookchin, in his last book, says that the problem with the anarchists is their denial of the significance of power and their inability to take it. Bookchin doesn’t go this far, but I think it is the refusal to see the state as a possible partner to radical transformation.
There is a tendency to regard the state as being the enemy, the 100 percent enemy. And there are plenty of examples of repressive states out of public control where this is the case. No question: the capitalist state has to be fought, but without dominating state power and without taking it on you quickly get into the story of what happened for example in 1936 and 1937 in Barcelona and then all over Spain. By refusing to take the state at a moment where they had the power to do it, the revolutionaries in Spain allowed the state to fall back into the hands of the bourgeoisie and the Stalinist wing of the Communist movement—and the state got reorganized and smashed the resistance.
That might be true for the Spanish state in the 1930s, but if we look at the contemporary neoliberal state and the retreat of the welfare state, what is left of the state to be conquered, to be seized?
To begin with, the left is not very good at answering the question of how we build massive infrastructures. How will the left build the Brooklyn bridge, for example? Any society relies on big infrastructures, infrastructures for a whole city—like the water supply, electricity and so on. I think that there is a big reluctance among the left to recognize that therefore we need some different forms of organization.
There are wings of the state apparatus, even of the neoliberal state apparatus, which are therefore terribly important—the center of disease control, for example. How do we respond to global epidemics such as Ebola and the like? You can’t do it in the anarchist way of DIY-organization. There are many instances where you need some state-like forms of infrastructure. We can’t confront the problem of global warming through decentralized forms of confrontations and activities alone.
One example that is often mentioned, despite its many problems, is the Montreal Protocol to phase out the use of chlorofluorocarbon in refrigerators to limit the depletion of the ozone layer. It was successfully enforced in the 1990s but it needed some kind of organization that is very different to the one coming out of assembly-based politics.