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Twenty seconds with Murray Bookchin

I met Murray Bookchin once. It was around 1970 at a national student political conference in Colorado. He had written a book, Post Scarcity Anarchism, that was important to us. I met him as he was walking into an auditorium to give a talk. It was a dark night. There were pines. He was to me a grownup; I know now that he was about fifty. I said something. I don’t remember what, but it was undoubtedly fanlike and self-serious. He seemed glad that I interrupted him. He looked me in the eye. He listened. He treated me like a person worth talking with.

All in all, maybe twenty seconds. But I never forgot his presumption that a long-haired kid he didn’t know was worthy of his respect. Unearned respect. It’s a lot like love.

Rest in peace, Murray Bookchin. [Tags:]

13 Responses to “Twenty seconds with Murray Bookchin”

  1. Once upon a time I belonged to a radical organization called the Northeast Student Action Network. (What, you’ve never heard of them? That’s probably because they were paralyzed by an organizational structure that chiefly valued seeking consensus and giving veto power to identity-based interest groups.) Anyway, at the two NSAN conventions that I went to, I got to hang out with the Burlington anarchists who regarded Bookchin as their rebbe (pardon the expression); at the organization’s first plenary, in Burlington, I got to hear Bookchin speak. Quite a guy.

    May the memory of the righteous be for a blessing.

  2. Bookchin’s gone and died on us? The bastard!
    I guess 85’s not bad. Still – this mortality thing. Sometimes I really hate it.

    He won’t be forgotten.

  3. On Saturday, August 16, 1969, my wife and I went out for a picnic in the park below the palisades in New Jersey, where my family sometimes went when I was a kid. In fact I wasn’t much more than a kid myself: I had just turned 22, after graduating from college two months earlier. Seven months before that, we got married, and now my wife was five months’ pregnant with our daughter, Colette.

    We folded up the picnic when it started to rain, then drove our Chevy up the Henry Hudson Drive to the Palisades Parkway. Under the bridge stood two rain-soaked young women, with thumbs pointed North. We picked them up.

    We asked where they were headed and they said “Woodstock”. It was the second day of the Woodstock Festival, which we sorely regretted missing; but we were glad to give these girls a lift in the right general direction.

    We hadn’t driven a quarter mile before I got pulled over by a cop, given a warning citation for violating a law against picking up hitchhikers, and forced to leave the girls there.

    I drove off, took the next exit, turned around, came back, saw no cop, saw the girls still standing there, picked them up again and drove them all the way to Bethel, New York, where Woodstock was going on.

    At the end of the trip we ran into a traffic jam, mostly of people leaving, talking about what a rainy mess it was. Still, the girls wanted to stay. So did we, but I had to work the next day, running the audio department at Bamberger’s in Paramus.

    All the way up to Woodstock the two girls talked about Murray Bookchin and how brilliant he was.

    About a week later, I got a couple of books by Murray Bookchin in the mail, along with a thank-you note from one of the girls. I remember liking Bookchin’s mix of environmental, social and libertarian ideals, but also being put off by so many different ‘ists and ‘isms that I couldn’t keep them all straight.

    It didn’t take long before he fell off my mental radar. I doubt I’d thought about him much in the last thirty-five years. What surprises me now is that his name does so much more than just ring a bell. It helps bring back remarkably vivid memories of a time in my life, and in history, when there was so much hope for reform, for revolution, for much-needed social and political change.

    Little could I imagine then that in 2006 the country would be run by a man, and a regime, that learned nothing from the Vietnam War, which nearly everybody who went to Woodstock knew was a failure, five years and many deaths before American troops came home.

    So now, as World War III gets underderway, a Fish Cheer for Murray Bookchin.

  4. i also met murray… 1992. i was one of his students for a few months at the institute for social ecology. i’d picked up one of his books a couple years earlier and it had profoundly changed my world view.

    this was a man that had a vision of a different world, a better world. he opened my eyes to what humans might be able to do for the better. he’ll be missed by many but his work will continue on.

  5. I met and studied with Murray Bookchin for several years and he made a massive impact on my politics.

  6. I sat around a table one night at Paul Piccone’s house in St. Louis, back in the late 70s when I worked as an editorial associate with Telos, and talked for several hours with Murray Bookchin. He was a very nice man and, unlike many of those on the theoretical left, there was a lot of humility in his personality.

  7. I sat around a table one night at Paul Piccone’s house, back when I worked as an editorial associate with Telos, and talked for several hours with Murray Bookchin. He was a very nice man and, unlike many of those on the theoretical left, there was a lot of humility in his personality.

  8. Nothing worse than a double post, except maybe the post that apologizes for it.

    Sorry David ;-)

  9. No author has had as much impact upon me as Bookchin. I will miss his presence in the World dearly. Now to just figure out how to get Volumes III and IV of the Third Revolution!

  10. I first met him in Venice, Italy, in 1984 at the international conference of anarchists and his way of speaking was as impressing as his ideas; a long friendship and partnership began, we met in Germany, our publishing group translated a lot of his writings into German, also those of his comrade Janet Biehl. Ten years later I spent a very nice week in Burlington with both of them accompanied by my son Sascha.
    Rest in peace, Murray, we’ll remember you … and your writings will last.

  11. For a person who has used the phrase “Damn Capitalist Pigs!” a million times since the 60’s, I am amazed that I never heard about Murray Bookchin until I saw his obit in the Los Angeles Times where my interest was peaked and I then read his “Our Synthetic Environment” and am currently reading “The Ecology of Freedom”.

    While I take issue with some small details of Bookchin’s philosophy, I am finding the overall body of his life’s work to be a monument in the search for the for the most equitable and harmonious format for living on Earth.

    Long live his ideals!

  12. If you’d like to be in touch with folks who have worked with Murray and are trying to continue the development of his ideas, check us out at We have several of his articles, published and unpublished, archived in our library. Apologies in advance for parts of the site that are under revision after about 18 months of neglect. You can also check out my online tribute at

  13. Hi,

    Re Murray Bookchin passing away.

    I run the websites:

    The latest issue of blue (BlueGreenEarth Vol.5 #11 – August 20th 2006) has run two Bookchin pieces

    Whither Bookchin? – Obituary, by Tim Barton
    Obituary, by Rob Allen (for Freedom Anarchist Fortnightly)

    We also republished our review of Re-Enchanting Humanity

    In the previous issue we had run a reprint of our Local-Global Organising feature from November 2005’s Lancaster University KnowledgeLab (UK), at which I gave a Social Ecology related seminar.

    Our Institute is still in its early stages, despite plans over 15 years ago to get it running, However, in the last few months things have begun to forge ahead and in 2007 we hope to have several courses available. These may be in Hastings, Ipswich, or Cork, and we hope offer them further afield over the next few years.

    I hope this is of interest to you. We too were very sad to hear of Murray’s death, though aware it was kind of due.


    PS I also run the blog:

Web Joho only

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