We are not in the least afraid of ruins... (An Epilogue)

Huw Lemmey



You'll have to bear with us on this one; a slightly tongue-in-cheek film by the cult BBC filmmaker Adam Curtis (a personal favourite of mine), who makes a number of leaps to produce a nonetheless witty and passionate short film about the pangolin, Prince Philip and the PKK.

Prince Philip, he says, is a surprising champion of the pangolin, the mascot of this weekend's Marathon. He has long campaigned against the destruction of the habitat the animal lives in. It's a habit of aristocrats to be passionate about conservation, because, he says it is symbolic of a worldview that demands nothing must end, nothing must change, nothing must go extinct: not least the hierarchies of power that preserve the power and wealth of the ruling aristocratic elites of Britain.

But there is another political perspective that looks to conserve natural habitats whilst overturning the notion of hierarchy which structures society — that is the ideas of anarchism, not least the idea of Social Ecology, pioneered by the libertarian communist Murray Bookchin. He thought we must create new societies free of hierarchies.

(Wait for it…)

But Bookchin's ideas didn't go extinct with his death. In Kurdistan the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party), a militant political organisation dedicated to self-determination for the Kurdish people, and a for of revolutionary socialism. Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the PKK, was heavily influenced by the writings of Murray Bookchin whilst imprisoned by the Turkish government in the late 90s (Kurds have long suffered repression at the hands of the Turkish state, which controls areas that Kurds claim as part of their national homeland). Today, in areas like Kobane, the PKK are attempting to pioneer and develop new forms of local, municipal government pioneered modelled on some of Bookchin's idea. However, over the past weeks, Kobane has been under siege by the forces of the Islamic State, and have fought fiercely to hold territory in the face of massive firepower.

In something of a leap, Curtis suggests that if we want to save the Pangolin, we can begin by intervening in Kobane to help save the Kurds pioneering libertarian municipalism. What might then become extinct are the hierarchical institutions that dominate society today: like the British Monarchy.

It might be something of a leap; whilst the PKK are pioneering forms of participative democracy, the PKK retains long roots within Marxist-Leninism, an ideology far removed from the ideals of libertarian communism, as well as retaining strong stands of nationalist ideology. That said, they do retain the support of many anarchists and anti-authoritarian communists, as evidenced by the presence of anarchists and antifascists on yesterday's pro-Kurdish solidarity march near the Serpentine Galleries yesterday.


On a personal note, I felt Curtis' film really addressed some of the issues I felt have been problematic in some of the speakers presentations this weekend: namely, the worrying levels of trust placed in the idea of "pure science" and empiricism, and the dubious assertion that science and politics can be separated. Lord Rees today suggested that science needs to be grounded in values that science cannot itself provide, and Curtis reflected that, acknowledging that well-meaning conservation (of people like Prince Philip) has to be seen within the context of the political and social structures of society. Science and technology, put at the service of voracious, avaricious capitalism, have been intrinsic in creating the environmental crisis we're only just beginning to experience. A political critique of science and technology are therefore vital in formulating our social and technological response to this crisis. It seems unthinkable we can even begin to save ourselves from destruction without first destroying the structures that have lead us there. To quote another libertarian communist (also fighting under siege from ultraconservative forces), Spanish militant Buenaventura Durruti:

We are not in the least afraid of ruins. We are going to inherit the earth; there is not the slightest doubt about that. The bourgeoisie might blast and ruin its own world before it leaves the stage of history. We carry a new world here, in our hearts. That world is growing in this minute.