Occupy Wall Street

Some interesting stuff over in New York. Good site to look at – Occupy Wall Street for an ongoing story of the occupation and resistance. Some food for your media thoughts in the week running up to the Rebellious Media Conference. And if you’re just thinking of going we’re afraid it’s sold out.

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3 thoughts on “Occupy Wall Street

  1. One of the most glaring problems with the supporters of Occupy Wall Street and its copycat successors is that they suffer from a woefully inadequate understanding of the capitalist social formation — its dynamics, its (spatial) globality, its (temporal) modernity. They equate anti-capitalism with simple anti-Americanism, and ignore the international basis of the capitalist world economy. To some extent, they have even reified its spatial metonym in the NYSE on Wall Street. Capitalism is an inherently global phenomenon; it does not admit of localization to any single nation, city, or financial district.

    Moreover, many of the more moderate protestors hold on to the erroneous belief that capitalism can be “controlled” or “corrected” through Keynesian-administrative measures: steeper taxes on the rich, more bureaucratic regulation and oversight of business practices, broader government social programs (welfare, Social Security), and projects of rebuilding infrastructure to create jobs. Moderate “progressives” dream of a return to the Clinton boom years, or better yet, a Rooseveltian new “New Deal.” All this amounts to petty reformism, which only serves to perpetuate the global capitalist order rather than to overcome it. They fail to see the same thing that the libertarians in the Tea Party are blind to: laissez-faire economics is not essential to capitalism. State-interventionist capitalism is just as capitalist as free-market capitalism.

    Another symptomatic problem of the Occupy […] phenomenon is its own self-conception as an expression of “resistance.” Ever since the close of the Second World War, the concept of “resistance” has risen to prominence within the discourse of the Left, ennobled by the French experience of La Résistance during the Vichy regime. Unfortunately, the teleological valorization of resistance as a sort of virtue unto itself has had a rather perverse effect on protest culture over the last several decades. Instead of calling for a broader project of social revolution, activists have substituted the notion of simply “resisting” the forces of structural domination that surrounds us. Somehow — though the precise way that this operates is never made clear — this is supposed to “subvert” or “disrupt” the powers that be. “Resistance” thus becomes fetishized as a supposedly heroic act of defiance, no matter how effective or ineffective it might ultimately be.

    Nevertheless, though Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy [insert location here] in general still contains many problematic aspects, it nevertheless presents an opportunity for the Left to engage with some of the nascent anti-capitalist sentiment taking shape there. So far it has been successful in enlisting the support of a number of leftish celebrities, prominent unions, and young activists, and has received a lot of media coverage. Hopefully, the demonstrations will lead to a general radicalization of the participants’ politics, and a commitment to the longer-term project of social emancipation.

    To this end, I have written up a rather pointed Marxist analysis of the OWS movement so far that you might find interesting:

    “Reflections on Occupy Wall Street: What It Represents, Its Prospects, and Its Deficiencies”

    THE LEFT IS DEAD! LONG LIVE THE LEFT!

    • Thanks for taking the time for such a full response. There’s much there that I think many readers of this blog would agree with.

      Personally I think we’re drawing our inspiration for such protests from situations like the occupation of Tahrir Square (understandably – it was amazingly inspiring) without doing the thinking about the level of resistance involved. Resistance of this kind in Egypt, and in other countries of the Arab Spring, carried a very real possibility of arrest, torture, long-term imprisonment, and even death. ‘Copycat’ resistance in the States or the UK doesn’t carry the same risk or the same power. The system can weather it and the risks are, relatively speaking, low to us as activists.

      We need to be looking for our own Tahrir Square, not in physical locations to occupy, but in tactics that force the system to the same level of repression so that the public at large can be in no doubt about the real brutality of capitalism. We need to see the real face of capitalism, behind the politician’s warm smiles and the comfort of the reality TV shows.

      In your analysis, I do think you might be overlooking the substantial anarchist element of the protest (I can’t speak for the States, but it’s a definite presence here in the UK) which has developed a more holisitic critique of capitalism, whilst struggling in the reality that we all (currently) live within the system. This has led to many of the organising principles of such protest here in the UK – the use of the affinity group, of consensus decision making. These may not be used well, but they embody a spirit of organising in ways that eschew the values of capitalism and create new alternatives based on new relationships with each other and the planet we share.

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