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Occupy Movement: where next?

Gary | 18.11.2011 11:48 | Occupy Everywhere | Analysis | Free Spaces | History | Sheffield | World

Now is a critical time for 'Occupy', as repressive forces bear down on them. This article puts out a few ideas to help us regroup, in order to carry the struggle forward.

Like many people, I have been both excited and inspired by the fledgeling Occupy movement, of which there are 2000 (and rising) worldwide. Particularly impressive is the declared non-hierarchical & decentralist nature of the movement, making it difficult for external forces to pigeonhole and control.

However, as could have been predicted, the mailed fist has responded, and as I write Occupy Wall Street is (literally) under attack, and eviction notices have been served on London Occupy at St Paul's. One hopes this inevitable repression does not make the movement ephemeral. Even if some ground is lost, we should not give up: the goal is too important.

In considering where we go from here, there are a number of options/strategic paths, and I offer suggestions, not as tablets from above, but as a comradely contribution from somebody who has 'been around the block' (and then some).

1) Where we have won liberated spaces, we should where possible hold them, for symbolic and strategic reasons: visible spaces of counter-power in the heartland of the capitalist beast are always useful.

2) We need to build links with other groups who may lack our visibility and mobility, such as those in the 'Hardest Hit' campaign. The Condemn government are currently targeting society's most vulnerable: for instance there is an unseemly rush to declare many blind people sighted before April 2012, so as to avoid paying them disability Living Allowance. This does not arise from improvement in medical techniques, but a cold determination to victimise the defenceless. It is commendable that Occupy London have recently attempted outreach to vulnerable groups.

3) Broadening the struggle beyond natural allies (such as trade unions) to encompass those who previously radical forces have ignored (and vice versa). In particular, I refer to those struggling against the EU, which conflict is now entering a critical phase. In recent times both Greece and Italy have seen the effective abandonment of even the pretence of democratic government, replacing it by a new besuited Bonapartism. In Greece, PM Papandreou was done for the minute he had the temerity to speculate the Greek people might be asked their views on austerity measures in a referendum. Europhiles like referenda, but only if they can either guarantee the result or re-run it if the wrong result for them occurs. The Greek people were denied that possibility, and now have a government run by a European Central Wanker (or should that be banker?) responsible for the crisis in the first place. As for Italy: yes, we know full well Berlusconi was a corrupt philandering buffoon, but that is no excuse for abandoning any attempt at democratic government. Not one of the current Italian government are elected, and 'Super Mario' was only declared a Senator to make things look good: analagous (even if not exactly the same) to Hitler's Nazis getting a frightened Reichstag to pass the Enabling Act in 1933. Yet not only have we had no dissent at all to the junking of democratic forms, this 'Super Mario' is given a good press! Yet life, unfortunately, is no cartoon, and the last laugh will be had by international capitalists, crowing at how easily they have swept aside the democratic facade.

It is the same international bankers Occupy holds to account who are dictating terms to various EU governments, and they should be resisted on both the domestic and EU fronts. The Campaign Against Euro-Federalism, whatever its weaknesses, has consitently drawn attention to the links between attacks on working (and non-working) people here and EU policy. Now we are zeroing in on international capital too, these links should be made explicit. We fully support those struggling in the EU, and against the EU, not from a nationalist but internationalist perspective. It is quite clearly international capitalist forces who are trying to shake down the German government to provide more funds for them to snaffle, not any German-led plan.

4) We need to be clear, not ambivalent, about opposing capitalism in principle, not just this or that manifestation. Attempts at recuperation have been made by Vince Cable & Ed Milband, who both feign "sympathy" for ethical issues raised by Occupy. Well, these characters are part of the problem, not the solution, although their word-play indicates the establishment are worried: good, they are right to be!

5) Recuperation (stifling) of the struggle can take many forms. Most obvious are the thankfully dwindling but still shrill, voices of the 'Last Century Left', ever seeking to control corral and 'lead', without ever learning, and despite a track-record of failure spanning 3 centuries now. We at Notes From the Borderland originate in the Left tradition, and see much of remaining value in it, but unlike the LCL (Trotskyist epigones/deadbeat Labourists etc) understand that new movements should learn as much from the Left's historic failures as successes. Inasmuch as Green ideas regarding sustainability, social justice and so on, will be an important part of any solution, it might be thought politically organised Greens are in natural alignment with Occupy: and we note with approval Derek Wall's recent talk to London Occupy...However, we need to be wary here too: the recent 'Paris Declaration' by European Green Parties is a disgraceful document, calling for strengthened EU imperial institutions. These creeps clearly see their role as providing a Green tinge to the hem of the EU imperial cloak. Well, they can sod off and take the Leninists with them, as they dive into the dustbin of history (no recycling of this rubbish please).

6) Setting up social centres and enterprises in further liberated spaces is certainloy useful, strategically, as it will show contined fight and inspire others who might be demoralised.

7) A huge demonstration in 2012, providing it is 'imaginative' and not hemmed-in by state manipulation is a useful tool for mobilisation, certainly.

8) An important aspect of 1960's counter-culture was free festivals: next year, this tradition could and should be revived.

9) Important as being against something is, Zizek recently argued we need to develop ideas about what, specifically, should replace capitalism. A big ask, but essential. Some ideas and thnkers from the past are essential, even if contributions are only partial. Karl Marx, for example, had an acute understanding of the mechanics of capitalist crisis still relevant today: even if his alternative was, shall we say, a bit sketchy...The German Greens have been useful here: see the inspirational 1983 German Green Manifesto 'Purpose in Work/Solidarity in Life' for example. Now, sadly, they are largely a party of Empirte, but some of their past is useful. Equally, Rudolf Bahro's vision of sustainable communities is useful, as too the forgotten council communist texts of Cornelius Castoriadis. In understanding the symbolic political importance of occupying space and subverting institutions, the Situationists were pioneers (Raoul Vaneigem & Guy Debord), To understand what we as a movement might signify, the writings of Toni Negri on the 'multitude' are important. To oppose hierarchy effectively, Jo Freeman's critique of the 'Tyranny of Structurelessness' is useful. To get the measure of Leninist/Trotskyist interlopers, Richard Gombin's 'The Origins of Modern Leftism' is superb. On a positive note about how militants can create internal vanguards, check out Adriano Sofri 'Organising for Workers Power'. Learning from, as opposed to reliving groundhog day-wise, the past is important. As Karl Marx might have said were he here today and we could drag him out of the pub for long enough, 'Those who do not learn the lessons of history are condemned to repeat it, the first time as tragedy, the second on You-Tube'

We will be returning to these issues on our site and in Notes From the Borderland magazine. Suggestions welcome (including recommended texts). Tell us what you think!

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Hide the following 5 comments

What I think

18.11.2011 20:10

Yes the Occupy movement is wonderful, but would your "comradely contribution" be like the sick-with-jealousy bullshit and scurrilous gossip you print about Anti-Fascists?


Diversion aside...

18.11.2011 21:28

We investigate only fascists and known infiltrators of the anti-fascisat movement. We admire all true anti-fascists and have participated in street battles in the past, and will stand by anti-fascists again in the future.

I was trying to generate internal debate about the future of the Occupy movement: is anybody up for it?

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Snakebite for your soul.

18.11.2011 23:54

"Important as being against something is, Zizek recently argued we need to develop ideas about what, specifically, should replace capitalism. A big ask, but essential. Some ideas and thnkers from the past are essential, even if contributions are only partial. Karl Marx, for example, had an acute understanding of the mechanics of capitalist crisis still relevant today: even if his alternative was, shall we say, a bit sketchy"

Zizeck is right to talk about this.

The fact is that free-market Capitalism is dead. There is no way to revive it and no way to bring it back to life. To attempt do so is an act of supreme stupidity. The core tenet of Capitalist dogma is that the market regulates itself and 'value' in the system is the supreme govenor of all instruments. It determines not only the value of a commodity, but the value of its associated risk. Under this credo, you cannot artificially introduce 'value' into the system because that amounts to deposing the market itself.

But this is what has happened.

The western markets no longer see risk in the same way they did. An institution has no fear of making bad trades because it can simply be bailed out by the public sector. This has had the effect of sterilising markets and neutering risk-management. Where there was arrogance and foolishness, there is now fear and paranoia.

We still have Capitalism, but it looks more like the Chinese model than a US/UK model. Capitalism in the west is now under an umbrella and it is that umbrella that we need to be concerned with.

Fundamentally, we have now seperated the market from the mechanism it was using to resist state intervention.

What we do now, must be on the basis of recognising that we have de-fanged western Capitalism and have its teeth in a bottle.

We can choose to keep it in a box like the Chinese, or we can give it back to the free-marketeers so they can carry on spitting at humanity from their glass-towers.

Wherever you see or read the mantra of "More capitalism to fix Capitalism" there you have a vandal and a feeble minded fool.


Occupy omwards

19.11.2011 00:30

Thanks for broaching the subject. I am really up for envisioning how we could run things in a way that is fair to all and in harmony with nature...there is much to discuss on this subject later...but for now i recomend reading News from Nowhere (published 1890) by William Morris, which as well as a lucid critique of international capitalism, describes a post revolutionary utopia free of money and strife, of masters and wage slaves, where a person works for the love of it. The means which achieved this utopia were occupations, strikes and social assemblies. Power to the People!

Mental elf