Saturday, October 8, 2011

#OccupyWallStreet to Moveon: Fuck Off

Found at Jodie Dean's site, I cite. Speaking of which, Jodi sez:
The NYT has a "debate" over OWS.  The openness of the movement/space invites this kind of debate as people and factions try to contain it or repurpose it to their own ends. The NYT debate participates in packaging the movement, in making it safe for readers of the NYT, many of whom are in the top 1%. Below, I don't mention all the contributions. Naomi Klein's is very good (I excerpted another version of it here on I Cite yesterday).

One question I have before I start: who can say "our movement" and who can say "we"? Is it necessary to have been sleeping in the park since day 1? to have slept in the park some times? to have participated in the f-2-f general assemblies? to have visited and marched?

Some say that no one who hasn't been there has a right to judge, criticize, or analyze the movement. That's not my view. Since OWS has said since the September 17 Day or Rage, there are different ways to support and be part of the movement--setting up OWS in different cities, providing material support, and providing mediated support. In fact, it is crucial to the work of the movement that the movement be understood as exceeding the park and the marches, that the power of the occupation be understood as extending beyond a few blocks of lower Manhattan throughout the country.

I would like to say "we," but I don't think I can, not yet anyway. I think that would be misleading. Yet I nonetheless think that it's important for the Marxist left to say "we" and to say "we" with OWS, especially as an expression of a sense of being comrades. Part of the difficulty, though, is with a certain emphasis coming out of the movement on the refusal of labels. The refusal makes sense and encourages more people to join. But join what? And contribute to what? To a dismantling of the state? To a new legitimation of processes that supplement current ones? To the overthrow of capitalism? These are different battles.
And therein lies the conundrum. Although eschewing labels and ideologies has a certain attractiveness in a movement's early stages - and let's face it, OWS is still very new - at some point, sooner or later, any movement will need to commit to some sort of label or labels. Certainly, it is best that OWS adopts its own label or labels on its own terms rather than react to those labels used by corporate media and political demagogues.

I realize that terms like "ideology" often are viewed negatively, and have been in the US for the duration of my adult life. In fact, since the 1990s, we have supposedly lived in a post-ideological age, which as I have probably noted before is quite convenient for our ruling and technocratic classes. If nothing else, the dominant neoliberal ideology (and yes, it is an ideology) has been allowed to become so insidious that alternatives become practically invisible and difficult to imagine.

What makes the events of the last year so exciting - from the Arab Spring, to the mass occupations against austerity in Athens and Madrid, to the late winter occupation of Madison, to the current OWS (which is rapidly spreading) - is that there are clearly large numbers of people looking for alternatives to the neoliberal status quo. Their willingness to commit to a set of risky actions is itself impressive. Clearly, the status quo is rotten, and more of us are willing to vocalize our dissent, our opposition. It is about damn time.

The rhetoric that I have seen in these various movements is one that is largely anticapitalist and egalitarian. I can think of any of a number of ideological positions with which the participants of OWS and equivalent actions can utilize in order to analyze our present circumstances and to prescribe courses of action based on those analyses. The framework I've used since college is one of an Existentialist-Marxist flavor (credit an intense study of Sartre's "Being and Nothingness" and other works, followed subsequently by studying the works of Gorz and Fanon). The concept of freedom, of becoming, on an individual and collective basis is rather integral to how I tend to view the world. However, my particular ideological preferences are quite compatible with other Marxian ideological preferences to warrant solidarity with each other and with those who may or may not be yet ready or willing to commit to an ideology but are actively opposing the neoliberal order.

Perhaps OWS will evolve into a Popular Front model. Their inclusiveness would seem to indicate that as a possibility, and this is an historical moment that might be ripe for such an approach. That as a collective they have already shunned those shilling for the Democratic Party and eschew association with the Tea Party/GOP is a positive sign. That they explicitly recognize that our two-party system is part of the problem is a positive sign - whatever it evolves into, OWS has become an open space for the large proportion of us who for one reason or another are alienated and disenfranchised. OWS is surely deserving of whatever tangible, intellectual, and moral support that we as fellow comrades on the left can offer.


Don Durito said...

I don't think you have to necessarily be egalitarian to recognize that what is happening to most of us is flat-out theft by a few greedy people, aided and abetted in their thievery by both Government and media. OWS can spread a pretty big tent, ideologically.

Don Durito said...

Great blog and great post. I really hope OWS does not get caught up into being one party or the other, but remains a movement of the people. I'm so tired of the 2-party system.

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