Thursday, September 19, 2013

Two Years After "Occupy"

Here's an interesting take on where we're at two years after Occupy Wall Street made its presence felt (h/t). I have certainly supported Occupy - although quite critically, as I tend to do with spontaneous movements in general. However, whatever its shortcomings, Occupy has changed to conversation, and has re-awakened a Left that had been largely moribund. It may well be that something Hobsbawm said prior to his death will ring true - in a decade or two we'll notice some partial successes have been achieved that are traceable to those encampments at Zuccotti Park on September 19, 2011. There is a sense of optimism that I have noticed in those intervening two years, a change in the national vocabulary, and a realization that another world is not only possible, but is already quite doable (albeit so far primarily in small steps rather than in giant leaps forward). Our challenge in the socialist and communist Left will be to learn from what the Occupiers did correctly as well as their mistakes, and build on their successes while avoiding their shortcomings, and with those lessons learned, continue adapting our ideologies to the concrete realities of 21st century life.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013


“A friend of mine took me to a SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee] meeting, six or seven months after I was here. At the end of the meeting they announced that buses were going to Montgomery, Alabaman, to demonstrate. I went there, got beaten up, thrown in jail.

They let you make one phone call, and I called the Ugandan Ambassador in Washington, DC, talked to him, and he said, “What are you doing interfering in the affairs of a foreign country?” I said, “What? We just got our independence! This is the same struggle. Have you forgotten?” Anyway, he got me out.

Two or three weeks later, I was in my room. There was a knock at the door. Two gentlemen in trench coats and hats said, “FBI.” I thought, “Wow, just like on television.” They sat down. They were there to find out why I had gone – because this turned out to be big – it is after Montgomery that King organized his march on Selma. They wanted to know who had influenced me. After one hour of probing, the guy said, “Do you like Marx?”

I said, “I haven’t met him.”

Guy said, “No, no, he’s dead.”

“Wow, what happened?”

“No, no, he died long ago.”

I thought the guy Marx had just died. So then, “Why are you asking me if he died long ago?”

“No, he wrote a lot. He wrote that poor people should not be poor.”

I said, “Sounds amazing.”

I’m giving you a sense of how naïve I was. After they left, I went to the library to look for Marx. So that was my introduction to Karl Marx … The FBI.

-- Mahmood Mamdani

Something that might have some merit

Get past the title, which skeeved me out a bit, and read the content. The post itself is a few months old, but the ideas behind it are quite relevant: put a socialist (the real deal, as opposed to some liberal with a couple socialist-sounding ideas) in the race for the 2016 Democratic Party Presidential nomination. I could see how the author's proposal would easily meet with very stiff resistance among some factions of the socialist/communist political sphere, and some of that resistance might also have some merit. Obviously a genuinely socialist politician would not get the Democratic Party nomination, and would in fact be largely marginalized by the corporate media (when not openly mocked), and essentially out of contention by the time the first set of caucus and primary states held their votes. I'm less concerned about being corrupted by the DP machine, especially if those who actually put their weight behind such an effort keep their focus (no CPUSA nonsense!). But for that short window, there would be an opportunity to articulate a socialist vision to an audience that normally does not get access to such ideas, and some opportunities for organizational infrastructure building and networking would open up - and we desperately need that. In other words, the ideas in that post would give the Left in the US a nice shot in the arm for the short and medium term. I would advise not dismissing out of hand the proposal. Instead, why not try it, examine and debate the results, and adjust our thinking and tactics accordingly?