Thursday, November 17, 2011

Revolutionary Suicide.

From my column in today's Ottawa Citizen:

. . . The aborted lunacy of Occupism is now descending into merely a Jonestown of the Imbecilities, with eviction notices and standoffs and arrests breaking up Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Oakland, Occupy Toronto, Occupy Halifax, Occupy Vancouver, Occupy Victoria, and on and on. And as usual, there is a celebrity with a conspiracy theory to explain why. Famous pseudo-documentarist Michael Moore fingers the Department of Homeland Security.

"This is not some coincidence," Moore says. "This was planned and I think the question really has to be asked of the federal government and of the Obama administration.

Why? Why?"

Why? It just could be that maybe the Department of Homeland Security doesn't have its agents doing the devil's work in the bylaw-enforcement offices down at 12th and Cambie in Vancouver, and that ordinary working citizens and taxpayers are growing bored with having their public parks expropriated by people who dump buckets of their own urine on parks board workers.

Just a guess, mind you. Maybe the working people who have been made to pay for finance capitalism's recklessness are getting sick and tired of being told things about inequality and powerlessness that they knew all about before the subject started coming up in Occupist chants and slogans shouted around drum-circles. . .

You can't tell the players without a program. In Shift Magazine, Spencer Sunshine (great name) provides a racing-forum guide:

. . . Much has already been said about the Occupy movement’s refusal to elucidate its demands. On one hand, this has been useful in mobilizing a diverse group of people who can project what they want to see in this movement—anarchists, Marxists, liberals, Greens, progressive religious practitioners, etc. On the other hand, this has been useful in mobilizing a diverse group of people who can project what they want to see in this movement—Ron Paulists, libertarians, antisemites, followers of David Icke, Zeitgeist movement folks, Larouchites, Tea Partiers, White Nationalists, and others. The discourse about the “99%” (after all, these Right-wingers and conspiracy mongers are probably a far greater proportion of the actual 99% than are anarchists and Marxists), along with the Occupy movement’s refusal to set itself on a firm political footing and correspondingly to place limitations on involvement by certain political actors, has created a welcoming situation for these noxious political elements to join.

So far, the overwhelmingly progressive nature of many of these Occupations has kept this element at bay. But it is only the weight of the numbers of the progressive participants that has done this. There are neither organizational structures within the Occupy movement, nor are there conceptual approaches that it is based on, that act to ensure this remains the case. So it is not unreasonable to expect that, especially as participation declines, some of the Occupations will be taken over by folks from these far Right and conspiratorial perspectives. All participants might rightly see themselves as part of the 99%. The real divisive question will then be, who do they think the 1% are?

Meanwhile, for instances of the opposite of revolutionary suicide, the latest installments in the Harry's Place snippets from my book are here and here. I'm happy they chose the passages that feature the Rasoul sisters, and Alaina Podmorow and Lauryn Oates. If it's a revolutionary spirit you want, those young women have some for you, and I got a kick out of Gene's comment: "And I think I can add without fear of contradiction that they’ve done more for the cause of human rights and human freedom than the Socialist Workers Party and the Stop the War Coalition have done in their entire histories."

Finally, a not completely hostile and inaccurate account of my lecture at UVic on the subject of my book and how it came to pass that I wrote it, here. There was only one question I didn't bother to answer, by the way, and Brandon Rosario's report, also linked on the page, will let you know which one, right away. Here's a wee clip:


Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

My friend at his new blog explains why he thinks the OWS movement is bound to fail:

"This is essentially a utopian movement, susceptible to all the foibles of utopian movements past: big ideas, big idealism, noble motives, dedicated adherents, out with the old, wholesale, in with the new and innovative. They will become victims of their own aspirations, however admirable those might be. (The TP shares this aspect in a different iteration, the subject of another essay.)

The road to political change is twofold: incremental change through politics, or outright popular revolution that forces the issue. The former is the rule, the latter the exception. I used “paradigm” advisedly earlier. What OWS is proposing is a sea change in the way business is done. No nipping around the edges, no legislative fix, no candidate, no standard bearer, no (big) funding, no party, no co-option/invasion. It has exempted itself from the political narrative by proposing ideas that are just Too Big, no matter how resonant they are. It is creatively attractive anarchy (and I mean that in a good way) that is pragmatically untenable.

More revolutions are crushed than are successful. Those few successes are often co-opted and redirected. Ask me, I was a Trotskyite long ago. Utopia, and Justice, and Fairness, these are ideals to strive towards. These are part of our common aspirational humanity, and striving is in our nature. Without pragmatic methodology, OWS is an inert expression of cumulative and common angst. We do, as humans, dare to dream. But we also have to act in a waking world."

10:30 AM  
Blogger Harold Rhenisch said...

The movement is interesting as a kind of silicon-hits-the-road event. A whole generation leaves its electronic caves and does what? Why, discovers its bodies. And does what with them, pray? Creates FaceBook and Twitter events with them, naturally. All logical, although rather SF. And beyond that? Well, that's just the thing. These bodies are strange and beautiful artifacts, and just stand around when not animated and set to action. Here is a revolution of consciousness, by which a generation attempts to bridge the divide between the real world (e-world) and the ancient, physical one (which does need to be bridged), but doesn't know how. Meanwhile, the people who do know the kinds of things to do in the physical world haul them away. I think the primary law of revolutions has been breached here: don't be there at 5 a.m. when the men in the black cars show up at the door and take you away.

4:11 PM  

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