Author Topic: The Occupy Movement and the Communism of Everyday Life  (Read 1492 times)

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Offline Riney

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The Occupy Movement and the Communism of Everyday Life
« on: September 27, 2012, 17:35:08 PM »
The Occupy Movement and the Communism of Everyday Life
By Lee Harris
Monday, May 7, 2012
Filed under: Big Ideas, Public Square

As Occupy protesters turn violent, it’s worth reflecting on why the movement failed in the first place.
When the Occupy Wall Street movement began in 2011, it took as its motto the bracing claim: “We are the 99 percent.” A year later, it is beginning to look more like the Occupy movement is simply another 1 percent, different of course from the 1 percent of the richest Americans that the movement set out to target, but no more representative of the average American than the likes of Bill Gates or Warren Buffett. How did this happen?

Despite the fact that the Occupy Wall Street movement never came close to standing for the opinion of 99 percent of Americans, it originally struck a sympathetic chord among the many Americans who blamed our nation’s economic woes on the greed and selfishness of the rascals on Wall Street. Long before the financial crisis of 2008, many moderate and even quite conservative Americans were becoming increasingly alarmed at the growing rate of economic inequality in the United States, and were fearful that a shrinking middle class would endanger the socio-economic foundation of our democratic society. If you add these relatively mainstream Americans to the phalanx of passionate liberals for whom economic justice is an end in itself, you can easily come up with a percentage of Americans that, while falling short of 99 percent, is still a respectable chunk of our nation’s electorate.

If the Occupy Wall Street movement had been able to elicit the support of these groups, it would have been in a position to mount a formidable political challenge to the powers that be. At the very minimum, during the 2012 presidential campaign, the Occupy moment might have aspired to play the same role within the Democratic Party that the Tea Party has played within the GOP—as a force to be reckoned with, or at least pandered to. Yet, as things stand today, it is a safe bet that the Democratic Party will keep its distance from the parks and plazas that the Occupy movement will attempt to reoccupy now that spring is in the air. In fact, the Occupy movement has become so unpopular with the very people that it was supposed to unite that any politician who embraced its cause today would be signing his own political death warrant.

Did Wall Street financiers suddenly become wildly popular among the masses? No. And resentment remains strong against those who have made their billions by bending or even breaking the rules. What happened in the past year is that most Americans began to resent the Occupy Wall Street movement just as much as they resented the devious and unethical practices of those who had made a mint by behaving badly.

Violence and ‘the 99 Percent’

This transformation did not come about because the Occupy Wall Street movement lacked intelligent individuals in its ranks. Foremost among the early advocates of the movement was the brilliant economic anthropologist David Graeber, the man who is frequently credited with coming up with the slogan, “We are the 99 percent.” Dubbed the “Anti-Leader of Occupy Wall Street,” Graeber saw the movement as the dawn of a new age. In an interview, Graeber stated that he had three goals in 2011. The first was to learn how to drive a car. The second was to see his most recent book through the press. The third was to start a world revolution.

I don’t know if Graeber learned how to drive a car, but at this point the prospect of his starting a world revolution is looking quite dim. By March 2012, the Occupy Wall Street movement, which Graeber had earlier compared to the state-toppling uprisings of the Arab Spring, had been chased out of its original home in Zuccotti Park and had been reduced to 40 die-hard supporters holding down Union Square, one of whom announced that “we’re starting from scratch right now.”

This explains why so many in the Occupy movement looked forward to May Day, in the hope that they would be able to rekindle the original enthusiasm that had sparked the movement back in 2011. While it is true that most of the May Day protesters marched around peacefully, others took a different approach.

In the Mission District of San Francisco, a roving band of self-described anarchists got a jump on May Day festivities by smashing car windows, shattering shop fronts, and even attacking a police station. A handyman who was trying to fix the door at a local business was struck with a crow bar by a “protestor,” but was still able to shield the store window from damage. Fortunately, the handyman was relatively unharmed, but attacking a manual laborer is an odd way to celebrate the eve of international workers’ day. In past May Day celebrations around the world, workers were often attacked, but by police goons and not by their would-be liberators.

Things got even worse the next day in Seattle, when around 75 demonstrators employed the black bloc tactic. Dressed like modern day ninjas, they did the usual window smashing and tire slashing, after which they took off their ninja suits and melted back into the crowd.

Violence and vandalism were not originally part of the Occupy Wall Street movement’s agenda. Some in the movement have already denounced the May Day vandalism, blaming it on outsiders. But this response is a bit disingenuous, for who in the movement has the authority to decide who constitutes an outsider? From its commencement, the Occupy Wall Street movement rejected the very idea of hierarchy. Authority—any and all authority—was the enemy, so that everyone was left free to define the purpose of the movement as he saw fit and to carry out whatever direct action he deemed appropriate. The Mission District vandals and the Seattle ninjas were simply doing their own thing. And they got what they were looking for—media attention.

Were these two episodes merely regrettable aberrations or do they point toward a new stage in the development of the Occupy movement—one in which violence becomes part of a deliberate strategy? Of course, only time will tell, but there are several reasons for fearing the worst.

First, it is the very nature of revolutionary movements to attract increasingly violent followers to their cause. Think of the Jacobins in the French revolution and the Bolsheviks in the Russian revolution.

Second, the original strategy that guided the Occupy movement turned out to be a colossal failure. Designed for the purpose of garnering wide media attention, the mass occupation of parks and plazas boomeranged wildly, eventually eliciting hostility from all across the American political spectrum, from Newt Gingrich to Bill Maher.

To do all over again in 2012 what so signally failed to work in 2011 is a non-starter. Since the Occupy movement is not going to disappear in a puff of smoke, there is a good chance that the movement may be hijacked—and destroyed—by the advocates of violence and vandalism.

It is the very nature of revolutionary movements to attract increasingly violent followers to their cause.
Yet it doesn’t have to be this way. There is another course: namely, to reflect on what went wrong with the Occupy movement in the first place. And the best place to start would be with David Graeber’s book, Debt: The First Five Thousand Years, the one thing we can be sure that Graeber succeeded in doing in 2011.

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"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage" Anais Nin .. and yet we must arm ourselves with fear

Offline Barbara

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Re: The Occupy Movement and the Communism of Everyday Life
« Reply #1 on: October 05, 2012, 18:59:46 PM »
What a gigantic load of crap!

The nature of nonviolent movements is to attract peaceful demonstrators who are not afraid of getting their heads bashed in by homeland security police in order to create a more just and equitable society.

You're welcome.