They Don’t Get It – Leaflet on Occupy Wall Street

October 8, 2011 at 12:47 pm (Uncategorized)

This leaflet has been distributed at the Occupt Wall Street events, as well as in several cities across North America

THEY DON’T GET IT….

When the media talk about Occupy Wall Street, they often do so with disdain: a movement that has no leaders, no set of demands, can’t be taken seriously. In a typical article, the New York Times quoted an ‘expert’ saying, “if the movement is to have lasting impact, it will have to develop leaders and clear demands”, and another one which stated that the passions have to be “channeled into institutions”. (NYT, 10/4) Their message to you is clear: ‘Go back to ‘politics as usual’, follow leaders, work within institutions, become foot-soldiers for the Democratic party and the unions in elections and other campaigns that change nothing at all, that don’t question the power structures that prop up this insane money-system. They don’t get it that the absence of leaders in this movement is not a weakness but a strength, testifying to our collective determination, to our refusal to remain followers.

They don’t get it that the absence of a narrow set of demands that can be recuperated by this or that institution, results from our understanding that the problem lies much deeper. That there are no quick fixes for a system that produces growing inequality, mass unemployment and misery, wars and ecological disasters.

If these problems could be solved by electing wiser politicians, adopting better laws etc, ‘politics as usual’ might be the way to go. But they can’t be solved that way. Politicians everywhere are bound by higher laws, the laws of capital. That’s why governments everywhere, regardless of their political color, are imposing austerity, forcing the working population to sacrifice so that more can be paid to the owners of capital. In fact the harshest cuts in wages, pensions and jobs are implemented by a ‘socialist’ government (in Greece). Politicians on the left may clamor for massive public spending , but that would only mean that we would be made poorer in a different way, through inflation.

There are no quick fixes because the system itself is obsolete. Pain and suffering are sometimes unavoidable but capitalism creates ever more pain that is easily avoidable, that only exists because in this society, profit trumps human needs. Almost two billion people on this planet are unemployed because capitalism has no need for them. Hundreds of millions live in slums, because building decent houses for them is not profitable. Many die of hunger each day because it’s not profitable to feed them. Everyone knows our planet is in danger and yet capitalism is continuing to destroy it in its desperate hunt for profit. Productivity never was higher, yet poverty increases. The know-how and resources are there for every inhabitant of this planet to live a decent life but that would not be profitable. Abundance has become possible but capitalism can’t handle abundance. It needs scarcity. Abundance in capitalism means overproduction, crisis, misery. This is insane. It must stop.

WE HAVE TO THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX

Capitalism is not “the end of history” but just a transient phase. It has changed the world but now no longer fits into it. We have to accept the fact that capitalism offers no perspective, no future. We have to prepare for a post-capitalist world, in which human relations are no longer commercial transactions, in which goods no longer represent a quantity of money but a concrete means to satisfy real human needs. A world in which competing corporations and warring nations are replaced by a human community that uses the resources of all for the benefit of all. We call that communism but it has nothing in common with the state-capitalist regimes that exist or existed in Russia, China and Cuba. Nothing is changed fundamentally if capitalists are replaced with bureaucrats with supposedly better intentions. Those regimes were not only thoroughly undemocratic, they also perpetuate wage-labor, exploitation and oppression of the vast majority of the population. The change must go deeper and must emancipate the oppressed, make them part of a real democracy instead of the sham that exists today.

In 2011, ten years after the attacks on New York that launched a decade of fear and demoralization, a breach has been opened. From Tunis to Cairo to Athens to Madrid to Santiago to New York, a fever is spreading. After taking it on the chin for so long, the working class, employed or unemployed, is beginning to rise up. We’re not gonna take it anymore! Something has changed. True, the Occupy Wall Street movement will not last forever. At some point, it will end, without any clear victory. But it’s just the beginning. This dynamic will continue and will gather strength. Be a part of it!

INTERNATIONALIST PERSPECTIVE

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5 Comments

  1. Ross Wolfe said,

    One of the most glaring problems with the supporters of Occupy Wall Street and its copycat successors is that they suffer from a woefully inadequate understanding of the capitalist social formation — its dynamics, its (spatial) globality, its (temporal) modernity. They equate anti-capitalism with simple anti-Americanism, and ignore the international basis of the capitalist world economy. To some extent, they have even reified its spatial metonym in the NYSE on Wall Street. Capitalism is an inherently global phenomenon; it does not admit of localization to any single nation, city, or financial district.

    Moreover, many of the more moderate protestors hold on to the erroneous belief that capitalism can be “controlled” or “corrected” through Keynesian-administrative measures: steeper taxes on the rich, more bureaucratic regulation and oversight of business practices, broader government social programs (welfare, Social Security), and projects of rebuilding infrastructure to create jobs. Moderate “progressives” dream of a return to the Clinton boom years, or better yet, a Rooseveltian new “New Deal.” All this amounts to petty reformism, which only serves to perpetuate the global capitalist order rather than to overcome it. They fail to see the same thing that the libertarians in the Tea Party are blind to: laissez-faire economics is not essential to capitalism. State-interventionist capitalism is just as capitalist as free-market capitalism.

    Nevertheless, though Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy [insert location here] in general still contains many problematic aspects, it nevertheless presents an opportunity for the Left to engage with some of the nascent anti-capitalist sentiment taking shape there. So far it has been successful in enlisting the support of a number of leftish celebrities, prominent unions, and young activists, and has received a lot of media coverage. Hopefully, the demonstrations will lead to a general radicalization of the participants’ politics, and a commitment to the longer-term project of social emancipation.

    To this end, I have written up a rather pointed Marxist analysis of the OWS movement so far that you might find interesting:

    “Reflections on Occupy Wall Street: What It Represents, Its Prospects, and Its Deficiencies”

    THE LEFT IS DEAD! LONG LIVE THE LEFT!

    • fischerzed said,

      Ross

      Sorry to take so long to respond to your comments.

      Your first paragraph has a few points I need to address. First, it’s quite true that as you put it, many people involved have an inadequate understanding of the way capitalism works. However, I’ll immediately qualify that.

      People come into struggle in differnt ways and at differnt levels of understanding. I know that was true for me, and I I supect for the majority of others too. Very few of us spring fully formed like Athena. The simple make the rich pay, tax the banks rhetoric is hardly surprising.

      More troubling though is the presence of professional leftists pushing the same half-baked reformism that has never worked.

      I tend to see struggle as essential in the battle for clarity. I’d hope that Marxists can add to thatr clarity. That’s cvertainly a goal that my group sets itself.

      In Toronto there have been a couple more actions, but the overall impact seems to be small. I’m anxious to see the results in the Bay area following police actions there.

      Fsicher.

  2. Richard S. said,

    That IP flyer is really nice. The language is also clear and simple, not convoluted the way some of the writing in their magazine has been. 🙂 I like the simple way they explain the idea of decadent capitalism: “It has changed the world but now no longer fits into it.”

    By the way, I was involved in the early stages of organizing for Occupy Wall Street, but I drifted out by the time they finally decided to settle in that park (i.e., the park where I used to sit in solitude and eat lamb gyro sandwiches before going to do midnight shift proofreading gigs). I still go to many of the marches and I fully support them and I also am active on the e-mail list (perhaps more so than some would like), but I became a bit frustrated with some things, and that’s the main reason I dropped out of the “core.” But that was a while ago, and I am perfectly happy to lend support more from the sides now, since there are plenty of dedicated people in that core.

    Ross is right to some extent about the reformist-capitalist tendencies, though the people who wanted to push those the hardest didn’t really succeed. (Also, btw, I agree that there is too much emphasis on geographic locations as the source of capital – which I have also pointed out to the group.) Some people say it was smart for the group not to challenge the system too much in the beginning, because that enabled the movement to gain traction. I don’t know, but there is more of a space now developing (I mean metaphorically more than physically) for real anti-capitalist views to emerge and be heard.

    So, looking at this as a movement that could evolve into something bigger and better, I’m not that worried about limited politics right now. I am a little more concerned about two things, one being that there is a need for more diversity (and while everybody always focuses on race, I am more concerned that there are so many students, teachers, and academics and so many people around the same age – which is far from ours, I think 🙂 ); the other is the meetings process, which was a bigger reason I left. I found that this process was dominated by an insistence on consensus, at least in “modified” form (which some people who are newer to radical politics actually assume is a necessary part of direct democracy) and that there were all kinds of trendy gimmicks which I saw a dozen years ago in certain “anti-globalization” groups. (E.g., the “vibes watcher,” the “progressive stack” often influenced by identity politics, finger twinkling…) Some of this might be counterproductive if the movement wants to expand.

    Quibbles aside, I am still absolutely delighted over what has been happening. Just two months ago, when I sat in those early GAs of just 50 or so people, I never dreamed that the movement would spread the way it has. I think it’s all quite phenomenal.

    • fischerzed said,

      Convoluted? Surely you jest! Seriously though, I think it was the SWP leader James Cannon who said, the hardest thing in the world is to write simply and clearly. In any event, I was really impressed by the way the leaflet came out.

      We handed out loads of them in a number of differnt cities around the world last weekend. I was pleasently surprised by the interest in literature at the Toronto event, and while people are often tagged as having simplistic solutions (and in some cases they are), there also seemed to be hunger to go deeper.

      I’d say about half of the people at the Toronto event were under 30 (not me of course!), so that’s positive. I suspect the Toronto events will disappear a little quicker, but I haven’t seen numbers lor interest like this since the Gulf War demonstratiobns.

  3. Binh said,

    Nice leaflet. Most of the Marxist left doesn’t get it either, ironically.

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