Negative: 99% WTF?
Occupy Wall Street was most successful in creating the new language of the left-liberal scene: “We are the 99%“. This was their message to the Wall Street bankers: “You are the 1%” and, therefore, the opposition. Of course, not the enemy, because that’s too strong a term.
The only drawback to this language is that it’s incorrect in two ways.
First of all, 99% of the people involved in Occupy Wall Street were not/are not really part of the 99%, because they’re all comparatively well-off compared to most of the world. Let’s be serious, a white 23 year-old with $10,000 of debt from their Ivy League University is not in the same position as anyone in the Third World.
Second of all, the enemy (I’m not afraid of the term) is a lot more than the 1%. The bourgeoisie, petite-bourgeoisie, and other reactionary classes make up significantly more than the 1% on Wall Street. Those who own the means of production make up a more sizeable group than that and those who benefit from the super-exploitation of the Third World make up the entire First World.
We’re talking about imperialism.
Occupy’s sloppy analysis isn’t helpful.
The big problem here is that analysis and language here have a feedback loop – the language is flawed and the more this language is used, the less the analysis reflects reality.
Positive: Reinvigorated some aspects of protest culture
One nice thing that OWS was that it put protests back into the mainstream in a way. Whereas before 2011, there certainly wasn’t a prevalence of protests coming from the Left in the dominant culture, today there seems to be far more of a willingness to protest. I’d be willing to concede that this probably had to do with the prevalence of OWS in the news/popular culture.
Positive: Set the stage for Black Lives Matter
I hesitate to draw this line, because it gives Occupy too much credit in my opinion, and it makes it seem (once again) that black people need white people for inspiration and support (which is obviously not the case), but a lot of people have connected these two protest movements. Objectively, OWS did take place before BLM (in other words, before a white pig murdered an unarmed black teenager in Missouri), so OWS was in the news before BLM was.
Occupy is not some pan-leftist movement, but rather a washed-up intellectually-vacuous garbage. Case and point: this bullshit.
Positive: Opened up the ideological space
Of course, anything posted on Occupy.com in 2017 isn’t getting very wide readership, so we can rest assured that this “Letter to the American Left” won’t be poisoning much dialogue.
OWS had no specific goals, demands, tactics, strategies, analysis, worldview, standards, or ideas about pretty much anything. This led to the conclusion that putting up tents and using unclear language would be a successful (whatever that means) strategy to realizing their goals (whatever those were).
Actually, the major mistake that OWS made was that they said everything, rather than nothing. Different factions articulated different aims and different paths. By saying everything, they effectively said nothing. And, all the while, in this menagerie of ideas, the Occupiers were so frustrated that their “pure” message was being ignored.
Positive: The Left can learn
This broad populist left-liberal space is a minefield.
Left-liberalism is a dead-end.
Capitalism is a losing game.
The lesson here is clear: analyze and radicalize.
It’s May Day, which means that it’s the perfect opportunity to discuss the state of the Left. For the past ten years, I’ve often sought to build bridges between disparate groups in order to encourage organization.
Here, however, I want defend dividing the left for the time being.
There are times and places to build united fronts, of course, but at the moment, we need to have the opportunity and space to continue discussing, debating, pinning down ideological points. With sweeping generalizations being made about every event – Syria, Brexit, Trump – it is the time now to swim in polemics.
Now is the time to divide.
In Germany in the 1990s and early 2000s, there were essentially three factions on the Left who were opposed to one another. There were the anti-nationalists, the anti-imperialists, and the anti-Germans.
The anti-nationalists focused, obviously, on nation-states and treated all of them with equal contempt. Anti-nationalists saw all states as equally repulsive, whether the U.S. or Senegal. Since all states are mere constructions in capitalism, then they should all be fought.
The anti-imperialists argued that imperialism is the dominant force in the world, which therefore meant that different states (or non-state actors) occupy different positions in relation to imperialism. Forces that encourage imperialism (mostly stemming from the United States and Europe) should be fought and forces resisting imperialism (whether nominally leftist or not) should receive at least critical support.
The anti-Germans took the position that Germany was the primary entity that ought to be opposed, as Germany was responsible for the most horrific crimes of the 20th century. Anti-Germans were against German reunification, against NATO bombing Serbia, and against EU economic policies, all the while offering uncritical support to Israel, as the Jews had been the primary victims of Germany’s past. After 9/11, Anti-Germans used Marx’s formulation of the economic stages (feudalism, capitalism, socialism, communism) to support the Amerikkkan invasion of of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003. Since all of these peoples were lumped into “anti-Semitic feudal Islamists”, then the U.S. was going to force the Middle East into capitalism, which would then open the world up for the next stages – socialism and communism.
As you can probably tell, I’m pretty anti-anti-German.
I’m far more sympathetic to the anti-nationalists and anti-imperialists.
In Germany today, the differences between these groups are disintegrating. One of my friends recently told me that he’s happy about this development, because he thinks it’s more important to build coalitions.
I am not so sure.
It seems to me that these distinctions were never made in the United States leftist scene. Ideologically speaking, it’s more difficult for anarchists and communists to come together than anti-nationalists and anti-imperialists, even if those anarchists and communists aren’t sure why.
The political constellations are different and, in my opinion, much more weakly defined.
As a prime example, the tendency in the United States is the endless question of “uniting the Left”. Personally, I’ve sat through countless brainstorming sessions that reached hair-brained solutions to the “factionalism” and “sectarianism” between leftists.
Differences shouldn’t be articulated and politicized, argue these saviors of leftist in-fighting.
But why not? Through polemics, we have leftist groups engaging one another. Communist parties and organizations vie for correct positions and anarchists clarify their positions as they adopt and adapt their adjectives: Anarcho-Syndicalist-Communist-Primitivists!
However, it’s clear that I’m in the minority. A lot of leftists crave “unity”, because they see that as a way of organizing and thereby succeeding. (Never mind the fact that “success” here means something entirely different to every grouping.)
The main point for them is openness.
This openness is the idea that brings us a magazine like Jacobin.
I should mention here that I often like articles on Jacobin and have cited them numerous times on this blog. However, Jacobin represents this tendency and there are plenty of articles on Jacobin that are absolute nonsense.
In the goal of “unity”, Jacobin, posturing as a broad-leftist, big-tent magazine, is careful not to talk too much about characters that are divisive: Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Mao go almost totally unmentioned. Even Marx and Engels are barely cited.
The usual cast of characters of leftist debate are mostly left untouched, as this might cause division.
Jacobin articles are particularly philosophically empty.
Rather than offering a structured system of analysis in any way, Jacobin magazine leaves us to dwell in a post-modern, non-polemical space.
We are free to take up contradictory political positions based on feelings. Politics in this world are based on convenience. You can check your brain at the door, as long as you’ve brought your heart along.
The Soviet Union is gone, the PRC is totally capitalist, Castro is dead, we don’t have to defend anything icky!
Although in some ways we can see this ideological vacuity an asset, it seems to me rather often to result in the publishing of some rather absurdly silly arguments.
At the same time, because the differences between positions like anti-nationalism and anti-imperialism were never articulated on the American Left, there is no space for a proper discussion on these points between mainstream leftist tendencies.
But Jacobin still encourages its readers to take hard political positions.
A good example is this article, super critical of Hezbollah for not being “proletarian enough” and this other article that calls for general solidarity with the Rojava, while pointing out criticisms from a left-liberal human rights perspective.
So, we are told, we shouldn’t support Hezbollah, based on a Marxist analysis, and we should critically support Rojava, based on a liberal analysis.
Where does that leave us?
Why one and not the other?
Is the PKK/PYD seriously representative of the Kurdish proletariat? Obviously not.
Jacobin does us no favors here. Due to the lack of ideological clarity, we have a variety of positions on a variety of issues and they can range from left-liberal to Marxist, which, it should be noted, are competing and mutually-exclusive worldviews.
(This hypocritically coming from the Muslim communist.)
Without any ideological rigor and in the constant attempts to “unite the Left”, we’re offered almost nothing. All the “solutions” don’t give use anything concrete.
When we’re divided over polemics, we’re at least negotiating ideological space, when we’re “united”, we’re barely saying anything of substance to each other.
So on this May Day, 100 years after the Russian Revolution, I’d like to say to all my fellow leftists:
Let’s remain divided, at least for now.
While the white “working class” of the first world countries complains about their situation, we should remember this:
If communism had spread unhindered during the 1960s and 1970s, then multinational corporations wouldn’t have been able to outsource jobs to the third world. White people destroyed Vietnam and then are confused as to why all the factories are in Vietnam.
When white people express their racist/imperialist sentiments, we shouldn’t try to appease them in some Bernie Sanders hat trick. Rather, we should recognize that first world white people brought this world into existence and refuse to reflect on their own actions.
And now we have mainstream liberals eulogizing “the middle class” and we have these new “democratic socialists” arguing for the rights of “the working class”. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are appealing to those who want to see the American Empire thrive.
There is no working class in the first world.
When we on the left capitulate to the Sanderites, we essentially lose any claim to our own narrative – which is politically devastating. Sanders has supported every imperialist war (except Iraq), doesn’t support any form of reparations, and has not interest in bringing about the twilight of American power.
Sanders is no leftist.
And when Dumbass Trump hurls tomahawk missiles at the Shayrat airbase in Syria, we need to recognize that there can be no “deal” struck up with the forces of capitalism today. We have no allies among those who support capitalism, patriarchy, white supremacy, and imperialism.
We cannot make broad alliances with liberals, Sanderites, and Trump’s horde of neo-nazis.
In the past week alone, countless acts of terror have taken place against Muslims. In Quebec, a white terrorist opened fire on worshipers and murdered six people. In Victoria, Texas, the mosque was destroyed in a clear act of arson, where the Jews of Victoria have offered their synagogue to the Muslim community in an act of generosity. And on Sunday, one of the U$ assassination squads (SEAL team 6) slaughtered multiple children in Yemen (including an 8-year-old American girl, if you happen to care about Americans more than people from Yemen).
Needless to say, we are facing an emboldened and renewed campaign of terrorism against Muslims around the world. And, of course, the encouraged (actually, insisted) response by general society is that we should not defend ourselves. Of course, I agree with Malcolm on this point. If we say that people of color, women, trans/queer people, and Muslims should defend themselves, there is an uproar that we’re “calling for violence”. I have yet to hear anyone call for violence – we’re calling for self-defense.
If we’re living in a society where Nazis can walk right into mosques and start shooting at people in prayer, then we ought to have the right to defend ourselves. As Malcolm put it: “I don’t even call it violence when it’s in self-defense; I call it intelligence.”
This applies globally as well. Saudi Arabia (along with the U$ and England) has launched one of the greatest humanitarian catastrophes of the century by invading and destroying one of the poorest countries in the world – Yemen. Bombs rain from the skies over Sanaa, but any attempt to arm the people of Yemen is rejected. Why? Because apparently everyone in Yemen is an agent of Iran (and, therefore, worthy of death).
This justifies assassination of all the men, women, and children of the country.
Who is to blame? Well, the obvious answer would be the bloated clown running the U$ (voted in by 62,985,105 Amerikkkans). But it isn’t that easy, of course, because we know that Obama was the one who started the assault on Yemen. While he was feeding everyone bullshit about the Arab Spring, he saw fit to murder innocent people in Yemen the “most extraordinary global terrorism campaign in history” for doing nothing more than being apart of the Arab Spring. The line can be drawn pretty clearly back to European colonialism.
In all times and places, the violence is supposed to flow down the hierarchy. The enormous empires try to dominate tiny countries in order to maintain hegemony. Anyone who tries to resist is exterminated and anyone who silently goes along with the program is kept in treachery, unless bribery is the only way to extract resources.
The Saudis go along with the program and are handsomely rewarded, whereas when Iran tried to stand up and reclaim its dignity, the West responded with terror and destruction. All the while, the media is the West has adeptly avoided talking about the invasion of Yemen. Coverage of the war might lead to pesky questions, such as the obvious: why shouldn’t the Houthis have arms?
Back in the West, terror continues mostly in the shadows.
The terrorism that takes place against Muslims is often ignored, because it doesn’t play into xenophobic, racist portrayals of groups at risk in Western society.
The first mosque I ever visited was in 2011. Almost immediately when I went downstairs I noticed black marks on the walls under the windows. When I asked people what had happened, they responded (very calmly) that someone had thrown two Molotov cocktails through the windows. This is the reality that Muslims are living with in the U$.
And the expectation is that we’re supposed to allow this reality to continue?
This is where we ought to make it clear that we will defend ourselves. There are those who call for full gun control and want to make it impossible for anyone to own guns (except the government, of course). This seems like an odd way of confronting the world as it is. Guns exist already and people have access to them already. No matter your position on gun control, it would be insanity for vulnerable people to remain unarmed as Nazis and fascists are arming themselves to the teeth.
There is a Youtube channel run by a Sikh man named Gursant Singh. He is an American convert to Sikhism and often talks about the conditions faced by Sikhs in the U$. Let’s not forget the massacre five years ago at a gurdwara in Wisconsin, when a Alt-Right Nazi walked into the Sikh Temple and shot ten people, killing six.
Obama never even visited, despite being sure to visit other sites of mass shootings.
Gursant Singh called for all Sikhs to arm themselves and be prepared at all times. He pointed out, correctly, that Sikhs are often mistaken for Muslims (due to their turbans and beards) and that they were, therefore, walking targets. This demonstrates the successful demonization of Muslims and the general ignorance of Amerikans.
Si vis pacem, para bellum. – “If you want peace, prepare for war.”
This is an old Latin adage that I endorse wholeheartedly.