A Critical Analysis of Occupy Wall Street

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.

Negative: White-washed

Occupy Wall Street

Need I say more?

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.

Negative: Non-ideological

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.

Negative: Undisciplined

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.

The Trouble with Liberals

I’ve always considered liberals to be nothing more than Marxists without analysis.

The difference between your average liberal and your average communist is a reading of Capital or maybe even just The Communist Manifesto. But liberals have always surprised me in their tenacity to stand firm in their philosophy without feeling the need to question some important presuppositions.

I should start off that I don’t think all liberals are stupid or evil or something like that.

For the most part, liberals seem to be well-meaning, tolerant people who think they stand for the right things. But this is exactly what makes liberalism so toxic. It’s a skeleton wrapped in a shiny cloak.

Bill Clinton had a warm smile as he signed NAFTA and gutted the economy of Mexico (and the economy of the United States). Barack Obama played nice with Gaddafi before bombing Libya into oblivion.

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“I’m not going to kill you. lol jk.”

Typically, liberals in the United States are associated with the Democratic Party. It would be unfair of me to go through all the crimes of the members of the Democratic Party to show that it can’t possibly live up to its promises.

Instead, we need to talk about the presuppositions of modern liberalism.

Presupposition #1: Capitalism is cool, or at least necessary.

This has actually become a proud staple of liberal thought ever since Tony Blair and Bill Clinton pushed through their Third Way nonsense. We have to work with multinational corporations and join in the right-wing praises of the bourgeoisie.

Bourgeoisie, however, isn’t the word they’d use, because they don’t talk about social classes!

Except of course, the idealized “Middle Class“. Oh, the Middle Class, the backbone of America. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a single mother raising 4 kids making less than $30,000 a year or the perfect nuclear family making $200,000. You’re somehow part of the Middle Class. You know it all too well. Every politician talks about you.

In all this talk about the Middle Class, we manage to lose out on discussing huge groups of other people. What happens to the rural poor? What about the urban poor? Who’s talking about poverty in America? What about our prison system, which has basically created a class of slaves? There’s no room for these people.

Capitalism requires social classes, and we don’t want to talk about how it functions. We only want to talk about the rich and the richer. Liberals are the ones letting this discourse flourish.

Even your new favorite Pope is criticizing capitalism!

child-povertyPresupposition #2: Liberal Democracy as we have it is working.

The economic/political structures in the United States are oppressive. That’s a hard fact to face when you’re living in a fantasy land where America is the “Land of Opportunity” or whatever.

It’s a hard fact that public schools today are more segregated than they were 40 years ago.

It’s a hard fact that people on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation are basically living in Third World conditions with 80% unemployment and an average life expectancy of 50. That’s in South Dakota!

It’s a hard fact that the government of the United States destroyed the Mexican economy and now punishes Mexican immigrants for seeking better lives. Obama’s deported more undocumented immigrants than any other president before him!

This is why I’ve always felt that liberals were Marxists without analysis. When I used to waste my time trying to reason with liberals, they would often say things like, “But communism doesn’t work!

Are you serious? Does capitalism work? Does liberal democracy work? For whom is the current liberal democratic capitalist system working?

Of course, it’s working in the interests of the rich. So if you’re rich, congratulations, the system is working for you!

“I’m not rich, but I vote! Surely our liberal democracy is best, because I have the freedom to choose!”

What are your choices? You don’t get to vote on most issues, because the candidates mostly agree on the issues. In describing the two party split in Britain, George Galloway often refers to them as “two cheeks of the same backside“. A fitting analogy if there ever was one.

In reality, Noam Chomsky says it best: “They’re two factions of the same party. We have a one-party state.”

Presupposition #3: Structural Institutions are independent, not derivative.

What do I mean here?

Sexism and Racism are not separate from capitalism, they’re branches on the same tree.

Liberals today seem to think that the way to fight racism or sexism is to vote for Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. Liberals today seem to be of the opinion that being “tolerant” is how to you solve racism and sexism.

The poison is drawn up from the roots, but the liberal thinks that plucking a few leaves will solve the problem.

The tree itself must be removed!

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Martin Luther King Jr. knew that capitalism and racism are intimately linked. White liberals act like having a “black friend” or voting for Barack Obama protects them from the charge of racism. Not quite, you privileged fool.

Do we really need to have a discussion about the history of the United States? It certainly wasn’t economic equality that led to slavery.

Today, one only needs to take a look at the map in order to see how districts and suburbs are segregated by color. You can even compare this with rich block and poor blocks in order to see how wealth is distributed by racial divisions.

But of course, capitalism and sexism are also intertwined. Patriarchy is not something that can be challenged within the structures of economic exploitation. Liberals want to focus on “equal work for equal pay”, which is fine, it’s important. But it’s an issue that is derivative of Patriarchy, which needs to be fought tooth and nail.

The trouble with liberals is that they don’t see America as an empire.

The trouble with liberals is that they want to put a bandaid on a bullet wound.

The trouble with liberals is that they see symptoms, but they don’t see the cause.

A Revolutionary Against Revolution

I was introduced to the works of Karl Marx when I was sixteen years old. Throughout my  teenage years, I was shaped by Marx’s ideas about political economy, class struggle, and revolution. Although I’ve never been much of a dogmatic Marxist, it took me a long time to articulate my feelings on the subject of revolution.

Today, I wholly reject revolution as a necessary tool in political transformation.

Before moving forward, let’s define political revolution:

1. an overthrow or repudiation and the thorough replacement of an established government or political system by the people governed.

Why would someone desire revolution in the first place? Out of anger, necessity, the desire for justice, righteous indignation. At least, these are the causes that revolutionaries would cite.

However, in our society, “revolutionaries” seem to be more often motivated by greed, the desire for power, and other nonsense. I realize that this is fairly anecdotal, but I think intentions play a key role in how people act towards the government.

And this is where I fail the revolutionary test: Are you committed to revolution?

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My answer, as you might of guessed, is no. I’m not committed to revolution, I’m committed to a better world. I’m not inherently against revolutionary politics or the revolutionary ideal. In fact, I remain a committed radical:

1.of or going to the root or origin; fundamental: a radical difference.

2.thoroughgoing or extreme, especially as regards change from accepted or traditional forms: a radical change in the policy of a company.

3. favoring drastic political, economic, or social reforms.

But the problem is the conflation between revolutionary politics and radical politics. So many people today start off with the desire to build a better world. They see injustice and decide to respond to it. War, disease, famine, the whole deal.

The question then becomes: how do we fix it?

Well, voting is bullshit, reform doesn’t really work, and the fundamentals of this society need to change. Therefore we need a fundamental change! And then BAM, a little bit of idealizing Lenin, Khomeini, Robespierre, or Che and you’re a bona fide revolutionary.

The problem is that revolutions never go as planned – look at France, Russia, the U.S., China, Mexico, Iran, the “Arab Spring”, Narnia

I’m not convinced that “revolution” is the answer. And I’m absolutely in disagreement with Marx that class struggle is going to deterministically lead to proletariat revolution and communism.

"class struggle is going to deterministically lead to proletariat revolution and communism"

“class struggle is going to deterministically lead to proletariat revolution and communism”

Although the diagnosis is undoubtedly correct, it’s the prescription that needs a bit of re-thinking. Yes, capitalism needs to go. Yes, hierarchies and domination and exploitation must be fought. Yes, we must change the fundamentals of society today.

I’m committed to a better world, and if a revolution is necessary to achieve that world, then I’m willing to continue to have that discussion. However, until I’m convinced, I’ll march on, untethered by my previous allegiance.