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Build on the Anarchist and Revolutionary Potentialities of the Occupy Wall Street Movement.

category north america / mexico | community struggles | feature author Wednesday October 12, 2011 16:50author by First of May Anarchist Alliance - The Utopian Report this post to the editors

FROM OCCUPATION TO EXPROPRIATION!

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The following is a joint statement from the First of May Anarchist Alliance and The Utopian: A Journal of Anarchism and Libertarian Socialism.

We should strive to convince the movement that the problem in the US today is not just Wall Street or the corporations or the fact that the economic system is somehow being “gamed” or “rigged” by tricky selfish individuals. We need to explain that the cause of the crisis is the capitalist system itself, a system in which production is carried on only when it results in profits, the vast majority of which go to the tiny elite that runs the country. Correspondingly, we should work to persuade the movement that its ultimate aim should be the radical democratization of our entire society, in other words, a revolution in which the vast majority of people seize control of the economy and the country as a whole from the rich and disperse power and direct control of all aspects of social life as widely as possible. As a result, we should propose and support radical demands that both point in this direction and unite the broadest sectors of the population.

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FROM OCCUPATION TO EXPROPRIATION!

Build on the Anarchist and Revolutionary Potentialities of the Occupy Wall Street Movement.


The following is a joint statement from the First of May Anarchist Alliance and The Utopian: A Journal of Anarchism and Libertarian Socialism.

1. The ongoing Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, encampment, and related actions around the country are a significant development. These events may well be the beginning of a 1960s style movement of great potential. Because of its focus on the economic crisis, the financial/corporate shenanigans that contributed to it, and, most important, jobs, the movement has the potential to strike a resonant chord in the hearts of millions of people who have been slammed by the events of the last few years and who are aching to do something about them. This is particularly true of those who have lost their homes and/or their jobs, as well as those who have little prospect of finding work.

2. The Occupy Wall Street movement, like the movement of the 60s in its early stages, is anarchistic, that is, unconsciously anarchist in how it is structured and what its underlying goals are, in spite of the liberal populism of its rhetoric and explicit demands. The key question is: Will the movement be corralled by liberal, reformist, or authoritarian forces or will it develop in a self-consciously revolutionary and anarchist direction? The example of the 60s, in which the radical wing of the movement abandoned its original libertarian principles and embraced an array of authoritarian Marxist-Leninist politics, is instructive here. We must do our best to make sure something like that does not happen again.

3. Consequently, we believe it is crucial for all anarchists to participate in this movement and work to build it. We also think it is essential that we explicitly propagandize and organize for both anarchist methods of struggle and for an anti-authoritarian social vision/program. We urge all of our groupings, formal and informal, while remaining free to experiment in these matters, to recognize the need for some degree of ongoing coordination and, at critical moments, the effective concentration of our forces. Weakness and disorganization in this respect will allow important events and possibilities to pass us by as well as allow attacks on the autonomy of the movement to go unanswered.

4. We should defend the movement's aim to be as broad and as deep as possible, to reach out to individuals of all classes, while we concentrate on drawing in workers and poor people. We want to educate everybody about the strategic importance of building a movement concentrated in the working class. Toward this end, we welcome the participation of several major unions in the protests. Their presence helps to legitimize the occupation among wider layers of people and brings unionized workers into direct contact with others in the fight for justice and an alternative society. We support bringing those unions of which we are members into the struggle as one way of getting our co-workers involved. But we also need to highlight the danger that labor's bureaucratic/reformist apparatuses will attempt to chain the movement to their political purposes, which are contrary to the spirit and aims of the Occupy Wall Street movement. We must be both creative and energetic in our efforts to foment a subversive consciousness among participants in the movement, and to generate independent organization and radical action by the workers themselves, both inside and outside the union structures.

5. One of the strengths of the movement at present is its concentration on direct action. We should work to ensure that the movement retains this focus: demonstrations, occupations, and strikes, up to and including city-wide, state-wide, and national general strikes. These must remain the movement's tactics of choice. We also need to struggle to turn the general distrust of and disgust with capitalist politics and politicians into a full-blown recognition that both the Democratic and Republican parties are controlled by, and beholden to, corporate interests, and are therefore our enemies.

6. Finally, we should strive to convince the movement that the problem in the US today is not just Wall Street or the corporations or the fact that the economic system is somehow being "gamed" or "rigged" by tricky selfish individuals. We need to explain that the cause of the crisis is the capitalist system itself, a system in which production is carried on only when it results in profits, the vast majority of which go to the tiny elite that runs the country. Correspondingly, we should work to persuade the movement that its ultimate aim should be the radical democratization of our entire society, in other words, a revolution in which the vast majority of people seize control of the economy and the country as a whole from the rich and disperse power and direct control of all aspects of social life as widely as possible. As a result, we should propose and support radical demands that both point in this direction and unite the broadest sectors of the population.

The Utopian: http://www.utopianmag.com/

First of May Anarchist Alliance: m1aa.org

author by Red and Black Actionpublication date Thu Oct 13, 2011 17:20Report this post to the editors

"...4. We should defend the movement's aim to be as broad and as deep as possible, to reach out to individuals of all classes, while we concentrate on drawing in workers and poor people. ..."

So, should we "reach out" to capitalists and state managers ?

author by igzpublication date Fri Oct 14, 2011 22:58Report this post to the editors

i think we should be wary of 'propagandization'. there is enough fuel, enough fodder of truth, of real problems, most of which people are aware of but may just need to be told or made aware that others share the same beliefs. there is no need to fabricate clever idea when we already have enough material to work with. jus' sayin.

author by C. Alexander - M1AApublication date Sat Oct 15, 2011 02:20Report this post to the editors

On the issue of muti-classes participation in the Occupy Together movements, what we are looking at and speaking to is that there are different layers of peoples involved already and in some instance a high percentage of people (namely youth) who are coming from decidedly middle-class backgrounds. They have access, skill sets, and degrees of privilege that many more proletarianized peoples don't. The participation of these people, just like in the Arab and North African rebellions as well as the upsurges in Madison, Wisconsin, Britain, Spain and Greece, should be welcomed and encouraged. We should encourage these participants to share their knowledge and to act in full equality with other participants. Hierarchy and managerial behavior that often accompanies middle class conditioning has to be challenged and broken down. I think even with a casual reading of our statement most people would not conclude we are advocating the ruling classes or state managers to join in (unless in obvious and conscious acts of class suicide). the fact that we spent time discussing working class and unionized workers at length points to our class struggle orientation. So , i think the point raised is a tad disingenuous and read in bad faith.

In any case, what we argue is that these movements have to be broadened out and "democratized"along specific participatory, from below, and experimental lines. Simultaneously we, as class struggle and social revolutionary anarchist revolutionaries, have to develop a pole of praxis to raise as an alternate politic within these movements. So its two fold, push for broad debate and practice and also propose our own set of approaches for consideration and evaluation.

author by Red and Black Actionpublication date Sat Oct 15, 2011 03:44Report this post to the editors

Perhaps it is a misreading, but if so, its not from "bad faith" but from the way you formulate the point ... You no doubt mean the middle class plus working class, but that is not "all classes"... Anyway, I don't want to harp on a single, and I do certainly feel the overall statement and orientation is very good and should get a decent hearing.

Salud!

author by José Antonio Gutiérrez D.publication date Sat Oct 15, 2011 04:26Report this post to the editors

Probably in response to the lack of class politics in most anarchist circles since the '40s from the '80s an ultra-dogmatic approach to class struggle was adopted according to which only "workers" can advocate revolution -which in my opinion confuses "identity politics" with "class politics", reducing class as a mere identity. But the relationship of the classes and revolutionary struggle is more subtle than that, so I want to endorse the observations of May 1st Alliance. While anarchism is a working class doctrine, that speaks mainly to the working class (because it is the working class the sole class which as-a-class have the ability to overthrow capitalism), it should not speak "exclusively" to the working class. There are dissatisfied elements in the middle class and even on the borugeoisie which should be attracted not by downplaying our class politics: We want to attract them actually to accept a working class and libertarian revolution! We should attract them by searching a language which resonates with them, by showing how our class politics are ultimately humanistic in the sense that will benefit the bulk of humanity.

Sure, the vast majority of the ruling classes will not be interested. But some dissatisfied, rebellious or sensitive elements could be of enormous importance if attracted because they have access to knowledge that most of us don't have. To put it simple: a working-class-only approach would have turned its back to Bakunin, Kropotkin and Malatesta, to name but a few.

Also, the issue of the middle classes (professionals, liberal porfessions) can be dismissed only at our own peril, as shown by experiences such as the Allende government in Chile, where the inability to win over the middle classes was fatal (sure, the appraoch was win them by downplaying our socialism, but this only encouraged the right wing which became the pole of attraction for them). When there is a situation like these mass and community mobilisations, whether Occupy X or the Arab Spring, there is a situation that becomes magnetic to dissatisfied elements of all classes, we should pay particular attention to winning every possible sector over. So agitate your class politics, don't downplay them so you can become an attractive, a strong, assertive, even seductive pole within the movement; but find an inclusive language that resonates with them as well.

I understand this is a very broad and complex issue, so take this just as a humble contribution.

author by Jan Makandalpublication date Tue Oct 25, 2011 11:44Report this post to the editors

On the joint statement
The character of this OWS is simply a mobilization in a process of becoming a movement but heavily dominated by populism. If in the 1900’s the struggle against opportunism was an indispensable element for the victory of a proletarian alternative, nowadays, in addition to opportunism, it is populism.
What is in general populism?
1. It is a theoretical, political and ideological approach where the notion of people is articulated outside the notion of classes. In this case, when we talk of people, we see the mass of working people in a way that no differences are made, even when one class or fraction is used as a leaning instrument among them, the petit bourgeoisie/middle class in most instances. [Some commonly populist concepts used: dispossessed, disenfranchised, oppressed, 99%, etc…]
2. In the period of imperialism and capitalism, not only are people outside the notion of class, but as well in an amalgam in which no class differences are explained and the struggle for class interests is eclipsed. In reality and to be more precise, this approach is looking at the non-working-class dominated classes, which are more quantitative, poorer than the working class. This approach is not innocent. It takes roots in the class that practices populism. In an imperialist country, it could be any fraction or the bourgeoisie or sector or fraction of the petit bourgeoisie. This approach allows the recuperation of mass movements, in which sectors or fractions of the masses are used as crutches for a systematic advancement of the projects of the dominant classes or the petit bourgeoisie against the general interests of the popular masses, especially the working class. In general, this demarche contributes greatly to hide class struggle in the interest of the dominant classes.

We could recognize two types of populism historically, left populism and right populism and the capacity of left populism to quickly make a sharp turn to the right; Aristide in Haiti, Peron in Argentina, ANC/Mandela in South Africa, the Sandinista in Nicaragua, just to cite a few. It is important to indicate that the development of populism is connected as well with the ossification of proletarian theory, a low level of proletarian struggle and a dominance of dogmatism.

The US social formation is in a deep crisis. It is not a cyclical crisis but a core structural crisis and so far alternatives offered have been short lived and have proven that capital, and all the forms of capital accumulation and concentration, are becoming more problematic to manage by the capitalist class.

The basic nature of the life of capital is for its valorization and accumulation. We must point out that the structural crisis of capital for its accumulation and valorization is creating two effects 1] an increasing acuteness of inter capitalist struggle and the leaning of these fractions of the capitalist class on the masses, especially the petit bourgeoisie, to protect and benefit their forms of concentration of capital for its reproduction, valorization and accumulation. 2] Popular resistance, with all the contradictions, class interests, class objectives and class alternatives of all the classes comprising the popular movement and the need for the working class potentially as the grave digger of capital and the capitalist class to play its historical role.

With all it limitations, I still argue that the OWS mobilizations are a reflection of the crisis but as well the form it takes, a reflection of the limitation of authentic progressive and revolutionary forces, especially proletarian revolutionary forces. It is also a form of resistance. Progressive and revolutionary forces need to define a form of praxis correspondent to this moment in order to construct a genuine autonomous alternative to capital and the capitalist class. In another word, our forces need to really appropriate the contradictions in the process of development of popular resistance so we don’t deviate to adventurism, ultra-leftist and tailgating.

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