Thursday, 13 October 2011

A glaring problem with Occupy Wall Street



The following post was sent to me originally as a comment to my post Occupy Wall Street Movement by a comrade from New York, for which I am very grateful, and because of the importance of his general observations I have decided to elevate it in order that it may receive a wider viewing on this side of the fish-pond.

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 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”


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2 comments:

Ross Wolfe said...

Thank you for re-posting this on your website, as well as your praise of my analysis. I am still quite uncertain about the future of this movement, and what it portends for the Left.

I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on this whole affair.

Norbert said...

Thank you very much for both you comment and the light that you cast upon this movement, which should be seen as constructive criticism, and of course there is nothing wrong at pointing out faults or shortcomings as we see them, very healthy for debate within the international movement.

I will in due course be posting some of my own thoughts on this movement, which insistently is opening up here in London over this coming weekend, with a planed protest outside the London Stock Exchange and I intend to take a look and give support.

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