Tuesday, December 27, 2011

It's the corruption, stupid — Naomi Wolf on the violent OWS crackdown

The violent police assaults across the US are no coincidence. Occupy has touched the third rail of our political class's venality

Read the rest at Deep Journal
The shocking truth about the crackdown on Occupy
by Naomi Wolf
Sadly, Americans this week have come one step closer to being true brothers and sisters of the protesters in Tahrir Square. Like them, our own national leaders, who likely see their own personal wealth under threat from transparency and reform, are now making war upon us.
BTW, many Occupy groups around the country were forcibly evicted during the Christmas news lull. Unless you were paying close attention, e.g., via Twitter, you would have missed it.


Anonymous said...

Occupy needs to to embrace and hold fast to two basic tactical principles: non-violence and democratic processes.

Violent rhetoric, of the kind that drips from the recent column Tom Hickey posted from Paul Farrell, will be used by the authorities to justify repression. And the public will side with the authorities, not the protesters, if they conclude the protesters are violent.

This is the column I'm talking about:


Note that Farrell is just an observer, not a participant. I don't think his angry and provocative exploitation of themes of "attack", "aggression", "battles", "asymmetric warfare" and the like accurately captures the dominant spirit of the young occupiers at all.

The public will also repudiate Occupy if they conclude that Occupy is committed to a revolutionary overthrow of the government. This country has a national government, 50 state governments, and thousands of local governments, all still staffed by elections that, so far, are relatively clean and whose outcomes can be heavily influenced by popular movements for change. The plutocracy exercises control over us not because it has toppled these institutions, but because it controls a vast media and PR communications apparatus, a noise machine that manufactures a large share of the messages people are able to hear. That is, they don't control the voting institutions, but they control the minds of voters and influence whom they want to vote for.

So the task is clear: Occupy needs to focus on building channels of communication that thwart and circumvent the established plutocratic channels, and give people the information they need to make more informed decisions. If we can raise the public voice and turn down the plutocratic noise machine, we can overthrow the plutocracy the old-fashioned way: we can just vote the bastards out.

Matt Franko said...

What I am looking for (I suppose it may not happen)....

Is for one of the political parities to realize that although the money is nice, it really is about getting elected in the end.

And ditch the 1% (and their USDs) and go for a straight out appeal to the 99%. This HAS to be a great political strategy to get elected... appealing to the 99 vs the 1.

Of course I am not holding my breath...


Tom Hickey said...

@ Dan K

Protests in the ROW have turned violent on both sides, and some started violent, such as in London and Greece. So far US protestors have been by and large non-violent, even though they have been provoked by some pretty extreme violence committed by authorities. That attests to the discipline of the Occupy movement.

I was a political activist in the 60s and 70s after having returned from military service as a naval officer in WestPac (Western Pacific), where I was thoroughly radicalized by what I came to realize about US involvement there. What I learned as an activist is that protests and protest movements have a life of their own, and it is difficult to predict how things will unfold. I was also struck by the ruthlessness of the reaction of the authorities, although at it apex at that time it was nowhere near the level of police brutality seen today at the beginning of this movement, which is only months old. Moreover, the draconian laws now in place were not available to authorities then. Nor did protestors then have access to high level communications technology as they do now. So we are in uncharted territory.

At that time the demand of protestors was really quite specific — end the war and quit imposing your Victorian cultural values on us. This time the demands are unspecific. This is extremely significant, because the insistence of the authorities for specific demands is actually asking what it will take to co-opt the protest. This time the protestors are cagey enough to realize that. Where this is headed is open-ended.


Tom Hickey said...


As I have written previously, the basic thrust of today's youth is toward anarchism-libertarianism, that is, personal liberty as the highest value politically. Conversely, tor authoritarians the highest political value is order. (BTW, outside the US, "anarchism" and "libertarianism" are synonyms.)

The difference among the anarchistic-libertarian factions, right and left, is between Anarcho-capitalism aka Libertarianism and Anarcho-socialism, which remains as yet unnamed in the US. These are represented by the (real v. the astroturf) Tea Party and the driving force behind Occupy, the organizers and activists. The structure of the basic institution, the general assembly, is based on consensus-building and is fundamentally Anarcho-socialistic, which itself is modeled on ancient tribalism.

The fundamental kerfuffle is generational, between the anarchism-libertarianism of the upcoming generations and the authoritarianism of the generations that holds power.

This is still very much on the feeling level and neither side has really thought this through completely clearly as far as I can see, although in the US Anarcho-capitalism is a well developed philosophy that has been disseminated by years of propagandizing and popularized by writers like Ayn Rand, Henry Hazlitt (Economics In One Lesson), and Hayek's The Road to Serfdom, as well as extensive Libertarian writing and organizing.

Anarcho-socialism-libertarianism of the left is much less well known and there is not as great a body of propaganda behind it in the US, although the literature of Anarcho-socialism and its tradition is much more extensive in the ROW and greatly exceeds that of Anarcho-capitalism. In that sense, the US is quite naive politically wrt respect to what has been happening over the past several centuries. The US got off to a good start philosophically at the inception, but that petered out, largely because the frontier was available for those who wanted to find freedom elsewhere in their chosen way. Now that the frontier is over and space is at a premium, the old issues that have beset humanity are arising here.

The majority of youth in the 60s and 70s was Anarcho-socialist, and it seems that this will also be the case in the unfolding scenario. Most of them have not thought this through in any kind of coherent way, however, and it remains to be seen what turns it takes.

The authorities will bring all their power to bear on repressing or co-opting dissent. One obvious tactic will be to drive a wedge between the Anarch-capitalists and the Anarcho-socialist tendencies in order to prevent any alliance based on the common values they share wrt freedom, which is, of course, opposed to authority. Youth naturally loves freedom (limitless possibility and opportunity), while age covets authority (power and prestige).

What is at stake here is the future of both democracy and capitalism. Neither are likely to emerge in the same form as the present status quo at the end of this conflict of wills. Whether this will be a violent revolution or a velvet revolution in the US is yet to be determined. am encouraged by the angle the protestors are taking so far, but I am discouraged by the angle the authorities have embraced.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Tom,

In my essay "Public Money for Public Purpose" which is currently running in six parts at both New Economic Perspectives and Naked Capitalism (Pt. 3 appeared today), I address the issue of the democratic vs. the anarcho-libertarian approach to social change.

The key section is in Part Five. I'll wait for that part to come out before saying much more, but here is the relevant bit:

"If we seek a more democratic society, one in which decision-making power over our everyday lives and common futures is more evenly distributed among all of our people, it will be necessary for all of us to embrace the demanding responsibilities of democratic governance. This can be hard to do in the face of so many decades of governmental failure, where government itself has sometimes seemed to have become nothing but a tool of the plutocracy. Some of the tendency in recent history among dissidents and reformers has been to pull away from one another other rather than pull together. Some of us hope only to liberate ourselves from government and from one another in order to be left alone to pursue our individual happiness on our own terms."

"This thoroughly individualistic approach cannot succeed. The cravings for ever more personal freedom, and for ever more liberation from the responsibilities of democratic government, will only lead to the eventual dissolution of democratic government and the triumph of authoritarianism. Either we work together as equals to govern our lives and govern our societies, or ambitious and ruthless people commanding great stores of wealth will take advantage of the vacuum to seize control and govern our societies for us. The urge for freedom is natural and praiseworthy, but the dream of a real and durable freedom that can exist outside the cooperative efforts of a democratic people practicing vigilant and industrious democratic governance is not the dream of a free people, but the twilight illusion of a defeated and alienated people who have given up on the kinds of freedom and well-being that can only be achieved through social solidarity and teamwork. In the end, we are dependent and social creatures, built by nature for social and community life, and for relationships based on love, fellowship and friendship."

Basically, my argument is that the anarchist impulse is a naive stroll down the garden path to authoritarianism. Anarchists don't like government. But the choice the 99% has is either to govern themselves or be governed by others.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

And maybe we should learn from experience. Yes, the 60's protest movement had an anarcho-socialist spirit. That drive for personal freedom, and to get government off one's back rather than shoulder the responsibilities of putting government on one's back, was continuous with, and evolved into, the market fundamentalism and revived laissez faire of the 80's 90's and early 00's. It's the same thing? Where do these folks think the 1% came from after all. All of them were people pursuing their personal freedom to do their own economic thing, to accumulate wealth and power and dominate others economically, subject to inadequate regulation from a strong and democratic public sector.

Tom Hickey said...

@ Dan K

Anarcho-socialism is underdeveloped in the US, whereas it has been thought through in greater detail in Europe. IMHO, the future will bring either an authoritarian transnational de facto world government of wealth and power or else an Anarcho-socialistic alternative yet to be determined, but really a governance of the people, by the people and for the people, which communications technology now makes possible.

I don't think that these options are mutually exclusive but may instead be successive. We may first experience a transition to a meta-national de facto governance by global finance and transnational corps that is eventually replaced by some inchoate form of Anarcho-socialism. When Anarcho-socialism is born it is not being be in a mature state and there will be considerable evolution ahead of it.

I believe that the impulse in human nature toward freedom is greater than that toward order, given a basic level of livability, which is now within reach globally. So in my view, capitalism has achieved its purpose and begin to receded in significance going forward. The forward thinkers now are the Anarcho-socialists. Economic neoliberalism is reaching its apex, after which it will be in decline.

China, for example, is already experimenting wtih market socialism and I doubt it will ever adopt market capitalism even if (when) the current regime is replaced or shifts into something more democratic. However, Chinese democracy will not look like Western democracy. Developments in Asia are going to have a huge and growing influence on the world and global economy. The melding of East and West is going to give birth to something entirely new and foreign to the traditions of both.

Tom Hickey said...

In its ideal form, Anarcho-socialism unites liberty, equality and community in that expanded awareness recognizes the unity of all persons and indeed all things. This is not new thinking. It is the way of life of ancient people, and it was the model that Marx drew upon from his anthropological studies. It is at the basis of much previous thought about anarchism.

Moreover, it is reflected in the teaching of the masters of perennial wisdom, all of whom teach that ideal society is based on expansion of individual hearts. Ideal society cannot be imposed from without. It has to be won within through the ripening of the collective consciousness of a society.

The question is not whether the idea is sound (it is), or whether it can be imposed politically (it can't). The real question is whether collective consciousness is sufficiently developed to support it.

Until that time external norms and authority will be required to keep order. And as long as there is external authority, it can be hijacked by the powerful, and historically it always has been so far, once human groups began accumulating surpluses worth gaining control over.