Sunday, May 27, 2012

Occupy is dead. Long live Occupy!

Three years after the May 1968 uprising that swept the world, the great French philosopher Michel Foucault observed that a key strategy of power is to “appear inaccessible to events.” Power, Foucault argued with a nod towards 1968’s failed insurrection, acts to “dispel the shock of daily occurrences, to dissolve the event … to exclude the radical break introduced by events. 
Forty years later, in light of Occupy, Foucault’s observation still strikes home. Despite achieving the impossible at unprecedented speed – sparking a global awakening, triggering a thousand people’s assemblies worldwide, and giving birth to a visceral anti-corporate, pro-democracy spiritual insurrection – Occupy is now struggling through an existential moment. Our movement has been dealt a blow: our May 1 and follow-up events have been dissolved by power; the status quo has shown itself to be far more resilient than many of us expected. 
Now a passionate debate is emerging within our movement. On one side are those who cheer the death of Occupy in the hopes that it will transform into something unexpected and new. And on the other are patient organizers who counsel that all great movements take years to unfold.
Read the rest at Adbusters
Occupy's Spiritual Quest — The fork in the road ahead
Posted by Adbusters

What this will do is separate the revolutionaries from the evolutionaries both strategically and tactically, as well as over policy. Pretty much the same thing happened pretty early on in the Sixties, too.

The scene was very different in the Sixties, at the beginning of the protest movement, however. The Democrats held the presidency and solidly controlled both branches of Congress, and the courts were dominated by years of Democratic administrations, with the interruption of the Eisenhower moderate Republican years. Still, all hell broke loose at the 1968 Democratic Convention.

This time promises to be different. We are still it the early stages, and this has gone viral globally through social media and networking.

All the conditions that sparked Occupy and Indignados remain in place, and TPTB around the world are determined to press their hand. This promises to be another "long march." Expect the unexpected.

The protestors now realize just how asymmetrical this is and how determined TPTB are to crush social protest and political dissent. They will have to adapt.

However bad things get though, it will be nothing like what the anarchists faced in the lead up to the failed revolution of 1848 and the aftermath. However, they changed history in unexpected ways that are still unfolding.

This is shaping up just the beginning of the next awakening predicted by Strauss & Howe in The Fourth Turning (1997) and Ravi Batra (2007) in The Next Golden Age: The Coming Revolution Against Political Corruption and Economic Chaos. It's not going to happen overnight.

If this lasts through the decade at least, as I believe it will, the issues will be decided by an electorate that will be very different in demographic composition and culture. The chances that neoliberalism will survive are extremely slim. It's just a matter of time.

However, youth is impatient and will attempt to push its hand, so there are going to be rough spots, especially when the next financial and economic crisis hits and global warming obviously starts to bite.

This will be the predominant trend of the decade and it will have broad and deep consequences socially, politically, and economically.


Trixie said...

Let's Go!

Charles Hayden said...

Hey Tom,

Still working on that Mosler write-up for the June 23rd event at Occupy Dallas.
What we need is an MMT revolution on-the-ground within the Occupy movement.

If we start talking FICA tax cuts, per capita disbursements to the States, a Job Guarantee, and "Narrow Banking"...the Occupy movement could capture a solutions-specific message of economic reform.

Now look...MMT is stuff most people have never thought about.
We need a National MMT-Occupy wing to educate the American people. The MMT community needs to get organized. Hopefully, I can help plant that seed, and having Warren in Dallas certainly helps.

Anyways, hope to have something for you to post soon.

Jonf said...


I like your thinking. I vote for pushing jobs. I would add aide to community colleges. Maybe even free. And federal assistance for student loans. The list becomes endless. Maybe better to stay with just a few. And you need teach ins. Warren would be huge.

Jonf said...

Warren, Randy and Mike would be great to have. And, if you want to get a little political, Jill Stein has a very progressive agenda including platform to create 16 million jobs. That fits right into the JG program and with Warren.

Charles Hayden said...

All about jobs.

Warren has an Occupy ready slogan:


Anonymous said...

Right now I don't think the Occupy movement is very fertile ground for MMT, Charles. The proposals you mention all require some form of legislation, or a program with a significant government role. Occupy seems uninterested in politics and government, and is determined to pursue some kind of alternative path with no role for the state.

FWIW, I personally don't feel confident supporting the FICA suspension, although I realize that sets me apart from almost everyone who gravitates to MMT.

Tom Hickey said...

Overly broad generalization about Occupy, Dan K. likely formed on the basis of new reporting whose goal is to paint the protestors as "anarchists."

The global protest movement is huge, variated, and flexible. Major positions and groups have not yet even coalesced.

John Zelnicker said...

Tom -- Thank you for adding the historical and philosophical context to these posts. I think what you said about separating the evolutionaries from the revolutionaries will be important as to which messages are most effective with the different groups. While the body of knowledge called MMT is something most have not thought about, Charles Hayden's idea of three to four good slogans looks like something a lot of people could get behind. Teaching the evolutionary groups is something that can go on at its own pace. Hopefully, a quick one.

Also, Tom, you have mentioned those two books more than once. If I can only read one, which would you recommend. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Overly broad generalization about Occupy, Dan K. likely formed on the basis of new reporting whose goal is to paint the protestors as "anarchists.".

It's mainly based on my continued reading of the material on the various Occupy web sites, as well as the livestrams I follow during Occupy events.

Fortunately, the movements outside the US seem to have a more coherent sense of purpose than the flailing US movement.

Charles Hayden said...

Look Dan K., first we got to get people talking about MMT.

Then we build.
MMT has an anarchist connection.

In the late 1840s-early 1850s, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, the first anarchist, tried to establish a fiat currency regime with a CB providing low interest loans.

Charles Hayden said...

Dan K.

BTW, love your stuff.

No reason why mutual aid societies and an MMT policy wing can't coexist w/in the Occupy movement.

Tom Hickey said...

"Also, Tom, you have mentioned those two books more than once. If I can only read one, which would you recommend. Thanks."

Ravi Batra is an economist and economic historian, so I would lean more toward The Next Golden Age. However, The Fourth Turning is immensely influential in shaping new thinking. It really depends on whether one is more into economics or sociology.

However, it probably isn't even necessary to read either to get the basic message. There's a lot of stuff on the net summarizing the key ideas. The details are interesting but not essential.

Clonal said...


There is an important chapter in Duncan Green's book "From Poverty to Power"


The Act was born of drought and rural distress in the state of Rajasthan, where civil society networks denounced the failure of public food distribution and employment programmes to prevent starvation. Activists submitted a petition to the Supreme Court in 2001 on the ‘Right to Food’, which received favourable interim directives. Encouraged, they drafted a Rajasthan State Employment Guarantee Act in 2003, though this was not implemented.

However, the activists’ success in rallying civil society reflected the growth of rights-based approaches in India, favouring a demand-based system over the passive beneficiary employment programmes of the past.

From 2001, Congress Party leaders, including party president Sonia Gandhi, raised the issue in the national party. Congress had been in opposition nationally since 1996, but held power in Rajasthan. In 2003, the party suffered a demoralising loss in the Rajasthan election and in other states, leading most to believe that it had no chance in the 2004 national election.

Luckily for NREGA activists, impending political defeat weakened the resistance of fiscal conservatives in the Congress leadership to a potentially costly employment guarantee, and also gave impetus to those who argued that Congress needed a strong, positive policy programme to revive its fortunes. These factors led to an employment guarantee being included in the 2004 Congress national manifesto.

Although unrelated to its presence in the manifesto, the Congress alliance’s surprise victory in the 2004 general election, and its formation of a majority government with the support of two left-wing parties that had achieved unprecedented success, marked a watershed for the proposal. Electoral success reinforced the political arguments for action in the minds of Congress leaders. Taken by surprise at its own victory, the party’s leadership needed to rapidly cobble together a policy programme. The employment guarantee policy was not only ready to go, but the presence of the left-wing parties would in any case have made it difficult to remove from the programme.

The book also talks of a Basic Income Guarantee.

In other words, if there is ever going to be a Job Guarantee, or a Basic Income Guarantee, it is not going to come because a bunch of policy wonks in the Government wanted it, but rather it will come from outrage by Civil Society over the decimation of the safety net, and the need to re-establish the safety net.

Jonf said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Zelnicker said...

Tom -- Thank you.