May 22, 2013
Occupiers Have to Convince the Other 99 Percent
Posted on Oct 24, 2011
By Chris Hedges
Murray Bookchin wrote: “Radical politics in our time has come to mean the numbing quietude of the polling booth, the deadening platitudes of petition campaigns, carbumper sloganeering, the contradictory rhetoric of manipulative politicians, the spectator sports of public rallies and finally, the knee-bent, humble plea for small reforms—in short, the mere shadows of the direct action, embattled commitment, insurgent conflicts, and social idealism that marked every revolutionary project in history. … What is most terrifying about present-day ‘radicalism’ is that the piercing cry for ‘audacity’—‘L’audace! L’auduce! Encore l’auduce!’—that Danton voiced in 1793 on the high tide of the French revolution would simply be puzzling to the self-styled radicals who demurely carry attaché cases of memoranda and grant requests into their conference rooms … and bull horns to their rallies.”
Macdonald argued that those who wanted change had to base all actions on the nonhistorical and more esoteric values of truth, justice and love. They had to retain Danton’s call for audacity. Once any class bows to the practical dictates required by effective statecraft and legislation, as well as the call to protect the nation, it loses its moral authority and its voice. The naive belief in human progress through science, technology and mass production, which this movement understands is a lie, erodes these nonhistorical values by placing faith in state power and fantasy. The choice is between serving human beings or serving history, between thinking ethically or thinking strategically. Macdonald excoriated Marxists for the same reason he excoriated the liberal class: They subordinated ethics to another goal. They believed the ends justified the means. The liberal class, like the Marxists, by serving history and power capitulated to the state in the end. This capitulation by the liberal class, as Irving Howe noted, “bleached out all political tendencies.” Liberalism, he wrote, “becomes a loose shelter, a poncho rather than a program; to call oneself a liberal one doesn’t really have to believe in anything.”
In line with the occupy movement, we must not extol the power of the state as an agent of change or define progress by increased comfort, wealth, imperial expansion or consumption. The trust in the beneficence of the state—which led most liberal reformers to back the wars in Vietnam and Iraq at their inceptions, as well as place faith in electoral politics long after electoral politics had been hijacked by corporate power—ceded uncontested power to the corporate state. Liberals and liberal groups, such as MoveOn, which urge us to appeal to formal structures of power that no longer concern themselves with the needs or rights of citizens have become forces of disempowerment.
The only effective tool for change will come through movements such as those that stand in direct opposition to state power and seek through the sheer force of numbers and civil disobedience to discredit and weaken the corporate state. The corporate state cannot be the repository of our hopes and dreams. And the liberal establishment has, by making concession after concession, merged itself into the corporate apparatus and has nothing left to say to us. It is part of the elaborate and hollow political theater that has replaced genuine political participation. The dismantling of our radical social and political movements in the early and even middle part of the 20th century in the name of anti-communism left the liberal class, as well as the wider society, without a repository of new ideas. The utopian fantasies of globalism and naive acceptance that the dictates of the marketplace should be permitted to determine human behavior became not just the creed of the corporatists but finally the creed of liberal apologists such as Thomas Friedman and most professors in university economic departments. And the strength of the new movements is that they have exposed this lie.
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