Long Live the New American Revolution
Posted on Oct 8, 2011
By Scott Tucker
I believe that description was generally fair in the first few days of the street protests. But by early October that generalization was proving generally false. Already the more progressive labor unions and local branches are stepping up to their responsibilities, and their banners and members have changed the political tenor of the movement. Here we already have the emerging foundation of a class-conscious alliance of students, workers, the unemployed, the underemployed, those juggling part-time jobs and still failing to pay monthly bills, and even sectors of the proletarianized lower middle classes.
Anyone with a strong sectarian bent can argue that this movement was genetically flawed at birth by the evident gaps in class consciousness among the earliest members who turned out in the streets. But that argument would be partial and narrow-minded. If I may use that loaded word from the Marxist lexicon, such an argument would be truly undialectical. The more interesting argument concerns all the contradictory ideas and social forces that have been drawn so rapidly into a movement evolving from one day to the next. This is a strong sign of social life beyond managerial control from above.
This movement began among sectors of students enraged by the destruction of their middle-class dreams, among tech-savvy hipsters and among cosmopolitan bohemians. Also among affinity groups of social anarchists on the left and of libertarian capitalists on the right, who share little in common except a strong aversion to the corporate state. But that was enough common ground for action, even if no one was swearing a loyalty oath to a common ideology.
Everyone acknowledges that a Canadian group, Adbusters Media Foundation (best known for its advertisement-free magazine Adbusters), provided the first rivulet of inspiration that became a mighty Mississippi of social discontent. According to a report in The Vancouver Courier on Sept. 27:
Square, Site wide
True, this Occupy Wall Street movement did not spring up in the earliest days from the organizations of the working classes, the very people often betrayed by the more bureaucratic labor unions and by reflexive loyalty to the Democratic Party. These facts can be noted objectively without being cobbled together into a distorting myth of origins. In a social movement that changes form and substance from city to city over the course of 24 hours, we really learn less from the worthy socialist scriptures than from our own “seven days of creation.” Our first task is to pay attention to reality.
Organizational origins can be traced in just the manner I have suggested. Yet that too is a partial view of reality. For it would be false to say that this movement against unelected corporate government and charity for the rich drew no inspiration from working-class struggles, both within and beyond our borders. Our social memory must extend at least several months earlier in this very year, and our political horizon must extend to every country where people cease to give consent to their governments. The earlier eruption of protest in Wisconsin against that state’s union-busting legislators had already altered our sense of political possibility. Certainly the mass labor strikes and public protests in Europe against austerity programs (imposed even by some ruling parties of the “left”) set high examples of civic courage. And as protesters occupied streets and public places all across the country, many explicitly said that the Arab Spring had given them practical lessons for an American Autumn.
One of the big stories ignored by the corporate media during the upheavals in the regimes of North Africa and the Mideast was the renewed courage of the working classes of those countries. Indeed, I am not aware of any major media report on the recent emergence of a secular and socialist political party in Egypt. Yet that news is not hard to find once we simply go over, under and around the channels of corporate news and tune in to the real major media of our time: namely, our own communities of political resistance and the multiplying news channels online. I am not a technological utopian, and I’m well aware that all we make public online is also a new field of surveillance for the state. But while this window of information remains open, we must continue breathing. Amid all the trite talking heads who assume the gospel of “democratic capitalism” must be delivered by American missionaries to those benighted souls across the seas, we may still find oxygen and real information. As reported by Ekram Ibrahim in Ahram Online on Sept. 28:
“On Wednesday, members of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party marched in joy through Tahrir Square, playing the oriental ‘Hasabla’ music in celebration of collecting the minimum 5,000 notarized memberships needed to apply for official status. The Popular Alliance has now become the first leftist party to reach the mark since the January 25 Revolution.”
Ibrahim reported that the Democratic Workers Party, the Communist Party and the Socialist Party were also seeking to register for electoral status under the law. Yes, and now let’s linger on a simple telling fact that rings out like a liberty bell from beyond our borders. Just consider “the minimum 5,000 notarized memberships” needed to conform to Egyptian law. That number is far more democratic than the high hurdles and flaming hoops truly independent parties and candidates must jump over and leap through in most of the states in the United States of America.
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