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From a historical point of view

2011 October 3
by Ian Welsh

I’ll just note that Occupy Wall Street is necessary and insufficient.  That is, the revolt of the students and the young intellectuals is necessary. It must occur.  It is insufficient.  It’s nice that the unions are swooping in and out, but they are not committed to the idea in blood, and the working class and minorities are not showing in significant numbers (take a look at the pictures.  White, white, white.)

Likewise, as Stirling Newberry notes, now that Occupy Wall Street has demands, they are very mild.  They aren’t even as radical as FDR.  The view of what is wrong with the world isn’t wrong “Wall Street!”, but whenever specifics are mentioned, they are insufficient to fix America’s problems, or even the problems of the class of people who started the movement.

At this point in time only radical solutions will work.  That means radical: everything must go.  Every institution in American society has failed.  Every single one.  They must all be shut down and the purposes they were meant to serve must be assigned to new institutions.  You cannot save the Fed in its current form.  You cannot save the banks.  You cannot save the military or the police or the judiciary or the universities.  And, most importantly, you cannot trust or do business with the elites who currently run society.  They must be run out of power entirely, their riches taken away from them, and those who have committed crimes (virtually all of them) must be thrown in prison.


The protestors are not radicals.

Fortunately, the NYPD has been instructed to provide the necessary education, by being brutal, breaking the law repeatedly, and by engaging in serial deception.  They are instructing the protestors that there is no rule of law in America, because laws applied unequally are always unjust.  They are instructing the protestors that even if they are good citizens who do everything the cops say, they cops will still brutalize and arrest them. And they are instructing them that the police’s masters will not negotiate.  They will concede nothing of importance.

These lessons are important, because they lead to radicalization.  When the Occupy movement is spent, one way or the other, some of its veterans will become radical cadres.  They will understand that negotiation with the current system, and the current elites is impossible, and understanding that, they will take the necessary steps.

They elites may, as in Egypt, at some point, decide to switch lead horses.  Dethrone one part of the elite and put another in place.  Rick Perry, were he President, for example, might be happy to get rid of the Fed and to engage in some purging of Wall Street.  This would not mean a return to a functioning liberal democracy, however.  (I know that the usual suspects are going to scream that Tahrir Square was a great success.  It was not.  It enabled a coup by one part of the elites against the other part.  That does not mean it was not, and is not laudable, it does not mean it was not and is not necessary, it means that it was only a step on a long road.  It is unlikely there is going to be a velvet revolution, and people need to stop thinking there will be.  Likewise people need to face facts, and those on the left are as bad at it as our elites are.)

None of the above is to disrespect the Occupy movement. I’m a big believer that they’re doing something important and that they deserve props for putting themselves on the line.  Their embrace of apparently leaderless leadership is a master stroke of organizing, and indicates they understand that any visible leadership will be destroyed, smeared or co-opted.  This is all good, but it is useful for those of us on the intellectual margins to disengage our emotions, keep our hopes in check, and look at the state of play dispassionately.

This is a step on the road.  It is necessary, but it is not the whole of the journey. This is also where we are, and anyone who wants to contribute to a better future should be supporting the Occupy movement.

62 Responses
  1. October 3, 2011

    too white? just wait for the Oct 6 event in DC. The crowd will be much more mixed. Don’t believe me, check out the musical talent
    this will be a different crowd.

    I am told that the crowd at the Occupy DC is a mix of white, hispanic, black, with a small group of Asians, what you would expect in downtown DC

    mebbe you and Stirling shouldn’t be such know-it-alls and watch this unfold.

  2. Ian Welsh permalink
    October 3, 2011

    We are watching it unfold.

    The entertainers will be black? Oh, well then…

    Anyone who says that Stirling and I should shut up can shove it, by the way. I have spent the last 8 years telling people what would happen, then it has happened. My track record is far, far better than chance and better than virtually any pundit. Yet somehow people think that I should keep my mouth shut? This is exactly what’s wrong with our society. You want people to feed you shit and keep you in a pig pen, to give you the lies that let you “hope”, rather than the truths that would let you plan. You want cheerleaders, as if anyone suggesting any strategic changes is a traitor the cause and should just cheer. This is the same disease Obama has “just shut up and clap louder.” Heck, you don’t even want realistic analysis, which is all the post above is, analysis from someone who has spent a great deal of time studying revolution.

    No. I will continue to treat people like adults whether they like it or not. Anyone who doesn’t like it, doesn’t have to read me. You will notice that I often go a week or more between posts, if I gave two damns about traffic, I wouldn’t do that.

    I write for those few willing to listen. I no longer have influence to speak of, and that is by choice. If I wanted influence, I’d still have it, but then I’d have to clap louder on command, I’d have to let other people choose my friends and my enemies. I’d have to be someone’s dog.

    The Occupy movement is a good thing. I support it. But I will not take Soma and clap louder for it, you or anyone.

  3. October 3, 2011

    The consensus process the Occupy America folks are using has managed to discover the real American center. I think that’s actually a pretty fair achievement–perhaps even a genuinely radical achievement–, and a sign that they are in fact democratic in the best sense of the word. Can they do more? We may hope.

  4. October 3, 2011

    not saying that you or anyone should shut up, just don’t be quite such a know-it-all. Unlike you I live in DC, I know who comes to see Head Roc preform, and while the crowds are mixed, he attracts a predominately black audience. I live in DC, you don’t, I have a better basis to know who is likely to show up.

  5. mf-roe permalink
    October 3, 2011

    I agree with you. I do think the “Leaderless Leadership” thing is deeply flawed. It grows out of network theory and degrees of separation thinking. It does Work in that in networks large populations can coordinate using hubs. It is aggregation and redundancy working to produce a robust control system. But it isn’t capable of Vision, it isn’t capable of discrimination in setting goals. The most effective strategy the Oligarchs use against us is cutting the head off any movement that threats their power. They have developed a very effective way of doing this by using double agents. They back Obama while they publicly disparage him. The voters get betrayed and lose hope and are rendered Leaderless. You speak of radicals–I see a leadership class that will command the loyalty of the disenfranchised. Its like making whiskey, first you cook the mask, then it ferments, and finally the goal is distilled. The occupy movement is just the beginning.

  6. Ian Welsh permalink
    October 3, 2011

    I’m not sure leaderless leadership is entirely flawed. My take is there are leaders, they’re just keeping their heads down, and they have to. Look at what is happening with Assange.

    dcblogger: what’s the percentage of blacks in NYC? Why aren’t they there in anything close to that %. I don’t know who’s going to show for DC. I noted who had shown for NYC. Oct 6th is not part of Occupy, unless that’s changed? Lisa said you were planning it for a year, don’t see how it can be.

  7. October 3, 2011

    I don’t really think every single institution has to be replaced. On the other hand, the amount of change that is needed to restore some semblance of democracy is still impossibly radical. Every left of center institution has been co-opted, and the fools in charge will not cede control peacefully.

    Just contemplating Obama/Reid/Hoyer and the Republican “alternatives” makes me wish I had a coal gas oven to stick my head in. How can anyone in America look at those jokers and not panic over the fact that besides sticking to the status quo, nobody knows what they are doing.? Once the turds hit the turbines after the next financial shock(s), I think a lot of those co-opted institutions will lose their relevance and/or power and could be ripe for re-purposing, not that I think that will happen. But the main thing is that democracy and sane economics are not coming back. The next round of bankrupting wars will not end like WWII with some measures of prosperity and power shared with the proles. The plutocrats don’t have to worry about competition from Marxist ideology anymore. Anyone who espouses Keynes anymore is already tarred as a socialist traitor. Fuggedabout marxism. The only question remaining is how horrible the result is.

  8. jcapan permalink
    October 3, 2011

    I agree with Ian’s call to temper our enthusiasm and avoid cheerleading, but perhaps this is the spark, and perhaps Oct. 6th will be too. At least our hopes are tied around protests, a nascent movement perhaps, however presently futile, and not around electoral politics alone.

    And while protests that are vividly rainbow in hue couldn’t hurt, I’d be even more enthused to see more union members, Walmart employees and dispossessed in attendance. The key log we’re concerned with here isn’t race, it’s class. Unfortunately, those most brutalized by the collapsing economy are far less able to commit to long term protest. Young intellectuals and students have other means of support, which is why the burden has fallen on them during most revolutionary movements. The question is how can we create outreach between the folks on our telly and the ever burgeoning have-nots. That would terrify the powers that be, and the numbers would fucking explode to boot.

  9. Jack permalink
    October 3, 2011

    First attempts almost always fail. And are almost always drawn from the dominant community, which is better suited to challenging power than those who, by their very existence, are power’s perpetual whipping boys.

  10. October 3, 2011

    Once again, FDR:

    The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something. The millions who are in want will not stand by silently forever while the things to satisfy their needs are within easy reach. We need enthusiasm, imagination and the ability to face facts, even unpleasant ones, bravely. We need to correct, by drastic means if necessary, the faults in our economic system from which we now suffer. We need the courage of the young. Yours is not the task of making your way in the world, but the task of remaking the world which you will find before you. May every one of us be granted the courage, the faith and the vision to give the best that is in us to that remaking!

    They’re trying something. I think the immediate and important test is not the bloody march on the palace for which Ian keeps calling — the only litmus test I’ve ever heard of that involves plasma — but whether the Occupiers survive media attention and their new “friends” in the progressive community. If they maintain, I think ultimately we’ll do fine.

    I note that Occupy Ottawa is now up and running. How’s it going?

  11. October 3, 2011

    Incidentally, the Occupation in Manhattan started getting union support , after they marched over to support the post office unions, including IIRC the transport workers, the airline pilots, and possibly others. They’re also (non-violent strategy of protest and persuasion #33) reaching out to the police as union members. I too find this much more encouraging than more better identity politics.

    * * *

    If I might, in my turn, do a bit of lecturing. The United States is multi-national, multi-cultural, multi-lingual, and multi-racial empire of global scale, with a continental “homeland” ruled by a rentier class through a sclerotic national security state and a pervasive media that’s almost wholly dedicated to disinformation campaigns. It is not very much like Canada, and not merely because it’s an order of magnitude larger. The United States is not Canada in large, nor is Canada the United States in little.

    To me, the great question is the capacity for civic engagement of the (multi-*) “American people.” If we begin to build that capacity, nothing but good can follow; but all systems work together to prevent this, starting ESPECIALLY with “the news.” What sparked the Occupations, I would argue, wasn’t so much oppression (where in history has oppression not occurred) but the NEWS from the Mediterrean Spring, which created a new sense of possibilities for engagement for those who pay attention (the early adopters, you might say).

    So, if I may bring this to a point, the very last thing we as Americans need is finger-wagging lectures from people not at risk who can’t understand the ground and repeatedly tell us what we already know. What we need is NEWS from outside. If you don’t have it, make it. There’s really no point complaining or wishing that the huge American forest to the South is not on fire. Why not create a few sparks up North and see if the wind carries the sparks up North and see if the wind carries them to dry timber? I know, Ian, that you are not tendentious, or stupid and/or evil (unlike our career “progressives”), and I also know that I’m saying “different posts, please,” which I, personally, wouldn’t take from anyone, but I find this posting genre just incredibly irritating. So, pragmatically, whatever message you’re trying to convey isn’t reaching at least some of your audience, and you might wish to reconsider your rhetorical stance. DCBlogger, who is a much nicer person than I am, is trying to tell you the same thing.

    So, how’s #OccupyOttawa going?

  12. October 3, 2011

    To temper the harshness of the post above, yes, everybody should support the occupiers (and not, dear Lord, Elizabeth Warren who, though a nice person, thinks that human-readable mortgage forms are some sort of answer, instead of throwing some banksters in jail (and creating the conditions for that to happen. I’m not a “consumer” who needs to be “protected” but a citizen who needs to be engaged).

    Still, I stick to the point that what we as Americans need right now is news, possibilities, and not more lectures. We need, as it were, food from the food carts, and not a fax of a recipe (like this post).

    Where’s the guest post from #OccupyOttawa, for example?

  13. BDBlue permalink
    October 3, 2011

    I think the realization of corruption is already here for most Americans. At least that’s my experience. I routinely find myself in discussions with people who consider themselves Republicans or conservatives or libertarians. The easiest way to diffuse tension is to simply stop discussing electoral politics (which since I hate everybody and have no reason to defend/support Obama is easy for me) and start talking about how corrupt everyone is and how there’s bipartisan support for continuing to help the rich at everyone else’s expense. It’s amazing how much we then agree on. I don’t think I’ve had anyone of any political stripe – and I live in DC and work for the federal government – ever seriously dispute the complete corruption of both political parties and their leaders.

    I really do think the oligarchs and elite have overplayed their hand and now we’re going to see how that plays out over time. Most people I know still cling to the identity of one of the political parties, but that seems to be driven more by fear of the other political party than any true affinity for their own. I’m doubtful how long the parties can keep that dynamic working for them.

  14. zot23 permalink
    October 3, 2011

    I’d like to throw another 2c into this discussion (which is excellent BTW – the best I’ve read in weeks online.)

    I agree with Lambert, the Occupiers might not be “getting anything” yet from their protests (other than exposure, bad MSM coverage, and the odd beating), but the groundwork for something else is definitely being laid. Unions may be slipping in and out, but that’s a hell of a lot more than they were doing a month ago – what ill can come of the postal workers marching with the airline pilots on a Saturday afternoon? People rub elbows, they talk, they decide such and such other group “ain’t so bad” after all. I don’t live in NYC (or DC), but these kids seem to be tackling this effort like stone cold pros. It might only be a start, but it is a heck of a good one. They are winning the PR war and more importantly, learning for the future. When the cops lock 700 like minded people up in jail for 2 days, you either get 700 dispirited activists or 700 individuals who spend 2 days talking, exchanging info, planning, and coming back as a much more unified block of individuals.

    These are not baby steps, they are huge leaps over what we had just 3 months ago. To call for the Fed to be burned to the ground, for a Tyler Durden-esqe scorched earth strategy from this effort is not practical by half. Even if that must happen for the effort to succeed, the American populace just isn’t there yet. You can’t make someone give up alcohol or heroin if they don’t see the addiction and personal costs, only once they see it there can there be a recovery. The more the police beat and mislead, the more the populace wakes up (if word keeps getting out.) It’s a process. Crawl -> Walk -> Run -> Sprint -> Jump. Sure, we’ve facing a chasm that requires a jump, but the will to do it just isn’t there yet. We’re walking and building to a run, give it some time.

    Occupy was doomed from the start, this is the best result that could be hoped (I know Ian isn’t disagreeing). They started an outside occupation effort in Sept, how could this still be happening in Dec? A blizzard in Jan? 3 ft of snow in Feb? The logistics are terrible, no way this thing builds through the winter. But the personal contacts made will still be in place next spring when another, longer, and stronger effort can be mounted. Imagine this sort of thing kicking off in early May and staying all summer and fall? That would scare the living shit out of the elites, all those students off for summer vacation with no jobs…

    It’s a start and a damn good one, doing everything it needs to for future growth. Where it goes we can’t know, but IMHO it’s right on track.

  15. BDBlue permalink
    October 3, 2011

    It’s interesting that a lot of the success of OWS has come from the elite’s reaction to it. It’s just confirmation, IMO, that their grasp is actually quite tenuous and that they realize it.

  16. someofparts permalink
    October 3, 2011

    I’m in Atlanta, which would be one of the key places from which black support for OCW would emerge. I checked websites Friday last week to find local events. The sites were already hacked and it was impossible to determine where/if any local groups were forming. So, before you decide that there is no interest in this from the black community, have a care. The counter offensive to keep minorities marginalized may already be a factor in muting the response from those communities.

  17. Ian Welsh permalink
    October 3, 2011

    All my time as a blogger, and in real life, people have tried to tell me I should shut up and clap louder. Then they’ve gone on from unmitigated disaster to unmitigated disaster. People who tell me to “stop lecturing” can take their words and shove them. People who assume I don’t know what I’m talking about are fools. (because I’m Canadian? Really?)

    If your need to hope is so strong, and your real ability to hope is so small that it can’t take the smallest amount of cold water, then don’t read me, because I ain’t gonna change what I write about, or how I write it.

    If you can’t handle the truth, this is not the place for you.

    Oh, and don’t tell me I don’t understand the US. Specifically because I am not American, I understand certain parts of it much better than Americans. Also do not, EVER, try and tell me what to write unless you are writing cheques with lots of digits, in my name, and I have cashed them.

    Shorter Lambert, “clap louder”.

    Looked a little too long into the abyss.

  18. BDBlue permalink
    October 3, 2011

    Via Shakesville, Brown Power at Occupy Wall Street. Only making it even clearer why it’s necessary that people of color participate in these protests, even if it’s not as easy for them as it should be to do so.

  19. BlizzardOfOz permalink
    October 3, 2011

    Der Himmel wölbt sich rein und blau,
    Der Reif stellt Blumen aus zur Schau.
    Am Fenster prangt ein flimmernder Flor.
    Ein Jüngling steht, ihn betrachtend, davor.

    Und hinter den Blumen blühet noch gar
    Ein blaues, ein lächelndes Augenpaar.

    Märzveilchen, wie jener noch keine gesehn.
    Der Reif wird angehaucht zergehn.

    Eisblumen fangen zu schmelzen an,
    Und Gott sei gnädig dem jungen Mann.

    Hans Christian Andersen

  20. October 3, 2011

    If the wall street protests do nothing else, they draw the lines in the battle. And on the front lines for our rulers are the police. As a whole, they, so far, are part of the problem. They take their orders from our rulers and … too often without thought … obey them. They defend and guard the plutocrats’ interests.

    That’ why I think it’s important that some ex-vets get involved and are willing to get arrested too. There are many police that are ex-military and it may lead to more of them thinking about whose interests they are actually defending and hopefully dissent within their ranks. The ex-vets garner a lot more respect from the police and are harder to denigrate and vilify than the young college students.

    Women will play a prominent role in any revolution in this country (they have in the Arab revolutions as well). Little rallies the people more universally than women being mistreated. Plus, the women generally got more guts than the men in this country and exhibit more moral courage when they are in positions of power.


  21. October 3, 2011


    Kudos. Cold hard facts and from a Canadian to boot! Who would have thunk it? I’m not suprise that you’re catching flack from the usual quarters. You see, certain folks are married to certain strategies no matter what and often regardless of whether they work or not because those strategies are the “right” strategies. See? Anyway, from an effectiveness perspective, I suspect that usual vampire squid overreach like B of A’s new policy of charging $5 a month for debit cards will be more detrimental to “Wall St.” than anything that happens with the “Occupiers”.

  22. Ian Welsh permalink
    October 3, 2011


    I think Occupy is good and necessary. I’m just putting it in perspective.

    The most important part of Occupy is the confirmation that the lesson of leadership has been learned. Visible leadership will be destroyed, corrupted or smeared.

    Remember, our elites are obsessed with the idea that taking out leadership is the most important thing. The most important part of the wars are and were the assassination program. There is no evidence they’d significantly slowed the Taliban, but they keep increasing the amount of it. Obama in particular really increased assassinations. Domestically they may not use kill squads and drones, but they still make it a point to take out anyone who seems like they might threaten the system, be it Howard Dean or whistleblowers or Assange. They buy out fools like Andy Stern, and so on.

    So any movement must learn to either have no visible leadership or to have leadership they protect ferociously (probably by hiding) and which they trust (ie. they don’t believe smears.) In the US it’s very hard to protect leadership, so anonymity is the best protection.

  23. 3Plex permalink
    October 3, 2011

    Ian: I and many others value your contributions here immensely. Don’t let the bastards grind you down.

    To the pile-on: People who hold to their own better judgement in preference to being swept away by the passions of a crowd are something we need a whole lot more of. So I ask you sincerely, from bottom of my heart, would you please knock it off. Thank you.

  24. October 3, 2011


    I hear you and agree that sort of a “Hail Hydra” approach to leadership is a good idea though I will caution that TPTB’s propaganda has gotten so good that they don’t even really need a leader to attack to try and discedit a group and movement.

  25. October 3, 2011

    (Weighing in – praying my writing skills are up to this task.)

    …Then they’ve gone on from unmitigated disaster to unmitigated disaster…

    Looked a little too long into the abyss.


    This quote, Ian, is how I read your originating post.

    I agree with every single thing you wrote. I think that, for the most part, the other respondents do as well, in spite of the interesting middling clarifications that are heating up the place.

    One thing I might say is that rhetorically your writing may come off as a perhaps premature fencing in of the #Occupy “movement” – as in defining it within the parameters of its current, albeit unfolding, manifestation. This is entirely defensible, and is a valid place from which to weigh in with wisdom the directions in which it should bloom. Some of us may feel that we already glimpse the locations of those nascent petals. I hope that I do.

    Your admonishment towards dispassion is a personal one, a projection. This is just my sense of it, and I apologize for the impertinence of that.

    I confess to feeling a rather unseemly passion regarding these developments. I mean “unseemly” in every sense of the word – I have a personal embarrassment about it. It is accompanied by a terrible fear. I am tempted to armor myself against a near certain disappointment.

    Yet, for the moment, I am letting the fear and the optimism walk hand-and-hand for now, for awhile. Because, irrationally, some part of me thinks that the optimism is feeding the possibilities.

    I am more afraid of killing the flower with my fear.

  26. tdraicer permalink
    October 3, 2011

    >People who assume I don’t know what I’m talking about are fools.

    Or smarter and/or better informed than you. We aren’t in a revolutionary situation, so there isn’t going to be a revolution. The level of suffering it takes to bring about the complete restructuring of a nation Ian is apparently calling for simply doesn’t exist: this isn’t France in 1789 or Russia in 1917. It isn’t even 1932. And demanding that we achieve a revolution or be considered a failure is simply setting us up for failure.

  27. Ian Welsh permalink
    October 3, 2011

    A certain amount of dispassion is necessary for judgment and analysis. It is not the only thing, but it is one thing.

    I do not think anyone from #Occupy is likely to be reading this. Certainly no great number. I am not in a position where I have to calculate what I say to keep up morale or somesuch. Nor do I think that they are delicate flowers unable to stand someone putting them in context.

    One major problem in the West is that we are always supposed to clap louder. It’s not just about Obama, in the prog movement you are always supposed to be clapping louder for some project or person or whatever. As a result the voices which suggest course corrections aren’t heard. Back in Jan 2009 I noted that liberals needed to come out hard against Obama or he would discredit liberalism. This was not an academic discussion, at the time I was talking to the majority of the major left-wing bloggers, who had a media wedge. They would not hear of it. More damningly, even those who agreed with me would not do it, because they did not want to get ahead of their audience, which is to say, they did not want to lead.

    I am profoundly uninterested in clapping louder. I have seen where it leads, over and over and over again.

    Occupy is good, it is necessary and it should be supported. I have said this repeatedly, but apparently even putting protests in context and making observations, even within support, is now considered “know it all lecturing”.

    Apparently you still can’t tell anyone, anything.


  28. October 3, 2011

    Apparently you still can’t tell anyone, anything.

    I am still listening.

    I apologize if you think that I was offering advice – I was not. I salute the role that you are playing.

  29. Ian Welsh permalink
    October 3, 2011

    tdraicer: You’re not yet in a revolutionary situation, but you’ll get there, or suffer an irreversible decline. Your choice. Less than that is not going to work.

    Grading on a curve is not going to cut it.

    But enough, kill the messenger some more if you like. Clap louder if you like. After all these years, I should expect this, hell, I even do.

    You /need/ to believe without so much as a single stray critical thought disturbing the purity of your belief.

    Against that no words, nor any reality, will stand. So march on, true believers, and don’t look down.

  30. 3plex permalink
    October 3, 2011

    I am more afraid of killing the flower with my fear.

    A word to the wise:

    “The Secret” is a steaming load of bollocks.

  31. Ian Welsh permalink
    October 3, 2011

    Petro: wasn’t mostly talking to you. I hear you. #Occupy is good, and I’m not trying to say otherwise. Believe in it, support it, but believe in it like you believe in anything, with an eye to improving it, and and eye to the next step, and without blindness to its flaws.

  32. October 3, 2011

    “The Secret” is a steaming load of bollocks.

    Gee, thank for letting me know that.

    It’s called writing.

  33. October 3, 2011

    Believe in it, support it, but believe in it like you believe in anything, with an eye to improving it, and and eye to the next step, and without blindness to its flaws.

    I agree with this without any qualification. That is wisdom!

  34. tdraicer permalink
    October 3, 2011

    >tdraicer: You’re not yet in a revolutionary situation, but you’ll get there, or suffer an irreversible decline. Your choice. Less than that is not going to work.

    Perhaps. Your certainity about that, however, does you no credit. Nor does this:

    >You /need/ to believe without so much as a single stray critical thought disturbing the purity of your belief.

    No thank you. That is the sort of demand that sends revolutions off in unintended directions, so even if we get your revolution, the results may be other than you expect. I’ll leave faith to the religious.

  35. October 3, 2011

    I don’t really understand all the upset here, but, as always, I enjoy the discussions and learn a lot from them.

    Unfortunately, those most brutalized by the collapsing economy are far less able to commit to long term protest. Young intellectuals and students have other means of support, which is why the burden has fallen on them during most revolutionary movements. The question is how can we create outreach between the folks on our telly and the ever burgeoning have-nots. That would terrify the powers that be, and the numbers would fucking explode to boot.

    Agree wholeheartedly. Also believe that, as profound as the racial divide in this country is, and it is, the class divide is just as profound. There are so many people who are voiceless, of all races. In East Coast cities, the poor are mostly black. In West Coast cities, black and Hispanic. In the great rural swaths of the country, mostly white. And all those people, who have traditionally been most abused by the PTB, especially by the police, may be understandably reluctant to put themselves on the line for further abuse. That means it’s all the more important for those who do have the means/strength/clout/privilege/whatever to stand up and be counted.

    Then again, so many people are unemployed, and the unemployed have one thing in abundance: time. Those people, too, will be coming to Freedom Plaza; they’ve told us that’s why they’re coming. It’s a tragic reason: they have no jobs to worry about.

    I stress again that this is only the beginning (or as ks more accurately termed it, the continuation), of a struggle that won’t end here and now.

    MoveOn and the various other Dem front groups are already trying to co-opt the Occupy Movements and October2011. We knew they would. We’re countering their bullshit as best we can. We don’t trust any of them. They are inimical to what we stand for and what we believe. There are many of us who understand the radical reforms needed in this country. We know we can’t get them all overnight, or maybe even in our lifetimes (some of us), but we’ll be damned if we cave in to the liberal establishment.

  36. jomaka permalink
    October 3, 2011

    My interview with three participants in the Occupy Chicago demonstrations taking place in front of the Chicago Branch of the Federal Reserve on Jackson and LaSalle. Occupy Chicago is coordinating their efforts with Occupy Wall Street to peacefully protest negative corporate influence over U.S. politics, and a lack of legal repercussions over the global financial crisis. Please click the link to listen.

  37. StewartM permalink
    October 3, 2011

    Unfortunately, those most brutalized by the collapsing economy are far less able to commit to long term protest.

    This reminds me of a rebuttal for a commonly-repeated explanation of how the gay rights movement in the US got started–“due to vociferous oppression”, the common argument went. But the rebuttal rightly noted, gays were possibly the worst oppressed people in America at that time. So why didn’t they revolt first? Why instead were they among the last to revolt?

    Being able to pull off a successful revolt is something that usually can only be achieved by the less-oppressed (or those with more sympathetic press coverage), or when the state defense mechanism starts to fail. It’s a harder task for those who are really being shat upon. If the Mattachine Society had tried to pull off Birmingham-style marches in the 1950s and early 60s, the press would have cheered when they were packed off to jail, or worse.

    So having a majority of young and white faces in the crowd right now might not be necessarily a bad thing. The big thing that the left has forgotten is that when you do win, you don’t forget the others still left outside. You don’t sell them out, the battle is not won until it’s won for everyone.


  38. Cloud permalink
    October 3, 2011

    Wait a minute. Can I get a source for this: When you look at the demands of the Occupy Wall Street leadership, it is a pretty conservative list. Essentially it is basic procedural liberalism, combined with populist utopianism. Which Mr Welsh links to and uses as a jumping-off point. But the only thing the other guy links to is this:

    Where after a list of grievances, they say:

    To the people of the world,

    We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.

    Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.

    To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.

    Join us and make your voices heard!

    I don’t see any procedural-liberalism demands — unless you read them into the list of grievances? I don’t know if that’s fair to do. Is there another document I’m missing, or am I reading it wrong?

  39. silenthill permalink
    October 3, 2011

    Looks like Van Jones, Donna Edwards, and DNC toadies are going to try to co-opt the movement. Huffpo commenters are salivating at the thought. They think they will be able to make this about Obama’s re-election campaign.

    We shall soon see how principled these protesters are.

    Another good piece Ian. But relax man. The prediction game is not a good career path.

  40. October 3, 2011

    Keep telling them like you think it is, Ian. Even your critics here want to hear your opinions or else they wouldn’t be reading you.

    Some folks get caught up in the giddiness of revolution talk, but I agree with you: it’s going to be a long slog. Unfettered free markets … unfettered from reasonable restraints on wall street and the elites … have gone on for far too long and the plutocrats in this country have become psychotically greedy. They own the government and it won’t be easy to reign them in. The power structure in this country will be the most difficult of any to dislodge. They’ve had it their way for too long and they think they deserve it.

    But, again, as you say, this is a necessary step and the people that are out there risking their well-being to some extent deserve a hell of a lot of credit. They are the 99%ers and so are we.


  41. October 3, 2011

    Or smarter and/or better informed than you. We aren’t in a revolutionary situation, so there isn’t going to be a revolution.

    I would not be so sure about that. Students of Crane Brinton would recognize the signs or a pre-revolutionary society in today’s United States

    I think we are spinning towards a revolution. From the Boston Massacre to the Surrender at Yorktown was a long hard slog. I am not looking foward to this, but it has to happen, so let us make sure that at the end we wind up with George Washington and not Napoleon.

    ps – I really don’t like words put in my mouth, I am not asking any one to shut up or clap louder. I just don’t like know-it-all posts, even from bloggers with a history of getting it right.

  42. Towner permalink
    October 4, 2011

    If you agree with Ian, that our task on the so-called intellectual margins, is a sober and tempered analysis of where things are then I want to suggest two books I’ve been revisiting and cross reading. These may be old hat for some of the commentators here but…

    Frances Fox Piven and Richard A. Cloward, Poor People’s Movements: why They Succeed, How They Fail. Vintage Books, 1977.

    Some of you may recall Piven and her late husband Cloward were part of one of Glen Beck’s chalkboard conspiracies. There’s an interesting Democracy Now interview about it(google it) but it missed the point, I believe, of why Piven was singled out. In Poor People’s Movements they offer a few simple propositions which I think a lot of people are starting to figure out on their own today. Electoral politics are a suckers game for the working classes as are the center-left mass organizations which “speak” for the working classes. Also,

    Dan Georgakas and Marvin Surkin. Detroit, I do Mind Dying: A Study in Urban Revolution. Cambridge, Mass: South End Press, 1998/1975.

    This amazing book focuses on black labor radicalism in Detroit from 1967-1974. I drew similar conclusions reading here, that wherever radical labor moved focus from local direct actions to national “mass” membership organization etc., the movement suffered or failed.

    Anyone interested in contemporary protest and insurrection should be familiar with these texts imho. And thinking about Ian’s comment about OWS, “They aren’t even as radical as FDR,” these classic studies come to mind and will definitely support his claim. But more importantly, I think, the Left has a fairly descent historical memory of American capitalism. What we lack is a grasp of our oppositional history and thus, a clear sense of what’s possible today and in the future. I think this is what Stirling was disparaging in the closing remarks of his OWS post about libertarians and moderate old lefties, “who are still pimping the idea that JFK and MLK played a set at Woodstock and freed African Americans by ending the War.” Yes, indeed, this history pimping packaged Obama as… well we all know that story.

    Well, that’s my 2c. Thanks Ian for your continued vigilance.

  43. Celsius 233 permalink
    October 4, 2011

    “Well, you know, like, it’s just your opinion.” (The Dude in the Big Lebowski)

    And so they are; enough wiggle room all round for everybody.
    So, most of what is being discussed, is best served cold, no? 😉

  44. Celsius 233 permalink
    October 4, 2011

    I must say; at 66 I feel like I’m back in class here. So many great posts and that last big thread was just superb in the comments.
    I’m actually not sure about much of anything at this point; I can’t even muster an opinion at this moment. I know what I want, but the means whereby, seems to have narrowed considerably and it’s headed towards the R word (not Republican) which is, surprisingly, scaring the shit out of me.
    And I’m half way round the world from the U.S.
    Anyway, cheers everybody.

  45. someofparts permalink
    October 4, 2011

    Well, now that I’ve browsed the comments …

    I, for one, will always read what you post every day as long as you keep posting.

    Of course I don’t have any big influence myself, also somewhat by choice, so having me for a dedicated reader won’t make you influential.

    This is the line that speaks to me – “to give you the lies that let you “hope”, rather than the truths that would let you plan”. Bingo. I’m here for the truth.

    Also, I said this before and I will say it again. Taking your predictions seriously has already changed my material circumstances in a life-saving way. I escaped my underwater mortgage ahead of the pack, thanks to you. Not only did I suffer no financial damage for it, it actually improved my credit because I have savings.

    Thanks to that, the credit union was happy to loan me money for a new car when my old one got destroyed by another driver last month. If I had still been up to my eyeballs in debt from a mortgage when I lost that car, there would have been no way to replace it and I would now be on a fast track to absolute financial ruin.

    I’m sorry it can be so frustrating to keep speaking truth to so many people who prefer to remain clueless. I lost the stomach for it long ago. But, for what it’s worth, you have been a massive, life-changing help to one person who has been listening.

    That means that, thanks to you, there is one more annoying, truth-telling codger still out here, still speaking truth to complacency whenever the chance presents itself.

    Thanks beyond measure for what you are doing here.

  46. someofparts permalink
    October 4, 2011

    This link is the best thing I’ve read about the way out of our national economic death spiral.

    The writer contends that the only way back to national economic health is to fix our trade deficit, and the only way to do that is to rearrange the incentives and regulations so that the rich invest in developing capacity to produce goods for export.

    He made the side point that at present, creating jobs to provide stimulus has very diminished impact for two reasons. The first reason being leakage, where something like 35%-40% of the money spent at Walmart by those newly employed folks gets sent to China, never to return to our shores. The other reason is because most of the value created by work gets siphoned off by the wealthy because of the way our economy is structured now.

  47. someofparts permalink
    October 4, 2011

    Towner – thanks. I’ll bookmark those titles and get them as soon as my budget permits.

    You are so right that electoral politics or mass left wing movements are not about doing anything for working class folks like me or mine.

  48. October 4, 2011

    I think many — maybe most — participants in the #occupyitall effort would agree with much of Ian’s dispassionate analysis. At least that’s my impression with my nose against the glass. Oh, I’m involved to a very limited degree in my local #occupythefuckoutofthebastards along with oh, I don’t know, several hundred, maybe even a couple of thousand or more “disaffected youth.” We’ll see. It’s developing. (Nice being classed with students and young intellectuals!)

    It’s hard to imagine that anyone involved in any of the Occupations would tell Ian to sit down and shut up. Maybe that’s something that could happen in the Frozen North? I’d just say try to be open to the possibilities. here.

    Leaders? None formally, of course, but when it’s such a large group, of course people who have the necessary skills will emerge and become relied on by others. It’s human nature. Can’t get away from it. Nor should we try. But at the same time, the horizontal organization model makes it very difficult — maybe impossible — for an individual or a single interest group to hijack the movement for their own ends. The lack of a designated spokesperson means that everyone is a spokesperson, and so on.

    I think nearly everyone involved in the movement would agree that the #occupytheshitoutofthem movement is necessary and insufficient by itself. It can be a catalyst. In part, it can be a model for building a better future.

    But the movement is not “it.” It’s a step.

  49. Katherine Calkin permalink
    October 4, 2011

    What makes me happy about this movement is that it keeps Wall Street in the forefront of everyone’s mind. The elites want to distract us from their crimes by pitting the Left against the Right (us against each other). Occupy Wall Street is a big daily reminder to the citizenry that the blame for middle class and poor suffering rests with the kleptocrats in the top 1%.

  50. October 4, 2011

    “The level of suffering it takes to bring about the complete restructuring of a nation Ian is apparently calling for simply doesn’t exist”

    Yes, nothing revolutionary about America these days.

    “Inequality In America Is Worse Than In Egypt, Tunisia Or Yemen”

    “Egyptian, Tunisian and Yemeni protesters all say that inequality is one of the main reasons they’re protesting. However, the U.S. actually has much greater inequality than in any of those countries. Specifically, the “Gini Coefficient” – the figure economists use to measure inequality – is higher in the U.S.”

  51. Scansion permalink
    October 4, 2011

    I think an early order of business should be a mass schooling in the use of Diaspora and the development of a similarly decentralized alternative to Twitter. Otherwise this movement could find itself in for a very nasty shock along the lines of Wikileaks’ sudden freeze-out by Mastercard, Visa, and PayPal at the command of the U.S. government. Twitter and Facebook are no more immune from state coercion than Mastercard and Visa, and Facebook probably isn’t such a reliable ally in any case.

  52. Shoes 4 Industry permalink
    October 4, 2011

    Just remember… Every time you post something on Facebook, you give up part of your soul. Facebook takes it, sells advertising around it, and narrowcasts it to your ‘friends’. A brilliant business model, written by Satan.

  53. Jumpjet permalink
    October 4, 2011

    I’m certainly finding Ian’s observations useful. I don’t meant to stroke his ego too much, because as a writer I know how seductive a good ego-stroking can be, but I have gone from being annoyed at his critical eye to being grateful for it. I am a starry-eyed romantic, and as such I am prone to overlooking the real difficulties any movement for real revolution will face.

    That said, if the Occupy movement is not currently radical, perhaps it’s our job to help radicalize it? They were getting a great speech from Rick Wolff a little while ago openly talking about the end of capitalism. Surely we can contribute.

    To that end, Ian, perhaps you could pitch in if the opportunity to do so arises? I’m not sure whereabouts in Canada you are, but there are definitely plans for Occupy groups in Vancouver and Toronto. I also don’t know what you do for a living, so I don’t know if you’d even have the time to attend. But if they’re close, and you do have the time, why not try and go talk? Tell them the same things you’re telling us. A lot of the protestors will think you’re being too extreme, probably. But some won’t. Some will take your ideas to heart, and hell, they might even spread. You never know.

  54. Jumpjet permalink
    October 4, 2011

    I should also add that all of us have a duty to try and radicalize the Occupy protestors as much as we can. Maybe we can speed the process up. We can act as catalysts to the reaction.

  55. Shoes 4 Industry permalink
    October 4, 2011

    How about demanding Joe Lieberman’s head on a pike.

  56. Hugh permalink
    October 5, 2011

    Movements do not come fully formed into the world. The Occupy movement is expanding nicely. And we are already seeing attempts to co-opt it and/or intimidate. These are classic responses of the PTB.

    I pointed this out a while back but the absence of a defined leadership is a masterstroke but it also resembles what we have been doing in the blogosphere where the elite blogs, liberal orgs, and unions have all acted as extensions of the Democratic party. We have been fairly successful with little organization but great persistence in creating and propagating the memes of failure that are destroying Obama. We did not create the discontent but we have given expression to it.

    As the movement builds it will begin to clarify its positions. It can also give birth to a political party and so a more clearly defined leadership in its candidates. But if the movement stays active, it could prevent these leaders from forming new elites.

  57. Towner permalink
    October 5, 2011

    @ someofparts

    “I’ll bookmark those titles and get them as soon as my budget permits.”

    Why not loan them today from your local library? Save money, support a democratic institution.

    And one more reason to read Piven. Bill O’Reilly is now attacking her!

    Bill O’Reilly appears ready to take on Glenn Beck’s crusade against City University of New York professor Frances Fox Piven. After airing comments Piven made in support of the Occupy Wall Street protesters, O’Reilly called Piven a “communist sympathizer” who O’Reilly said was “outed by Glenn Beck.”

  58. Towner permalink
    October 5, 2011

    Apologies, here’s the link:

  59. someofparts permalink
    October 5, 2011

    good idea Towner, but no time – two full time jobs – never home, never off – if I can’t get it online, it doesn’t get got

  60. October 5, 2011

    There are no demands on their document. It is a list of grievances, not demands. Perhaps because they could not agree on a common agenda.

  61. October 5, 2011

    From the Occupied Wall Street Journal:

    What are the demands of the protesters?

    Ugh. The zillion dollar question. Again, the original Adbusters call asked, “What is your one demand?” Technically, there isn’t one yet. In the weeks leading up to September 17, the NYC General Assembly seemed to be veering away from the language of “demands” in the first place, largely because government institutions are already so shot through with corporate money that making specific demands would be pointless until the movement grew stronger politically. Instead, to begin with, they opted to make their demand the occupation itself — and the direct democracy taking place there — which in turn may or may not come up with some specific demand. When you think about it, this act is actually a pretty powerful statement against the corruption that Wall Street has come to represent. But since thinking is often too much to ask of the American mass media, the question of demands has turned into a massive PR challenge. The General Assembly is currently in the midst of determining how it will come to consensus about unifying demands. It’s really a messy and interesting discussion. But don’t hold your breath. (Back page.)

  62. Katherine Calkin permalink
    October 5, 2011

    Further thoughts: This movement does not need to make demands yet. It needs to do two things.

    The Left consists of a million splinter groups, with with very little awareness of each other. Occupy Wall Street is an opportunity to focus all of us on one idea – the crime and corruption of the rich elites.

    This is going to be very hard, but the movement must convince some large percentage of the people of the need to abandon the impotent political parties and the hopelessly co-opted electoral politics process (the current structure). This is radical but necessary.

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