Oct 17, 2011
If I remember correctly, Lenin’s pamphlet was aimed at German radicals like Rosa Luxemburg and basically said that radicalism that preached “no compromise,” and which rejected all “parliamentary forms of struggle,” was doomed to failure.
When I read statements like, “Demands are disempowering since they require someone else to respond,” and ““The process is the message,” I can’t help but have similar feelings.
Believe me, I’ve long had a soft spot for radicalism, and my years immersed in Adorno’s Negative Dialectics certainly succeeded in making me skeptical of quick solutions and easy answers, especially when offered up by established parties invested in the status quo.
I also see in Occupy Wall Street an echo of Marcuse’s Great Refusal—a heroic, if somewhat empty, rejection of the present “situation” which one could see as a necessary, negative step towards creating a newer, better situation.
Nevertheless, I’m not filled with hope or optimism when I consider what I’m hearing about this stuff. Why not? Because Occupy Wall Street, aside from lacking demands, also seems to lack any coordinated mass militancy that could actually pose a threat to the 1%.
The Occupy Wall Street protests are symbolic, aspirational. These folks are not actually occupying Wall Street, after all. They don’t control the area as true occupiers would. Nor do they have the power, yet, to do anything radically disruptive such as call a General Strike (maybe it would take things really getting to Grecian levels for that to happen).
And not to put too fine a point on it, here’s another way to think about it.
A liberal friend of mine on Facebook wrote something like, “Yay! Now we have our own Tea Party Movement!”
I asked, “Do they have guns? Because the other Tea Party does.”
If Zucotti Park were the site of an armed encampment, this would look like a real occupation. Since it’s not, it looks like an expression of anger and frustration that generates more light than heat.