Occupy Wall Street... Can it Move from What it is To What it Could Be Beyond Chris Hedges's Promotion of Salvation
Below, the reader will find a link to a work by Chris Hedges which is written beautifully — what you would expect from a graduate of a premier private boarding school and the Harvard Divinity School. Hedges has a terrific educational background which few students in capitalist schools will ever get.
Hedges is courageous in rightly pointing to a very real corporate state which is conducting perpetual war. Note on Sunday, October 16, 2011 that Ambassador Crocker announced on CBS sixty minutes that the US is not leaving Afghanistan any time in the foreseeable future. Neither he nor General Allen, presently in charge on the ground in the AF/Pak wars, will state how many troops, mercenaries, and NATO soldiers will remain in combat.
Hedges is right to reclaim the language of class war.
He is right to mock electoral work, like urging people into church where they give up their critical minds, pay other to think and act for, and oppress, them.
He is wrong to think a very real ruling class, which he knows exists as he attended school with them, isn't going to be able to surround, divert, disorganize, divide, buy off, and if necessary simply smash this grand nascent movement that shows people will fight back, as they must and, even better, has internationalist aspects (patriots wake up--you are saluting your enemies).
Hedges hasn't escaped his religious background. He's still using the language of "salvation," I will take him at his word that he means just that.
Earlier in the month, at Truthdig, he issued a"which side are you on" proclamation which, in broad terms, said if you are not here and now in some park with OWS, all is lost for you.
That's silly, religious, a fantasy. It will take years of struggle, propaganda, education, direct action, agitation, organizing, to create the mass kind of class consciousness that would be required to turn over our current realities which will, without question, get worse.
Americans, mindless consumers for decades, accustomed to endless wars and assassinations, are riddled with contradictions now. That is why the battle over ideas is so important.
Occupy Wall Street is being flooded with Democrats, unionites, dogmatic pacifists, a-analytical anarchists, self building millionaries like Michael Moore, petty pols like Tom Hayden, deceptive profs like Cornel West, or the Keynesian Naomi Klein who wants to rescue capitalism and make it gentle---and behind them is an army of cops, behind them the military which is fully prepared to act in the USA, to protect the USA.
The OWS movement which has, so far, removed its own head by denying any particular ideology, itself an ideology of the lowest common acceptable set of ideas, wrong as they may be, and and decapitated itself by claiming that there are no real leaders, when there are always real leaders and the absence of a structure just makes it hard for the rank and file to find them--though the cops know who they are.
To believe, as Staughton Lynd and many others believe, that "democracy," is the central issue of this movement, or should be, is flatly wrong.
The call that has indeed sparked revolutions, one after the next, is Equality.
That idea is what terrifies ruling classes who were the designers, after all, of the democracy that serves them. Indeed, they say it whenever they need draftees.
It will take a movement that looks like an iceberg, visible at the top, less and less visible as it gets deeper, to fight our way out of this. If such a movement can be more democratic than less, fine, but usually it cannot.
In his closing paragraphs, Hedges wants to take pieces of Marx, and throw away the core of Marxism: Revolution.
The US left, led by the vile, dishonest, Communist Party USA (always a puppet of the USSR til social fascism killed itself only to produce a criminal fascist government) abandoned both the theory and practice of revolution. The CPUSA was only second to the National Education Association in endorsing Obama. Now, the CPUSA is a leafletting wing of the Democratic Party, willing pawns and misleaders.
Most of the other US sects traveled a similar path: Democratic Socialists of America (including a lot of reformist, stupid, education profs), the police connected Social Democrats USA (Ravitch) etc. Other sects made every mistakes the Bolsheviks made, only in the US they managed to completely isolate themselves with "hidden wings" which the police know all about, but the people the sects claim to represent don't hear their calls for class war.
To abandon revolution is to abandon science (evolution), philosophy (dialectics connected to materialism), history (things change, in Chinese, Fanshen, upending the soil, removing the mandate from heaven), and even romance--the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.
Dogmatic pacifists who think we are going to sit-in our way out of capitalism, which of course is the issue lying behind the class war and the corporate state that carries it on, are going to get a lot of people hurt, needlessly, before those people figure out that while this spark could surely start a much bigger fire--it will indeed need to be a fire.
The next steps should be a grand strategy that anyone can articulate and explain: Equality.
Equality must be addressed by educators who seek change. Educational inequality means that people like Hedges (and forgive me for using him as the example) who could play leadership roles in any king of change, who have kids, will have kids with impressive educations. They, or their children, are likely to upend whatever change Hedges might make, as happened in China (see the book “Rise of the Red Engineers”).
OWS is fast becoming a false catharsis. Wall Street is re-occupying their minds, as if it ever left.
Equality or else. No deals. That is what defeats men with guns: ideas. We are equals in science, and should be in society. That’s why tyranny is wrong in theory, and the boots on our throats—home foreclosures, massive unemployment, wage cuts, layoffs, endless wars with children of the poor killing other children of the poor on behalf of the rich in their homelands, deepening racism, assaults on immigrant workers, rising mysticism, attacks on reason itself in schools and out, government serving as only an executive committee and armed weapon of the rich, the militarization of everything–add up to wrong in practice.
Strategies of disruption , attacking key choke points in cities-- not volunteering to be kettled and maced as so many people have courageously done, proving the point of necessary resistance, but to repeat that again and again does not move resistance forward. Rather, it stalls it. The police seem to have no particular problem with video after video of them macing and beating unarmed people--probably because it scares more than angers.
Within OWS, it is conceivable that an organization will be born that will be able to adapt, fast, to situations that change just as fast, that can reject battles against too great odds, but that still can hit the opposition, broken into smaller forces, wherever the enemy does not want to be attacked. Probably not at this point, but conceivable.
Rejection of an ideology of Equality means not only that OWS is vulnerable, very much so, but that it can only discuss tactics when tactics, disconnected from a concrete analysis of material conditions (the source of grand strategy and strategy) flip from one thing to another, eventually leaving true enemies with the initiative.
Pretending that OWS anywhere really controls space is, unfortunately, not true. That space can be taken any time. That's not control. Nor does it make sense to try to hold indefensible space for too long, resulting in mass arrests and casualties. A minority movement, which OWS needs to grasp it is, can be mobile, conduct the "war of the fleas" and drive the Big Dog mad, then kill it.
Nobody should celebrate violence. That does not mean rejecting violence. It is a long slog, a lifelong march, generations on. Violence will be part of it. That is a shame, but it is an unavoidable fact.
Hedges, who has a history of outstanding work as a war correspondent, may have been in touch with more troops than me. Or not. I don't know.
But, as before, the main lesson of the Arab Spring is to get to the troops. They are not mutinous now, but they have been in the past and they are watching to see where OWS might have a place for them, if any.
It would do the OWS' movement a great deal of good to read Marx, and take seriously class warfare.
Good luck to our side and here is to an end of theirs.
The Hedges piece is here: http://www.readersupportednews.org/opinion2/275-42/7921-a-movement-too-big-to-fail
Two related videos are below:
Rich Gibson is an emeritus professor at San Diego State University.