Enter the Vandalists

February 5, 2012

(repost from magicmuscle blog)
Picture of the occupied condo building in Williamsburg by Stephanie Keith

On Saturday night a group apparently semi-related to Occupy Williamsburg threw a party in a vacant condo building. The party and its riotous aftermath have been covered by the New York TimesVillage Voice, and the Daily News to name a few, but so far only one statement has been released from the occupationist side: a tract posted on anarchistnews.org titled “Enter the Vandalists” and signed by the “Geiseric Tendency,” possibly a reference to the historicVandal King.

Resorting to an automatism characteristic of their class, the gentry of Williamsburg summoned their militia
to dissolve the siege being laid to a conspicuously empty palace of banality, newly erected in the heart of their 
spectacular playground. The vandalists had recognized the inhospitablility to life of this sarcophagus for the young
professional class, and did not shy from the conclusion that it lent itself only to defilement. The object of
their critique was not limited to the class for whose consumption the condominiums that cover Williamsburg are
 produced, but included the extreme boredom that the proliferation of these kinds of spaces induce. The prevalence of
the condominium is a symptom of the spreading homotopia that is the Metropolis—the endless repetition of the same 
forever.

The vandalists will not reconcile themselves to merely appropriating these habitats—designed for gradual atrophy, optimized for the most comfortable postponement of death. Rather, they want to see them recycled in the urban
biosphere; turned into manure from which unforeseen species might emerge.

It will not only be the police, the rich, and the reactionary press that will slam the vandalists—activists 
will likely join in as well, decrying the occupation as not being social enough, not populist enough. Why did it have to 
be a party, with booze, hip hop music, and NO RULES? Why not an attempted squat? Why was the media not called?
 Why was the action not ‘consensed’ upon in some public group? No one will understand the vandalists because they are
not of either world; they seek neither professionalist capitalism nor professionalist activism. Perhaps if squatting a social
center were still sometimes tolerated this desperate mayhem would not have occured, just as if there were anything to be 
gained from joining Organized Labor or Revolutionary Parties perhaps we would not see the global masses chaotically
rising against singular abstractions of all authority (Wall Street, Mubarak, the IMF, Money, etc).

Activists call protests, the vandalists instead call potlucks. Potlucks of destruction.

We can expect more Occu-parties and general bad citizenry from these vandalists leading up to an ultimate act of 
descecration, an intelligibility strike, on May First.
-Geiseric Tendency

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- via n +1: This piece first appeared in the third issue of the OWS-inspired Gazette: OCCUPY!

RACHEL SIGNER, Dec 26, 2011
I arrived at the New School in the fall of 2008 to do a master’s degree in anthropology. Tuition was $23,000 per year—this did not include room or board—but the opportunity to be in a great intellectual community eased my anxiety about the cost. A little bit.

Tuition was high for a reason: the school, I soon learned, was on shaky financial footing. Founded in 1919 in part by Columbia professors disgusted by their university’s support of World War I, then expanded in 1933 as a refuge for scholars fleeing Fascism and Nazism in Europe, it wasn’t the sort of place that produced the sort of people who turned around and gave their alma mater millions of dollars. The endowment was meager, and the school relied on tuition for revenue.

The New School needed to improve its financial situation and its status, and it was going to do it, like any New York institution, through real estate. It owned an old two-story building at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 14th Street—a former department store whose slogan had been “Fifth Avenue Values at 14th Street Prices”—that it was going to tear down and replace it with a state-of-the-art gleaming sixteen-story tower, home to studios for designers and artists studying at the New School’s profitable design institute, Parsons, and laboratories (for whom, no one could tell you; the New School offers no courses in hard sciences), retail food vendors, apartments, and—most insulting of all, I think, to the symbolic heirs, as we liked to consider ourselves, of refugees from fascism—a fitness center. At the time, the building, at 65 Fifth Avenue, was a multi-purpose meeting place where graduate students could read quietly, have lunch in the café, or find books in the basement library. There had been classrooms upstairs, but at that point they had already been relocated to the Minimalist-style building a few blocks away where my department, Anthropology, was crammed together with Sociology.

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via bayofrage.com

By any reasonable measure, the November 2 general strike was a grand success. The day was certainly the most significant moment of the season of Occupy, and signaled the possibility of a new direction for the occupations, away from vague, self-reflexive democratism and toward open confrontation with the state and capital. At a local level, as a response to the first raid on the encampment, the strike showed Occupy Oakland capable of expanding while defending itself, organizing its own maintenance while at the same time directly attacking its enemy. This is what it means to refer to the encampment and its participants as the Oakland Commune, even if a true commune is only possible on the other side of insurrection.

Looking over the day’s events it is clear that without the shutdown of the port this would not have been a general strike at all but rather a particularly powerful day of action. The tens of thousands of people who marched into the port surpassed all estimates. Neighbors, co-workers, relatives – one saw all kinds of people there who had never expressed any interest in such events, whose political activity had been limited to some angry mumbling at the television set and a yearly or biyearly trip to the voting booth. It was as if the entire population of the Bay Area had been transferred to some weird industrial purgatory, there to wander and wonder and encounter itself and its powers.

Now we have the chance to blockade the ports once again, on December 12, in conjunction with occupiers up and down the west coast. Already Los Angeles, San Diego, Portland, Tacoma, Seattle, Vancouver and even Anchorage have agreed to blockade their respective ports. These are exciting events, for sure. Now that many of the major encampments in the US have been cleared, we need an event like this to keep the sequence going through the winter months and provide a reference point for future manifestations. For reasons that will be explained shortly, we believe that actions like this – direct actions that focus on the circulation of capital, rather than its production – will play a major role in the inevitable uprisings and insurrections of the coming years, at least in the postindustrial countries. The confluence of this tactic with the ongoing attempts to directly expropriate abandoned buildings could transform the Occupy movement into something truly threatening to the present order. But in our view, many comrades continue thinking about these actions as essentially continuous with the class struggle of the twentieth century and the industrial age, never adequately remarking on how little the postindustrial Oakland General Strike of 2011 resembles the Oakland General Strike of 1946.

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29. Nov 2011   – Translation of the editorial of Kosmoprolet #3 by Friends of the Classless Society (Berlin)

All over the world, events are keeping up with the pace of a crisis, the end of which was just recently cheerfully proclaimed by people who thought ludicrous amounts of sovereign debt to be the recipe for an economic miracle. By racking up debt to their ears, governments worldwide were able to contain the so-called financial crisis; but then, the rating agencies presented them a bill that they promptly passed on to wage workers. The whole maneuver did not lead to recovery but to an even more menacing state budget crisis, the handling of which through uncompromising austerity measures has aroused anger. Resistance is mounting. We are at the threshold of a social crisis. Those who feel the effects of the governments’ austerity programs in their everyday life are starting to realize ever more clearly that these are not temporarily painful, yet necessary sacrifices. They are becoming aware of the fact that the drastic cuts will not only last for years or even decades, but that their own future is becoming ever bleaker. We are probably at the start of a new era: Ever since society was brought back down to the earth of cold hard economic facts, the culturalist carnival of differences has come to an end. Society’s colorful superstructure has scaled off to reveal, in Orthodox Marxist terms, the drab, universal base. And the crisis has achieved what activists striving to link struggles have been incapable of for decades: millions have taken to the streets simultaneously with the same purpose. All they’re left with is an ever more precarious survival under the reigning conditions. For them, it’s all or nothing.

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On the one hand, critical theory condemns the occupation. (see letter below)

On the other hand, critical theory defends the occupation. (see letter below)

Can it do both and still be itself? As an old dialectician once said,

CRITICAL THEORY has to be communicated in its own language — the language of contradiction, dialectical in form as well as in content: the language of the critique of the totality, of the critique of history. Not some “writing degree zero” — just the opposite. Not a negation of style, but the style of negation.

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The following text comprises a presentation and analysis of the Occupy movement in the United States, by the Lost Children’s School of Cartography. The text was used as a basis for an event on the Occupy movement, that took place at the Skaramanga occupation in Athens, on November 25th, 2011. The brochure published for the event, including this text in Greek, along with the video screened on the night are available here.

Lost in the Fog: Dead Ends and Potentials of the Occupy Movement 

Introduction

So what do you make of this Occupy movement in America? Of course it is the news that everyone wants to hear about. Al Jazeera claimed shortly after the encampment near Wall Street was founded that the Occupy movement in America was facing a mainstream “media blackout.” But in reality, it seemed that nearly every media source was dedicating coverage nationally and internationally. Despite all the press, if one added up the total number of participants in the fledgling occupations throughout America at that time, he would end up with far less than the total number of demonstrators at a general strike in Athens, or a single American anti-war demonstration from 2004.

This alone should serve as a cause for skepticism, although perhaps it is only predictable that in America, of all places, a social movement would arise firstly as the mere spectacle of revolt. After all, its initial coordinators intended from its inception that the Occupy movement of America be a copy of a copy. The genuine, spontaneous, and seemingly unstoppable surge of rage–the insurrection–in the Arab world had already been watered down into the pacifist indignados movement of Europe. Next the American radicals who called for an occupation of Wall Street would try to copy-and-paste the indignados movement to America by sprinkling a tactic–occupation–on what they hoped would prove grounds fertile enough to grow a movement.

That movement now seems to be swept up in its own momentum, and every day there are new developments in what seems to be a genuinely unpredictable and leaderless social reaction. While the occupations were perhaps first populated by the same cliques of activists who had championed the previous failed American social movements, the encampments and demonstrations have grown because they have attracted the self-identified American “middle class.” As American society comes under further blows of the so-called “crisis” of capitalism, the illusion of middle class comfort dissipates, revealing its previously hidden, but now more apparent, dispossession. The Occupy movement is an opportunity for the middle class to protest the “unfairness” of their proletarianization. In part thanks to widespread disillusionment with political representatives, previously non-activist citizens are suddenly eager to participate in an activist social movement. Paradoxically, the brightest hope we can find in this situation is also the grimmest fact: the increasingly dire economic situation is not turning around, and life will not go back to the way it once was. It is precisely because the movement for a preservation of the illusory American dream is doomed to fail that the Occupy movement has the potential to supersede itself.

Of course, regardless of its active decomposition, the middle class carries its values into the movement–the ideological values of the good citizen. One could characterize the Occupy movement as a citizens’ movement for the survival of capitalist democracy in a moment ripe with potentials for true rupture. Here, self-described radicals, anti-authoritarians and in some cases even anarchists may play the most critical but hidden roles in recuperation, if in their well-intentioned attempt to “build the new world in the shell of the old” they actually succeed at protecting the core of the old world in the shell of the new. (We will elaborate on this in a moment.)

But there is also a beautiful discord within the situation. The Occupy movement can hardly be summed up by any particular ideological stance, and its greatest potentials spring from its chaotic features and resistance to definition. Anarchists who have stubbornly refused any participation in what they have disregarded as merely a bourgeois movement have safeguarded their identities as the most radical of all at the cost of guaranteeing their own irrelevancy in the developing situation. In order to move the Occupy movement in the direction of genuine upheaval, anarchists must participate to cause sustained and intensifying disruption and destruction of the apparatuses of capital in order to make this movement a threat to capitalism, aiming to outflank the state by generalizing these tactics. We will also explore the developments in this direction so far as well as some future potentials.

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Denouement

November 27, 2011

211. IN THE LANGUAGE of contradiction, the critique of culture manifests itself as unified: unified in that it dominates the whole of culture — culture as knowledge as well as culture as poetry; unified, too, in that it is no longer separable from the critique of the social totality. It is this unified theoretical critique that goes alone to its rendezvous with a unified social practice.

Occupiers Evicted From the New School; Graffiti Is Left Behind
November 26, 2011, 3:49 PM
via nytimes

A weeklong occupation at the New School in Greenwich Village ended with a whimper on Friday morning when university officials evicted the handful of remaining protesters from a campus gallery that was defaced sometime before they left.

But the events leading up to that point were uncertain, as some of those who had participated in the occupation said they did not know who the evicted demonstrators were or why slogans were scrawled on the walls of the ground-floor gallery. (One read, “Spoiled New School Anarchists.”)

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808. However, the other aspect of spirit’s coming-to-be, history, is that mindful self- mediating coming-to-be – the spirit emptied into time. However, this emptying is likewise the self-emptying of itself; the negative is the negative of itself. This coming-to-be exhibits a languid movement and succession of spirits, a gallery of pictures, of which each, endowed with the entire wealth of spirit, moves itself so slowly because the self has to take hold of and assimilate the whole of this wealth of its substance.

 

One Divides into Two

November 25, 2011

Hegel's Dialectic

A lively new polemic about the concepts ‘one divides into two’ and ‘two fuse into one’ is unfolding on the philosophical front in this country. This debate is a struggle between those who are for and those who are against the materialist dialectic, a struggle between two conceptions of the world: the proletarian conception and the bourgeois conception. Those who maintain that ‘one divides into two’ is the fundamental law of things are on the side of the materialist dialectic; those who maintain that the fundamental law of things is that ‘two fuse into one’ are against the materialist dialectic. The two sides have drawn a clear line of demarcation between them, and their arguments are diametrically opposed. This polemic is a reflection, on the ideological level, of the acute and complex class struggle taking place in China and in the world.” Red Flag (Beijing), 21 September 1964

Autonomous  – http://ninetyfifthavenueoccupation.wordpress.com/

or

General  – http://allcitystudentoccupation.com/

Which one will you choose?


Since November 17th, students, non-students, workers and others have transformed through political occupation a formerly isolating, frigid and closed study space into a 24hour educational hub for not just all students, but all people.  We have held this space for seven days and in that time we have set up multiple general assemblies, established a safer spaces group, dismantled institutional oppression with the immediate creation of gender neutral bathrooms, fed and housed over 200 people, provided teach-ins from an anti-capitalist perspective on the financial crisis and political struggle, and created a gathering place for political conversation.  In reclaiming a New School building, a private university with astronomical tuition, there has been a sometimes pre-conceived perception of elitism and exclusivity; some have said they feel alienated, that the space is still too white, or that the theoretical discussion is too pretentious or academic. Some of these issues weren’t resolved nor they could have been resolved in such a short window. But this contradiction–where anti-capitalist/anti-racist debate is viewed as an elite politics–is precisely what we are in the process of shattering in this space.  Hundreds of people have come to hear talks and have conversations about capitalism, revolutionary practice, anti-oppression, queer politics and international struggle.  Most who have had problems in the space have consistently returned, recognizing that the politics surrounding the occupation are not solidified, but are instead immanent to the space itself.

Last night, November 22nd, marked the first attendance by many emphatic participants in the General Assembly.   Through several manipulative acts, including the creation of a town hall that was somehow broadly attended in spite of a mere two hours notice, the Assembly was packed by antagonists including several faculty and a large group of students who had not previously been involved in the occupation. For many of us the large attendance was a success, but very soon it became clear that the sole goal of the majority of participants present was not discussion, but a yes vote for the destruction of the occupation.  The intention was to disrupt any possibility of dialogue and to frame the voting of the assembly in the manner of representational politics and parliamentary theater.

At this assembly the faculty, the bureaucratic manipulators and students hand picked by administration revealed their faces.  Arguments about race and alienation, couching pro-capitalist rhetoric and theatrical fear mongering, were used to disrespect and disempower the open assembly.  Immediately after a perceived victory in “accepting” Van Zandt’s proposal, these individuals removed themselves from the process and demonized the continuing deliberation of the assembly’s remaining participants.

We are writing to expose the misinformation and the constant sabotage that has being circulating through media and disseminated by specific individuals whose only purpose is to break this occupation from within.  We also see this document as an opportunity to put forward a political perspective on these events, and on hopes for the future.

It is clear that we should not have trusted negotiations with the President of the New School about the security and the character of this occupation.  After six days of dealing with this matter it is evident that it has caused fragmentation not only of the occupation itself, but poses a larger threat for the entire student struggle and the growth of the occupation movement. Political organizations still playing ping-pong on the back of the student body, in favor of specific ideological positions and with vested interests, have succeeded in the creation of media misrepresentation, the recruitment of students against the occupation, and the disruption of any possibility of dialogue.  This has happened only for their own benefit to legitimate their bureaucratic actions, and to expand their conservative and archaic way of organizing.  This method of organizing is one that they are unable to and refuse to transform when confronted with a movement that is against of any form of leadership or representation. 

The struggle can only develop with the opening of a space that is initiated by political praxis that remains open for any political analysis. 

Any jeopardization of autonomous practice will doom the struggle to failure.

November 23rd , 2011

I am the 99%

November 23, 2011

from dpp
by Jarrod Shanahan

Hi, my name is Jarrod, and I am the 99%! I am the meeting place of a breathtaking variety of dreams, desires, and impulses. Many have sought to form me in their image, to set me on an orthodox path, and to lay out my future in meticulous detail. But at present, my image merely reflects the unreconciled diversity of these bodies and aims, and is accordingly amorphous and inchoate and awesomely awkward. I am the premise for an unlikely roommate comedy that will never get past the censors intact. Some forces within me are willing to analyze every situation in its nuanced detail until the opportunity for action has passed and they can secretly breathe a sigh of relief. Some forces are bored with the repetitive review of every minor scruple and compel me toward unreflective action, possibly to my peril. Some offer an impossible yardstick against which I must measure my behavior, while others are satisfied to just get me all worked up and see what happens. Some want one specific thing and they want it eventually, others want everything and they want it now. Some desire a five year plan as a practical necessity, others scorn a five minute plan as the death of spontaneity. Some are really into repeating verbatim everything said by those around them, while others are more aristocratic in their tastes. Some see only the individual case, others only the totality, and both are thusly impaired. Some secretly aspire to seize power over all others, while others live for nothing more than the day when they will shut these megalomaniacal aspirations down. Still more yearn for quiet, the cessation of conflict, sleep, peace, man. Like it or not, I am a multitude, dissonance and dissimilarity pump through my veins, and sooner or later I’ll just have to learn to roll with it. Only a theologian or fascist or worse would consider the absolute resolution of all of this tension possible, let alone forthcoming, in anything besides my own organic death. But I must strive nonetheless for tenuous working resolution, and reap the hard-wrought fruit of compromise in a series of cautiously bumbling, self-aware steps and missteps across an unmapped terrain. My style is one impatient with itself. Without centralized rule I must constantly battle high pitched emotions and implacable libidinal urges, seeking to keep unified a body so dissonant, and so spontaneous, and so tenuously held together in its very tissue that its coherence for a mere second in time is a complete and utter fucking miracle. Yet, I believe this horizontal organization to be my chief strength, with which I arm myself against docility, complacency, and laziness masquerading as mature pragmatism, all of which menace my meandering path toward the unprecedented. For I embody the contradictions of the world which gave birth to me, I give them breath and a physical form, the aesthetic of which has been debated on the Internet. And I have therefore chosen to give voice to the insanity and schitzophrenia of our rational world, a voice I offer in a mad gesture of desperation to hypothetical ears and against all odds, and must strain myself to shout in the face of sirens and snark and deafness and drumming.

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Picture-Thinking

November 23, 2011

 

 

via gawker

Hegel via Aaron

The planning for this “action”, for logistical and pragmatically necessary reasons was, in its initial stages, kept as quiet as possible. For this reason it was frequently referred to as “the action” in correspondence and conversation. Now we have acted and the abstract concept is apparently no less determined. What does it mean to have engaged in or accomplished this “action”? The “action”, of course, is not accomplished, not terminated with the taking of space, but not for that reason, any less an action. In taking the space, in acting, we have created the condition for further instantiations of “action.” In creating a space for the further development of the movement we create space and opportunity for “action” previously lacking. The “action” is, in this way, a continuous development out of and beyond itself. It does not bleed into something different, but is itself further determined by what it becomes. Only through the process of progressively unfolding in ever richer determinations can we come to understand the meaning of the action we have taken. The determination of all actions is future oriented, that is, they are essentially the possibilities they open by what becomes thinkable and doable as their result. In this radical break from normal relations, we advance in an as yet undetermined dialectic. In recognizing our constitutive role in the process of determination we simultaneously acknowledge our freedom, our freedom to create freely. To continue acting is to continue in the manifestation of free meaning by increasing the horizon of possibilities, and in this way we simultaneously challenge both reified consciousness and the persistent foreclosure of opportunities for a truly rational, socially integrated society.

Arendt via Marianne

“No chaos resulted from the actions of people without leadership and without previously formulated program…instead of mob rule there appeared immediately the same organization which for more than a hundred years now has emerged whenever the people have been permitted for a few days, or a few weeks or months, to follow their own political devices without a government (or a party program) imposed from above.” So said Arendt, over fifty years ago, about the Hungarian revolution. She went on, in that article, to point out tat “the councils were born exclusively out of the actions and spontaneous demands of the people, and they were not deduced from an ideology, nor foreseen, let alone preconceived, by any theory about the best form of government. Wherever they appeared they were met with utmost hostility from leaders from right to left ant with the unanimous neglect of political theorists and political scientists. The point is that these councils have always been undoubtedly democratic, but in a sense never seen before and never thought about.” Such is our General Assembly. It is the next form of politics and freedom – one coming blessedly, just in time.

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On Identity

November 23, 2011

There’s been a lot of talk about identity at the occupation.

May we propose a formula from an old philosopher?

The truth of identity is the identity of identity and non-identity.

 

The Time of Occupation

November 22, 2011

Will the occupation last?

Should it last?

We suggest some pithy lines from the addendum to Walter Benjamin’s Theses on the Philosophy of History:

A

Historicism contents itself with establishing a causal nexus of various moments of history. But no state of affairs is, as a cause, already a historical one. It becomes this, posthumously, through eventualities which may be separated from it by millennia. The historian who starts from this, ceases to permit the consequences of eventualities to run through the fingers like the beads of a rosary. He records [erfasst] the constellation in which his own epoch comes into contact with that of an earlier one. He thereby establishes a concept of the present as that of the here-and-now, in which splinters of messianic time are shot through.

B

Surely the time of the soothsayers, who divined what lay hidden in the lap of the future, was experienced neither as homogenous nor as empty. Whoever keeps this in mind will perhaps have an idea of how past time was experienced as remembrance: namely, just the same way. It is well-known that the Jews were forbidden to look into the future. The Torah and the prayers instructed them, by contrast, in remembrance. This disenchanted those who fell prey to the future, who sought advice from the soothsayers. For that reason the future did not, however, turn into a homogenous and empty time for the Jews. For in it every second was the narrow gate, through which the Messiah could enter.

Totality, Disinherited

November 21, 2011

A vampire chops garlic in a Creole kitchen.  The masked Michael Myers checks his email: no new messages.  Such are the subtle antagonisms of our daily dread.

Yet without this banality of conflict we lose the plot.  Fancy-freedom is the life of a coward.

It has been nearly three years since the false dawn of the student occupations.  Meantime we have kept abreast of political happenings.  None has merited our input.  Just before we insinuated ourselves into the affairs of the Middle East, their groundhog saw its own shadow, ushering in a longer Arab Winter than previously expected.

We were pleased to see that the first project of the Libyan Transitional Council, for example, was to set up a national bank, but, honestly, we prefer our revolutionaries with a little more stink.  A respectable nose-bone ratio.  Gamey taste.

Elsewhere, American politicians have been learning to play musical instruments at astronomical rates, Anarchists have insisted on debating whether a hermaphrodite who becomes intoxicated before an episode of self-intimacy is operating by consensus, and Jim Miller has continued to have more hang-ups than a mute telemarketer.

Like our mortal enemies of the vortex left, we disagree with Comrade Miller in his latest piece in the New York Times: “Will Extremists Hijack Occupy Wall Street?”  Three years ago we defended the tract on which the New School in Exilers publically defecated.   Democracy is not in the latrine.

The famous 99% that have been occupying Wall Street and other abstractions need to keep rule-by-consensus.  It is the best way to ensure they are fettered by their own ideology.  Fingers wiggling all the way to the cell block.

Rule-by-party or a herd of progressive non-profits would be equally desirable from our end, but that is not the beast we are encountering, by and large.  The present creature has a billion heads and a black hole for an anus.   We enjoy seeing all those heads up its ass, fingers wiggling.

In fact, we saw them coming a mile away. Allowed them a box to soap, a twitter to feed, a stream to live. It makes no difference to us. Every crisis at their doorstep only makes them weaker. Their self-appointed managers are as good as ours. Their police are better.

“Can we join a working group? Can we voice our frustration?” they ask themselves.

No need to infiltrate what is already ours.

“I’d like a tofu and arugula sandwich, please. Spread the democracy evenly.  Hold the arugula.  See you at the Assembly tonight? Nah, I have to do my econ homework. Don’t worry, the minutes will be online. Alright, tweet me later. Wait, what? Can you update the Facebook page? We got some wingnuts posting comments about you-know-who again. You got it. And make sure to record Tom Morello’s acoustic piece tonight. He’s so down.”

Our hopes are not high for a good old-fashioned melee, though for the record we would like to collaborate on some motherfuckers.  Colder weather will soon hush the uproar, and our lives will return to the minute creativities of small business ideas, like hangOVER, an intravenous saline slurpee that heals even the most vulnerable morning after.

30 bucks a pop.  Enya’s Greatest Hits on the speakers.  Storefront in a hip neighborhood.  Eggshell white interior.  Enya.  You want B Vitamins in that?  50 cents extra.  Smoothies and shots of wheatgrass at the counter.  Brochures for the new co-op that’s opening up around the corner.  The Resident Nurse? She’s a person of color.  Are “you” in?

-The Collaboration

Premonitions

November 20, 2011

The coming occupations will have no end in sight, and no means to resolve them. When that happens, we will finally be ready to abandon them.”

 

When we wrote that in December 2008 in New York City, after occupying a university building by Union Square, we were treated as youthful idealists, nihilist anarchists, even fascist thugs.  What are your demands? they asked. But what are you for? they wondered. Occupy everything? they shrieked.

 

Alas.  Our premonitions have come to pass.

 

It was only a matter of time. When the crisis first hit in the fall of 2008, its effects were diffuse, with individuals all over the country feeling it simultaneously, yet not collectively. Students, who have both the time to act and think free from the imperative to work, naturally reacted first. With an insurrection in Greece brewing, and a legitimation crisis of the American economy at hand, occupations without demands spread from New York to California, with thousands involved. Demands are irrelevant when no one can hear you, and so the only real demand was to occupy itself. Immature maybe, but not stupid. With foreclosures growing exponentially, and unemployment skyrocketing as well, occupying one’s space and means of living is the most obvious of actions. In the most unpolitical of Western democracies, one must first create a space for politics to emerge.

 

But students on their own are nothing. Especially left radical ones.

 

Always half way in and half way out of work, the student can only express frustration of what is to come, not what has been. Hence, the theoretical advantage of the current wave of occupations, which takes it starting point not as the looted future, but rather the broken present. From here, one no longer needs to “convince” others what “may” happen; rather, the present itself is cracking underneath everyone’s feet. And only those living in skyscrapers can avoid the initial fractures.

 

Occupy Wall Street and its subsequent multiplications follow the trajectory of American social struggle which began in the labor riots after the civil war and continued with punctuated equilibrium up unto the most recent flare ups in the anti-globalization protests of the early second millennium. What is this trajectory? Simply put, at the beginning of the refounded republic of America, the working population demanded shorter hours and better pay, with independent representation and collective bargaining rights. These specific demands, which sometimes merged and sometimes conflicted with demands for women’s suffrage and civil rights, were backed up with massive waves of violence: strikes, sit-downs, street battles, riots, looting, arson. While demanding specific guarantees for life by words, they demanded nothing from the destroyed factories and trains by deeds. The normal American citizen, the 99%, from Reconstruction to the Second World War, was baptized in blood and blessed with material gains. Citizen engagement in politics receded to the background of enjoying fresh commodities. With a relative peace gained for white working men, the sphere of political engagement opened to the other 99%, the black population. The slowly building postwar struggle for civil rights exploded in the 60’s, with not only demands for equal treatment and respect, but also demands for inclusion in the material gains which the white working population temporarily secured. These political and social demands voiced in Washington and Selma were only the small foreground to the colossal mute rage in the background which, when heard,  shattered the merchandise filled windows of Newark, Detroit, LA, Oakland, Chicago, and almost every other inner-city neighborhood in America. The self-destruction of their own neighborhoods was the sign of having “nothing left to lose,” a political position which can’t but win.

 

As the movement for equality and civil rights crested, the youth and anti-war movements of the mid 60’s and early 70’s gained in strength. Taking the physical message of the race riots to heart—that there is no victory without struggle—the young radicals mixed early labor tactics with civil rights strategies, which blended into an ideology that asserted its right to own the fruits of American society. Everything was up for grabs, and everything shall be ours. The specificity of political movements in this period was in the nature of its general demands: freedom, equality, peace, everything.

 

But the struggle for a total demand broke in the mid 1970s, when the crisis of the American economy led to a renewed class assault on those who make the country run. This assault is ongoing. No longer could anything be given to those who demanded, no longer must business and government be beholden to its employees and citizens. This new relation between governing and governed, between owners and laborers, was called austerity. From this point on, the gains of the last century slowly receded. Real wages stagnating while prices increasing, income inequality exploding while unemployment rising, unimaginable wealth produced while unbelievably few own it—the American dream bought on bad credit, paid with a high interest rate, only softened by a coupon to the movie theatre. What can one demand when there’s nothing left to give?

 

“Not” having a demand is not a lack of anything, but a contradictory assertion of one’s power and one’s weakness. Too weak to even try and get something from those who dominate working life, and simultaneously strong enough to try and accomplish the direct appropriation of one’s soul, time, and activity apart from representation. A demandless struggle reveals the totality of the enemy one fights and the unity of those who fight it. Such a struggle “lays claim to no particular right because the wrong it suffers is not a particular wrong but wrong in general.” This ‘general wrong’ is the impersonal structure of exploitation at the heart of our economic system—the forced selling of one’s time and life activity to someone else in return for a wage—which can never be overcome by any particular change, only by a total one.

 

Yet the demandless struggle is not ‘radical’ because it has no demands, just as the struggle for better wages is not ‘reformist’ because it does. More important than the demands waged against power are the demanding responsibilities that the situation itself calls forth. What is specific about the current moment is the explicit recognition by people themselves in public, together, out loud, indefinitely, of their own condition in the conditions of others. In other words, people are materially recognizing themselves while mutually recognizing each other. The forms of these encounters, while spectacular, are nothing compared to their contents. The questions of work, money, community, family, sex, color, time, class, education, health, media, representation, punishment, and faith are no longer individual questions. To think any is to think through all, and to really think through all requires an occupation without end. Occupations without end are infinite and free, not because they are everywhere and last forever, but because there is nothing outside determining them but themselves. The overcoming of the occupations is the practical realization of such freedom, a task that can only be accomplished historically.

 

Take heed: there is a rationality at work here, a reason of social inferences which is made even more clear by the current lack of adequate concepts to understand it. The major premise of the 99% perfectly synthesizes the universal emptiness of the modern American, expressing fully its entire being without reference to one determinate quality. The truth of the occupations is not only in their substance, but in the subjects as well. The minor premise of occupation locates the subjects of the syllogism in a particular place and a particular time. Tied together through material relations of interdependency, one is compelled by logic to conclude that not even revolution is impossible.

 

The new era is profoundly revolutionary, and knows it. On every level of modern society, nobody can and nobody wants to continue as before. Nobody can peacefully manage the course of things from the top any longer, because it has been discovered that the first fruits of the crisis of the economy are not only ripe, but they have, in fact, begun to rot. At base, nobody wants to submit to what is going on, and the demand for life has now become a revolutionary program. The secret of all the “wild” and “incomprehensible” negations that are mocking the old order is the determination to make one’s own history.

 

Occupy Wall Street is the first major American response to the economic crisis of 2008. But the economic crisis of 2008 is the first major result to the failed response to the crisis of the 1970’s. In effect, the delayed class war of the last three decades, in which Americans with good faith gave businesses and government a generation to fix the problem, has emerged with a vengeance. The time for waiting is over. The age of austerity has hit its limit. Occupying everything without demands is only the first baby step in the gigantic shoes of the new American proletariat.

 

Q. Libet

October 2011

 

 

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