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Occupy Wall Street: Problems of the dialectics of diversity, uniformity, and unity by Fazal Rahman, Ph.D.

by Fazal Rahman, Ph.D.
Guest Writer
Dandelion Salad
October 21, 2011

Occupy Wall Street Day 20

Image by waywuwei via Flickr

A brief note on the origins of the protests

Occupy Wall Street (OWS) and the related protests have been centered around the rage of the unemployed, poor, those burdened with exorbitant amounts of student loans in the most expensive higher education system in the world-the total amount of student loans in the US has now exceeded $1 trillion!-, and other victims of the rapidly disintegrating capitalist-imperialist politico-economic system, in the worst all-round structural crisis of its history, against the insatiable corporate greed and corruption, which have always been there, but, at this stage, are eliciting larger rage and revulsion, because of the much larger numbers of people suffering the deprivations for a prolonged time, with no end in sight and no effective solutions. The protesters are rightly enraged at the tiny islands of super-wealth and super-luxury in the huge ocean of want, misery, and suffering. As, under capitalism, wealth empowers its possessors and concomitantly disempowers those who lack it, the protesters are also expressing their collective rage and frustration over their systematic disempowerment and feel somewhat empowered by coming together in significant numbers, in the advanced alienated society that systematically destroys all the higher and positive human qualities, values, instincts, and bonds; pits individual against individual; group against group; and makes them worship and crave for money and things. The natural human bonds are replaced by the bonds of Capital. The mass psychology thus created is, in its essence, a reified mass psychology, which is the dominant mass psychology in the contemporary Advanced Capitalist-Imperialist Technocratic Society (ACITS) of the US. Similar mass psychology also exists in other ACITS, even though it is not as extreme in those as in the US.

Need for the proper politico-economic and historical context

In their articles, this author and some others, e.g., Finian Cunningham, have attempted to place the 2011 American Protests in their essential politico-economic and historical contexts (1, 2). However, overwhelming majority of articles and other writings do not even mention such structural basis of what is happening and focus on fragmented and isolated issues and institutions, without relating them to their originating source. The OWS itself is also operating on the basis of such an approach, in which phenomena of corporate greed and corruption are being presented in their fragmented and mutilated form, fragmented and mutilated from their essence, structural basis, and context, which consists of the politico-economic system of capitalism and imperialism in the US ACITS. Moreover, the slogans accompanying these fragmented phenomena create the impression that these are predominantly, if not exclusively, the result of greedy and corrupt policies and psychology of the elites, and that these can be rectified solely by rectification of these policies and such psychology. The very essence and structural basis of these policies and such psychology-which consists of the political economy of capitalism and imperialism that organically generates these-is totally omitted from any consideration, and is not even mentioned, with extremely rare exceptions. Obviously, this is a huge flaw and deficiency of the OWS protests, which must be brought to light, articulated, and addressed clearly and unambiguously, if the OWS wishes to survive and develop into a genuine movement for real changes in the sinister status quo.

The current composition and nature of OWS

Evidently, OWS is composed of individuals and groups with diverse, eclectic, and conflicting political ideologies and psychologies, ranging from pro-capitalist and with-in-the-system to anarchist and communist. Whatever information can be gathered from their web sites and some publications, indicates that there is a prevalence of shallowness, superfluity, and lack of knowledge, even of their own ideologies and psychologies. One only has to go to the NYOWS web site to see that much of what is being posted there consists of shallow, superfluous, smartass, and single issue comments (usually written in one or two lines), which draw large numbers of similar responses. The intelligent, substantial, and in-depth writings are very rare and draw few responses, if at all. During my survey, I encountered several posts from the OWS supporters in the Forum which complained about their previous posts having been censored and their accounts blocked by disabling the post, edit, and delete buttons under their accounts, forcing them to register under different user names to post the complaints. These complaining posts were quickly deleted by someone running the Forum. One person complained that the buttons under his account to post, edit, and delete were disabled simply because he had asked the OWS whether the donations were being deposited into the private bank account of the OWS person collecting these funds or some OWS account! After reading such accounts, I decided to experiment and posted the link to an in-depth and quite comprehensive pro-OWS article in the forum. Next day, I found out that the buttons to post, edit, and delete had been disabled under my account! As my article is not only leftist but Marxist-oriented, it is quite reasonable to assume that some right-wing OWS person took such action. It makes one wonder why such actions are allowed to be taken at all in a developing movement that is rising against these types of practices in the establishment. And they are doing that against their own supporters! Among other things, it is a form of intellectual corruption. The intellectual confusion, shallowness, and scatteredness of OWS are a reflection of the society at large, from which it has originated.

In Phoenix, Arizona, many fascists of the National Socialist Movement, armed and in their Arizona Border Guards fatigues, were part of the Occupy Phoenix crowd. While there were calls for their expulsion from some leftists and minorities, many Whites supported their participation (3). This is an example of bad and negative diversity, discussed in detail below.

I have been studying the contents of some of the OWS web sites in different cities. The Occupy Portland (Oregon) web site seems to be much better organized and a lot better in its contents and attitudes than the others, and can serve as a model for other cities. I found no complaints against it that were similar to those in New York and my experiment with posting the link also produced different results. They let it stay and did not disable my account.

We are 99 percent! Really?

Of course, the ruling class is tiny in numbers. Even though the super-rich are 1 percent, the next 10 percent are also extremely wealthy and constitute a part of it. Moreover, its ideology, mass psychology, and culture get cloned into the vast majority of the population. Marx was aware of that and wrote that the ruling ideology in a given society is that of the ruling class. All the other great revolutionary minds and intellects also knew that. Overwhelming majority of the people (close to 99 percent), who vote in the elections, vote for the two parties of the ruling class. It will not make any difference if those who do not vote also voted. OWS’s assertions and slogans in this regard are extremely simplistic and show no understanding of the complexities involved in the relations of production and class relations and their powerful effects on the mass psychology and culture-their reproduction on the subjective level-in a given society. The tiny capitalist-imperialist class rules through both objective and subjective powers in the society. That is why almost all the elected and appointed officials are its members and representatives. That has been going on for centuries in the US. A complete breakdown of the class composition of American society is beyond the scope of this paper. The key point is that OWS is operating on the basis of a false slogan and false numbers. It is important for a developing movement, with revolutionary potentials, to start with accurate and honest program and slogans, and not this type of erroneous and simplistic demagogy, which only serves the purpose of transient intoxication.

The ruling class is tiny only in the relative sense. Moreover, countless millions of civil servants and police of the federal, state, and city governments: intelligence agencies: military: businessmen and other sections of the petty bourgeoisie: members of the religious, educational and other establishments etc. etc. are tied to the ruling class, both objectively and subjectively. The key point is that the ruling class has a very large and powerful social and state basis and apparatus, and it is a great intellectual and conceptual blunder to reduce the matter merely to its relative numbers in the society. Its operations and relations with various other parts of society, within that social reality, are very complex and cannot be reduced to simplistic notions. These are facts that must be faced head on for any effective strategy and tactics to confront, defeat, and replace the system and the predatory ruling class.

Problems of diversity, uniformity, and unity and the need for their resolution

As far as the problems of diversity and uniformity in the movements are concerned, these must be viewed and solved dialectically. Not all diversity is good and positive. Along with the good and positive diversity, there is also bad and negative diversity, and both of these may include the elements of their opposites. Similarly, not all the uniformity is bad and negative or positive and good, and frequently includes elements of both. To achieve the predominantly good and positive diversity and uniformity, their bad and negative elements must be removed, as much as possible. Moreover, the diversity and uniformity must be considered and combined dialectically, in order to achieve a meaningful and effective synthesis and unity of the opposites. Without that, no movement, political party, or politico-economic system is sustainable.

In case of OWS, at this stage, it is most important to go through these logically essential processes for survival and further development. The first and most important step in that direction would be the establishment of clear and well-defined goals and agenda-which will constitute the uniformity, with which, the diversity must be adjusted, built, and encouraged to develop-not only on the basis of symptoms and appearances of phenomena, but, most importantly, on the basis of their essence and structural basis, with which they are inextricably connected and from which they originate, namely, the political economy of capitalism and imperialism.

The crucial process in this matter would involve the formation of mutually compatible good and positive diversity and uniformity and comprehension of their dialectical interactions and synthesis into a unity that would create a new formation. In case of developing movements, like the OWS, the Subjective Factor plays a decisive role in determining the nature of diversity, uniformity, their interactions, and outcome-all, of course, on the basis of existing objective and contradictory components of the movement.

The above analysis of the problems of diversity and unity is also valid for the system and society, as a whole. All the diversity, in every area of life, is built around the uniformity of the political economy of capitalism, which contains very little-if any-elements of positive and good, and has an overwhelmingly bad and negative composition, especially at its current stage of evolution.

Conclusion

As noted above, in its current composition, the OWS, in New York and other cities, consists of conflicting and contradictory political psychologies, most of which are based upon shallow and superfluous understanding of their underlying ideologies. Unless a competent leftist leadership emerges, steers it in the right directions, and crystallizes it around a common agenda and goals that would be effective in solving the great problems that have brought these people to the streets, the movement will remain extremely vulnerable to cooptation and manipulation by the agents of various government agencies, representatives of the Wall Street and other establishment institutions, various right-wing think tanks and other groups, and the so-called celebrities etc. In its current shape, it will achieve very little-if anything-, will be co-opted, disintegrated, and dispersed. Only an authentic, principled, and logical leftist driven agenda can save it from that. Marxists, Communists, and Anarchists need to consider joining forces in this critical period, in order to create a joint leadership of the movement and not to allow the capture of its leadership by the right-wing, reactionary, and wishy-washy groups. They had understood the need of coming together in earlier periods, in order to face and confront their common enemy: the capitalist state. They worked together in the 1880s in the International Working People’s Association (IWPA), which lead the movement for an 8-hour work day that in 1886 resulted in the Haymarket confrontation and repression. However, in that era, a large part of communist and anarchist organizations in general and of IWPA in particular consisted of immigrants from Europe, who had much higher class consciousness and spirit of struggle than those born and raised in the US.

The urgent need for formulating the above-mentioned agenda and goals cannot be overemphasized. The movement can only achieve an effective form in shaping itself dialectically, cleansing itself of the bad and negative elements of both the diversity and uniformity, and arriving at a new synthesis and unity. The people who may leave the movement in that process, would not only have been useless anyway, but would have constituted obstacles and hindrance to its further development. A lot better and more people will replace them. It would be a great blunder to sacrifice knowledge, logic, principles, values, and goals, in order to maintain the numbers. It will not even work and will lead to complete failure. There is incomparably more possibility of success through adapting a dialectical logical course of action that would be consistent with knowledge, principles, values, and goals.

It is self-evident that, theoretically and practically, this is a matter of fundamental importance in the developmental process of OWS (or any other movement, for that matter). But, at this stage, such matters would seem to be totally out of the range of OWS decision making processes. They seem to be completely focused on abstract pragmatic “smart” tactics, which, in the long run, because of such fundamental theoretical and practical flaws and deficiencies, reveal themselves to be self-defeating, self-destructive, un-pragmatic, and foolish. This article, written in English, is very likely to have the same effect here, as if it was written in Greek. In spite of all that, it is necessary to attempt to bring such matters to light.

Notes

1. Rahman, F. Occupy Wall Street: Potentials and limitations of the 2011 American Protests. Dandelionsalad.wordpress.com. October 16, 2011. Web link: http://dandelionsalad.wordpress.com/2011/10/16/occupy-wall-street-potentials-and-limitations-of-the-2011-american-protests-by-fazal-rahman-ph-d/

2. Cunningham, F. Occupy Wall Street: Populist financiers supporting protesters is part of the problem, not the solution. Dandelionsalad.wordpress.com. October 16, 2011. Web link: http://dandelionsalad.wordpress.com/2011/10/16/occupy-wall-street-populist-financiers-supporting-protesters-is-part-of-the-problem-not-the-solution-by-finian-cunningham/

3. http://firesneverextinguished.blogspot.com/2011/10/national-socialist-movement-scum-show.html

Dr. Fazal Rahman is an interdisciplinary researcher and writer. He has worked as a scientist and administrator of R & D programs in several countries, like Brazil, Lebanon, Pakistan, Zambia, US etc. He can be reached at Unpollutedfaz(at}aol.com. Article completed on October 20, 2011.

see

Capitalism: what a load of rubbish! By William Bowles

Occupy Wall Street Visited by Joel S. Hirschhorn

The toppling of the corporate state by Chris Hedges

Noam Chomsky Addresses Occupy Boston Protesters

The Occupy Movement Builds Democratic Learning/Action Communities By Shepherd Bliss

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17 Responses

  1. Hello Dylan, If we need a space “beyond Marxism and Liberalism”, where is this space? Is there really any alternative in the world as it is today. Marx, although writing in Europe of the 19th century in a very different social and economic context from today, and in the language of his time, had some very clear insights which can help us understand the world today, and help the oppressed masses to learn that brutal exploitation and oppression and glaring inequalities and injustices are not innate to humanity but are culturally constructed and part of a particular construction of the world which can be changed.

  2. [...] Occupy Wall Street: Problems of the dialectics of diversity, uniformity, and unity by Fazal Rahman, … [...]

  3. [...] Occupy Wall Street: Problems of the dialectics of diversity, uniformity, and unity by Fazal Rahman, Ph.D. [...]

  4. [...] Occupy Wall Street: Problems of the dialectics of diversity, uniformity, and unity by Fazal Rahman, Ph.D. [...]

  5. [...] Occupy Wall Street: Problems of the dialectics of diversity, uniformity, and unity by Fazal Rahman, Ph.D. [...]

  6. [...] Occupy Wall Street: Problems of the dialectics of diversity, uniformity, and unity by Fazal Rahman, Ph.D. [...]

  7. [...] Occupy Wall Street: Problems of the dialectics of diversity, uniformity, and unity by Fazal Rahman, Ph.D. [...]

  8. This is a very intelligent and useful over view of many important issues in the composition of ows, its weaknesses and possible future strategy.

    As someone on the left i do wonder about the need for leftist leadership. We have been brought up to believe that and a big part of me still does. That said i am reminded that Marxism and liberalism are two sides of the same coin. Karl Polanyi was clear on this. His argument was rather than strict political action, cultural action is also needed. Leadership from the left will not achieve a new society, as much as i would like to believe that. What we need is for people to reconstruct, reinvent and produce social institutions and cultural practices that transform society. Just as it is stupid to separate politics and economics into different fields, as each is embedded in the other, we need to see the embeddedness of culture and the social. more group forms of interaction are needed that try to escape the market and state. Capitalism cannot survive without workers. We need to find a way to live where we are no longer the workers of capitalism. We can do that outside of traditional politics. in fact that is the only thing, imho, that will save us.

    • Thanks, Dylan for your commentary. Great points.

    • Hello Dylan:

      Thank you for the comment. You have touched on some important matters which need some clarification.

      First of all, it is not true that Marxism and liberalism are two sides of the same coin. Liberalism is a part and form of capitalism, in which means of production are owned privately. In communism (socialism being the first phase of it), the means of production are owned by the whole society, with the production, consumption, and services regulated by the socialist state, on behalf of the whole society. That is the most fundamental difference between the two systems, from which all the other differences originate. Social ownership of the means of production, under socialism, makes it possible to provide full employment, free healthcare, free education, free housing or that at a minimal part of income for rent, etc. for everyone in the society. Liberalism neither has those goals nor the ability to do that. Within capitalism, it is impossible to achieve these goals. Before socialism was betrayed in the USSR, China, and other countries, in spite of their being not as industrially developed or wealthy as the advanced capitalist countries, these goals had been met in them.

      The most important goal of communism is to create a classless society, nationally and worldwide, while, in contrast, the most important goal of capitalism and imperialism is to maintain and enhance the class-divided society, both nationally and globally.

      After Marx and Lenin, the most knowledgeable and authoritative works on the political economy of capitalism and communism were published by the Soviet writers. In this country, the most important writings on these matters are those of Victor Perlo (especially his “Super-profits and Crises: the Modern US Capitalism”) and Michael Parenti (especially his “Democracy for the Few”).

      I agree that cultural action is also important, in addition to politico-economic action. Marx was very much aware of that and most authentic Marxists will also agree with that. The current dehumanization of cultures and mass psychology is the result of thousands of years of class divided societies, including numerous centuries of capitalism. Socialism creates the basic politico-economic preconditions, on which the humanization of cultures and mass psychology can be started and developed. However, after such prolonged and complex dehumanization and processing of these and human nature, under the class divided societies and systems, such humanization will not be easy. It will be difficult, complex, and will take time. One of the basic mistakes in the former socialist countries was to conclude that such humanization had been achieved in them, to a large degree. It is true that considerable progress was made in that regard, but still a lot more time and effort were needed. Humanization, under socialism, will not develop solely mechanistically from the political economy of socialism. It will also need conscious cultural action. Under capitalism and imperialism in contrast, preconditions are created for dehumanization of culture, mass psychology, and human nature, and they succeed phenomenally in dehumanizing these massively and profoundly. People have to consciously and constantly struggle against being dehumanized, and most do not succeed. In fact, most are not even aware of being dehumanized, as it becomes and appears “normal”, as it is the overwhelmingly dominant form. In such a society, the relatively un-dehumanized become abnormal, and many of them even end up being labeled as mentally ill.

      • Thank you for your response.

        Your points on cultural action were most welcome.

        I would suggest also in contradistinction to your argument that there is a space where my point about Marxism and Liberalism as two sides of the same coin is quite correct.

        Unfortunately, this space is brushed aside by most on the left. David Graeber’s anthropology alongside that of economic anthropologists like Polanyi are two spaces within which my point can be made.

        Let us not forget either Marx was writing about and critiquing a fully formed and functioning capitalism, something that has never existed even during capitalism’s supposed high point of 1840-1870s.

        Marxism was a response to the emergence of the market economy, of which liberalism is a central tennent. The fact we overlook the dialectic is ironic. On a simple level the move from democratic socialism to social democracy in politics post 1920s can be used of evidence of such a relationship.

        Historical materialism is based on a history of humanity that anthropologists have proven incorrect. Capitalism, and neo-classical economics have both been based on myths of the past and fallacies about human nature. Marxism is based on these same myths of barter and exchange being innate to humanity.

        My point about cultural action is that we need a space beyond Marxism and Liberalism. As much as i liked your article and your response with all due respect they are arguments many have made before. And that is the problem for me about leadership from the left, we treat humanity and social transformation almost as though we are speaking of something monolithic.

        My argument needs more substantiation than a blog comment can provide. If i ever write it i’ll invite you to comment.

        • Hello Dylan, If we need a space “beyond Marxism and Liberalism”, then where is this space? Is there really any alternative in the world as it is today. Marx, although writing in Europe of the 19th century in a very different social and economic context from today, and in the language of his time, had some very clear insights into the exploitation of human being by human beings which can help us understand the world today, and help the oppressed masses to learn that brutal exploitation and oppression and glaring inequalities and injustices are not innate to humanity but are culturally constructed and part of a particular construction of the world which can be changed.

  9. [...] Occupy Wall Street: Problems of the dialectics of diversity, uniformity, and unity by Fazal Rahman, Ph.D. [...]

  10. [...] Occupy Wall Street: Problems of the dialectics of diversity, uniformity, and unity by Fazal Rahman, [...]

  11. [...] Occupy Wall Street: Problems of the dialectics of diversity, uniformity, and unity by Fazal Rahman, Ph.D. [...]

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