From a Young Marxist to the Wall Street Occupation – About Tahrir Square and Capital by Konstantin Kaminskiy

by Konstantin Kaminskiy
Guest Writer
Dandelion Salad
Questions of Political Economy in Modernity
Oct. 1, 2011

The Corporatist State 2011 Shankbone

Image by david_shankbone via Flickr

I am a student lucky enough to not have to work. I study economics at Baruch College. I began my education in economics by reading Marx and every day surrounded by the people who hope to operate the financial machinery of the world, or to not be very far from it. I am lucky to have the time to read, develop my thoughts, and attend various intellectual events. I want to share some of my thoughts about the occupation, some of which will be critical, but in a good way.

I wholeheartedly support what you are doing. I saw the police protect the Bull on September 17th, which made me smile – the state protects even the symbols of capital. Now you compare yourselves and your movement to the Arab Spring and the protests in Europe. What have the Egyptian protestors, with their decentralization and famous use of Twitter/Facebook, really accomplished? They forced the Army to remove Mubarak by occupying that incontinent place for long enough, and had the whole world watch. They beat back the police force that brutalized and tortured them. But in the Economist, the last place for specifics on this, I read about military courts for some of the “revolutionaries.” Now does that look like a successful revolution? There is talk of a possible unison between the military interests and those of the Muslim Brotherhood in parliament. But they do not even have a parliament yet, the military rules.

It is interesting that you seem to ignore Libya. Yes, Kaddafi is running away with only a small circle of followers left. Yes, they might even get democracy and freedom. But what about their oil, a major source of wealth and possibilities? There are already deals with foreign oil companies. The same is broadly true of Egypt – the economy remains as it was. The fundamental question, the one of the future and how we grow as individuals, as communities, and as humanity is still not theirs to answer. That remains under the dictates of capital, there, here and everywhere.

Now about Europe, and about the Great Depression, and more about occupying inconvenient places. The European Union can be viewed as a sort of incomplete United States, on the level of economic integration. The weakest countries, those that had the housing booms and “lost competiveness” are getting ready for austerity. The pain will be passed to those least prepared, as usual.

Now let us imagine a politically powerful movement that forces something else. Let us imagine that we get the kind of thing we got during the Great Depression, a New Deal of sorts. And maybe this time we will be able to do even better than before, maybe we will not need the pre-war mobilizations to put everyone to work. And maybe that will give us 20 years of economic well being, here and in Europe. Who is to say that after that these gains will not be taken away, just like from the 70s to the present the gains of that time have largely been removed, all over the world?

You can say that you are safe from that if you have put a completely new and different system. Greed, which you so oppose, is only a surface manifestation of the system you would actually want to replace. The greed is caused by the fact that our own economic system, capitalism, is based on infinite growth and murderous competition between capitals of all shapes and sizes. When this system has a problem, a sickness, as it does now, it has two ways of healing itself – it can lower wages and open new markets. We hear talk of austerity. This lowers the overall social wage, how much it costs capital as a whole to function, to employ people, in a given society. We hear about needing more competitiveness – this is about making people work more for less, in the end. Finally we hear about privatizations – these are new markets, where new profits can be made. The system is trying to heal itself in ways diagnosed 150 years ago by a German, Karl Marx.

Some of you have backgrounds in anarchism and thus have misgivings, at least, about communists, especially about Lenin. You are right to be critical, you should generally be critical of and examine everything. But, if what they say is true, and communism is only just totalitarianism, then why did the evil Bolsheviks, lead by cruel Lenin, give the vote and full equality to women shortly after he came to power? Why did they teach a largely peasant country to read and give them the other basic things that define civilized life? Yes, in the end it all collapsed. But could you really expect the most backward countries in Europe to survive under siege by the most advanced countries of the world, as the USSR did for 70 years? No, and Lenin did not expect it – he based the success of the Russian revolution on the world revolution. I would love few things more than to keep talking about this.

Why do I say these things? Because I think that you, we, and everyone who really wants to move the world forward, who understands that somehow capitalism is at the heart of our problems, really should look at the most systematic critique of capitalism ever, as well as one of the few attempts to understand how capitalism can be overcome, how humanity can move forward, and how the progress we have achieved with capitalism can be used for the benefit of all, not just some.

I do not want to see this fail. By occupying an inconvenient palace the Egyptians got rid of Mubarak. Are you only trying to accomplish the same, or are you actually thinking about ways of removing the system that keeps our version of Mubarak firmly in place? Do you have, in other words, a nicer capitalism with financial reform, health care, and the like, or the whole world, possibilities of completely different world, to win?

This is why I am looking at Marxism, and why I think you should too.

Kon K

Correction – The Egyptian anti-revoltionary courts are paralyzed by striking workers, a comrade tells me. This is good and very hopeful news. My knowledge on Egypt is limited.

***

Get Involved: Occupy Together

see

Against the Institution: A Warning for #OccupyWallStreet by Andrew Gavin Marshall

On the Bridge and Under Arrest by Billy Wharton

In the belly of the beast By William Bowles

Over 700 Arrests for #OccupyWallStreet Protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge

Class Warfare Indeed! by Michael Parenti

Either you are a rebel or a slave by Chris Hedges + Bernie Sanders on #OccupyWallStreet

Chris Hedges: Occupy Wall Street Interview – We have a moral imperative to fight for life

11 thoughts on “From a Young Marxist to the Wall Street Occupation – About Tahrir Square and Capital by Konstantin Kaminskiy

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  5. I’m sorry, but let me make one more comment. I have no problem with Marx’s thinking per se. It’s just that his theory is incomplete in the way I mentioned in an earlier writing. Marx thinks that we will move from Capitalism, to Socialsm, to Communism. As a thought experiment he might be right. I just think the way things are going that we are more likely to kill ourselves off before we get that far. I don’t blame Marx for that. He couldn’t have anticipated global worming or peak oil, for example. If we can survive long enough we might actually pass through those stages. It just looks to me like it will be a very painful process unless we look beyond economics to help us along.

  6. Just to be clear, in a prior exchange I offered you this commentary in which I pointed out that it is not the political system per se, that will offer success or failure. http://www.gpln.com/reflecting_on_soros.htm

    No matter what system you put in place, the people who participate in that system will determine whether it produces the expected result or not. Where you have too many people trying to game the system because they are only interested in their own welfare and no one elses, they system will fail. Marxism will work if everyone who participates will behave as Marx predicts they will. Unfortunately, they won’t. At least not until they have grown enough intellectually and spiritually to value not only their own person success but the well being of others too. So if you take the same people that now live in our society and tell them we now have a new administration and that they are now Marxists, I predict that in a short amount of time that system will be as much of a failure as our is now. Things might change now. People have learned that if they do not pay attention and also be responsible about their civic duties, that other people might take something from them when they aren’t looking. Some people will eventually learn that lesson and for others it might still take awhile. I think it makes sense to help people understand what happened and what they might do about it going forward. Will anyone pay attention… I don’t know. We’ll see. Maybe they’ll discover a better way at looking at it than I came up with. That would be ok with me. But I sort of doubt that that will happen.

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  8. If citizens have lost control of their most important economic resource they do not have democracy or freedom. What they have is an illusion. The fundamental error that most economists and others make is to assume that economic and social decline happens because of the type of economic system society lives under. If citizens do not respect the rule of law and are not willing to defend it; and if the law does not respect basic human rights; and if citizens are not growing intellectually and spiritually; and if intellectual integrity is not valued by society as a whole; the space in which people live… the culture in which they live will atrophy and decline.

    People who have power will tend to use their power to skew things to their own advantage. And that can happen in any economic system you can describe. And if ordinary citizens are not intellectually mature enough to notice what is happening to them and responsible enough to honorably protect themselves and others who might be weaker than themselves, things will begin to fall apart.

    Economics as a discipline tends not to take account of what I am talking about because economists want to think of economics as a science and be able to use mathematics to manipulate models in order to make predictions. But you can’t quantify in numbers the kiinds of things I’m talking about and that’s why economists ignore them. And that’s why our economists tend not to have the answers our society needs.

    Studying economics is very valuable, but you also need to put what you learn into perspective by actually experiencing the way people really behave, which I am arguing is not always as economic models predict. People do not always make “rational” decisions in the way economic models suggest they do. Information is not universally available to everyone. Politicians do not always act in the best interest of society but often in their own personal interest instead. Lots of people believe in myth and are easily manipulated. Taken as a whole, if people do not respect the truth, do not seek the truth, are unwilling to be open to the truth and are unwilling to change with new information that challenges the truth they now believe in, they will not be successful in making predictions or offering solutions… at least not in ways that are useful to society as a whole. And if they cannot think for themselves, they can be led down a path that will not take them to a happy place. Capitalism will not make you happy, Marxism will not lead to happiness, Communism will not win the day. You can change the chairs on the Titanic all you want, but until you are willing to change yourself when you are confronted with a reality that successfully challenges the one you thought you understood, you won’t live up to your true potential.

    • “Capitalism will not make you happy, Marxism will not lead to happiness, Communism will not win the day. You can change the chairs on the Titanic all you want, but until you are willing to change yourself when you are confronted with a reality that successfully challenges the one you thought you understood, you won’t live up to your true potential.”

      Everything else I agree with. But let me ask, what is the process by which people become “intellectually mature enough to notice what is happening to them and responsible enough to honorably protect themselves and others who might be weaker than themselves?” Does that just appear out of nowhere? I do not think it makes sense to argue that everyone should just “be the change they want to see in the world.” What about those who cannot be, those who the system has beaten down to the degree where they cannot see, cannot act politically? Is it not the system that must be challenged and altered, revolutionized and not just cosmetically reformed, in order for things and for people’s consciousness to really change? This is not a uni-directional process, where change in consciousness leads to change in conditions, or the other way around. This is a dialectical process where some change in consciousness leads to an attempt to change conditions, the beginning of struggle. Struggle for something has begun on Wall Street. I attempted merely to show them that the current results of the struggles they affiliated themselves with. Now if the movement is not destroyed. As that struggle runs into limits and problems it will learn more, its people will learn more about the world they operate in. I hope to be a part of it and to help it as much as I can with my thinking, I will not sit back and content myself with moralizing on the level of, “well, if we are going to have any real change in society everyone must change their thinking.”

      What do you even mean when you say that “Capitalism will not make you happy, Marxism will not lead to happiness, Communism will not win the day?” Capitalism is a system of economic organization with social consequences. As far as I know it makes plenty people, who do not really think about it, rather happy. Marxism is simply a way of looking at the world, a system of analysis and critique that seeks to find in capitalism its own overcoming. Communism will not win the day? What is communism to you, anyhow? And I agree, it will not a concept that wins the day, nor a slogan. It will be people. But will it be people in some mass of 99ers who cannot even agree on what concrete changes they want? Will it be ambiguity about capitalism that wins the day? Or reformism? Would we consider greater regulation of finance a victory? Or will it be a movement of people, organized, becoming ever more conscious of what they are dealing with, with concrete current demands and programs for the future that will actually “win” and change the world?

      History seems to have no examples I am aware of for the amorphous 99% crowd doing anything useful and seems to suggest that an organized movement has at least a fighting chance. And I like to note this – the Bolsheviks, functioning under the terrible conditions that they were, understanding themselves to be basically at the mercy of the European revolution which never happened, still gave full rights to women before any other government and made Russia into a literate, educated country. The historical irony for the totaltiarian-buracratic state is that by doing so it created the very people who had the consciousness, founded in solid education, to challenge them.

      It did not emerge out of nowhere, or by wishing that it should emerge.

      • Regarding how people become intellectually mature.
        First of all, if people are not intellectually mature and aware of what’s happening to them, then they certainly will not start reading Marx and advocate for a change in their entire way of life from something they’ve known all their lives to something they’ve been taught since puberty is the evil of all evils. It isn’t of course… but that’s how it is.
        There are probably many paths to intellectually maturity. One path might be when people tell the truth about their unhappiness, disappointments, and confusion and begin to look seriously for what is wrong with their thinking and/or with the world they live in. It’s a process. The process is supported by the many things that I mention in my writings. If you want to pursue that avenue of research you might start here: http://www.gpln.com/theanswer.htm
        When people are dissatisfied with how things are they begin to look for answers. Unfortunately, the world is full of people who think they have them and are willing to tell others what to think and/or believe. Some people are fortunate enough when they to come to a crossroad that offers them options from which they make a choice… that what they learn helps them to make even better choices when they come to other crossroads. I believe that the path to success in this regard is to be committed to searching for the truth. When you search for the truth with integrity you will find out that what you once believed might not be entirely accurate; and if you are honest with yourself, you will continue searching until you find what you are looking for. In time the truth you see becomes refined and eventually you find that you’ve acquired some wisdom because you’ve traveled a lot of paths and had a lot of experiences and you’ve learned from them all.
        It’s helpful if you’ve had mentors along the way that can point you in helpful directions. But then again you have to be willing to leave mentors when you’ve outgrown them.
        One suggestion that I make here: http://www.gpln.com/whatwewant.htm is that our school systems in the US should should not be funded by local real estate taxes, for that gives children from wealthy families certain advantages over children from less affluent families. The education offered each child ought to be excellent no matter what the financial circumstances are in their family. Look around and you will see injustice pretty much everywhere. You will also find people who are caught up in myths about God, history and all sorts of things. It’s a process. It would help if people could understand what I’m talking about. But not everyone is ready to hear what I have to say. I’m not always right about what I have to say, but I’m trying to honest and as far as I can tell, I don’t have any hidden motives.
        As bad as things are these days, you can see that humanity has made progress in many areas. Hopefully, as we continue on this path we will not kill each other off before we find true love, freedom, happiness, and success in life.
        Anyway, I do not fault you for searching deeply into Marxism to see if it offers you answers to the questions you are looking for. It’s not a mistake. People used to ask Einstein why he spent so much time writing up papers about experiments he tried that failed. He told them that he was trying to help others avoid having to carrying out the same experiment thereby saving them time and energy, and giving them the opportunity to look elsewhere where they might find greater success.

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