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.
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