Don’t Divide, UNITE! From Occupy Wall Street to Liberate the World + We Want to be Free! by Andrew Gavin Marshall

by Andrew Gavin Marshall
Featured Writer
Dandelion Salad
October 13, 2011

Occupy Wall Street Day 26- The Millionaire March

Image by waywuwei via Flickr

Having watched closely the development and rapid growth of the ‘Occupy’ movement from when it began on Wall Street in September to its current global scope, where on October 15th it is expected to erupt in hundreds of cities around the world, there are various concerns and issues which I feel the need to discuss in a little more detail.

First, there is the very real threat of having the movement co-opted, whether by philanthropic foundations, political parties, NGOs, union reps or more likely, an amalgamation of them all simultaneously. This threat is present and pervasive. For those who ignore the potential of co-optation, the result can only be for the movement to be made ineffective for true change.

However, there is another threat, more subtle, and yet, even more damaging than co-optation. This threat comes from not only the movement, but the wider population itself. In a word: division. While closely following the developments in regards to politicians, philanthropists, and long sold-out activist organizations aligning with the movement in order to assert their authority over it, I have been even more disturbed by many reports, voices, criticisms, and perspectives of the wider alternative media and ‘awakening’ population, particularly in the United States, but also elsewhere as the movement spreads. The easiest way for a movement to be co-opted is for the movement to first be divided against itself. So I would like to delve into a little more detailed observations on this issue.

What is the threat of co-optation?

I have written and spoken on this issue previously. I recently wrote an article entitled, “Against the Institution: A Warning for Occupy Wall Street,” in which I explained the methods through which co-optation takes place, as well as another article, “End the Fed… but don’t stop there!“, in which I expressed support for the development of the Occupy the Fed movement, but warned against such a narrow focus, and finally, I did an interview with Russia Today in which I warned about the potential for co-optation and methods to guard against it.

Could Occupy Wall Street be infiltrated by political groups?

on Oct 7, 2011

Occupy Wall Street has invaded Lower Manhattan with tens of thousands of demonstrators. The demonstration has been peaceful and yesterday several influential Unions have made the demonstration a forced to be reckoned with. Many critics believe the Unions being involved could cause the movement to be used as a political tool. Andrew Gavin Marshall, project manager for, tells give shares his concerns.

So, at the risk of repeating myself, I will just quickly summarize my points here.

Co-optation is the process whereby established, institutional powers join a movement with the intent to direct the movement into an area which is ‘safe’ for the institutional elite. The ‘institutional elite’ (or global and national elite, if you prefer), are those who own, direct, control, fund, and steer the various institutions and dominant ideologies of our world, including (but not limited to): corporations, international organizations, the State, education, psychiatry, the media, political parties, NGOs, philanthropic foundations, think tanks, the military, intelligence, central banks and private banks.

Principally, co-optation of social movements is made most effective through the efforts of philanthropic foundations. Foundations (most notably the Carnegie, Ford, and Rockefeller Foundations) were created in the early 20th century with a dual purpose: to create consensus among the elites (through the formation of ideology, think tanks, shaping the educational system, etc), and more importantly, the engineering of consent (also through education, as well as facilitating the rise of the consumer society, constructing ideology, organizing Non-governmental organizations – NGOs – and directing social movements). When money from a foundation enters a social movement, it has several effects. Often, the movement may start out as or be organically developing into a radical movement aimed at altering the actual social structure – or system – of which the philanthropists themselves sit atop. Philanthropic foundations were founded by and are still run by bankers, industrialists, the heads of universities, think tanks, and other social and cultural leaders.

When the money from a foundation enters a social movement, it begins to organize the movement. It removes the radical concepts (or demands) and begins to organize around what they consider “acceptable” demands, which are those which promote “reform” (not revolution), which can be enacted through legislation. The funding helps create activist organizations, NGOs, non-profits and lobbying groups. Those within the movement who promote the reformist and legalistic “demands” are then elevated into leadership positions through foundation funding. Those who are radical may even be tempted into such positions with the hope and promise of “making change.” Thus, the foundations ‘professionalize’ the movement. The leaders direct organizations, sit over large budgets, and have comfortable salaries. They are invited to international conferences of NGOs, corporations, international organizations, and governments. Their purpose is to “speak for the people” in such meetings, but by being professionalized in such a way, they are removed from the people. In fact, their new-found personal wealth, status, respect, and ‘inclusion’ into the global institutional structure makes them dependent upon that very structure and system for their own well-being and sense of self-worth. Thus, they will only pursue “reformist” and “legalistic” changes to the system, never radical or revolutionary, as they are now personally dependent upon that system. The foundations will integrate the movements with particular NGOs, other activist organizations, and particular political parties, which will then “take on the agenda” (albeit the heavily “reformist” agenda) of the movement, create legislation, and seek “change” from within the system.

Ultimately, the result is that the movement is made ineffective. Reforming the system is akin to rearranging the deck-chairs on the Titanic. However, while often creating seemingly benevolent changes, the effects are subtle, yet severe. By turning a potentially radical movement into a reformist co-opted movement, through the effective seclusion of the radical and revolutionary elements and ideas of the movement, the mass of the people behind it are mobilized behind the reformist agenda. As legislation is passed, “causes” promoted, political parties participating, and media attention growing, the movement loses its steam and becomes complacent. The legislation addresses their “demands,” and now that the “professional” and “organized” movement has taken up the cause, the people can go back to sleep and feel comfortable in that they were a part of some effort at “change.” However, by promoting change within the system, instead of creating a new social, political, and economic reality, the changes themselves are ineffective. This is because the fundamental problem, whether the issue is racism, economic exploitation, poverty, war, empire, austerity, tyranny, exclusion, discrimination, and political oppression, the problem rests in the ideas and institutions of power. If the institutional system itself is not addressed as THE problem, no alterations to that system will sufficiently address the particular concern of the activists and social movements.

I have begun a Facebook page to promote the issues and make others aware of the threat of co-optation. Please “like” the page, share ideas, issues, articles, videos, and concerns (as well as SOLUTIONS!) to help stop co-optation!

Solidarity or Co-optation?

In regards to the Occupy Movement, the unions in the United States and elsewhere began showing support and solidarity with the movement, marching with them, and speaking out in favour of their causes. One of the effects this has had has been for those on the right, or the more libertarian social movements, to demonize the Occupy movement, or for those critical of co-optation to decry the movement as “controlled.” Even in my warnings against co-optation, I have mentioned the threat from unions, which has led many on the left to criticize me.

Thus, I feel it is important to differentiate between solidarity and co-optation. Solidarity implies a type of social empathy, in seeing how the cause or struggles of one movement or people is the cause and struggle of your own movement or people. Solidarity is an incredibly important and necessary development, especially in the context of today’s globalized world. Solidarity allows for people the world over to understand and believe that the struggle of one person is the struggle of all people in all places, and indeed it is. Thus, solidarity, no matter with whom, should not be shunned. There is, however, a fine line between solidarity and co-optation.

Co-optation emerges when those who declare solidarity then begin to speak “for” the movement, assume leadership positions within the movement, promote their particular agendas as the agendas of the entire movement, and effectively steer it into directions which they desire. This process must be guarded against.

Now, on unions specifically, there are some things to keep in mind. Historically, as unions began to rapidly emerge in the 19th century in America, the entire century was marked with labour struggles, worker uprisings, protests, activists, and rebellion. At that time, especially in the latter half of the 19th century, the unions were largely organizing against the Robber Baron industrialists and bankers, such as JP Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, Harriman, Carnegie, Astor, and Vanderbilt. The protests and rebellions were often repressed brutally by state police or even the national guard, often demanded and paid for by those very industrialists and bankers. Interesting to note that the NYPD, which has been repressing the Occupy Wall Street movement, received a $4 million donation from JP Morgan Chase. Funny how some things never change.

At that time, the unions were incredibly radical, often socialist, communist, or anarchistic. They presented a major threat to the established power, and so the 20th century saw the development of new institutions and ideas to properly manage a disgruntled populace and radical social movements. It was in this context, in the early 20th century, in which the working class and lower classes were increasingly radical, and the middle class was increasingly anti-capitalist and distrustful of the banking and industrial elite, that we saw the emergence of philanthropic foundations and public relations. In turn, both the fields of public relations and the foundations helped facilitate the development of the ‘consumer culture’ in America, with the aim, as one banker with Lehman Brothers, Paul Mazer said, “We must shift America from a needs- to a desires-culture.” The bankers funded the entertainment industry, Hollywood, Times Square, advertising, and the development of department stores; the foundations helped create credit unions to allow middle class people to borrow in order to finance consumption, and public relations put a new face on corporate America and made consumption the past-time of the middle class. The aim was to separate the middle class from the working class, which were in the context of the late 19th and early 20th century, becoming dangerously close to uniting against the common enemy (the system itself).

The most influential political theorist of the era, Walter Lippmann (the Zbigniew Brzezinski of his era), articulated the need for the “engineering of consent” among the majority of people, so that society may be ordered and controlled from above, while the desires of the lower classes were created and amused by the true ruling powers. Edward Bernays, the “father of public relations,” wrote in his 1928 book, “Propaganda”:

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. …We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. …In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.

The elite, it can be said, were highly effective in dividing the working class and poor from the middle class. The middle class became dependent upon the system for a particular standard of living (defined by the ability to consume). Radical ideologies were then increasingly made irrelevant, demonized, and erased from the political consciousness. Any criticism of the system was then easily lopped into the category of the “Red Menace” of Communism, a boogeyman which still apparently exists for many right-leaning populations.

While the unions began as radical and indeed, revolutionary entities, this is not what they are today. The unions exist as they are, and are only able to be present in today’s institutional system, by having made the decisions to cooperate with big business and big government, and simply promote minor reforms and critiques to the system. They claim to speak for the workers of the world, but increasingly, especially since the emergence of the neoliberal era, they have come to consistently sell-out the workers. Throughout the Third World, as the neoliberal “Washington Consensus” was spread by the IMF and World Bank as a result of the 1980s debt crisis, union reps were bought off by government and business interests, made their pockets full while stabbing the workers in the back.

In regards to the Occupy Movement, solidarity with unions is not a bad thing. Here’s why: solidarity does not imply unions co-opting the movement (that must be prevented), but it does imply a solidarity with workers. Indeed, workers in America and around the world have suffered much more at the result of decisions and actions by banks, corporations, and governments than the middle class have. But solidarity with a growing and global movement is important, because so long as the movement remains grassroots, or seeks to promote its grassroots and radical potential, the movement can itself be an example for the workers and unions to return to their radical roots. Lead by example!

This seemingly reflexive impulse to simply denounce the entire movement the moment an organization, individual, or idea one does not agree with associates itself with the movement is the height of ignorance. Solidarity with workers and unions is important and necessary. But, if leadership in the movement develops (as it tends to with all social movements), let it develop organically from among the people, let it remain radical and revolutionary, and let it lead those it stands in solidarity with by showing them the way forward to grassroots, globalized, revolutionary social movements.

Destroyed From Within

This hits on another major issue, that of internal and external divisions. In this era, in the midst of the Technological Revolution providing more information and easier global communication than ever before in human history, people have the capacity to come together, to organize, unite, become activated and educated, and seek and promote change together, around the world. This is unprecedented in human history. A totally unique position for humanity to be in, and the greatest opportunity for true liberation humanity has ever had. Let’s not screw this up!

What I am referring to is that even for all the very real threats of institutional co-optation, we the people, seem to be doing a pretty good job of making the movement ineffective before the elite even have a chance to.

Unfortunately, one of the methods through which the movement is becoming divided is in regards to those who see a threat of co-optation. This is largely done through the alternative media and various social critics and activists. While keeping an eye out for the institutions and individuals commonly associated with co-optation, the moment that politicians, activist organizations, philanthropists or others show “solidarity” with the movement, many critical observers simply denounce the movement as “co-opted,” as in: it’s a done deal, party’s over, it’s “controlled” and it’s all a conspiracy! Go home, give up, the end.

Here is why this is an awful position to take: it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If one sees the sharks circling and yells, “It’s over, jump in the water and get it over with!” one may forget that there is still a paddle in the boat. There is still hope. But for the boat to get to shore, attention must be called to the sharks, and those who call attention to the risks, may help steer it best to safety. If those who see the risks inherent simply then jump off the boat, the others remain unaware of those risks, and the boat will likely sink amidst the swarm of sharks. Instead, the movement needs the critical voices, those who see and seek to avoid co-optation. These voices are needed to help mobilize the movement away from co-optation. After all, while the sharks may be circling, we have a much better chance together than alone.

So, to those who denounce the movement as already co-opted and controlled, I have this to say: is it not better to see the problems and make others aware so that they may be avoided, rather than denounce the entire movement, isolate yourself from it, and them from you? After all, once you segregate yourself from the movement, you segregate your ideas from the movement. The most unfortunate aspect of this is that in diversity, there is strength. Diversity of ideas and beliefs is a great thing. The power of uniting regardless of these diversities, and in fact, because of them, is the only way forward.

The elite are constantly engaged in attempting to establish consensus, work together, create common ideology, establish mutual interests, and implement coordinated action. This is their strength. And I am not talking about political parties, Republican and Democrat, they are a sideshow developed for popular consumption, just like Hollywood. The elite – the true rulers of our world – constantly and often effectively seek to establish consensus in ideas and action. Yet, we the people, tend to actively engineer divisions and segregation. This is our GREATEST weakness. The elite love this. They love it especially because it does not even require their active participation. We can do it all on our own!

Examples of this in regards to the Occupy movement are as follows: I have seen articles and comments, blogs and alternative news, critics and dissenters, who denounce or decry the movement because there are “socialists,” “communists,” “anarchists,” or that the movement is “anti-Capitalist,” and thus, a “communist conspiracy by bankers.” Because the movement does not articulate MY specific ideas, the movement is therefore irrelevant and controlled. The movement decries Wall Street, and not the Fed, therefore it is controlled and co-opted! The Fed is the problem, not Wall Street! … These are very common denunciations of the movement.

Well, for those who focus on the Federal Reserve: indeed, the Federal Reserve is one of the MAIN problems, and in fact, the global central banking system itself. However, I find myself confused by those who seem to have enough knowledge of the Fed to know that it “needs to go,” but then state that “Wall Street is not the problem.” My confusion is this: Wall Street owns the Fed. The Federal Reserve System, composed of 12 regional Fed banks, which are themselves private banks, the most powerful of which is the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, are controlled by the banks. The board of directors of the NY Fed includes Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JP Morgan Chase. JP Morgan Chase is one of the principal shareholders in the New York Fed, as are the other major Wall Street banks. Thus, Wall Street owns and runs the Fed for the benefit of the Wall Street banks. So, those who claim we should focus on the Fed and not Wall Street are missing the critical point: they are almost identical, represent the same interests, work to the same ends, and are so heavily integrated that we should be against both (not to mention all other institutions of power).

In fact, many of those who claim that the Fed is the problem and the movement is controlled had themselves for years been highly critical of Wall Street. Yet, it seems, that as soon as others are critical of the same institution, but articulate different philosophies, they are wrong, the movement is controlled, and they are protesting against the wrong things. This creates needless divisions. Instead, would it not be more effective to join the movement and seek to educate the mass of the movement about the Federal Reserve System, instead of denouncing them simply for not knowing? After all, by denouncing them, you segregate yourself and your ideas from the movement. Subsequently, you complain that the movement doesn’t share your ideas, and is therefore wrong and controlled. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It must be understood that the majority of the Occupy movement is made up of students and average people, hurt by the economic crisis, or disturbed by the declining social conditions, the political apathy to make change, and the general dissatisfaction with the status quo, These are reasonable things to make people active and motivated. Do not expect the majority of these people to be as ‘aware’ of the large plethora of issues at hand, or to understand the system as well as those who have made a living out of studying it. I have seen footage from the movement where protesters denounce Wall Street and in the same breath endorse Obama. It’s absurd, yes, Obama is a Wall Street product (much like a derivative!), but don’t denounce the entire movement as a result. Instead, should we not seek to educate, engage, and interact with those people in the hopes of enlarging their perspective? But then, it is always much easier to denounce, disregard, and dismiss than it is to engage, participate, and integrate. What we may not realize is that dismissal only segregates our ideas and analysis from the wider population.

This is an Opportunity! Don’t Ignore it, Take it!

All too often we miss the forest for the trees. We so easily segregate ourselves from one another, as opposed to uniting together. We see the superiority of our own ideas, and demonize all others. Passive observation is always so much easier than active participation. The notion that libertarians have nothing to learn from socialists is as absurd as the notion that socialists have nothing to learn from libertarians. Yet, both groups so often demonize one another, and always keep each other at a distance, segregated, divided, and thereby both sides of the spectrum become ineffective. Both demonize each other based upon false conceptualizations of each philosophy. Socialists, and for that matter, many on the left, identify libertarians with neoliberalism, and thus, as part of the problem, as the status quo itself. Libertarians, for their part, see socialists as absolute Marxist Communists and, many on the right as well, tend to associate socialism with Communist China, the Soviet Union, or North Korea, and therefore they see socialists as wanting to destroy all individuality and freedom in favour of the all-encompassing power of ‘the State.’ This division was not always present, and it’s time it is relegated to the dustbin of history. We cannot move forward lest we move forward together.

There is, however, a philosophy which is known almost paradoxically as “Libertarian Socialism.” One would find this an absurd oxymoron, but it is an actual philosophy. It is often interchangeable with the term “anarchism.” Anarchism itself is perhaps the most effectively demonized and dismissed political philosophy, as well as the most misunderstood, not to mention the one with the most potential to unite the masses of people. It is an incredibly diverse philosophy, not dogmatic or strict, but incredibly all encompassing. Anarchism is simply the belief in human freedom being the necessary condition for human happiness, and that it is institutions of authority which make humanity depraved, violent, corrupt, and controlled. Anarchists have presented the most authoritative critique of the state, as well as various institutions of power. It’s origins and developments can be found in ancient Chinese Taoism, and it emerged as a distinct philosophy organically in several different civilizations, eras, and ideas: in ancient China, Rome, Greece, early Christianity, Medieval Europe, and the word “anarchist” first was used to describe a philosophical position in the 19th century, with philosophers like William Godwin, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Mikhail Bakunin, Peter Kropotkin, Leo Tolstoy, and into the 20th century with theorists like Emma Goldman and many others. In fact, it was the anarchist philosopher, Bakunin, who presented the greatest challenge to Karl Marx at the First International, as Marx sought to (and ultimately did) have Bakunin and the anarchists sidelined and made irrelevant in the Socialist International. Bakunin, for his part, predicted that Marxism is too authoritarian, as it would use the state to establish a dictatorship, and that if ever attempted, it would establish a “Red bureaucracy” all the more tyrannical than the government it was supposed to replace. Of course, Bakunin was correct in predicting this, but we don’t commonly learn about philosophers or philosophies which are accurate, that might have the undesired side effect of educating us.

Instead, we hear the word “anarchism” and think of violence, lawlessness, chaos, disorder, and primitive nature. Anarchism is in fact about the triumph of individuality, and the necessity of community; that the individual is best supported through communal ties. The promotion of absolute freedom from all structures of authority, along with a stressing of individuality (and with it, ingenuity and creativity), as well as the importance of community and interaction, has allowed this philosophy to attract communists, socialists, liberals, conservatives, and libertarians. In fact, it has allowed for mutual cooperation across the spectrum, for anarchism does not sit upon the left/right paradigm, but rather upon the freedom/tyranny paradigm. It is able to remove socialism and communism from authoritarian elements (which promote the state), and is also able to remove libertarianism from its arch-capitalist concepts which promote corporations and banks at the behest of the rest. Anarchism is capable of mixing the ‘free market’ ideals of libertarians with the social principles of socialists.

I stress this point simply to press the idea that there is mutual ground upon which the left and right are able to unite, to come together, act together, and learn from one another. I comfortably place myself within the anarchist philosophy largely because it is not dogmatic. For many years, I struggled to define my own views: I was neither conservative nor liberal, I identified with many social principles of socialists, yet was attracted to the freedom-promoting ideals of libertarians. I felt that Marxist analysis had much to offer, but I had great distaste for its proffered solutions. Through my own individual research on a wide range of subjects, I came to see not capitalism as the problem, nor the state as the sole problem. The problem then, I found, was that I was expected to identify “one” cause of all problems, and therefore, take “one” stance, and offer “one solution.” I could not do this. I found interesting and indeed important ideas in a wide array of philosophies, theories, critiques and concepts, but could not adhere to “one.” Rather, I would seek to take the ideas I liked from each, remove those I didn’t, and throw them together to form my own perspective as a kind of “hodge podge” philosophy. The result, was that I tended to identify the concept of power centralization itself as the issue: the notion of ideas and institutions of power depriving individuals and the collective of humanity the power of self-determination. When I quite literally stumbled into some anarchist philosophy, I realized that this concept has been articulated for thousands of years, developed organically by many civilizations, cultures, religions, and individuals. Known as different things at different times, it all tended to fall under the umbrella of anarchism, and what a wide, all-encompassing umbrella it is. What other philosophy could you have such variations of ideas so as to include what are known as “anarcho-communists” and “anarcho-Capitalists,” and that they may have such common ground to stand upon?

Diversity is Strength

Do not fear different ideas, radical concepts, or foreign philosophies. Engage, learn, teach, debate, articulate, DE-segregate, include, interact, unify, energize, challenge yourself and others, develop and grow. We do not all need to have ONE opinion, ONE idea, ONE solution. All we need is ONE reason to unite, yet we all too often overlook that very blatant, obvious reason to find many reasons for which we can divide. All it takes is one reason to unite, very simple: we are all in this together. That’s it! All the rest is salad dressing. We are all in this little world together. You don’t have to like every idea or every other person, you don’t have to think the same or act the same or dress the same or believe the same, all you have to do is be aware that we are, all of us, here on this little planet together. That realization makes it necessary that we begin to find common ground to stand on. This does not mean we need to have ONE idea, for once we have one dogmatic concept, it becomes institutionalized and corrosive and destructive.

Diversity is strength.

It amazes me, how in doing my own research for several years now, I find myself feeling so secure, so determined and even stubborn on the ‘correctness’ or ‘righteousness’ of a particular idea or understanding I have come to embrace. And then… I do more research, discover more things, delve into more history, more philosophy, more ideas, more analysis… and suddenly, I have to challenge all my preconceived notions and beliefs. Suddenly, I have to refine all my “correct” ideas to become “more correct.” And then, like it says on your bottle of conditioner, “rinse, repeat.” The one thing I have come to stop being surprised by, is that I am constantly surprised. My own beliefs, ideas, understanding and philosophy is in a constant state of growth, as I am in a constant state of learning. And yet, every time I come to some new conclusion, it seems as if my mind says, “Well then, that’s it, I’ve got it… now I’m done… right?” And then, I happen across some new subject, some new idea, or issue… and “rinse, repeat.”

We must learn to all put aside our inherent biases, to engage with our own knowledge, but with the acceptance that we have more to learn from others. Because, we do! Whether or not you believe it, we do. And we won’t ever move forward in this world unless we move forward together. The elite know this. They have always known this since ancient times. That is why elites seek to divide and conquer. But the system that has developed up and around humanity for the several thousand years of our existence on this little planet has become so ingrained in the human conception of itself that we no longer require the elite to divide us, we do such a good and effective job of it ourselves!

Humanity must mature from its adolescent stage of development where we have authority figures telling us how to dress, what to think, where to go and what to do. It’s time humanity becomes an ‘adult.’ In short, we need to grow up! Put aside the petty differences which do us no good, find our common ground to stand on, and move forward together.

The funny thing is, once we are capable of doing that, the elite become a sideshow. When we do that, we realize that the elite are always a sideshow. They become totally irrelevant, archaic, and useless. To change the world, we must change our selves. The true revolution requires no seizure of power or usurpation of the state. The true revolution is a philosophical revolution, fought and won internally. The growing and developing global protest Occupy Movement is an important step in establishing global solidarity, in truly experiencing the ‘power’ of individuals when they come together, in understanding that we are all indeed, together.

If the movement becomes a truly effective engine for change, it will have to promote solidarity with all peoples and groups all over the world, it will not demand anything of institutions and power structures, but demand change only of itself, and as such, seek to forge cooperation, education, understanding, and actively create new ideas and a new social reality.

If it is to be truly effective, not only must it guard against institutional co-optation, but it must more so guard against internal divisions and segregation. Whether the movement isolates itself from others, or others isolate themselves from the movement, the effect is the same.

But always remember…

Diversity is Strength!


A Brief Message for Humanity: We Want to be Free!

by Andrew Gavin Marshall
Featured Writer
Dandelion Salad
October 14, 2011

Can you hear it? Taste it? Smell it? See it? Touch it? … Can you feel it? The people of the world are waking up, rising up, acting up, fed up, not giving up, but getting up, standing up, climbing up… looking up. Around the world, in every place, in every case, in every situation, circumstance, and altercation, the powers of our world, sitting firm in their positions, atop the institutions of our domination, proffering the ideas of our indoctrination, seek to confuse, divide, control, co-opt, crush, define, repress, overrun, undermine, and cause distress… to all those people, everywhere, who look forward with new eyes, crying out to the world, and in to themselves, “We want to be free!”

No cry, echoed through all eternity, ever carried such prominence, such eternal relevance and for all past and present circumstance. “We want to be free!”

No single idea, before or hereafter, has such enormous power, such overwhelming possibility, such unsurpassable resonance with the potential for such everlasting permanence. “We want to be free!”

From Tunisia, to Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, Palestine… to Greece, France, and Spain, Germany, England, Iceland, and Italy… across the lands of Asia, and the sea itself, to Canada, America (even the South)… Honduras, Chile, and Brazil, from Venezuela, Bolivia, Argentina, to the birthplace of humanity in that continent across the ocean, that great and wonderful landmass with those great and wonderful people in Africa. Everywhere, people cry out the same. “We want to be free!”

Everywhere, at all times and in all places, there are those among us, not separate, but indeed, very much human, who have lost their way, thrown their heart to the wind, love only themselves and their bank accounts, who seek to dominate, obfuscate, eradicate, the earth they plunder, and push the rest of us under, control, corrupt, and devastate. Their cause is profit and power, their means are deception and dehumanization, and yet their greatest weakness is their own deprivation, their disassociation, endless demoralization and reckless devastation. All they touch and control, has no warmth of heart, no hope of happiness, no joy of love like that which may be found in the smallest country, in the poorest village, with the poorest family, with the saddest story and the hardest life. For even in the greatest of tragedies, humans reach out to one another and find each other in their hearts and minds, hopes and dreams, actions and interactions.

Do not hate and despise those who sit above, in their towers of despair, in their prisons of profit, their cells of control, for they live, daily, paying the price for power. By segregating themselves from everyone else, they deprive themselves of all the humanity they can experience, learn, and love. Do not hate them, for they are weak and petty. Pity them for their self-isolation, love them for their human weakness, which we all share alike. Any such position of power can turn the most benevolent of beings into the most treacherous of tyrants. It is not the human which is depraved, but the society built up around us which makes the human depraved. Don’t hate the people, help the people! For they too, know not what freedom tastes, smells, sounds, looks and feels like. Let us show them the way, let all of us, together and forever, cry out, “We want to be free!”

Let them hear us, fear us, hate us, hurt us, push us, press us, crush us, curse us, and let them see us stand back on our feet, look above and beyond their petty positions, and again cry out, “We want to be free!” Let them see what humanity is capable of creating, instead of destroying. Let them see how humanity can cooperative, not segregate. Let them see, and tremble, and falter and fail, for when they come crashing down to the earth upon which we all stand, from which we all are provided our necessities of life, let us offer them a hand, lift them up, and join the call, “We want to be free!”

This is not the beginning of the end, this is the end of the beginning. This struggle will not be fought and won in the streets of New York, in the sands of the Middle East, in the mountains of Asia or the plains of Africa. This struggle will be fought and won inside every individual human being on this planet, in your heart and mind. But we come together, these new and wonderful days, to see and meet one another, as if for the first time, and to feel what it is to be ‘human’, to be standing side by side, crying out, “No more!” No more war, no more injustice, no more racism and militarism and hatred and dehumanization, no more plundering and destruction, no more segregation and isolation, no more empire and domination, no more institutions and executions, no more division and deprivation. No more. No more. We want to be free!

We want to be free!

We want to be free.

And so, some day, not today, perhaps not tomorrow, perhaps not this year or the next, perhaps not in my lifetime or those of all the rest, but some day… free, we will be. You can feel it, today, everywhere. Always. It’s within each of us and between all of us. It’s here, just see it, take it, and make it yours!

In our struggle for freedom, to throw off the chains that bind us, we become the idea that unites us. The very act of demanding and seeking freedom, requires all the efforts to release those chains and shackles which hold your mind in thinking that there is no way, no chance, no point. The very call, “We want to be free!” is an act of freedom. For all the institutions and ideas of power built up around us, individually and collectively, have been put there to prevent us from ever making such a call, from every standing up against them, from ever speaking from our hearts and acting from our instincts.

If you want freedom, be freedom. The only way to get it, is to act like you already have it. And indeed, in truth, you do.

So stand, unite, and call out to the world as they call back to you, “We want to be free!”

And some day soon, so it will be.

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, and is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project.


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19 thoughts on “Don’t Divide, UNITE! From Occupy Wall Street to Liberate the World + We Want to be Free! by Andrew Gavin Marshall

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  4. Marshall:

    Obviously, we have irreconcilable differences in our modes of thinking, knowledge, and approaches to reality. I cannot spend much more time in these exchanges. I hope that someone else will give a more detailed response and will add to my following response.

    You have only gotten yourself deeper into the swamp of subjectivity, rationalizations, and psychologism in dealing with objective politico-economic and social problems. You write:

    “Attempts at forming communist states have, as Bakunin accurately predicted, produced more brutal tyrannies than those they sought to replace”.

    I have done in-depth and comprehensive studies of the political economy of capitalism and socialism, and particularly of the USSR, based on the writings of both the Soviet and unbiased American and other Western political economists and political scientists. Anyone with any credible knowledge of the political economy of USSR, East Germany and other Eastern European countries, Cuba, and China, under Mao, could not have made such a bizarre statement. In most of these socialist countries, there was full employment; free healthcare and free education; free housing or at minimal proportion of the income for rent and utilities; selfless mutual aid as well as to Third World countries, like India and Pakistan, where Steel and other industries were established by Soviets, not on the basis of exploitative and enslaving loans, with exorbitant interest rates, but on the basis of payments in the form of products of these industries; crucial military aid to victims of imperialist military aggression, like Vietnam, etc. etc. You are engaging in solipsism here, obviously without realizing it, by calling the kind of system and society that produced these unparalleled historical accomplishments as “tyrannies”. If these are tyrannies, then gold is mud, love is hate, freedom is slavery, and justice is injustice. George Orwell has been surpassed!

    The problem with subjective approaches like your is that these float above the concrete and specific facts of the political economy and thus exercise unlimited empty “freedom” and “individuality” in inventing all types of interpretations and attributes for various phenomena, which, in most cases, are untrue and unreal.

    You also spew out totally exaggerated figures of killings of tens of millions under communism-fabricated by the advocates and apologists of capitalism and imperialism-which, under proper scrutiny and research, turn out to be just that: fabrications.

    You also wrote: “There is no such thing as a ‘scientific’ social world”. If there is no scientific social and politico-economic world, then are all the social sciences nothing but illusions?

    Your analogy of anarchism and love is totally inappropriate and erroneous. Love is a subjective feeling, while anarchism is a socio-economico-political hypothesis about objective socio-economico-political reality, the accuracy or flaws of which can be tested by historical methods and those of the social sciences.

    • You are correct, sir, we do indeed, “have irreconcilable differences in our modes of thinking.” I do not disagree, however, that several communist states have imposed many of the social programs which you described, achieved full employment, etc. However, I also do not deny the massive human costs associated with “transitions” and “maintenance” of communist states. What of the gulags in Soviet Russia? What of Mao’s “Cultural Revolution” and its enormous human costs?

      I study political economy and its various theories and realities. There is no “scientific” approach to it as such. As you asked, “are all the social sciences nothing but illusions?” And I would answer: for the most part, yes. If you study the history of the development of the social sciences, particularly in the 19th century, and their evolution throughout the 20th century, they were, in fact, largely a product of the industrial and financial elite’s agenda to engineer society. The social sciences were engineered to effectively create agents of social engineering; to remove the intellectual from the social environment where [s]he could deal with people and provide leadership to social movements, and instead, institutionalize them, professionalize them, and imbue them with a “scientific” approach to attempt to “rationalize” the social world, and thus apply rational techniques of social engineering to effect a degree of social control. The major philanthropic foundations created by these bankers and industrialists in the late 19th and early 20th century have been the most dominant forces in shaping the “social sciences” to meet the needs of the elite: to indoctrinate, not educate. To create effective “managers” and “social engineers” of society. In particular, Political Science was a main focus, but then economic, sociology, psychology, and in time, demographics, came to play the part of social engineers. The foundations play a subtle, yet dominant influence within the “social sciences,” and they helped shape the social sciences and universities across the Third World following World War II as well, with the same intentions and effects. In fact, many foundations (including Ford and Rockefeller) have even funded many Marxist scholars in the Third World, which has the effect of “professionalizing” dissenters, so that they are detached from those whom they should be speaking to (the people), and instead their language becomes “academic”, their audience becomes foreign academics in the Western world (through journals, conferences, etc., most of which are all foundation funded), and they are placated by having been given status and prospects.

      The social sciences (and in many ways, the sciences themselves) are systems of power, and should be critically studied as such. Michel Foucault has done much research and investigation into this subject, as have several other scholars. There is an extensive academic literature on the role of foundations in society. Knowledge is, itself, a product and act of power, therefore it should be critically examined in and of itself.

      By accepting the “social sciences” as a dialectic of “truth”, one has already compromised their conclusions if they do not reflect critically upon the composition and construction of knowledge and “truth” itself.

      I do not apologize for the crimes or dehumanization of the capitalist system, but I can not bring myself to apologize or dismiss the crimes and dehumanization of the communist system. I do not believe that because I have an extensive opposition to the capitalist system that I must therefore endorse its supposed ‘opposite’, which I simply view as another parallel system of control. And in fact, so did the capitalists themselves. Bankers and industrialists love ‘captured economies’ like those in the Soviet Union and Communist China, which are ripe for exploitation, monopolization and profit. A little secret of history was the extent to which Standard Oil, General Electric, and other champions of American capitalism helped Soviet Russia in the implementation of its Five-Year Programs.,9171,789203,00.html,9171,736830,00.html,9171,746415,00.html,9171,732833-2,00.html,9171,739474-5,00.html

      And regardless of whether or not the figures of tens of millions of dead are “fabrications” (which I have not seen evidence of), the fact that Communist society demands such conformity of thought is alone enough to denounce it as inhuman. I have known people whose parents were taken to gulags, who suffered in Soviet satellite states under the repression of the USSR. I cannot find it in myself to condone human repression in any form, for any purpose, no matter how seemingly benevolent it may be. I deplore my own society as it exists and as it has existed, but I am very thankful that I have never lived under a communist dictatorship, just as I am very thankful I have never lived under a fascist dictatorship.

      You state that my approach is “subjective” and therefore deduce that yours is somehow “objective,” whereas I would counter that all forms of knowledge are subjective, as knowledge is itself a product of its time and an act of power. You claim that the “problem” with my “subjective” position is that, “float above the concrete and specific facts of the political economy and thus exercise unlimited empty “freedom” and “individuality” in inventing all types of interpretations and attributes for various phenomena, which, in most cases, are untrue and unreal,” yet you seem to fail to realize the entirely subjective nature of that statement, with its unsupported claims to truth, seemingly unbiased forms of knowledge, and decry “freedom” and “individuality” as “empty” simply because they do not fit within the rigid confines of a dogmatic or “scientific” approach to social management (which I would argue, is exactly the point of freedom and individuality). Essentially, it would seem we have very different conceptions of human nature and opposing philosophies. The major difference, though it seems, would be that I accept mine as a philosophy, whereas you make a claim to “scientific” knowledge of society, which I see as a paradox. Marxism is a philosophy, like any other. In fact, the notion of a “scientifically engineered” society is itself a philosophy, born of the 19th century ideals behind the scientific method and the belief that such approaches could be addressed to the “problem of society.” Marx himself was a product of his time, and his interpretations and concepts are thus products of the knowledge of his era. I am not saying they do not hold value, they do; simply, they must not be placed as “absolute truths” and must be as critically examined as are the beliefs and concepts espoused by Western leaders and capitalist philosophers.

      Finally, your statement: “Your analogy of anarchism and love is totally inappropriate and erroneous. Love is a subjective feeling, while anarchism is a socio-economico-political hypothesis about objective socio-economico-political reality, the accuracy or flaws of which can be tested by historical methods and those of the social sciences.” Again, I would disagree. Socio-political-economic reality is in many ways, entirely subjective. The effects of subjective realities can be quite objective (starvation, poverty, death, war, etc), but the ‘reality’ itself, and the process of interpreting and understanding it, is a subjective process, as this debate clearly demonstrates. Thus, I do not feel that my analogy of anarchism and love is either “inappropriate” or “erroneous”, as while love is subjective, we may all agree that it has real effects. The interpretation and understanding of love is a subjective experience, but unless one is an extreme nihilist, it would be difficult to discover someone who does not agree that love “exists” and has “effects.” Thus, while love is a feeling, it can also be an act. Anarchism, and with that, freedom and individuality, may also be described as feelings, but they also include acts and various realities. Our world is not one of subjective versus objective, but rather of subjective interpretation and understanding of objective effects. As such, any philosophy, no matter how ‘scientific’ its claims may be, is a subjective act in and of itself. The fact that an interpretation may lead to objective effects does not make the interpretation itself, objective.

    • Actually , you are wrong about love and Anarchism being 2 different things. to Bakunin they were . to Prouden and his concept of ”mutual aid” they were not . also , to Tolstoy they were not either. see my article on this blog about Christian Anarchism . it proposes that Christian Anarchism is not only liberation from government but also from the tyranny of selfish desires. To Tolstoy they were one and the same . one must love God and men to be truly free. the existential Anarchism of Max Steiner though secualr was not very scientific , but had an effecatiuos quality about it .

      • one more thing –in the 6 schools of Anarchism from Godwin to Tolstoy , Steiner and Tolstoy were the most subjective , and yet effective. since this is the case , it is only reasonable to take the word ”subjective ”out of its perjorative context , as a fair assessment and consider it as the success that it was along with the other 4 men and their more objective apporoaches .

      • i have to correct myself here –i meant to say Kropotkin ‘s ”mutual aid ” instead of Prouden . though i do like Prouden’s ”property as theft”..both Marx and St. Francis would concur.

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  6. @Fazal: Well, putting aside the fact that you managed to “disprove” nothing about the potential of anarchism, save to say that Lenin and Marx disproved it themselves, I will address a couple points you made.

    Firstly, in regards to ‘loving the imperialists,’ my point was not to show ‘love’ for Hitler, but to simply understand the individual within the context. Any individual, no matter how benevolent or good their intentions, when placed in a position of ultimate or extreme power, becomes corrupted by that position. There was a radical psychologist, Rollo May, in his book, “Power and Innocence,” explains how people having too much power is equally corrupting as people having too little. Therefore, for the psychological health of both the individual and society as a whole, there cannot be power centralization; it is counter to the natural state in which humanity should exist: free. Thus, just as it could happen to Hitler (i.e., become a horrific tyrant), it could happen to anyone put in such a position.

    Many academics and theorists have for over a century attacked ‘anarchism’ for being unlike other political philosophies, for being “emotional” instead of submitting to a “rational” doctrine, dogma, or having a singular vision. Of course, this is easy to proffer as an idea, if one has not studied the rather daunting and extensive history and development of anarchist thought and philosophy. The fact that it developed organically in various strands through several different civilizations at several different periods of history (beginning with ancient Chinese Taoism), but also stretching through early Greek, Buddhist, Christian philosophies, suggests the universality of the ideas, that different people, at different times and in different places, may come to strikingly similar philosophical views, despite their particular political, social, and economic context.

    You may have called my article an “attack on communism,” and I guess it could be perceived that way, but would the capitalist not view it as an “attack on capitalism”? Would the psychiatrist not view it as an “attack on psychiatry”? Would the educator see it as an “attack on education”? In short, my point is that it is an attack upon the ‘institution.’ Communism itself has a rather beautiful history within the anarchist movement, where various anarchist philosophies invoked many of the communal and social concepts of communism (as well as much of Marx’s analysis of capitalism), but without the state.

    While I agree that totalitarianism is horrific and evil, I believe this regardless of its form, and regardless of its intentions. All evil, when done, is done with the rhetoric of humanitarian missions. Attempts at forming communist states have, as Bakunin accurately predicted, produced more brutal tyrannies than those they sought to replace. One could argue, as Lenin himself did, that the state would eventually no longer be needed in a communist society, but that it would be needed to (as Marx also argued) undertake a “dictatorship of the proletariat”, to protect the revolution from the bourgeoisie, etc. Of course, as state power goes, it becomes horrifyingly abused. Lenin was no great humanitarian. Stalin killed more than Hitler. And Mao put them both to shame. Yet I agree that the tyranny of capital stands above, for even the system of state communism is subjected to it, though a state controlled central bank.

    The notion that one group could seize the state and establish a dictatorship which will eventually seek to dismantle itself goes against history. The universality of communism makes it that such a state would seek as an ends the total expansion of communism around the world. As a state, the means made available to it are those like the western capitalist states. Namely, war, subversion. In short, state communism can only make ‘communism’ become what it hates most. Further, even if a communist state were to become global in scope, would it then give up power? Never. Name a tyrant who denounced tyranny and dismantled his power structure. Even if a tyrant stepped down, another would rise. Why? If you build it, they will come. If you build and construct such large positions of power, it will directly attract the exact wrong type of person to fill it. The people who lead best are those who do not want to lead out of ambition, but out of necessity. These people typically do not rise easily through power structures (if at all) precisely because the ambitious and power-hungry individuals will do anything (and often do) to get ahead, to rise up, and take power. Then, their preoccupation becomes maintaining and expanding that power. Invariably, the ‘people’ always become the enemy, because they always represent a threat to power, no matter what you call the system.

    I think Marx offered an excellent critique of Capital. I do not, however, think he offered an excellent solution. I think communism can find its humanity within the anarchist philosophies (for there is much diversity). Further, I can say the same about libertarianism, which has offered some very interesting ideas about social organization; however, so long as it embraces corporations, banks, and the state, those ideas will be lost to institutions. Libertarianism then, has and can continue to find a comfortable place within anarchist philosophy. And what’s better, is that both socialists and libertarians can find equal ground to stand on within the realm of anarchism. After all, one common synonym for anarchism is “Libertarian Socialism.” As such, it is not divisive, but inclusionary. What anarchism asks of its adherents is not unity of dogma, the notion of one “scientific” solution, but rather they ask only that its adherents be more creative through their rejection of ‘authority’, and their embrace of freedom.

    You wrote: “As Marx, and later Lenin, demonstrated conclusively, anarchism was totally unrealistic, unscientific, and subjective hodge pogde from the beginning. They had spent a great deal of time and effort in exposing the real reactionary and destructive nature and effects of such hodge podges of their times, which Marshall, and numerous others like him, are trying to resurrect.”

    There is no such thing as a ‘scientific’ social world, this has been the exact ideology of capitalist elites from the late 19th century onward, to ‘scientifically engineer’ society. The fact that Marxism presents itself as a “scientific” social experiment says more about Marxism and its relationship with other power structures (and ideas), than it does about anarchism. As for “unrealistic,” well… speaking of subjective. One could say the exact same thing about communism. As for Lenin having exposed “the reactionary and destructive nature” of “hodge podges”, I think he simply showed the destructive nature of state communism. Marx did not “disprove” anarchism no more than a philosopher can “disprove” love. Does “love” have a scientific measurement? Does “humanity” have a scientific formula? Because anarchism does not declare itself scientific does not make it “unrealistic.” The fact that many academics and theorists reject anarchism on such a basis says more about their methods of thinking and their concepts of “knowledge” than it does about anarchism. As Michel Foucault and other philosophers have understood and articulated, knowledge itself is a product of power, is itself an ‘act’ of power. If Marxism and communism does not remove itself from these power-knowledge paradigms, specifically, the notion of a “Scientifically engineered” society, than they will be doomed to repeat every attempt at a scientifically engineered society: tyranny.

    David Rockefeller, perhaps the most powerful capitalist in the world over the past 40+ years, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times in which he wrote: “Whatever the price of the Chinese Revolution, it has obviously succeeded not only in producing more efficient and dedicated administration, but also in fostering high morale and community of purpose.” And further: “The social experiment in China under Chairman Mao’s leadership is one of the most important and successful in human history.”

    So, Communist China (upon allowing Chase Manhattan bank, at which Rockefeller was CEO at the time, to open a branch in China in 1973), received an endorsement from Rockefeller himself for their “important and successful” “social experiment,” no doubt, aside from the 60 million killed in it. The difference between how communists and anarchists view tyrants is that anarchists view tyranny as unacceptable in all its forms, despite its rhetoric, regardless of its intentions. The question is not, who killed more in the past century: communists or capitalists? The question is: why do they all kill so many people? The answer: power. Anarchism deals with this fundamental issue of authority and power instead of losing itself (and its humanity) in attempting a “scientific” approach to social engineering.

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  8. Even though Marshall started his article with a good analysis of the risks of cooptation of the Occupy Wall Street Protests, he goes berserk in the latter parts, one example being his preaching love for those in positions of power in the capitalist-imperialist society! Tell that to the three million killed-and their relatives- and countless millions injured, made refugees, and forced into unemployment, misery, and poverty, in just Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Libya, by these mass murders, and see what kind of reaction you get. And what about Hitler and Mussolini? Should people have loved them too?

    Ross Wolfe has given an excellent rebuttal, without characterizing it as such, to the hodge podge of Marshall’s lengthy and idealistic utterings, which at times sound like anarchist, at others like Gandhian , and still at others purely subjectve.

    Marshall also greatly exaggerates the influence and potentials of anarchism. Bakunin and Kropotkin, the most important anarchist philosophers of the nineteenth century, wrote some minor demagogic works that mostly appealed to peoples’ emotions for freedom and individuality, without working out any concrete political economy of anarchism (or capitalism, for that matter). Some ZNET wannabe leftist gurus have made some efforts in this regard, but have failed miserably, by proposing the absurdity of PARECON (Participatory Economics), with which they wish to replace the irreplaceable Marxist political economy. As Marx, and later Lenin, demonstrated conclusively, anarchism was totally unrealistic, unscientific, and subjective hodge pogde from the beginning. They had spent a great deal of time and effort in exposing the real reactionary and destructive nature and effects of such hodge podges of their times, which Marshall, and numerous others like him, are trying to resurrect. It will require a great deal of time and writing to go into the details of their exposure, which I do not wish to get into here. However, as they pointed out, it is totally unrealistic and absurdly subjective to expect the state to disappear in the foreseeable future. Only in the distant future, when all the essential preconditions, e.g., a classless society and a different form of mass human nature, have been created under socialism and communism, the state-as an expression and embodiment of class-divided society-will wither away. Even though, the Soviet philosophers and economists had worked out some outlines of such a society, no one really knows what shape that new society will take.

    In spite of his call for unity among the protesters, his attack on communism will have the effect of producing and promoting disunity between anarchist and within-the-system protesters, on the one hand, and communist protesters, on the other.

    As far as the problems of state and government authoritarianism, totalitarianism, and bureaucracy are concerned, all the capitalist-imperialist philosophers and economists exclusively attribute these to communist societies, just like they attribute the problems of violence to the revolutionary and anti-imperialist movements, totally excluding any mention of incomparably greater such problems that are caused by their own societies. Being a hodge podge leftist intellectual –as he himself described himself-Marshall has also engaged in similar tactics. State bureaucracy and authority exist both under capitalism and socialism (by socialism, I mean the first phase of communism, and not its various other erroneous and confused usages). The crucial difference is in their nature and targets. Under capitalism, these serve the interests of the capitalist class, social injustice, and inequality, and are targeted at the working class and other common people, while, under socialism, these serve the interests of the working class and broad masses of people, social justice, and equality, and are directed against the capitalist class and its threat of a counter-revolution and restoration of capitalism. The worst forms of authoritarianism and bureaucracy exist under the advanced capitalist-imperialist society, covered up under the façade of a phony democracy. Also, the worst form of totalitarianism is that of the totalitarianism of Capital.

    For an alternative analysis, please refer to my article on this topic, published on this site, with the following web link:

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  13. One of the most glaring problems with the supporters of Occupy Wall Street and the “occupations” in other cities is that they suffer from a woefully inadequate understanding of the capitalist social formation — its dynamics, its (spatial) globality, its (temporal) modernity. They equate anti-capitalism with simple anti-Americanism, and ignore the international basis of the capitalist world economy. To some extent, they have even reified its spatial metonym in the NYSE on Wall Street. Capitalism is an inherently global phenomenon; it does not admit of localization to any single nation, city, or financial district.

    Another problem pervasive amongst OWS demonstrators is a general lack of historical consciousness. Not only are they almost completely unaware of past revolutionary movements, but their thinking has become so enslaved to the conditions of the present that they can no longer imagine a society fundamentally different from our own. Instead of liberation and emancipation, all they offer is vague “resistance” or “subversion.”

    Moreover, many of the more moderate protestors hold on to the erroneous belief that capitalism can be “controlled” or “corrected” through Keynesian-administrative measures: steeper taxes on the rich, more bureaucratic regulation and oversight of business practices, broader government social programs (welfare, Social Security), and projects of rebuilding infrastructure to create jobs. Moderate “progressives” dream of a return to the Clinton boom years, or better yet, a Rooseveltian new “New Deal.” All this amounts to petty reformism, which only serves to perpetuate the global capitalist order rather than to overcome it. They fail to see the same thing that the libertarians in the Tea Party are blind to: laissez-faire economics is not essential to capitalism. State-interventionist capitalism is just as capitalist as free-market capitalism.

    Occupy Wall Street has so far been successful in enlisting the support of a number of leftish celebrities, prominent unions, and young activists, and has received a lot of media coverage. The protestors have successfully stood their ground against Bloomberg’s attempt to evict them.

    But this victory can by no means considered final. Rather, it tasks us with the question: “Where do we go from here?”

    If this successful moment of resistance against the coercion of the State is to signal a turning-point for this movement, it must now address the more serious political problems that confront it. It is crucial that the participants in these demonstrations ask themselves where they stand in history, and more adequately conceptualize the problem of capitalist society.

    Though Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy [insert location here] in general still contains many problematic aspects, it nevertheless presents an opportunity for the Left to engage with some of the nascent anti-capitalist sentiment taking shape there. To this point, most of the protests have only expressed a sort of intuitive discontent with the status quo. In order to get a better sense of what they are up against, they must develop a more adequate understanding of the prevailing social order. Hopefully, the demonstrations will lead to a general radicalization of the participants’ politics, and a commitment to the longer-term project of social emancipation.

    To this end, I have written up a rather pointed Marxist analysis of the OWS movement so far that you might find interesting:

    “Reflections on Occupy Wall Street: What it Represents, Its Prospects, and Its Deficiencies

    • Ross , i don’t see this as a leftist movement at all. a lot of my friends are capitalists and are very very grass roots anti-corporate conservatives , and they are in on this also . in fact , my libertarian friends hate wall street bail outs as much as i do, and i am a socialist ! this is why this thing will work . it is hitting the ideological guts across the board.

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