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Forum Post: Waste of energy trying to "end capitalism"?

Posted 10 years ago on Oct. 21, 2013, 2:41 a.m. EST by UncommonRebels (12)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

To "end capitalism" we would need to eliminate financial systems worldwide.

I'm all for an egalitarian society, but I'm also a realist. Capitalism works very well for those in power. And let's be clear, I'm going by the "actually existing capitalism" definition of capitalism, because the USA does not have textbook "capitalism" in place. See Joe Stiglitz at OWS (http://bwog.com/2011/10/03/stiglitz-speaks-at-occupy-wall-street/) or Chomsky explaining "really existing capitalist democracy," which actually isn't a democracy. Wouldn't it just be a more inclusive argument to say that OWS is pro democracy ... that we want to implement a set of economic rights like FDR proposed in 1945? Currently, OWS must convince people that it's minority definition of capitalism is the only definition of capitalism when that definition contradicts textbook capitalism. Then Occupy must figure out a way to end capitalism, and I'm not sure how to do that without war. But we can move toward a social democracy, and I think doing so would give the USA a chance to evolve away from exploitative capitalism, but I don't see how we could "end capitalism" without brutality, and that makes OWS hard to support. To me, it's like saying we need better fuel efficiency and then fighting for teleportation.

What Marx predicted does not need to happen. We do not need war to change the USA, not as long as our votes still count. We can move America toward a social democracy (like Denmark or Canada) with socialized health care and publicly financed education and a public safety net. And then, with an educated public, the USA will have a chance to evolve into an anarchist utopia. But that won't happen with uneducated masses, easily swayed by rhetoric of a few evil men. To me, moving toward a truly democratic society all that matters.

"Necessitous men are not free."



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[-] 4 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

"Thank You Anarchy" Author and Wall Street Occupier Nathan Schneider on the Movement's True Power

Tuesday, 22 October 2013 00:00 By Mark Karlin, Truthout | Interview


Thank You Anarchy, Notes From the Apocalypse is a new, brilliantly candid and detailed inside account of the Occupy Movement as it grew to natural prominence and then was displaced by brutal police action around the nation.

What did it look like from the inside of the Occupy Movement as it reached its zenith in Zucotti Park and around the nation? Despite its pummeling eviction from public spaces, what is its legacy? How did it put the issue of economic injustice in even the corporate mass media?

Truthout discussed these issues and more with Nathan Schneider, author of the just-published Thank You Anarchy, Notes From the Occupy Apocalypse (foreword by Rebecca Solnit).

MARK KARLIN: Rebecca Solnit, in her foreword to your detailed recollections of the Occupy movement - particularly at Zucotti Park - defends the uprising from those who felt it failed. Solnit speaks, as you do at the end of Thank You, Anarchy, of the sparks that were kindled by Occupy, of it being a transformative moment. Your book shares that perspective in its final reflections, doesn't it?

NATHAN SCHNEIDER: I hope so. The book's subtitle contains the word "apocalypse," and I tried throughout to capture what I witnessed of that word - as in, the literal meaning of the Greek root, which is "unveiling" or "revelation." An apocalypse changes us irrevocably. We see something that, after recognizing it, won't let us go on with life as before. I saw this happen for so many people through the Occupy movement. They saw the depth of injustice - economic, racial, political - in US society more than they ever had before. They experienced a lot of violence at the hands of the police. And most importantly, they had a revelation about their capacity to transform politics from the ground up through resistance. Politics no longer had to be about just the options offered by politicians; it could be more of people's own making, made of their hopes and needs.

MK: How does a spontaneous emergency response network such as the Occupy Sandy response network in Brooklyn and other boroughs represent one of those sparks?

NS: Occupy Sandy arose at a time when many people - including some Occupiers themselves - had concluded the movement was over and dead. But the combination of a crisis and the quick deployment of the Occupy networks and infrastructure - much of which developed after the eviction of most occupation sites - made for a stunning rebirth. In this sense, it wasn't at all spontaneous. Occupy Sandy was made possible by organizing work that people had been doing during the months when the conventional wisdom held that Occupy was over. This is a useful reminder that powerful organizing and what happens to gain media attention aren't always the same things.

MK: Do you think that some critics are too harsh on Occupy's collapse as a public presence due to a national police pummeling because they argue it never got to the critical mass to topple the status quo, as happened in the Arab Spring (although, of course, things are pretty much back to where they started in Egypt)?

NS: First, it can't be understated that Occupy was the subject of a national crackdown - from the Homeland Security trucks I saw patrolling the financial district the night before it started to the near-simultaneous wave of evictions coordinated by mayors. Second, however, I think it's fair to say that the movement hit the big time without having the organizational framework to involve people at all levels of society. Same with the sit-ins at Tahrir - that's why it was only because the Egyptian labor unions mounted a nationwide general strike that Mubarak came down. It was because the Muslim Brotherhood and the military had the strongest organizations that they emerged as the main contenders for power. For its part, Occupy did a magnificent job creating a spectacle and activating a new generation of young people. Now, I think a major burden lies on the part of existing radical and progressive organizations in this country to follow through on the Occupy rupture, to translate its rhetorical victory into more substantive victories that will transfer wealth and power away from the 1%.

MK: If the Occupy Movement can be judged by the fear it awoke in its targets, as Solnit suggests, didn't it succeed in being a serious fear to Wall Street and the current 1% economic dominance - given its anchor in NYC and nationwide presence in cities - and their concern that the message of economic injustice might spread like a virus?

NS: As rhetoric, as performance, Occupy was spectacularly successful. The ways it reshaped the terrain of political discourse could be clearly seen in how President Obama painted Mitt Romney as a 1 percenter in his reelection campaign, and in Bill de Blasio's wildly effective strategy for clinching the New York mayoral race. The message of economic injustice did spread like a virus. But a message goes only so far. What's needed now is the deep organizing that can create a shift in the balance of power.

MK: Yet, many of those who actually participated in the Occupy Movement felt a sense of disappointment, of not having achieved something grander in the way of social and political change. This is what you have referred to as a stage in revolutionary efforts. Can you expand upon that?

NS: Transformative movements take time, and they go through phases. The powers that be would prefer that we forget this - and think that, as we were wrongly told about Egypt, revolutions take a few spectacular weeks or don't happen at all. Occupy's success in 2011 was just a beginning, a first stage, and it could never have been anything else. That's why many Occupy veterans who haven't succumbed to disappointment are now spread out across the country engaged in community organizing campaigns on a range of issues related to Occupy's concerns - homes, the environment, racism, money in politics, student debt. They're trying to lay the groundwork for what's next, and they're trying to build local power for vulnerable folks in the process. This stuff is not the kind of thing that attracts media attention like police clobbering protesters in New York City, but arguably it's more important.

MK: Can you talk a bit about how you chose the title of the book, Thank You, Anarchy?

NS: I first used a similar title, "Thank You, Anarchists," for an article in The Nation during the height of the movement. At the time, it was common for liberal commentators to claim that Occupy was all well and good but it was in danger of being ruined by the radicals and anarchists. From my experience seeing the movement unfold close up, I knew this was ridiculous. The ideas and practices of radicals were precisely what made this movement so exciting for many people. I changed "anarchists" to "anarchy" for the book to reflect that anarchist ideas and practices were adopted by many people who still didn't identify as anarchists, specifically. Later in the book, however, as the movement began to unravel and suffer disappointments that resulted from some pretty sophomoric versions of anarchy, the title takes on a more sarcastic tone: "Gee, thanks, anarchy. Thanks a lot." There's that, too.

MK: You describe in great detail how the occupation of Zucotti Park came to be, which was the national coming out for the Occupy Movement. I was surprised to see how many different actions that became interrelated led to the specific occupation of public space at the footsteps of Wall Street. What led to that final step of reclaiming the commons for change?

NS: In the summer of 2011, something was in the air. For Waging Nonviolence, I was covering not just the meetings that led to Occupy Wall Street but also the efforts of several completely distinct groups to mount some kind of major prolonged protests in the United States that fall. I'm not sure that at the time I would have guessed that Occupy would be the one to create the big rupture; others were better organized and better funded. In retrospect, I think what made Occupy work was the combination of direct-action tenacity, with tremendous internet savvy, with an expansive capacity for imagination brought by a critical mass of artists. Together, these factors made for a pretty dangerous brew.

MK: What are your thoughts, in retrospect, on how to actively engage the working class in the struggle for economic justice?

NS: I think the answer has to begin with more questions: What does "working class" even mean anymore, and who is part of it? Gone are the days of factory workers ready and waiting to be turned into union members en masse. Today we have the not-working-enough class (the main constituency of Occupy), and the working-too-much class (who had to choose between going to the General Assembly and putting food on the table), and the working-under-the-table-with-threat-of-deportation class (who couldn't risk being arrested at an Occupy march), and the hoping-these-loans-will-pay-off class (who risked financial ruin if they let Occupy distract them from getting good grades) and many more. Gender and race operate in ways that conventional class theory doesn't take into account. The power of the "99%" meme was in that it elided the unspoken forms of alienation that prevent us from organizing against capitalism today. It was convenient for conveying a sense of unity. But as people doing deep grassroots organizing know, reality is more complicated than that.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

MK: How did the meme of the 1% vs. the 99% come to be? Why do you think that was the key message that actually broke through into the mass media?

NS: In the context of Occupy, David Graeber generally takes - and receives - credit for presenting the idea at the first planning meeting. (I didn't start coming until two meetings later, so I didn't see that myself.) The meme really began to take hold thanks to the We Are the 99 Percent Tumblr blog, which was set up by two early organizers and which became very popular, modeling itself off of the We Are All Khalid Said, a meme that helped launch the Egyptian uprising. But the rhetoric of the 99 and 1 percents was in the air already. It was in the title of a documentary a few years earlier, and the liberal economist Joseph Steiglitz used it in a New York Times opinion piece. I don't think Graeber was aware that, in June of 2011, an Anonymous subgroup called A99 - explicitly referring to the notion of the 99 percent - had made an earlier and totally separate attempt to occupy Zuccotti Park. So while particular people brought the term into the Occupy movement at particular times, I think chief credit for the meme and its effectiveness goes to the zeitgeist.

MK: It's the autumn of 2013. What legacy did the occupation of public space, the heady uprising of hope and the unleashed energy of resistance leave with you personally?

NS: Through the movement I have the privilege of being connected with hundreds of talented activists and organizers around the country, many of whom are doing amazing things that I and my fellow editors try to keep tabs on at Waging Nonviolence. I came out of Occupy inspired, having been reminded firsthand that courageous, imaginative struggles for justice can have an impact. I also feel an ever-harder-to-ignore craving for the just and humane and free society that Occupy briefly and imperfectly modeled to become more of a reality.

Thank You Anarchy, Notes From the Apocalypse is a new, brilliantly candid and detailed inside account of the Occupy Movement as it grew to natural prominence and then was displaced by brutal police action around the nation. Support resistance journalism by contributing to Truthout and receiving the book with a minimum contribution. Click here now. https://co.clickandpledge.com/advanced/default.aspx?wid=72680

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 1 points by UncommonRebels (12) 10 years ago

To be clear, I'm not saying that the movement was or is a waste a time. OWS brought attention to social inequality in a much-needed way. American and the world needs Occupy to succeed, desperately. Thank you to all of those who support it then and now, from far away or Zuccotti Park.

What I am saying is that an anarchist state won't be achieved by "ending capitalism." That type of tear-it-down logic is contrary to the basic anarchist principle of cooperative, cohesive living. Instead, we must changed the current system into one that can evolve into anarchy.

Think about what kind of people an anarchist state would require: smart, educated, informed citizens. If we figure out some way to "end capitalism" we still won't have a population that understands economic freedom unless they taste it through social democracy. We still won't have a public thinks of anarchy as cooperative living. We still won't have mainstream economists that define capitalism as "actually existing capitalism."

There's a reason why Occupy Wall Street's twitter account only has 190,000 followers (a tiny number considering its notoriety and number of tweets). The message has problems, fixable (I beg you, please think about them, please listen) problems.

Occupy's current anti-capitalism message is (1) negative advertising (2) not very inclusive (3) contradicts the textbook definition of capitalism and (4) confusing, given the definitional issues and lack of plans to "end capitalism."

We could and should do better.

[-] 2 points by JesseHeffran (3903) 10 years ago

You make a valid point. Reforming capitalism to make it more egalitarian is pretty much what happens every fifty years in this nation. Like a pendulum, monied interests go from controlling the economy out right to being pushed backed by reforms enacted by populist uprisings. I believe the only difference about this epoc is that there really is no room for continued growth, a preresuquate of capitalism. The fact that there are no new frontiers and the spectra of climate change kinda makes the stakes too great to settle for reform. But even with that in mind, it seem that reforming capitism is the only way to compel a mass movement.

[-] -2 points by HCHC4 (-28) 10 years ago

A lot of chatter on the internet about the rest of the world ditching the dollar lately. Once that happens it will prob lead to a lot of decentralization here due to the power center getting smashed to pieces.

[-] 1 points by JesseHeffran (3903) 10 years ago

If our money was no longer the reserve currency, our nation would be fucked. We would have an influx of dollars from every nation in the world. Over night, our money would depreciate in value so much that it would be cheaper to use it as ass wipe than to actually go out and buy toilet paper. Maybe then, a mass movement would be in the cards. The only way to combat it would be to raise the minnimum wage to fifty dollars an hour, or something in that magnitude..

[+] -4 points by HCHC4 (-28) 10 years ago

All the warning signs are there, seems more likely than not at this point.

[-] 2 points by JesseHeffran (3903) 10 years ago

I'm assuming you are the same hc who hails from Florida and finds both parties deplorable. I was reading this article this morning and instantly thought of you. Cheers!


[-] -3 points by HCHC4 (-28) 10 years ago

"“[Sawant] didn’t just ignore the Democrats, she openly challenged them as servants of the 1%. . . . It’s nothing short of an earthquake. "

Imagine that. Someone actually holding people accountable.

[-] 0 points by JesseHeffran (3903) 10 years ago

You are right. Anyone who found such an accurance surprising would deserve a two by four upside the head for being an ill informed dunce.

[-] 1 points by Shule (2638) 10 years ago

Yeh, but our votes don't count. That is part of the problem.

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 10 years ago

money can be replaced with new currency to redistribute who has it

[-] 0 points by nazihunter (215) 10 years ago

Did you learn this at your job? You a geeeeeeeeeen-yuss!

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 10 years ago

no one pays me

[-] 0 points by nazihunter (215) 10 years ago

you mean you work and you don't get paid?? You must be an honest salesman! Lie and shmooze, lie and shmooze. It's not like you have to do anything. Just blame all your mistakes on someone else....signed Captain Capitalism.

[-] 1 points by pigeonlady (284) from Brooklyn, NY 10 years ago

You know, I'm a pacifist ol' bat. BUT - peaceful protest and use of educated reason is not working. Most folks know that they have to rely on the present system to some extent to survive. I recall a post about the predator and prey; the predator NEEDS the prey more than the reverse. Unfortunately we can't all just take off work and forego any finances, therefore the paradox. I am concerned about the day we are all pushed too far. We have less and less to lose by the day. Those in governance would do well to check their aggressive assaults on us in what they clearly regard as their right to abuse the disadvantaged. One day it will reach critical mass and erupt. Be ready to stand.

[-] 0 points by UncommonRebels (12) 10 years ago

That's the textbook Karl Marx prediction, but it hasn't happened in countries like Denmark, which enjoy high social services and as a result high economic mobility and a high rates of overall happiness. While we can still vote our way to social democracy, we should. We should at least TRY.

[-] 1 points by GirlFriday (17435) 10 years ago

You're arguing ideology for the sake of arguing. It's completely inane, unwarranted and only good for bar stool discussions.

[-] 0 points by UncommonRebels (12) 10 years ago

I'm not arguing for the sake of arguing. The world's leading social inequality expert (Stiglitiz) spoke at OWS and called the USA's current economic system "not capitalism." Now Occupy is arguing to "end capitalism." To me, that creates a silly divide between two groups who want exactly the same thing: a more democratic, egalitarian society.

To put it another way: 70% of the Americans have zero influence on policy due to their socioeconomic status (Chomsky quoting research by Martin Gilens). Many of us have been disenfranchised from democracy entirely.

Occupy could take the stance that democracies requires a that works not be bound by economic necessities or else they are at best serfs, at worst, slaves. And I think that is a simple and powerful message.

Unfortunately, the "end capitalism" message is too easy to pan by both politicians and pundits, regardless of merit.

[-] 0 points by GirlFriday (17435) 10 years ago

To me, that creates a silly divide between two groups who want exactly the same thing: a more democratic, egalitarian society.

It looks like it is a divide or rift that you are trying to create specifically to exploit. Hence, you are arguing ideology for the sake of ideology. However, you definitely sound concerned. ;/

[-] -3 points by UncommonRebels (12) 10 years ago

Exploit how?

I'm not creating the divide. The divide exists. And it's going to continue to push Occupy to irrelevancy until someone does something about it.

Reality: If Occupy ever wants the support of mainstream Americans, it needs a better message than "Let's tear down the current system." I'd like to be a part of that movement.

[-] -1 points by GirlFriday (17435) 10 years ago

Exploit in exactly the same manner as you are now.

[-] 1 points by UncommonRebels (12) 10 years ago

Still would like an answer to this. Do you just think I'm wrong? If so, tell me how the anti-capitalism message will ring true with the average small town Kansan who equates capitalism with the American dream. ALL I'm saying is that we could be "pro democracy" and eliminate all of the absurd definitional issues.

[-] -2 points by GirlFriday (17435) 10 years ago

Still concerned?

Yes, you're wrong.

[-] 1 points by UncommonRebels (12) 10 years ago

Tell me why I'm wrong. And, yes, I am concerned about Occupy, curious about your disdain for my logic. Occupy is on the path to obscurity. I would like it to have a chance of imparting significant change rather than choosing to reside on the island of extremism (see Tea Party).

I stand by my claim that the Occupy's anti-capitalism message (1) is negative advertising (2) is not very inclusive (3) contradicts the textbook definition of capitalism and (4) is confusing, given the definitional issues and lack of plans to "end capitalism." All could be fixed by changing the message to "pro democracy."

[-] -1 points by UncommonRebels (12) 10 years ago

I don't understand how trying to correct a correctable problem to the benefit and furtherance of an organization I believe in equates to exploitation.

Are you saying there's no problem? Because there is and it's quite an obvious one.

Occupy's current anti-capitalism message is (1) negative advertising (2) not very inclusive (3) contradicts the textbook definition of capitalism and (4) confusing, given the definitional issues and lack of plans to "end capitalism."

... it's a recipe for failure that could be easily corrected with a "pro-democracy" platform instead of an "anti-capitalism" platform.

[-] -3 points by HCHC4 (-28) 10 years ago

This is an internet chat room, what do you want from it?

[-] 1 points by GirlFriday (17435) 10 years ago

One that you spend an immense amount of time trying to get back into after being banned. Grow the fuck up, jack off.

[-] -3 points by HCHC4 (-28) 10 years ago

"You're arguing ideology for the sake of arguing. It's completely inane, unwarranted and only good for bar stool discussions."

Another potential participant chased off. Great job.

[-] 1 points by GirlFriday (17435) 10 years ago

Why do you lie?


[-] 0 points by nazihunter (215) 10 years ago

What can we do about it?? It seems by happenstance that I meet so many more repelicans than I do progressives, that progressives do not even know that one another exists except on the web. What can we do?:??????

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 10 years ago

get off the web and look for a job

[-] -1 points by nazihunter (215) 10 years ago

Man! Now you're talkin' Is that where the progressives are?? Shit, I woulda got a job a long time ago if I knew that!

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 10 years ago

good luck

first accept that many jobs are extemporaneous

[-] -3 points by HCHC4 (-28) 10 years ago

Move to Amend is a great organization, lots of good people involved in it, close to along the lines of what you are saying.

" not as long as our votes still count. "

Thats the problem, they dont. Trying to get anything that is a reflection of the people going in this system is damn near impossible.

[-] 1 points by UncommonRebels (12) 10 years ago

Good point. I know Chomsky has been citing Gillens' research that 70% of Americans votes don't count because they lack the financial standing to influence the political system. I think we should create a website for grading politicians on democracy like the NRA does on gun policy. We'd be setting expectations and holding politicians accountable for their actions instead of words. The election of Bill de Blasio should be a big wake-up call to politicians. Social inequality is going to become a growing political issue.

But we can't just take his word that he'll do anything about it (or Barack Obama's).