Way back in 2010 there was a big pan-union rally in DC, sponsored by a coalition featuring the National Teacher's and a long list of other groups. This happened at roughly the same time as Jon Stewart's yuppy 'rally for sanity.' The forerunners of today's "woke" petty bourgeoisie all flocked to that. At the time. I was a member of the National Writers' Union which also happened to be a local of the UAW, and I showed up at the union rally. The AFL/CIO and UAW brought members in by the busload.
Hearing Jesse Jackson speak was like hearing a Bach organ fugue for the first time. The contrast with the narcissistic vocal-fry sing-song of the sanity-loving young professionals couldn't have been greater. They had Garrison Keillor and were like cool and wouldn't have joined a union if it offered them a designer doodle dog. The thing to be was an entrepreneur with a little S corporation or LLC in your pocket. If you failed, the gig economy washed you away and that was that--although Washington DC being what it is, once you got a racket going it did tend to persist. These people regarded the very idea of unions--like the idea of Social Security and unemployment insurance--as abhorrent, ridiculous, and against nature.
The event was only semi-successful and led nowhere, but of all the dozens of union members I talked to, some of whom were walking around in a daze as if they wondered what the they had gotten into, the sharpest and liveliest was a member of the carpenter's union--a tough, smart, no-bullshit guy, In the end the gulf between our jobs was unbridgeable. The world of craft unions, apprenticeships, and so forth was no fit for the world of technical writing, computer programming, and the like, where corrupt contracting firms dominated jobs and your only protection lay in your willingness to jump ship if you felt you were getting screwed. If three key network administrators all quit on the same day, leaving their current tasks uncompleted, that had an effect that made management wary of risking more such defections. I saw this happen. But that was as close to a strike as you could get.
The carpenter's union guy was a live wire. I'm not surprised that the carpenters' union is leading this new development.
I'm glad to see the carpenters' union breaking away from the corrupt and complicit union management that has grown so sickeningly while the triumph of Ronald Reagan advanced unchecked year by year.
But it remains to be seen how this old-fashioned militancy will play in today's working environment, where many increasingly necessary knowledge workers take false comfort in their fig-leaf "professionalism" and most of the left look down on any job but manufacturing or construction as bullshit--even when the construction industry as a whole is an environmental disaster and much unnecessary construction is taking place while vital infrastructure is falling into ruin.
I want to add that Marx and Engels also specified that the conquest of political power by the proletariat meant "winning the the battle for democracy", a battle that the Chartists in England had been waging for more than a decade and which Engels in particular was deeply engaged in. In later writings, Marx and Engels both equated the dictatorship of the proletariat with the democratic republic. The battle for democracy has not yet been won in the US.
Socialist strategy and the party by Gilbert Achcar, Tempest, August 23 https://www.tempestmag.org/2021/08/socialist-strategy-and-the-party . . . In it, we read those famous lines, “In what relation do the communists stand to the proletarians as a whole? The communists do not form a separate party opposed to the other working-class parties.” This, of course, isn’t to say that the communists do not form a party of their own, since the document’s title itself is Manifesto of the Communist Party. In fact, a more accurate translation of the German original would have been: “The communists are no special party compared to the other working-class parties.” (“Die Kommunisten sind keine besondere Partei gegenüber den andern Arbeiterparteien.”) What is actually emphasized here is that the Communist Party is not different from the other parties of the working class. As for what is meant by “other working-class parties,” this is clarified a few lines later, but the idea that the communists are not “opposed” to them is explained right after. . . . So, the communists have no interest separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole. No sectarian principles of their own, which would be separate from the aspirations of the class. What is distinctive then about the communists? “They are distinguished from the other working-class parties by this only”—two points follow:
1. The internationalist perspective or the understanding that, “In the national struggles of the proletarians of different countries, [the communists] point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat.” This idea of the proletariat as a global class with interests that are independent of nationality (“von der Nationalität unabhängigen Interessen”) is a distinguishing feature of the communists in the Manifesto.
2. The pursuit of the ultimate goal of the working-class struggle, which is the transformation of society and the abolition of capitalism and class division. In the various stages of the struggle against the bourgeoisie, the communists represent this long-term perspective. They always keep in mind the ultimate goal, and never lose sight of it by getting bogged down in sectional struggles or partial demands. . . . “The immediate aim of the communists is the same as that of all other proletarian parties.” This renewed emphasis on commonality is important, the idea that we, the communists—and that’s Marx and Engels writing here—are but one of the proletarian parties, not the only proletarian party. The sectarian claim to constitute the only party of the working class and that no other party represents the class is definitely not the conception that is upheld here.
And what is the immediate aim of the communists that is shared with the other proletarian parties? It is a good indication of what Marx and Engels meant by other proletarian parties. That aim is “the formation of the proletariat into a class, the overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, and the conquest of political power by the proletariat.” These goals define what the two authors meant by proletarian parties. And they shed light onto the initial sentence that says that “the communists do not form a separate party opposed to the other working-class parties” (or a special party compared to the others). By working-class parties, Marx and Engels meant all parties that fight for these goals: the political formation of the class, the overthrow of bourgeois rule, and the conquest of political power by the proletariat. . . .
On Sat, Sep 11, 2021 at 3:43 AM Dayne Goodwin <daynegoodwin@...> wrote:
Socialist strategy and the party by Gilbert Achcar, Tempest, August 23 https://www.tempestmag.org/2021/08/socialist-strategy-and-the-party . . . And what is the immediate aim of the communists that is shared with the other proletarian parties? It is a good indication of what Marx and Engels meant by other proletarian parties. That aim is “the formation of the proletariat into a class, the overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, and the conquest of political power by the proletariat.” These goals define what the two authors meant by proletarian parties. And they shed light onto the initial sentence that says that “the communists do not form a separate party opposed to the other working-class parties” (or a special party compared to the others). By working-class parties, Marx and Engels meant all parties that fight for these goals: the political formation of the class, the overthrow of bourgeois rule, and the conquest of political power by the proletariat.
Beyond this, what the political biography and writings of Marx and Engels clearly show is that they held no general theory of the party; they were not interested in elaborating such a general theory. I believe that it is because of the point I started with: that the party is a tool for the class struggle, for the revolutionary struggle, and this tool must be adapted to different circumstances. There can’t be a general conception of the party, valid for all times and countries. The class party is not a religious sect patterned on the same model worldwide. It is an instrument for action that must fit the concrete circumstances of each time and country.
This adaptation to actual circumstances was constantly at work in Marx’s and Engels’s political history, from their early political engagement with a group that they quickly found to be too sectarian—a group that was closer to the Blanquist perspective—to the more elaborate view that they expressed in 1850 in light of the revolutionary wave that Europe had witnessed in 1848. In a famous text focused on Germany, the Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League, the two friends described the communists as implementing exactly the approach that they had outlined in the Communist Manifesto, striving to push forward the revolutionary process and advocating the organization of the proletariat separately from other classes.
For this purpose, they called for the formation of workers’ clubs. They had in mind the precedent of the French Revolution, in which political clubs such as the Jacobins were key actors. They advocated the same for Germany in 1850, but this time as proletarian clubs (forming what we would call today a mass party) whose tactic should consist in constantly outbidding the bourgeois or petite-bourgeois democrats. The proletarian party should do so in order to push the revolutionary process forward, turning it into a continuous process: “permanent revolution” is the term they used in that famous document. . . . To wrap up, the key point I made at the beginning is that the type of organization depends on the concrete conditions of the place where it is to be built. Time and place are decisive, in addition to the technological dimension. It is very important to avoid falling into the sectarianism of self-proclaimed “vanguard parties.” Vanguard is a status that must be acquired in practice, not proclaimed. To truly be a vanguard, you must be regarded as such by the masses.
Marxist revolutionaries who wish to build a vanguard party should regard themselves, as in the Communist Manifesto, as part of the broader class movement involving other organizations of different types. They should aim at building a working-class mass party and eventually leading it—if and when they manage to convince the majority of their views. That’s also why they should join mass, working-class, anti-capitalist parties where these exist, or else contribute to building them. It is not by building a self-proclaimed “vanguard party” and recruiting members to its ranks one by one that you build a mass party. It doesn’t work like this. Moreover, socialism can only be democratic. It’s banal to say it, but it means that you can’t change society for the better without a social majority in favor of change... . . .
Those who fight specific battles vs. racism, patriarchy and the like are not the enemy. By engaging in struggle, they transform themselves and develop new capacities that are the premise for changing the world. We need to recognise, though, that the spontaneous tendency is to limit focus to these specific spheres and that, therefore, a political instrument that is present and engaging in all these struggles can be the compass that guides protagonists in the direction of an end to capitalism. Thank you for your comment. You can see my argument more fully in Between Capitalism and Community, published by Monthly Review Press. in love and struggle, michael
From: H-Net Staff via H-REVIEW <h-review@...> Date: September 17, 2021 at 11:46:27 AM EDT To: h-review@... Cc: H-Net Staff <revhelp@...> Subject:H-Net Review [H-Borderlands]: Florea on Eckert, 'West Germany and the Iron Curtain: Environment, Economy, and Culture in the Borderlands' Reply-To: h-review@...
Astrid M. Eckert. West Germany and the Iron Curtain: Environment, Economy, and Culture in the Borderlands. Oxford Oxford University Press, 2019. 445 pp. $99.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-19-069005-2.
Reviewed by Cristina Florea (Cornell University) Published on H-Borderlands (September, 2021) Commissioned by María de los Ángeles Picone
In his famous Fulton, Missouri, speech from March 5, 1946, Winston Churchill announced that "an iron curtain has descended across the Continent." Warsaw, Prague, Belgrade, Vienna, Budapest, Bucharest, and Berlin, he argued, now lay in "what I must call the Soviet sphere." In August 1961, a wall was built to separate the small enclave of West Berlin from the territory of the newly emerged republic of East Germany which surrounded it from every side. The wall went down in 1989, just as suddenly as it had come up, becoming an iconic symbol of the Iron Curtain and Cold War in Europe. And yet, as Astrid M. Eckert shows in West Germany and the Iron Curtain, the wall was hardly representative of what the Iron Curtain looked and felt like for most Germans.
Two distinct German states emerged on each side of the Iron Curtain: the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in the East and the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) in the West. The border between them looked nothing like the wall of reinforced concrete and barbed wire that the Berlin Wall brings to mind. It ran through countryside, across fields and meadows, through mountains and forests. In its early stages, it was almost invisible, leading some residents of the FRG to occasionally wander into East German territory by accident. Though less known and arguably less dramatic than the Berlin Wall, this Cold War border was no less significant. Eckert's book tells the story of the Iron Curtain's West German borderlands, the so-called _Zonenrandgebiete_, in seven chapters which examine the border-making process from several different angles: economic, cultural, and environmental.
Making up almost one-fifth of the FRG's total surface, the _Zonenrandgebiete _were a creation of the Cold War. The new border separating the FRG from the GDR cut across what had been Germany's heartlands, turning this region from center into periphery. But even with the Iron Curtain in place, the West German borderlands were not a coherent entity until residents of districts adjacent to the German-German frontier created the notion of _Zonenrandgebiete_, a veritable "brand name," as the author calls it. Unsurprisingly, inhabitants of this region--now turned borderland--were in many ways disadvantaged by their proximity to the Iron Curtain. As the author explains, many cities that now found themselves in the Iron Curtain's shadow suffered economically. Industries lost access to key resources and communities lost labor force as employment opportunities shifted further west. The _Zonenrandgebiete _were in some respect victimized and underdeveloped.
But, as Eckert shows, in calling their home region "the poorhouse of the otherwise prospering Federal Republic," residents of the _Zonenrandgebiete _were doing more than just stating a matter of fact (p. 13). They were putting forward a particular argument about their position as the FRG's easternmost periphery using Cold War language, a language they believed state authorities would understand. By casting themselves as denizens of an impoverished periphery, residents of the _Zonenrandgebiete_ achieved their goals of directing federal aid packages to the region, to compensate for the economic disadvantages the new frontier had allegedly caused these territories. An unintended consequence of their advocacy was, paradoxically, that they ended up reinforcing the inter-German frontier in ways far more powerful and lasting than state officials--whether East or West German--ever could at this stage.
West German tourists, as we find out in chapters 3 and 4, also did their fair share to consolidate the border and stabilize the "political and territorial status quo" well before officials on the East German side began instituting control measures (p. 122). Both residents of the West German borderlands and tourists were allured by the frontier's dangers and the prospect of seeing what lay "on the other side." _Gruseltourismus _(scary tourism) to the dangerous inter-German border was also encouraged by the West German authorities as a form of political education aimed at reinforcing West German citizens' allegiance to their state. In reality, pilgrimages to the border had unexpected effects. Tourists, Eckert shows, found the reality of the inter-German frontier rather unspectacular and compensated for its monotony by doing reckless things. Often they got themselves arrested and shot while wandering into East German territory. To prevent such accidents, FRG authorities in turn sought to make the border more visible: "western police, customs officials, and British and American troops ... stepped up border controls and erected barriers" (p. 20). Well before their East German counterparts began tightening security at the border, the West German authorities thus took measures to make the border real.
Eckert further shows how citizens of the FRG took advantage of their newly gained frontier position to draw attention and resources to their region. The overall effect of their strategy was to fix the _Zonenrandgebiete _in the German imagination as an economically disadvantaged and underdeveloped periphery. The periphery, Eckert suggests, emerged not simply as a result of geopolitical processes but as a result of local engagement with the state and its international context.
In the last and most original portion of the book, the author takes readers by surprise yet again by bringing another perspective to the Cold War border--this time, a non-human one. Though highly effective, the border could not divide the environment. Birds went on flying across the inter-German border, rivers continued to flow, the wind kept on blowing through barbed wires and over watch towers. Much to the West German government's despair, the border failed to keep out all the polluted air and water--the smoke and brine--that flowed out of the GDR as its industry began breaking down in the 1980s. These environmental flows had unexpected consequences for East-West German relations, forcing representatives of the two states to come to the negotiation table and find common ground in dealing with the environmental crisis that affected both of them equally.
That politics and the environment became increasingly intertwined in Cold War Europe becomes even clearer later in the chapter, when Eckert shows how the Cold War border that separated the two Germanys forged a new kind of landscape that would later inspire political protest. Deadly to people, the border became a paradise for birds and animals that were increasingly pushed out of highly industrialized and populated areas. This gave the _Zonenrandgebiete _the appearance of a "bucolic Germany" untainted by industrialization, which attracted agrarian-leftist tourists who turned the region into a site of protest against environmentally irresponsible politics.
Eckert's book does not deliver what many of us expect from yet another book on borderlands: a literature that, as she herself notes, is overwhelmingly concerned with "fluidity, cross-border movement, and exchange." The story we find in these pages is therefore not one of "lively contact zones and culturally hybrid spaces that animate much of borderland scholarship" (p. 5). Eckert brings a fresh approach to the study of borders and borderlands by showing that, even though Cold War frontiers were human creations, products of ideological competition and conflict, they were no less real. In this book, she sets out to show how an artificial border became increasingly real and dangerous over time not solely as a result of geopolitical shifts and decision-making by leading state officials but also through interactions between ordinary individuals and representatives of the state. Her book achieves this by elegantly weaving together analysis of domestic and international politics, everyday life, environmental policy, and others.
More generally, the book tells a story not simply about how borderlands influence centers but also about how states--in this case, newly invented entities that could not rely on traditional sources of authority--found their ideological justification in the borderlands. The FRG, for example, is shown to be as invested in the borderlands as the _Zonenrandgebiete _were in forging ties of patronage and protection with the state. Eckert does an especially good job of showing how relevant the experience of peripherality was for people living close to the border, who, as she argues, typically advanced their economic interests by creating an image problem for themselves. This is one of the book's freshest contributions to a literature that too often stops at deconstructing the binary notions of center-periphery without ever taking the concept of peripherality--whether imagined or lived--seriously. As the author notes, the periphery is not simply a place but also a lens.
Lastly, _West Germany and the Iron Curtain _brings a fascinating perspective to the flourishing literature on Cold War history, which has been recently concerned with dismantling Cold War myths and reimagining the Cold War period from a multifaceted perspective. Unlike most scholarship in this vein, which explores the conflict's global ramifications, this book examines a place situated at the very heart of Europe: the German-German border. Echoing larger trends in recent scholarship on the Cold War, Eckert's book also highlights convergence across political and ideological barriers, noting, for instance, how despite the very different images they sought to build for themselves, both the FRG and GDR approached the environment instrumentally, as a "bargaining chip" (p. 126). That the FRG was instrumental seems somewhat unsurprising. Moreover, the differences between the two states should perhaps not be underestimated for at the end of the day, ideologies had real consequences. As Eckert herself admits, if the transboundary conservation project that both states contemplated in the 1980s failed in the end, this was largely because the GDR--a socialist state--remained more committed to exploiting resources than conservation.
. Winston Churchill, "Sinews of Peace, 1946," America's National Churchill Museum, https://www.nationalchurchillmuseum.org/sinews-of-peace-iron-curtain-speech.html.
Citation: Cristina Florea. Review of Eckert, Astrid M., _West Germany and the Iron Curtain: Environment, Economy, and Culture in the Borderlands_. H-Borderlands, H-Net Reviews. September, 2021. URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=54717
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
. . . ust as i got a hold of a copy of the archives and was ready to get to work making them available, Lou got a diagnosis. We made some initial plans, but as his treatments wore on he let go of the idea. He was fatigued by the treatments and it was enough that he kept up moderation of this groups.io list, work his own blog, and write posts for CounterPunch.
What Louis could do at death's door was more than many of us can do in the pink of health.
Over the past weeks, multiple crises have merged: a crisis of democracy with the most significant attack on voting rights since Reconstruction; a climate crisis with lives and livelihoods upended in the Gulf Coast and the Northeast by extreme weather events and in the West by a stunning fire season; and an economic crisis in which millions are being cut off from Pandemic Unemployment Insurance, even as August job gains proved underwhelming. There’s also a crisis taking place in state legislatures with an ongoing attack on women’s autonomy over our own bodies. The Supreme Court let a law go into effect that makes abortions nearly impossible in Texas and turns its enforcement over to vigilantes. And then, of course, there’s the looming eviction crisis that could precipitate the worst housing and homelessness disaster in American history.
In fact, at this very moment, grassroots groups have come forward with solutions to just such harm. We would do well to attend to them. They include:
Making evictions from any dwelling, including cars, tents, and encampments, illegal.
Canceling the housing and rental debt that has been accumulated during the moratorium period.
Ending predatory speculation that raises rents and makes housing unaffordable in every state in the country.
Ensuring living wages and a guaranteed income so every American can afford a decent place to live.
Protecting and expanding voting rights including for the poor, homeless, disabled, and elderly so people have the right to vote officials into office who will represent the interests of the unhoused, the temporarily housed, and those facing evictions.
Ending the Senate filibuster that’s preventing the passage of bold and visionary policies, including the expansion of health care, the raising of wages, the introduction of new anti-poverty programs, and so much more.
Those facing eviction, those underpaid and excluded, and many of the 140 million people who are poor and low-income can’t wait for those in power to act (if they ever do). Grassroots efforts like the National Union of the Homeless, Housing Justice for All, Cancel the Rents, Homes Guarantee, and other networks promoting rent strikes and eviction resistance will continue to organize to ensure that all Americans have a place to live, thrive, and build the sort of society we know is possible.
For a minute I thought this was unique and then I recalled the widespread support for Black Lives Matter in big league sports. Perhaps the difference is that this is not driven by the presence of large numbers of First Nations players in the Canadian Football League, but more by the major shift in understanding among many people in Canada.
The attacks against the APR/PCV had consisted of intimidation including physical confrontations, decertification of left wing parties and new leadership installed by the government and candidates thrown off ballots , censorship in the public and private media, and several acts of repression against APR candidates during the last National Assembly election campaign and in January Maduro started openingly attacking the left and calling them agents of imperialism, all the while the government has been making deals with the real imperialists. Cort
In short, the policy of dialogue and class conciliation of the Maduro government plays in favor of the CIA and imperialism in Venezuela and in the region, and not the other way around.
From the original in Spanish:
La CIA, el imperialismo yanqui y el pacto de México: Una respuesta a Pedro Carreño en defensa de Oscar Figuera y la APR
The CIA, Yankee Imperialism, and the Mexico Pact: A Response to Pedro Carreño in Defense of Oscar Figuera and the APR
Elías Chacón - Marxist Current Class Struggle September 16, 2021
Last Tuesday, September 14, during the plenary session of the AN, the state media once again censured the intervention of the deputy for the Communist Party of Venezuela and the Popular Revolutionary Alternative, Oscar Figuera. It is not the first time that this has happened. On the contrary, it has become a systematic policy of the State to make the political forces that oppose the Maduro government invisible, but not from the historically counter-revolutionary right, but from the left that raises the flags of the socialist revolution.
The government carries out this policy in order to prevent sectors of the working masses that have historically supported Chavismo, and currently repudiate government policies, from knowing that there is an alternative on the left to the bourgeois and neoliberal measures that are applied against the workers. Likewise, the government seeks to maintain its leftist and pro-socialist facade before the sectors of Chavismo that still support it.
Not being enough, in the plenary session last Tuesday, the deputy Pedro Carreño, after the censured intervention of comrade Figuera, took the floor to attack comrade Figuera in an embarrassing way. Said attack, in reality, is not only against Figuera, but against all those who from the left oppose the Maduro government.
One of the arguments used by Carreño was that the PCV had summoned the solidarity of European communist parties to denounce the pact of bourgeois leaders in Mexico. In Carreño's words, six communist parties "signed an agreement to torpedo the dialogue - in Mexico - according to the CIA plan."
Later he pointed out, without embarrassment or any shame, and in a pedantic and scandalous way: “that is a tax rate from the State Department! That's a CIA agent! They must be unmasked! ”. The illustrious Pesuvist deputy concluded his brilliant speech by stating: “That the historical enemies of national liberation oppose the advances of peace, economic life, tranquility, and economic stability in the country, is because we are on the right track ”.
Actually, this is not the first time this has happened. Shortly after the beginning of the previous parliamentary period, the president of the AN, Jorge Rodríguez, also used slander against Congressman Figuera and those of us who, together with him, fought to raise the banners of socialism in Venezuela.
From the Punto Fijo pact to the Mexico Pact
But, is it a lie that the negotiations in Mexico are an instrument of the government to try to achieve an elite pact with a sector of the national bourgeoisie, historically parasitic and counterrevolutionary, and its parties? Once this is understood, analyzing the political reality of the country from a Marxist perspective or what is the same, class, it is easy to understand why unfortunate gentlemen like Carreño defend tooth and nail what happens there behind the backs of the working people. .
The leadership of the Bolivarian movement is no longer, as in the previous period, a progressive force, even in reformist terms. Today, the leadership of Chavismo, or what is the same, the Maduro government and the leadership of the PSUV, have become one more layer of the Venezuelan ruling class. This layer - as AD and COPEI used to do - uses the repressive apparatus and all other instruments of social control, to keep political and economic power in its hands.
Therefore, it could be said that the Mexican pact - although it has not been the government's only attempt at dialogue and conciliation with the bourgeoisie - is a new version, albeit more decadent, rotten and smelly, of the nefariously celebrated pact of Fixed Point.
What happens with Carreño is what happens with all the apologists for the government's policy in favor of the employers and against the workers. Like good sophists, they have found it necessary to learn the old and delicate art of excremental perfumery. They try to make the masses believe that what stinks and stinks are the maneuvers of the “CIA-priced” left, and not the caput mortum of bourgeois society that does not finish dying, but is rots rapidly, dragging the barbarian towards barbarism. working people in the process.
The Mexican negotiating table is not considering the defense of the historical conquests of the workers in the Bolivarian Revolution, of the companies and large estates nationalized under the Chávez government, of labor and union rights, of the right to discuss the collective bargaining, civil and political liberties.
No, it is not considering freedom for workers imprisoned for fighting, the defense of free access to quality health and education, or the urgent and distressing need for a decent wage for the working class.
The results of the pact show which side the government is on
In Mexico it is negotiating how to close the way to sectors of the genuine left that have proposed to constitute themselves as a socialist opposition force to the government, but also to sectors of the right that do not wish to negotiate with the government - although, the latter is not a question that we call ourselves to debate. This is being discussed, while an attempt at political unity, blatantly opportunistic, is being built between the PSUV and sectors of the moderate and radical right, from which both capitalist factions can benefit.
Where does this come from? Of the actions of the government in the framework of the dialogue. While guarimberos and coup politicians like Freddy Guevara - who is not the only one - are released, revolutionary cadres such as Eudis Girot, Bartolo Guerra, Marcos Sabariego, Aryenis Torrealba and Alfredo Chirinos are being detained - under house arrest or in jail. or to honest workers who opposed acts of corruption, such as Guillermo González and Derbys Rodríguez.
Likewise, nationalized companies continue to be privatized, greater political freedoms are granted to right-wing parties, the veto is maintained on sectors of left-wing parties that were excluded from using their electoral card, such as the Corriente Pinto and Corriente Uzcátegui. , etc.
Indeed, the purpose of the Mexican pact is not very different from the class conciliation policy that the government has been applying in recent years, as an expression of its degeneration along bourgeois lines and its sharp turn to the right.
The government wants to give as many concessions to the right as possible, while at the same time that means keeping the political and economic power it has won in its hands.
In short, what is under debate in Mexico are the terms of the distribution of the wealth obtained through the brutal looting of the country by the various imperialist bourgeoisies or in the process of becoming imperialists - North American, European, Russian, Chinese or Turkish. and the parasitic and backward national bourgeoisie, to which is now added the leadership of the Bolivarian movement, which has also become the bourgeoisie.
Can then, be considered as counterrevolutionary or pro-imperialist to those forces that denounce the bourgeois pact in Mexico? Not at all.
The interests of the CIA and imperialism in Venezuela
Imperialism is the latest expression of capitalism. It is its highest phase, the one in which the colonialist and militaristic tendencies are expressed in the most extreme way. For imperialism, as a reactionary force in the planetary class struggle, a victory is obtained as long as the way to the proletarian revolution is cut off, by whatever means, and the capitalist production regime remains in place.
The CIA, as an intelligence instrument of US imperialism, has been a historically organized apparatus used for the bloody crushing of proletarian revolutions throughout our troubled world.
As is well known in the field of the left, the CIA organized the coup against Allende, the massacre of the communists in Indonesia in the 1960s, the espionage actions against the USSR, the sabotage and counterrevolutionary actions against the Cuban Revolution, and stop you to count. Thousands of anti-communist operations in America, Europe, Africa and Asia during the 20th century.
Therefore, it is more than evident that the purpose of the CIA ultimately is the defense of imperialism and the capitalist mode of production, against the threat of socialist revolution. But it turns out that the defeat of the labor movement is not always achieved by blood and fire. Imperialism and the bourgeoisie also use "peaceful" methods to maintain their control over society. The purchase of revolutionary leaders, the infiltration of revolutionary movements and left parties, and the manipulation of bourgeois elections are other methods that are also useful to imperialism.
As we have pointed out, in the negotiations in Mexico there is no prospect of progress towards the proletarian revolution for the workers of our country. Rather, the little that still remains of the social, political and economic conquests achieved by the working class in the framework of the Bolivarian Revolution is ending there.
At the end of the day, and unfortunately for Mr. Carreño, the CIA and imperialism benefit from what is being discussed in Mexico behind the backs of the Venezuelan working class. The negotiating table is one more step in the process of counterrevolution from within, which the Maduro government has been carrying out in the last five years.
In short, the policy of dialogue and class conciliation of the Maduro government plays in favor of the CIA and imperialism in Venezuela and in the region, and not the other way around. As much as the friendly policy of the Obama government towards Cuba, of partial lifting of the economic blockade, also worked in favor of the capitalist counterrevolution on the island.
The ironies of history: Carreño as an individual example of the bureaucracy turned bourgeoisie
Although the following comment is anecdotal, it clearly reflects the class contradictions within the Bolivarian movement today. Pedro Carreño, as a good bureaucrat turned bourgeois today, has always been characterized by his refined and sophisticated bourgeois tastes when it comes to dressing.
He himself, in public and in front of the national press, has made clear his weakness for the suits and shoes of renowned European designers, which were difficult to access to a Venezuelan worker in the past, and now they are simply impossible to acquire for someone who He lives on his effort and sweat.
When Carreño made his spurious and bastard speech against Figuera this Tuesday, and pointed out that he was “charged by the State Department”, it must be remembered that he did it wearing his usual suits - a Luis Vuitton suit, for example, can range between 500 and 2000 euros-, for other obvious symbols of the bourgeois way of life, that only a fee from the bourgeois state and sectors of the national bourgeoisie can afford. Meanwhile, the "dolphin of the CIA" Figuera, wore his usual proletarian leather jacket, which we have always seen him wear in meetings, rallies, pickets or workers' assemblies. The story and one more of his cruel ironies.
Our solidarity with comrade Figuera and the APR as a whole
The poor and unhappy accusations of "dolphin" and "agent" of the CIA towards Oscar Figuera, must be repudiated by the entire revolutionary workers and popular movement of Venezuela. From Lucha de Clases, the Venezuelan section of the International Marxist Tendency, we express our class and revolutionary solidarity with Comrade Figuera, with the PCV and with the APR as a whole. An attack on one is an attack on all!
These signs show, on the one hand, how the Maduro government is increasingly to the right, and on the other, how attacks against the left - political and of all kinds, including repression - are increasing every day. From the revolutionary left of Venezuela we have to give a firm response to this, both in word and speech, as well as in the street.
Not dolphins or CIA agents!
The friends of the interests of imperialism are those who negotiate in Mexico, side and side!
Enough of slander and attacks against the revolutionary left!
Venezuela Advances Towards a New Geopolitical Approach (Part I)
Unlike Chávez, Maduro not only assumed the role of referee and mediator between the bourgeois fractions in order to stabilize the political situation, but also worked on articulation scenarios and models between national capital and the transnational sector. Those who assign Maduro a supporting role in the Venezuelan play are mistaken. Maduro may not be a cultured man, but he is a shrewd politician: he has imposed the logic of trade union bureaucracy on Venezuelan politics.
Since coming to power, he has slowly become the strongman, seeing off any threat. First, he did this by weakening and fragmenting the opposition, by combining carrots (agreements with fractions of the parties, support for dissidents, legalization of politics) and sticks (persecution of organizations, disqualification, imprisonment of rebellious opponents).
Second, by moving the moral reference point of Chavismo away from the structure of the parties and the government — to the point of leading some of them to the terrible mistake of meeting with the opposition figure who was promoting an attempted invasion — thereby emptying the possibility of building a traditional Chavista ethical reference with real political options.
Third, by expelling the financial architect of the Bolivarian bourgeoisie [Rafael Ramírez] from his environment and forcing him into European exile, removing his shadow and consolidating his [Maduro’s] own leadership in this sector.
Fourth, by progressively diminishing other leaders’ power bases in the governing party, many of whom turned from hopeful replacements to wild cards (the recent PSUV internal elections demonstrated this, reducing the power sectors in the government to four leading figures: Maduro, Delcy and Jorge Rodríguez, Diosdado Cabello).
Fifth, by establishing a new model of military control in the Armed Forces, consolidating the leadership of a non-charismatic but skilled fouché military officer class.
Sixth, by becoming "the hand that rocks the cradle" of the oppositions: today all oppositions gravitate around what Maduro says or does, practically without any real capacity for initiative.
Seventh, by developing a model of authoritarianism with almost total impunity against those who protest the terrible effects of the economic crisis, especially on the working class’ leadership and grassroots.
Eighth, by using the criminal US blockade against Venezuela in his favor as justification for the inter-bourgeois arbitration policies he seeks to develop.
Ninth, by building a narrative that is presented as a continuity of Chavismo, but which in reality expresses an attempt to solve the bourgeois crisis generated in the 1980s from the seat of the state.
Tenth, by instrumentalizing hopelessness in the face of the effects of excessive inflation, the astronomical devaluation of the currency and the almost total loss of purchasing power.
Eleventh, by achieving automatic solidarity from the majority of the Latin American left, removing their critical capacity. Certainly, Maduro has lost support on the radical left, but in the orthodox and progressive left the debate about Venezuela’s labor relations [which led many on the “radical international left” to withdraw its support of his administration] is still pending.
Twelfth, by developing a structural adjustment program for the Venezuelan economy with a profound social and wage impact that is justified by sanctions. If the sanctions are lifted, it will be the now weakened guilds and trade unions which will have to fight important battles according to the interests of labor.
Mass migration, which left almost all opposition political parties without a significant part of the protest army (and vote base), has further helped Maduro in this. While it is true that only a small group of those who emigrated can be located on the periphery of the opposition parties, they were their strong base for mobilization.
Maduro is the strongman of Venezuelan politics, and his delegation goes to the negotiations in Mexico with a clear agenda:
On 7 September, competing demonstrations were held in Brazil, both for and against the Bolsonaro government. We publish two reports from our Brazilian comrades about these protests and what they indicate about the political situation in the country.
On the one hand, Bolsonaro’s strength has diminished, and he lacks the confidence of the main part of the bourgeoisie. However, he retains the loyal support of his hardcore base. On the other hand, the diminished scale of the Fora Bolsonaro protests evidence a crisis of reformism, with the left leaders directing all their energies towards the 2022 elections rather than leading the workers in a concerted fight to immediately topple the regime.
Only the workers and youth, united in struggle, can bring Bolsonaro down and begin the task of building a socialist alternative that will meaningfully improve their lives. Bolsonaro Out!
On Tuesday 7 September 2021, a series of demonstrations called by Jair Bolsonaro and his supporters took place in several cities across the country. Although significant and clearly benefiting from state support, the demonstrations were smaller than those seen five years ago in support of Rosseff Dilma's impeachment. This is indicative of the shrinking of Bolsonaro’s political base that led him to the presidency in 2018. What at first glance may seem like a demonstration of strength is actually a desperate attempt to muster support, at a time when Bolsonaro and his government are finding themselves increasingly isolated, destined to ruin and imprisonment after the end of their term. However, the demonstrations showed that Bolsonaro still maintains a loyal support base for his policies, despite the visible decrease.
These demonstrations had multiple objectives. The first was to divert the attention of the population away from real problems, in particular the increase in famine, widespread misery throughout the country, high unemployment rates and the persistence of the pandemic due to the government’s disastrous mismanagement, all of which serves to thicken the smokescreen that we denounced in our previous editorial. But this political performance also aims to divert attention from the judicial investigation of the Bolsonaro family currently taking place. The protests called by the left failed to oppose those in support of Bolsonaro, due to the treacherous role of the leadership, which was unable to mobilise against the pro-government forces despite the deep dissatisfaction felt by the overwhelming majority of the population.
It was also an attempt to manufacture a political cohesion from the social base that still maintains support for Bolsonaro. Despite agitation on social media, Bolsonaro still needs to organise his supporters around a political programme and a goal. The demonstrations served to identify a common enemy, which, in this case, was the ministers of the Supreme Court, particularly Luís Roberto Barroso and Alexandre de Moraes. “Either this minister fits in or he asks to leave,” Bolsonaro said in a speech in São Paulo, referring to Moraes. On the other hand, aspects of Bolsonaro's demagoguery have more precise targets, while remaining quite abstract, centering on criticism of the way elections are held, and demanding a “printed vote and public vote counting”. Bonapartist slogans appeared on posters in some of the demonstrations, such as: “Military intervention with Bolsonaro in power!”
Therefore, Bolsonaro demonstrated that he still maintains a certain layer of support and that has a social base willing to defend his presidential term. However, this is not sufficient to defeat other social forces, let alone for the consolidation of a Bonapartist government. Trotsky recalled, in his discussion of Bonapartism: “a government that rises above the nation is not suspended in the air.” The central element for a Bonapartist government would require, at least, tacit support from the bourgeoisie. The scenario after the mobilisations shows the opposite. In various organs of the bourgeois press, the term “coup” was widely used. In the ‘National Journal’ edition of Globo on 7 September, William Bonner repeatedly warned against the danger Bolsonaro posed to the constitution and accused him of breaking the law in his speeches. In an editorial published today, the newspaper Estado de São Paulo wrote:
“President Jair Bolsonaro exhibited yesterday exactly what he has shown since the beginning of his term: his irresponsibility and his political isolation. In recent weeks, treated as a national priority by the Presidential Palace, the Bolsonaro demonstrations of the 7th of September will be interpreted by the president as proof that the ‘people’ support him, but a really strong president does not need to call protests in his favor or intimidate other wings of government to demonstrate power; he only exercises it. Thus, Bolsonaro reiterated his weakness, already attested by several surveys that indicate the melting of his popularity”.
In another passage, the editorial states:
“The president's disregard for the reality of the country is clear. Just see that, in the face of rising inflation and low employment, Bolsonaro is interested only in remaining in power and protecting his offspring and himself from Justice. He continues to intensify tensions with the other wings of government and risks the possibility of an institutional rupture. In his lexicon, there is no solution.”
Even one of the main bourgeois press spokespersons is drawing attention to the limits of the government’s support. They also emphasise the fact that Bolsonaro has no interest in solving the problems faced by the country, preferring instead to secure permanent political power. In addition, he highlights the role played by Bolsonaro in maintaining political instability. This attitude is also echoed in the editorial of another bourgeois newspaper Folha de São Paulo:
“The president, as noted, became a prisoner of the logic of agitation by agitation. You need to create one factoid per minute in order to keep your circle of idolaters mobilised. It is not fair, however, that it carries in this vortex the institutional energies of a nation devastated by a deadly epidemic, famine and unemployment.”
The text also emphasises:
“The Independence Day protests showed a Jair Bolsonaro increasingly linked to his cordon of fanatics and isolated from institutionality and the majority of the population.”
This editorial also calls for the resolution of the problems that affect the country, which, from the point of view of the bourgeoisie, involves the expansion of state incentives to maintain the profits of the capitalists. This is the programme that two of Brazil's leading bourgeois newspapers defend, and argue that the Bolsonaro government should prioritise, criticising the recent political smokescreen.
Therefore, the conclusions to draw from the recent protests is that, despite the maintenance of a certain political base, Bolsonaro's adventurism found no support among the bourgeoisie. While Bolsonaro may gain time to remain in government, he puts at risk the negotiation room necessary to direct and approve the reforms required by the bourgeoisie that allow for the further flow of state resources into the pockets of the ruling classes. The editors of the State of São Paulo are clear in this evaluation:
“The Bolsonaro government is very bad. He has not fulfilled what he promised and does not work to improve the living conditions of the population. As seen yesterday once again, his tactic reaches unprecedented patterns of irrationality, with proposals having the tone of a coup: threatening the other wings of government and contesting in advance the result of the next elections.”
Bolsonaro, although he has gained breathing room for his government, at best maintains the institutional crisis in its current state, without presenting to the bourgeoisie solutions to the economic crisis and raising tensions with the other wings of government, especially the Judiciary. For the workers, there is no alternative besides overthrowing the government immediately and fighting for a workers' government, without bosses or generals.
Bolsonaro, Moraes, the bourgeois press and representatives of employers, despite immediate disagreements, are allies in the exploitation of workers and the destruction of their rights. The reformist left continues to try to channel the dissatisfaction of the population through institutional routes, even if it means defending the ministers of the Supreme Court and allying themselves with the right that criticises Bolsonaro. Workers must rely only on their strength, building their organisations and always looking towards the horizon of the overthrow of capitalism and the construction of socialism.
The events of 7 September and the crisis of reformism
On 7 September, protests were called all over the country both for and against the Bolsonaro government. After the demonstrations, it was clear that the pro-government rallies were greater in size than those against Bolsonaro, especially in the city of São Paulo, the national centre of the confrontation. While the “Grito dos Excluídos” or “Cry of the Excluded” demonstration in Anhangabaú Valley, São Paulo, brought together around 15,000 demonstrators, the Bolsonarists occupied 11 blocks on Paulista Avenue. What are we to make of this?
The “left” demonstrations
84 protests were registered by the Fora Bolsonaro movement on 7 September in all 26 of Brazil’s states. In contrast, there were 179 demonstrations in favour of the government in the 26 states and also the Federal District. This article will be centrally concerned with those against the government, the pro-Bolsonaro demonstrations have been covered elsewhere.
The left leaders should be organising a general strike, using the collective strength of the working class to overthrow the Bolsonaro government and offer a real way out of the crisis of the system / Image: Isaac Nóbrega
The Brazilian Marxists of Esquerda Marxista helped to organise protests in many states and capitals. The biggest one took place in Anhangabaú Valley, in the city of São Paulo. The protests had an organised and militant character, composed of various unions and social movements, however they lacked mass support from an independent social base. The slogan of “Bolsonaro Out” resonated with many, however the speeches made from trucks carrying loudspeakers did not concretely address the problems faced by the Brazilian youth and working class. Instead, they took a narrow, electoral approach and fostered illusions in the 2022 clash between Lula and Bolsonaro. At best, there was talk of the possibility of impeachment, a solution that, despite pointing to the need to remove Bolsonaro from the government, delegates the task to the rotten National Congress, ignoring the crises of institutional corruption of the political establishment.
The fact is that, even from the initial calls to protest, many speakers were focused solely on the building and consolidation of support for Lula, the Workers’ Party (PT) candidate, in 2022. As such, many of the protest leaders’ speeches featured calls for an abstract “unity.” In reality, this meant nothing more than unity for Lula's candidacy in next year's elections and unity in defence of bourgeois democracy, which is diametrically opposed to the interests of the working class.
What is the meaning of the protests against Bolsonaro on 7 September?
It is essential to understand why these demonstrations on the 7 September against the government were smaller than those that took place in previous months, or even smaller than those that took place in 2019, given that Bolsonaro's popularity today is much lower than it was two years ago, having been roundly rejected by the Brazilian working class.
To analyse this situation, it is necessary to look at the role of the movement's leadership (PT, PCdoB, PSOL, CUT, UNE, etc.) and their policy. The absence of mass participation by the workers and youth in the demonstrations is a reflection of the leadership’s lack of confidence in the masses. The fact is that despite calling for demonstrations they refuse to meaningfully mobilise their bases.
Another element for the low participation in the recent Fora Bolsonaro protests was the fear-mongering propaganda that suggested that any mass action would result in chaos and physical confrontation with the Bolsonarists. Therefore, it was argued, the best course of action was to not compete with pro-government protests, so a different date should be selected. This represents an unacceptable retreat from a weakened enemy.
The truth is that the strategy of the left is one of class collaboration. They put their trust in (bourgeois) democracy or, in other words, in bourgeois institutions (STF, National Congress, Public Ministry, elections, etc.). Its leaders have no confidence in the masses or the class struggle. These institutions that the left calls to be defended are the very same institutions that imprisoned Lula without proof and carried out Dilma's impeachment. Even after being the victim of so many attacks, Lula and the PT remain faithful servants of bourgeois democracy. That's also why Lula, instead of calling and participating in the events, is guarding himself for the 2022 elections.
This system and the institutions that support it are ultimately responsible for the current misery of the Brazilian working class. We are in the midst of the greatest crisis of capitalism and its solution does not depend on the competence of the politicians at the top. Although the majority of the Brazilian people indicate that they do not approve of the Bolsonaro government, a significant sector does not trust the system itself, but neither group took this anger to the streets in the recent demonstrations. The fact is that the majority of the Brazilian working class was not encouraged to participate in any of the 7 September protests. Either due to the greater visibility of the demonstrations in support of the government and a fear of physical confrontations with the Bolsonarists, or because they did not trust the reformist leadership that refused to advance the movement in a militant direction.
There is a growing hatred for the Bolsonaro government, which is directly responsible for the attacks that the working class are experiencing. If this hatred was not expressed forcefully in the streets yesterday, the responsibility rests with the movement's leadership, which is incapable of presenting a political programme and methods of struggle capable of mobilising the masses. The leadership should be organising a general strike, using the collective strength of the working class to overthrow the Bolsonaro government and offer a real way out of the crisis of the system.
Our tendency participated in the anti-government protests by distributing a Manifesto demanding: DOWN THE BOLSONARO GOVERNMENT! FOR A WORKERS’ GOVERNMENT WITH NO BOSSES OR GENERALS! In it, we offered a platform for struggle that is capable of mobilising the entire working class in a general strike. The only way that we can get out of the crisis is by confronting the government and the system itself.
However, as we can see, this is not the plan of the Unified Workers’ Central (CUT) and the PT, who simply explain to workers that they need to manage their hunger and misery until the 2022 elections. To be clear: the 2022 elections, with or without victory for Lula, will not fundamentally change the reality faced by the Brazilian working class.
Based on the aforementioned manifesto, we are forming Action Committees throughout the country raising the slogan: “Down with Bolsonaro now!” This is necessary to reach the workers and youth who do not trust this system and are not willing to wait until the 2022 elections.
In Argentina’s primary elections on Sunday, the Workers’ Left Front – Unity (FIT-U), an electoral coalition of four Trotskyist parties, had its best elections yet. The coalition — composed of the Party of Socialist Workers (PTS), Left Voice’s sister organization; the Workers’ Party (PO); Socialist Lift (IS), and the Workers’ Socialist Movement (MST) — is now the third-largest electoral force in the country. PTS member Alejandro Vilca earned 24 percent of the votes in the province of Jujuy, a northern province that’s home to tens of thousands of indigenous people and farm workers. If Vilca’s performance in the November elections is comparable to Sunday’s results, he could win a seat in the National Congress.
Kolla, Harvesting Worker, and Revolutionary Militant
In Sunday’s primary elections in Argentina, the Workers’ Left Front - Unity, an electoral coalition of four Trotskyist parties, had its best election yet and is now the country’s third-largest electoral force.
In the province of Jujuy, home to tens of thousands of indigenous people and farm workers, the coalition won 24 percent of the vote. Its Congressional candidate in Jujuy, Alejandro Vilca, is himself a long-time sanitation worker. In Chubut, located in the far south of the country, and home to major fishing, mining, and oil industries, approximately 9 percent of voters backed the Left’s candidates. In the province of Neuquén, the bloc took around 8 percent. In the latter province, the Left Front slate was led by Raúl Godoy, a leader in the worker-occupied and managed Zanon tile factory. In the city and province of Buenos Aires, home to 70 percent of Argentina’s population, the coalition earned 6 and 5 percent, respectively.
Ten years ago this month, Occupy Wall Street unexpectedly inaugurated a new wave of protest. The domestic manifestation of a worldwide explosion of digitally networked social movements, it scaled up rapidly, attracting enormous public and media attention. But the protesters were evicted from New York City’s Zuccotti Park and other occupied spaces after only a few months, and Occupy dissipated soon afterward. Some commentators have dismissed it as a meteoric flash in the pan, while others have criticized its “horizontalist” structure and lack of concrete demands.
After speaking recently with more than 20 activists who were centrally involved in the movement, we beg to differ with such negative assessments. “Occupy wasn’t a blip, it was a spark!” declared one, veteran organizer Nastaran Mohit. “It was a turning point, a spark that led to many fires.” Musician and educator Sonny Singh agreed: “It was the beginning of a movement trajectory that we’re still in. Occupy being the catalyst, socialism is cool now.” Mohit and Singh were among the 25 New York Occupy veterans that we interviewed earlier for a study funded by the Russell Sage Foundation and published in 2013, most of whom agreed to speak with us again this year. In that study, titled “Changing the Subject,” we argued that Occupy had shifted the national political conversation to focus on rising inequality and had transformed the political trajectory of the participants themselves—changing the subject in both respects.
As the 10th anniversary of the Zuccotti Park occupation approached, we reconnected with our interviewees to explore their political activities since 2011 and to hear their reflections on Occupy’s legacy. Our earlier research had targeted people who were key architects of the effort as well as others engaged in a broad range of related activities. Some of the interviewees were seasoned organizers with extensive experience in progressive movements; others were younger activists with formidable social media skills, including a few who had been radicalized in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.
They all remain politically engaged. Some helped launch Occupy Sandy, Strike Debt, and other immediate offshoots of the movement. Many met one another again at Dakota Access Pipeline or Black Lives Matter protests. Some are full-time organizers; others are writers or professors. The follow-up interviews show that we have not seen the last of them.
A decade later, none regret their involvement in the 2011 effort. They all agree that Occupy did what was possible at the time, and did it spectacularly well. Not one had expected the Zuccotti Park encampment to last more than a few days, and all were amazed when it garnered so much traction and attention. Interviewees also reflected on the movement’s limitations, including flaws in its analysis of race and gender, the tactic of occupation itself, and Occupy’s lack of organizational coherence and accountability structures. They drew a variety of lessons from the experience, and many explained to us how their own political perspectives, as well as the shape of the left more broadly, have evolved in the years since.
The signature contribution that gave Occupy lasting influence was its laser-sharp focus on skyrocketing inequality and entrenched corporate power, transforming the popular “common sense” about capitalism and class. In addition, the occupation was the midwife for a new generation of progressive political activists. After 2011, some Occupiers became active in the Bernie Sanders campaign and the Democratic Socialists of America; others moved into Black Lives Matter, climate activism, and the labor movement. Even for experienced organizers, Occupy was a transformative moment, which reshaped their political analysis and ongoing work. The movement’s success in gaining traction with the public, moreover, encouraged further activism. It was a critical defining moment, a launching pad for the past decade’s left-wing resurgence.
But Occupy had limits as well, and those too have preoccupied our interviewees over the years since. The iconic call for the unity of ”the 99 percent” enabled a euphoric feeling of solidarity and helped attract increasingly diverse crowds to participate in the occupation at Zuccotti Park. But while appreciating the movement’s powerful centering of class, many participants also criticized it for underemphasizing racial and gender oppression and other divisions within the 99 percent. Some had tried to promote an intersectional approach from the earliest days of the occupation and struggled to create space for people of color and women to play leading roles. Most observed that subsequent waves of movement activity—from Black Lives Matter and #MeToo to trans advocacy, immigrant rights, and Indigenous struggles—have generated a far more complex understanding of capitalism and power, as well as a far more diversified leadership. Those movements built on Occupy’s success but also moved the left in a more intersectional direction.
The easy reproducibility of occupations and the “mini-society” of Zuccotti Park and other occupied spaces, with their spirited prefigurative social relations, helped catalyze Occupy’s explosive growth, creativity, and connectedness. No one we spoke with expressed regrets about the defining feature of the movement: the taking of the space at Zuccotti Park and at the thousand other encampments that radiated out from there. But some participants had critiqued the term “occupation” from the outset, with its evocation of Palestine; others noted that as a tactic, occupation had serious limits. Holding physical space required enormous work, and while the park provided participants with a place to sleep as well as food, medical care, and culture, it soon became overwhelmed by problems endemic to the larger society, such as the needs of New York’s vast unhoused population as the number of homeless within Zuccotti began to rise. Safety became an increasingly important concern, and there were reports of women being sexually assaulted while encamped there. The difficulties involved in providing security in a mini-society of tents in a downtown park became increasingly apparent. Occupy simply lacked the organizational capacity to address these formidable challenges. Most of our interviewees came to see encampment as a temporary and transitory tactic, at best. As one interviewee who wished to remain anonymous reflected: “Before it gets too weird, let it die.”
Occupy famously aimed to create inclusive horizontal structures that maximized participation and democracy, yet it soon was plagued by “the tyranny of structurelessness,” in Jo Freeman’s unforgettable phrase from the 1960s. As the movement mushroomed, meetings of the General Assembly were increasingly dominated by white and male voices and got bogged down in speechifying, rendering decision-making nearly impossible. The participants came from a wide variety of backgrounds and political orientations, which led to clashes. Meetings were also vulnerable to disruption and infiltration: As protest consultant Lisa Fithian told us, “You can’t keep the police out of an open movement space.”
After experiencing these problems, some Occupy activists adopted new approaches in their subsequent movement work, preemptively anticipating the conflicts and needs that arise in open participatory forms. They developed accountability mechanisms designed to rein in individuals who behave badly, for example. As writer and sociologist Marina Sitrin put it, “Rules are fine. Rulers, no—but rules are a good thing. Without having rules and agreements, it’s much more difficult.”
Similarly, many interviewees in retrospect considered Occupy’s signature “leaderlessness” and refusal to focus on specific demands as necessary elements in its success, yet ultimately insufficient. Many concurred with journalist and media studies professor Nathan Schneider’s observation that “the strategy of building institutional power, electoral power, state power, has become much more widely embraced by people who during Occupy times might have been more anarchistically inclined.” Occupy’s unexpected traction with the public helped embolden this shift in perspective.
The very lack of left infrastructure in the United States in 2011—after decades of decline for organized labor, left parties, and movement organizations—both enabled the explosive creativity of the Occupy moment and presented an obstacle for those who, in its aftermath, did not “want to just be a bunch of people in a park,” as organizer Yotam Marom explained. “We want a piece of this thing! We want to win.”
Some of our interviewees put their post-Occupy energies into the labor movement, pushing it in new directions. Others began building new organizations or helping existing ones grow stronger. But the biggest shift involved electoral work. Some Occupiers had been engaged in electoral politics before 2011, but the large majority had been skeptical about its efficacy. For some, this reflected disillusion and disappointment after having supported Barack Obama in 2008; for a certain number, aligned with an anarchist perspective, it was a matter of long-standing principle. Today, however, many of our interviewees are either directly engaged in electoral work or see it as a key terrain of political struggle. There are also those who are more ecumenical than they were in 2011. Only a few remain thoroughly averse to electoral efforts.
In 2014, the victory of socialist city council candidate Kshama Sawant in Seattle, along with the passage of multiple citywide minimum wage ordinances around the country, were early post-Occupy examples of what was possible with focused local efforts. But the carrot and the stick of the electoral turn were more fundamentally embodied by Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. The Sanders campaign largely embraced Occupy’s ideological perspective and, as writer and organizer Jonathan Smucker told us, vividly illustrated how “a campaign can step in and provide scaled infrastructure to absorb thousands and thousands of volunteers.” Conversely, Trump’s victory crystallized the stakes involved in electoral work. And although our interviewees’ own contribution to the explosive growth of the Democratic Socialists of America has been marginal, many of them commented on its importance as a new arena of activity for other former Occupy participants and supporters.
Critics were quick to label occupy a failure once the police cleared out Zuccotti Park and the other encampments that sprouted across the country. But Occupy involved far more than the physical occupations: It inaugurated a new wave of social movement efforts and inspired a new generation of activists. The tactic of occupying public space succeeded beyond all expectations in riveting worldwide attention on the crisis of inequality. That tactic was not capable of reversing the massive increase in inequality that had occurred—on the contrary, inequality has continued to widen. But the Occupy moment gave beleaguered longtime organizers the confidence to build organizations and movements to bring about lasting change, and it inspired a new generation of activists to join them. As minister and Occupy activist the Rev. Michael Ellick told us, it “was a way of giving people who have no power power right away.” After that, they were ready and eager to move on to bigger projects.
The past decade has witnessed some of the largest protests in US history, as well as the unprecedented impact of Sanders’s presidential campaigns and the growth in the number of young people (and some growth among older ones as well) who openly support socialism. Would all of this have happened without Occupy Wall Street? It’s impossible to know for sure, but for us, Yotam Marom sums it up best: “Occupy was a really significant psychological shift, from righteous losers—which was my experience beforehand—to contenders. Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock, the Bernie campaign are within the context of a world in which the left can contend. Occupy cracked something open!”
Ruth Milkman teaches at the CUNY Graduate Center and the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies and is the author, most recently, of Immigrant Labor and the New Precariat.
Stephanie Luce is a professor of labor studies at the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies. Her books include Labor Movements: Global Perspectives andFighting for a Living Wage.
Penny Lewis is a professor of labor studies at the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies and a coauthor of the forthcoming A People’s Guide to New York City (University of California Press, 2022).
For the past twelve years, I have lived in New York’s Financial District. When I first moved in, during the crash of 2008, I listened for crowds on the street below my apartment. If I heard them, I would imagine that they were the sort of mob that surrounds the castle of a wicked lord at the end of a horror movie, ready to deliver justice while the credits roll. I was always disappointed. When I poked my head out the window I’d see a gaggle of sports fans, or just one noisy person hawking a brow wax.
I kept waiting for the pitchforks. On September 17, 2011, they finally came, in the form of Occupy Wall Street. The protest movement would change both me and the country in ways neither of us could have imagined.
Occupy Wall Street was a child of the Great Recession. In 2008, America’s largest banks had wrecked much of the world economy with an orgy of predatory lending, crazily repackaged debt, and naked fraud. Within months, some 10 million Americans lost their homes. Like many of the people who later joined Occupy, I threw my energy that year into the presidential campaign of Barack Obama. We hoped Obama would bring a change from the humiliations of the Bush era, staunch the economic misery, and end America’s murderous War on Terror. Instead, the banks got bailouts and the wars and foreclosures went on.
By 2010, popular revolts were shaking the world. In May, mass student strikes shut down the University of Puerto Rico in Rio Piedras over tuition hikes. Later that year, students with similar grievances occupied universities across the United Kingdom, and were met with police violence. Then, on December 17, a young Tunisian fruit seller named Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire after a police officer confiscated his cart. When he died of the burns, three weeks later, all of Tunisia joined in revolution. The country’s repressive but moribund dictator fled.
By early 2011, protests had spread throughout the Arab world—from the Maghreb to Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Yemen, and Bahrain. And with them came protest camps in city squares, which, when anti-austerity protests started in Greece and Spain, became models for their occupations. These camps grew into microcosmic societies, with clinics, soup kitchens, media centers, even libraries. Despite running the gauntlet of police batons and tear gas, many protesters viewed these improvised communities as laboratories for a leaderless, prefigurative, even utopian sort of politics. Tent cities would be the provisional wing of a better world.
Even North America, global center of neoliberalism, was not immune from the new mood sweeping the world. On July 13, 2011, the Canadian anti-consumerist magazine Adbusters asked a question that capitalized on the zeitgeist. “Are you ready for your Tahrir moment?” Beneath the hashtag #OccupyWallStreet, the editors ran a photo of a ballerina balanced atop the Wall Street Bull. She stood on pointe, one leg raised behind in an arabesque, the righteous hordes of the revolution behind her. Adbusters called for 20,000 people to flood the Financial District and set up a peaceful protest camp based on their notions of the Egyptian revolution. They made no demands.
Although Adbusters had no institutional basis in the political left, it had impeccable timing. So it was that a decade ago this week, on September 17, a first wave of two thousand people heeded the call and gathered in front of the Museum of the American Indian in Lower Manhattan. I was among them. Later that evening, a group of anarchists, including the radical anthropologist David Graeber, led about a hundred protesters to set up camp on an unlovely slab of concrete in the shadow of corporate towers called Zuccotti Park.
Occupy did not impress me at first. Although I’d often marched against the Iraq war, in the intervening years I had only occasionally attended protests. My friends considered it an embarrassing hobby, akin to going to dog shows, so I usually went alone, stood around awkwardly with my fellow weirdos, and eventually left. I protested the way an agnostic attends church: it would probably accomplish nothing, but one ought to do it anyway, on the chance it might matter. The first day of the Occupy action struck me in this same vein. That night, when I dropped off tarps at Zuccotti, I saw the same desultory drum circle and empty info table that marked every other futile protest scene. Tahrir Square this was not.
Still, I kept coming back. At first, it was just a few punks in sleeping bags, but within a week, Zuccotti Park was transforming itself into the locus for something bigger than any seasoned activist, let alone a jaded one, expected. All sorts of people—from grandmothers to Iraq war vets to junkies to disaffected finance workers, many having never participated in a protest before—started to arrive. The chants give a hint as to why. “Banks got bailed out! We got sold out!” was an anguished cry of dejection at the 2008 bailout, while the jubilant assertion of “We are the 99 percent” welcomed everyone except the ultrarich. Each day, hundreds of people marched out of the square shouting these words—to be kettled, clubbed, and pepper-sprayed by the New York police. Every police attack was filmed on camera phones and uploaded to social media, where they served as an advertisement to bring more people to Zuccotti Park.
The park had quickly evolved into another island in the long archipelago of world protest—it too had the clinic, the library, the kitchen, and the media tent with its tangle of wires. Not only that, but it was inspiring other Occupy encampments to spring up across the country and on other continents. Activists from its forebears in Egypt and Spain came visiting. Famous writers delivered open-air lectures. Punks gave out hand-rolled cigarettes.
Above all, Occupy was participatory. Anyone could join, just by turning up. There were assemblies where, because of a ban on amplification in the park, the audience repeated back each of the speaker’s phrases (a technique known as “the People’s Mic”). But because of the unwieldly nature of decision-making at these endless, open meetings, far more was accomplished by smaller groups of people acting on their own initiative.
I began drawing the protesters. But soon, I was participating. I sold art prints to raise money for bail funds and created protest posters. I sent these as scans to organizers; within hours, they were on the street. Since my apartment was just down the block, I offered it as an impromptu pressroom, and the floor of my living room filled up with journalists who drank my coffee while filing their copy. And by spending so much time around them, I slowly learned to write.
Responsible citizens did not like Occupy. At a moment when cops were gleefully cracking skulls, Jon Stewart’sThe Daily Show devoted an entire segment to mocking the occupiers. We were stupid, dirty hippies, most of the media said. We had iPhones and drank lattes, like hypocrites. We knew nothing. We didn’t want to work. We did not participate sufficiently in electoral politics. We did not make proper demands.
The last part was only partially true. Occupy did not have a PowerPoint of action items, but anyone who went down to Zuccotti Park would have found demands aplenty. They ranged from calls for specific policies, such as the reinstatement of the Glass‑Steagall Act and the overturn of Citizens United, to the goal of debt forgiveness, to cries for bankers’ arrests. It depended on whom you spoke to. But what united occupiers was a well-founded belief that the US government served only the 1 percent, a corrupt and rapacious elite, and not the other 99 percent of the country—a belief reinforced by every police barricade that ringed that tiny park.
Zuccotti Park came to enchant me. I think back to the hurry of meetings, the scramble from protest to jail support, the rush to draw something fast enough to meet the deadline for a newspaper published out of the park, the long hours on fire escapes with those people who remain my tightest friends, talking as if we could figure it all out, right then and there. I remember the ferocious solidarity with strangers, as if we would do anything for one another, as long as we were all shoved shoulder-to-shoulder on the wrong side of a barricade. I would sit in the park late into the night, and read a book from the People’s Library while a violinist played. Sometimes, in the unseasonable warmth that fall, I could feel the possibilities of a new world stirring, out of all proportion with the smallness of my actions.
I have talked to many veterans of protest camps, whether in 2011 New York, Greece, Egypt, or, later, in 2013, in Turkey’s Gezi Park. All speak about them as the most beautiful events of their lives, though those movements were bludgeoned into silence. To those who have never felt it, this romance is the hardest to convey. For outsiders, the transience of these movements is too apparent, their failures too pre-ordained. And yet, any account of the Occupy experience is fundamentally dishonest if it does not mention this love.
Romance, combined with stubbornness, powered Occupy into October, when winter came early and coated the streets with gray, dispiriting slush. The police seized the generators brought in to heat the park. By then, they had arrested hundreds of protesters. They beat Black occupiers with a particular viciousness. They attacked journalists. Across the country, police and the FBI had many of the hundreds of Occupy encampments under surveillance as potential terrorist threats. In Oakland, police shot a bean-bag round that hit a veteran named Scott Olsen in the head, putting him in a coma.
Meanwhile, the assemblies, as tends to happen, devolved into factional recrimination. But when then Mayor Michael Bloomberg threatened to evict campers from the park on October 14, in the name of public hygiene, a group of sympathizers, including union members and journalists, converged that night on that frozen square of concrete and cleaned it until it shined, all under the eyes of the police. When the sun finally rose, Mayor Bloomberg blinked. The cops did not charge. Even if the occupiers had no idea what winning might look like, that morning felt like a victory.
One month later, just after midnight, police sealed off Lower Manhattan and destroyed the Occupy Wall Street encampment. They arrested seventy people, tore up the tents, threw the books of the People’s Library into dump trucks, and punched in the face any journalists who tried to get too close. Afterward, it would never be the same. The marches continued, with attempts to take this little park and that. The police routed us each time. They corralled us with barricades. Protesters screamed they were not afraid. On St. Patrick’s Day, 2012, an undercover cop stood behind a young protester named Cecily McMillan and grabbed her breast. She elbowed him instinctually. Wading in, cops beat her until she had a seizure. Cecily was charged with assaulting an officer and spent fifty-eight days on Rikers Island.
My turn came on Occupy’s first birthday, September 17, 2012, when a police officer pulled me into the street and then arrested me for blocking traffic. It was my first arrest, and not a bad one as far as arrests go: eleven hours in a holding cell; no cops hit me. It is a salutary experience for anyone with white skin and a middle-class upbringing to spend a day confined in an stinking cage, where they are treated with the slack-jawed contempt that police so excel in. After all, this is how America treats its poor, Black, and Latino inhabitants daily. Following the arrest, I wrote an account of the encounter in an article that was published in CNN, setting me on course to becoming a journalist. By then, though, even I knew that Occupy was dead.
Such was the fate of every beautiful uprising of 2011. Each was outflanked, outlasted, or bloodily crushed. Bahrain put down its rebellion with the help of Saudi tanks. Egypt’s finest activists rot in the jail cells of their military dictatorship. Syria became a charnel house, and Yemen the worst humanitarian crisis on earth. Even Tunisia, the Arab Spring’s only success story, recently suffered a coup. In Europe, the consequences were milder, but the defeats still real. Students in the UK lost their fight against austerity. The EU kept its fiscal pressure on Greece, a country now led by the Harvard-educated hard-right of the New Democracy Party. In Spain, the third-largest political party in parliament is the fascist Vox.
Most uprisings fail, of course, if overthrow of a regime is the measure, and governments are sturdier machines than protesters give them credit for. Protest camps are no match for the armed force of the state, as in Egypt, let alone aerial bombardment, as in Syria. In Occupy’s case, though, despite the police repression it faced, I blame its failure on the movement’s amorphous, leaderless nature as well. In an essay written in the summer of 2019, after mass protests brought down Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo Rosselló, the socialist intellectual Rafael Bernabecelebrated the uprising, but warned of the dangers of “anti-politics”: a worship of seemingly spontaneous mass action that leads people to discount the importance of coordinating structures and of political programs, and to dismiss electoral politics as always suspect and tainted. Without these, the same old scoundrels stay in power forever.
I agree. Occupy grew fast, but it was not solid. Its strengths were also its weaknesses. The openness allowed certain grifters to ride its fame all the way to Davos. Its wild creativity let independent projects use Occupy’s name and then collapse into unfathomable disorder. General assemblies gave many people their first opportunity to be heard in a democratic forum, but they often went in circles until only the most infuriating participants remained. The lack of an agreed list of demands meant there was no way to know if the movement had won anything. Without practical gains, most people ended up drifting back into their regular lives—assuming regular lives were still an option for them.
And yet. Many were too eager to bury Occupy without praising it. Many projects that came out of Zuccotti still reverberate today. When Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of New York in October 2012, Occupy volunteers were there to clean up the wreckage. Across the country, Occupy Our Homes activists continued to defend hundreds of homeowners from foreclosure. Both actions prefigure the mutual aid and anti-eviction defense efforts we see today. Occupy veterans such as Astra Taylor established the Rolling Jubilee, an organization that to date has bought and forgiven more than $31 million of personal debt—an initiative that has since been copied by John Oliver.
Even greater was the change Occupy wrought to the larger culture. With its slogan “We are the 99 percent,” Occupy shattered the American taboo against talking about class. It made Americans see that their poverty came not from their own stupidity or weakness, as they’d always been told, but was the result of a system rigged for the benefit of a very few. And it showed them that the system could be contested. Occupy spoke plainly about class conflict, in a way that opened the door for the presidential campaigns of Bernie Sanders—as historic in their way as they’d once have seemed improbable.
Lastly, there is the alchemy a movement works upon its participants. Occupy may be dead, but occupiers are very much alive. Occupy taught thousands of people the tactics of protest: to write the Lawyers Guild phone number on their stomachs, to pour milk in their eyes after they’ve been pepper-sprayed, to use their bodies to shut down an overpass, to say nothing to the police. It taught them grit, courage, and skepticism of authority. Those people did not go away.
In 2014, after a white police officer named Darren Wilson murdered a Black teenager named Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, antiracist protests broke out across the country; in New York, my friends from Occupy were on the streets. I hesitate to compare the Movement for Black Lives to Occupy Wall Street: with the former, there is no shortage of demands, or of leaders; its protesters are braver and more militant, and the crackdowns they face far more extreme. But there is some enduring kinship between the two movements.
One night of that hot 2020 summer that followed the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, I sat in New York’s City Hall Park, which had been taken over by a new protest camp. #OccupyCityHall began as an action by Black activists in progressive nonprofits—though they soon struggled for control of it with numerous young, unaffiliated, mostly Black and brown protesters. For me, it could not but evoke memories of the long-lost #OccupyWallStreet. Over several weeks, I stopped by every day to clean, deliver home-cooked meals, or just to hang out with other people after those miserable months of the pandemic lockdown.
At Occupy City Hall, there was the familiar infrastructure—of media tents, libraries, clinics, free stores, and kitchens (albeit better done)—and much of the park was given over to the artistic memorialization of Black people killed by the cops. The nonprofits did have a demand: to cut a billon dollars from the police budget. Many protesters called more ambitiously for the police to be abolished. Finally, the City Council voted on its budget. A billion dollars were not cut. A few nights later, the nonprofits pulled out. The cops were, as ever, primed for attack.
I watched this new generation of protesters build barricades out of the city’s detritus. Behind the barricades, bikers arranged their bikes like shields. Then came rows of young people with locked arms, wearing hard hats and goggles. Behind the frail safety of these defenses, silhouetted against graffiti-covered statues, the entire park seemed to be dancing. And why not? They were young and beautiful and had just survived a season of plague. By the next summer, a centrist Democrat, a former police officer who ran on a platform of law and order, would win the primary to become the next mayor of New York, but that night belonged to the protesters once more. “Whose streets? Our streets!”
Beyond the cultural successes and practical failures of Occupy Wall Street, and the arguments about what its legacy has been, I think back to this one, simple demand. These streets on which we stand are not private property, the preserve of the wealthy, mere arteries for conspicuous consumption, patrolled by their goons. They are ours, they are the public square that belongs to all of us. And that goes for the country, too.
Molly Crabapple is the author of Drawing Blood and, with Marwan Hisham, of Brothers of the Gun. Her artwork is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art.
This article is dedicated to the memory of David Graeber, who helped found Occupy.
Great article. But one thing I did not understand. The author says that the capitalist class, in order to maintain its rule, oppresses the workers, divides them and uses racism, fascism, patriarchy and so on. The workers must avoid this ploy of the capitalist and remain united, that is, they must oppose racism, fascism, bigotry or anything else that divides them. If so, what should be the attitude of the workers towards those whose struggle is to eradicate racism or patriarchy, to whom the most important and fundamental issue is racism or patriarchal problems? Should the workers support such people and such movements or should they criticize them and show the people that the real, important and fundamental issue is capitalism, not racism or patriarchy and that those who only support their struggle Restricting themselves to the elimination of racism or the end of patriarchy, they are in fact falling prey to the capitalist ploy of dividing the workers, they should avoid it and the goal of their struggle against racism or patriarchy should be directed at any race or gender. Should not be made but the capitalist class and its system should be held responsible?