The sweetest and most generous person in the world.
Excerpt of “Liberation from the Affluent Society”
by Herbert Marcuse (1967)
We all know the fatal prejudice, practically from the beginning, in the Labour Movement against the intelligentsia as a catalyst of historical change. It is time to ask whether this prejudice against the intellectuals, and the inferiority complex of the intellectuals resulting from it, was not an essential factor in the development of the capitalist as well as the socialist societies: in the development and weakening of the opposition. The intellectuals usually went out to organize the others, to organize in the communities. They certainly did not use the potentiality they had to organize themselves, to organize among themselves not only on a regional, not only on a national, but on an international level. That is, in my view, today one of the most urgent tasks.
Can we say that the intelligentsia is the agent of historical change? Can we say that the intelligentsia today is a revolutionary class? The answer I would give is: No, we cannot say that. But we can say, and I think we must say, that the intelligentsia has a decisive preparatory function, not more; and I suggest that this is plenty. By itself it is not and cannot be a revolutionary class, but it can become the catalyst, and it has a preparatory function – certainly not for the first time, that is in fact the way all revolution starts – but more, perhaps, today than ever before. Because – and for this too we have a very material and very concrete basis – it is from this group that the holders of decisive positions in the productive process will be recruited, in the future even more than hitherto. I refer to what we may call the increasingly scientific character of the material process of production, by virtue of which the role of the intelligentsia changes. It is the group from which the decisive holders of decisive positions will be recruited: scientists, researchers, technicians, engineers, even psychologists – because psychology will continue to be a socially necessary instrument, either of servitude or of liberation.
This class, this intelligentsia has been called the new working class. I believe this term is at best premature. Its members are – and this we should not forget – today the pet beneficiaries of the established system. But they are also at the very source of the glaring contradictions between the liberating capacity of science and its repressive and enslaving use. To activate the repressed and manipulated contradiction, to make it operate as a catalyst of change, that is one of the main tasks of the opposition today. It remains and must remain a political task.
Education is our job, but education in a new sense. Being theory as well as practice, political practice, education today is more than discussion, more than teaching and learning and writing. Unless and until it goes beyond the classroom, until and unless it goes beyond the college, the school, the university, it will remain powerless. Education today must involve the mind and the body, reason and imagination, the intellectual and the instinctual needs, because our entire existence has become the subject/object of politics, of social engineering. I emphasize, it is not a question of making the schools and universities, of making the educational system political. The educational system is political already. I need only remind you of the incredible degree to which (I am speaking of the United States) universities are involved in huge research grants (the nature of which you know in many cases) by the government and the various quasi-governmental agencies.
The educational system is political, so it is not we who want to politicize the educational system. What we want is a counter-policy against the established policy. And in this sense we must meet this society on its own ground of total mobilization. We must confront indoctrination in servitude with indoctrination in freedom. We must each of us generate in ourselves, and try to generate in others, the instinctual need for a life without fear, without brutality, and without stupidity. And we must see that we can generate the instinctual and intellectual revulsion against the values of an affluence which spreads aggressiveness and suppression throughout the world.
A User’s Guide to Closing the Casino
This text concludes the Three Crises series with an exploration of the collapsing Western middle classes, our entanglement in finance capital, our relations to the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, our inexorable proletarianization and revolutionary potentials. Happy New Year, gentle reader. De te fabula narratur.
I want to begin, not with a curse but with a very beautiful convergence, one that is widely held to be real, but shrouded in mystery for millions of people. I’m talking about the “movement of the squares” unfolding on both sides of the North/South divide. And here’s the question: What is the hidden link between the middle-class and precarious movements against the dictates of finance capital – Occupy Wall Street and the European Indignados – and the far more perilous struggles to end dictatorships in North Africa and the Middle East? What relationship could possibly be sustained between the regions that concentrate global wealth and those from which labor, resources and interest payments are relentlessly extracted?
Immanuel Wallerstein claims that the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa pit two historical groups against each other. One he calls the “1968 current,” which consists of non-violent, directly democratic grassroots movements that challenge all forms of exclusion and abuses of power, in the name of an equality that includes respect for fundamental differences. The other group consists of people who oppose such movements and seek in whatever way to capture, contain and neutralize them – and in North Africa and the Middle East, that chiefly means holders of oil wealth and US-backed dictators. For Wallerstein, today’s uprisings are a continuation, after decades of latency, of “the world-revolution of 1968,” which lasted by his account from 1966 to 1970.1
If this is true, then the people out in the streets today at least share a history. Because the world-revolution of 1968 also took place in Europe and in the United States, where it revolved crucially around solidarity and direct cooperation between Northern middle-class students and intellectuals and oppressed people in the South – which in the US meant not only Vietnam and Latin America, but also the South of our own country. Whites went to Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi to work with the civil rights movement. Oppressed minority groups, especially the Black Panthers, read Frantz Fanon and other anti-colonial thinkers, and came to designate themselves as Third World peoples. The New Left sought to express its support for the Vietnamese revolutionaries by “bringing the war back home.” A vast, unruly and often failed experiment in cross-class, cross-border collaboration defined the “1968 current.” But is this historical memory enough to explain the convergence of direct-democratic practices in the movement of the squares?
I don’t think it is. To uncover the more complex grounds on which we meet, it’s necessary to look back to the reactionary surge that followed 1968, ultimately giving rise to neoliberalism. It began in the US with the election of Richard Nixon. He ran on a law-and-order platform, and his administration crushed domestic dissidents with covert operations, legislated “spatial deconcentration” programs for inner-city gentrification, invented SWAT teams for attacks on the ghettos, launched the prison-industrial complex and offered support to the military regime of Pinochet in Chile, opening the door to the coordinated repression of the Latin American left by Operation Condor in the later 1970s. Nixon also presided over the settlement of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war and the OPEC embargo. That led on the one hand to the US stabilization of Egypt (with military aid formalized in 1979 as part of the Camp David accords), and on the other, to the new petroleum prices and the introduction of a capital circuit linking Western banks, engineering firms and armament makers to the most oppressive oil-exporting regimes. The whole process cemented the position of authoritarian leaders in the Arab world and provided the cash for a major round of predatory lending to developing countries across the planet. The dictators that have recently fallen in North Africa and the Middle East date from this period. Thus both domestically and internationally, the 1970s saw the installation of a police and military order that sought, and still seeks, to capture and contain the “1968 current.”
Not If But When
The new booklet by Platform London, entitled “Not If But When: Culture Beyond Oil,” is available for free download here. For well over a decade this art-activist group has been informing the public of the vast ecological damage attendant on the operations of the two British oil majors, BP and Shell. Platform’s recent campaigns have focused on BP’s sponsorship of the arts – what you might call “culture washing.” See the video above for a response!
The secret is out: less than 1 percent of our planet’s population is destroying our world for their profit.
This shocking fact has been known for as long as any thinking person can remember. It is the chief characteristic of the political-economic system known as neoliberalism. But now something has changed. This truth can be stated in public.
On the street and in the media, it can now be openly said that we have a ruling class, with all the abuses of power that the very existence of such a class entails. The disaster of Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, like the more recent Chevron oil spill off the coast of Brazil, counts among those abuses.
Is it not time to begin asking what other truths have remained unspeakable? Here is one of the most obvious:
Our consent is vital to the rule of the 1 percent.
In every arena of daily life, particularly where knowledgeable bodies gather, the 1 percent disburses huge sums of money in the form of what we may as well call propaganda, in order to ensure the continuity of their rule. They spend billions of dollars to construct, in our heads and hearts, what they call “the social license to operate.” This is the function of elite sponsorship of the arts. Shall we not learn to say that in public too?
Are Shakespeare and Leonardo going to matter when the earth has been ruined by climate change? Is French impressionism beautiful when people are starving in the street? Do you want your art to become a tool of the corporate elites?
If the answer is no, then Platform London has a great suggestion:
Withdraw your support from the sponsorship of the 1 percent.
The social movements that have appeared across the world this year give courage to everyone. They encourage us to speak up. To ask why things must be done in the way they are done today.
Platform London is one of my great inspirations. Check it out. Let’s stop the pollution of our planet. Let’s end the rule of the 1 percent.
Nathan Brown socks it to Linda Katehi
Watch the police brutalize the students and retreat in shame.
Then please sign the petition here.
18 November 2011
Open Letter to Chancellor Linda P. B. Katehi
Linda P.B. Katehi,
I am a junior faculty member at UC Davis. I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of English, and I teach in the Program in Critical Theory and in Science & Technology Studies. I have a strong record of research, teaching, and service. I am currently a Board Member of the Davis Faculty Association. I have also taken an active role in supporting the student movement to defend public education on our campus and throughout the UC system. In a word: I am the sort of young faculty member, like many of my colleagues, this campus needs. I am an asset to the University of California at Davis.
You are not.
I write to you and to my colleagues for three reasons:
1) to express my outrage at the police brutality which occurred against students engaged in peaceful protest on the UC Davis campus today
2) to hold you accountable for this police brutality
3) to demand your immediate resignation
Today you ordered police onto our campus to clear student protesters from the quad. These were protesters who participated in a rally speaking out against tuition increases and police brutality on UC campuses on Tuesday—a rally that I organized, and which was endorsed by the Davis Faculty Association. These students attended that rally in response to a call for solidarity from students and faculty who were bludgeoned with batons, hospitalized, and arrested at UC Berkeley last week. In the highest tradition of non-violent civil disobedience, those protesters had linked arms and held their ground in defense of tents they set up beside Sproul Hall. In a gesture of solidarity with those students and faculty, and in solidarity with the national Occupy movement, students at UC Davis set up tents on the main quad. When you ordered police outfitted with riot helmets, brandishing batons and teargas guns to remove their tents today, those students sat down on the ground in a circle and linked arms to protect them.
Without any provocation whatsoever, other than the bodies of these students sitting where they were on the ground, with their arms linked, police pepper-sprayed students. Students remained on the ground, now writhing in pain, with their arms linked.
What happened next?
Police used batons to try to push the students apart. Those they could separate, they arrested, kneeling on their bodies and pushing their heads into the ground. Those they could not separate, they pepper-sprayed directly in the face, holding these students as they did so. When students covered their eyes with their clothing, police forced open their mouths and pepper-sprayed down their throats. Several of these students were hospitalized. Others are seriously injured. One of them, forty-five minutes after being pepper-sprayed down his throat, was still coughing up blood.
This is what happened. You are responsible for it.
* 3:36 a.m. Kitchen tent reported teargassed. Police moving in with zip cuffs.
* 3:33 a.m. Bulldozers moving in
* 3:16 a.m. Occupiers linking arms around riot police
* 3:15 a.m. NYPD destroying personal items. Occupiers prevented from leaving with their possessions.
* 3:13 a.m. NYPD deploying sound cannon
* 3:08 a.m. heard on livestream: “they’re bringing in the hoses.”
* 3:05 a.m. NYPD cutting down trees in Liberty Square
* 2:55 a.m. NYC council-member Ydanis Rodríguez arrested and bleeding from head.
* 2:44 a.m. Defiant occupiers barricaded Liberty Square kitchen
* 2:44 a.m. NYPD destroys OWS Library. 5,000 donated books in dumpster.
* 2:42 a.m. Brooklyn Bridge confirmed closed
* 2:38 a.m. 400-500 marching north to Foley Square
* 2:32 a.m. All subways but R shut down
* 2:29 a.m. Press helicopters evicted from airspace. NYTimes reporter arrested.
* 2:22 a.m. Frontpage coverage from New York Times
* 2:15 a.m. Occupiers who have been dispersed are regrouping at Foley Square
* 2:10 a.m. Press barred from entering Liberty Square
* 2:07 a.m. Pepper spray deployed — reports of at least one reporter sprayed
* 2:03 a.m. Massive Police Presence at Canal and Broadway
* 1:43 a.m. Helicopters overhead.
* 1:38 a.m. Unconfirmed reports of snipers on rooftops.
* 1:34 a.m. CBS News Helicopter Livestream
* 1:27 a.m. Unconfirmed reports that police are planning to sweep everyone.
* 1:20 a.m. Subway stops are closed.
* 1:20 a.m. Brooklyn bridge is closed.
* 1:20 a.m. Occupiers chanting “This is what a police state looks like.”
* 1:20 a.m. Police are in riot gear.
* 1:20 a.m. Police are bringing in bulldozers.
We Will Reoccupy!
Police brutalize UC Berkeley students on November 9
Peacefully and non-violently, the students attempted to set up an Occupy Wall St encampment on Sproul Plaza, right exactly where (among so many others) Mario Savio spoke in the 1960s. And look at how odious the machine is today! I sent the following letter to the despicable Chancellor Birgeneau who should resign now, both for the indignity of this violence and for his own lack of any minimal respect for the democracy which these students have somehow learned to practice, despite him and his peers: the 1% who rule us and treat us like dogs.
Chancellor Birgeneau -
As a native Californian and UC Berkeley PhD graduate, I too have a stake in UCB. I follow closely what happens there. Today I read the following statement that you made to the extended UCB community:
“It is unfortunate that some protesters chose to obstruct the police by linking arms and forming a human chain to prevent the police from gaining access to the tents. This is not non-violent civil disobedience. By contrast, some of the protesters chose to be arrested peacefully; they were told to leave their tents, informed that they would be arrested if they did not, and indicated their intention to be arrested. They did not resist arrest or try physically to obstruct the police officers’ efforts to remove the tent. These protesters were acting in the tradition of peaceful civil disobedience, and we honor them.”
This is ONE OF THE MOST HYPOCRITICAL STATEMENTS I have ever read. The idea that linking arms is not non-violent civil disobedience flies so far in the face of common sense that it is sufficient to condemn you entirely as an administrator. Far from honoring anyone, you have cast immense shame on yourself and have committed a physical and verbal assault every aspiration and ideal that the people of California have invested in OUR university.
In your actions one clearly sees that you choose to represent and enact a police state rather than a community of democratic debate. If you believe that the civil disobedience of Henry David Thoreau and Martin Luther King is reducible to blind obedience to the orders of men wielding clubs, then you have severely misunderstood the meaning and power of the civic philosophies which have been elaborated and taught within OUR public university. Such a profound lack of understanding disqualifies you from the position you hold, and I call on you to step down from it. No other action could remove the shame of the statement you have made.
In the absence of your immediate resignation, I sincerely hope that one day soon I will have a chance to link arms along with thousands or tens of thousands of others to protest the tyranny that your administration manifests.
Political Crisis in the Keynesian-Fordist Economy
The fourth session of the collaborative seminar THREE CRISES: 30s – 70s – Today was held at Mess Hall on Saturday Oct. 29 — another great discussion with an amazing lecture on the San Francisco State Strike by Sarah Lewison. The seminar materials, readings, recordings and a pdf version of this text are available here. The archive of readings is particularly good for this session.
The second major crisis of the 20th century began in the late 1960s and stretched all the way to the early ‘80s. It was an overaccumulation crisis, caused by the spread of Fordist production methods to Western Europe and Japan, resulting in a saturation of global markets and a decline of the profit rate in the mass manufacturing industries. It was also a crisis of Keynesian deficit financing: repeated attempts to stimulate the economy through counter-cyclical spending gave rise to stagflation, or the combination of stagnant growth and ever-increasing inflation. The period was punctuated by what are usually seen as economic events: the onset of wage-price spirals in 1966; the breakdown of the Bretton-Woods exchange-rate system in 1971-1973; the two oil shocks of 1973 and 1979; and finally, the Volcker interest-rate shock and government-induced recession of 1979-82, which decimated entire sectors of industry and ushered in the era of financially driven neoliberalism. Yet none of these events were simply economic. The crisis of Keynesian Fordism was intensely political. It came to a climax in advance of the major economic trends, when seemingly isolated struggles from around the world suddenly revealed their interrelatedness, if not their unity. And this time the strictly political aspects of the crisis were not far away in Europe, as they had been during Great Depression. Instead they converged on the United States.
To grasp this convergence, consider a series of posters printed in Cuba from 1967 onward by the OSPAAAL, or the Organization of Solidarity with the Peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America. The first shows a white policeman threatening a black protester with a club. The text is the word “NOW!” – referring to the civil rights slogan “Freedom Now,” used by the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee in the US. Another from 1971 shows an upraised black fist and reads “Free all political prisoners Solidarity with the AfroAmerican People.” It commemorates August 18, declared a day of solidarity after the Watts riots in 1965. A third, apparently from 1967, is the most striking. It shows the face of a black man with a machine gun framed within the borders of the United States, with a text reading: “We will destroy imperialism from the outside/They will destroy it from the inside.” For Third World revolutionaries galvanized by the escalation of the war in Vietnam, the most encouraging signs on the international horizon, beyond the resistance of the Vietnamese themselves, were undoubtedly the great uprisings of Detroit and Newark in the summer of 1967, followed a year later by a surge of urban and campus unrest that appeared to be tearing the US superpower apart on its home ground.
Refuse to let them be the ruling class anymore
For any of my European friends who might not know, Republican Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin got elected with the support of the right-wing billionaire Koch brothers. He is pursuing the agenda of the American Legislative Exchange Council, which seeks among other things to entirely get rid of collective bargaining rights for public employees. He wants to cut $900 million from school budgets next year as part of a general austerity plan for the state. Massive protests against Walker’s anti-union law were a prefiguration of today’s Occupy Wall Street movement. In a strange and dark twist, Wisconsin — which was formerly known as a very progressive state, and still is for half the people living there — just passed a law permitting the carrying of concealed weapons. In the US where a very deep left-right split is now emerging, this kind of law is now the norm. However, in Wisconsin it will explicitly be legal to carry concealed weapons in the State Capitol building. What can that possibly mean?
Some people in Chicago do not wait to find out what is at the end of the ultra-rightwing tunnel. When Walker came to a rich businessmen’s club named, bizzarely, the Union League — which is just a few steps away from the Board of Trade and Federal Reserve Bank where the Occupy Chicago protests are ongoing — a group of Teachers’ Union members and affiliates of Stand Up Chicago bought tickets to the event. And then when Scott Walker began to speak… well, just watch the video! One of the most fabulous bits of direct action I have ever seen!
Meanwhile here in Chicago, as the protesters said, “corporations and bought-off politicians clamor to find ways to grant a $100 million tax break to the Mercantile Exchange, one of the most profitable companies in the state, while social services are being slashed, while workers’ pensions are threatened, and homelessness, poverty, and joblessness continue to rise.”
Sometimes you get beautiful messages from distant places, sent by people you don’t know but would like to meet. This is one of them. Gracias, Veronica Cordeira. Gracias, Ricardo Greene, y suerte con el proyecto! –> http://www.cineducacion.cl
Share your view
In April 2011, Chilean students started a national social movement aimed to achieve a free of charge and better education for everyone. Issues such as profit-oriented educational institutions and unequal access to opportunities were among the urgent-but-silenced topics they brought to public debate; through them, they wanted to challenge not only the educational system but the whole socio-economic model the country adopted during Pinochet’s dictatorship. According to the last national survey, their demands are currently supported by 80% of the population, revealing a widely spread social unrest amongst Chileans.
Standing from an active and engaged position with this social movement, we at Overlap -a Laboratory of Audiovisual Anthropology- have created a project called “CinEducación”, which can be translated both as “Film+Education” and “Without Education”. It is a collective digital platform designed to be used as a space of information, creation and public debate regarding education. The project was initially inspired by May 68′, when in the midst of the student revolts a group of French filmmakers -Godard, Resnais, Garrell and Chris Marker, from whom we have already received his active support- came out on the street to document the events. They produced short audiovisual essays, which later were projected under the name of “Cinétracts”. Like those filmmakers, we want to align ourselves with the student’s demands, but in addition, we’d like to take advantage of the internet and the ease of access to cameras in order to widen the call to the whole population, and not just to professionals. Despite the number of renowned filmmakers already engaged with the project (over 20, including Patricio Guzmán, Gael García Bernal, Pablo Larraín, Ignacio Agüero, Willem Dafoe and Cristián Jiménez), our main purpose is to open a broad space where every creation is welcome and valued, and where no audiovisual experience is required.
We would like to invite you to be a part of this collective platform, sharing your own view about what is happening in Chile and around the world regarding education. It doesn’t matter where you live, which language you speak, if you are a professional filmmaker or a citizen armed with a phone camera; what matters is having something to say and to use audiovisual language to share it with us. Animations, collages, productions, voice over, text and all imaginable resources will be welcome. CinEducación is a collaborative project which starts in Chile and is opened to diverse approaches, so take your camera and speak up!
How to participate?
Simply produce a video of between 1 and 4 minutes, upload it to youtube or vimeo and register on http://www.cineducacion.cl. On our website you will be able to watch, comment and share all the material we’ve received. Starting next December, we’ll allow anyone to make a film by selecting, sorting and cuting the shared videos, thus challenging the idea of a unique and vertical editor. We are also organizing a series of free screenings at public spaces and cultural and educational centers, and next year we will produce an interactive DVD and a 90 minute documentary film with selected videos, which will be screened on movie theaters and sent to international film festivals. All published material will be licensed under Creative Commons, and we are currently working on getting funds to open an English version of the online platform.
In addition to inviting you to collaborate by sending videos, we encourage you to work with us by spreading the word on this project between friends and contacts.
If you have any questions do not hesitate to contact us.
We look forward to having you on board.
http://www.cineducación.cl / @cineducacion
Coordinator -OVERLAP, Laboratory of Audiovisual Anthropology
more info: http://www.occupyoakland.org
definitely see the incredible brutality of the Oakland police who sparked all this
Unlike a traditional strike, the idea of a metropolitan strike is this: union members who can collectively cease working and citizenry who can either skip out or don’t have a job come together in a massive presence on the streets that effectively shuts down the whole metropolitan area, so that everyone who wants is free to join the protest. In Paris in 1995 this was done for an entire month with the transportation workers on strike, soon followed by municipal and government employees. In that way business as usual is disrupted, the city becomes a social and political space, peoples’ lives change, established values are brought into question and better ones are created on the spot, through reciprocity and solidarity. I was there, I walked and rode a bicycle and talked with strangers on the street and it transformed all our lives, for the better. Pushed back the right-wing gov’t too.
Could it be done in Oakland? No one as yet knows, but the list of striking unions is lengthening. A recent “Declaration of solidarity with neighborhood reclamations” (copy below) promises support from the Occupy movement for taking over some of the huge amounts of disused buildings around the city. With the mayor weakened by the shocking abuses of the police force, there is a chance for people to reclaim urban space and set up new ways of inhabiting the shattered urban fabric of neoliberal Oakland. It may be that this working class city, with its strategic docks and its large and angry and militant multi-ethnic population, is not only ready to liberate itself from an out-of-control police force, but also to liberate us all from apathy and impotence, by showing that people power exists and that direct political action can change your life. These are impressive times. It could even be that in the words of Leonard Cohen, “Democracy is comin’ / to the U – S – A…”
Declaration of Solidarity with Neighborhood Reclamations
Occupy Oakland, in solidarity with the Occupy movement and with the
local community, has established the principle of claiming for open use
the open space that has been kept from us. We are committed to
helping this practice continue and grow. Here in Oakland, thousands of
buildings owned by city, banks, and corporations stand idle and
abandoned. At the same time social services such as child and
healthcare, education, libraries and community spaces are being
defunded and eliminated.
Occupy Oakland supports the efforts of people in all Oakland
neighborhoods to reclaim abandoned properties for use to meet their
own immediate needs. Such spaces are already being occupied and
squatted unofficially by the dispossessed, the marginalized, by many of
the very people who have joined together here in Oscar Grant Plaza to
make this a powerful and diverse movement.
We commit to providing political and material support to neighborhood
reclamations, and supporting them in the face of eviction threats or
police harassment. In solidarity with the global occupation movement,
we encourage the transformation of abandoned spaces into resource
centers toward meeting urgent community needs that the current
economic system cannot and will not provide.
Chris Hedges, the former NY Times war correspondent who took a stand against the war in Iraq, knows more about what’s wrong with this country and is more articulate about it than any other person alive. In this interview he admits that he never imagined what it would take to actually change the system. He recognizes the strength of a movement that can be leaderless because it is based on principles that all can uphold and that no one can appropriate as personal property and power. Such a movement can grow without being instrumentalized, coopted, reduced to the travesty that defines our totally corrupt society.
Listen to this guy. Chris Hedges has expressed the blackest version of our common fate that I ever heard anyone put into words. Today he is optimistic. What he sees, what hundreds of thousands of people see, is that we now have a chance to bring down a system whose irrational greed has alienated almost everyone. For him, a cop in a blue uniform is just another member of the 99% who will someday soon be unable to do his job anymore — unable to repress us any further.
Yes, some cops are killers, that is the reality. I held a sign today in Chicago asking “Why do police kill citizens?” I went to the Hilton Hotel on Michigan Avenue where a gala dinner was being held for police chiefs around the world. Undoubtedly they exchanged their experiences to plan for the repression here during the upcoming meeting of the G-20. In Chicago 17 people have been killed by the police this year. It’s a race war and up to now, no one says a word. But not anymore, and we will not forget Troy Davis. The system that now drives everyone into poverty and that exacts its victims from among the poorest is now becoming nakedly visible in its injustice, even to the people who are directly charged with upholding its laws. If Chris Hedges thinks this thing is gonna fly, so do I. If he thinks we can break the system’s legitimacy to the point where the police lay down their guns, then I want to try it. Let’s take a historic chance, and spend the next few years driving the 1% out of power.
Right now they are arresting hundreds of people in Grant Park in Chicago. Next time we will be thousands and they will not be able to do it anymore.
Keynesian Fordism as Global Social Compact
Last Saturday October 15 we held the third session of the autonomous seminar THREE CRISES: 30s – 70s – Today, with presentations by Brian Holmes, Jerome Gand and Heather Marie. After which we all made signs and went out to Occupy!
My text begins with the disjunct between market-oriented production and social reproduction that led to the Great Depression. It then explores how the US economy was finally stabilized through the total mobilization of WWII.
Three sections follow the development of the new hegemonic order inside the country and then throughout the non-communist world of the postwar period (roughly, 1945-73). The first deals with the organization of production; the second, with the shaping of a global monetary and military order; and the third, with the notion of “effective demand” and the feedback loops of consumer society. The point is to reveal the deep structures of integration and neutralization that put an end to the progressive social transformations of the 1930s, and established the United States as a liberal empire.
A final section, entitled “Hegemony and Dreamwork,” briefly suggests how a rebellious painter associated with the social realist schools of the political left, Jackson Pollock, could ultimately become an icon of cosmopolitan abstractionism – with a little help from a New York art critic and the CIA.
The seminar texts, readings and recordings can all be found at the Mess Hall site linked above. Because this text is long and intricate, I decided to make it available here as an illustrated pdf rather than a web page. Here it is:
175 arrested for breathing together
Gene, I am gonna make this a kind of open letter, it’s more urgent to write publicly and privately at the same time. I’ll write to you what I’ll publish for everyone.
Urgent means last night, downtown in the park on Congress and Michigan, where a couple thousand people had marched from the corner of the Federal Reserve and the Board of Trade. Urgent means moving in public, speaking with and listening to people you don’t know: feeling the necessity of this movement as the tents go up and the word goes out that the idea is to stay, take this place, create a political heart that beats in this cold city of the corporations.
A group of us came direct from our seminar on Three Crises: 30s–70s–Today. We knew when we began planning it six months ago that “today” was no joke, this is a major crisis of capitalism, the kind that comes once every forty or fifty years. Only in a major crisis does the basis of the system nakedly show: exploitation, corruption, exclusion, domination. And only then, it seems, do all kinds of people think spontaneously and together, including with their bodies and their feet. These are moments that some of us prepare for, the now-time. We opened the seminar on September 17. Only that evening would we learn that the New York occupation had begun. Yes, it’s a good time, an important time, actual possibilities in the USA. At last there is a chance to do something, on the street, in writing, in art, in organizing, these are the days.
Last night was Saturday, and just a few days ago, on Monday, it was even bigger. We were thousands more in the city, coming in from five directions to converge on the Modern Wing of the Art Institute where the futures traders association were convening for a high-class drink. “Shame, Shame, Shame on you” roared the crowd from below. It was the teachers’ unions and the SEIU and the old lefties and the young Occupy Chicago types, a beautiful and powerful composition of social forces that made me feel the streets alive beneath my feet for the first time in years — the years since I returned to the USA. In such a demo the mothers come out with their kids (like Rozalinda and Liana). There is every kind of face and every age, I love it.
I had just gotten back from New York on that Monday afternoon, so I rushed to the foot of the Chicago Board of Trade where the crowd filled a plaza the size of Zuccotti Park aka Liberty Square. It was not so dense as in New York, but the drums and brass orchestras filled that little canyon between tall builidings. We looked up at the blankness of the place where the traders work with their machines, and then we took to the street. I wasn’t with Claire because she had decided to get symbolically arrested in front of the museum that lends its name (probably regretfully) to the school where she teaches. That’s exactly where things are at in the United States today: corrupt, totally corrupt, to the point where no one escapes. To not know it you have to make an effort, and receive a payoff. Which is the norm, the crushing norm. We knew it on Monday, not only because of seeing the traders up there in their glassy rooftop cafe, but also because of seeing the cops coming linked-arms up the street, pushing us off the street, with those horse-mounted bone-crackers right behind them. Resistance is futile. Shame, shame, shame on us! We have nothing in this country, no power, no public space, no free speech, no equality. “Police partout, justice nulle part” I would have said in an earlier life, but never have I seen it so true.
So there we were last night, second time in a week, at this big-small demo. Big for us in here in Zombieland USA where such things do not happen. Small against the backdrop of global trade, trillion-dollar collapses, transnational news ninjas, Presidents of Planet Fear. It’s about the courage of starting small, no? And the courage of not staying small. Avoiding the traps of manipulated violence is one way people hope to make this a lot bigger.
What I like in the Occupy movements is that people speak, individuals, lost souls emerging out of their labyrinths of passion and loss and deep disorientation, with a unique chance to speak as their only way out, their only thread. We had already been on this little plaza where General Assemblies are held, also on that night after the big Monday demo when all the union buses had already gone away. It was only maybe five hundreds then, a radical nakedness of co-presence with the huge skyscrapers at our backs. Some kid from nowhere who hadn’t made it, a young drunk who wasn’t proud, he told us not to repeat with the people’s mic because he wasn’t clever. But he knew exactly what he wanted to say. It was “dead end, no chance, doors closed, please try somewhere else”: what happens when there’s no place for you in the system. It’s strange to feel myself, over fifty years old, with accomplishments and self-discipline and a name that others recognize, reverberated in the speech of this honest kid. What it means to me: dead end for practical idealism, no chance for real cooperation, doors closed to care and solidarity, try somewhere else for your humanity. There’s no place for people like me in this system, that’s how I feel, stripped bare by the crisis like all the rest. It’s because the 1% have blocked all vision of anything beyond what they can grab, and that’s practically everything, the whole cookie.
The 1% is a name for the ruling class, it’s so obvious that the people who know don’t say it to the cameras. Everyone is understanding it as they connect the numbers to the lived experiences. We will have to find words, better words, but before speaking them out loud let’s get bigger.
The Tea Party started here in Chicago when some trader-turned reporter at the Mercantile Exchange started ranting about how all the people with repoed homes were just “losers.” This guy was saying class hatred on national television, he was shaking with excitement because he was really saying “dump the poor.” That’s true TV these days.
Occupiers prefer the human mic that amplifies some body’s speech with dozens and hundreds of others, speech that links breath in solidarity. Not because we don’t want to be heard through our streaming media, not because we don’t want to reach the thousands of speakers and writers and public figures who take up our causes. Just don’t want corporate media-speech — or politicians which are mostly the same thing — to block out the realities of this crisis. On Saturday night at Congress and Michigan, people were grabbing the mic of each other: “I’ve been here since day 4,” “I’m from the janitor’s union,” “We want art and music in our schools,” “Like all the immigrants my name is Maria.” The point was to start a revolution in the now-time. Start tonite with the tents, right here.
Well, it soon became obvious that the choice was not to leave or spend the night right here on the square. The choice was to leave or go to jail. Half the crowd chose to go to jail, but the other half didn’t choose to leave. Resistance is not futile. Hundreds of us stayed just a few yards away for long hours to chant and witness and stare down the police. At one point some tall guy, visibly shocked at the way the arrests were going down, started yelling, “They’re dehumanizing those people.” It was shockingly true. That guy was humanizing himself, and the rest of us. He was remembering something I’m sure he never saw in public space: the respect of one living person for another.
So the news from Athens — where unlike us they really know how to stop business as usual — is that slowly it’s all collapsing, the fabric of daily life is falling apart. And yet no one has a Plan B, there is no replacement for the system. It must be like in Argentina after the 2001 uprising: people filled the streets, police barricaded the stores, some banks went down but in the end, order returned. And although many things had changed for the better, the basic order remained the same.
I think we need a Plan B. I think it takes a tremendous amount of work. My intuition is that the only effective revolution would be an ethical surge in the universities, where people think and connect that thinking to action. I mean in engineering departments, in social sciences, in the deep connection between artistic fictions, philosophical concepts, and values made into concrete machines. I mean a revolution in the pilots’ seats of knowledge that builds another society. This used to be the very idea of Left intellectuals. I don’t buy the idea that we should only riot in the street. Just one thing though: there is no more time for a “long march through the institutions.”
Some guy in New York, he said, what’s important is our questions. What an intellectual does is bear witness. No, I think a collective intellectual actually comes up with Plan B. The A team has been doing it for a long time and the results are atrocious. To question and to bear witness are essential acts on the way to another reality.
Good luck, man.
[amazing video on the hypocrisy of the government-of-the-1%]
“Once we have completed our cleanup and maintenance, we would ask that the Department assist Brookfield on an ongoing basis to ensure the safety of all those using and enjoying the Park. As you know, we have discussed this situation with you and/ or others under your command on a daily basis seeking assistance. The situation continues to worsen and we need your assistance to ensure public safety.”
These words conclude the Oct. 11 letter addressed by Richard B. “Ric” Clark to New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly (leaked letter here). Clark, representing the corporate owners, agreed with Kelly on a dawn raid to clear Zuccotti Park aka “Liberty Square,” where the Occupy Wall Street protests have been held for almost a month now. However, pressure from citizens (a petition with 300,000 signatures, NYC’s 311 service number flooded with calls) and more importantly, pressure from local officials caused him to withdraw his request, much to the chagrin of New York mayor/financial tycoon Bloomberg who was ready to move on the operation. The outstanding question is, what have Clark and the NYPD been discussing on a daily basis?
Media coverage of the park focuses on John E. Zuccotti, portrayed as an affable and generous “public servant” of Italian origins. However, like Clark today, Zuccotti was US Chairman of Brookfield Properties, the Canadian-based real-estate giant that owns the World Financial Center among endless other pieces of premium office property around the globe (for instance, they recently acquired a controlling position in the Chicago-based shopping-mall corporation, General Growth Properties). Brookfield is a major player in the real-estate operations of the transnational elite, carrying out what has been called “megagentrification,” or the process of total urban makeover for the needs of globalizing corporations. When Ric Clark engages in friendly discussions with the NYPD, it’s the 1% giving orders to its own law-enforcement arm, which as we have recently learned, it pays and controls directly.
The scandalous fact is that according to a must-read article by investigative journalist Pam Martens, Brookfield’s World Financial Center is among the clients of the NYPD’s “Paid Detail” program, which rents out off-duty policemen to whoever can afford them, for $37 an hour plus a 10% adminstrative fee going to the city. Wall Street is a major client. As Martens notes, “The taxpayer has paid for the training of the rent-a-cop, his uniform and gun, and will pick up the legal tab for lawsuits stemming from the police personnel following illegal instructions from its corporate master.” But maybe the recent $4.6 million “donation” by JPMorgan-Chase to the New York City Police Foundation will mop up any inconvenient legal fees that might be incurred through public-private police abuse?
At the heart of her article, Martens explains:
When the infamously mismanaged Wall Street firm, Lehman Brothers, collapsed on September 15, 2008, its bankruptcy filings in 2009 showed it owed money to 21 members of the NYPD’s Paid Detail Unit…. Other Wall Street firms that are known to have used the Paid Detail include Goldman Sachs, the World Financial Center complex which houses financial firms, and the New York Stock Exchange…. On September 8, 2004, Robert Britz, then President and Co-Chief Operating Officer of the New York Stock Exchange, testified as follows to the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services:
“…we have implemented new hiring standards requiring former law enforcement or military backgrounds for the security staff… We have established a 24-hour NYPD Paid Detail monitoring the perimeter of the data centers… We have implemented traffic control and vehicle screening at the checkpoints. We have installed fixed protective planters and movable vehicle barriers.”
This is what our country has come to under the rule of the 1%: militarized urban enclaves with electronic surveillance and checkpoints, where privatized police answer to the needs of financiers and global real-estate firms. Yet with all that, they have not been kick the protesters out of Liberty Square. The people are winning!
OCCUPY WALL STREET! OCCUPY EVERYWHERE!