The Third International after Lenin

Monday, October 3, 2011

OWS: Contradictions? What did we expect?

Ideological notes

by Doug Henwood

I know this will prompt more rebukes for trying to impose an anachronistic old left on the spontaneously new, but someone's got to do it.

I read this quote in the New York Times the other day. I know that that may not be the go-to medium for reports on Occupy Wall Street, but it's not unrepresentative of some of the things I've seen and heard first hand from that quarter:

"This is not about left versus right," said the photographer, Christopher Walsh, 25, from Bushwick, Brooklyn. "It's about hierarchy versus autonomy."

Autonomy in this context sounds like a hipster version of bourgeois individualism. I've also seen a bit of Ron Paul-ish "end the Fed" stuff around OWS, which is a topic in itself, something I'll take up in the near future. But I don't want to get that wonky just now. I just want to make a simple point. Occupy Wall Street is hardly about autonomy. It's about living out solidarity and about attracting people to a movement. They're living a collectivity, even if they're not articulating it that way.

I suspect the problem is that three decades of neoliberalism have destroyed any available vocabulary for solidarity. My guess is that most of the people in Zuccotti Park were born after Thatcher and Reagan took office. There's no such thing as society, as the Lady said. But there is, and we need more of it.


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