The many deaths of art

Anton Vidokle, Gregg Horowitz,
Paul Mattick, and Yates McKee

Untitled.
Image: The “tombstone” of Kazimir Malevich,
buried beneath The Black Square (1935)

untitled2

Originally posted over at the Platypus Review. Last spring, in response to Paul Mason’s article “Does Occupy Signal the Death of Contemporary Art?,” the Platypus Affiliated Society hosted an event on the “death of art.”[1] Speakers included Julieta Aranda who was represented by Anton Vidokle, Gregg Horowitz, Paul Mattick, and Yates McKee. The discussion was moderated by Chris Mansour and was held at the New School in New York on February 23, 2013. Complete video of the event can be found online by clicking here. What follows is an edited transcript of the conversation.

Opening remarks

Anton Vidokle: These are Julieta Aranda’s opening remarks: It was with a strange sense of déjà vu that I accepted the invitation to attend yet another funeral for art. Of course I have heard about all the previous ones, but this is the first time I have been invited to attend one. As an artist it is hard to understand the compulsion to establish our sense of art history through the recurrent announcements of “the death or art.” Art seems to be constantly dying, but we never talk much about its birth. It must have been stubbornly reborn on countless occasions, since we are here again, trying to measure its vital signs. I tried to do a bit of a research into the many deaths of art — but I was quickly overwhelmed: In one way or another, we have been trying to put art in a coffin and nail it shut for the past 2,000 years.

In the 1980s — during the art market boom — there were plenty of death calls: the death of painting, the death of modernism, and also the death of postmodernism. Meanwhile, the New York art market was very much alive, fueled by the usual suspects: speculators, investors, real estate developers, social climbers, and so forth. Of course as with everything that is artificially inflated, there was an eventual market crash, and this crash had many casualties. Many galleries disappeared, and many artists’ careers dried out. But this wasn’t understood to be the death of art as it had been previously announced.

I am skeptical about the Peter and the Wolf announcements of an imminent death of art — this time in its “contemporary” incarnation. For me, it is more interesting to question the favorable disposition — almost a wish — that we have towards the demise of art. The death sentence on contemporary art comes not only because the current operative model for contemporary art is deficient. (Under the current model, meaning is often quickly emptied out from objects and images, and market artists are a renewable resource.) But this wish also comes partly because we want a new big thing, we want the new thing to come now, and we want to be the new thing while the market is booming. As Hito Steyerl, a German video artist and writer, points out in her Kracauer Lecture, “The New Flesh: Material Afterlives of Images,” “To declare something over or dead is a form of production, that purposefully kills off something in order to launch new commodities or attract attention.”[2] Continue reading

EVENT: A Year, a Month, and a Day: Looking back on Occupy [10.18.2012]

Facebook event page for “A Year, a Month, and a Day: Looking back on #Occupy.”
Google Calendar page for “A Year, a Month, and a Day: Looking back on #Occupy.”
Download the flier for “A Year, a Month, and a Day: Looking back on #Occupy.”

Thursday | October 18, 2012 | 7-9 PM

// Kimmel Center, Room 914 NYU
// 60 Washington Square S.
// New York, NY

A year, a month, and a day ago marked the official beginning of an ostensibly new, post-Obama phase of radical politics in America.

The longer prehistory of Occupy has been variously traced back to anti-austerity protests in Europe, the Arab Spring, and the London riots — with some of its roots stretching all the way to alter-globalization in the late 1990s. Occupy can be understood both in this broader context of radicalization going on throughout the world at the time and as a phenomenon in its own right.

Today Occupy stands at a crossroads. Our moment provides a brief vantage point from which one might reflect upon what the Occupy movement has been to date (its victories, its failures, its enduring impact), whether it still exists at present, and — if so so — what are the tasks that remain for it to fulfill moving forward?

A little over a month on from #S17, and only three weeks before the US elections, we in the Platypus Affiliated Society thus ask our panelists to consider:

1. What kinds of social transformation has Occupy brought about? What kinds of social conflicts remain unresolved? Where has it triumphed, and where has it fallen short?

2. How, if at all, has Occupy changed your political outlook? Has it modified the kinds of goals you hope to achieve through your activism? And has your approach toward organizing a mass movement in order to achieve these goals shifted at all?

3. What sort of new political possibilities has Occupy opened up that beforehand seemed impossible? Conversely, is there anything once felt had been politically possible at Occupy’s outset but now no longer feel is possible?

This event is free and open to the public.

HOSTED BY:

The Platypus Affiliated Society, established in December 2006, organizes reading groups, public fora, research and journalism focused on problems and tasks inherited from the “Old” (1920s-30s), “New” (1960s-70s) and post-political (1980s-90s) Left for the possibilities of emancipatory politics today.

For a media index of past Platypus events on Occupy, feel free to check out our online archive of video, audio, and writings on the movement.

MODERATOR:

Lisa Montanarelli (Writers for the 99%, Platypus Affiliated Society) is an author and activist who participated in the occupation of Zuccotti Park and collaborated with more than 50 other writers and researchers on the book Occupying Wall Street. She has since become a member of Platypus.

FEATURED PANELISTS:

Fritz Tucker (Occupier, journalist) is a native Brooklynite, writer, activist, theorist, and researcher of people’s movements the world over, from the US to Nepal.  Last year he authored the article “A Chill Descends on Occupy Wall Street: The Leaders of an Allegedly Leaderless Movement.”

Victoria Sobel (Media & Finance working groups) is an activist and major organizer within the Occupy movement in New York, especially during its two months in Zuccotti Park.

Nicholas Mirzoeff (Strike Debt, NYU) is professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University. and lead organizer of Strike Debt, a prominent outgrowth of the Occupy movement.

David Haack (Occupy Your Workplace) is an underemployed artist an anticorporate activist who lives in New York City.  He is also a leading organizer within the Occupy Your Workplace working group, and author of “How the Occupy movement won me over” (published in Britain’s The Guardian) and “The New Left Zombie is Dead! Long Live Occupy!” (published in Platypus Review 45).

Victoria Campbell (Occupier, Pacifica’s Occupy Wall Street Radio show on WBAI) is an artist and activist involved with Occupy Wall Street, also a host on Pacifica’s Occupy Wall Street Radio show.

Poster for “A Year, a Month, and a Day: Looking back on Occupy,” designed by Benjamin Koditschek

Malcolm Harris, “pseudo-celebrity,” and kulaks

“Écrasez l’infâme!”
[“Crush the infamous!”]
— Voltaire

So it looks like I am coming really late to this latest piece of juicy gossip concerning Malcolm Harris and Rachel Rosenfelt of The New Inquiry, appearing largely on Doug Henwood‘s wall. I have no idea whether there is any truth to these claims, or whether this is a fabrication (with Harris, you never know, it might just be a publicity stunt). Mark Ames of the eXile wrote up a scathing, albeit rambling, indictment of Harris on the Not Safe for Work Corporation — preserved in its entirety here.

Certainly I don’t want to perpetuate a baseless rumor. I’m all too familiar with the kind of deliberate distortions, smears, and empty insinuations that go on amongst knitting circles on the Left.

Still, the original write-up Rachel did promoting the talents of her young writer friend (I always thought he was her boyfriend?) is pretty shocking to read through, in terms of the ridiculous hyperbole with which she inflates his meager abilities and accomplishments:

From: Rachel Rosenfelt Date: October 25, 2011 1:04:42 PM PDT
To: …@gmail.com
Subject: Malcolm Harris

Kathleen,

It was great chatting with you yesterday! Here’s the write up on Malcolm Harris:

Malcolm Harris is one of the most talked about young writers today. He has been on the vanguard of the #occupywallstreet movement well before day one of the Zuccotti part encampment began. His social media savvy and tactics flips the equation when it comes to the so-called influence of media on the youth. With Malcolm Harris at the helm, we are witnessing a new media movement where it’s the youth that’s influencing — and manipulating — the mainstream media to enact what has become a global uprising of youth demanding the change that was promised to them in 2008.

As an editor at Sharable.net, Harris brought politically savvy coverage of the protest movements in Spain and Greece to the attention of the young digerati who would eventually work alongside Harris in New York City to facilitate the first planning meeting for #occupywallstreet. In the intervening months, Harris has earned the reputation he has today as the Naomi Klein of the 21st century, with his instant-classic article, “Bad Education,” which went viral in April of 2011 and remains the most cited article on the student debt crisis today (listen to Harris debate the issue on NPR here).

Once the occupation was underway, Harris’ article in the Jacobin Magazine, “Occupied Wall Street: Some Tactical Thoughts” spelled out a strategy that has since helped to give the movement the force and coherence it needed to self-sustain, even without the benefit of mainstream media attention. The turning point, however, was when Harris and a group of his collaborators posed as Radiohead’s manager, notified the media the band would play Zuccotti park, and caused tens of thousands of youths — as well as news cameras and big media attention — to turn out. Read Harris’ reflections on the tactic here.

Harris’ forthcoming book, (title TBD) is about the student debt crisis, global uprising, new media and #occupywallstreet (title TBD) and he acted as editor of the book, Share or Die: Youth in Recession.

He speaks for $5,000, not including travel and accommodations. Let me know if you have any futher questions. :)

Regards,
Rachel Rosenfelt

The Lavin Agency
Making the World a Smarter Place
rrosenfelt@thelavinagency.com
www.thelavinagency.com
————————————————————————
Follow me on Twitter:
http://www.twitter.com/TheLavinAgency
http://www.twitter.com/RachelRosenfelt

Now I have nothing against Rachel, who I barely know, but about this breathtaking bit of exaggeration (or delusion), Anthony Galluzzo hit the nail on the head: “That piece of fiction was the funniest thing I’ve read in years. She [Rachel] should drop the saloniste act and go into PR. Harris single-handedly fulfillled the dashed expectations of 2008: anarcho-Obama.”

Bhaskar summarized the incident in a blog post that appeared over at In These Times, while also providing something in the way of a critique of the “pseudo-celebrity” status some activists and commentators have attained through their involvement in recent political movements. The activist/analytic pseudo-celebrity, a term introduced in this context by Doug Henwood and then taken up by Bhaskar, finds its apotheosis in a figure like Malcolm. I have nothing really to add to their comments besides what Bhaskar already wrote about the significance of Harris’ insignificant but highly-publicized political persona to radical movements today. While I agree that this is whole affair is hardly a legitimate argument against Malcolm Harris’ politics or thought (does he have either?), I must admit that I’ve found this all is pretty funny.

Rather than try to ascertain the political content of this overblown hullabaloo, which I am convinced is zilch, all I have to add is a personal anecdote recounting one encounter (it feels more like a “run-in”) I had with “the Naomi Klein of the 21st century.” This may be a little gossipy, but oh what the hell: Continue reading

Has #Occupy entered “Phase Three”?

Part of the Platypus contingent at May Day in New York, 2012

I do wonder: Do the coordinated international May Day marches signal a kind of end to the so-called “second phase” of #Occupy, and perhaps the beginning of a “phase three”? My suspicion is that they do, but I’d like to hear other people’s opinions.

Generally speaking, I would mark this second phase as lasting from roughly either the November 15th sequence of evictions or the N17 demonstrations, through “the winter of our discontent” (i.e., decentralization, the breakdown of the chronically dysfunctional GA/Spokescouncil models, and the shift to planning for International Workers’ Day), all the way up to its culmination in the May 1 marches.

The first phase, of course, I’d date from September 17th-November 15th actual large-scale occupation of physical spaces. There was a prehistory to the occupation of Zuccotti Park that was not insignificant, certainly. Not just the Arab Spring or the European anti-austerity protests, but also the actual planning committees throughout August.

Participating in the May Day march in New York two days ago, my hope was that it marked more of a new beginning than a definitive end.  It is perhaps too early to tell what the future may bring.  But I remain somewhat hopeful.

Platypus signs at May Day in New York, 2012

Continue reading

The movement as an end-in-itself? An interview with David Graeber

January 31st, 2012

Ross Wolfe

Platypus Review 43 | February 2012

[PDF]

On  December 16, 2011, Ross Wolfe interviewed David Graeber, Reader at Goldsmiths College in London, author of Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology (2004), and central figure in the early stages of the #Occupy Wall Street Movement. What follows is an edited transcript of the interview.

Indie folk singer Tea Leigh at #Occupy

Ross Wolfe: There are striking similarities between the #Occupy movement and the 1999 anti-WTO protests in Seattle. Both began in the last year of a Democratic presidency, were spearheaded by anarchists, motivated by discontents with neo-liberalism, and received the support of organized labor. As an active participant in both the anti/alter-globalization and the #Occupy movements, to what extent would you say that #Occupy is a continuation of the project inaugurated at Seattle? What, if anything, makes this movement different?

David Graeber: I think a lot of the people involved in the globalization movement, myself included, felt this was a continuation of our efforts, because we never really felt the globalization movement had come to an end. We’d smash our heads against the wall every year, saying “Oh yes, this time we’re really back. Oh wait, maybe not.” A lot of us gradually began to lose hope that it was really going to bounce back in the way we always thought we knew it would. And then it happened, as a combination of tactics of trying to create prefigurative models of what a democratic society would be like, as a way of organizing protest or actions that were directed against an obviously undemocratic structure of governance.

At the same time, I think one reason why the tactics seem appropriate in either case is because, in a way, we’re talking about two rounds of the same cycle of really the same debt crisis. One could make the argument that the world has been in one form of debt crisis or another since the seventies, and that for most of that time, the crisis was fobbed off onto the global South, and to a certain degree held off from the North Atlantic, countries and places with the most powerful economies, which more or less use credit as a way of staving off popular unrest. The global justice movement ultimately was a quite successful form of popular uprising against neoliberal orthodoxy, Washington Consensus, and the tyranny of the debt enforcers like the IMF and the World Bank. It was officially so successful that the IMF itself was expelled from large parts of the world. It simply can’t operate at all in many spaces within Latin America anymore. And it eventually came home. So it’s the same process: declaring some kind of financial crisis which the capitalists themselves are responsible for, and demanding the replacement of what are termed “neutral technocrats” of one type or other, who are in fact schooled in this kind of neoliberal orthodoxy, who’ve been in the economy for wholesale plunder on the part of financial elites. And because #Occupy is reacting to the same thing as the Global Justice Movement, it’s not surprising that the reaction takes the same form: a movement for direct democracy, prefigurative politics, and direct action. In each case, what they’re saying is that the tools of government and the administration are inherently corrupt and unaccountable.

RW: Against the malaise that followed from the dissolution of the anti/alter-globalization movement after 9/11, you argued that the primary reason for its eventual defeat was that it did not know how to handle the shock of its early victories, its participants had become “dizzy with success” along the way. “[O]ne reason it was so easy for [the global justice movement] to collapse, was…that once again, in most of our immediate objectives, we’d already, unexpectedly, won.”[1] In other words, for you the path to defeat was largely paved by victory. In an uncanny way, this appears to mirror, albeit from the opposite direction, Karl Marx’s counter-intuitive understanding of June 1848. Marx wrote that “only the June defeat has created all the conditions under which France can seize the initiative of the European revolution. Only after being dipped in the blood of the June insurgents did the tricoleur become the flag of the European revolution—the red flag!”[2] For Marx, then, the path toward victory was seen to be paved by defeat. How, if at all, are these two seemingly opposite views related? Do they mutually exclude one another, or are they perhaps complementary? Is it proper or even possible to speak of a “dialectics of defeat”?[3]

DG: That’s an interesting analogy. One would have to ask: “Was Marx right?” He said that defeat was necessary for the ultimate victory, but it’s not clear that that victory ultimately did occur. It’s certainly true that certain sorts of defeat can be mythologized, and may turn into victory, or things that seem like defeats on the field are in fact victories that you didn’t realize you had. I think that happens quite regularly in revolutionary history. In a way, tactical defeat is almost randomly related to strategic victory. There’s no predictable pattern, kind of like Immanuel Wallerstein’s idea of the series of world revolutions starting with the French revolution, the world revolution of 1848, which didn’t achieve tactical victory anywhere, but radically transformed the way governments operated in Europe. That’s where you get universal education, redistricting, etc.

RW: The French Revolution even failed internally, insofar as it was turned into an empire by Napoleon. But it still helped spread the nationalist and liberal/republican ethos.

DG: Absolutely. There were institutional, concrete forms that came out of that that have remained with us ever since. Same thing with 1917: It only was successful in Russia, but it had almost as much of an effect on other countries as it did at home. Nothing was the same afterwards. Basically, Wallerstein argues that 1968 was a similar revolutionary moment, sort of along the lines of 1848. He’s now talking about the world revolution of 2011. But it really isn’t clear which model this is going to resemble.

This made me think of what neoliberalism is really about: It’s a political movement much more than it is an economic movement, which is a reaction to those series of victories won by social movements in the sixties, whether the anti-war movements, feminism, the counterculture, and so on. That became a kind of a sanction, in achieving political victory by preventing any social movement from feeling that it had been successful in challenging capitalism in any great, empowered way, or providing any sort of viable alternative. So it became a propaganda war that was continually hierarchized, over creating an actually viable capitalist system. The way the Iraq War was conducted is another great example of that. It’s very clear that the real obsession on the part of the people planning the war was to overcome what they called “the Vietnam syndrome,” i.e., the wave of anti-war demonstrations in the sixties that had really prevented the U.S. from deploying large ground forces in any kind of major land war for 30 years. In order to get over that, they needed to fight the war in a way that would prevent widespread opposition and resistance at home. What they calculated was that “body count is everything,” therefore they had to create rules of engagement such that few enough American soldiers would die that there would be no mass uproar in the form of an anti-war movement. Of course, in order to do that, their rules of engagement meant that hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghani civilians died, which in turn pretty much ensured they couldn’t win the war. But it seemed more important to them to prevent the anti-war movement than to win the war.

Of course, the anti-war movement of the last decade was put in a terrible situation by the attacks of 9/11, an attack on U.S. soil on a scale that hadn’t ever happened. Now, it’s also true that there’s a pattern where 9/11 came at a very opportune moment, and had it not been for that attack, they probably would have tried to come up with some other excuse for an overseas war. Because it seems that when you finally see a grassroots political movement, whether it’s the civil rights movement, the anti-nuclear movement, the global justice movement, or any kind of glimmering, that is what happens. The remarkable thing to me is how immediately the ruling class panicked and felt that they had to make massive concessions and invariably seem to commence some sort of overseas war. It seems like they’ve trapped themselves in something like a box. It’s clear that we’ve got a situation here in America, but it’s not really clear who they’re going to attack, or who they could attack overseas.

RW: One of the central debates within #OWS is over the degree to which the movement remains ideologically inclusive and open to all. From early on, the demonstrations at Liberty Plaza drew a number of neoliberal ideologues: Ron Paul supporters, Tea Partiers, and right-wing conspiracy theorists. While their visibility within the movement has perhaps diminished in recent weeks, they remain an undeniable, if marginal, presence at #Occupy events. Some have rejected the very idea of being placed along the political spectrum of “left” and “right,” as they both consider these categories to be too constrictive and fear that identification with one or the other risks alienating potential supporters. Would you say the language of “right” and “left” still has any utility with respect to #Occupy Wall Street? Does #Occupy represent a new popular movement on the Left?

DG: There is an unfortunate tendency to identify “the Left” not as a set of ideals or ideas but of institutional structures. A lot of individualists, anarchists, insurrectionists, and primitivists see the Left as the various leftist political parties, labor unions, what we would generally call “the verticals,” and I can see why one would feel rather chary about wanting to identify himself with these. But at the same time, we’ve been hearing at least since the end of World War II that the difference between right and left is no longer relevant. It’s something that’s said about every five years in making some great pronouncement. And the fact that they have to keep doing it so regularly shows that it isn’t true. It’s sort of the way that people keep making these grand declarations that the whole narrative of progress is gone. They make that about once every generation. But why would they have to announce this every generation if it was actually gone? So I think that these concepts remain.

The Tea Party was also claiming that they weren’t a right-wing group and that they were a broad populist rejection of the structure of the existing political order, in the same way that people want to see #Occupy Wall Street. But one is a very right-wing populist rejection, while the #Occupy movement is inspired by left-wing principles. And a lot of it has to do not even with one’s attitude towards market economics but corporate capitalism. It has this utopian ideal about what capitalism should be, which is actually far more utopian than any conception of what socialism, or whatever else would exist for the Left, would be. So the ultimate utopias of the Tea Party and #Occupy are profoundly different, which indicates a difference in their basic orientations. And #Occupy Wall Street is, in the end, anti-hierarchical. And I think that’s the key. The Right is not, in the end, anti-hierarchical. They want to limit certain types of hierarchy, and promote other types, but they are not ultimately an egalitarian movement. So I think that ignoring that broad left legacy is kind of silly. It strikes me as patently dishonest. I understand that it is sometimes tactically useful to throw as broad a net as possible, because there actually is a lot of common ground. Many right-wing populists have certain sincere objections to, for example, the monopolization of culture, or the fact that there is objectively a cultural elite. A certain social class monopolizes those jobs whereby you get to engage or pursue forms of value that aren’t all about money. The working classes have an overwhelming hatred of the cultural elite and a celebration of the army, to support our troops. It comes down to the fact that if you come from a working-class background, you have a very slim chance of becoming a successful capitalist, but there’s really no possibility that you could become a drama critic for The New York Times. I think it would be wonderful if we could find a way to appeal to such people in a way that wouldn’t be patronizing. But still, rejecting this split between the Right and the Left entirely, strikes me as going in completely the wrong direction.

What we have is this terrible synthesis of the market and bureaucracy which has taken over every aspect of our lives. Yet only the Right has a critique of bureaucracy. It’s a really simple-minded critique, but the Left really doesn’t have one at all.

RW: Some have characterized the #Occupy movement as sounding the alarm for “class war.” They cite the now-ubiquitous #Occupy Wall Street motto, “We are the 99%!” as evidence of this fact. As the ostensible originator of this slogan, do you believe that #Occupy Wall Street is an outward manifestation of the latent class struggle underlying civil society? Whatever its rhetorical effect, does this metric provide an adequate framework for the analysis of class struggle?

DG: I don’t think of it as an analysis so much as an illustration. It’s a way of opening a window on inequality. Of course, a slogan doesn’t ever answer the real structural question of how social classes get reproduced. What a slogan does is point you to how you can start thinking about a problem that you might not have even known existed. It’s been remarkably effective at that, for two reasons: one, because it points out just how small the group of people who have been the beneficiaries of the economic growth, of our productivity has been. They basically grabbed everything. Also, the slogan has successfully made #Occupy inclusive in a way that other social movements have had trouble with before. So I think that’s what was effective about it. Obviously there are infinite shades of difference between us, and class is a much more complicated thing than just the fact there is a certain group of people that is super rich or has a lot of political power. But nonetheless, it provides people with a way to start talking to each other about what they have in common, thus providing the form in which the other things can come to be addressed. You have to start with what you have in common. And that’s one thing we’ve had a really hard time doing up till now.

RW: Most within the #Occupy movement recognize the raw fact of dramatic social inequality, but disagree over the method to pursue in looking to resolve this problem. Many hope that #Occupy will provide the grassroots political momentum necessary to pass a set of economic reforms, which typically would come by way of legislation passed through the existing channels of government. Others see #Occupy as potentially revolutionary, as pointing to something beyond the merely “economic.” These two perspectives seem to indicate radically different directions this movement might take. Would you characterize this movement as “anti-capitalist”? Should it be? If so, what is the nature of its “anti-capitalist” politics?

DG: I’ll start by saying that the people who were originally involved in the creation of #Occupy were overwhelmingly anti-capitalist, very explicitly. Whether we thought we were going to be able to overthrow capitalism in one go, well, obviously no. We’re working toward that as an ultimate goal. That’s why it’s key to have an effect that will genuinely benefit people’s lives. #Occupy certainly doesn’t contradict that revolutionary impulse, and helps move us in a direction towards greater freedom and autonomy, by which I mean freedom from the structures of both the state and capitalism. Now, to create broad alliances along those lines, you’d have to be very careful about your organizational and institutional structures. Because one of the things that is revolutionary about the #Occupy movement is that it’s trying to create prefigurative spaces in which we can experiment and create the kind of institutional structures that would exist in a society that’s free of the state and capitalism. We hope to use those to create a kind of crisis of legitimacy within existing institutions.

Of course, I can only speak for myself. But most of the people I was working with, who were putting the vision together, had this belief in common: that the great advantage we had was that people across the political spectrum in America shared a profound revulsion with the existing political system, which they recognize to be a system of institutionalized bribery that has very little to do with anything that could be meaningfully called democracy. Money clearly controls every aspect of the political system. Thus, we would only had to delegitimate a system that has already almost entirely delegitimated itself. We adopted what amounts to a “dual power strategy.” By creating autonomous institutions that represent what a real democracy might be like, we could provoke a situation for a mass delegitimation of existing institutions of power. Obviously, the ones that are the most violent are the hardest to delegitimate. In American society, for various ideological reasons, people hate politicians, but they have been trained to identify with the army and police to a degree that is hardly true anywhere else in the world. There’s been relentless propaganda to create sympathies for soldiers and policemen, ever since the cowboy movie turned into the cop movie. I think that it would be a terrible mistake to go from these prefigurative structures to running some sort of political candidate. But even the idea of turning into a lobbying group pursuing a specific reformist agenda is wrongheaded. The moment you engage with a system, you’re not only legitimating it, you’re delegitimating yourself, because your own internal politics become warped. Even accepting money has pernicious effects. But the moment you’re interfacing with vertically organized structures of power, which are ultimately based on coercion, it poisons everything. By actively delegitimating the structure, we are in a position, perhaps as a side effect of our actions, to create the forms that will actually be of the most benefit to ordinary people.

RW: One division that emerged early on among the occupants concerned the need to call for demands. You have in the past rejected the idea of politics as policy-making, feeling that demands focused on electoral reform or market regulations would only steer the movement in a conservative direction. If not demands, what kind of “visions and solutions,” as you’ve put it, do you think the #Occupy movement should provide?

DG: There is a profound ambiguity in the language of protest politics. I always point to the grammar of signs or slogan. Someone says “Free Mumia” or “Save the whales.” But who are you asking to do that? Are you talking about pressuring the entire system do so? Or are you calling on us as a collectivity to pressure them to do so? So yes, one could make the argument that the distinction between “visions,” “demands,” and “solutions” is somewhat arbitrary.

When we were first putting together the idea for #Occupy Wall Street, there were some who argued that we could make a series of demands that are part of the delegitimation process, by making demands for things that are obviously commonsensical and reasonable, but which they would never in a million years even consider doing. So it would not be an attempt to achieve the demands, but rather it would be a further way to de-structure the authority, which would be shown to be utterly useless when it came to providing what the people need. What we’re really talking about here is rhetorical strategies, not strategies of government, because #Occupy Wall Street does not claim to take control of the instruments of power, nor does it intend to. In terms of long-term visions, one of our major objectives has already been achieved to a degree which we never imagined it could have been. Our goal was to spread a certain notion of direct democracy, of how democracy could work.

For spreading the idea, the occupation of public space was very fruitful. It was a way of saying, “We are the public. Who could possibly keep us out of our space?” They adopted a Gandhian strategy. By being studiously non-violent, a group of people who couldn’t possibly pose a threat to anyone might bring out how much the state is willing to react with extreme violence.  Of course, the problem with the Gandhian strategy has always been that you need the press to cover it that way. One reason the window-breaking in Seattle happened was that a majority of the people involved had been forest activists who had previously used exclusively Gandhian tactics — tree-sitting, chaining themselves to equipment to prevent the destruction of old-growth forests, etc. The police reaction was to use weaponized torture devices. So these activists had decided that Gandhian tactics don’t work; they had to try something else. Now suddenly the Gandhian approach has been relatively successful. There has been this window, and it’s interesting to ask yourself: “Why?”

RW: One of the tropes of #Occupy Liberty Plaza was that its participants were working together to build a small-scale model what an emancipated society of the future might look like. This line of reasoning posits a very intimate connection between ethics (changing oneself) and politics (changing the world). Yet it is not difficult to see that most of the services provided at Liberty Plaza were still dependent on funding received from donations, which in turn came from the society of exchange: Capitalism. Since the means for the provision of these services can be viewed as parasitic upon the capitalist totality, does this in any way complicate or compromise the legitimacy of such allegedly prefigurative communities?

DG: I think the “capitalist totality” only exists in our imagination. I don’t think there is a capitalist totality. I think there’s capital, which is extraordinarily powerful, and represents a certain logic that is actually parasitic upon a million other social relations, without which it couldn’t exist. I think Marx veered back and forth on this score himself. He did, of course, support the Paris Commune. He claimed that it was communism in action. So Marx wasn’t against all experimental, prefigurative forms. He did say that the self-organization of the working class was “the motion of communism.” One could make the argument, if you wanted to take the best aspects of Marx (though I think he was deeply ambivalent on this issue, actually) that he did accept the notion that certain forms of opposition could be acted out prefiguratively. On the other hand, it’s certainly true that he did have profound arguments with the anarchists on this matter, when it came to practice.

I think that the real problem is Marx’s Hegelianism. The totalizing aspect of Hegel’s legacy is rather pernicious. One of the extremely important disagreements between Bakunin and Marx had to do with the proletariat, especially its most advanced sections, as the necessary agent of revolution, versus the peasants, the craftsmen, or the recently proletarianized. Marx’s basic argument was that within the totality of capitalism, the proletariat are the only ones who are absolutely negated and who can only liberate themselves through the absolute negation of the system. Everyone else is some kind of “petit-bourgeois.” Once you’re stuck with the idea of absolute negation, that opens the door to a number of quite dangerous conclusions. There is the danger of saying that all forms of morality are thrown out the window as no longer relevant. You no longer know what form of morality will work in a non-bourgeois society, thus justifying a lot of things that really can’t be justified.

The point I’m trying to make is that it’s much more sensible to argue that all social and political possibilities exist simultaneously. Just because certain forms of cooperation are only made possible through the operation of capitalism, that consumer goods are capitalist, or that techniques of production are capitalist, no more makes them parasitical upon capitalism than the fact that factories can operate without governments. Some cooperation and consumer goods makes them socialist. There are multiple, contradictory logics of exchange, logics of action, and cooperative logics existing at all times. They are embedded in one another, in mutual contradiction, constantly in tension. As a result, there is a base from which one can make a critique of capitalism even at the same time that capitalism constantly subsumes all those alternatives to it. It’s not like everything we do corresponds to a logic of capitalism. There are those who’ve argued that only 30–40% of what we do is subsumed under the logic of capitalism. Communism already exists in our intimate relations with each other on a million different levels, so it’s a question of gradually expanding that and ultimately destroying the power of capital, rather than this idea of absolute negation that plunges us into some great unknown.

RW: The version of anarchism that you subscribe to stresses this relationship of means to ends. You’ve written that “[anarchism] insists, before anything else, that one’s means must be consonant with one’s ends; one cannot create freedom through authoritarian means; in fact, as much as possible, one must oneself, in one’s relations with one’s friends and allies, embody the society one wishes to create.”[4] It seems that you tend to endorse a “diversity of tactics” approach to direct action. If one insists upon a strict identity of means and ends, might not a violent course of action violate the principle of attaining a non-violent society?

DG: The idea of the identity of means and ends particularly applies to the way revolutionaries deal with one another. You have to make your own relations with your fellow comrades, to be an embodiment of the world you wish to create. Obviously, you don’t have the liberty to make your relationship with the capitalists or the police into an embodiment of the world you wish to create. In fact, what I’ve found ethnographically is that this boundary has to be very clearly maintained. People used to criticize the global justice movement because it would use terms like “evil,” but really what that word indicated was a borderline. There are certain institutions that we can at least deal with, because they’re not fundamentally inimical to what we’re trying to do. There are others that are irredeemable. You just can’t talk to them. That’s why we refused to deal with the WTO. “Evil” meant, “we can’t extend that prefigurative logic to them.” When dealing with people who are “in” the circle of our prefigurative practice, you have to assume everyone has good intentions. You give them the benefit of the doubt. Just as (and this is another anarchist principle) there’s no way better to have someone act like a child than to treat him as a child, the only way to have someone act like an adult is to treat him as an adult. So you give them the benefit of the doubt in that regard, as well-intentioned and honest. But you have to have a cutoff point. Now, what happens at that cutoff is where all the debate takes place. What would one do in a free society if he saw people behaving in ways that were terribly irresponsible and destructive?

RW: While the democratic ideology it represents has certainly helped popularize the #Occupy movement, many have complained that within the consensus decision-making model, process ultimately becomes fetishized. The entire affair can be massively alienating, as those with the greatest endurance or the most leisure time can exert an inordinate amount of influence the decision-making process. Another perceived problem with consensus decision-making is that only the most timid, tentative, or lukewarm proposals end up getting passed. Either that, or only extremely vague pronouncements against “greed” or “injustice” get passed, precisely because the meaning of these terms remains underdefined. The structure of consensus, passing proposals that most people agree upon already, tends to favor the most unambitious ideas, and seems to me an inherently conservative approach. Do these criticisms have any legitimacy with regard to the #Occupy movement?

DG: You can’t create a democracy out of nothing without there being a lot of kinks. Societies that have been doing this over the long term have come up with solutions to these problems. That’s why I like to talk about the example of Madagascar, where the state broke down, but you couldn’t even really tell. People carried on as they had before, because they were used to making decisions by consensus. They’d been doing it for a thousand years. At the moment they have a military government. But in terms of the day-to-day operation of everyday life in a small community, everything’s done democratically. It’s a remarkable contrast to our own society, ostensibly more democratic in terms of our larger structures. When was the last time a group of twenty Americans (outside of #OWS) sat down and made a collective decision in an equal way?

Yes, you’re right: you’ll only get broad and tepid solutions if you bring everything to the General Assembly. That’s why we have working groups, empower them to perform actions, and encourage them to form spontaneously. This is another of the key principles in dealing with consensus and decentralization. In an ideal world, the very unwieldiness of finding consensus in a large group should convince people not to bring decisions before this large group unless they absolutely have to. That’s actually the way it’s supposed to work out.

Extract from Eduard Bernstein's Die Voraussetzungen des Sozialismus und die Aufgaben der Sozialdemokratie. Text reads: „Das, was man gemeinhin Endziel des Sozialismus nennt, ist mir nichts, die Bewegung alles.“ (What is commonly called the ultimate goal of socialism is nothing to me, the movement is everything.)

RW: To what extent do you think that the goal of politics should be freedom from the necessity of politics? Is ethics even possible in a world that hasn’t been changed? Theodor Adorno remarked in Minima Moralia that “the wrong life cannot be lived rightly.” In other words, can we even speak of ethics in the Aristotelian sense of the good life within the totality of the wrong? Or would this require a prior political transformation?

DG: I think that kind of totalizing logic ends up requiring a total rupture. Perhaps after the revolution we can imagine a rupture, whereby we now live in a totally different society, but we all know it’s not going to happen through a total rupture. And if you really adopt that Hegelian logic, it begins to seem as if it’s not possible at all. It almost necessarily leads to profoundly tragic conclusions and extremely quietist politics, as indeed it did with the Frankfurt School. I don’t think that politics can be eliminated. And just as the perfect life cannot be achieved, the process of moving toward it is the good life.

I think that in terms of ethics that is the case. I can’t imagine a world in which we aren’t revolutionary ourselves, and revolutionizing our relations with one another, and revolutionizing our understanding of what is possible. That doesn’t mean that we will not someday—perhaps someday soon, hopefully—achieve a world whereby the problems we have today will be the sort of things to scare children with stories of them. But that doesn’t mean we’ll ever overcome the need to revolutionize ourselves. And the process by which that comes about is the good life.

RW: So does the movement itself become the goal? Must this process become an end-in-itself?

DG: It has to be. I mean, what else is there to life? |P


1. David Graeber, “The Shock of Victory,” in Revolutions in Reverse: Essays on Politics, Violence, Art, and Imagination (New York: Minor Compositions, 2010), 17.
2. Karl Marx, The Class Struggles in France, 1848-1851, in Collected Works, Volume 10: 1849–1851 (New York: International Publishers, 1977), 70. Available online at <http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1850/class-struggles-france/index.htm>.
3. See Platypus’ discussion at the 2009 Left Forum: Dialectics of Defeat: Toward a Theory of Historical Regression. Available online at <http://www.archive.org/details/PlatypusDialecticsofDefeatLeftForum2009NYC041809>.
4. David Graeber, Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology (Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press, 2004), 7.

Interview with Ross Wolfe of on #Occupy, the role of criticism in relation to theory and praxis, and the “return to Marx”

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Conducted by C. Derick Varn of
The Loyal Opposition to Modernity

Here’s Derick’s introduction to this interview:

Ross Wolfe introduced me to the Platypus Affiliated Society and is a member of my Aesthetics, Politics, and Theory: Red and/or Black (of which Symptomatic Redness is a project).  Ross Wolfe is currently a graduate student at the University of Chicago.  The main focus of his work is in Russian history, but he is also interested in Central European history, Jewish studies, philosophy, and Marxism.  He writes primarily about the history of avant-garde architecture, contemporary political issues (activism, current events), and topics such as the environment, technology, utopianism, and the history of the Left.  He blogs at the Charnel-House.

More from Derick’s ongoing Marginalia on Radical Thinking series can be found hereherehereherehereherehereherehere, here, and here.

C. DERICK VARN: So you have been working with and critiquing Occupy Wall Street from your vantage point in New York.  How did you get involved?

ROSS WOLFE: I was first alerted to the #Occupy protests going on down at Liberty Plaza about one week after it began, by someone much further from the scene than I was — my good friend Steve McClellan, a graduate student in Central European history at Oregon State University.  At that point, the movement had barely made any sort of splash in the mainstream media, and mostly established itself through YouTube videos and other decentralized, user-based means.

So I decided to take a visit down to Zuccotti Park to try and get a better sense of what was going on there.  What I saw there (especially at this early point) was largely ideological incoherence.  The politics on display at Occupy Wall Street were symptomatic in very much the same way that they had been at the resurgent anti-globalization protests against the G-8 in Pittsburgh back in 2009 and the G-20 conference in Toronto in 2010.  Needless to say, my first reactions to the demonstration were fairly pessimistic.  This was reflected in my initial write-up of my experiences. Continue reading

An open letter to Jodi Dean on leftist melancholia

On “leftist melancholia”

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Image: Albrecht Dürer’s “Melancholia” (1514).

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Dear Dr. Dean,

I noticed that you recently appeared on my friend Douglas Lain’s “Diet Soap” podcast.  As I’d heard of you before this, I thought I’d look up some of your writings and papers on OWS (as well as on other topics).

One of the results that came up almost immediately was the transcript to your recent talk on “Communist Desire,” which you presented on October 11 alongside Žižek at The Idea of Communism conference.  I found this piece to be especially interesting.  The diagnosis that you develop through your reading of Freud and Benjamin, as well as the subsequent critique you level at some of the more problematic and transhistorical statements made by Rancière, Badiou, and Negri, are valuable.

As a member of the Platypus Affiliated Society and an advocate of its political/critical project, I felt a particular affinity with the following lines from your talk:

If this left is rightly described as melancholic, and I agree with Brown that it is, then its melancholia derives from the real existing compromises and betrayals inextricable from its history, its accommodations with reality, whether of nationalist war, capitalist encirclement, or so-called market demands.  Lacan teaches that, like Kant’s categorical imperative, super-ego refuses to accept reality as an explanation for failure.  Impossible is no excuse — desire is always impossible to satisfy.  So it’s not surprising that a wide spectrum of the contemporary left have either accommodated themselves, in one way or another, to an inevitable capitalism or taken the practical failures of Marxism-Leninism to require a certain abandonment of antagonism, class, and revolutionary commitment to overturning capitalist arrangements of property and production.  Melancholic fantasy — the communist Master, authoritarian and obscene — as well as sublimated, melancholic practices — there was no alternative — shield them, us, from confrontation with guilt over this betrayal as they capture us in activities that feel productive, important, radical.

I would even go so far as to say that the Left’s compulsive engagement in seemingly “productive, important, radical” (pseudo-)activities and (pseudo-)practices — the pious gestures of a Left wracked with feelings of helplessness and melancholic self-hatred — is almost the exact inverse of what Herbert Marcuse described as “repressive desublimation.”  Though it the phrase might almost seem redundant, the recourse to naïve actionism (as Adorno termed it) or “activistism” (Henwood’s word for it) is symptomatic of a sort of repressive sublimation that has taken place on the Left.  What I mean by this is that the redirection of unsatisfied desire in apparently productive activities comes to serve as a way to repress the overwhelming sense of futility that has come to surround the Left’s hopes for radical social transformation. Continue reading

What is the #Occupy Movement?: Part II of the roundtable political discussion series hosted by The Platypus Affiliated Society

What is the #Occupy Movement?

A series of roundtable discussions hosted by The Platypus Affiliated Society. This is the second part of the discussion series held in New York City.

Speakers: Hannah Appel (Columbia, OWS Think Tank working group), Erik Van Deventer (NYU, OWS Demands working group), Nathan Schneider (Waging Nonviolence, OWS Occupy Writers), and Brian Dominick (Z Media Institute).

Held on December 9, 2011 at New York University.

The recent #Occupy protests are driven by discontent with the present state of affairs: glaring economic inequality, dead-end Democratic Party politics, and, for some, the suspicion that capitalism could never produce an equitable society. These concerns are coupled with aspirations for social transformation at an international level. For many, the protests at Wall St. and elsewhere provide an avenue to raise questions the Left has long fallen silent on:

What would it mean to challenge capitalism on a global scale? How could we begin to overcome social conditions that adversely affect every part of life? And, how could a new international radical movement address these concerns in practice?

We in the Platypus Affiliated Society ask participants and interested observers of the #Occupy movement to consider the possibility that political disagreement could lead to clarification, further development and direction. Only when we are able create an active culture of thinking and debating on the Left without it proving prematurely divisive can we begin to imagine a Leftist politics adequate to the historical possibilities of our moment. We may not know what these possibilities for transformation are. This is why we think it is imperative to create avenues of engagement that will support these efforts.

Towards this goal, Platypus will be hosting a series of roundtable discussions with organizers and participants of the #Occupy movement. These will start at campuses in New York, Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia but will be moving to other North American cities, and overseas to London, Germany, Greece, India and South Korea in the months to come. We welcome any and all who would like to be a part of this project of self-education and potential rebuilding of the Left to join us in advancing this critical moment.

The Platypus Affiliated Society

December 2011

Questions

Discussants were asked to consider the following questions:

1. In light of the recent series of coordinated and spectacular evictions that took place on November 15th, as well as the international Day of Action that followed two days later, is it fair to say that the #Occupy movement has entered into “phase 2”? If so, what is the nature of this new phase of the movement’s development? How has the occupation been forced to adapt to a changing set of conditions on the ground and what sorts of fresh difficulties do these new conditions pose for the occupiers? A moment of crisis can often be a moment of opportunity—what direction do you feel the movement should take in order to remain viable and relevant?

2. There are striking similarities between the Occupy movement and the 1999 anti-WTO protests in Seattle. Both began in the last year of a Democratic presidency, were spearheaded by anarchists, were motivated by discontents with neo-liberalism, and were supported by organized labor.

What, if anything, makes this movement different? How is it a departure from Seattle? What are the lessons to be learned from the defeat of the anti-globalization movement?

3. Some have characterized the #Occupy movement as sounding the tocsin for “class war” (e.g., of the 99% vs. the 1%). Others recognize the fact of dramatic inequality, and want the #Occupy movement to spearhead a set of economic reforms. Others see #Occupy as transforming something revolutionary beyond the “economic”. These perspectives point to radically different directions for this movement.

Would you characterize this movement as “anti-capitalist”? (Should it be?) If so, what is the nature of these “anti-capitalist” politics? In what way does the #Occupy movement affirm or reject the political ideas of anti-capitalist movements before it?

4. Some have become wary about the role of labor organizations in the #Occupy movement. Concerns point to the possibility of eventual “co-optation” into Democratic Party politics. Others worry that the “horizontal,” leaderless structure cultivated by the occupiers might be undermined by the decidedly top-down, hierarchical organization of labor unions. Certain of these collaborations, for example between the labor activists and occupiers in Oakland, have been seen as highly fruitful. Still, the broader call for a general strike that some organizers have hoped for has so far not been met.

What role should organized labor play in the #Occupy movement?

5. One division that emerged early on among the occupants concerned the need to call for demands. Some took issue with the content of the demands, arguing that if these are to be truly “representative of the 99%” they cannot assume a radical stance that would alienate a large section of the population. Others worry that demands focused on electoral reform or policy would steer the movement in a conservative direction. Some call into the question the call for demands in the first place, as these would limit — even undermine — the open-ended potential for transformation present in the #Occupy movement and could only close revolutionary possibilities.

What, if any, demands do you think this movement should be calling for? And, more importantly, what kind of social transformation would you like to see this movement give rise to?

6. What would it mean for the #Occupy movement to succeed? Can it?

Roundtable Participants’ Bios

Brian Dominick has nearly 20 years’ experience as an activist, organizer, and journalist. In his writing and lecturing, he has largely focused on questions of strategy and tactics for far-reaching social change. Forming and consulting alternative institutions has been a specialty of Brian’s, from affinity groups to worker coops to 501(c)(3)s to international activism networks. He is a former co-founder of NewStandard News and instructor at the Z Media Institute.

Erik Van Deventer is a doctoral student at NYU in the Department of Sociology, presently working on the political economy of finance. He has been active at OWS and in the Demands working group.

Hannah Appel earned her Ph.D. in the Department of Anthropology at Stanford University. With research interests in the daily life of capitalism and the private sector in Africa, in particular, Hannah’s work draws on critical development studies, economic anthropology, and political economy. Her current project — Futures — is based on fourteen months of ethnographic fieldwork in the transnational oil and gas industry in Equatorial Guinea.

Nathan Schneider is an editor for Waging Nonviolence. He writes about religion, reason, and violence for publications including The Nation, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The American Prospect, and others. He is also an editor at Killing the Buddha.

***Unless otherwise stated by the participants, their comments today do not necessarily reflect the overall opinion of their respective Working Groups.

“A Vision for an Emancipated Future”

Étienne-Louis Boullée’s Cénotaphe à Newton (1784)

As if anticipating our own historical moment, Guy Debord once offered the following advice to anyone seeking to change the world: “Be realistic,” he insisted.  “Demand the impossible!”

It is perhaps no coincidence that the only politics befitting the dignity of human freedom today seems to us an impossibility.  We stand at the end of a long line of revolutionary defeats — some tragic, others farcical.  The world lies strewn with the detritus of dead epochs.  The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.

And yet the past feels unbearably remote and out of reach, uncomprehended; it confronts us as an alien entity.  Yesterday’s grand visions of emancipation appear to us as so many distant, delicate daydreams — untenable, unthinkable.  Still in the background one can hear the faint echoes of La Marseillaise and L’Internationale, the notes all run together.

But these notes have largely been drowned out by the white noise of postmodernity.  The memory of such past struggles has faded, humanity’s deepest wish-fulfillments forgotten.  Instead we remain spellbound and transfixed by the current state of affairs.  We have lost the ability to imagine a society built on principles fundamentally different from our own.

Without an adequate understanding of the past, we have chained ourselves to the dumb reality of the present, abandoning all hope for a better future.  What little political imagination still survives is kept alive only by scavenging the desiccated remains of what once was possible.  We have thus set sail into the open seas of ahistory, and landed promptly in oblivion.  Only now are we beginning to glimpse the first rose-fingered rays of the dawn of a new era.

Despite all the emphasis placed upon “letting voices be heard” or “hearing voices” (one almost begins to feel schizophrenic) we have as yet been unable to voice a single demand.  Every attempt to articulate a unified vision of the world to come has been lost amidst the general cacophony and confusion.

Feelings of futility notwithstanding, we are nonetheless compelled to go back to the old drawing-board — to “give it another go.”  To launch a manifesto one has to want: A, B, & C; and fulminate against: 1, 2, & 3.  One must sign, shout, swear, and organize prose into a form that is absolutely and irrefutably obvious, in order to prove its ne plus ultra.

Section I: Liberty

But rather than just air a laundry-list of social grievances, a kitchen-sink of disconnected single issues divorced from any broader vision of global emancipation, we prefer to rally under the banner of one overarching principle that encompasses them all.  This is at once the most abstract, metaphysical, but for that very reason the most radical of all demands:

Humanity can accept nothing less than the promise of limitless, inalienable liberty — or what is the same, freedom.

This universal ideal has in recent years been rendered increasingly banal and diluted, robbed of the radicalism it once held.  Yet it is incumbent upon us to rescue this once noble notion from the clutches of its supposed spokesmen, to defend its honor against those who presently claim to act in its name.  For the false “freedom” that has so far been offered up to us under our present system is akin to the cheap sense of freedom one gets from selecting among various brands of the same basic product at the supermarket.  It is the illusory freedom of the slave who merely gets to freely choose his master.

The question of freedom must be posed afresh — in its most profound sense — so that it might be retrieved.  For in the answer to this question alone resides the secret of the Revolution.  The cry of “Liberté, égalité, fraternité!” still rings through the ages, but it has fallen on deaf ears.  Humanity must be awakened from its comatose state, its long ahistorical torpor, so that freedom can at last be realized.

By “freedom” or “liberty” is understood at least the following:

1. Freedom from oppression.
2. Freedom from want.
3. Freedom from fear.
4. Freedom from war (Kant’s “perpetual peace,” fœdus pacificum).
5. Freedom from disease.
6. Freedom from ignorance.
7. Freedom from apathy (the anomie described by Durkheim).
8. Freedom from boredom (the colorless tedium of daily life, Baudelairean ennui).
9. Freedom from imposed necessity.
10. Freedom without borders (liberté sans frontières).

The only limits that can be reasonably placed on freedom are in fact not limits at all: they only limit the false and shallow sense of freedom that has been sold to us under our present society.  Quite obviously, one person’s freedom cannot be had at the expense of another person’s freedom.  One cannot impinge upon the rights of others, and thus the civic freedom granted to every member of society does not grant anyone the license to kill, rape, exploit, or otherwise delimit the freedom of a fellow human being.  As Kant put it, “The definition of freedom would thus be as follows: freedom is the ability to act in ways in which one does no wrong to anyone else in so acting.”

Moreover, the freedom to live as one wants in the present cannot be at exercised at the expense of the freedom to live as one wants in the future.  This, we maintain, is the rational essence of the fashionable notion of “sustainability.”  Of course, this should not imply its converse, its abstract negation: living for tomorrow at the expense of living today.  Living freely should not be conceived as requiring some sort of new asceticism, the austerity measures of eco-scarcity.  Rather, this should challenge us to find ways of cultivating inexhaustible abundance.  Perhaps it is not just some happy accident of etymology that the old Aristotelian notion of εύδαιμονία (eudaimonia), traditionally translated as “the good life,” should at the same time signify an unparalleled “flourishing.”

Finally, the universal nature of this liberty would simultaneously entail the total equality of all society’s individual members, irrespective of their particular race, gender, age, or religious/sexual orientation.  The freedoms guaranteed under an emancipated society would extend to all the peoples of the world.  This would make possible, for the first time, the true “liberty of all” (omnium libertati).

In order to ensure the freedom and equality that such a society would grant to each of its individual members, the wealth of the world must be made equally available to all.  However, this should not be mistaken for some vulgar distributist notion, whereby society would simply “carve up the pie” and apportion the pieces out equally (according to fixed quotas).  Different people have different needs.  The needs of a blind man are not the same as someone who can see.  True freedom would thus require that each person’s individual needs be met.  Only then would they be free to creatively develop and express their individuality as they wish.

To illustrate this idea, we may take as an example the commodity pepper — a spice once so rare and valuable that entire wars were fought over its possession.  Today, however, if one goes and sits down in a restaurant, she will typically notice that there is a well-stocked peppershaker at every table.  The question of whether each person has the exact same quantity of pepper as her neighbor never even arises.  It exists in such abundance that one simply takes as much as she needs.  In a truly emancipated society, this concept would be generalized to include all the needs of society.

Section II: History

All this said, let us briefly take stock of our present situation and how we came to this point.  Once this has been achieved, we might be better able to discern the practical exigencies that face us in our time, and from there ascertain the possibilities for an emancipated future moving forward.  A glance into the past drives us on toward the future, inflames our courage to go on living, and kindles the hope that justice will someday come, that happiness is waiting just on the other side of the mountain we are approaching.

From Nature we have built up our own “second nature” — society — which still presently compels us and presses us into its service.  To this day we treat its every blind caprice and passing fancy if it were the outcome of some natural law, eternal and unchanging.  Its periodic crises appear to us as accidental, a result of human error.  In reality, however, the entire rotten system is founded upon a perpetual crisis occurring at the core of production.  International capital is as the insatiable god Baal, into whose bloody maw millions upon millions of steaming human sacrifices are thrown.

Though this “second nature” that surrounds us is a product of our own making, it has acquired a phantom objectivity all its own.  It appears to us in an estranged form, as something that operates independently of our will.  Unconscious — and seemingly devoid of agency — we remain entrapped within a prison we ourselves have built.  At the same time, society has further alienated itself from the original Nature from whence it sprang.  We have endured the disenchantment of the world; Nature presents itself to us only in a mediated and obscure fashion.  As helpless spectators we are forced to look on as modern society, driven by its fathomless hunger to extract surplus-value, devours the whole Earth.

This overwhelming feeling of helplessness owes to a severe frustration with the faculty of action in the modern world.  That is, it indicates an underlying despair with regard to the real efficacy of political will, of political agency.  In a historical situation of heightened helplessness, gestures of “resistance” against the dominant order have both served to express the rage of helplessness while at the same time helping to suppress the feeling of disquietude that comes along with this helplessness.  The idea of fundamentally transforming society has for the most part been bracketed and, instead, replaced by the more ambiguous notion of “resistance.”

In the absence of effective leadership and long-term goals, campaigns of activism-for-its-own-sake amount to a politics of acting out, an unreflective and compulsive desire for theatrical “agitation,” “consciousness-raising,” and “resistance.”  Unwilling to acknowledge this looming sense of lost agency, participants in such blind actions refuse to reflect on their own impotence.  By stubbornly denying the inconsequence of their own actions, however, they only perpetuate their helpless, disenfranchised state.

But what can conquer this feeling of helplessness is the force of life itself; historical consciousness and activity can annul it.  In the final analysis, this feeling is simply the product of tradition, an instinctual vestige of millennia of terror and illiteracy.  More recently, it has been the result of humanity’s repeated failures to resolve its historical dilemma.  Its origin can be traced, however.  To make it the object of history is to recognize its emptiness and overcome it.  By bringing feeling, as well as fact, into the sphere of history, one is finally able to see that it is in history alone that the explanation of our present situation lies.

For we feel an enormous, irresistible force from our human past.  We recognize the good things it has brought us, in the knowledge that what once was possible might someday be possible again.  But we also recognize the bad, in the many living fossils — anachronistic remnants and outmoded states of mind — that persist into the present.  And this is why we must call ourselves modern.  Because, though we feel the past fueling our struggle, it is a past that we have tamed — our servant, not our master — a past which illuminates and does not overshadow us.

Until we gain self-conscious mastery over this social world we have created, however, humanity will remain unfree.  To date, men have made their own history, but have not made it as they please; they have not made it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.  Once we are able to finally take command of the vast forces of production we have released into the world, humanity’s own social organization — hitherto confronting it as a necessity imposed by history — will now become the result of its own free action.  The heteronomous forces that have up to this point governed history now pass under the control of humanity itself.

Only from that time forth will humanity make its own history, rather than be made by history.  It will signal humanity’s ascent from the realm of necessity to the realm of freedom.

Behold what quiet now settles upon the Earth.  Night wraps the sky in tribute from the stars.  In hours like these, one rises to address history, the ages, and all creation.

This, then, is the task that confronts us.

Section III: Democracy

So it is with this vision that we claim our rightful inheritance to the legacy handed down to us by the great radical thinkers of the past.  And thus do we also take up the mantle of democracy once again in opposition to those who would deny it to us.  With Jefferson, we swear “eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”  And with the firebrand Paine, we unflinchingly proclaim that

Every age and generation must be as free to act for itself, in all cases, as the ages and generations that preceded it.  The vanity and presumption of governing from beyond the grave is the most ridiculous and insolent of all despotisms.

And if this vision of human emancipation seems too unimaginable, too wildly utopian, I have merely to reply that the only more utopian idea is the naïve belief that things will ever change under the present system — that the prevailing order could somehow be reformed through piecemeal legislation within the framework of the existing state.

A word about the philosophy of reform.  The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to its august claims have been born of earnest struggle.  The conflict has been exciting, agitating, and all-absorbing.  For the time being, it puts all other tumults to silence.  Humanity must do this or effectively do nothing at all.  If there is no struggle, there is no progress.

For “democracy” is nothing but the proclaiming and exercising of “rights” that are very little and very conventionally exercised under the present order.  But unless these rights are proclaimed and a struggle for their immediate realization waged — and unless the masses are educated in the spirit of such a struggle — emancipation is impossible.  This brings into sharpest possible relief the relationship between reform and revolution.

Every freshly drafted legal constitution is but the product of a revolution.  Throughout history, revolution has been the act of political creation, while legislation is the political expression of the life of a society that has already been established.  In other words, the work of reform does not contain its own force independent from revolution.  During each historic period, work for reforms is carried on only by the impetus of the last revolution.  Or, to put it more concretely, reforms can only come by way of the institutional scaffolding and state apparatus set in place by the last revolutionary struggle.

These, in turn, invariably reflect the underlying structure of society that sparked this struggle in the first place.  From this real basis there arises a legal and political superstructure, along with definite corresponding forms of social consciousness.  After reaching a certain level of development, the material productive forces of society come into contradiction with the already existing relations of production.  An epoch of social revolution commences.

Only after this has taken place can reforms become both lasting and meaningful.  Democracy cannot be achieved through cosmetic, incremental alterations to the existing state.  Real reform thus presupposes that the basis of society has already been radically transformed.  Along with it, this would require a simultaneous reconfiguration of the state.

But all this begs the question: Can a state ever exist without state repression? Or is the state inconceivable apart from servitude and subjection?

History teaches us that the state has always served as an instrument of the domination of the ruling class over the rest of society.  It would be folly to think it could act otherwise.  So long as the state exists there will be violence.  Indeed, it even lays claim to a monopoly on violence (or the use of “legitimate” force).  A transitional state may be necessary until society learns to freely govern itself, without recourse to some external body.  But the aim of such a state would be its own self-abolition, as its functions become increasingly redundant.  After a certain point, this state would simply “wither away” of its own accord — leaving society to democratically pursue its own ends.

The chief object of politics must therefore ultimately be freedom from the necessity of politics; this alone is what makes politics so indispensable today.

Dies Iræ

Let it be remembered, however, that this journey through history has hardly been a one-way street.  The triumph of the human spirit and democracy is by no means guaranteed.  For humanity has not just blithely wandered on from victory to victory, along a linear path toward progress.  Condorcet wrote his Future Progress of the Human Mind while awaiting the guillotine.  History has been made subject to any number of regressions and cycles of recurrence.  At best, history can be said to proceed in a cyclolinear fashion, charting a spiral course across the annals of time.

This should serve as both an admonition and a call to arms.  For until humanity chooses to transcend the tyranny of the present, unless it seizes the destiny that history has afforded it — we will be doomed to relive all the injustices of the past.  If humanity fails to take advantage of the opportunity that lies before it, the same relations of inequality and unfreedom will be reproduced yet again.  It will be just as Zarathustra warned:

[We] will return, with this sun, with this earth, with this eagle, with this snake — not to a new life or a better life or a similar life, but to this same and selfsame life…to once again teach the eternal recurrence of all things — to once again speak the word about the great earth of noon and human beings.

Mais tout cela sera balayé [But all this will be swept away],” André Gide once remarked, unless the cyclical return of the wrong triumphs after all.  Humanity’s survival is presently threatened by the very forms of its social constitution, unless humanity’s own global subject becomes sufficiently self-aware to save itself from catastrophe.  The possibility of progress, of averting the most extreme calamity, has migrated to this global subject alone.

This idea of historical progress must not, however, be conceived as a movement through homogeneous, empty time, but as a revolutionary chance to fight for the oppressed past — to blast open the continuum of history.  For our image of happiness is indissolubly bound up with the image of redemption.  Not only for the sake of our liberated grandchildren, but for the sake of our enslaved ancestors as well, must we carry out this mission.  The dead task us.  Those yet unborn beseech us.  And this is to say nothing of the many who to this day continue to suffer in squalor and destitution.  All humanity yearns to be lifted out from under the yoke of oppression.

The fate of the entire world thus hinges upon humanity’s decision.  The tired, the hungry, and the impoverished all await the final outcome of our deliberation with bated breath.  What will our decision be?

The Vision & Goals group’s much-vaunted Blueprint: An annotated guide to the half-literate blob assembled by the self-appointed anarchoid vanguard of OWS (an annotated guide)

Interior blueprint to the 1936 Volkshalle (People's Hall), the brainchild of Albert Speer: A monument to the eternal imbecility of grassroots populism

OVERVIEW: So again, here is a very funny excerpt from a public e-mail thread regarding the Vision & Goals Liberty Plaza Blueprint, from the noted activist and commentator Doug Henwood:

lbo-talk at lbo-talk.orgSubject: Re: [lbo-talk] The “Liberty Square Blueprint”

On Oct 21, 2011, at 10:49 AM, Chris Maisano wrote:

So the anarchist types who have been running the show behind the scenes and actively disrupting the meetings of the working group crafting the jobs for all demand (so much for leaderlessness and self-organization) have finally unveiled their Liberty Square Blueprint — and it is utter rubbish. Not a single word about the tens of millions of unemployed and underemployed, the tens of millions without health insurance, and the tens of millions in poverty. Instead, we read about bartering, urban farming, and charities. Amazing.

The only good thing about this is that its obvious limitations could create an opening for socialists to contend for a greater degree of political and ideological influence within the movement and raise demands that might actually resonate with a broadly-based constituency.

Holy shit, that’s awful. Among many things, they seem poisoned by the belief that open source software can save the world. (Apparently their open-source software doesn’t have a spell checker, unless they think there’s something revolutionary about spelling it “Correlary”).

The wish list  which they weirdly refer to as bullet-point visions  is incredibly vague. How do we “Empower marginalized people to express themselves, build community, and engage systemic/cultural discrimination”? Who are the “we” that grant “them” this power?

The economic planks:

• Create an economy in harmony with nature — by
• Researching, developing and implementing economic models that pursue thriving, abundant and prosperous outcomes for humanity and life — growing beyond the dichotomy of unsustainable and sustainable development. These economic models must be based on sound ethical assumptions and observed individual and market behavior through behavioral economics and econometrics
• Implementing and improving community currencies, barter, sharing, and trade systems
• Building the support and precedence for local and large scale production of renewable energy and food resources
• Eliminating financial/resource speculation that supports the current economy at the expense of future generations
• Learning from and empowering indigenous people in the transition to an economy in harmony with nature — as we
• Make NYC a pioneer of urban farming, renewable energy, grass roots urban/rural exchange, quantitative economic policy and indigenous leadership

are close to meaningless. Who are the “we” that would eliminate speculation, and how? Presumably not state bodies, so who then? What the fuck kind of econometrics do they have in mind? Vector autoregressions will set us free? Community currencies and barter are ludicrous — evidently they never consulted [renowned anarchist anthropologist David] Graeber on the nonexistence of barter societies.

Did “Ketchup” have anything to do with this?

— Doug

Though I would probably not be as insulting as Doug Henwood, he is right about the economic “planks.” As someone who is thoroughly versed in economic theory (from classical liberal-bourgeois to Keynesian to Marxist), I can safely say that the vast majority of the proposals about urban agriculture and so on are half-baked to ludicrous.

All of this is external to the actual contents of the Blueprint, however. I almost feel that I can’t begin addressing its problems. I don’t mean to demean the contributions of anyone who has helped to compose it; there are doubtless some valuable points and ideas in there, though they are few and far between. But even these tend to get lost amidst the general gobbledygook and feel-good nonsense that constitutes most of the document (e.g. “Facilitate the peaceful harmony of humanity’s religious, spiritual and existential traditions” — I can almost guarantee whoever wrote that doesn’t know what “existential” means).

I don’t know how to characterize the Blueprint other than as a shapeless blob. It’s unwieldy and hopelessly confused. Even within the space of a single sentence the thoughts utterly lose their coherence.  Contradictions, incompatible propositions, and baffling non sequiturs abound throughout the text.  Reading through it is like a ticking cognitive dissonance time-bomb.

At any moment the text threatens to unravel of its own entropy.

Rather than establish solid, universal, and overarching first principles from which they could rigorously derive a coherent argument, they just hastily stitched together a bunch of single-issue positions disconnected from one another or any broader vision of social emancipation.  This mindless process of aggregation ends up just producing a haphazard, convoluted hodgepodge of random ideas with no apparent relation to one another.  Undiluted duncery and numbskullery, all of it.

It truly is a miserable text.  Eidetic diarrhea, nothing more.

In my mind, the whole document is so fundamentally misconceived, poorly written, and riddled with politically-correct clichés that I dare say it is unsalvageable (if not unforgivable).  To even try to “process,” to attempt to make any sort of sense out of the accumulated nonsense that constitutes this Blueprint, is an exercise in mind-numbing futility.

I’ve read Nijinsky’s diary — the mad scribblings of a schizophrenic — and even that possessed more logic and coherence.

I almost lost count of how many times I read the words “paradigm-shift” and “empowering” (popular postmodern tropes long since rendered banal and meaningless, like “sustainability”).

In truth — and these are just my own suspicions — I doubt that this text was “worked on by over 200 people,” despite repeated reassurances that is was.  If it truly was, I would like to know who these people are, because they are very confused.  My guess, however, is that the document was mostly written up by Ted, Abe, Luke, Ketchup, and that guy Tim who compose part of the unofficial anarchist hierarchy at OWS.  Of course, they will insist that the document was assembled according to their dogmatic program of “horizontality.”  Just from having engaged in (more like “endured”) conversation with them, it reads like all the general pseudo-radical nonsense that they tend to subscribe to.  I’d characterize its position (which is, incidentally, identical to their own position) as the old ideology of “anti-ideology,” the oldest ideology in the books.  “We’re neither Right nor Left, anarchist nor Marxist, etc. nor etc.”  It’s all too predictable.

Seeing as they unveiled this document as soon as they officially announced the group’s existence, with decision already made that this was going to be the only document they would work with, it seems highly fishy.  So far every attempt to offer (better) alternative documents for consideration has been ignored or shoved aside in order to keep the Blueprint monstrosity front-and-center.  They stress the fact that it alone has received the feedback of the GA, or that by sheer dint of its priority (and hence its “venerable” status) it deserves honor above all others.

The most they (the anarchoid vanguard) will ever entertain is to include new contributions according to their usual logic: just indiscriminately tacking them onto the ever-growing mass of the Blueprint.  Only “fusion,” “melding,” or “integration” is possible.  Even if objectively better texts emerge (better written, better argued, better etc.), they will never be taken as a real alternative to the almighty Blueprint.

In conversation with Zocera, a member of the People of Color caucus and Vision & Goals, she revealed to me that they repeatedly emphasized that the Blueprint represented “a draft of a document that has been worked on for almost a month, contributed to by over 200 people.” She said that from what she could gather, that was their way of pre-ratifying the basic form and muddled content of the document before anyone could vote on it. Zocera continued to explain that they only seemed interested in gathering the additional input of marginalized persons (women and people of color) as a way of adding “multicultural cred” to the document, in what struck her (as a person of color) as rather shameless tokenism and toadying to political correctness.

So without further ado, here it is:

[My own notes will appear in brackets and in gold, aside from the headings]

Vision & Goals’ Liberty Square Blueprint

Full version on an editable (wiki) website. Please note that this is a starting point document and this is a living breathing document!: http://freenetworkmovement.org/commons/index.php?title=Liberty_Square_Blueprint

BRIEF VERSION OF VISION AND GOALS DOCUMENT PRESENTED TO THE NYCGA ON SUNDAY OCTOBER 23, 2011 [SEE BREAKOUT SESSION NOTES]

Visions and Goals

Purpose of Blueprint

Through this document we explain our visions, goals to manifest those visions, and leave room for the corresponding concrete action to achieve those goals for ourselves and humanity.  We hope other regional people’s assemblies can create their own blueprints, centered on the future they envision, and structured around the most effective actions to achieve these visions.

Vision Blueprint — note (this is a work in progress that excludes certain details such as goals and actions, so you can focus on the basic visions we have amassed thus far)

1. Effectively connect our occupation with the Global Movement — by
2. Facilitating the growth of local movements for direct, organic [once a central concept of Romantic philosophy, now a meaningless buzzword], participatory consensus-based [perish the thought] democracy [James Madison on this nonsense: “In all very numerous assemblies, of whatever characters composed, passion never fails to wrest the sceptre from reason. Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob.”]
3. Studying ourselves and other local occupations to find more ideal models of consensus building, decision making and coordination through transparent, iterative design
4. Finding points of harmony of visions/goals/actions across local and regional people’s assemblies for deeper impact.
5. Creating the emotional and actual physical spaces for this process for the organic discussion of the future to unfold
6. Encouraging each occupation to focus on their local economic, cultural and political assets as a specialization of the movement [the primitive division of labor] (our specialization is the following) — as we
1. Make NYC a functioning focal point for other people’s assemblies to dissolve and overcome the unaccountable private entities rooted in Manhattan, our specialization
1. Implement non-proprietary (FLO) solutions for everything [PLEASE NOTE THAT THERE WAS A FORMATTING ERROR IN THE ORIGINAL PRINTOUT ON THIS LINE.]
2. Create an economy in harmony with nature [whatever the fuck this means — NOTE: Nature is not some sort of self-harmonious, delicate equilibrium with negative feedback loops and all that Romantic nonsense; it is incredibly cruel, catastrophic, continuously destroying and reconstituting itself]
3. Emancipate the world’s communities from centralized financial systems [again the misrecognition of finance capital as the root of society’s woes; finance capital is merely the logical extension of industrial capital]
4. Create paradigm-shifting [ugh…Kuhn is rolling in his grave] education that emancipates global citizens from exploitative, community-destroying consumer culture and empowers [there has to be a less obnoxious word for this] all people with their own voice
5. Re-appropriate our business structures and culture, putting people and our Earth before profit [the latest cliché in pseudo-Left activism]
6. Re-appropriate our media culture, putting truth and dialogue over advertising and sensationalism
7. Define and defend humanity’s inalienable liberties from the bottom up
8. ​Create peace on Earth [uh-huh] with total dedication to non-violencee [sic — NOTE: to what extent can one “defend humanity’s inalienable liberties” “with total dedication to non-violence]
9. Eliminate all discrimination, prejudice, and judgments based on socially constructed group labels in the past
10. Facilitate the peaceful harmony of humanity’s religious, spiritual and existential [I can almost guarantee that whoever wrote this has no idea what “existential” actually means] traditions

Issues — nothing about governance Algonquin principles of peace [what??] — Basis of American Constitution

1. How can we build an empowered global society based on direct democracy?
1. Fix local governing body and empower decentralized people’s assemblies to coordinate actions and goals
2. How will we emancipate ourselves from centralized financial systems?
3. How will we create an economy in harmony with nature? What will it look like?
4. How will we create free paradigm-shifting education the whole human family?
5. How will we change our business structures and culture to place people and our Earth before profit?
6. How will we free our media to place truth before advertising?
7. How will we eliminate all discrimination and prejudice?
8. How will we define the human family’s liberties from the grass roots up?
9. How will we harmonize the human family’s religious and existential traditions?
10. How can we answer these questions with solutions owned by all?

1. What future could we make with a global, decentralized, and self-organized movement governed through direct democracy?
2. What could we build if freed from the banks that own us?
3. What dignity could we enjoy if we placed people before profit?
4. What could an economy in harmony with nature produce?
5. What ills could we cure by caring for our whole human family?
6. What could free and universal education teach our children?
7. What dialogue could we foster if our media placed truth before advertising?
8. What communities could we build if we freed ourselves from discrimination and prejudice?
9. What freedom could we discover if we established liberties from the bottom up?
10. What depth of understanding could we share by harmonizing our spiritual traditions [why not overcoming/superseding our spiritual traditions altogether]?
11. What could heal if we ended all war?
12. How can we answer these questions with solutions owned by all?

Adbusters idea — “McSmoothy” “McSmoothy made of McFlurry, McPepperming Mocha and McRib” mmmmm delicious [this is the requisite pithy commentary on consumer culture]

Dialogue and Collection Process

Spend 5 minutes discussion to invent an ideal forums for input on the Visions and Goals Blueprint.  This presentation at the GA is one (with Facilitation).  Another is to create an online forum with a reddit-like set up (with the Open Source Working Group) [here begins the Vision & Goals group’s weird fetishization of open-source technology].  Another is to speak directly to the Occupiers themselves that are often too busy running day to day kitchen, medical, security, and sanitation duties to have their voices heard in the very movement they are building (with the Think Tank working group).

FLO means Free Libre Open-Source, as one term that describes the non-proprietary practice for developing various technologies and methods as broad as computer operating systems to tractor design.

ORIGINAL: (please note that this version of the document does not have ideal formatting.  The corrected original document and a link will be added ASAP)

Revision as of 20:59, 21 October 2011 by TedwardHall (Talk | contribs)

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Contents

1 Hello World!
2 Purpose of Blueprint
3 Vision Blueprint
4 List of Goals and Correlary [sic, “corollary”] Actions
5 Amendment Process
6 Archiving Process
7 Further Reading

1.) Hello World!

Hello world! — We of Liberty Plaza would like to thank the global population for the amazing outpouring of support and inspiration. Our original demand [wait…what demand?] has been already met beyond our greatest hopes. We occupied Wall Street with the intent of bringing attention to an economic system that is detached from real human needs. In less than one month global solidarity and a global dialog has emerged — never in the history of the world [wait, what about 1917? 1968?] have all of the worlds [sic, world’s] citizations [sic, civilizations?] and cultures come together in an unidealogial [sic, non-ideological — you know a movement can’t be ideological if it can’t even spell the word; pre-ideological is more accurate] movement like this.

We present the following living vision of our movement. It is one document among many that work together in focusing our occupation for the public and ourselves. The vision has ten focii with practical goals for New York City. Our goals are aimed to effectively dissolve the shadow government [this is where #OWS converges with popular conspiracy theories, from the New World Order to the Illuminati to International Jewry; what’s more interesting is the “shadow government” within #OWS, i.e. the invisible anarchoid hierarchy] of corporations and banks, literally surrounding Liberty Plaza, that are destroying the American dream, and our planet Earth. We will not fight the shadow government [again]. We will invent new ways of living — that will overcome our constructed dependence upon the shadow government [again]. We will invent the new economy, culture, and technology fitting of the Information Age. We will make New York City a metropolis built for the future.

A few things must be said. Corporations do not make jobs — people make jobs [what does this even mean? have you ever studied economics of any kind, or are you just sloganeering?]. Money does not support livelihood — our Earth supports livelihood [Marx’s basic value/wealth distinction; this is schoolboy shit, really]. The proprietary technology used to hijack and manipulate the human spirit into thinking otherwise no longer belongs to the shadow government — the technology belongs to us. Thus the following ten visions are more than feasible. Only one question remains: When will each goal be achieved? The answer to that depends depends [sic] on YOU [cue Smoky the Bear].

2.) Purpose of Blueprint

Through this document we will explain our vision and corresponding concrete action for ourselves and for humanity.  We hope other regional people’s assemblies can create their own blueprints, centered around the future they envision, and structured around the most effective actions to achieve these visions.

3.) Vision Blueprint

Coordinate our occupation with the global movement — by

Facilitating the growth of local movements for direct, organic, participatory consensus-based democracy through transparent, iterative design.

Studying ourselves [γνῶθι σεαυτόν] and other local occupations to find more ideal models of consensus building, decision making and coordinating

Coordinating across local and regional people’s assemblies for deeper impact [in the same sense that the Chicxulub asteroid made a “deep impact”].

Encouraging each occupation to focus on their local economic, cultural and political assets — as we

Make NYC a functioning focal point for other people’s assemblies to dissolve and overcome the shadow government*** rooted in Manhattan

Implement FLO (free libre open-source) solutions for everything [yes, boys and girls, the road to paradise and the solution of all humanity’s problems comes by way of open-source technology] — by

Every bullet point vision described herein shall be supported and implemented through non proprietary technology and methods

Expand people’s knowledge of open-source beyond computers to all technology from tractors to currencies — as we

Make NYC the Open Source Silicon Alley [sic, valley? unless they are trying to be clever]

Create an economy in harmony with nature [again meaningless] — by

Researching, developing and implementing economic models that pursue thriving, abundant and prosperous outcomes for humanity and life — growing beyond the dichotomy of unsustainable and sustainable development [I can guarantee that Ted wrote this little bit; it’s one of his favorite talking-points].  These economic models must be based on sound ethical assumptions and observed  individual and market behavior [isn’t rational choice theory what led to the 2008-2011 economic collapse in the first place?] through behavioral economics and econometrics

Implementing and improving community currencies, barter, sharing, and trade systems [I defer to Doug Henwood’s appropriately scathing remarks: “What the fuck kind of econometrics do they have in mind? Vector autoregressions will set us free? Community currencies and barter are ludicrous — evidently they never consulted [renowned anarchist anthropologist David] Graeber on the nonexistence of barter societies. Did “Ketchup” have anything to do with this?]

Building the support and precedence for local and large scale production [industrialized agriculture isn’t going away anytime soon, nor should it] of renewable energy and food resources

Eliminating financial/resource speculation that supports the current economy at the expense of future generations [again, vague sentiments back by virtually no understanding of finance capital; let Hilferding enlighten them: “The specific activity of the stock exchange is really speculation. At first sight, speculation looks like any other purchase and sale. What is purchased, however, is not commodities but titles to interest. A productive capitalist must convert his commodity capital into money — that is, sell it — before he can realize a profit. If another capitalist assumes the task of selling, the industrialist must assign him part of the profit.”]

Learning from and empowering [ugh] indigenous people [I respect Native American and other “indigenous” cultures well enough, but the obsequious obsession of modern white culture with their “ancient, homespun wisdom” is frankly insulting, almost neo-colonialist in its perverse fascination] in the transition to an economy in harmony with nature — as we

Make NYC a pioneer of urban farming [one of the most elitist, inefficient agricultural practices to date], renewable energy, grass roots urban/rural exchange [grassroots populist horseshit], quantitative economic policy [for a pseudo-Keynesian administrative society] and indigenous leadership [with all due respect, why should indigenous people be the leaders? why should any particular people, outside of qualification?]

Create paradigm-shifting [again, poor Kuhn] education (emancipating global citizens from exploitative, community-destroying consumer culture) — by

Empowering [refusal to reflect on their own impotence] community values, engagement, and critical autonomous thought [all this means is being able to recite all the “counterintuitive” anti-consumerist observations, rather than develop a critical and dialectical understanding of the world]

Empowering [whoever wrote this should really be ashamed of him/herself] our local people’s assemblies working groups with free educational materials for apprenticeship and skill-sharing — as we

Make NYC a top supporter of public space for community action.

Re-appropriate our business structures and culture, putting people and our Earth before profit [“people before profit,” blah blah] — by

Supporting and organizing with entities [assorted cosmic entia working for the public good, i.e. Nyarlathotep, Cthulhu; some unexpected OWS metaphysics] that serve community

Coordinating demands of local, national and global people’s asseblies to eliminate outdated corporate systems that are out of line with people and nature — the most egregious exploiters of human and natural capitol [most people these days don’t understand what “capital” really is, but at least they can spell it correctly] — as we

Make NYC the mecca [require that every citizen pray five times a day in its direction] for innovative community based organizational entities like L3C, not-for profit, NGO, charities etc. [charities? really?]

Re-appropriate our media culture, putting truth over advertizing [sic, advertising] and sensation — by

Ensure diversity of perspectives and entertainment through promoting diverse community media [celebrate diversity, kids! facile multiculturalism] as an alternative to conglomerate-corporate media — as we

Make NYC a thriving ecosystem of community news [NYC a “thriving ecosystem”?] and entertainment supported by the people [das Volk]

Define and defend humanity’s inalienable rights from the bottom up

Defending the commonly discussed rights to clean water, healthy food, safe shelter, health care

Pioneering the emerging right to free network communication technology (the People’s Internets) [Народный комиссариат интернета: the People’s Commissariat of the Internet]

Make NYC the most progressive city for the chronically homeless.

Make NYC a leader of the People’s Internets** [again]

​End all war — by

Stopping the false War on Terror at home and abroad, used to support the military industrial complex [this old rag] and citizen surveillance/control

Stopping the false War on Drugs, used to support the prison/pharmaceutical industrial complex

Stopping the age of oil, which is really a disguised War on Life [wow, I had no idea…I wonder what they made of the Age of Coal and Whale Oil] that toxifies our land, water and bodies — as we

Make NYC a stronghold of peace [yes, a “stronghold”… a veritable Fortress of Pacifism]

Eliminate all discrimination and prejudice — by

Empowering [god damn it all] marginalized people to express themselves, build community, and engage systemic/cultural discrimination

Educating people with privilege about how they can overcome overt and unconscious discrimination/prejudice.

4.) Balancing

Protect the human rights of anyone living or working in America, independent of their legal status — as we

Make NYC a more celebrated place of diversity [in practice, this amounts to little more than tokenism] that lives up to its Melting Pot reputation [tepid, condescending inclusionism]

Harmonize humanity’s religious, spiritual and existential traditions [whatever that means] — by

Creating the space for all people to respectfully and collaboratively worship, discuss, and explore religious and nonreligious topics [what happened to “freedom from religion”?] — as we

Make NYC a hub for harmonious religious, spiritual and non-religious practice [ok we get it]

Emancipate the world’s communities from centralized banking systems

Transitioning the IMF and World Bank into transparent, publically [sic, publicly] owned and operated entities [yes, this will solve the problem of capitalism *crickets*]

Ending the Federal Reserve Bank and replacing it with an accountable, decentralized, transparent and publically [sic, again it’s “publicly”] owned financial system

Freezing all home forclosures until new financial systems are established and operating

Cop brutality, women’s issues, accountability [three separate issues without any apparent unifying theme]

5.) List of Goals and Correlary Actions

Make NYC a functioning focal point for other people’s assemblies to dissolve and overcome the shadow government [conspiracy theory bullshit] of big banks and corporations that is embedded here

Develop an open source DIY Occupation kit [be sure to include nitroglycerine] for other occupations to reference and build upon.

Build the independent communications technology to coordinate occupations throughout the US and globe

Make NYC the Open Source Silicon Alley

Host an open source developers hackathon in a secret location to find the most intelligent and driven technologists most capable of dissolving the shadow govt and building the new community development structures.  [wow, I had no idea just how delusional this document really was until reading this line]

Make NYC a pioneer of urban farming, renewable energy, grass roots urban/rural exchange, ethical and evidenced-based economics and indigenous leadership

Develop strong resource flows between upstate farms and the occupation [the age-old nostalgia for the good, honest local farming family, replete with a bucolic setting and all their quaint rural idiosyncrasies/idiocies]

Use Occupy Wall Street as a platform to launch community-based green economy solutions [ah yes, the ideology of “green”] that lift people out of poverty and restore our Earth

Pilot community currencies, barter, sharing, and local trade systems [again, this is total nonsense to anyone who knows economics]

Make Liberty Square carbon neutral [fashionable eco-friendliness]

Make NYC a thriving ecosystem of community news, entertainment, and information-sharing supported by the people [das Volk]

Broadcast the first Occupy Wall Street TV channel with news, live stream, shows, Q&A and entertainment [I motion that the first livestreaming entertainment piece be footage of the ongoing guillotining that has been going on at Zuccotti park]

Make NYC a leader of the People’s Internets

Make NYC a top supporter of public space for community action

Support the independent occupations of every borough in NYC.

Expand the occupation beyond outdoor spaces to indoor ones.

Make NYC the mecca for innovative community based organizational entities like L3C, not-for profit, NGO, charities etc

Make NYC the most progressive city for the chronically homeless

Make NYC a stronghold of pacifism

Support neighborhood peace and safe community initiatives

Make NYC a place that celebrates and respects diversity and lives up to its Melting Pot reputation

Make NYC a hub for harmonious religious, spiritual and non-religious practice [ok so all this is literally copied word-for-word from before]

6.) Amendment Process

We will create a reddit-based forum online to elicit ideas for amendments and to vote on those ideas for adoption.  In order to propose an amendment, a forum user must first vote on at least one popular and two random ideas from the forum. Users may post and vote with a public identity, masked identity, or anonymously.  A small fraction of the most popular posts, based on votes, will be presented to the General Assembly, where they will be officially considered as amendments or edits to the current version [my own friendly edit or amendment would be to throw this garbage onto the trash-heap of history, where it belongs, and start anew].

7. Archiving Process

The Blueprint will live [??] in two online version [sic, versions].  The first is the Official Non-Editable Wiki, which will have previous versions archived for the public.  The second is an Unofficial Sandbox Wiki for the public to freely engage, edit, and experiment with.  We predict that the Unofficial Sandbox version will yield very interesting [missing noun] and possibly sourced for amendments.

Further Reading

Origins of the Blueprint for Liberty Square