In the wake of the massive layoffs, failures on the part of politicians and corrupt business leaders, and the re-emergence of neoliberal savagery in the first world, it is easy to mistake the reaction for an alternative. It is even easier to assign previously existing alternatives--weak reformist dialogue, watered down radicalism, timid cultural politics, and ecologically based appeals for "new capitalism"--the role of the alternative that we are now searching for. But becoming is quite real, and it is a social fact. What the present movement from below in Europe, the Middle East, and now America proves, is that the set of existing definitions, and the coordinates they refer back to, belong to a situation that is now past. Neoliberalism, along with its utopian dreams of a global-capitalist future, are dead. What we are left with is a partially and poorly globalized production system, with all the familiar attendant problems of capital in crisis, disorganization, waste, overproduction and underconsumption, not to mention war, starvation, ecological destruction, and rapidly rising social disorder. On the other hand, the establishment responds with increasingly transparent attempts to ratchet up nationalistic hostilities between the major powers. And the markets try to manipulate the political direction taken by the so-called democracies, going even to the point, in Greece and Italy, of replacing leaders (albeit ineffectual and collaborationist ones) with their own technocratic dopplegangers.
Again in the middle of this riotous situation, it is easy to become confused, and to assign significance to the insignificant and lend a sheen of newness to tired, disastrous ideas. In particular the resurrection from its recent grave of the dream of a "green economy," along with illusions about a non-predatory capitalism, is distracting and potentially fatal for any attempt to focus on the main issue at hand: class conflict and the collapse of global capital. Regenerative or progressive politics, with their empty rhetoric about localism and self-reliance, merely recapitulate the ideas of the ruling class. They are an invitation to a future dominated by nationalistic conflict where different sectors of the global working class will be pitted against one another in a deadly competition for disappearing wages and resources. It is the Ariadne's thread that leads off a cliff, and not to some promised escape from the present situation.
But once the issue of class has been raised--as it has in Europe by the defection from the impotent, traditional politics of the trade union bureaucracy and social-democratic confessional parties by large sections of young people and workers, and increasingly in the Middle East in the maturation of the "Arab Spring" through the efforts of a new generation of revolutionaries, and finally in America in the form of the recent protests against wealth accumulation and market control--then there is ample space in which to articulate any number of deductive interpretations and analyses of these actions, while leaving aside or attempting to cover up the gaping wound of capital, the living fact that is located at the center of the system and that brings them all together: exploitation.
It is this rage to analyse the situation that defines the role now being played by the ruling class and their middle class counterparts--or at least those still willing to follow the cynical and fantastical belief in "recovery." Here is a term with many meanings, one worth analysing (instead of the protestors, whose message is crystal clear). But all the meanings of the illusion of recovery point in a single direction--to the politics of the ruling group, and their dedication to the further misery of the vast mass of people.
The recent cry of the movement in America against the 1%, and for the 99%, are not only a reflection of the desperation to which people are now driven, but represent the most succinct, most pointed politics to come to this country in a long time. Far from being unfocused or unrealistic, the movement against economic disparity is the clearest articulation of the real problem at the heart of today's unrest. It is the only platform, in fact, which makes any sense out of the reality that the vast mass of people live today. Free of the encumberances of objectification and the pre-existing rationalizations of privilege, it is the beginning of a real politics, and a real movement, and it has thrown into naked relief all the virtual and impotent politics being offered by the present system of economic power.
At the point of exhaustion, people revolt.
And all the pre-existing conclusions, all the post-festum politics on display in Washington and London and elsewhere--whether of conservative or progressive or social-democratic or "green" varieties--should be judged anew, in light of this standard: whom do they serve, the 1%, or the 99%? And what is useful to accomplishing the abolishment and criminalizing of economic disparity should be kept, while all that is not useful to this purpose should be discarded. This is not the time for sentimentality about the past. If the savagery of the ruling class, as represented by their vicious attacks upon the people, the various austerity and other financial-control measures, are to be beaten back, and we are to inaugurate a new society based upon the essential insights into class exploitation and injustice offered by the crisis, then we must be ruthless when we need to be ruthless, and gentle when we need to be gentle, and above all clear-sighted and vigilant at every moment.
The protestors in the streets of New York, and Athens, and Rome, and London, and Cairo, and elsewhere, need no-one to tell them the direction in which to go. Obviously they, along with hundreds of millions of others, now know. They know it through their suffering. It has been revealed to them by the profound morbidity, failed utopianism, and anti-social violence of the present system. They see it everywhere--at work, at home, in the streets of their respective countries.
What we need is something truly new, and not a return to the tired and timid reformism of the past. We hear our leaders talk about the "potential unraveling" of the Eurozone--when in fact it is obvious that this nefarious institution of financial control, this false internationalism, has already collapsed into rioting and chaos. It is only in the utopia of the totally discredited, sadistically manipulative world of financial speculation that this collapse can still be pictured as a future event rather than a present lived reality. The same can be said for the much talked about "potential secondary recession" in America. For the millions upon millions of Americans who are already living through it, this discussion is merely a means to encourage despair. To rise above these feelings, and these illusions, requires adherence to our own sense of what is happening. What the recent protests have opened up is a space in which to realize this essential insight:
No-one is coming to save us.
There is no stock of ideas amongst those considered permissable by any segment of the ruling class that will suffice. This has always been the real significance of the politics of the situation against the politics of the system. And any meaningful political agenda for revolutionary structural transformation must be derived from this.
That is what is to be done.
Recent events have not altered my opinion. And so, once again, I repeat:
People should do whatever they think is right.
Video of the "un-diverse" movement in action; imagine this simultaneously in a hundred American cities: