Revolution Inchoate: Political vs. Civil Disobedience at #OWS

Mic check: A revolution needs a revolutionary communication system

Bernard Harcourt has an essay in the New York Times‘ The Stone blog in which he proposes a syntagm, as the continental philosophers would call it, standing for the unique mode of resistance energizing #occupationWallStreet and its sister occupations around the world:

Occupy Wall Street is best understood, I would suggest, as a new form of what could be called “political disobedience,” as opposed to civil disobedience, that fundamentally rejects the political and ideological landscape that we inherited from the Cold War.

Civil disobedience accepted the legitimacy of political institutions, but resisted the moral authority of resulting laws. Political disobedience, by contrast, resists the very way in which we are governed: it resists the structure of partisan politics, the demand for policy reforms, the call for party identification, and the very ideologies that dominated the post-War period.

Occupy Wall Street, which identifies itself as a “leaderless resistance movement with people of many … political persuasions,” is politically disobedient precisely in refusing to articulate policy demands or to embrace old ideologies. Those who incessantly want to impose demands on the movement may show good will and generosity, but fail to understand that the resistance movement is precisely about disobeying that kind of political maneuver. Similarly, those who want to push an ideology onto these new forms of political disobedience, like Slavoj Zizek or Raymond Lotta, are missing the point of the resistance. Continue reading

This Is What #Democracy Looks Like: John Lewis and #OccupyAtlanta

"They really didn't deny me," Lewis said.

One thing The New Republic, in its dismissal of the #OccupyWallStreet movement, misled its readers about regarding the John Lewis incident at Occupy Atlanta, and one thing anyone who doesn’t watch the video, painful as it may be, will miss: The General Assembly did not “groupthink” Lewis away, which would imply that the decision was, like the Washington crowd’s bullheaded decision to go to war in Iraq, assumed by everyone present to be a reasonable fait accompli. On the contrary, there was a strong pro-Lewis contingent among the Assembly–so strong that after the facilitator ruled that no consensus had been reached, a chant of “Let him speak!” rose up.

You can see for yourself if you watch the video below, which I recommend, especially to anyone prejudiced into a negative opinion about the Atlanta occupation’s impoliteness. You may draw the same conclusion, but it’s important to be accurate about what really happened there: An agenda had been previously agreed to, Lewis was requesting to interrupt it, and, according to the agreed upon Assembly rules, changing the agenda required “consensus,” which the Assembly was unable to reach.Therefore, the previously agreed to agenda remained in effect and Lewis was unable to interrupt. Lewis himself humbly accepted the Assembly’s decision. Continue reading

Liberals Are Terrified of #OccupyWallStreet

TNR: Liberals should be nervous

Picking up where we left off yesterday, The New Republic has now offered its official two cents on the protests on Wall Street and, as one would expect of the stuffy self-appointed organ of the liberal power elite inside the Beltway, it disapproves.

[T]o draw on the old cliché, the enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend. Just because liberals are frustrated with Wall Street does not mean that we should automatically find common cause with a group of people who are protesting Wall Street. Indeed, one of the first obligations of liberalism is skepticism—of governments, of arguments, and of movements. And so it is important to look at what Occupy Wall Street actually believes and then to ask two, related questions: Is their rhetoric liberal, or at least a close cousin of liberalism? And is this movement helpful to the achievement of liberal aims?

This task is made especially difficult by the fact that there is no single leader who is speaking for the crowds, no book of demands that has been put forward by the movement. Like all such gatherings, it undoubtedly includes a broad range of views. But the volume of interviews, speeches, and online declarations associated with the protests does make it possible to arrive at some broad generalizations about what Occupy Wall Street stands for. And these, in turn, suggest a few reasons for liberals to be nervous about the movement.

The Editors responsible for the unsigned editorial then go on to outline the differences between #ows’s radicalism and TNR’s proper liberalism (the former is dreamy, “group-thinky” and utopian, the latter skeptical, pragmatic and pro-capitalist) , before urging liberals to stay the hell away. Continue reading

#TeaParty Terrified of #OccupyWallStreet’s New American Revolution

Dress-up rebel doing the bidding of the corporate class.

James Oliphant of the Los Angeles Times quotes prominent self-anointed leaders of the Tea Party movement on their reaction to the recent sprouting of Occupy America encampments in dozens of cities across North America from Boston and New York to Seattle and L.A. Clearly the Tea Party bosses don’t get it Continue reading

Right Wing Americans Need to Wake Up And Get Real

A blogger calling himself Mark America demonstrates the fear-sodden ideology of the right that is disabling many conservatives’ ability to think clearly about what is really going on:

On Saturday, the “Occupy DC” contingent of the greater “Occupy Wall Street” movement clashed with guards and police outside the National Air and Space Museum.  At least one was pepper-sprayed, and one was arrested.  They’re now combining with the even more radical October2011 group, the object of which is to overturn our system of government.  All of these groups have direct ties to Barack Obama from his years in the left-wing community organizing movement, and to the Democrat party structure reaching back two decades.  Let’s be honest:  These are the shock-troops of the communist movement in America.

For those of you who don’t yet understand what this is all about, it’s time to clear it up.  These people aren’t protesting for reform.  They are protesting for the absolute destruction of the United States of America of any description by which you’ve known it.  I once thought that to believe this, a person would need the tin-foil hat and the basement computer terminal and be a conspiracy kook, but this is simply not the case any longer.  These people have powerful, well-heeled backers, and they are acting in concert with Barack Obama and the extreme leftist fringe of American politics.

They  make the mistake of believing the Republican Party is the United States. Big, big mistake. It misleads them into making mistakes of thinking all around. Continue reading

Is Equal Access to Health Care a Right?

Responding to yesterday’s post, Trutherator wrote:

On insurance companies covering everything, that’s one of the choices an insurance consumer has at the moment of purchase. But once you concede your own freedom to set up the guys with guns (government) to decide how much of YOUR money to take for their health care provision, especially a government that has shown themselves so astronomically inept that federal cabinet-level departments have had repeated cases of moneys missing to the tune of even $12 billion for the Dept of Education.

My response to Trutherator follows. Continue reading

Ron Paul Reveals More About His Notion of Freedom

The most notorious moment in the Republican presidential debate the other night revealed something about Ron Paul the “liberty” candidate’s idea of what freedom actually means to him. Clearly some vociferous audience members, presumably members of the Tea Party, think they define it similarly, but I don’t think all Americans do or would. Continue reading

Is Government Property Always Unjust?

I want to spend a little more time on the notion in Paul’s third principle that “justly acquired property” is “privately owned,” which implies that government (or public) property can only be unjustly acquired. I suspect the primary libertarian principle at work here is “taxation is theft,” a right-wing perversion (or theft, if you will) of Proudhon’s original libertarian socialist principle that “property is theft.”

It seems to me a bit sneaky of Paul not to put his cards flat on the table and admit that that is precisely his meaning here, if that is his meaning. Of course it would open him wide up to the charge of  supreme hypocrisy for having accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years of  “unjustly acquired” income as a representative to the Congress from his district in Texas. Continue reading