It’s a Barnum and Bailey World!

Protesting the Wall Street Plutocrats in California

“The whole world is in trouble…and the danger zone is everywhere”
Percy Mayfield, Bluesman

Revolution or Anarchy?

As I look at the mass uprisings against government authority around the globe it is clear that they are a class of phenomena that share several fundamental features. They are leaderless, present no specific demands, and possess no ideology or theory of change that envisions the new society they wish to construct.  In other words they are spontaneous combustions directed by social media like Facebook and Twitter, which has bypassed the organizational stages that all the successful mass transformative movements in history have evolved through. Thus their prospects as agents for qualitative change appear more illusionary than real in spite of their zeal.

Although they often refer to themselves as revolutionaries, which mean they are about the  business of making a revolution, the young people who are participating in these uprisings appear fairly clueless about the history and character of successful revolutions in the modern world.  The most shocking sign of their naiveté is the belief that they can accomplish radical change in a complex mass society like the US while bypassing politics – which is a process that requires serious discipline and organization.

Yet we see this naiveté in youth driven uprisings around the world; it is no wonder that many participants describe themselves as “anarchist,” and sing the praises of anarchy despite the fact that anarchy is a synonym for chaos.  In Israel for instance, we hear 26 year old Yonatan Levy refer to the tent cities that have cropped up in urban areas to protests the concentration of wealth in a small elite, the domination of government by ultra-Orthodox Jews and the absence of affordable housing as “a beautiful anarchy.”

In Spain, where the official unemployment rate is 21% – the highest in the industrialized world – we hear Marta Solanas, a 27 year old demonstrator in Madrid declare “Our parents are grateful because they are voting…we’re the first generation to say voting is useless.”  Clearly these demonstrators, who were 70,000 strong, have not pondered the riddle of how they are going to persuade the masses of Spaniards to join a revolution when they can’t convince them to vote for the issues they deem of critical importance.

The real difference between the vision of these youths and their parents is that their parents lived through the fascist period under Generalissimo Francisco Franco, thus they know the difference having the right to vote for their leaders can make in the quality of life…or one’s chances in life. This naviete plagues the growing anti-establishment movement from Israel, to Greece, to India, to England to Wall Street.

And while the demonstrators in the “Arab Spring” were forced to resort to violence because there was no alternative avenue to change, such as in the democracies, their lack of a clear cut vision of the society they are ushering in is a contradiction they share with other demonstrators around the world This is abundantly clear in the statement that appears on the website recruiting people to join the Wall Street demonstrations, either as physical actors or support groups; which describe their nascent movement in the following terms:

“Occupy Wall Street is a leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%. We are using the revolutionary Arab Spring   tactic to achieve our ends and encourage the use of nonviolence to maximize the safety of all participants.”

The apolitical confused nature of the burgeoning demonstrations on Wall Street was made crystal clear by the ubiquitous gadfly Michael Moore, who has long been a foe of the shenanigans of the “economic royalist.” When asked if they were demonstrating to force Congress to fund the agency
tasked with carrying out the President’s rigorous new regulations of Wall Street, or to force them to pass the President’s American Jobs Act, Big Mike glibly replied “We’re beyond all that.”

While one can sympathize with the demonstrator’s motivation and objectives, the serious student of revolutionary movements cannot fail to conclude that an unorganized headless host challenging the citadel of world financial power, but could not present a list of realizable demands if the Robber Barons capitulated and were willing to deal today, has about as much chance of changing the modus operandi of the financial elite as a chimp has of performing the Paganini Variations for solo violin.

Hence from all the observable evidence I am convinced that what we are witnessing is anarchy not revolution!  And if they don’t build an organization and coherent ideology they will not win the support of the public and they will be crushed by the police power of the state…a scenario that we are already beginning to witness.  Let us hope that the entrance of organized labor into the fray will give this populist revolt some real direction and increase their chances of having a positive impact.

The People are on the Move

But Where Are they Headed?


Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

October 4, 2011

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