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Bellum intestinum

By Michael J. Smith on Saturday November 12, 2011 07:54 PM

One of my old Maoist comrades,a lurker on this blog -- let's call him Feliks -- has been berating me lately for being squishy-soft on anarchism.

Feliks has got a point. I'm not as antagonistic to the whole anarcho thing these days as I once would have been.

'These days' is the operative term. Feliks and I knew self-proclaimed anarchists back in the 70s whose anarchism was merely a thin left cover for bourgeois liberal anti-communism, but let's face it, communism isn't scary enough these days to produce anti-communists. It's just not on the table at all, in fact. One may deplore the fact, but fact it remains.

The vaguely-defined 'anarchism' that seems to be frequently met with among the Occupations seems rather open and undogmatic to me -- not a defense mechanism against real activism, as it so often was back in the day. (Obviously, since they're out there stopping traffic.)

As the Occupations continue, evolution will do doubt take place, as is its wont. Will the Occupations evolve into something that Feliks and I might find more familiar and ideologically congenial? Who knows? Part of me would like to think so, and part of me is wondering whether we might be looking at something new and different. What's the right analogy? 1905? 1789? 1649? None of the above? I personally have no idea how to answer this one. Only time will tell, surely.

Meanwhile, it seems clear that trying to sell classic Leninism constitutes pissing into the wind. Some of these old arguments may become relevant again -- probably will, in fact -- but if they do, they will only usefully do so in a practical context, not on a mailing list or a blog.

The old ML war horse in me is certainly not dead, and when the sealed train arrives at the Finland Station I'll happily place myself under strict Party discipline along with Feliks. Do us both a world of good. Meanwhile, the moment seems too intense and interesting to waste in arid, abstract, and over-familiar quarrels.

Comments (23)

Al Schumann:

I've had happily baffled conversations with comrades who (like me) are delighted to have been totally wrong in their initial assessment of the Occupations. These kids have different moves. They're agile in ways that are new to me. They have a fantastic sense of humor. If this isn't the big step forward, it's certainly a step forward. There'll be more too. They learn quickly.


This is my sense too. It's a parade I definitely don't want to rain on.


If you refuse to confront the fatuousness of the OWS "movement," then you are as much of the Hopey McChangey fiasco as Timothy Geithner.

What are you occupying except for your own minds? Is Wall Street down? Are the bombers grounded? Has coal been left in the ground? Are there jobs aplenty coming for these OWS potentates, so they can raise Jesus children and have diversity birthday parties at Chuck E. Chese? Is Pete Seeger going to be next year's Super Bowl entertainment? When oh when will there be anything "real" coming out of these North Face tents?
Brought to you by Nihilists, Inc - the folks that understand social reality better than you do.
Have a nice parade!


They aren't going to radicalized by scolds, if that's any consolation to you. They haven't emerged from ugly Zeus' brow full formed and armed to fight. Who does? Fictional revolutionaries, one imagines...

But, as the various municipalities up the crackdown ante, those swinging batons start to alter the perspectives of the people on the receiving end of 'em. Respect for and fear of the established order diminishes. From thence, your next step.


It's the top of the first inning, OWS led off with a double, there's a full count on the next batter....and mojosef has already declared a 10-0 shutout win for Capital.

Let's give this a bit of time, shall we?

Michael, regarding anarchism, into-wind-pissing Leninism, etc: The Occupy movement has, among other things thusfar, created space for new ideas, new possibilities. They might even have a ML cast eventually, even if not called that. Anecdotally, I had a rather lively chat at OWS with a young fellow manning the SWP table. Can't remember the last time that happened since college days --- where in a public space in NYC does one normally find the SWP table? I was also cheered to discover that the chap was a city employee. Infiltrators unite!

OWS is prying open space, and setting in motion events that they/we may not even be able to control. Who knows where this goes? And why declare defeat in advance?


Nice to see Eeyore back and in good voice.


....OWS may also have created space for the reemergence of old ideas and the rejuvenation of old possibilities.....

Al Schumann:
But, as the various municipalities up the crackdown ante, those swinging batons start to alter the perspectives of the people on the receiving end of 'em. Respect for and fear of the established order diminishes. From thence, your next step.

I have thoughts along those lines too. Once you've been processed through the punishment systems a few times, if it doesn't break you it becomes boring more than anything else. Nasty as the people employed in it can be, they're pitiable once you get past the hatred. Their suicide rate is very high. Their domestic lives are miserable. They shit on each other in small spiteful ways. They inflict opportunistic injustices down the hierarchy in chest thumping exercises. Superiors cultivate bootlicking from below and spring planned shaming lessons to make examples, object lessons, of the vulnerable. They do it to each other, my fucking God, but what a hell they live in. So, a few fatuous pwogs? Bring 'em on!


there must be something wrong with me
but the stuff coming out of
the mouths of these raw occ folks
at least the ones
i've seen interviewed
and i observed at the zuccini site
seemed familiar enough to me

they seem filled with usual low hanging memes

memes that almost fall right into the open hand
if you are standing under the correct idological tree

its their protracted staking out of
a very urban very public headquarters
a liberated space at the core of the bestial system
and of course their action not demand
that strikes me as a real advance
over my generation's youth
and our now problematic
long decade of pink folly
from the kennedy kill
to the nixon abdication

whoopin it up at the ole college campus
or lolling away in beatifica pacifica
on the back porch of some rustic utopia
hazed by visionary drugs ...

one has to go back to the 1840's
to find a like wave of middle class
yankee idiocy

others have noted the contrast between
hard hat reaction then and now

thus can 35 years of a nasty toxic corporate economy shake loose fruitful
pour soi and en soi
the social barings
of kulack labor


This interview from David Harvey is an interesting read. I can't help but wonder at the way the neo-liberal project was rigged to explode. We have spoiled 3rd generation oligarchs who have lost track of what's real and what's propaganda for the masses.

I don't think the brutal crackdown, such as it is will amount to much. Our betters will ask police to brutalize citizens as they slash their pay and foreclose on their house and eliminate their pension. They can help but treat all workers like crap, it's what the book says to do.

In the meantime they have made tax revenue so dependent on wage income that they will never close the budget deficit. Germany wants to keep exporting stuff to Greeks that they can't afford, declining oil production will send food prices soaring and limit so called force projection. The markets will continue to churn increasingly useless paper pretending all the loans will be paid back with interest. And all the oligarchs do is vote themselves more money and tell each other how clever they are.


whoops, didn't mean to both this in two threads. Sorry.

Al Schumann:

Regarding the currency problem of the 60s and 70s, in the Harvey interview, the big problem was the remnants of the gold standard and the balance of payments. The international banks had a nasty little arbitrage going. They could, and did, demand gold for their surplus dollars, they could buy the gold for below market price and effectively dump dollars. This made balance of payments much worse. Printing dollars didn't help matters, and the ruthless monetary squeeze afterwards made things worse.


OWS certainly looks like "anarchism" as I've always understood it. No leaders, no hierarchy, no dogma or ideology, no particular "demands" to be made of a system that needs to be put out of the fulfilling demands business and no one strategy. Multiple cells springing up everywhere with no real connection to each other. They are getting a bunch of people together, growing the movement and knocking ideas around while they create a new reality. You have to grow the tree before you can carve it into a baseball bat.

I understand the skepticism directed against this movement. I am suspicious of all mass movements of this type and I hope it doesn't degenerate into a repeat of the impotent protest bullshit of the last 50 years or idiotic juvenile street theater. But let's give these kids a chance and back them 100 percent. Don't just assume the worst.

It's interesting to see so many on the left complaining about the lack of direction, demands or leaders of this movement. They are so conditioned to the authoritarian, hierarchical model they are gobsmacked clueless by anything else. I hope this movement does develop along anarchist lines. The authoritarian model has 50,000 years of failure behind it. Maybe it's time for a change of tactics?


Eminent Marxist geographer David Harvey gives us ..the 70's and into the reagan thatcher revolution ary years :

"..there was a sort of class revolt on the part of the elites, who suddenly found themselves in some considerable difficulty, for economic as well as for political reasons....labor contracts were relatively favorable for those who were in the privileged unions ..that put certain stresses in the system...... if wages go up, profits tend to go down. ....There was a really serious threat to the ownership structure in Sweden ...
Walter Wriston came up with ... the safest place to invest ... money... in countries, because countries can't disappear -- you always know where they are. ...
they started to make the money available to many countries .... Latin America was very popular, but also places like Poland even... then in 1982 there was this general fiscal crisis, particularly after Volcker had raised the interest rate ....Mexicans who had borrowed money at 5 percent were now having to pay it back at 16 percent or 17 percent, and they found they couldn't do it. Mexico was about to go bankrupt in 1982. That was the point at which neoliberalism kicked in.... Neoliberalism was not doing very well in its pure form, in terms of regenerating capital accumulation but what it was doing very well was redistributing wealth towards the upper classes.....suddenly billionaires erupted in Mexico"

then we jump to a novel paradigm of admiral harvey's on devising

"Accumulation by dispossession"

it " takes many local forms...there's a tremendous amount of dispossession of wealth and assets going on around the world"

next stop

modern imperialism
"very different from the sort of imperialism that existed at the end of the 19th century, say in Britain and France"
"The US can force markets open in countries, through things like the WTO, through things like bailing out ... the economic influence is very important."

also think lots of local "strong persons...usuually a man, a strong man
who will do your bidding and you will support him and you will give him assets and give him military assistance "

hop hop uncle sam on the skid

"under neoliberalization is the US has lost a lot of its dominance in the world of production. Production, its capacity, has disappeared to places like China and the rest of East and Southeast Asia... now you look at the huge deficit that the US has both in terms of its internal budget but also its indebtedness to the rest of the world, and you see that the US is not in such a good position financially. We're actually at a cusp right now: the amount of money the US is going to have to pay out to the rest of the world, in order to fund its debt, is equal to the amount of money that is flowing in from its global operations. So it's no longer a positive thing for the United States ...
The only thing that the United States has got left where it's really dominant is in terms of its military capacity....the US has a rather more limited position than many people like to think, right now, which is not to say that it's subservient to the rest of the world, but it's no longer as dominant as it once was "

and then a light dawns

" the huge deficits which the US is now running, in relation to the rest of the world but also internally, are indeed a threat to global stability.... I think that there's going to have to be a major structural adjustment internal within the US"

evidence of a remarkable mind at work here
eh ??


"Sasha Lilley produces Against the Grain. With a background in international development studies and intellectual history, Sasha is particularly concerned with political economy in the developing world and the agrarian question both past and present. She also works as a staff writer at CorpWatch. Among other ventures, she has worked as a journalist in Cuba, researched nationalism and the Holocaust in the Belorussian State Archives in Minsk, and tracked the arms industry in Britain. "


a calculator on the italian "fiscal
crisis" numbers game




"I don't think the brutal crackdown, such as it is will amount to much. Our betters will ask police to brutalize citizens as they slash their pay and foreclose on their house and eliminate their pension"

yup once you lay it all end to end..
i guess you're right...won't amount to much


When commenters say "won't amount to much" are they suggesting that police action will not be effective in breaking the will of the Occupy demonstrators? Really? How many have to be killed before the Occupy crowd starts to re-examine their choice of activity? Is there afoot the suggestion that the police will not be compensated sufficiently to be motivated to crack the skulls of people they don't like? When they certainly like cracking skulls in the abstract to begin with?


How we all love to predict the future. Is it because we look forward so much to saying "I told you so"?

In all honesty, I think the human race is full of people prone to get their heads into the future because the now tends to suck. For some of us, that's an easier tomorrow, or desire finally satisfied, or the pleasures of friendships delayed, finally met. For others, it's the confirmation of a universal future misery, and defeat, to make the present more palatable.


Is, it, MJS, we all look forward to saying "I told you so"?
No, it is because we are sick of others telling us what "now" is and "the future" will be, in a Christopher Robin kind of eternal fantasy of transcendent ascetism, and getting it wrong, boringly wrong.
As with a certain Hopey McChangey president whose supplicants are forever pleading, "give him time, it's only his first ____ years," the OWS cheerleaders will be forever saying, it's only the beginning, let it bloom faith-style into worldwide healing, "it's only just begun,"
as Karen Carpenter sang so willingly in her anorexic fervor.


I think it's 'something different'. I can't help but believe that the best of us realize that without success there is no meaningful future, for anyone.

Ahoy, comrades. Sorry to stop by, and even sorrier to observe more of the same. (One might also be surprised to see Crow with so much time to keep blog-menting, given his chance now to be out cracking some skulls.)

In any event, I don't at all get the supposedly increasing love for the OWS phenom, nice as it is. I agree that nobody can predict the path of history, but some things are still real, whatever we tell ourselves. First of all, "movements" that can't name or show or even suggest any victories are in big trouble. Second, despite the coverage over at CounterPunch, the fact remains that the Occupy Portland movement suffered a big defeat last night, insofar as they have any point to make (amid the signs saying "the only good government: no government"), by giving up its (pathetic and tiny and symbolically stillborn) spot to the police. Third, despite the macho talk about fighting cops around here, have y'all noticed? The cops have learned that they can win simply by waiting. The big crowd on Saturday night here went home in droves after about the usual pub-closing hour.

The left remains close to brain-dead, Occupy included. These kids are utterly at sea.



i like sandy's assym gig

the use of the blab word "growth "
needs some tiny green peebles as scrupples

-- not at all unlike the words " value added"
much of industry involves the nullifying
production of some seriously nasty
value subtracting

Al Schumann:

Owen, I do too. He puts malarkey and balderdash to rights.

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