1:45 p.m. EST
ST here: I’ll be blogging live from the 4th International Herbert Marcuse conference today through Saturday. I’ll try to say a little about Marcuse and also provide some feedback on the talks I go to at the conference.
I am now in a session where Alex Callinicos is speaking as part of a panel. The panel is titled Class-Based Social Movements in the 21st Century: Building a Critical Praxis. This is the second of four panels on Class Based Social movements.
2:00 p.m. EST
As a side note while Alex makes his initial comments, I’ll make my own. I’ve never been to a conference with such a high percentage of women participants. Does this say something about the appeal of Marcuse’s philosophy, about the current state of academia or something else.
Alex is talking about unions and now about Tahrir Square in Egypt – it was tremendously important. Part of the strike was an independent worker’s movement, not an organized labor movement. The strike movement has resumed now on a larger, more radical scale according to Alex. The ability of the revolution to maintain itself has dependent on the growth of the worker’s movement. Yet, the achievement of the squares has been symbolic in disrupting the workings of government. So we need to find some way to connect the squares with political action. In the EU, the worker’s movement, though weak, still has the ability to stop things from happening. The student union movement in the United Kingdom emboldened the trade labor movement. We need to understand how it works if we are to “mine” the more effective labor movement- critical develop an effective response to the crisis.
2:10 p.m. EST
Before moving on to the next speaker, I’ll say that Alex Callinicos’ comments were interesting, but he gave a much more moving response to the speakers this morning, challenging them to understand the power of the OWS.
Mark Dudzic, Labor Party National Organizer, Labor for Single-Payer
Mark appreciates Alex’s comments about UK, but laments the fact that we do not have even such a compromised class-based labor union that is effective in the US. We are here to celebrate OWS. Most of Mark’s comments deal with the history of progressive movements in the US in the last 30 years. One thing was getting his union to understand that “we had to fight to build a labor movement in the US while putting up with the occasional weak “democratic” president from time to time.” Built up to a founding convention in 1995. (Aside: Mark is a very clear spoken and gesticulating speaker.) The party building model they had said they had to be rooted in the organized labor movement.
I wonder what Mark would say about a MacIntyrean approach to organizing and local communities. He just said they understood that the workers had to own the movement. Which is clearly something MacIntyre would agree with. He also agrees that elections were not the end-all of the movement. The movement peaked around 1998. Labor and unions have been hit by a number of factors from government actions to international actions. Today’s labor movement has been compromised, which changes the dynamics about where they have to be and how to revive the movement.
I could see an interesting dissertation in political science or philosophy that begins with an interview of this guy and addresses the movement’s work from a MacIntyrean perspective.
Joe Burns, Reviving the Strike: argues must be a supplanting of the labor movement if we are to create positive forward motion.
The tragedy of this movement is that, we are in this moment of potential that has struck a chord in working peoples’ hearts, but we have no capacity to move that forward strategically. The snows are coming, and if we fail to build a party based on class and values, we will never move beyond an episodic participation of explosions that happen every few years.
It strikes me that Mark is right on here!
2:25 p.m. EST
Sam Gindin is speaking, but it is hard to follow because he is sitting down and the mic is not close to him. He’s from Canada. He says we need to talk more about the crisis of labor.
There is a crisis of the left, because we have had forty years of the worker getting the shit kicked out of them, and the left remained powerless to do anything. But we have to understand what happened to the workers. Neo-liberalism was not an attack on the workers, but a way to channel of the workers desires and needs that enforced neo-liberalism. They drove a divide between non-union and union-labors.
NB: I’ve said this over and over in the blog. We have to move away from this divisive action.
Movements have focused on single issues and could not form coalitions. The different sides had instrumental outlooks and not a universal out look. NB: he is talking about the common good here without using that terminology.
Limits faced in his worker’s assembly: objective fact that there weren’t a lot of struggles going on that they could hook into; the people in the assembly was loose, so they avoided political discussions (NB: an issue of common good); lack of skills, from how to talk to people we disagree with without sounding patronizing, how to organize, how to penetrate labor, or what to do — what kind of activities should we engage in because we can’t just meet.
One idea: have labor unions bus people to the Occupy movements. Don’t just sit and witness.
99% is great, but most of the 99% are happy. Workers aren’t radical. People do not have structures through which to express their anger and struggle, and that is a problem of the left.
2:45 p.m. EST
I think that Sam has some good points: there is a need to have some model and some mode of organizing the protest. Yet, I think this organization has to face the issues of the common good and of the issues about local communities that I have brought up.
More concern about the atrophy of structures of resistance and the co-option of the left by neo-liberalism.
Lots of criticism of Obama and Clinton and of the democrats as well as of the right. Right on!
3:00 p.m. EST
Janaina Stronzake, Brazilian Landless Peasant Movement
Janaina is Brazilian and does not speak English, and her translator is struggling with the translation and is not speaking into the mic, so I can’t understand anything that is being said. This makes me sad. We should have better organization here if we are really concerned about hearing from outside the margins.
Landless workers movement was founded in 1984 and its main strategy is to occupy unowned, unworked land. We are not thinking of ourselves as a group trying to improve welfare of the whole or redesign the whole system. We are thinking about revolution
We need to subvert this type of culture that has been raised in us. Relation with time, relation with work, and relation between people in the community.
NB: Janaina is a very vibrant speaker. I wish I could understand her language and did not have to rely on the translator. (Where’s my babble fish?)
How many of us treat time as money? We have to change/subvert that relation. How many times have we had the the idea of our work as something fun, creative, different? Even in the occupation everyone has to be represented as their own individual self. Our duty is to be subversive, to become a subversive class. From this movement of the landless workers, we need to change our relationship to time, work, and community.
NB: We really need a MacIntyre practical study of this Landless Workers Movement
The intellectual must realize she is part of the people. Class movement cannot be started from capitalism.
Slogan: Occupy, Resist, and Produce!
Occupy, Resist, and Grow.
Back to blogging from the conference. I’m attending a session titled Capitalism in Crisis: Occupy!: Marx, Marcuse, Austerity, and Refusal Part 1. — Strategy and Tactics
The main speaker is Stanley Aronowitz, who, I was informed about 20 minutes ago, is familiar with the Pedagogy of the Oppressed tradition.
He’s opened his talk by stating that OWS has technique without strategy. Not to have demands evokes puzzlement. But in the case of OWS, not to have demands is a result of a decision — the reasons because there are too many unanswered questions. One unanswered question is what is the organization that will propel this movement? The OWS people have said that they have an organization with a decision-making process, but it’s about what they do tonight or what they do tomorrow. They are asking themselves questions like what do they do when it gets cold and when it rains?
It is important to see this movement as part of a global movement. We may say several possible reasons for the upsurge that has taken place in many countries.
The most common explanation is the failure of capitalism to resolve the economic crisis, according to Aronowitz, which may be traced back to 2000.One of the problems with the crisis is that this is a jobs crisis, because the many people who have jobs are satisfied because they have jobs. But the truth is that they are unsatisfied because they’ve had to make concessions.
The second reason is the great refusal of capital to do anything on the principle of the great liberal-democratic apparatus to do anything to resolve the crisis. And people elect liberal-democrats expecting them to change thing, but people are learning that the political system is broken. Thus, OWS says they are a post-political movement — they are not interested in electoral politics. Yet, the democrats are taking credit for what the OWS movement is doing. But people at OWS are very concerned about being used in this regard.
Aronowitz goes on to explain that the deeper question is, in the absence of a credible party system on the left of some substance that can be trusted to help them, what are the steps that would have to be taken for OWS to have some possibility for survival? They know they must rely on people that are trustworthy, but it’s not clear that anyone is trustworthy here.
Questions for the panelists:
So the question is what do we do to support them?
What do we learn from the experience from other countries and from our own?
People in other countries are not surprised when their protestors get tear-gassed or beaten by rubber bullets. But Americans are! One question as this grows: what will be the response of the police and the state — bi-partisan violence happened in Oakland, which has a democratic mayor. Or will it be repressive tolerance? when a Mayor Bloomberg says, because this is private property, we will not bother them, but the moment they do something that is not legitimate, then we’re going to arrest them.
ST: I think what Aronowitz asks is vital to ask, but he needs to open the analysis up. We need to think locally of how we are going to secure local communities that work outside the political system. This is really a questioning of the liberal tradition– that is, the tradition of a neutral government that allows “freedom” for the pursuit of unlimited wealth, but not true freedom.
Leo Panitch is now speaking. He saw when the NY Times began to pay attention to the OWS movement that other media started to pay attention to. They interviewed a woman who said she’s been trying to reform the system all of her life; now she is tired of reforming. We need to do some careful analysis of this. We have to recognize that this is a form of political theater –there is opposition to the ruling class.
Panitch has brought up N+1 as an excellent source on the demands of OWS.
What they want is to show that there is a different kind of politics — the consensus meeting.
ST: Of course, I’ve mentioned this before in the discussion of Occupy Portland. It’s very Thomistic, very MacIntyrean, to have this sort of movement. But consensus based cannot work on the global or even the national level.
Panitch is saying that this kind of politics has a contradiction — the tolerate and extol the slowest kind of politics imaginable. But I would ask, what are the other options?
The reason that the government giving for why no portapotties is that it is a possible place for a terrorist to put a bomb.
Despite his criticisms, Leo believes we need to be very supportive of the OWS movement. He is recommending that students and others begin to occupy business schools as it gets cold. And we should engage in socialist education wherever we can, which people are suspicious of.
Peter Marcuse is up to speak now. “We will have succeeded when the woman says, I don’t want reforms but something else, call me a commie, and I’ll be proud of it.”
ST: Is communism a viable option here? What is meant by communism? Or by being a commie?
The strength of the occupation is not in its numbers or actions, but in what it produces — I think Peter is right here, which is what I have focused on in a number of blogs — the question is what do we do, in Peter’s words, inspired by them.
Peter wisely warns us to be wary of co-optation by the media and by the current government.
Our first native Greek is speaking about the protests in Greece. I missed her name because of her heavy accent. She is listing some needs for the success of OWS
1. The need for democracy
2. To say that they are not only for denunciation of the state
3. Their demand not only to re-appropriate their every day but to re-appropriate the city — the public space. A new construction of life from below – ST: Could MacIntyre have said it better himself?
Must form a strategy with these features of the social movement and not try to address them in a traditional way. The crucial question that arises in Greece today, is the left that will not reproduce the same answers as before – must escape that there is only two roads, either social democracy or collaboration with the powers to make some progress. Must make a position of power that does not pass from the left, but an alliance of forces, that addresses the real questions.
Another person from Greece, but he did not introduce himself. The Left needs to participate in these movements. They need to question the economics that underlie this democracy. If Greece remains in the EU, then there will not be concrete solutions. The next step is to figure how to pose the problem: under which conditions can this anti-capitalism program be proposed?
The Arab Spring has given such an inspiration all over the world. If, in Greece, there is a tactical defeat of the movement, then it will be an inspiration to the world too.
Very moving and brave words
ST: So I asked the panel a question, we’ll see if they answer it. My question was, where is the discussion of the common good in the occupy movements and where does MacIntyre fit into this discussion?
No answer, of course.