Many socialists have cheered Lars Lih’s demolition of the textbook interpretation of Lenin’s work in Lenin Rediscovered(2008) without examining how many of our own preconceptions on the subject are now part of the same pile of rubble. The fact that Occupy has functioned in practice like the much-sought-after but never replicated vanguard party that Lenin helped create in early 20th century Russia has also escaped much of the Marxist and socialist lefts.
These two developments are not coincidental.
Occupy Petrograd – circa 1917.
Leon Trotsky’s description of the party as “a lever for enhancing the activity of the advanced workingmen” captures exactly how Occupy has functioned. In the space of four weeks, Occupy Wall Street (OWS) mobilized more workers and oppressed people than the entire U.S. socialist left combined has in four decades. OWS did not begin with a program or a series of demands but with an action that inspired tens of thousands of others to act, speak, march, occupy, and rise up in an elemental awakening (or stikhiinyi in Russian). Continue reading
The “99% Spring” Brings Co-optation into Full Bloom
As the Occupy movement begins to come into full bloom across the country this Spring – with plans for massive days of action and demonstrations on May 1st, new campaigns for transit justice on both coasts, continued organizing against foreclosures and police violence, and a slight chance of a bank protest or two – there are several weeds sprouting in the prefigurative garden. Not least of which is the “99% Spring” campaign, led and funded by every corner of the modern Democratic Party machine. One might ask themselves “What is wrong with non-violent direct action?” or “How effective could the ‘Democratic Party machine’ actually be, anyway?” There is nothing inherently wrong with civil disobedience and it surely remains to be seen if this campaign can train 10,000 people let alone the 100,000 they plan to. The campaign director at MoveOn.org, Ilyse Hogue, an organization that seems to be the key player in the 99% Spring, has recently written in the Nation that “Occupy is Dead” and that the 99% Spring will succeed where Occupy has failed – while mimicking their slogans. What they lack in actual knowledge of Occupy’s health, they certainly make up for in co-optive obviousness. Fertilized by decades of expanding inequality, Occupy needs to bloom and transform in the coming months, without getting mired in conflict with the various failed institutions of the organizational Left. However, those flowers of resistance will have to rise above the weeds of a dying order, including the 99% Spring dandelions.