Posted 1 year ago on July 16, 2014, 12:54 p.m. EST by Andy-Merrifield
“This is the inaugural article in a Theory Thursday series commissioned by the Occupy Solidarity Network to encourage intellectual curiosity, strategic thinking and tactical innovation within the global Occupy movement. To catalyze an Occupy reboot, we asked the greatest political philosophers of our movement to contribute a thought-piece. We will post one each week.
We begin with Andy Merrifield—a prolific political philosopher—because his work is woefully under-read in North America. And yet, he is one of the greats. For an introduction to Merrifield’s work, find yourself a copy of both The Wisdom of Donkeys: Finding Tranquility in a Chaotic World and Magical Marxism: Subversive Politics and the Imagination.” - Micah White
Anybody who glances at the latest literature on cities and urban development will see a lot of hype about “global cities” as engines of economic growth. Yet you’ve really got to wonder what cities these commentators have in mind? You’ve really got to wonder if big cities nowadays are actually about the “wealth of nations” (as Jane Jacobs proclaimed in the 1980s) or express some “triumph of the city” (Ed Glaeser’s patent). On the contrary, today's big cities have economies almost exclusively predicated on activities we could justifiably categorize as “parasitic.”
World cities are giant arenas where the most prominent activity is the activity of extorting land rent, of making land pay. London, like New York, like other megacities, is now rich pickings for the world’s super-elite. Its property market is a newer, safer investment haven (at least for the time being), a stock market in exile, a global reserve currency with bonanza rates of annualized return (currently around 10%), generating an inflationary spiral that squeezes other, more modest sectors of the housing and rental market.
The only thing that is truly entrepreneurial and creative about parasitic elites is the innovative way in which they’ve reclaimed the public sector, how they’ve used and abused the public sector to prime the private pump, to subsidize the accumulation of capital rather than the reproduction of people. “Creation” here seems more akin to creative accountancy and creative ways to avoid paying tax; creative devices to gouge make-believe fees from ordinary citizens (especially in utility bills); creative finagling of stock and financial markets (like LIBOR); creative destruction of competition to garner inflated monopoly rents and merchant profits; creative excuses to cadge money from the state. The list goes on, creatively. And when they parachute into cities, these “creative” parasitic classes have little use of public infrastructure anyway; their lives are so utterly privatized, geared only towards individual, market-oriented goods, that they bid up land values and property prices and hasten the abandonment of the public realm in the creative bargain.
“These are fiery, start-up movements and ideas that we, the people, can further fuel and develop.” - Andy Merrifield
When things go belly up, furthermore, as they inevitably do, when there are glitches within the overall economy, the state inevitably plays its ace card as a first line of defense, as a veritable executive committee managing the common affairs of a bourgeois and aristocratic super-elite, stepping in at the first signs of crisis—bailing out the bankrupted corporations, the debt-ridden, too-big-to-fail financial institutions, dishing out corporate welfare to multinationals, turning a blind-eye on tax avoidance and sleazy accountancy.
One string in the state’s bow is austerity governance. Austerity is manufactured consent, ruling class ideology, neatly fitting into the material needs of the 1%. Austerity enables parasitic predilections to flourish by opening up hitherto closed market niches: it lets primitive accumulation continue apace, condoning the flogging off of public sector assets and infrastructure, the fire-sales and free giveaways, the privatizations, etc., etc., all done in the name of cost control, of supposedly trimming bloated public budgets. What were once untouchable and non-negotiable collective use-values (public services) are now fair game for re-commodification, for snapping up cheaply by the predators only to resell at colossally dearer prices to those who can afford them.
Austerity conditions the global urbanization boom by nourishing the parasitic city. In parasitic cities, social wealth is consumed through conspicuously wasteful enterprises, administered by parasitic urban elites, who, acting like rentier aristocrats from the Gilded Age, now squander generative capacity by thriving off unproductive activities. They prosper from rents and interest-bearing assets, from shareholder dividends and fictitious fees. Paradoxically, they’ve amassed colossal wealth when corporate profits have dipped, defying economic gravity because rentiers have helped themselves to the commonwealth the world over. They’ve eaten away inside our social body, stripped peoples’ assets, made predatory loans to people who can’t afford these loans, repossessed homes, engineered land grabs and eminent domain to dispossess value rather than contribute anything toward its creation. They’ve simply invested in themselves rather than built up human capital, privatizing profit all the while as they socialize risk.
How can ordinary people develop civic immunity? One initial measure is to stop the billions of pounds and dollars draining from public finances because of corporate tax avoidance. Governments insist on belt-tightening policies, running down public service provision at the same time as they turn a blind eye on tax dodging companies and super-rich individuals, who’ve carved themselves up and re-registering head offices in offshore tax havens like the Cayman Islands, Monaco or Luxembourg, etc., etc. Already a groundswell of opposition has developed. Grassroots organizations in Britain like “UK Uncut” has adopted rambunctious and brilliantly innovative direct action occupations, creating scandals around tax-avoiding parasites like Vodafone (with its handy 0% income tax rate for 2012) and assorted banks like HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclay’s and other Dodge City financial institutions.
Maybe there’s a sense in which tax reform and stamping down on bigwig tax avoidance can be revolutionary? Paris-based economist Thomas Piketty has lately been campaigning for a “fiscal revolution” [“révolution fiscale”]. While Piketty has stirred up debate in France, his manifesto has broader, European and global implications, given systems of taxation everywhere cannot be reformed: they need a complete overhaul, a thorough reconstitution on a new democratic basis, with a dual prong of equity and progressive taxation. Equity here boils down to applying the same fiscal logic to capital as to work, rallying around the development of a Financial Transactions Tax(FTT). In Britain and Europe, ordinary small-businesses and self-employed people are compelled to pay 20% Valued Added Tax (VAT) on profitable earnings, so why should we let financial institutions off the hook, particularly when they balk at even a miserly 0.01% penalty?
We might also bring the other aspect of that famous capitalist holy trinity—land—into the taxable bargain. Long ago in Poverty and Progress (1879), Henry George proposed a novel idea that we might want to explore today. In order to “satisfy the law of justice,” George said, a rent tax seems the only alternative preventing parasitic anti-social wealth appropriation. George, accordingly, declared that all land accruing inflated dividends for private investors should be subject to taxation. “I do not propose either to purchase or to confiscate private property in land,” George wrote. “Let individuals who now hold it still retain, if they want to, possession of what they are pleased to call their land. Let them continue to call it their land. Let them buy and sell it, and bequeath and devise it. We may safely leave them the shell, if we take the kernel. It is not necessary to confiscate land; it is only necessary to confiscate rent.”
Thus that preeminent parasitic organism, the leech of landed property—“the monstrous power wielded by landed property,” Marx called it, “expelling people from the earth as a dwelling-place”—can be expunged, or at least democratized by a Community Land Trust that collects this rent tax, instigating another notion of the public realm, one not owned and managed by any centralized state but owned and run by a collectivization of people, federated, communal and truly responsive to citizens’ needs.
Likely the greatest fiscal reform and strongest prophylactic against parasitic urban invasion, though, is democracy, a strengthening of participatory democracy in the face of too much representative democracy, especially when representation means public servants intent on defending private gain. On this note, French philosopher Etienne Balibar has reversed the famous American Revolution mantra and Washington D.C. bumper sticker slogan—“no taxation without representation”—suggesting these days that “no representation without taxation” is more appropriate. Balibar concurs with Piketty, and even thinks that widespread political mobilization for such a “fiscal revolution” could be a key for converting the current “passive citizenship” of the populace into an “active citizenship.”
Active citizens need to engineer some planned shrinkage of the financial sector, and must wage war on monetary blood sucking in the same vein as ruling classes waged war on public services during the 1970s and 1980s. In 1976, then-New York City Housing Commissioner Roger Starr said the city, any city, needed separating into neighborhoods that were “productive” and “unproductive” on the tax base. The plan was to eliminate the unproductive ones, closing down the fire stations, police and sanitation services. Poor areas like the South Bronx suffered immeasurably. Ironically, the idea retains some purchase. Shrinking services that are unproductive drags on our tax base might boil down to financial services; and neighborhoods like London’s Mayfair, home of hedge funds and private equity companies, discreet behind iron-railed Victorian mews, spotlessly painted white, might be the first to be reclaimed. Indeed, as Nicholas Shaxson says, “Mayfair would be far more economically productive if it were turned into a giant waste-disposal center.”
Meanwhile, citizens can strike out at our “Creditocracy” (Andrew Ross’s label), and participate in a debtors’ movement, like Rolling Jubilee, Occupy Wall Street’s roving Strike Debt group, which hasn’t only waged war on the debt collector (college tuition debt alone stands at $1 trillion), but has likewise bailed out the people, organizing a committee to buy back $15 millions worth of household debt, at knockdown prices, on the secondary debt market. Rolling Jubilee has liberated debt at the same time as highlighted the grand larceny and absurdity of the growing debt racket.
These are fiery, start-up movements and ideas that we, the people, can further fuel and develop. We’ve sat back way too long watching our cities and society get repossessed by crooked investors and creditors, gaped helplessly as all this gets endorsed by career politicians and their administrators (or is that the other way around?) who no longer even pretend to want to change anything significant.
Andy Merrifield is a radical political philosopher. Merrifield has written several books including a biography of Situationist philosopher Guy Debord. His latest work is The New Urban Question forthcoming from London’s Pluto Press (March, 2014)
Posted 1 year ago on July 1, 2014, 4:17 p.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
written by Justine Tunney
I'm a strong supporter of matriarchy. This is because men are violent misbehaving creatures. If you want to have order in your society and maximize quality of life for womyn, you need to find some way to cure man of his brutish tendencies. If you look at history, you will see that only one method has really proven to work. That method is slavery.
The two most popular types of slavery in modern america are are wage slavery and slavery to a wife and children through marriage. If the men in your society aren't married or working jobs, then you will have disorder and chaos. They'll form violent gangs and spend all their time gambling and getting drunk in saloons and brothels.
Women on the other hand don't need to be slaves, since women are naturally more civilized. Under matriarchy, a woman is head of her home and home is the center of the universe. She lives in peace and serenity, spending her time with children, family, and community. She spends her time making her surroundings beautiful and sharing nourishing meals with her loved ones. After all, these are the things that truly matter. They're the very foundation of our existence. Everything else that we do, is meant to support these fundamental things. And only women should have the right to enjoy them to the fullest.
On the other hand… all the horrible soul-crushing things that suck, yet are required to support a woman's happiness—should be the sole responsibility of men. Men should be the ones forced to do all the grueling physical labor. Men should be the ones who are forced to go to war to fight and die. Men should be the ones forced to work awful jobs for evil corporations where they're tormented by cruel uncaring bosses that don't care whether they live or die. Men should have to be the ones who worry about money, bills, and all the other capitalist abominations in our society—which I might add were invented by men! When will they learn?
— Justine Tunney (@JustineTunney)
Posted 1 year ago on June 23, 2014, 10:09 a.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
“Preface” to Anti-Oedipus by Michel Foucault
During the years 1945-1965 (I am referring to Europe), there was a certain way of thinking correctly, a certain style of political discourse, a certain ethics of the intellectual. One had to be on familiar terms with Marx, not let one’s dreams stray too far from Freud. And one had to treat sign-systems — the signifier — with the greatest respect. These were the three requirements that made the strange occupation of writing and speaking a measure of truth about oneself and one’s time acceptable.
Then came the five brief, impassioned, jubilant, enigmatic years. At the gates of our world, there was Vietnam, of course, and the first major blow to the powers that be. But here, inside our walls, what exactly was taking place? An amalgam of revolutionary and antirepressive politics? A war fought on two fronts: against social exploitation and psychic repression? A surge of libido modulated by the class struggle? Perhaps. At any rate, it is this familiar, dualistic interpretation that has laid claim to the events of those years. The dream that cast its spell, between the First World War and fascism, over the dreamiest parts of Europe — the Germany of Wilhelm Reich, and the France of the surrealists — had returned and set fire to reality itself: Marx and Freud in the same incandescent light.
But is that really what happened? Had the utopian project of the thirties been resumed, this time on the scale of historical practice? Or was there, on the contrary, a movement toward political struggles that no longer conformed to the model that Marxist tradition had prescribed? Toward an experience and a technology of desire that were no longer Freudian. It is true that the old banners were raised, but the combat shifted and spread into new zones.
Anti-Oedipus shows us first of all how much ground has been covered. But it does much more than that. It wastes no time in discrediting the old idols. even though it does have a great deal of fun with Freud. Most important, it motivates us to go further.
It would be a mistake to read Anti-Oedipus as the new theoretical reference (you know, that much-heralded theory that finally encompasses everything, that finally totalizes and reassures, the one we are told we “need so badly” in our age of dispersion and specialization where “hope” is lacking). One must not look for a “philosophy” amid the extraordinary profusion of new notions and surprise concepts: Anti-Oedipus is not a flashy Hegel. I think that Anti-Oedipus can best be read as an “art,” in the sense that is conveyed by the term “erotic art,” for example. Informed by the seemingly abstract notions of muliplicities, flows, arrangements, and connections, the analysis of the relationship of desire to reality and to the capitalist “machine” yields answers to concrete questions. Questions that are less concerned with why this or that than with how to proceed. How does one introduce desire into thought, into discourse, into action? How can and must desire deploy its forces within the political domain and grow more intense in the process of overturning the established order? Ars erotica, ars theoretica, ars politica.
Whence the three adversaries confronted by Anti-Oedipus. Three adversaries who do not have the same strength, who represent varying degrees of danger, and whom the book combats in different ways:
• The political ascetics, the sad militant, the terrorists of theory, those who would preserve the pure order of politics and political discourse. Bureaucrats of the revolution and civil servants of Truth.
• The poor technicians of desire — psychoanalysts and semiologists of every sign and symptom — who would subjugate the multiplicity of desire to the twofold law of structure and lack.
• Last but not least, the major enemy, the strategic adversary is fascism (whereas Anti-Oedipus‘ opposition to the others is more of a tactical engagement). And not only historical fascism, the fascism of Hitler and Mussolini — which was able to mobilize and use the desire of the masses so effectively — but also the fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behavior, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us.
I would say that Anti-Oedipus (may its authors forgive me) is a book of ethics, the first book of ethics to be written in France in quite a long time (perhaps that explains why its success was not limited to a particular “readership”: being anti-oedipal has become a life style, a way of thinking and living). How does one keep from being fascist, even (especially) when one believes oneself to be a revolutionary militant? How do we rid our speech and our acts, our hearts and our pleasures, of fascism? How do we ferret out the fascism that is ingrained in our behavior? The Christian moralists sought out the traces of the flesh lodged deep within the soul. Deleuze and Guattari, for their part, pursue the slightest traces of fascism in the body.
Paying a modest tribute to Saint Francis de Sales, one might say that Anti-Oedipus is an Introduction to the Non-Fascist Life.
This art of living counter to all forms of fascism, whether already present or impending, carries with it a certain number of essential principles which I would summarize as follows if I were to make this great book into a manual or guide for everyday life:
• Free political action from all unitary and totalizing paranoia.
• Develop action, thought, and desires by proliferation, juxtaposition, and disjunction, and not by subdivision and pyramidal hierarchization.
• Withdraw allegiance from the old categories of the Negative (law, limit, castration, lack, lacuna), which Western thought has so long held sacred as a form of power and an access to reality. Prefer what is positive and multiple, difference over uniformity, flows over unities, mobile arrangements over systems. Believe that what is productive is not sedentary but nomadic.
• Do not think that one has to be sad in order to be militant, even though the thing one is fighting is abominable. It is the connection of desire to reality (and not its retreat into the forms of representation) that possesses revolutionary force.
• Do not use thought to ground a political practice in Truth; nor political action to discredit, as mere speculation, a line of thought. Use political practice as an intensifier of thought, and analysis as a multiplier of the forms and domains for the intervention of political action.
• Do not demand of politics that it restore the “rights” of the individual, as philosophy has defined them. The individual is the product of power. What is needed is to “de-individualize” by means of multiplication and displacement, diverse combinations. The group must not be the organic bond uniting hierarchized individuals, but a constant generator of de-individualization.
• Do not become enamored of power.
It could even be said that Deleuze and Guattari care so little for power that they have tried to neutralize the effects of power linked to their own discourse. Hence the games and snares scattered throughout the book, rendering its translation a feat of real prowess. But thse are not the familiar traps of rhetoric; the latter work to sway the reader without his being aware of the manipulation, and ultimately win him over against his will. The traps of Anti-Oedipus are those of humor: so many invitations to let oneself be put out, to take one’s leave of the text and slam the door shut. The book often leads one to believe it is all fun and games, when something essential is taking place, something of extreme seriousness: the tracking down of all varieties of fascism, from the enormous ones that surround and crush us to the petty ones that constitute the tyrannical bitterness of our everday lives.
Posted 1 year ago on June 2, 2014, 12:40 p.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
Ballerina and Bull Poster,
Occupy Wall Street
Give us a boost in time for a hot summer! Let's send 1,000 Occupy Wall Street posters into the wild!
Order a fine art quality poster or canvas for your comrades and friends. Proceeds of your donation will go towards an activist fund managed by the Occupy Solidarity Network. You will be pleased with the crisp, high-quality reproduction that we offer.
For those of you who've been asking for a way to pay with bitcoin... the time has arrived! Simply add the poster to your cart and during the checkout process you will be given an option to use bitcoin. Hooray!
Posted 1 year ago on May 20, 2014, 10:48 a.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
ROME (Reuters) - Franco Picini, a schoolteacher in Italy’s capital city, says he has voted for the left all his life, but in this month's European parliament elections, he will back the 5-Star Movement of comedian Beppe Grillo.
“I know his political platform isn’t very clear, but enough with Italy’s old political guard! They all have to go,” says the slim 58-year-old, who teaches teenagers with special needs. “Grillo is the only alternative ... if we want to start over.”
The 5-Star Movement swept into Italy's national parliament for the first time last year, riding a wave of discontent with the country’s politicians and their mismanagement of the euro zone’s third largest economy.
But over the past year, 5-Star has been rocked by internal strife and has little to show in the way of new legislation.
Even so, with Italy still scarred by a three-year economic downturn, the 65-year-old Grillo’s grassroots populism remains a potent electoral weapon.
Polls put Grillo's support at about 27 percent for the European elections on May 25, up from the 25.6 percent he took in last year's national elections. That's behind the Democratic Party's 33-34 percent, but some say polls underestimate 5-Star as pollsters typically conduct telephone surveys on land lines, while younger voters, the core of Grillo’s support, tend to use mobiles.
“Since the crisis isn’t going to be resolved over the next few weeks, the political space for Grillo is still vast,” says Elisabetta Gualmini, political scientist for the Istituto Cattaneo research group and author of a book on the 5-Star Movement.
Italy, like other southern European states, is showing tepid signs of economic recovery, and investors are returning to a debt market they had shunned en masse, but business is still suffering, and unemployment high, especially among the young. Even before the crisis, Italy's real per capita gross domestic product had not improved since 1997, two years before the introduction of the euro, according to Eurostat.
Grillo’s critics say the party has wasted an opportunity over this past year to put their popular mandate to good use, maintaining a stance of opposition in parliament, and refusing to join with other parties to pass legislation. But it is seen as a badge of honour by supporters disillusioned with decades of political compromise that has kept coalitions together at the expense of much-needed reform.
And Grillo is having a broader influence on Italy's political discourse. The Democratic Party's new prime minister Matteo Renzi, at 39 Italy's youngest ever, peppers his speeches with slogans from Grillo’s hymnsheet, and last month announced he was selling dozens of official government cars on eBay as a way to reduce the fringe benefits of Italy’s politicians.
"Renzi and Grillo are very similar. Renzi is the only politician who could eat into the 5-Star Movement’s popularity, because he uses the same populist communication strategies that Grillo uses; he speaks directly to homemakers, factory workers," says Gualmini.
In last year's elections, Italians lapped up Grillo’s rhetoric that it was time to make government more accountable, especially after a year of austerity measures at the hands of the technocrat government of Mario Monti, who was appointed, not elected, to bring Italy back from the brink of default.
"Neither the right nor the left has done anything to make our life better, or to try something new," says Massimo Ornaghi, a 42-year-old information technology engineer who voted for Grillo in last year’s national elections. Ornaghi says that if 5-Star hadn’t run, he wouldn’t have voted at all.
The result gave 5-Star a formidable block of 163 lawmakers between the lower house Chamber of Deputies and upper house Senate.
"The attention we were getting, particularly abroad, was huge," recalls Vito Crimi, speaker of the party in the Senate.
"It was enough to give us all big heads, and some did get cocky."
From the start, Grillo, who founded and runs 5-Star but is not in parliament, said his party "was neither right nor left, but behind the scenes to check on those who govern”.
Sometimes they have been very much centre-stage, including a heated attempt to filibuster a property tax bill that led to scuffles in parliament. They failed on that occasion, but on others have exerted influence on government policy. On party financing, long a controversial issue in Italy, they helped push the former government of Enrico Letta to substitute state financing with voluntary contributions by 2017. 5-Star also say they influenced Renzi’s plans to reduce the power of various levels of local government in Italy.
"(Grillo) has managed to strip certain controversial issues that used to previously belong either to the right or to the left of the political spectrum," says Roberto Weber, from polling organisation Istituto Ixe’.
Perhaps 5-Star’s most effective move, in the eyes of its supporters, is to have agreed to halve their salaries to about 4,000 euros a month and use the savings to support small and medium-sized enterprises.
"The other lawmakers drone on about spending cuts, but when we asked them to follow our example and cut their salaries, there was no response," said Nicola Biondo, head of communications for the party in the lower house.
Though in terms of legislation the party has little to its credit, it did secure a popular amendment to the budget that allows private businesses to withhold tax for unpaid bills owed by the state.
Its popularity has survived what often proves fatal to mainstream parties - a series of bitter internal feuds and high-profile defections and expulsions. As many as 14 of its 54 senators and four of its 109 deputies are no longer with the party.
"The idea that everyone counts in the same way in 5-Star is pure hypocrisy," says Luis Orellana, one of the senators who was expelled in February.
SHIFT TO THE RIGHT?
Hurt by the defections and to counter the freshness of Renzi, who had not set foot in parliament until he became premier, 5-Star has been tweaking its policy platform. Grillo, in his blog, has recently tried to attract centre-right voters, in particular small businesses and entrepreneurs, traditionally on the right of the political spectrum, whose biggest complaint is Italy’s high taxes.
"The party has gradually been moving towards the right," says Mario Catania, a member of the centrist Civic Choice party and former minister of agriculture in Monti’s technocrat government.
That’s partly a strategic move, analysts say, as Grillo is trying to take disillusioned voters from Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party, which has also suffered internal divisions.
On the blog, which is also an active debate forum, Grillo in April suggested abolishing Equitalia, a private tax collection agency, which he dubbed "the oppressor of small and very small companies, while closing an eye to rich people".
A major plank of Grillo’s strategy ahead of European elections is to fuel euroscepticism and seek a popular mandate to abandon the euro, unless there are changes to the financial and budgetary constraints the currency group has signed up to.
"We need to hold a referendum, and our vote will be 'no' if the conditions of the Stability Pact and the Fiscal Compact remain," says Crimi, the party’s Senate speaker.
He says 5-Star’s biggest achievement is to have restored credibility to Italian politics. "Thanks to us, many people have fallen in love with politics again, and we have opened a window into how our institutions are run."
"This is a model of transparency that we now want to export to Europe," he adds.
Millionaire Grillo has said that if 5-Star doesn’t poll first in Italy, he will step aside.
Many don't take him at his word, as they believe the party would fall apart without him.
"He’s saying so to shake things up," says Nicola Biondo, the party’s communication chief in the lower house. "He wants us to aim high."
(Editing by Alessandra Galloni and Will Waterman)