I have been enjoying watching the occupy wall street moment develop. It has been ten years since the big summit convergences and the comming together of youth and unions in a common space of resistance. That all ended on September 11, replaced by a mostly traditional anti-war movement with mostly traditional tactics and mostly disconnected with other social movements, like immigrant rights. The excitement in the battle after Seattle was really in the conversations between people and sectors which were coming from entirely different places in a theoretically leaderless, non-hierarchical process. It took temn years, but even here in Wuhan I can sense the continuity between the last moment of hope and the current one.
What I really like about this moment is the fact that it is urban based, in key cities and sites along the circuits of global capital. The responses of city leaders shows which side they are on. In LA, the Mayor had city workers hand out ponchos to occupiers, while in supposedly "liberal" SF, the city served notice on the occupation for violations of anti-vagrancy laws. I guess SF is really a neoliberal city for hipsters with money not precarious geeks and creative workers.
Its high time somebody figured out that a set of demands and program with all the "T"s crossed and "I"s dotted in a strategy from above is not the way to go. de Certeau had it right, strategy is for those with power, tactics is the toll of the powerless, tactics of evasion and resistance. What really matters is tactical agility, situational awareness, and the ability to respond and act creatively. The strategy will emerge out of those countless encounters as people reclaim public space, creating new spaces in the process.
The unpermitted marches are reminicent of Guy Debord and the idea of drift...moving through the city.....the protests seem to blur the lines between the virtual and the face to face, much like the Arab Spring, except in the Fatherland, the logic of capital has fragmented both society and the indiviual...atomized and rendered social subjects as inert consumers of the spectacle of politics, not living it.
Contrasting this wave of protest with the anti-war upsurge...actions are focused on sites of oppression, scale jumping, while the anti-war movement had as its unit of analysis and action the nation-state. The last wave had static rallies and maybe controlled marches with lots and lots of speakers all with a solultion and attempting to rationally convince at-home-viewers...participants were merely legitimating props for speakers. This time the framing is occuring off site and online, the protests are performative, the people are the message and the medium-just like the Seattle moment.
No one can predict how it will all play out, but generally my emotional state when I am home in the states is one of utter hoplessness, despair, alienation, depression, and cynicism. Those emotions are not mine alone, but a calculated result of the commodification of every aspect of everyday life. The beauty of things like Reclaim the Streets, Critical Mass, or inside a kettle is exactly the freedom to connect with others and realize youn are not alone. A police barricade or a kettle is actually bounding a free zone, containing it to prevent contamination.
During A16 the no-global followup to Seattle demo in DC, the most striking thing was the militarization of the city. Police barricades and surveillance squads reshaped the human geography of downtown and even my hood. They controlled space but every time a cluster of affinity groups congealed, a little island of civilization was born. The performative politics of street theater was empowering in ways that a Big March (BM) are not.
It feels like the dividing lines are not just around private property rights, but also between organic and mechanical solidarity, preformance and spectacle, eros and thanos, lifeworld and system. It would be nice to envision a better world, free of wars, with redistributive justice as well as recognition. What I feel here in Wuhan is the weight of America on top of the figurative head of the world...the pollution, corruption, unsustainable growth and social inequality here are intimately connected to my hometown there, in particular, the Washington Consensus and the military industrial complex in a globally restructuring economy of nation-states with perforated sovereignity and new kinds of political and economic spaces, a system where cities and urban regions play a new and different role in production and control chains.Anarchism is a punishment for a traditional left that fails to make itself relevant or accountable...
Some random thoughts on the last day of the national holiday here...celebrating the founding of the PRC.