Incoherent dreams. G20 protests

Incoherent Dreams by Edward Hadas says, yes, the empire is crumbling, new leaders are needed, but the protests so far have been, well, lame.

A great age of protest should be dawning. The global mismanagement of the financial system has led to a deep recession. Intellectual paralysis has gripped the authorities and their policy response has been risky. After such failure, the political leaders gathered in London for the G20 conference deserve a serious challenge. Sadly, all they are getting are the senseless slogans of a hippie festival.

The G20 doesn’t have time to develop big ideas during their meeting. There are too many disasters to be averted, not to mention petty squabbling over hedge-fund regulation and executive pay. But the next generation of leaders needs to get finance right, to balance the global economy and to keep development on track. That requires a new intellectual framework.

Protesters who look like they just want a street party aren’t likely to be up to the challenge. Sadly, the more intellectually sophisticated Left seems to be hardly more capable of helping out. Any protester who can articulate a coherent alternative to the establishment’s tattered notions really could change the world.

They need us – where are we?. That’s the title Doug Henwood used to post Hadas’s article on LBO-Talk, a leftie listserv with plenty of intelligent discussion and little noise. Some of the comments were thought provoking, so I’ve excerpted them here.

SA responds

Who do you mean by “we”? The hopeful liberals whose project is to bring out the best in Obama? Or the Marxist metaphysicians whose project is to flee reality at such epistemological speed that radical change can’t help but result?

Between those two camps there’s vanishingly little. Vanishingly little.

Voyou slams Hadas

Hadas’s idea that what all we’re lacking is someone who can “articulate a coherent alternative to the establishment’s tattered notions” is just idiotic (and far more naïve than the G20 protesters, who realize that what we need to figure out is how to bring about an alternative).

Henwood again

It’s not idiotic at all. What’s the alternative? I’ve been watching this stuff closely for more than 20 years, and I see little more than pious wishes about localization coming from the NGO-funded gang. The “Marxist” groupuscles have nothing to say except slogans from 1917. What alternative is that “we” are going to bring about, if we can just find the way?

First, I think, the “we” needs to become a real “we”, a genuine mass movement comprised of all sorts of people, not just the usual suspects who show up at protests. That means all classes, colors, and political persuasions working together to accomplish something they agree on. The delusion of Marxist groupuscles that they will somehow spur the working class to follow them to glorious socialism in America is just that, delusion. For one thing, they aren’t genuinely trying to reach and listen to the working class and instead spend most their time in factional feuds and being more-Marxist-than-thou.

Anarchists tossing rocks through the windows of Starbucks or banks is equally pointless and self-defeating. If the goal is to build a mass movement then perhaps alienating the populace and having them think you are violent nutcases is not the best way to do it.

“Can’t start a fire without a spark.” That’s the job of the organizer. Be the spark. Then let the people you initially organized run things themselves. That’s what Saul Alinsky did. And he got results.

Wikipedia quotes Alinsky

Alinsky advises his followers that the poor have no power and that the real target is the middle class: “Organization for action will now and in the decade ahead center upon America’s white middle class. That is where the power is. … Our rebels have contemptuously rejected the values and the way of life of the middle class. They have stigmatized it as materialistic, decadent, bourgeois, degenerate, imperialistic, war-mongering, brutalized and corrupt. They are right; but we must begin from where we are if we are to build power for change, and the power and the people are in the middle class majority.”