Why the socialist left doesn’t get Occupy


The socialist left is calcified and bound to tradition. Everything is analyzed (endlessly) in terms of what Saint Karl of Marx would have done.

Socialist Webzine’s response to Paul D’Amato by Pham Binh on why the socialist left has been unable to join in with or react coherently to Occupy is instructive.

Look, these are smart, committed people and many of them have organized for years. The problem is they immediately begin by analyzing current day Occupy and their response to it in terms of Trotsky’s pre-1917 conciliationist line. Hoo-boy, that’ll be sure to get the cadres storming the barricades. From there the article goes into a long (and certainly highly intelligent) discussion of Marxist history, the inevitable factional disputes, and possible tactics to be gleaned from this. But all of this is mostly irrelevant for discussing Occupy tactics now.

Plus, Dear God, do Marxists ever inject humor and levity into their discussions or liven up their articles with lots of images and videos? Not nearly often enough, in my estimation. Richard Seymour at Lenin’s Tomb has a razor-sharp intellect but his posts do tend to be unending paragraphs filled with dense, abstract thought. This will not rally the masses or bring in newcomers.

Occupy isn’t about theorizing or pondering the current situation based on what someone said or did decades ago. They’re making it up as they go. Come to think of it, that’s probably what the original Marxists did too.


  1. And the Wobblies.

    Whenever I encounter “socialists”, present company excluded, I am always reminded of Doctor Zhivago, where a bunch of bourgeois academics stepped out of dabbling in “what ifs” and it all just went downhill from there. They talk a good talk, but damned few are willing to go out and actually fight for it.

    Make no mistake, and I’m all for it – violence is the last resort – but all this talk of Gandhi and peaceful resistance is a boondoggle. We’re never going to win this thing when the overlords are willing to kill us and we will reach a point where it becomes obvious that we must fight back, physically. All else is bourgeois academics dabbling in “what ifs”.

  2. My Tasks piece had more discussion of Occupy and tactics.

    thenorthstar.info (which I helped launch) might be of interest to you (I agree 100% with your points on humor, images, music). Compare any old I.W.W. media with what the socialist left puts out now and there’s a huge difference. The anarchists have mostly taken over the cultural aspects of working class anti-capitalism.

    • I just added thenorthstar.info to my RSS reader and will be linking to it. Looks great, thanks.

      “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution” – Emma Goldman.

    • Well, I was in PSL for a bit (before I got purged!), and I didn’t get the references. My bad no doubt but maybe they were a bit on the esoteric side?

      But then, I never quite bought the whole Marxist package and maybe at heart have always tilted towards anarchism.

      Ok, I admit. When PSL had classes on Marxist theory it was generally all I could do to keep my eyes open.

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