November 1, 2011

What is Left for the Marxists?

After writing my Occupy Wall Street post I have put a great deal of consideration into their motives and goals. Upon my first thoughts I began to regret labeling them as an Anti-Capitalist movement. I felt like they are not a marxist struggle, however, after a few weeks of reflection I agree with my initial categorization. I intend now to explain ,y justification for labeling them a Marxist protest and why I believe that is now a hollow branding. 

My was first step was re-reading the demands of the Occupy Wall Street movement (available online at
It was my initial re-reading that first prompted my belief that I had essentialized the participants of Occupy Wall Street. Upon second reading and some historical analysis I determined my categorization was spot on.  As the Occupy Movement states in their demands:

They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.
They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.
They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one's skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.
They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.
They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless nonhuman animals, and actively hide these practices.
They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.
They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.
They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.
They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.
They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.
They have sold our privacy as a commodity.
They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press.
They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.
They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.
They have donated large sums of money to politicians supposed to be regulating them.
They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.
They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantive profit.
They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.
They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.
They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.
They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad.
They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.
They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts. 

While on face these demands may not seem to be a scathing critique of the capitalist system, it is in fact the epitome of a modern Marxist revolution. If we may let us travel back in time to a few earlier marxist movement. Let us begin with the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. The Marxist portion of the Russian Revolution, while initially criticizing socio-economic disparities and barrier devolved into a criticism of all things government and all things societal. The true marxists stuck to their goals and attempted to change the economic conditions but the movement acquired free-riders who attached their criticisms of government, foreign policy and societal norms. The Bolsheviks instead of achieving their marxist heaven were left with a plethora of demands and issues and an overthrown government. It was theses side issues that doomed the marxist movements potential and lead to the totalitarian state that came to epitomize marxism for years. 

Fast forward in history fifty-one years and move west towards Paris. May of '68 bears a shocking resemblance to those occupying Zuccotti park. They were young and they wanted the government to stop dabbling in individual affairs. They wanted to stop Laissez-Faire economics from influencing the educational system and the government structure. 

If the October Revolution and Sixty-Eight both fit the categorization as being a Marxist revolution. I will venture to say so does Occupy Wall Street, in all its themes and locations it is the closest we have to a modern marxist movement. If Occupy Wall Street is the best crack current society can take at revolution and Marxist/ Anti-Capitalist uprising then I can only ask, what hope is there for Marxism now and in the future. 

The designation as a Marxist movement rather then being the catalyst for anti-capitalist action seems to be a death knell to the fight against capitalism. The categorization of social movements now as Marxist is a signal for co-option or free-riders. Marxist movements now seem to be a vehicle for carrying all other social movements, it is this reason that they lose all effectiveness at attempting to bring down global capitalist systems. We see these free-riders in Occupy Wall Street. The movement has shifted from a reaction to corporate influence and economic corruption to a movement focused on the idea of a movement. I recently saw a photo of an Occupy Wall Street protester holding a sign that read "Do Not Confuse the Importance of This Movement With Chaos." My question to them is why not? Does Occupy Wall Street care anymore about corporate greed and economic influences on politics? I personally believe the answer to be no. I believe Occupy Wall Street has now only become a movement to gain the right or emphasize the importance of carrying out movements. Like all other "Marxist" protests Occupy Wall Street has lost its Anti-Capitalist fervor and devolved into an amalgam of individuals spouting their own demands, destroying the central focus of the movement. Every time I listen to a member of Occupy Wall Street speak on T.V. News it seems each one has a different goal or notion of what to achieve from the protest, often not benefiting the initial trajectory of the movement. 

So what is left for the Marxists today? I believe the answer is still revolution but not the revolution we have seen. What is needed is a new conception of revolution that breaks with all of our preconceived notions of protest and uprising. Sylvere Lotringer writes in the introduction to Forget Foucault:

No wonder French post-'68 thinkers, Baudrillard included,
looked somewhere else for revolutionary alternatives. Failing to enlist their allies, they resolved to sleep with the enemy. It was a bold theoretical move, outdoing Marx in his analysis of capital. All of the "children of May," revolutionaries bereft of a revolution, turned to capitalism, eager to extract its subversive energy they no longer found in traditional class struggles. Updating the theory of power and the fluctuations ofsubjectivity to the erratic shifts ofthe semiotic code, they assumed that they could redirect its flos and release in their wake new "deterritorialized" figures-psychotic cre­ ativity, desire, nomadism, becoming revolutionary-in spite of the abrupt "reterritorializations" that the system was bound to impose in order to insure its own survival. (Deterritorializations result from the absolute decodification of capital).

I think his words are wise. In order to avoid co-option and acquiring strange bedfellows, the Marxists must learn from their past failures and create a movement that breaks with the old notions of protest and sticks steadfast to its goal. A movement that is unwavering in its desires whole heartily pursues them without accepting tag alongs or free-riders. Only in this pursuit and in this new to take Zizek's term "leap of faith" can the Marxists create a movement capable of producing true resonance and political efficacy.  


  1. Great analysis! The real strength of capitalism is its power to co-opt, but it can't co-opt anger, indignation, or even demands for justice. It can only start to happen at the point where the movement begins identifying itself as a movement. Perfect example here:
    It's bad enough that this is selling the movement back to itself, but for $32 bucks?

  2. This is the worst understanding of Lotringer's point that I have ever seen. Try again.

  3. acephale, would you care to offer the best understanding then? Please if my shallow reading of Lotringer is out of context I wish to know.

  4. Paragraph after Lotringer's summing up of Baudrillard's summing up of Deleuze being stupid (your quote):
    Baudrillard didn't disagree with them on the nature of the beast, only on the extent of the damage. Contrary to them, he maintained that their willful distinctions between various "regimes of madness," or between thresholds and gradients of intensity (nec­essary to identify the direction and consistency of the flows) could not hold anymore. Libidinal distinctions would prove powerless to stem the flow. He saw them as doomed attempts to reintroduce a modicum of human agency in a process that had become both irre­versible (linear, cumulative) and inhuman. Energetic and intense, capital was gradually gnawing away at every singularity. Simulating its fluidity, they had been engulfed by it. Revolution had come and gone; they arrived too late, one day after the orgy, like Kafka's Messiah.

    I'm sure Lotringer would agree that current notions of protest are fucked (see: ) but your description of a "movement that is unwavering in its desires [and] whole heartily pursues them without accepting tag alongs or free-riders" is equally as vacuous. OK, so you want protests with specific, unwavering demands? And...also Zizekian leaps of faith, a la breaking with capitalism without having specific alternatives? I, um, okay. But, as long as we can achieve "true resonance". Problem is, resonance is what we have. Occupy Wall Street was great at resonance. Everybody everywhere could feel things about things! What was added between On Nietzsche and Anti-Oedipus by some schizo was the fact that, really, affect is fun, and what's more fun that deterritorialization? (Which is why the real face of OWS is students in the middle of their campuses holding signs expressing solidarity, not with causes, but with protests. MFW there is no face.) Fuck musicals, for the New York experience you can hear Zizek speak and feel a bunch of things with a bunch of people. The problem isn't that OWS didn't "do it right", they were the perfect form of a "movement". The problematic is described in your Lotringer quote: movements are "becoming revolutionary-in spite of the abrupt 'reterritorializations' that the system was bound to impose", which amounts to "circulation of responsibility, a declination of wills, and a continual transferring of forms" (sorry, Baudrillard again). Man, if only all this were a Marxist Movement, we could hire Mark Mothersbaugh, and watch Mad Max. IF ONLY THEY STUCK TO THEIR DEMANDS, OWS WAS COOL BEFORE IT GOT ALL MAINSTREAM HAVE YOU LISTENED TO MAY 68 IT'S SORT OF LIKE JOY DIVISION. All these marxist revolutions, France is a racist country with a neoliberal president, the essential state of capitalism is spinning. You missed the revolution. But you TiVoed it, and you can watch it as you cry into your Stephen Colbert's AmeriCone Dream ice cream and jack off into an ecosophy.

  5. Maybe we can find in Lotringer an actual strategy. Not a strategy, my apologies, a tactic. We have no more need of strategies, movements, protests, or maybe we need them too much and OWS is our hallucinated fiddling with a lipstick canister now that we're off the Vicodin. Anyway:
    This is what Baudrillard meant by a total revolution: a strategy geared to escalate the system and push it to its breaking point. Then, giving up on every pretence of rationality, it would start revolving and achieve in the process a circularity of its own: "We know the potential of tautology when it reinforces the system's claim to perfect sphericity (Ubu Roi's belly)" (SE, p. 4). Coming back full circle to his early pataphysical roots, Baudrillard was taunting capital to emulate Jarry's absurdism-and share in Ubu's grotesque fate. After all, wasn't capitalism itself a pata­ physical proposition? It was endlessly cutting the branch on which it sits, devastating the planet and endangering the human species while claiming to improve its lot. Capital didn't care a fig for the fate of humanity. The real wasn't its business. It had can­ celled the principle of reality and substituted a codification of a higher order, a hyper-reality that made the real obsolete. Its dirge-like flows were self-referential, leaving everything else in a state of self-induced simulation. The flows of capital were posthumous, post-human. In their nihilistic energy, they carried the seeds of their own destruction. Only Ubu, Jarry's truculent hero, the coward king cannibalizing his own entourage, and himself in the process, could account for such a bullish cynicism. […] He would be the fool of capital and wave its Good News all around like a lantern: "Every system that approaches per­ fect operativity simultaneously approaches its downfall it approaches absolute power and total absurdity; that is, immediate and probable subversion. A gentle push in the right place is enough to bring it crashing down" (5E, p. 4) . Beware of gentle pataphysicians with a big hammer.

    So, yeah.

  6. Signed (sans perfect understanding),