While #OWS still encompasses within it a multiplicity of tactics, opinions, and degrees of political radicalism, the evidence is all too clear that the soul of Occupy is anticapitalist, and the desire for a different system is a desire for a protest movement whose grasp on our lives is more holistic. There has already been inspiring work done to organize in different communities, and one can envision the emergence of a dispersed network not only of general assemblies but of communes and cooperatives as well.
The old pessimism of theory beats at our backs, telling us that any developed and sustained form of communal organization can only exist as an autonomous pocket whose threat to capitalism is nil. Yet sustaining autonomous, communal forms of care is not a shift away from direct, active forms of resistance. The positive and the negative aspects of the fight against capitalism must work in conjunction with one another to mutually reinforce each other. Communes, cooperatives and other structures of social support provide a material safety net that facilitates more radical action, enabling people to strike from work and from debt obligations with the assurance that their material needs will be met when they do. Moreover, such forms of organization can begin the incredibly difficult process of building trust between those with radically different backgrounds and experiences, providing support for whoever needs it, especially those who have borne the brunt of the economic collapse.
These forms of organization will enervate the status quo by drawing participants’ time and energy away from their roles as wage laborers, salaried workers, and consumers. Of course, #OWS has already begun to do this; many of us without the luxury of highly flexible (read precarious) employment, or who haven’t already committed ourselves as full-time occupiers (and are now sleeping in churches, synagogues and generously offered private homes – and organizing during the day) already spend our office hours surreptitiously reading working group emails or occupy-related articles. Yet we aim to achieve a less schizophrenic mode of existence in which the totalizing effect of Occupy on our thoughts is reflected in the degree to which it predominates our actions, one in which our politics accords with the way in which we support ourselves. For those against capitalism this will mean testing our own boldness and examining our own perceived futures. As Daniel Marcus observed: “There can be no movement of communes if protest is merely an extracurricular activity of wage-earners: workers will have to choose whether they stand with the communes or with the bosses and administrators.”
The need for new structures of care is emotional as well as material. Many of us are beginning to realize the extent of our own dissatisfaction. We spend time with friends and lovers, but these encounters are transitory counterpoints to the anomie induced by a culture of individualism. We work towards success, but what constitutes success seems increasingly empty. Perhaps it’s unfashionable to speak of “alienation,” naïve to make claims about what forms of work or activities might begin to overcome it, utopian to believe that we could create a society in which a better life is possible. And yet we already see the possibility of these things in the near future of this movement and are already beginning to build the necessary infrastructure.
Affect isn’t just an effect, but a decisive tool of revolution. Just as the catharsis of resistance we experienced in the fall bolstered community and emboldened us to go further, more communal, self-sustaining and holistic instantiations of Occupy will further entrench and strengthen the movement. We are strongest when our resistance draws on our outrage but also harnesses our vital forces, extending to the very material and psychological basis of our lives.
In the spring we must rediscover together that there are militant kinds of community and insurrectionary forms of care.