Are We Happy Yet?

The Fight Against Capitalism

In the spring we must rediscover insurrectionary forms of care.
In the spring we must rediscover insurrectionary forms of care

DAVID DEGNER

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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.

Nicole Demby is a writer and critic living in Brooklyn. She is a member of the Arts & Labor group of Occupy Wall Street.

56 comments on the article “The Fight Against Capitalism”

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Anonymous

I'm anti-capitalist, but I remain unconvinced that 7 billion+ human beings are capable of creating a system "that works" at this point. It has never happened that I am aware of. We are still murdering, torturing, enslaving, destroying, insulting, oppressing, lying, and imperial-izing(word?). We really haven't come very far, and oh yea...our population is still ballooning out of control while we continue to rape and pillage the Earth. We can't even conjure up enough compassion for and connection with the very thing that keeps us alive to not eat a fucking big mac. Until we can get over these things first as individuals and then as a species there is no system that can save us.
I'm sure no one cares, or you already knew this, and I'm sorry that was so pessimistic, I am wildly delirious from lack of sleep and am having a negative day.

Anonymous

Thanks for the positivity, not giving up hope entirely just allowing a moment of pessimism take hold in the form of posting anonymously on the internet. And Yes! the planet will go on without us(even if we are killing all the other species at one of the fastest rates in history) which is sweet because what do you know...we really arent the pinnacle of creation and center of the universe. Inherent value...what a concept!

Anonymous

From: ProudAmericanConservative, I am very sorry you are having such a bad day! I understand you are suffering from low self esteem as I know many of Occupy are!!! Maybe you will have a better day tomorrow!!!
You know teachers have been brainwashing students for more than 50 years... Have you ever thought that maybe, just maybe... This is all just a lie??? Look at what has happened the last 3 years... Iran was not a threat to any country in the world, and now they have the Bomb and want to kill Americans (You mom, Dad, Brothers, Sisters, Uncles etc...). 5 Years ago we could get money to live on without to much trouble... Now we are all hurting ( I have made 1880 dollars in 2011) so badly... I have not been able to pay for my car and it was repo'd by the bank after losing my job and running out of benefits for unemployment. The world is in Kaos and MR. Obama is out playing Golf and having 35 thousand dollar dinners with movie stars in LA.
Maybe, just maybe we are protesting the wrong people??? I think we should be protesting 1600 Pensylvania Ave. Washington DC. as well as the Senate and Congress... Wouldn't you agree??? after all they are the ones letting the banks take our money from us, Correst?!?!?!

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