Recently a broad First Worldist movement has cropped up in the US and elsewhere, describing itself as the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ or ‘Occupy Together Movement’ (OWS). There has already been a lot of writing about it from the established First Worldist ‘left’, most of which glorifies the movement along with its potential to be transformed into something more radical and substantive. Others have written about its pitfalls of its ideological orientation, still implying it can be transformed into something more radical and significant.

OWS is marginally progressive in that it is a movement mainly of ‘middle class’ Amerikans that focuses anger on corporate and state elites, not primarily oppressed and Third World peoples. Otherwise, a just, equitable and regenerative future world necessitates that virtual all Amerikans have access to and consume far less, not more. The strong (and ultimately dangerous) tendency within OWS is to simply wish the return of the US and its own social fabric back to the context of 20 or 50 years ago.

We, the editors of Anti-imperialism.com, are frankly not that concerned with OWS. We welcome the efforts of those interested to intervene and interject pro-Third World, anti-oppression and revolutionary dialogue. Certainly, some good can come out of it. Yet, OWS is a movement firmly rooted in the classes and ideology of the First World. It can never become a revolutionary movement unto itself outside of the global Third World-centered revolutionary movement.

Our recent approach has been to apply critical revolutionary thought to and expose class truths behind culture, current events, history and political economy, not chase after recruits and donations or attempt to build a revolutionary-unto-itself movement of First Worlders ‘radicalized’ into being class-nation traitors. Is this the only approach? No. There is certainly room for other type of organizing and action within the realm of a correct understanding of global class struggle.

First Worldism is a dead end literally. It negates revolutionary class struggle, that which is capable of transforming the world into something fundamentally better, and will lead humanity to ruin if broadly embraced instead of revolutionary critique and practice. While it is good that some within the First World are breaking their allegiance with Capital and the imperialist state (something which Capital and the state can be credited with more than the whole of the First Worldist ‘radical’ and ‘revolutionary’ ‘left’ combined), it is far more important for the Third World masses to break their allegiances to the First World and First Worldism.

There will always be the small few in the First World who are inclined towards more scientific analysis regarding global class and the struggle against oppression and exploitation. While such people have individual and collective roles to play, revolution will be made by the masses of people suffering from everyday exploitation and repression, i.e. the proletarian masses of the Third World.

We welcome contributions from other revolutionary anti-imperialists or our critics, including thoughts on or experiences with OWS and its general significance within the larger struggle to end all oppression.

-Nick Brown

Join the conversation! 14 Comments

  1. One of the things which has really characterized this movement for me is the Amerikan flag. For weeks in Denver, one was parked right front in center of the protesters near the street. I passed by quite frequently, but quite honestly those things repulse me (in more than one sense of the word). Since, I’ve been by when I heard some shit was going down with the cops, passed through to say hello to local allies and observed infrequently. The masses of the Third World (or even many individuals in the First World interested in broad systemic change) aren’t missing a whole lot.

    The 99% percent rhetoric, beyond its exclusion of internationalism in imperialist countries, glosses over too many other contradictions. Even in Third World countries, these types of slogans can be a huge step backwards in identifying and rallying against those in power.

    Reply
  2. Not surprisingly, the Occupy Wall Street is increasingly becoming anti-democratic with the formation of a “Spokes Council” that supercedes the general assembly. Can you say “slow motion coup d’etat”?

    A Chill Descends On Occupy Wall Street; “The Leaders of the allegedly Leaderless Movement”
    http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=27479

    Reply
  3. I know thirdworldists don’t entertain a good opinion of MR. Mainly because of their avowed firstworldism, but sometimes they cross the line into the proletarian camp. Henry Park used to call them obamautons. But I think the quality of their theoretical work is undisputable. What do you make of this last essay by Bellamy Foster. I think it is brilliant, save for some minor first worldist slips:

    http://monthlyreview.org/2011/11/01/the-global-reserve-army-of-labor-and-the-new-imperialism

    Reply
    • I generally agree that Monthly Review is both First Worldist and way above par when it comes to theoretical analysis compared to other First Worldists. I might venture to say that the precise reason why MR is so above par compared with other First Worldists is because they have disengaged themselves from FW organizing efforts, i.e. they don’t actually see themselves or attempt to organize anything amongst First Worlders and instead have focused purely on analyzing the system and factors at play. This may explain why their analysis is generally much closer to ours, at least by some implication, than the vast majority of First Worldists.

      I thought the linked article was interesting, had good information and correct in many ways, yet had its limitations and was structured a bit awkwardly. (Why use weird jargon like ‘arbitrage’ or not mention Lenin in a nominally Marxist analysis on imperialism?) Also, the essay itself is clearly written in a way that posits First Worlders historically on the side of the proletariat though under conditions of ‘divide and rule,’ which is a mischaracterization. First Worlders benefit from and are whole complicit in ongoing oppression of proletarians. It is part of the class structure and cultural facade of the contemporary world. It is not a moral judgment or anything of the sort.

      Generally, I tend to look at MR on an article by article and statement by statement basis (while of course looking to see what the product as a whole really serves). It’s good to do so. Certainly, Henry Park did a lot of really excellent work that served the cause of advancing the struggle against imperialism and oppression (as have many other comrades), yet that doesn’t mean everything he concluded, said or did was positive or correct. People, especially self-professed revolutionary intellectuals of petty-bourgeois (i.e. First World) backgrounds, should move beyond doctrinal approaches that elevate the status of a handful of writers and historical figure to near religious proportions. MR, for all its faults, can’t be said to be guilty of this.

      In regards to the general line of MR writers, its generally hard to imagine any application of global socialism, if it is going to be reasonably called such, under which those socially and physically populating imperial centers retain their high level of access to material good and resources, or perhaps more importantly under which anyone could expect such a lifestyle.

      If you haven’t already checked this out, here’s an article I wrote last Spring, reviewing article by Samir Amin which also appeared at Monthly Review. It’s a bit dated on our part, in that we’ve made some tactical changes in our work since its publishing, but it nonetheless provides an interesting take on how we agree and disagree with Monthly Review writers.

      Reply
      • “In regards to the general line of MR writers, its generally hard to imagine any application of global socialism, if it is going to be reasonably called such, under which those socially and physically populating imperial centers retain their high level of access to material good and resources, or perhaps more importantly under which anyone could expect such a lifestyle.”

        I think this paragraph summarizes the shortcomings of MR writers in general, even of the best among them. The main contention implicated in these words is the core of Third Worldism. But even popular organizations in the Third World are First Worldist to some extent, which, of course, is a serious mistake. Obviously, First World population is bourgeois and imperialist and can’t be otherwise under the present system. Socialism needs to be imposed on them, not the other way around.

  4. More on the Occupy Movements and their true political agenda that has been largely obscured by American progressives:

    On the Occupy movements
    http://llco.org/on-the-occupy-movements

    Reply
  5. I think that the to extent OWS raises the consciousness of the masses it is valuable. It can create a more fertile ground for ideas like ours. The leadership and their machinations and ambitions are irrelevant, in that regard.

    The Left in the First World is not consciously aware of their privileges, despite being told their whole lives that their standard of living has been at the expense of someone else’s. Human psychology, human nature, prevents us from doing very much against our own interests, like wanting to consume less, or even to consider consuming less. The unconscious will steer our thinking toward a solution that doesn’t require us to sacrifice.

    Those of us who grew up in the First World had to cross over some kind of psychological barrier to be where we are now. As you allude to above, in a revolutionary moment, the masses, as part of envisioning the revolution, can cross over that barrier en masse. But you crossed over it somehow by yourself.

    As I say, perhaps the consciousness raising that happens as a result of OWS will more rapidly bring others to the point of self awareness you have now. It may be possible, too, that those so inclined can steer the discourse of OWS in a way that will help that process along.

    Remember, there are a few OWS groups who have some awareness of the First Worldism you refer to and realize the colonial nature of the word “occupy” and have added the “un” in front of it, (un)Occupy Albuquerque, for example.

    Reply
    • “The Left in the First World is not consciously aware of their privileges, despite being told their whole lives that their standard of living has been at the expense of someone else’s. Human psychology, human nature, prevents us from doing very much against our own interests, like wanting to consume less, or even to consider consuming less. The unconscious will steer our thinking toward a solution that doesn’t require us to sacrifice.”

      I don’t believe this. The left in the so-called First World (and especially America) are damn well conscious of their privileged way of life, probably more so than the average person given their expose to Marxist or “anti-capitalist” perspectives.

      They simply don’t want to ADMIT the reality of their privilege because they don’t want to give it up.

      It is simply not in the material self-interest of Americans or other First World people to admit and thus relinquish their (illegitimate) way of life.

      In short, the problem is not just the 1% as the Occupy Wall Streeters insist, the problem is the entire population of the First World, especially America.

      Reply
      • You’re probably correct but it’s a distinction without a difference, as they say. You call it not admitting to, i.e., being in denial. I call it not being consciously aware of. Either way it floats somewhere beneath the conscious level. The question in both cases is the same, how to get people to be aware of it enough so that they will act against their self interest, or, as someone who follows or writes for this web log might put it, to realize that they are currently acting against their self interest, that living a lifestyle that despoils the planet is against their self interest, and that it’s against their self interest to live a life that isn’t based on a sound ethical foundation, or, if you prefer, one in which one doesn’t hold love in one’s heart for one’s neighbors.

  6. It’s not a distinction without a difference. These American and First World leftists are conscious of their privilege. They just prefer to cover up this inconvenient little fact. That necessitates active and conscious deception on their part. Claiming that it’s merely unconscious denial is a cop out and alibi.

    As for convincing Americans or other First World populations to follow their “true” self-interest, that is a political waste of time by and large. It’s akin to asking slaveowners to willingly give up the institution of slavery because in the grander scheme of things it’s not based upon a “sound ethical foundation.”

    It’s simply political appeasement and pandering of oppressors and exploiters.

    It’s much more productive to raise consciousness of the true oppressed (i.e. the Third World) to confront the enemy—first and foremost, the USA.

    But this is precisely what the vast majority of Americans and other First World nations hate and fear.

    Reply
    • You’re looking at things from the perspective of this historical moment only. Remember that slavery ended in Europe well before it did here and there was no violence about it. It was was more about the “sound ethical foundation” of the abolitionist movement and the rise of Christianity. In the northern states it ended without violence, too, again due to a determined abolitionists movement but partly because of the ideals in the Declaration of Independence, and if that had not happened, who would have been here to end it in the South? Slave rebellions were brutally put down, most famously the one led by Denmark Vesey in Charleston.

      And just like that was, it’s a very, very long shot, now, to try to defeat the most powerful empire in the history of the world by mobilizing the third world against it. We’re in the belly of the beast. Think what we could do if we had the cannons and bombs. Here is where the power is. Here is where we should make our stand.

      But it’s not just that. You’re discounting the possibility of peoples’ minds being changed, again, perhaps, because of your limited perspective. It seems impossible now. It might have seemed impossible to the Blacks in the US who worked for civil rights for a century before peoples’ minds were changed in large enough numbers by the modern Civil Rights movement, too. And these people that we complain about, who want to keep their privileges, are not only not beyond changing, but they are good people and deserve to be given the credit for having the potential to change. There is good inside all of us. It just never gets a chance. These people grew up in the same America that we did. They just didn’t read the same things, meet the same people, and so on as we did. How do you expect them to act any differently, bombarded as they are 24/7 with the message that you must consume and heap up more more wealth as the only way to feel worthy about themselves? You came to your way of thinking, and anybody else can. Just ask some old Black guy who grew up under the terror of Jim Crow and who is living now if people can change. Yea, there’s racism, but go down south, and see Blacks guys and white girls walking down the street holding hands, and nobody’s going to get lynched over it.

      Reply
      • Your political agenda is typical of the American/Western Imperial Left and exemplifies my point about why all of America itself is the problem–not just the 1% as the Occupy Wall Street fraudactivists insist.

        Basically, your politics is one of appeasing the oppressor, attempting to pander to Americans to change their ways based upon some quasi religious moral abstraction–despite the fact that it’s not in the material interest of Americans to dismantle their parasitic economy and way of life.

        Even the examples you cite about the “ending” of slavery or American apartheid are disingenous and designed to discourage revolutionary Third World politics. Instead, you wish to promote the moralist appeasement of Americans and Europeans.

        Chattel slavery did not really “end” because benevolent Europeans or Americans were morally awakened or because of the abolitionist movement. Chattel slavery ended ultimately because it was historically outmoded and superceded by a more effective form of Western slavery–capitalist wage slavery.

        As for the Civil Rights movement, you are again wrong. It was not the Civil Rights movement that brought about the end of (formal) American apartheid. It was the more radical Black Power movement like the Black Panthers and others that utlimately caused America to make some tactical concessions in response to massive uprisings and militancy.

        To believe that America, Europe, or the First World can be morally appealed to is truly delusional.

        They only understand unrelenting, militant resistance that threatens their very existence to the core.

  7. I generally agree with FcukAmerika, so most of this is directed towards Frank/Bubba.

    Any solution “that doesn’t require us [First Worlders] to sacrifice” isn’t really a solution. In fact, exploiters must be sacrificed as a class in order to move to a world conditioned on mutual-aid and equality. There isn’t room (expect maybe some blockaded open-air prison-island) for exploiters and oppressors in a world that is moving beyond capitalist-imperialism towards communism. Exploiter classes as well as their privilege and function in society will be dissolved whether they want it or not.

    I generally agree it is in everyone’s long-term interest to implement socialism as soon as possible, simply for the sake over overall species and planetary health. Some people in the First World probably ‘get that’ on some level or another. However, that doesn’t imply it will be the classes of the First World which are going to be the primary social base in transforming the world. Rather, that task falls squarely on the world’s proletariat, those, primarily located in the Third World, which have much more to gain in the immediate term by organizing for socialist revolution.

    If First World so-called progressive can prevent a more aggressive imperialism from erupting in the form of outright fascism, great. But I wouldn’t base my strategy for global socialism on it. A more likely scenario seems that First World so-called progressives would either be co-opted into or harshly repressed under such conditions. If anything, First World ‘leftists’ shouldn’t necessarily be worried about how they are going to seize the reigns of power and somehow nullify their social/economy existence vis-a-vis the Third World, but how they are going to be able to physically defend themselves from the forces of more frenzied reaction. A non-consolidated fascism would, after all, be a far easier foe for the world’s oppressed massed than a consolidated one.

    Either way, revolution should be put in the context of the globe. There is hardly an Amerikan economy or a Peruvian economy, since it is all intertwined. Insofar as you choose to focus on active work inside the US, it should be put in the proper global-social context. The idea that Amerikans will seize the reigns of power (the ‘canons’) and from that global socialism will develop smacks of narrow-minded chauvinism (‘it’s all about the struggle here, not everywhere else’) and it historically backwards (when has there, since 1917, been a revolution in an imperialist country?), as is much your view of the development of things like civil rights (as pointed as in partial by FcukAmerika).

    Your appeal that ‘all people have a bit of good inside them’ is all fine and dandy. Yet even insofar as there is a grain of truth to this, it covers up the amount of ‘bad’ people are capable of and how this is often determined through material and social conditioning within the context of a system. Simply point, generally social consciousness is going to correspond to the class system in place and ones role inside it. While their may been exceptions to and variations around this, it explains a lot more than capricious psychoanalytic theory, as you seem to be implying.

    To break it down even further: yes, the way to revolution in the First World (the change of conditions and consciousness necessary) will be directly brought about through the mobilization of Third World people for socialism and more broadly, anti-imperialism.

    Reply

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