Two years ago, we took buildings, rioted, danced, and went to jail under the banner “WE ARE THE CRISIS.”
At a moment in which no one will accept blame for the crisis, we see that no “one” can: those who have been profiting off the system have shown themselves incapable, on any level, of thinking differently, and the asubjective ghost ship drive heart of capital clearly has no time or space for the moral register. Neither should we. Questions of moral responsibility have nothing to do with this.
But there is someone to blame, although not morally. It is our fault, the working classes and those who don’t get access to work. All of us under the yoke of this system, it is our fault. We are the crisis.
We are crisis because we are at once the motor of the system and the wrenches and sand tossed into those gears. Capitalism innovates and progresses because we are not pure calculation and extraction of surplus value (thereby provoking the economic regime to find new ways of expanding, accumulating, territorializing), and capitalism shudders to near-halts for the same reason. We are at once the excess of a system that needs us and the material provocation that produces the dizzying heights of financial speculation, because we globally keep multiplying and demanding work, making it cheaper, making it not profitable.
We are—still—the crisis because we are all at once the exploited, those upon whose backs Capital generates profits, those who suffer most under the Capitalist system, but also what Marx refers to as the “self-destructive contradiction” of Capitalism. We, the proletariat, bear the dialectical tension of our class position and our necessity to revolt.
Two years ago, we were in the midst of a crisis. The banks had begun to fail, and the State of California was in a deeper financial mess than Greece. Mark Yudof, President of the UC system, forced through a 32% fee hike—such an absurd act of austerity that the UC immediately after gave up the charade of calling tuition “fees”—but not without beating, tasing, and arresting the students that resisted. A dozen schools had buildings expropriated by students; statewide, several hundred students fought conduct charges in kangaroo courts. Anger over corruption by university officials was successfully channeled into electing Jerry Brown as Governor (again).
Now, we’re still in the same crisis. Greece still burns, as it did the night Alexi was murdered, but now the terms of discussion revolve around the Eurozone. Papandreou and the pseudo-socialist PASOK, tasked with forcing through austerity in the name of the working class, failed and will be replaced by a more conservative party. Tuition in the UCs is continuing to rise, though “rogue elements” have forced the Regents from hiding at their ghost campus in San Francisco to approve another deficit budget via teleconference. And again, many students have been to jail for the first time, but now more students and faculty have been hurt by a police force that no one admits to controlling.
What has changed? There is now a movement that, despite minimal political education or class analysis, is getting indignant. In some cities—Oakland mainly—the participants have entered into open refusal of this system. In other cities—Los Angeles—their indignation is pre-approved by the City Council. But there is a restlessness that is growing and seeping past the levees erected by professional organizers, moral elitists, and peace police. The most volatile front in this new struggle has been around… building occupations. Just as students took over campus buildings and failed spectacularly at occupying an abandoned bank building then, recent attempted expropriations have included a foreclosed homeless services office and an abandoned car dealership.
But what was a call to action (Occupy!) has become a brand (Occupy™). Not that we should be surprised. Just as we have come to expect the socialist parties to sell their newspapers from the peripheries of actions, why wouldn’t entrepreneurs try to profit from us again by selling us a foreign sweatshop-made “Occupy” or “99%” t-shirt?
This all the more confirms that—two years later—we are STILL the crisis. But now we are nearing the fork in the road, an option we didn’t have then. To the right is the path of recuperation and cooptation, and we can already see this path clearly. Some enterprising unions and organizations have put forward the call to “Occupy the polls”, thereby reducing a vibrant movement to a mere constituency to be lied to and deceived just as we have always been screwed over by politicians. Why would this time be different? Marx accurately described the bourgeoisie as the most revolutionary class, constantly able to redefine itself to preserve its profit-generating mechanisms; don’t believe for a second that the modern bourgeoisie, or 1% in today’s parlance, won’t try to seize control of the movement every chance they get, nor that activists won’t act on their behalf.
On the left is a path to revolution, real social change. Anything short of that will return us to the shackles we are still sore from. This path is more treacherous. We will lose friends and take actions we never thought we could. We will have to question leadership at every turn and think critically about our tactics—not what we are comfortable with but what is necessary. But this path is the only way to ending the crisis that we have been living for years.
Until then… WE ARE STILL THE CRISIS!