Post-OWS, AdBusters Announces Its New Project: The 1960s

by Charles C. W. Cooke

To paraphrase the words of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Occupy Wall Street is

dead. It is no more! It has ceased to be! It’s expired and gone to meet it’s maker! It’s a stiff! Bereft of life, it rests in peace! It’s off the twig! It’s kicked the bucket, shuffled off this mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisibile!

And so on, and so forth.

But don’t take my word for it. After all, I considered it to be dead on arrival last September and spent a happy four months composing its elegy. For a second opinion — and authoritative death certificate — listen instead to last week’s verdict from the organization that spawned the merry band: Per Adbusters, Occupy is on the north side of the Karmic cycle and set soon to “morph into a new model”:

Hey all you wild cats, do-gooders and steadfast rebels out there,

Our movement is living through a painful rebirth . . . “There has been a unfortunate consolidation of power in #OWS,” writes one founding Zuccotti. “This translates into ideological dominance and recurring lines of thought. We are facing a nauseating poverty of ideas.” Burned out, out of money, out of ideas . . . seduced by salaries, comfy offices, book deals, old lefty cash and minor celebrity status, some of the most prominent early heroes of our leaderless uprising are losing the edge that catalyzed last year’s one thousand encampments. Bit by bit, Occupy’s first generation is succumbing to an insidious institutionalization and ossification that could be fatal to our young spiritual insurrection unless we leap over it right now. Putting our movement back on track will take nothing short of a revolution within Occupy.

The new tone was set on Earth Day, April 22, in a suburb bordering Berkeley, California when a dozen occupiers quietly marched a small crowd to a tract of endangered urban agricultural land, cut through the locked fence and set up tents, kitchens and a people’s assembly. Acting autonomously under the banner of Occupy, without waiting for approval from any preexisting General Assembly, Occupy The Farm was notable for its sophisticated preplanning and careful execution — they even brought chickens — that offered a positive vision for the future and engendered broad community support. While encampments across the world were unable to re-establish themselves on May Day, this small cadre of farm occupiers boldly maintained their inspiring occupation for nearly four weeks.

In Minneapolis, a core of occupiers have launched an Occupy Homes campaign that is unique for its edgy tenacity. “What is unusual, in fact utterly unprecedented, is the level of aggression and defiance of the law by these activists,” a spokesperson for Freddie Mac, a U.S. corporation that trades in mortgages, told a local paper. “Over the past week . . . the city has tossed out protesters and boarded up the house, only to see the demonstrators peel back the boards and use chains, concrete-filled barrels and other obstacles to make it more difficult to carry them away,” the article reports. Last Friday, police were so desperate to prevent a re-occupation of the foreclosed home that they surrounded the house with “30 Minneapolis police officers with batons” and “over two dozen marked and undercover squad cars and a paddy wagon.” Occupiers responded by laughing and signing songs . . . joyous in their struggle to elevate the home into an symbol of democratic resistance to the banks.

In its own sweet way, our movement is now moving beyond the Zuccotti model and developing a tactical imperative of its own: Small groups of fired up second generation occupiers acting independently, swiftly and tenaciously pulling off myriad visceral local actions, disrupting capitalist business-as-usual across the globe.

The next big bang to capture the world’s imagination could come not from a thousand encampments but from a hundred thousand ephemeral jams . . . a global cascade of flash encampments may well be what this hot Summer will look like.

Meanwhile, tents are up once again in Tahrir Square and youth from Quebec to Auckland to Moscow to Oakland are rising up against a future that does not compute.

Stay loose, play jazz, keep the faith . . . Capitalism is crashing and our movement has just begun.

I have never seen satire this good, and I’m British. “A hundred thousand ephemeral jams”? “Play jazz”? “Wild cats”? The weird use of “Zuccotti”as a noun for glorified squatters. If this isn’t inspired pasquinade, then one can only conclude that AdBusters’ new project is to bring back the 1960s.

#more#There are two options, I suppose. Either the person who wrote this paean to above-standard marijuana was engaged in a noble attempt to turn the words from a Summer of Love–era crossword puzzle into a coherent open letter, or the progressive Left has taken its abject failure a little too much to heart and regressed fully back to its birth state. I’m backing the latter. The members of the Woodstock generation — whose last hurrah was distilled pitifully into the Occupy movement — were convinced that they were different, and that on them History had no purchase. AdBusters’ draft reads exactly like a hopeful tract from 1969 — wholly bereft of the benefits of the last forty years’ experience.

That said, it does show a soupçon of recognition that Occupy’s self-image was delusional. Occupy always suffered from the tension between a dogmatic insistence that it represented “99 percent” of Americans and a concurrently messianic instinct that led it to self-identify as the tiny vanguard of an enlightened revolution against a pervasive mass false consciousness. In this letter, all pretense at representation is dropped. The enemy, the missive affirms, is the “insidious institutionalization and ossification that could be fatal to our young spiritual insurrection unless we leap over it right now.” In other words, Occupy’s problem is what limited success it has had. After all, what does the professional revolutionary do the day after the revolution? Better to keep things amorphous and unmeasurable, for “if only” is infinitely preferable to the hopeless man than is failure.

External pressures aside, it is difficult to imagine how the group can ever grow if it considers its own growth and form to be counter-revolutionary. And quite how fracturing what is already a fringe movement into even smaller factions will aid its cause remains unexplained. Occupy had enough problems on its plate trying to convince a terminally uninterested American public to buy its goods without turning on itself for developing a more choate sales pitch. As such, its core problems seem likely to worsen. Thus, whether Occupy 2.0 is constituted by a “thousand encampments” or one “hundred thousand ephemeral jams,” its complaint will likely continue to be, “Where is everybody?”

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