0%

-1

As you know, dear reader, in the Autumn of 2011, objective economic conditions mobilized many people living in the United States. From the perspective of someone isolated in Ohio who, despite Endnotes, still cares about communization and anarchism, the developments in New York City couldn’t have gotten off to a falser start.  What happened last year in NYC was not a start at all: the current historical series of international occupations began in 2008 and 2009 at the New School and on UC campuses. The campout at Zucotti Park largely co-opted these events for the sake of a “mass movement.”

Occupy Wall Street began on September 17, but people didn’t actually occupy Wall Street. They gathered in New York City’s privately held Zuccotti Park. The campers had been called-forth by a Vancouver-based liberal consumer activist group known as Adbusters™.  Although some have mistaken Abusters™ for an anti-capitalist organization, prior to OWS, they were safely ensconced in the capitalist marketplace of ideas and goods, having done nothing but create an “environmentalist” “alternative” business. Posing as neo-Situationists, they ran various campaigns of “subvertisments” which subverted nothing, as if what used to be called detournment has the same effect today as it did 5 decades ago when capitalism was still expanding.

Adbusters™ instigated gentle flash mobs and “Google™ bombing,” confining their activities to the level of ideas and avoiding militancy at all costs.  Their material interventions consisted of selling. Adbusters’™ goods included a glossy magazine available at bourgeois gourmet co-ops, and Blackspot™ shoes made of recycled vegan materials by slightly-less-exploited workers in Portugal. They might as well have had an ownership position in the Anti-Mall in Irvine California.  None of these practices conflicted with Abusters’™ moronic ideology, which centers on the claim that we all have “authentic selves” that need to be rescued through heroic acts such as avoiding video games and spending some time away from the Internet.

In 2009, an editor at at Adbuster’s magazine, Micah White, attended one of the first occupations in the current historical series, at UC Berkeley ‘s Wheeler Hall. Despite the fact that those occupiers were motivated by a desire for communization brought on by deteriorating material conditions at the university, White decided that the action was about building “a mental environment movement [sic] capable of smashing corporations, downsizing consumer spending and building egalitarian communities” along with other such idealist nonsense. White and the rest of the Adbusters™ crew went on to co-opt the form of occupation for their own program to capture emerging revolutionary energies for a citizen’s movement made up of people already represented in the cesspool of citizenship. Needless to say, they left behind the historical content of the first occupations.

Although Adbusters™ and their associates have pretended to be revolutionaries,

they organized a reform movement aimed at getting corporate money out of politics. That sole initial demand was enough to unmask Adbusters’™ anti-capitalist front as well as any pretense they had of understanding how capitalism works. To make matters worse, anthropologist and lifestyle-anarchist David Graeber helped them plan the September event. He added to the mix a simplistic understanding of horizontality, a love for counter-revolutionary general assemblies, the myth that the people of Tahrir Square were non-violent, and a total failure to realize that the Spanish acampadas had been utterly useless.

 99% + 1% = 100%

On September 8, 2011 posts started to appear on a tumblr™ called We Are the 99 Percent set up by a new york activist seemingly known only as “Chris” and Priscilla Grim, development and marketing director for the New Media Collective. Objective conditions allowed the symbol-managers’ eponymous slogan to go viral. The posts on We Are The 99 Percent mainly feature photographs of people holding up signs bearing the rather long, touching stories of their financial misfortunes. In general, the narratives go a little something like this: “I played by all the rules, tried to be a good citizen, ended up with massive debts anyways and had to suffer consequences.”  Grim and “Chris” clearly intended the phrase and the blog to offer a point of political identification in order to grow a mass movement.

Unfortunately, mass movements function as apparatuses of capture. Despite the many entries on the blog, few, if any, posts articulated a systemic critique of capitalism. The founders of the tumblr™ did nothing to encourage such a critique. #Anyone can understand that they did not do so because such critiques would be against their interests. Grim’s job depends on the continuation of capitalism. Such critiques, too radical for quick consumption by a truly mass public, would limit the viral contagion of We Are The 99 Percent.

The United States, protector of market democracy, was the 99%’s homeland.  Grim and “Chris” seem to have derived the figure from data distributed in popular venues by players such as former World Bank Senior Vice President Joseph E. Stiglitz. Though such articles make international references, they define the top 1%, and the other 99% in terms of the US economy. The rhetoric of articles such as Stiglitz’s address the zombie citizen-worker. The labor of that zombie establishes her national civic belonging complete with rights and responsibilities. It excludes those unwilling to submit to labor or law. Sets defined by percentages of Amerikans, such as the ones drawn by Stiglitz, limit social conflict to one between people in, and largely from, the United States. They exclude those within the US who can’t, or won’t, enter representation’s hall of mirrors. Despite their claim that they want to make themselves visible, the 99% already get represented. They want to represent themselves in a new way, aspiring to become managers of capital for 100% of citizens. Steiglitz’s article typifies the economic thinking from which the 99% emerges, a reformist Keynesian scenario within which the supposed revolutionaries desire a better distribution of capital, not its end. #Anyone who has thought about revolution for more than a day can see that Keynesian regulation constitutes part of the boom and bust cycle of contemporary capitalism.

Many of those who gathered at Zuccotti Park in September identified with the 99%. The tumblr™ title became the campers’ more or less official slogan. The national data that provided the basis for the 99% figure spoke to their barely repressed love of country. The campers patriotically renamed Zuccotti Liberty Park. Instead of challenging the dominance of capital, much of the discussion there turned to rescuing the Amkerikan dream, a rhetoric that latched onto various pre-existent slogans among electoral politicians. From the beginning, the campers dragged the tradition of politics as we know it along with them. The 99% was on a brief vacation from voting, but were destined to become a voting bloq once again.

One ought not to feel surprise that the 99% call only for a reform of capitalism and not for an end to capital. They exist in a not-so-secret complicity with the 1% that they pretend to revile. Together, the 1% and the 99% constitute 100% of those assimilated within social representation. The material interests of the 99% force the group to support the democratic process. Electoral democracy is a phenomenon indistinguishable from capitalism, while direct democracy and economic democracy are nonsensical terms. The 1% and the 99% make up “society” as a whole and they need each other.

As Herbert Marcuse pointed out a long time ago, only forces from outside a given whole can negate it.

“The outside about which I have spoken is not to be understood mechanistically in the spatial sense but, on the contrary, as the qualitative difference which overcomes the existing antitheses inside the antagonistic partial whole […] and which is not reducible to these antitheses. […] [T]he force of negation is concentrated in no one class. Politically and morally, rationally and instinctively, it is a chaotic, anarchistic opposition: the refusal to join and play a part, the disgust at all prosperity, the compulsion to resist. It is a feeble, unorganized opposition which nonetheless rests on motives and purposes which stand in irreconcilable contradiction to the existing whole.” [Herbert Marcuse, “The Concept of Negation in the Dialectic:’ Telos (Summer, 1 971): 130-132. Cited in Tiqqun. This Is Not A Program. Joshua David Jordan, Trans. Semiotext. LA 2011.]

In the contemporary United States, the 1% and the 99% make up Marcuse’s “antagonistic partial whole.” Nonetheless, the 99% has revolutionary pretenses despite being lodged firmly within the empire of capital like Leopold Bloom in Dublin. Even once and future Obama voters enjoy saying the word “revolution.” When they do, it loses all meaning.

The 99%, acts as the loyal opposition within the capitalist society. It cannot even formulate a critique of the system let alone start a revolution. Incapable of understanding itself as a diverse collection of relations, it mistakes itself for a group of individuals bound together by a desire for reform. The least radical common denominator unites the 99%. Such a low level of consciousness is an immutable feature of mass movements within the contemporary biopolitical fabric, one perhaps more pronounced in mass movements inspired by marketing professionals with day jobs that rely on the demographic logic at the heart of biopoltical governance.

Obviously, the 99% has a purely demographic form. When those who call themselves the 99% occupy a space, they do so in order to establish a provisional territory within which they can be counted. To a certain extent, elements outside the 99% have been able to instantiate other forms of life inside the provisional territories, but the 99% has so far prevented the new forms from shifting the biopolitical terrain surrounding them. The 99% can’t make war on capital’s form of life because they are part of the numerical regulation of life indissociable from democratic capitalism.  They forget that they have been counted from the time of their birth and have occupied a territory since the genocide that took place in the Americas. No co-optation necessary: the 99% can’t prevent themselves from becoming a voting bloq. Starting with its name, the 99% assumes that something different will come from within the 100% and the economic relations that determine it.

The 99% simply figures a new spirit of solidarity — one that so palpably gerrymandered that even its Galbraithio-Keynesian priests quickly started to revise the percentage downwards while claiming that 80% should count as 99%. The professionals of identity among the 99% have realized that they are an overwhelmingly white group and make condescending overtures to bourgeois people of color to join them. They look away from #anybody outside of society, or even those on it’s margins until it becomes politically expedient to acknowledge them. As a result, they can narrate their identities as the exploited, but can’t tell a story about the origin or end of exploitation. Nowhere has this been better articulated than by this reading group from Baltimore, perhaps because, in addition to knowing the literature of political economy and insurrection, they get excluded from the 100% by the 100% because of their bodies.

#Anyone who bothers to look can find a fierce pride in being Amerikans – a pride that structures the 99%’s reformist citizen-consciousness. That pride finds its clearest expression in the 99%’s naturalized rules of membership. If the set included all of the people on earth, the 99% would become part of something close to 1% of the wealthiest individuals globally. In order to survive, they must pretend their poorly drawn Venn diagram refers to an actual state of affairs. The 99%’s new spirit of solidarity is, in fact, an old and vindictive one. It arises from the fact that their wealth comes from the exploitation of others. They conceal this from themselves by abstracting, homogenizing, and objectifying the concept of exploitation, as if it were milk in a supermarket. The 99%’s citizenship-drug produces the delirium of rights, among them the right to representation, while paralyzing the movements of 99% so severely that they can’t act in any way proscribed by the rules set up for them by capital. Incapable of seriously considering armed struggle or the seizure of indoor, unambiguously private property, they want to rebuild the Amerikan dream and voice their belief that it will “live again” and that “the Ameri[k]an way is to help one another succeed.” Sadly, Mayor Bloomberg was correct to assert that both the 99% and the 1% dream of a return to boom times — boom times based on the extraction of surplus value from someone, somewhere.

Only the magic of reification allows the 99% to understand their spirit of solidarity as a static thing that paradoxically grows while obeying strict but disavowed principles of inclusion and exclusion. The repression of the contradictions that define their membership allows this process of reification to succeed.

Neither every visitor nor every camper at Zuccotti Park was fully captured by the ideological apparatus called “the 99%.” A former student of Marcuse’s, Angela Davis, was one of the few celebrity speakers to openly discuss the striations structuring the campout and the 99% in general. She stressed the importance of a dialectic of differences, of struggle within the struggle. Davis spoke of developing the occupations’ revolutionary potential, but did not make the mistake of calling the current occupations revolutionary and thereby hollowing out that word even further.

Clearly, and perhaps less than fortunately, Davis wants to “meet people where they’re at,” so she uses the rhetoric of  “the 99%,” but at least she seems to use the figure to name an element in a dialectical process that has an inside and an outside. She has been affiliated with a rather pathetic electoral politics, running for national office as a Revolutionary Communist Party member and continues to engage with Obama and his cronies. Nonetheless, she has consistently invoked those excluded from a society that pretends to be universal. In fact, she is one of the excluded. At the end of the Q & A that followed her talk in Zuccotti, she recommended that the campers identify with Troy Davis and “learn to become a dangerous class” from the prisoners who rose up at Attica in 1971.

The incarcerated and those on death row exemplify the outside described by Marcuse. In the simplest sense, society confines felons and denies them representation through voting along with other aspects of citizenship. Locked up felons don’t teach us to how to expand the 100% so that it includes them, nor do they teach us how the 99% can overcome and absorb the 1%. They teach us to destroy — to negate all extant social relations.

Naturally, Davis’s suggestions were immediately shot down by low-octane racist wannabe managers of semi-socialized capital. These Galbraithio-Keynesian’s wearing Leninist clothing felt the 99% should associate themselves with those who have power. Her attempts to change what “growing a movement” means and the reactions to them shine a light on the self-contradictory nature of the 99%.

The new spirit of solidarity reveals itself as nothing but the current face of the diffuse spectacle, social relations mediated by images which substitute death for life. The 99% clarified this when, in Washing DC, they arranged their bodies into a mass ornament, writing out 99% in a collective pose meant for aerial photography. They behave as if the spectacle were determined by the production alternative images and narratives, rather than by sets of economic relations. Predictably, their tactics and goals reflect the assumption that groups of individuals rather than sets of relations determine economies. In short they live as if trapped in a reflection on the surface of death’s mirror.

0%

Given the renewed veneration of the first full picture of the earth taken from the moon in certain European philosophy seminars, one might think that the empire of capital has universalized death’s mirror and no one escapes potential representation as a citizen and capitalist subject. We are all reflected through a glass eccentrically, but we make a mistake when we think we have no choice but to aspire to become symbol-managers who must organize “messaging” capable of invoking a multitude desiring the socialization of capital. When we willingly accept the specular sensorium of capital’s biopolitical metaphors, we collaborate with the forces that turn us into our own bosses. Due to a parallax effect determined by class composition and the division of labor, the spectacle only reflects a part of the social whole properly, showing them to themselves as silent individuals. Some of us see on death’s mirror only distorted images of our relations. We remember that we have ears and mouths as well as eyes. Not every acoustic phenomenon communicates. As Empire’s LRAD teaches us, vibrations involve physical force.

We can make noise loud enough to break mirrors too.

Those who have no right to representation and those who refuse the stasis of rights and representation, the non-citizens without any desire to become citizens, don’t form a set.  Their noise is the very possibility of the outside Marcuse wrote about. When we move as 0%, we refuse to join and play a part, we sing disgust at all prosperity and articulate our compulsion to resist with the tinkling of shattered glass. We seek to take the cities, not because we have a right to them, but because they must become communes. Position, not solidified specular identity, defines and delimits our “we.” #Anyone who moves away from capital’s empire toward the outside, #anyone who resists becomes us.

0% movements produce chaos in capital and empire. Their force increases along lines of affiance and separation based on concrete relations with others. Affiance and separation are anything but the growth associated with the 99%’s demographic counting. The constitutive disorganization and anarchistic fragmentation of 0% resistance has taught those involved that being too small to fail sometimes releases more power than being too big to fail. The lone warrior, the cell, the gang, the alliance that can shut down all the ports along a coast, the commune capable of occupying a whole city, collective sabotage, mass default: all of these 0% movements gain effectiveness from internal and external friendships and conflicts.

Although 0% movements vibrate across the globe, the region around San Francisco Bay resonates turbulently at the moment —  Oakland in particular. The forces of the outside have emerged so strongly in Oakland and vicinity because of its concrete history of struggle with capital’s watchdogs. Police departments in the Bay Area have a long history of murdering unarmed men of color.

The killing of Oscar Grant on the night of December 31st  2008 to January 1, 2009 is the best known of series of deaths at the hands of police.

Those killings led to 0% actions among diverse groups whose internal conflicts and separations worked on each other to intensify the local rage. Because of these actions and the radical character of the UC occupations of 2009,

by the time OWS spread to Oakland, the anarchic forces of the outside could operate it much more effective than they could in New York City. The Oakland Communetook a plaza in front of City Hall and renamed it after Oscar Grant. Clearly, the communards do not intend to set up a co-operative alternative space, or a temporary autonomous zone. They intend to keep fighting until they turn the city itself into a commune that can serve as a base for the intensification of struggle around the world.

In Santa Cruz, communards took an abandoned Wells Fargo Bank building on Front and River Streets.

Though the city was eventually able to evict them, their action showed the importance of collectively taking private, indoor property as a base of operations. By exposing the willingness of the State Repressive Apparatus to act violently in defense of private property, the communards demonstrated the real stakes in our struggle. The fight against capital is a fight against the system of private property, understood as a set of social relations. The bank isn’t a quasi-public space such as Zuccotti Park. Taking it involved attempted expropriation. Unlike foreclosure occupations, the plans for a community center at the bank did not include outside activists going to a more oppressed community and doing radical charity work. The bank was taken from capital by a collective of diverse forces for the benefit of all. If we are to occupy places within which to care for one another, within which to develop our positive capacities, within which to plan, we have no choice but to defend ourselves against the intensified conflict that the state and capital will bring to us. Lessons learned in the Wells Fargo occupation have already been applied to a coming building occupation in Oakland.

Conflict also intensified on UC campuses.

The willingness of students and faculty to stand down campus police showed an ability to struggle at an increased intensity, as if, upon returning to the locations of the beginnings of this historical series, occupations had become sublated during their global travels and expressed themselves at a higher level upon their return. Communards among the activists were able to use this incident to start working on eliminating the UC administration and ending campus police forces.

The power of the communards to resonate was never clearer than during the shutdown of every port on the West Coast.

100% – 0%

Those who will not be counted do not struggle against the individuals in the 1% or against their actions; 0% struggles resist the system that produces the 100%.

The fractures created by 0% vibrations begin with positive capacities and will end in in the negation of the totality of capitalism’s economic relations.

0% movement merges lines of affiance and separation in a dialectic open to all, synthesizing the violence of capital with that of necessary resistance.

#Anybody can move through 0% positions, whether through direct action, support, care or the intensification of positive capacities.

0% noise does not sing a spirit of solidarity, it sings a circulation of bodies.

As objective economic conditions continue to deteriorate and the resistance’s diversity of tactics comes increasingly to include armed struggle imposed on it by the 100%, a dialectic of separation will redeem our vulnerability and aging.

To move through o% positions, get in where you fit in.

 All power to the communes!

16 Responses to

  1. Lisa Carson

    Don’t know whether my comment registered; you lost me at “someone…who…still cares about…anarchism.”

    • anarchist

      Really, Lisa? If you’re in favor of authoritarian power, you’ve lost me, too–we might just want totally different things. Anarchism is the one great hope for the 21st century–the idea that we could do without all the oppression in this world (or at least do better by fighting it). If you’re in favor of oppression of any kind, if you’re an aspiring manager who wants to wield power over others, then there really should be a line drawn between us.

  2. Trevor

    I think the word “alliance” is very key to thinking about what happened with the Port Shutdown, so just not exactly sure how this fits into the rest of your rhetoric with ‘0%’ necessarily.

    Secondly, your mention of ‘armed struggle’ is rather bold, to say the least. Not criticizing it per se, but…..well, is this the telos of ultraleftism always, really? That deterioration of the situation and introduction of a ‘strategy of tension’ opportunity for the ‘100%’ might not really be….politically advantageous to say the least, let alone desirable at all, on an absolute level.

  3. anon

    Do we want a revolution or a coup?
    It’s going to take much more collective struggle before Americans can break down the ideological walls we’re born into. Reformists and their 99% rhetoric are not the enemy, “bourgeois” as they may be. All that reformist packaging is necessary to attract a large number of people.

    It’s our job to convince people that it’s not going to be enough to try to reform the system, and that means showing solidarity to (and having some sympathy for) those within movement with whom we disagree. Can’t you recall a time when you believed reform would be enough? Would a harsh ultra-left attack on your attempts to be active sway your opinion towards revolution or against it?

  4. anon

    I went a little far with “reformists…are not the enemy”. I meant the people (and small hipster companies like Adbusters) who believe in / engage in reform, not the huge bureaucratic-capitalist complex. Clearly, they are precisely the enemy.

    Solidarity,
    anon

  5. Anandi Sharan

    0% noise does not sing a spirit of solidarity, it sings a circulation of bodies. .. Fiscal irresponsibility by NATO countries is a planned programme of genocidal hegemony over the world’s resources. NATO countries have not only run out of credibility, their dangerous actions are now going to be stopped by G77 and China using the nuclear deterrent. The total global emissions space available at the absolute maximum for 2000 to 2050 is 800 GT CO2 emissions , of which around 300 Gt was already used up from 2000 to 2011. So in the period up to 2030 globally there must be only 350 Gt CO2 emissions by which time every person needs to be at net zero emissions (net zero means if you emit you have to have trees and forests to absorb your emissions). The USA is at 20 tCO2e per person per year and the Uropeans at 10 tCO2e per person per year and not declining. Historically the USA and Europe are responsible for over half the accumulated Greenhouse Gases in the atmosphere. Because the USA and EU own the global reserve currencies they can print as much money as they want and keep buying oil in excess of what they are entitled to. NATO are not agreeing to any form of “equity and survival”, i.e. even forgetting what happened in the past, now at least the 350 GT remaining emission space in a declining annual global emissions trajectory need to be shared equitably, and more importantly this equal sharing will also force the USA and the Europeans to reduce their emissions. G77 and China have been making these proposals since 1989 at the UN but it is a waste of breath so now all that remains is to bomb NATO on their own soils. This seems to be the only language NATO countries understand. Better that Americans and Europeans with 20 tCO2e / 10 tCO2e emissions per person per annum die and those emissions are cancelled, than that poor people who in any case are not emittting any carbon dioxide are killed via climate change caused by NATO countries. NATO countries need to be bombed into submsission because neither are they willing to stop using hydrocarbons voluntarily nor are they willing to agree to an new emission backed currency unit to replace the United States dollar and the European Euro as the global reserve currencies and in this way limit global liquidity and therefore limit hydrocarbon use. This proposed system is called “cap and share” or “contraction and convergence” using emission permits which are allocated on the basis of population for the whole world; and the currency is called EBCU or energy backed currency unit. But as I said, this has been discussed with NATO for 25 years at the UNFCCC to no avail. so now it is a final show down with nuclear deterrents to back up our new world order. All this does not mean you cannot have your own money. But it has to be a national currency where you just use to create jobs for yourself. You have plenty of land so i don’t know what your problem is. Just admit that you are no longer entitled to use fractional banking and market capitalism on the global stage because you have achieved your development goals using hydrocarbons. Now it is some other countries’ turn to use hydrocarbons for the last decade or two until we are all at net zero greenhouse gas emissions having exited from hydrocarbons in an orderly manner using the EBCU global financial order. This is the politics of equity and survival in a finite global commons and G77 and China will be enforcing the new regime by force militarily using the nuclear deterrent, bringing the geo-politics to the USA and NATO own soils and own people.

  6. William O'Neill

    Thankyou for this post. It articulates many ideas I have been trying to communicate. As Henry David Thoreau said in “Civil Disobedience”: “There is but little virtue in the action of masses of men.”

  7. Jiminy Crickett

    This column is, as my kid would say, preposperous.

    The 99%, representing millions wanting their rights to assembly and
    habeas corpuse returned, and to not pay for the laundering of
    assets over-paid-for by the Federal Reserve, at the expense of
    everyone’s savings and the currencies of the world and keeping in
    mind the carry trade $US – to – Yuan that the Fed and corrupt blame-happy
    Congress are embarked on creating,

    SIMPLY REJECT CRONY CAPITALISM, NOT CAPITALISM.

    Also, they don’t like a health cartel choice of “go naked” or “premium death spiral.”

    That don’t want an FDA as gatekeeper instead of safety-keeper.

    They want real food instead of genetically modified corn or soy, which no American family
    farmer would ever eat.

    They don’t want $US 100’s billions off-book spending on domestic neighborhood spying.

    Are you catching on yet?

  8. Trevor

    Why a libertarian fuckhead read Occupy Everything? Go vote for Ron Paul and jack off to guns + ammo.

  9. OE editors

    Red WithoutWhy:
    Love to L-GS, but I’m at a loss to understand the point of this piece. Even by the second sentence…is Endnotes supposed to *not* care about communization and anarchism?
    Or “Grim’s job depends on the continuation of capitalism.”…Isn’t this true of pretty much all of us?
    Or “The 99%, acts as the loyal opposition within the capitalist society. It cannot even formulate a critique of the system let alone start a revolution.”… Can the so-called 0% “start a revolution?”
    And there’s the problem. This critique purports to be materialist, but actually it is voluntarist and idealist. The piece seems to say that the “0%” (we radicals) have the capacity to do something “the 99%” (those reformists) can’t do. And in this it is sorely mistaken. The “99%” and its activist organizers are derided as reformist—as, of course, many of them are. *But the fact that they are reformist is neither here nor there.* The “99%”, the “1%” and the “0%” are all *in* the movement of history which traverses and determines their distinction. *This* is the movement which is radical, not that of the “0%” as a radical bloc–though it is a radical bloc within the occupation movement. That doesn’t mean it needs touting, and that the 99% needs denunciation.
    It means that to be materialists we need to think the movement from the New School (and, uh, well before that) to California to Zuccotti rather than saying that a movement “started” at the New School or in CA and was then co-opted by Adbusters and OWS. While Adbusters is not a very interesting magazine and while Micah White might be a dufus (I don’t know him, but the texts aren’t good), and while it is necessary to criticize reformist pronouncements, there is 0% point in attacking the initiation of OWS last fall. Seriously, the theoretical standpoint of the people and groups that organized OWS may be awry, but considering all that’s happened since September: RESPECT DUE.

    Jason Read Yes, I agree. Are we supposed to be surprised that the majority of the occupations are dominated by reformist politics? Who cares about adbusters besides adbusters? The criticism here are neither new nor news.

    Jodi Dean I fully agree–I wondered if the piece was a rerun of the Sokal affair at Social Text years ago. The pseudo-political faux radicality is really too much.

    Red WithoutWhy Again though, love to L-GS.

    Cara Baldwin I think it’s interesting that these comments seem to centered around a shared sense of what appears to you as mannered or a baroque, out-of-touch with the ‘real’. With all due respect, I question that; and any totalizing grasp of it.

    Red WithoutWhy I don’t have a problem with anything mannered or baroque, or the style of the piece, really. I don’t agree with Jodi’s comment above, comparing this to the Sokal hoax.
    Nor do I say anything about the real or claim a totalizing grasp of anything. On the contrary, I think this is what the piece does. What is non-totalizable is the confluence of forces that produce something like OWS. Attacking Adbusters or the people who organized OWS reduces that confluence to a certain reformist current which can be stimatized as co-opting something else. *There is* a movement whose central slogan is “we are the 99%” I’m not opposed to that slogan, though I am concerned to think through its impasses (which are certainly no greater than “we are the 0%”). I am in and of the movement which began (as a quasi-discrete sequence) this fall. Of course, I enter into debates concerning its composition and direction. But I don’t think it’s interesting to say, the people who initiated a movement in New York are capitalists reformists who don’t “call for the end of capitalism” — as if “calling for” the end of capitalism means anything at all.
    It’s Louis’ piece which I think is presumptuous, in setting some 0% bloc against any and all reformist elements in the movement. The reason I think it’s erroneous to do so is, as I say, because it’s voluntarist and idealist.

    Red WithoutWhy Or at least it is so as argued in the article.

    Cara Baldwin ‘idealist’?

    Red WithoutWhy As opposed to materialist. This has nothing to do with authenticity (which is what I think the article itself claims). It has to do with thinking not only about objective conditions (which this piece says it is doing), but also seeing a confluence of political forces at play in a sequence as *part* of those objective conditions. From this perspective it makes no sense to say OWS co-opted a radical occupation movement that began elsewhere for reformist purposes–or at least doing so isn’t to the point.
    The piece is idealist because it supposes there is a 0% faction of radicals who can “start a revolution” whereas reformists can’t. What we see actually belies this voluntarist supposition. The social forces making up the composition of the occupation movement are not yet revolutionary–neither the radicals nor the reformists, regardless of how loudly the radicals declare our revolutionary intentions.

    Red WithoutWhy The movement will be revolutionary when the contradictions in which it is immersed and which saturate its internal composition reach a point of rupture from which it cannot turn back. Not because some of us say and act as though we want a revolution.

    Cara Baldwin this has already happened.

    Red WithoutWhy ok, we could go back and forth over that point,
    as a matter of historical judgment. but i don’t think that would touch
    on the problem with the article, one way or the other.

    Red WithoutWhy ?*if* it has already happened, it is not because of radicals within the movement, in opposition to reformists. that’s for sure.

    Red WithoutWhy I would maintain, for example, that what has been most radical about this movement is not at all fighting the cops or taking the streets without permits. What has been most radical has been the establishment of encampments. That’s what OWS …did. And that’s why the category of radicalism doesn’t bear on the situation, and that’s why the fact that the so-called 0% are pushing for something Adbusters reformists aren’t doesn’t really matter.

    Red WithoutWhy The article misses entirely the fact that these reformists just happened to initiate a tactic, in the US, that was the means of the movement’s propagation and the measure of its intransigence.

    Cara Baldwin interesting. i disagree, but thank you for your response. and just to clarify, when i wrote ‘you’ in my response, i didn’t mean you personally. i meant, rather, each of you–with your varying appraisals: jason, jodi and red withoutwhy.

    Cara Baldwin if it was just you and i—i would rather discuss the cultural capital and relevance of neo-situationism that louis touches on.

    Samuel Bailey While I’m sympathetic to Nathan’s concerns (my core skepticisms are similar, if meaningfully different), I think he misunderstands something about the essay — about, ironically, its degree of abstraction and theorization. I don’t think it p…oses the practical existence of some cadre called “the 0%.” I think it proposes that the language of 99/1 is, in terms amenable to Nathan, a dispositif — “the 0%” simply designates in negative those who are not captured, who resist that capture, or— more materially — those who *cannot* be captured by it, those who escape that representation.
    This turns out to be, most immediately, not “true radicals” but the entirely dispossessed, those below the reserve army of labor. In this sense I think the essay accords with Nathan’s sense that the encampments are indeed radical: not because of their tactical significance, but because they manifest that dynamic of dispossession which is the historical real. Those encampments are terrifying not because of the presence of radicals but because they are incipient Hoovervilles and everybody knows there’s no way out of this depression. And I think the essay’s theorization is quite aware of this, and in accord with it. Thus the struggle to reject the 99/1 dispositif is the struggle to stand with those dispossessed who are the real kernel of the encampments — a test that, we must admit, most of the encampments have been failing, as they turn and turn again to regulation, to rights discourse, and to representative politics.
    That said, I should also note where I agree with Nathan. Even if the language of traversal is my own, I certainly agree that the essay seems to propose that the dynamic of crisis is internal to the social whole, while its true antagonists are external. That ain’t right. The antagonists *are* [part of] the crisis, and must be equally internal.
    Last note: all of this presupposes that the US is at least an exemplary arena of capitalist crisis and antagonisms. Not sure about this. It is the arena I know best and in some sense am most immediately interested in, but one must pay careful attention to the distortions in form-of-crisis that come from being the global hegemon/leading capitalist power.

    Red WithoutWhy Well, I think the essay and its author doubtless understand these things in these terms. But it doesn’t really *say* them in these terms.

    Samuel Bailey [[[sorry, should say “even if the language of traversal is NOT my own…” — I don’t claim ownership of any language, except for one or two dispiriting portmanteaux.]]]

    Red WithoutWhy Cara, baffled by your last comment, above.

    Cara Baldwin the one ‘we could go back and forth over’?

    Cara Baldwin or, the one that has to do with representation?

    Red WithoutWhy ?”if it was just you and i— i would rather discuss the
    cultural capital and relevance of neo-situationism that louis touches
    on.”

    Cara Baldwin oh, thank you for clarifying. i was thinking i would like
    to discuss this with you some time since you have interest in debord,
    “as if what used to be called detournment has the same effect today as
    it did 5 decades ago when capitalism was still expanding.”

    Red WithoutWhy I’m no expert on Debord, but sure.

    Cara Baldwin Hurray, maybe when I get up there next month? I wish I was there today. Waiting around to host a visiting artist from Argentina. Come to think of it, you might like his work. Eduardo Molinari. http://www.archivocaminante.blogspot.com/Archivo Caminante archivocaminante.blogspot.com

    Jodi Dean I disagree with so many things in the piece–any one or two points will open to numerous others. But, to mention a few things, starting from the end, the piece embraces circulation rather than solidarity. This is the logic of contemporary capitalism which has sought to obliterate solidarity and privilege circulation. Further, I don’t think that primary political problems are because of a logic of representation rather than with the underlying capitalism mode of production. Representations always exclude something; these exclusions are productive and open, enabling what was excluded to become apparent. Further, it’s a strange model of politics that puts university students and the incarcerated on the same side
    automatically or organically or logically (I actually can’t tell what other than the author’s whim makes them the same) and the two of these as an alternative to the political struggle of the working class. Further, the accusations of nationalism ignore the emphases on global struggles and global occupations that have accompanied the movement from the beginning.

    Cara Baldwin i’d like to hear from jason read as well, but you assert so many points jodi that i hope it’s okay to address each of them of them one by one.

    Cara Baldwin 1. a) “the piece embraces circulation *rather than* solidarity.” these terms aren’t mutually exclusive as general terms or in this text, logically speaking. it’s also not clear, here what sort of ‘circulation’ you are referring to. there are, for example, material critiques in this particular text and in your writing that critically address ‘circulation’ in relation to cultural capital in a material sense; through the paid (and unpaid) work of the new class managers, creative professionals, etc. b) “This (‘circulation’) is the logic of contemporary capitalism” again, a conflation of terms that are not yet defined.

    Cara Baldwin and this point hinges on the word ‘capitalism’; it’s operations and agency– this seems not to be a matter of debate among any one including the author, though it certainly would be in a broader discussion. i could agree with the statement of belief, for example that reads something like “contemporary capitalism [which] has sought to obliterate solidarity and privilege circulation”.

    Cara Baldwin 2. “I don’t think that primary political problems arebecause of a logic of representation *rather than* with the underlying capitalism mode of production.” Again, these terms are not operating in mutual exclusion. Here, though a move is made to establish primary and subordinate logics–to separate them and focus on the one and suppress the other.

    Cara Baldwin 3. “Representations always exclude something; these exclusions are productive and open, enabling what was excluded to become apparent.” this is a little breezy and doesn’t hold true–what is it doing?

    Cara Baldwin 4. a) “Further, it’s a strange model of politics that puts university students and the incarcerated on the same side automatically *or* organically *or* logically (I actually can’t tell
    what other than the author’s whim makes them the same)” again, this begs the question solidarity among whom and for what. b) “and the two of these as an alternative to the political struggle of the working class.” false-dilemma.

    Cara Baldwin 5. “Further, the accusations of nationalism ignore the emphases on global struggles and global occupations that have accompanied the movement from the beginning.” Finally, this and your
    leading point are the strongest, but they don’t bear out in the text itself.

    Jodi Dean Cara Baldwin: this is a line from the text that posits the opposition between solidarity and circulation: “0% noise does not sing a spirit of solidarity, it sings a circulation of bodies.”

    Jodi Dean http://jdeanicite.typepad.com/i_cite/2012/01/much-ado-about-nothing-response-to-0.htmlIcite: Much Ado About Nothing (Response to 0%) jdeanicite.typepad.com Guest post by Paul Passavant: a critique of 0% by Louis-Georges Schwartz. ‘First …there was withdrawal from the state form. The state represses us. It alienates us by re-presenting innumerable singularities and differences as one (state).’

    Jodi Dean the post from my blog explains the issue of representation (also, this is FB so ‘breezy’ is pretty much standard, no?)

    Cara Baldwin dismissive, rather.

    Jodi Dean yes–I don’t think that the rejection of representation is
    useful conceptually or politically.

    Cara Baldwin I would agree with that, I just wouldn’t go so far as to conclude that systems of representation are productive, open and enabling — nor are they all the same — thank you, though for at least trying to engage critically.

    Red WithoutWhy Just to drop in another 2 cents — Jodi, I don’t really buy this response either. It’s not a “withdrawal” from the state form or the party or the people or “the movement” that’s at issue. A critique of organizational forms as displaced or rendered counter-revolutionary by historical transitions between pertinent or revolutionary forms of struggle is completely appropriate and necessary. I think much of what LGS’s piece says is true. It’s just that it’s often trivially true (Adbusters is reformist and opportunist) and in being so it misses the point of what is *not* trivially true: that these reformist opportunists also initiated (in the US) a tactic and an organizational form, the encampment, that carved a new and radical opening into a larger political sequence and thereby reinvigorated it in a way that was entirely unexpected and mostly laudable.
    Yeah, I’m not interested in holding out the radical purity of “the 0%” against people who are stepping onto the street for the first time, or even against lame journalists who somehow managed to do something pretty fucking cool. And I think it’s ridiculous to protest too much about Oakland’s street cred within the occupation movement.
    But I’m not going to veer from there into hollow calls for unity and especially not into even implicit efforts to undermine legitimate critique of the state form, of the party form, of worker identity, of democratic representation.

    Red WithoutWhy I think, for example, that “the rejection of representation” is the sine qua non of political action that matters.

    Red WithoutWhy But Cara, “0% noise does not sing a spirit of solidarity, it sings a circulation of bodies” — I don’t think Jodi’s at all wrong to take this to task and to point out (I take it) that it’s the glib Deleuzian orgiastic politics of this formulation that is all too “breezy”.

    Red WithoutWhy Oh! Just noticed that was a guest post on I Cite.

    Cara Baldwin i hear that.

    Jodi Dean Cara Baldwin–systems of representation produce meaning, non-meaning, and a range of possibilities in between through the exclusion of some possibilities, rather than others; differently put,
    deconstruction is possible because of representation; so, systems of representation are open to critique, they even incite it through the exclusions they enable; these are characteristics of representation as a concept. Simply to say they are not all the same misses the point of thinking about a concept. With regard to political systems of representation, in politics, one can’t avoid representation. Why? because politics cuts through the being of something to confront the manner of this being in relation to others (is it violent, just, equal, oppression, liberating).

    Cara Baldwin It seems to me there are at least three systems of representation running through this text and our conversation. Of these, two are (certainly) symbolic and one is (arguably) direct: representational politics (in the sense of electoral poli…tics), representational politics (in the sense of race, class, gender) and representational politics (in the sense of manipulation of cultural signifiers, narratives and codes). I’d like to discuss any of these, particularly in relation to material conditions, entitlement and enclosure–

    Cara Baldwin I’m not sure what is meant by ‘meaning and non-meaning’, however. The stability of these sites and signs remain in question and questionable. There is no ‘essential being of something’. There is no encampment.

    Cara Baldwin Hey, Jodi, Red, Jason and Samuel: Ken Ehrlich asked me if it would be possible to cut & paste this thread of comments from FB to the comments section on OE under Louis’ text in order to open up
    conversation. I’m fine with it, but is that okay with you? If not, just say no.

    Jodi Dean fine with me.

    Jodi Dean Cara–by meaning and non-meaning I’m saying that any given system of representation establishes what is meaningful within its terms and that this necessarily entails the establishment of
    non-meaning or meaninglessness. This isn’t an essence, like you said. Contesting a system can be done from within the terms of the system, from what is outside the system, or from its interior holes, torsions,
    and contradictions.

  10. Trevor

    Hmmm.

    Great comments above. I would not want to get to fixated on a representation-circulation enclosure as its obvious that is not fruitful. A question remains of the primacy to confront matters, but perhaps confrontation rests bicamerally in as much to apply pressure to the capitalist state w/ directionaction as to develop alternative, socialist forms of democracy (general assemblies, reformist, etc.). This, in turn, cuts or renders radically open a strategic perspective that follows from this, a liminal flight that mediates between reform and revolution. Remember, the state or situation must constantly produce a material substratum for mass consent in order for it to neutralize an operative politics that *appears* *was represented* as animated, this bizarre phenomena of the spiralling New School-CA-London-elsehwhere-Occupy Fall as a vamping of the same and a redepositing of its differends or remainders in novel geographies– so too then this *representation* gets neutralized. Ranciere might ask, is a ‘para-politics’ available for mass movements of popular sovereignty? NO. Emphatically. Or at least in might only occur in instances, but cannot expand or revisit the molar. The ideal geometry that counts each “demographic” as counted and so on as parts equalling some whole (the (non)totality which Cara rightfully defends LGS) . This is a policing logic economizing the political that each part might receive some “just” dividend of the state or situation; so the non-economic question of the just distribution of shares of the common good is what remains. the converse, rather, should be ‘politics’ is precisely the militant interruption of this policing logic! whether this arrives via an archi-, meta-, or para- politics, these will converge & separate as a situation demands, but to really understand this we should call into question an insidious contempt for a non-existent 99%, as people undoubtedly will think themselves through situations, and even in some they are going to think politically.

    Hope that makes sense!

  11. ab

    Of all the images in this piece (and there are many), “milk in a supermarket” is my favorite because it tells of exploitation without recognition.

    1%, 2%, whole, or skim, WHITE milk, gathered and processed, subsidized by your taxes, promoted by Hollywood and sports stars (got milk?), is the replacement teat for a nation of unquestioning infants who want their milk and drink it too.

    It’s produced on large swaths of property across the country, but if you drink milk, where does it come from? Yes, from a cow’s udder bag, from the clover and grass she eats obviously, but where is its origin? Oregon? Wisconsin? Where does your milk come from? (BTW, studies show that drinking milk increases the risk of osteoporosis and prostate cancer.)

    For 99.9% of milk drinkers, as LGS suggests, it comes from the store and we are grateful for it without questioning the fact or reason for its delivery.
    The same is true of near every “product” we consume, including the petrol to transport the milk to the store or the power that makes my computer and internet go.

    Willful ignorance is capitalism’s strongest ally.

    “Are you catching on yet?”
    Yes, we are “catching on.” We are catching on that 99% vs 1% is a walt disney construct inadequate to spell relief from oppression and destruction; that “occupation” ultimately becomes a tourist trap for out of work Obama apologists; that protest is essentially meaningless without actual resistance.
    (And “Crony capitalism” is redundant; the free market is a slave market; and we can do better than a democracy where the minority gets their way. (Interestingly, democracy has always been based on a “free” voter who legislates while a subservient class is controlled. Look it up, from Athens to our fondling fathers to today’s two-party system, there is ALWAYS a majority underclass in a “democratic” society and DOES NOT VOTE.)

    @Anon “Can’t you recall a time when you believed reform would be enough?”
    Reform will never be enough; milk must be spilt. It’s time to tip it over.

    For those afraid of spilt milk, it will be repugnant because “it is a chaotic, anarchistic opposition: the refusal to join and play a part, the disgust at all prosperity, the compulsion to resist.”

    In this critique of the 99%, terminology is important, imagery is important, because aesthetics drive the psychology of movements.

    The other image I love from this is the group of people arranged in the figure of the 99%.

    “I participated,” they will say, “There I am,” protesting by sitting in a shape with others. A collective dance troupe is photographed, put on facebook, shared and liked. Mission accomplished?

    Ask yourself #anybody, do you want a t-shirt from the OWS camp? Do you want another Che’ poster or guy fawkes’ mask?

    Or do you want to end systemic oppression?

    Engage your brothers and sisters, even those who wear hoodies, live in the streets, or speak a different language.

    Dare I say, even those who are in the so-called 1% can be turned.

    Spill the milk. Walkout, vandalize, sabotage, and monkey-wrench. Smash capitalism.