Europe is pregnant with revolution. The monstrous horrors of…war, the suffering caused by the high cost of living everywhere engender a revolutionary mood; and the ruling classes, the bourgeoisie, and its servitors, the governments, are more and more moving into a blind alley from which they can never extricate themselves without tremendous upheavals.” - VI Lenin

It was our good friend VIadimir Lenin who said: “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.”

Who could argue with this now ? All around the world, after years of political defeat and retreat, we are witnessing an explosion of political dissent and activism that, again, tells us that we can defeat the vampires of capitalism and win this world.

With revolution again on the agenda where are the pompous proponents of incremental reform now? The social democratic parties have surrendered to neoliberalism and the leaders like Britain's Ed Miliband and our own Phil Goff splutter that there is 'no alternative' to the free market, all the while cosying up to the rich and the powerful.

The ideology of tepid reformism was, in the end, always a suffocating and sterile ideology because it always assumed stability and inertia. When capitalism couldn't even provide it with that it simply collapsed.

But Marx told us all this many years ago. He reminded us that the status quo is built on sand and can quickly fall when we least expect it. We should never fall into the trap that takes the status quo as a given - leave that dismal mode of thinking to the discredited heirs of Eduard Bernstein and his 'parliamentary road to socialism'.

Even in December 1916, only two months before the outbreak of the Russian revolution, Lenin himself despondently wrote : “The revolutionary movement grows extremely slowly and with difficulty.” But in January 1917, he wrote, “We of the older generation may not live to see the decisive battles of this coming revolution.”

The great events that we are witnessing today began in Spain, arrived in the Middle East, spread to Europe and then landed in the United States, the centre of global capitalism. And it all occurred in a short space of time.

We should always remember the Marxist concept of dialectics. It reminds us that social and political upheaval is a constant possibility, rather than a rare exception.

There are weeks where decades happen.


  1. Occupy Wall Street has so far been successful in enlisting the support of a number of leftish celebrities, prominent unions, and young activists, and has received a lot of media coverage. The protestors have successfully stood their ground against Bloomberg’s attempt to evict them.

    But this victory can by no means considered final. Rather, it tasks us with the question: “Where do we go from here?”

    If this successful moment of resistance against the coercion of the State is to signal a turning-point for this movement, it must now address the more serious political problems that confront it. It is crucial that the participants in these demonstrations ask themselves where they stand in history, and more adequately conceptualize the problem of capitalist society. This requires thorough reflection and unsentimental self-criticism.

    One of the most glaring problems with the supporters of Occupy Wall Street and the “occupations” in other cities is that they suffer from a woefully inadequate understanding of the capitalist social formation — its dynamics, its (spatial) globality, its (temporal) modernity. They equate anti-capitalism with simple anti-Americanism, and ignore the international basis of the capitalist world economy. To some extent, they have even reified its spatial metonym in the NYSE on Wall Street. Capitalism is an inherently global phenomenon; it does not admit of localization to any single nation, city, or financial district.

    Another problem pervasive amongst OWS demonstrators is a general lack of historical consciousness. Not only are they almost completely unaware of past revolutionary movements, but their thinking has become so enslaved to the conditions of the present that they can no longer imagine a society fundamentally different from our own. Instead of liberation and emancipation, all they offer is the vague notion of “resistance” or “subversion.”

    Moreover, many of the more moderate protestors hold on to the erroneous belief that capitalism can be “controlled” or “corrected” through Keynesian-administrative measures: steeper taxes on the rich, more bureaucratic regulation and oversight of business practices, broader government social programs (welfare, Social Security), and projects of rebuilding infrastructure to create jobs. Moderate “progressives” dream of a return to the Clinton boom years, or better yet, a Rooseveltian new “New Deal.” All this amounts to petty reformism, which only serves to perpetuate the global capitalist order rather than to overcome it. They fail to see the same thing that the libertarians in the Tea Party are blind to: laissez-faire economics is not essential to capitalism. State-interventionist capitalism is just as capitalist as free-market capitalism.

    Though Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy [insert location here] in general still contains many problematic aspects, it nevertheless presents an opportunity for the Left to engage with some of the nascent anti-capitalist sentiment taking shape there. To this point, most of the protests have only expressed a sort of intuitive discontent with the status quo. In order to get a better sense of what they are up against, they must develop a more adequate understanding of the prevailing social order. Hopefully, the demonstrations will lead to a general radicalization of the participants’ politics, and a commitment to the longer-term project of social emancipation.

    To this end, I have written up a rather pointed Marxist analysis of the OWS movement so far that you might find interesting:

    “Reflections on Occupy Wall Street: What it Represents, Its Prospects, and Its Deficiencies


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