Resistance in America: A Perspective

In the recent Iraq War, the US had a number of war aims, including the institution of a subordinate and model neoliberal regime that would secure energy resources and the establishment of a network of permanent bases to house American forces in a strategic location. The resistance was fierce: In 2005, suicide bombings hit a record of 478 separate attacks. This insurgency caused the US to progressively lose desired outcomes on point after point - accelerating elections, largely losing the elections, energy market diversification, the inclusion of anti-occupation forces in government, the arming of independent militia, inability to drawdown troops, the need for conversion to a contractor army and many others. The insurgency imposed immense costs on the Americans - estimated to run into the trillions of dollars and at the expense of many thousands of lives. The insurgency was unable, as it stands, to consistently assert its own political demands beyond the mere raising of costs and explosion of war aims for the Americans. Importantly, though, it gives a sense of the stakes involved in politics: Each side committed immense human and economic resources to the effort to shape strategic outcomes of the country.

The violent and more spectacular side of the Iraq insurgency was certainly important in defining events, but it was the largely latent power of assertiveness of the population that was decisive in largely derailing the occupation. American resistance to local popular power was fought with massive crowds of protestors, despite extreme personal danger to these crowds, and it was this political activism that convinced the US that it could never hope to sustain a puppet government with large permanent bases. This wasn't simply non-violent - often the crowds were supporters of militia leaders like Muqtada al-Sadr. The latter's resistance movement now controls a critical share of votes within the Iraqi legislature.

The world-historical consequence of the Occupy movement needs to be put in this perspective. This is the same world and involves one of the same powers. So far, the Occupy movement has involved a tiny minority of Americans, and at very little expense for these people. There are attacks with irritants on protestors, but most violence has been one-sided and limited. Importantly, what are the changes in business-as-usual that this movement seeks to put into place?

I believe in something I call "business plan politics." That is, you need to have a narrative about how your politics will change the course of events. You need a credible strategy. You can't typically show up to a bank for a small business loan without at least the semblance of a strategy to convert the loan into a profitable enterprise so it can be repaid. But people spend a lot of time on their politics without considering how their micropolitical activity will translate into social change. This is why revolution must be approached as essentially a scientific activity - what inputs lead to what outputs, and so on. You need a credible way to translate vague ideas about a future society into tangible results. There's nothing of that in the Occupy movement yet.

Total expenses of the security state in the US total near a trillion dollars a year. Overthrowing such a state and introducing new social relations will not happen because of occupied parks. It will come because millions of people choose a new road and thousands of people give their lives for it. These are the stakes. History advances by the bad side - you have to wrench small advances out of incredible expenditures. The struggle against capitalism has cost countless millions of lives across centuries. The impossible happens, but one must plan for it!

Discussion of Resistance in America: A Perspective on tHE r H i z z o n E:

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the wording of 'taken away our vocabulary' is nonfitting cause americans dont loearn a vocabulary in the first place

what has happened though is that maybe medias are good at manipulating in the sense that they make their readers/listeners/viewers feel smart without making them smart. you have your column space where write opinion but no space to make logic, arguments, anything. talk shows, smart man comes as quest. wow its great thinker nobel prize winner talking for two minutes on conan, wow hes soo right. oh heres the news, ten topics, ten minutes. thats plenty imo. oh heres a heavy weigher, time magazine. three pages about the new decade in india. phew, im pooped.

ppl are fed the idea that a thirty minute long debate is long and conclusive. that a two hour documentary can tell you everything you need to know about the vietnam war. and its been going on for so long that im not sure, maybe jon stewrad actually thinks hes making progress on a national level and puhsing the national conversation forward by talking to condolleza rice for ten minutes. err i meean eight minutes. well throw the rest on the web for the hardcore viewers who want to get deep into the issue.

its not that the end of capitalism is an impossible idea. but that the idea of talking about capitalism for four hours in a setting where you dont have outs and where your beliefs are put under pressure and theres no option of sayin 'haha wathever nerds' - is impssoble
Hmmm, it is interesting that you would espouse "business plan politics" as a way to form strategic long-term political narrative. Do actual businesses have plans such as these? The modus operandi of today seems to me to be composited more of short-term minimaxing of current quarterly expectations than fulfilling steps on a long-term mission statement. And, you know, this is reflected back in the political sphere was well, not only in regards to the election cycle, and not only due to expectations of business-minded financiers, but also culturally, in that modern american politics seem to be more about short-term minimaxing of criseses (crisesi? anyways, never let one go to waste!) than any bold plan for the future.

So, I'm not sure that OWS engaging business as usual via business as usual will have any impact on business as usual! That's not to say that I disagree with any of your observations here, however. (and seriously, what a fabulous rhetorical narrative you have btwtw)
good essay, i liked it! and i agree, especially with the point on scientific type revolutions. this is why class analysis is critical, for using it we can see that the sort of sans-culottes movement, the coalition of the indignant, which currently typifies ows has no future whatsoever.

however, the ows movement is still critical as a stepping stone: the level of political education in this long suffering country is so low that any sort of thing that raises class awareness of any type is positive. the teargassed and bludgeoned liberal of today is the cadre of tomorrow.
This was good, but it feels like you ended it prematurely. I also am interested in and possibly with the idea that occupiers lack the vocabulary to describe the change they want to see. Possibly also the imagination.

discipline posted:
what do you think about zizek claiming that they have taken away our vocabulary with which to articulate our demands? indeed we can imagine a world destroyed by an asteroid or tsunami, but the end of capitalism is just too horrible to think about for most americans... even the ones who can stomach to consider it fail to come up with any kind of coherent "replacement strategy".

one interesting line of thought that distracted me while watching zizek say that--what do we make of the various recent films depicting "revolution" or "resistance" in fantastic or fictional settings? I can visualize genetically-enhanced apes and, uh, really tall blue people fighting capital more easily than American humans thanks to CGI. why have they chosen to take on those themes with that technology, where others have avoided it? or is this not a useful way to look at film

I dunno, American cinema has had a fascination with insurgency that it's safely explored via fantastic settings and cartoonish villains for a long, long time. Star Wars is prolly the most obvious example but there's shitloads
seems like these movies are either about a paternalist mythology, where our real american hero is the lynchpin to their revolution (in avatar, the hero actually gets to become one of the people he liberates), or they're about the implausibility of our empire collapsing, kind of, um, comfort horror
to sort of tie all that together i think it's important to not just assume the evil empires in movies stand for capital. obviously in reality they all would be. but in the world of the films the closest you're likely to get is a greedy megacorporation. this disconnect allows for heroic tales of national liberation struggles (in keeping with our own founding mythology) without any of the messy economic realities that lead america to be the evil empire
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