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Monday, October 03, 2011
THE DEMAND FOR DEMANDS, BUT WHY
WHAT DO THESE PEOPLE WANT ANYWAY
Mike Ely is a guy who writes things I sometimes love and then sometimes we have these big arguments about stupid shit. I think Mike would call himself a Maoist of sorts, but it doesn't really matter. He runs this site Kasama (amongst others) where lots of debates occur on things that lots of you would be interested in and lots of you wouldn't in (I am on the interested side). Anyway, in the piece below Mike takes on all those who keep asking, "hey, what do those crazy Occupation Wall Street (put in your city here) want any way." The older generation has always been asking that about the younger and the older left has usually been asking it about young movements as well. Hey, I was a yippie-sds-weather-anachist-commie-hippie type in my younger days and no one knew what in the hell we or me wanted either. Who cared? We knew what we wanted. I knew what I wanted. Didn't much matter to me if the other side knew or not. Anyway, like I say Mike has apparently giving some thought to this whole "demands" things and has come up with the following (for now). I pretty much agree with Mike on this one (for now).
No demands for the Greek government -- just climb in a helicopter and flee.
by Mike Ely
I was asked about the debate over demands within the many General Assemblies. Here is my current view (which may change):
i have very mixed thoughts on this. And i suspect the moment such demands are formulated, they will feel less radical or unnecessarily exclusionary.
Badiou’s point of “politics at distance from the state” comes into play. (For Badiou the word “state” is not the state apparatus of previous marxism, but more the larger “state of affairs” — i.e. what we call “the system” in our revolutionary movement.)
The moment you make certain “concrete demands” of the state you are suddenly run the risk of becoming just a piece of that process, on that grid. And often a legitimizing piece.
Is that appropriate now? In this occupy movement?
In some ways, the whole feeling of “fuck them all we have no laundry list of demands for you. Go away!” is much better. Much more France 68. And that helicopter symbol from Greece was/is of course a blunt demand all its own!
“And they’ll raise their hands Sayin’ ‘We’ll meet all your demands,’ And we’ll shout from the bow ‘Your days are numbered.’
We don’t desire momentary cooptation or symbolic concessions. We don’t want their patronizing pretense of “listening.”
We want this system of money and oppression gone, razed, and its symbols moved to this museums that now display slave chains and thumbscrews. And we want to raise that prospect of change to the level of the political stage.
The assumption that this moment NEEDs concrete demands is worth questioning. There may be demands we should raise. But better NO demands than conservatizing demands or bad demands, or demands that turn us into a pressure group for timid reforms. (Perhaps we should (to clarify things for ourselves) make our own list of “bad demands” (diversionary, legitimizing, slavishly tame, rightwing kooky, etc.) that we really don’t want to see raised as the face of this movement.)
Pull against the taming
The moment demands get petty, nailed down, specific, the whole thing can feel like a pressure group on the existing body politics… And one of the best things about this whole movement is that there is a rejection of the existing body politic, its main parties and politicians — i.e. a sense of a system that is broken, corrupt, alien and oppressive.
Let’s not be corralled. Let’s not allow a taming. Let’s not allow this to be inserted on the broken grid of their out-dated politics.
Sometimes people say:
“If you don’t have specific demands you aren’t being serious.”
But in some ways the moment you HAVE specific demands, you have granted concessions to their very power and existence. So we need demands that define us, but don’t legitimize them.