Does Occupy Wall Street have a future?

Will Occupy Wall Street have more birthday celebrations? The movement marked its second anniversary with a daylong series of events in its New York City birthplace, but with smaller numbers than it has drawn for past events.

Having spent September 17 at series of rallies and marches, I have no interest in surmising the end of a movement into which so many have placed great hopes. But two years on from the electric beginnings of Occupy in Zuccotti Park and its rapid spread to hundreds of cities, it must be asked: What is the future for Occupy? Or has it accomplished its mission, to be supplanted by as yet unformed movements to carry forward the work of building a better world?

Photo by Mark Dunlea, via

Photo by Mark Dunlea, via

The Occupiers and allies ranged from a couple hundred to several hundred at the various rallies and marches — noticeably smaller than 2012’s first anniversary. A credible showing considering the breadth of events that included a march on the New York Stock Exchange, assemblies at Zuccotti Park, a rally in Washington Square Park focused on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, street theater in Times Square, a rally for a “Robin Hood” financial-industry tax near the United Nations and marches connecting some of these. And all this on a work day.

Nonetheless, such crowds do not constitute a mass movement. The organizing wasn’t helped by fissiparous tendencies; a painstaking effort to reach consensus was undermined by one organizer deciding to do his own thing with his own Occupy group. (An organizer involved in the anniversary preparations told me this was the most difficult organizing he had been involved with in his many years of movement work.)

Despite the “leaderless” ideal of Occupy, there are leaders within the remnants of Occupy and they are not necessarily working harmoniously. There is nothing unique happening here: There is no social movement or large organization where these problems do not arise. But they do not help an organization already on the wane. That Occupy is a dwindling movement is a development with multiple roots, not least of which is the violent repression of it soon after its exhilarating birth.

Speaking truth to power makes those in power angry

There is no mystery as to why that repression was unleashed — Occupy unambiguously critiqued the corporate dominance of our world, the gross inequality that is worsening, the lack of accountability on the part of the financial industry and — perhaps the highest crime — encouraging people to see social divisions in terms of class. Not by explicitly referring to class or using class terminology, but by popularizing the concept with the “1% vs. the 99%” narrative. There is considerable room for debate on the size of the elite that dominates capitalist society (there are those who argue for higher and lower figures than 1%), but that such an elite is recognizable is demonstrated in how quickly the concept spread.

The Department of Homeland Security coordinated the crackdown on Occupy across the United States and the FBI had its hand in the repression as well, branding Occupiers as “terrorists” and plotting to disrupt its events. Both agencies worked closely with not only local police departments but even with the country’s banks. Police eagerly attacked Occupy encampments and actions, such as Oakland, California, police firing tear-gas canisters at point-blank range. The New York City police destroying the Occupy Wall Street library certainly was emblematic.

The anger that fueled Occupy has not dissipated, nor have the issues that animate the movement. We should never underestimate the importance of naming the problem, of clearly opposing what is wrong. No matter the future, Occupy will always be the movement that provided the service of changing the conversation. Overnight, we went from wondering why there was no organized response from the Left, leaving a vacuum filled by the corporate-created Tea Party, to a new orientation in which the actual agents of economic collapse were placed in a metaphorical bulls-eye rather than the traditional scapegoats of minorities, immigrants and government.

The real problem is the system that enables the bankers, not the personalities of the bankers themselves, but even with its emphasis on banker greed Occupy was, and is, traveling on the right track. The same institutions sit atop the economic pyramid; there has been no accountability for those who brought on the worst downturn since the Great Depression. Governments around the world continue to be under the dominance of these same institutions and people. Discouragement that the energy created by Occupy has not led to any change is one factor in the movement’s decline. Even more so, the discouragement engendered by the violent response to Occupy, a resignation induced in many that nothing can change, is a factor — the very purpose of that violence.

Even leaderless groups have leaders

While acknowledging the considerable force of the factors in the preceding paragraph, we nonetheless should examine the structure of Occupy itself. The desire to not replicate past top-down patterns and integrate horizontal decision-making is admirable, but the idea that there should be no leaders doesn’t pass the test of the real world. Occupy has leaders, the same as any other organization, but when they are not acknowledged, accountability is eroded. Decentralization, ironically, opens opportunities for ambitious leaders to promote themselves.

Such leaders may be acting on what they perceive to be the organization’s best interest, or they may be acting in ways to undermine the organization. There is suspicion by some people involved in Occupy organizing that others who they viewed as acting in destructive ways may have been Democratic Party operatives seeking to disrupt the movement. I am in no position to know if that is true, but there is more than ample evidence that the consensus painstakingly created was subject to being disregarded despite the sanctity of consensus within Occupy Wall Street. Having competing events at the same time is one way to shrink crowds.

There is also no doubt that Democrats have variously sought to co-opt it or tried to destroy Occupy. Let us not forget who the occupant of the White House was when the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI unleashed coordinated violence upon it across the country. Such tactics, traditionally visited upon any U.S. movement that makes a direct critique on the system instead of acting for small reforms, are always supplemented with more subtle machinations.

Circling back to the structure of Occupy itself, a discussion of its tactics can’t be avoided. Occupy was reasonably clear about what it is against — but it is never enough to be against something. We also have to be for something.

Refusing to make demands became something of a fetish, even allowing for the slow process of building consensus at long assemblies and the diversity of opinions and backgrounds. Understanding the problem and naming the sources of the problem are the first concrete steps, without which progress is impossible. Concrete ideas and models should follow — goals to work toward.

Unwinding the disastrous policies that have brought the world to its present state won’t happen on its own or by moral persuasion, but through organized work that will have to clear giant roadblocks and face the hostility of the institutions and people who benefit from the current system and the governments they dominate through their wealth and power. The process is called “struggle” for a reason.

Perhaps Occupy is not the organizational model to create a sustained movement. Perhaps newer groups will have to continue the work of Occupy, in conjunction with groups already at work. Whatever its future, Occupy has been an indispensable part of the work to create a better world. We can only hope that it will continue to be there.

See also:

Attacks on critical thinking vs. cheers for scapegoating

The long arc of mass movements

Attacks on critical thinking vs. cheers for scapegoating

By Pete Dolack

On the surface, it seems a mystery. Occupy Wall Street protestors organized peaceful protests, concentrated their critiques on the financial institutions responsible for the worst economic downturn in eight decades and consciously used inclusive language to unite people. Yet Occupy was subjected to brutal police assaults as part of a coordinated government campaign against it, and has increasingly faced volleys of disapproval in the mass media.

By contrast, “Tea Party” protestors routinely used threatening language, brought weapons not only to their own demonstrations but to public talks of government office holders, attacked government institutions in denunciatory language and sought to divide people through scapegoating. Yet the Tea Party was lovingly embraced by the mass media and allowed to operate unimpeded by law enforcement and other institutions.

These contrasting responses were not monolithic, and we can all cite exceptions. Nonetheless, there is no mistaking the general tenor of the responses. On the surface this may appear to be a mystery, but it is not at all mysterious once we examine a little closer.

Occupy was and is a genuine grassroots movement, and the hundreds of Occupies that spontaneously followed the example of Occupy Wall Street demonstrated that a large pool of discontent and anger about the corporate domination of the United States exists. That discontent may sometimes be unfocused — leading to a sometimes confusing plethora of messages at Occupy encampments and demonstrations — but it is very real, based on the reality of the lives of working people (including students). And it is precisely this bottom-up self-organization that engendered the wrath of the establishment.

The Tea Party seeks to deflect anger from corporate elites consumed by greed and arrogance who bend the country’s institutions to their benefit, and instead pin the blame on “the government,” on minorities, on immigrants and any other handy scapegoat. This movement, although calculated to tap into genuine grassroots anger, was manufactured and materially supported by corporate benefactors. And this is the key to understanding the warm embrace given it.

Both movements result from a pervasive feeling of anxiety over an economic crisis now measured in years with no end in sight; both movements are fueled by people who know that “something is wrong” and seek answers as to why the present is bleak, why the future appears bleak and what can be done to change the stagnation or downward trend of the economy and all the social problems that piggyback on economic distress. Anxiety is not only due to worries about today or fears of tomorrow in times of uncertainty and instability; anxiety also flows from a lack of understanding. Why has the economy turned so sour, why is the malaise so persistent, why is this happening to me even though I went to work every day and studied hard in school?

We naturally wish to find the answers to these questions. One way to seek answers is to channel anxiety, anger, fear and frustration into study: Read, watch, listen, observe and discuss, until a picture begins to emerge. Modern economics and society is complex and globalization only hastens further complexity. But these are human constructions, and so most humans can understand them. It is only when we understand what had seemed to work but no longer does that we can begin to construct ideas and plans to improve our lives and give ourselves stability.

Another way to seek answers is to channel anxiety, anger, fear and frustration into emotional release: Designate scapegoats from groups that are either unpopular or are vulnerable. Those scapegoats can be immigrants, they can be racial, ethnic or religious minorities, they can be women. Or the scapegoat can be “the government,” reduced to an abstract entity that somehow hovers above society as an alien force. Scapegoats have in common that they represent an “Other,” somebody or something outside or different, and thus liable to be portrayed as an impurity “polluting” society.

Scapegoating is seductive because it taps into emotion. Very real emotion, for the anxiety, anger, fear and frustration felt by Tea Partiers, Occupiers, sympathizers of one or the other and people who do not identify with either movement is based on the concrete realities of their lives. A belief that tomorrow will be better than today, that our children will live more comfortably than their parents is woven deeply into the fabric of advanced capitalist countries, and perhaps that sense of optimism has been nowhere stronger than in the United States, where such beliefs are inseparable from the expansionism, dynamism and geographical diversity that are foundations of its traditional ethos.

When long-held beliefs crumble, answers are naturally sought. Easy answers tap into emotion. Emotions are real, genuine and should be taken seriously. We share many emotions; we share a desire to understand. A cliché that is often repeated because it is true despite being a cliché is the statement that a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can finish lacing up its boots. A parallel can, and should, be drawn: Emotions take root much faster than the concrete. In no way is that meant to suggest that emotions are “lies” — emotions, again, are very real. In our personal lives, we become upset, but we talk and analyze, and although we may still be upset, we come to understand and thus are much better equipped to do something to change the situation that made us upset.

Zooming out from the personal to the societal, we can see similarities. But, since we are back to discussing large, impersonal social forces and institutions, what if the controllers of those institutions want to deflect attention and avoid blame for their actions? Tapping into emotions is a sure way of achieving those results, and if those institutions are very wealthy and very powerful, they can create entire movements (and new institutions) to suit their purposes.

The Tea Party is a prominent example. Tea Partiers wanted answers as to why the foundations around them are crumbling. Just as the Wizard of Oz wanted Dorothy to look elsewhere, Tea Party organizers point in another direction and yell, “It’s them, over there.” And who are the organizers of the Tea Party? By that question, I mean the originators and, in particular, the funders of the Tea Parties, not the people who became involved and assumed leadership roles in their local communities. We can readily see that some of the most active members of Corporate America are the organizers.

At the very top of the list are three entities: the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, FreedomWorks and Fox News. FreedomWorks is a group of corporate lobbyists run by Dick Armey (a hard-line Republican Party operative who once was majority leader in the U.S. House of Representatives) that was the primary organizer of the early Tea Party protests. Americans for Prosperity is a lavishly funded and tightly controlled pressure group founded by David and Charles Koch dedicated to promoting the Koch brothers’ business interests and extremist political philosophies. Fox News is one of the most notorious pieces of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, an empire dedicated to promoting Murdoch’s business interests and extremist political philosophies.

Other corporate interests have made their contributions, but without these three groups there would be no Tea Party. Americans for Prosperity is a crucial funder of FreedomWorks, and both organizations are behind a series of initiatives to deny the reality of global warming, attack any and all regulation of business and promote libertarian political ideas, such as eliminating Social Security. Fox News is an active promoter of these agendas. Together, bottomless sums of money, corporate muscle, the ability to control a myriad of institutions and the power to have their agenda adopted by the corporate mass media was leveraged to coordinate and tap into the anger felt by millions of people, creating the corporate-inspired Tea Party.

As many other corporate elites similarly backed these agendas, they were undoubtedly happy to free-ride on the money and influence wielded by Americans for Prosperity, FreedomWorks and Fox News, the three of which provided the Tea Party with organizers, money, material support and publicity. Within any group, there will always be those who are the most active; the Koch Brothers, who fund a network of institutions to do their bidding, are among them in the ranks of big capitalists. Such people have the immense wealth and all the power that goes with that wealth to have their viewpoints and messages suffused throughout a society through continual repetition via a spectrum of outlets.

A critical component of those messages must be a deflection of blame. Government is a handy scapegoat, and an easy one because very few of us has not had at least one frustrating experience with a bureaucracy. Government has to be portrayed as an alien force disembodied from society, demonized for “interfering” in the lives of people. But government is not an abstract entity, it is a reflection of the social forces inherent within a society; its actions and policies will most often harmonize with the most powerful.

No objective analysis of government can deny that corporations reap enormous benefits from government — through contracts in an ever increasing variety of industries, the passing of laws in legislatures that not only benefit them but are frequently written by their lobbyists, the building and maintenance of transportation and other public infrastructure, the public assumption of the costs of business such as pollution mitigation, and an ever widening collection of subsidies.

If government is part of the problem, than it is because it has become dominated by corporate elites. Corporate elites reap the benefits of inequality and want to keep it that way, or widen the inequality. It is corporate elites who benefit from moving factories to new countries, from mass layoffs and a system that funnels enormous sums of money upward. It is a big job to obscure these obvious facts. And only corporate elites have the money to fund such a campaign so they can continue to reap personal rewards from this system’s continuation.

Given the web of domination by corporate elites, it then becomes no surprise that their creation, the Tea Party, is lavished with affection while the Occupy movement that challenges them and fosters independent thinking is attacked. Today is the national holiday in the United States in which the country celebrates its founding and its defining themes of “freedom” and “liberty.” But, as always, we should ask: Freedom for who? Freedom for what?

The long arc of mass movements

For as long as there has been capitalism, there has been opposition to it. Opposition to it is again on the rise, although far from coalescing into any sort of cross-border, synchronized movement. Such movements have existed in the past, and it is worthwhile to adopt a long perspective by studying them.

Toward that end, an interesting book was recently re-published by Verso as part of its “Radical Thinkers” series. Anti-Systemic Movements,* by Giovanni Arrighi, Terence K. Hopkins and Immanuel Wallerstein was originally written in 1989, just before the Soviet communist bloc began to collapse, and although the book is to a small extent an artifact of the Cold War era, it nonetheless — because the authors presented a long perspective — a valuable starting point for thinking about the types of movements necessary today to overcome the massive problems of the contemporary capitalist system.

The theory underlying the book is that of “world systems” analysis, which emphasizes that capitalism is a global system that changes and mutates over time and therefore must be analyzed as a single unit rather than as a collection of nation-states. Crucial to this understanding is recognizing the global division of labor that forms the basis for a division of the world’s countries into one of three broad categories: core, semi-periphery and periphery, with the latter two subordinate to the core countries and the periphery the most exploited.

If capitalism is a global system, then the response to it must be global as well. Regardless of familiarity or agreement with a “world systems” analysis, the global nature of capitalism can not be missed — manufacturing is continually moved to new locations with ever cheaper labor costs; raw materials and resources are traded around the globe on a massive scale; and capital moves to all corners of the Earth at a click of a computer button in search of new investment or for pure speculation.

Corporate globalization is a stronger phenomenon than in the past, but is not new — Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels discussed globalization in the Communist Manifesto, written in 1848. That was a year of revolts in multiple European countries and empires. Those revolts ultimately failed, ushering in a period of reaction and strengthened monarchies. Despite the immediate failure of 1848, the uprisings did have long-term effects, most importantly the rise of working class organizations to combat the power of capitalist states, a necessity more forcefully administered after the bloody crushing of the Paris Commune in 1871.

In the fifth of the five essays that comprise Anti-Systemic Movements, professors Arrighi, Hopkins and Wallerstein argued that the events of 1848 and 1968 constitute the “only two world revolutions” (authors’ emphasis). Finding strong parallels between 1848 and 1968, the authors situate 1848 as an uprising seeking to fulfill the original hopes and overcome the limitations of the French Revolution, and overturn the counter-revolutions of 1815. The uprisings in 1968, they argued, sought to fulfill the original hopes and overcome the limitations of the Russian Revolution, and overturn the counter-revolutions of 1945, when the United States firmly established its world hegemony. They wrote:

“In both cases the bubble of popular enthusiasm and radical innovation was burst within a relatively short period. In both cases, however, the political ground-rules of the world-system were profoundly changed as a result of the revolution. It was 1848 that institutionalized the old left (using this term broadly). And it was 1968 that institutionalized the new social movements. Looking forward, 1848 was in this sense the great rehearsal for the Paris Commune and the Russian Revolution. … 1968 was the rehearsal for what?”

Early lessons that system transformation will not be easy

I would argue that it was the drowning in blood of the Paris Commune, the world’s first example of a people’s movement derived from socialist inspiration taking power, that might have been the more indispensable impetus for the growth of organizations such as political parties and unions, but there is no question that 1848 was the critical precursor of the Paris Commune and working peoples’ organizations long pre-date the Commune. There is no good argument against the authors’ statement that:

“The lesson that oppressed groups learned from 1848 was that it would not be easy to transform the system, and that the likelihood that ‘spontaneous’ uprisings would in fact be able to accomplish such a transformation was rather small. … Since the states could control the masses and the powerful strata could control the states, it was clear that a serious effort of social transformation would require counter-organization — both politically and culturally.”

But let us return to the question just asked: 1968 was the rehearsal for what? In 1989, when Anti-Systemic Movements was written, it was too early to provide an answer. I believe it is still too early to provide an answer. But perhaps, in this new era of long-term systemic capitalist crisis, a new movement can arise that not only directly challenges the capitalist system but incorporates today’s social movements — struggles against racism, sexism, homophobia, nationalism & etc. – and which not only grasps, and acts on, the need for struggle to be internationalized but is capable of crossing national lines because of its inclusion of all struggles against oppression and its ability to connect these struggles.

Can the Occupy movement become the movement just described? It is far too early to say – if we are yet unable to determine the outcome of uprisings a generation ago, we are in no position to judge a movement born six months ago. That latent discontent with the capitalist status quo is widespread was confirmed by the incredible explosion of the Occupy movement; its clear message of the one percent against the 99 percent captured the social zeitgeist while placing the social debate on a class foundation in contrast to the national and race scapegoating routinely put forth by right-wing “populist” movements.

The movements that arose during the 1960s — reaching a brief zenith in places as diverse as Mexico City, Paris and Prague, and militarily expressed in the Tet Offensive, the turning point in Vietnam’s defense against United States invasion — were responses not only against capitalism but against the bureaucratization and deformation of anti-capitalist revolutions and movements. “Errors and terrors” repeated themselves in Communist states, professors Arrighi, Hopkins and Wallerstein wrote, adding that social democratic governments were engaged in colonial repression and Third World national movements were frequently disappointing.

When new social movements burst on to the world stage in the 1960s, the “old left” seemed unable to comprehend. The French Communist Party, to provide one example, still attempted to appeal to women as mothers and housewives into the 1960s, seriously moving to modernize its line only after the 1968 student uprisings. But even afterwards, the Communists fell back on strictly economic themes, throwing overboard appeals to women based on anything other than as workers, and stifled internal discussions, ultimately driving many women away.

Moreover, the example of one movement could and did provide inspiration for other movements. A good example would be the feminist movement in the United States, which grew directly out of the experience that the women in civil rights organizations, where they developed skills to organize against their own repression experienced on a society-wide level while confronting the sexism they experienced within the civil rights movements.

A changed world after 1968’s uprisings?

Professors Arrighi, Hopkins and Wallerstein argued that four changes in relations were “established” as a result of the 1968 uprisings. The military capabilities of the core countries to police the global South became limited; changes in power relations among status groups such as genders and ethnicities “have proved to be far more lasting than the movements which brought them to world attention”; spreading labor unrest has shrunk the areas offering “safe havens of labor discipline”; and dictatorships have been replaced by democratic régimes.

The third item in the above paragraph has not been true for some time; labor has not been so weak against capital since the 1920s, or perhaps earlier. The authors were writing just before the collapse of the Soviet bloc, a zone that, despite its faults, did provide alternative ideas of social organization. The bloc’s collapse pitched the Left into a crisis nowhere near a solution, opened a previously blocked swath of the world for full exploitation by capital and weakened resistance to the onslaught of neoliberal triumphalism.

And although the other gains mentioned above are real, the authors acknowledged that the actual changes for subordinate groups from the 1968 uprisings are meager:

“[S]ome material benefits did accrue to subordinate groups as a whole from the change in the balance of power [in the world social system]. But most of these benefits have accrued to only a minority within each group, leaving the majority without any gain, perhaps even with a net loss. … In all directions we are faced with the apparent paradox that a favorable change in the balance of power has brought little or no change in benefits to the majority of each subordinate group. This apparent paradox has the simple explanation that the reproduction of material welfare in a capitalist world-economy is conditional upon the political and social subordination of the actual and potential laboring masses.”

Writing in 1989, on the eve of an unforeseeable change in world affairs, the authors forecasted four developments continuing in the following two decades: the erosion of U.S. hegemony with no clear new order to replace it; a deepening struggle between labor and capital leading to pockets of rising well-being surrounded by increasing immiseration for most; new technologies undermining the abilities of states to control their civil societies; and the “demands of disadvantaged status-groups — of gender, of generation, of ethnicity, of race, of sexuality — will get ever stronger.”

By and large those four predictions did come to pass, although the pockets of relative prosperity are now being eroded. The decline in living standards among people previously privileged is beginning to expand the base of opposition to the political and economic status quo. Those so privileged within a given country tend to be well delineated; less obvious but no less important is that all working people in advanced capitalist countries are privileged in relation to people in all other countries. That latter privilege was a fruit of imperialism, even if the rewards heavily flowed to the top; but now imperialism has dialectically evolved into a relationship that erodes the living standards of working people within those countries as ever more manufacturing and services are transferred to new low-wage havens. Now all of the benefits are flowing to the top (the “one percent”) of the advanced capitalist countries, with some diversion to the very top within the developing countries to which production is transferred.

Economic crisis is bound to deepen

The economic crisis — a structural crisis of the capitalist system — has been long lasting and, with short-term fluctuations, is bound to deepen. And the myriad of social problems and discriminations expressed in economic struggle and in cultural forms are a long distance from being solved. Older institutions of working people, those with roots in the first half of the 20th century and even the 19th century, proved to be disappointingly incapable of understanding, never mind responding adequately to, the social movements of the 1960s and beyond. The newer institutions that began during that decade and since routinely acknowledge social issues and the legitimate demands of minorities, women, gays, lesbians and immigrants, but continue to struggle with these issues.

That straight women, lesbians and transgendered people had to create safe spaces for themselves at the Occupy Wall Street encampment in New York City by erecting a large tent for women and another large tent for women and transgendered people speaks for itself. Social struggles such as these were (and are) discussed at great length within the Occupy movement, but that they are necessary speaks to the inability of Left movements to adequately confront them. I stress here that I am not pointing a finger at the Occupy movement; rather, I am noting a symptom of how deeply racism, sexism, homophobia, nationalism, anti-Semitism and other social ills are imbedded in the capitalist society that envelops all of us.

One important reason for the Left’s inadequate responses is a belief held among many that social ills and discriminations will magically vanish when capitalism is ended. But we should all acknowledge that racism, sexism and the other social ills are woven so deeply into the fabric of society that a conscious struggle against them is necessary before, during and after any social upheaval or revolution. Only a movement that incorporates the social movements and the struggles for economic justice and democracy — an all-encompassing movement to completely overhaul society – can succeed.

If an injury to one is an injury to all, then injury to one has to be opposed by all.

Simultaneously with inter-related struggle is to have long-term goals, not simply reforms to be won in the short term, which can easily be (and often are) taken away. The authors of Anti-Systemic Movements argued that post-1968 movements have lacked a clarity that post-1848 movements possessed:

“After 1848, the world’s old left were sure that 1917 [socialist revolution] would occur. They argued about how and when and where. But the middle-range objective of popular sovereignty was clear. After 1968, the world’s antisystemic movements — the old and the new — showed rather less clarity about the middle-range objective. They have tended therefore to concentrate on short-range ones.”

By and large, that analysis remains true more than two decades later. I am not arguing that there should not be short-range goals — tangible goals that can be obtained and create a real advance are indispensable and create their own momentum during periods of movement upsurge. Any movement, especially one that confronts a global hegemonic system, must have attainable short-term victories. But to concentrate only on reforms, and not necessarily big reforms, is a short-term strategy that isn’t viable over the long term.

If the problem humanity confronts is a global system, then the long-term goal has to be replacement of that global system. Replacing this or that banker, successfully forcing a reform on this or that corporation, successfully defending a progressive law or defeating a regressive law are real, tangible accomplishments deserving of applause, but can not be other than short-term reforms lacking a stable foundation. The problems humanity faces are far larger than any group of bankers or corporations.

Reforms that lead toward much bigger changes — clearly articulated reforms that the system can not accommodate — are the path toward a real change in human existence.

Finding those reforms, and finding that path, are no easy task. But we have no choice but to find them.

* Giovanni Arrighi, Terence K. Hopkins and Immanuel Wallerstein, Anti-Systemic Movements [Verso, London and Brooklyn 1989 and 2011]