While we’re cheering on the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street, let’s consider what’s happened to most of the other major waves of radical revolt in America.
For example, there’s the wave of radicalism in response to the forced government corporatization of the economy in the late 19th century, a process cemented by the devil’s bargain in the election of 1876 to give the White House to the GOP’s plutocratic stooges in return for federal acquiescence in the establishment of Apartheid in the former Confederate states. That wave of radicalism, associated with the rise of the Knights of Labor, culminated in a nationwide general strike for the eight-hour day. The populist revolt came to an end with the nationwide reaction and repression following the Haymarket bombing, during a May Day 1886 demonstration in Chicago.
A subsequent wave of radicalism, exemplified by such movements as the Wobblies and the Nonpartisan League, was destroyed by the twin repressions of the War Hysteria and the Red Scare under St. Woodrow.
The wave of radicalism associated with the Seattle anti-WTO demonstration of 1999, and the anti-globalization movement that sprang from it, fizzled out in the face of ramped up police-statism and jingoist reaction after 9/11.
Now we’re experiencing another global movement, sparked in part by Wikileaks, spreading from Tunisia and Egypt to Spain and Greece to Wisconsin and Israel, and just beginning its latest phase with Occupy Wall Street. It’s the most exhilarating time for enemies of the corporate state since the anti-globalization movement of 1999-2001, and probably since the global youth movement of the late ’60s.
The corporate state confronts a decentralized, network hydra of Wikileaks, the open source and free culture movements symbolized by The Pirate Bay, Anonymous, the Arab Spring, and now the Occupy Together movement. Together, they represent an agile, resilient, and mutually supporting enemy — perhaps the most dangerous internal enemy to corporate capitalism in a century or more. And the whole thing has mushroomed mostly in just a little over a year.
We need to be prepared for what the other side does next. Everyone capable of doing so needs to record and circulate footage of any police brutality or repression far and wide, in as many mainstream venues as possible. All movements in solidarity with the aims of Occupy Together should make common cause to provide political support for them, and exert maximum pressure on the state to stand down. In every community with an Occupy presence, all labor, civil liberties and social justice organizations should unite in community campaigns of support for the demonstrators.
But just as importantly, we need to move as quickly as possible to reduce our vulnerability to repression by the state, by developing alternative economic and security organizations outside the framework of the state and corporations. The key players in this effort are assorted projects to decentralize the Internet and make it less vulnerable to interdiction, digital currency projects, encryption and darknet projects, and economic relocalization efforts like permaculture and micromanufacturing.
We need, above all, to understand the proper goal of our American Arab Spring, our Fall Revolution: Not seizing control of the state or directing its policies, but rather rendering it irrelevant and harmless to our efforts to build the kind of society we want right where we live.