[Marxism] Left Forum 2012

Scott Ritner ritns028 at newschool.edu
Tue Mar 20 08:47:04 MDT 2012


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I must agree with Louis on his point about the failings of the organized
left. But I also want to expand his critique of Andrew's email so that it
may actually answer to the question of "no demands":

Andrew wrote:" Just this weekend I heard yet again a prominent OWSer, in a
labor workshop debate over demands, say we don't need any demands because
we have no-one to address them to. And this flows from their belief that we
have no-one to address them to because we're not interested in seizing the
state or the means of production, but rather just building our own society
on the margins."

The lack of demands is not simply a "function of anarchists having taken
the initiative", but is actually part of the historical development of
militant struggle in the US since 2009. For example, the student
occupations of New York and California in 2009 largely made no demands -
seeking instead to generalize their struggle as much as possible without
limiting themselves to the logic of student rebellion. Many of the actions
that began with demands superseded them in the process.

No demands is not only a question of who one is addressing, but also a
question of what one wants. Are we to take to the streets with the demand
that capitalism be abolished? The wage-relation? The value form?
Objectification, alienation, and reification? What would be the point of
demanding the negation of capitalist social relations from either the
bourgeoisie or those who seek to replace the bourgeoisie through the
capture of the state (a bourgeois concept and tool of social and legal
discipline).

In fact, a great number of communists also work within this framework of
no-demands, and these are not just the ones with anarchist tendencies.
While this was certainly part of the breach between people like Gramsci &
Bordiga, it was also a part of Marx's critiques of Proudhon and Bruno Bauer
and many of his disagreements with Engels - perhaps showing that
"no-demands" is not just an infantile disorder. Marx understood that making
demands of those who hold the keys is to demand o those who desire not to
give, and will only do so in order to protect themselves. So why allow the
possibilities of recuperation and amelioration? Why demand anything of
those who are our enemies in the class-struggle? This is not some sort of
escapism or self-marginalization, instead it avoids those pitfalls by not
allowing itself to be pegged as a movement of specifics. If we look
historically in the United States, Dr. King was assassinated only after he
began to expand his actions outside of the civil rights struggle to
working-class and anti-war struggles. In other words, when the initial
demands of the movement were surpassed and tossed aside in favor of a more
general critique of American society. Is this not where the class-struggle
will take us? Beyond the demand for a certain power base or the
specificities of our immediate economic needs? Or should we allow the
capitalists and the state to give in to our demands and thereby take
momentum away from a still-growing movement?



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