99 Problems...

BABY

A short breakdown of the "99% v. 1%" anaylsis, initially written for internal distribution at Occupy Bloomington (IN, US) in response to a larger conversation.

Pronoun note: “We” here refers to us (the authors) and you (if you so choose to include yourself). “We” is NOT the occupation, the “movement,” or you (if you don’t choose to include yourself).

When Tea Partiers bad-mouth “welfare queens” or “border jumpers,” folks are quick to point out their racist stigmatizations, and that’s a good thing. However, everyone could do best to question their own assumptions as well, especially around the 99% rhetoric that large swaths of the occupy movement have claimed as a starting point. This rhetoric is antisemitic (definition: hatred or discrimination of Jews) and deserves to be called into question just as much as racist Tea Party rhetoric, and to be taken just as seriously as any other form of racism.

We’re not calling anyone out for personal acts of antisemitism, although we are concerned about these more broadly. Personal antisemitism does run rampant in this country; my own grandfather denies the holocaust happened, and we’ve had to correct co-workers who claim they’ve just been “jewed.” What we are concerned about here at the Bloomington Occupation (and the Occupy movement more broadly) is the underlying antisemitism that is laced through the “99% v. 1%” rhetoric and the critique of financial capital. We can say that this antisemitism is structural or institutional because is is part of a larger cultural phenomenon that has been in place for thousands of years.

Antisemitic arguments from the middle ages (ostensibly that Jews control the money / banks / world) have been in play continuously since then; the personification of the “rich banker” or “Wall Street trader” as class enemy #1 plays into this and proves that these arguments have moved through history seamlessly. This populist rage against Wall Street for “betraying” or “selling out” America amounts to a contemporary redux of the “stab in the back myth,” a staple of nazi lore that blames “Jews and other subversives” for the betrayal of the German people, the loss of WWI and subsequent floundering of the German economy. Just as there was no conspiracy that was singlehandedly responsible for undermining the German war effort (it was already done in), there isn’t a cabal of Wall Street bankers to blame for selfishly wrecking the economy for their own gain.

The left here is just as culpable as the extreme right, with popular criticism of the Israeli State, the IDF or Zionism manifesting as completely indistinguishable from antisemitism - CounterPunch’s article “Israeli Organ Harvesting- the New Blood Libel?” is just one particularly glaring example. Not to mention the postwar-Left’s nearly wholesale adoption of conspiracy theory - notably 9/11 truth - often explicitly or subtly antisemitic in it’s ludicrous claims that Jews completely control the U.S. government, media and business interests. We point these things out to challenge the idea that, because antisemitism is systemic, that it is out of our control or is just semantic; contrarily, these threads work their way into our language, our assumptions, and our movements in quite sinister and penetrative ways.

To accept the thesis that banks, the circulation of money, or “the rich” are the problem only accepts a halfway-critique of capitalism (remember, the National Socialists are anti-capitalist as well; the German Marxist August Bebel famously referred to antisemitism as “the socialism of fools”). Banks and “bankers” are an easy target because they stand as the visible monetary centers, but this analysis completely ignores the primary functions of capitalism: the production of commodities, the exploitation of human labor, and the extraction of surplus value. Capitalism is not a conspiracy.

And thus the sinister overtones of the 99% vs. 1% logic emerges; it becomes clear that historically, national bodies (Germany, for instance) have mobilized popular antagonism against constructed sociological minorities to strengthen their own positions. Needless to say, a political analysis based solely on this construction is deeply troubling in it’s implications.

Positively, we want to participate in an articulate, complex and multi-faceted struggle, one that does not fall into the traps of populist rhetoric for lowest-common-denominator sake. The simplification of the class struggle to asinine statistics and percentages completely steamrollers all the different complexities and forces at play, and ignores the subtle interplay of power that exists everywhere and between us all. We agree that the problems of environmental devastation, poverty, racism, militarization, patriarchy, education cuts, and austerity are serious ones, but we reject the idea that these misfortunes are thrust upon us from above, that we are somehow pure or that we have no part in perpetuating these things among ourselves; denying our own agency would be shooting ourselves in the proverbial foot. Hopefully, armed with solid critique, we can get past the consideration of who is or isn’t “part of the 99%” and begin to consider our relationships to one another in more personal and specific terms.

Solidarity,
xxxxxx

By Some Anarchist Occupiers

Posted By

atessouhaits
Nov 3 2011 15:39

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Comments

Chilli Sauce
Nov 3 2011 18:52

I don't think this should be in news. (I'm also pretty sure I disagree with large parts of it, but that's besides the point.)

durruti02
Nov 3 2011 21:57

I think it's and excellent article and should be put out there as much as possible. The 1% thing is not anti-capitalist, it is not revolutionary ( though it may be a step in that direction ) and potentially is extremely dangeous.

wojtek
Nov 3 2011 22:07
Quote:
Some Anarchist Occupiers wrote:
What we are concerned about here at the Bloomington Occupation (and the Occupy movement more broadly) is the underlying antisemitism that is laced through the “99% v. 1%” rhetoric and the critique of financial capital. We can say that this antisemitism is structural or institutional because is is part of a larger cultural phenomenon that has been in place for thousands of years.

This is just preposterous. Just because idiotic anti-semites have called the financial elites Jewish, it doesn't mean that financial capital aren't legitimate targets.

Quote:
Some Anarchist Occupiers wrote:
The left here is just as culpable as the extreme right, with popular criticism of the Israeli State, the IDF or Zionism manifesting as completely indistinguishable from antisemitism - CounterPunch’s article “Israeli Organ Harvesting- the New Blood Libel?” is just one particularly glaring example.

I've no doubt that there is anti-semitism among some on 'the Left', but to imply that it's widespread with nothing but one article from August 2009 for evidence is slanderous to say the least.

Quote:
Some Anarchist Occupiers wrote:
Not to mention the postwar-Left’s nearly wholesale adoption of conspiracy theory - notably 9/11 truth

Another baseless and probably ridiculous claim.

Joseph Kay
Nov 3 2011 22:12

Anti-semitism is pretty rife amongst sections of the left, notably Adbusters, originators of the 99%/Occupy Wall Street thing.

posi
Nov 3 2011 23:04

Sure, but the leaflet is still nonsense, and totally fails to back up the idea that the 99/1% language is of itself anti-semitic. (Perhaps the Jews using it are self-hating?)

Just because it has some things - not many, and many differences - in common with ideas held by others who are anti-semites shows nothing.

The problem with the overall Occupy ideology is not that it's anti-semitic, it's that it's reformist. In a sense all reformist logics imply the existence of a ruling cabal whose existence/behaviour is incidental rather than structurally given. Given the logic of the leaflet, all non-revolutionaries unhappy with how things are are anti-semitic. Way to reach out to the movement, people! Accusing people of racism through one of the least helpful theoretical prisms of one of the least helpful dead ends in European academic Marxism... just great.

Juan Conatz
Nov 4 2011 02:01

I think populism (whether left or right) vaguely against finance capital is something to for sure pay attention to. I don't agree that it is automatically antisemitic, but the lack of an organized left in the U.S. and how things can swing to far right historically....I'm not gonna lie,I've played out the possibilities in my head.

working class
Nov 4 2011 02:22

The very title of this article is problematic as it references the highly sexist and discriminatory song, "99 problems but a bitch ain't one" by the rapper Jay-Z. So I am very surprised that it showed up on the news section.

Juan Conatz
Nov 4 2011 05:29

Meh. That's a reach. That song has been meshed up with the 99% stuff pretty often.

Steven.
Nov 4 2011 12:04
Juan Conatz wrote:
Meh. That's a reach. That song has been meshed up with the 99% stuff pretty often.

exactly. And it's a good song

orange.ruffy
Nov 4 2011 16:56
Quote:
Some Anarchist Occupiers wrote:
Not to mention the postwar-Left’s nearly wholesale adoption of conspiracy theory - notably 9/11 truth

Another baseless and probably ridiculous claim.

It's not a ridiculous claim in the midwest. Where I'm from, the older anti-war progressives have merged with the 9/11 truthers. For the last anniversary of the Iraq war, they held a teach-in on building 7 and the strength of structural steel. An all-too predictable endpoint for a movement that was always speeding towards an impotent dead-end.

Malva
Nov 4 2011 17:15

The problem with this article is that even from a traditional Marxist revolutionary perspective the 99 percent or perhaps 91 percent rhetoric actually makes sense. The majority of people have to rely on selling their labour in order to live, I'd say about 9 percent of the US probably doesn't given the amount of wealth that top percentage owns.

I think the antisemitic stuff and the conspiracy theories has more to do with the focus on the idea of 'evil bankers' which as posi points out has more to do with the reformist agenda of the movement at the moment.

Better than lecturing people on the supposedly antisemitic rhetoric of the 99 percent stuff would be to expose the incoherence of a reformist agenda and the necessity of a libertarian communist revolution.