One often hears leftists criticizing the “Occupy Wall St.” protests. For instance, Doug Henwood recently declared, “Occupiers: I love you, I’m glad you’re there, the people I talked to were inspiring—but you really have to move beyond this. Neoliberalism couldn’t ask for a less threatening kind of dissent.”
The protesters aren’t threatening neoliberalism! Okay. Let’s say that, as a first approximation, you can tell whether a given regime finds an activity threatening by whether it attempts to use force to suppress it.
On the one hand, we have Doug Henwood’s writings and radio program. I have nothing but respect for both of them and am glad they exist. Yet as far as I know, the police have never raided his office or studio, and his newsletter has never been suppressed. Nor indeed have I heard of anyone invading the classrooms of Jodi Dean to stop her from spreading her brave message of taking a stand in favor of taking a stand.
On the other hand, we have the Wall St. protests, which have resulted in police violence that will presumably continue and even escalate.
Now I’m certainly no expert in political activism! I normally sit on the sidelines, thinking my deep theoretical thoughts. Yet if I were forced to choose, I’d have to say that the Wall St. protesters are doing a better job of threatening the current regime than their critics in this case, judging by the fact that the regime is bothering to fight back against the protestors.