This essay was posted Dec. 16, 2011 at Interactivist. I’ve reposted it here with the many typos corrected. Readers may be familiar with Peter Lamborn Wilson’s work under the pseudonym ‘Hakim Bey,’ which he used for a period in the ’80s and ’90s. Essays by Wilson appeared in Arthur Magazine Nos. 16, 29 and 31.
“Occupy Wall Street, Act Two”
Peter Lamborn Wilson
“Money Has An Enemy.” — Charles Stein
Some radical historians claim the entire Historical Movement of the Social went wrong in 1870 when the Paris Commune failed to expropriate (or at least destroy) The Bank. Could this really be so?
Since 1971 Bank Power — “Money Interests” as the old-time Populists and Grangers used to say — i.e., the power to create money as debt — has single-handedly destroyed all chances to remake any world closer to our heart’s desire. Some anarchist theorists hold that there can be no real revolution except the revolt against money itself — because money itself WANTS capitalism (i.e. money) to rule. Money itself will always find a way to subvert democracy (or for that matter any government power that opposes Money’s interests) and to establish the rule of Capital — i.e. of money itself.
“Alternative currencies” will not cure the situation (as Marx rightly sneered) because real [bad] money will always drive the “good” money out of circulation. Alt. money only “wins” in the scenario where it replaces money entirely. But in that case it will have simply become money itself (which is protean and can take many forms).
American progressive Populism — like the agrarian Grange or industrial Knights of Labor — knew certain esoteric secrets we should study. They believed the real producers (“labor”) could organize alternative institutions (within the legal system) that could erode the rule of Money and perhaps eventually replace it: producers & consumers co-operatives and labor unions. Money would still be used at first — but not banks — so toxic debt could be avoided. True producers would mutually finance each other (say at 1% interest to cover administrative costs). With “Mutual Banks of the People” plus co-ops they would protect their economic position and advance it thru labor agitation including strikes, boycotts, etc.
“Mutuality” works as a non-State non-central-bureaucratic form of socialism, thus providing no unjust power positions for its administrators. It starts, like Occupy Wall Street, as a consensus-ruled direct democracy (the exact opposite of the Neo-Con free-market “democracy” of predatory Capital). Revokable delegates are sent to larger regional or other administrative Councils.
Thus success of such a system means NEVER participating in representation or “republican” forms of legislative politics (“keep politics off the farm” — Grange Songbook). The American Populist movement made the fatal error in 1896 of joining the Democratic Party — and instead of being crucified on a cross of gold, American radicalism was crucified on a cross of silver. [I’m not going to explain this joke; look in the Encyclopedia under “William Jennings Bryan.”]
The only true method of organizing the alternative world of Mutuality is thru voluntary non-state free institutions such as co-ops, mutual banking & insurance, alternative schools, various types of communalism and communitas, sustainable economic ventures (i.e. non-capitalist businesses) like independent farms and craft ateliers willing to federate with the commons outside of the sphere of bank/police/corporation power.
Of course if it ever reached a certain point of success this Mutualism would be directly challenged by Money Interest Power. Lawyers & police will swarm, then military force will be used. The question then will become a different question — War against Money. Could such a struggle be waged as “non-violent war?” In theory, maybe — in reality, who knows?
Actually the whole OWS movement and its future becoming might well be seen as “military” in a Sun Tzu way, i.e. as tactical and strategic —”politics by other means” (to reverse Clausewitz). Interestingly, however, the originary move in such a strategy would now appear to be a tactical retreat — just like in certain kinds of Judo or Aikido — a retreat from the world entirely ruled by money to a world of voluntary cooperation (“the gift”) outside the power of BANKS.
This retreat would happen gradually — and since in truth there is no “Outside” to retreat to, the tactic must remain mixed and impure. We can make a new Outside out of our own failure. But as we begin to (re)create an Outside to Money, I believe the rewards will be rich and immediate. Sharing things is inefficient and bad for Capitalism — but (or rather — so) it’s got a pleasure nexus in it, an intimacy and human fellowship that millions of Americans now lack and miss. Even the family is threatened by our present “economy of Greed” — as for the Social in general, I believe it may already be dead and beyond revival. However, I intend to go on acting and writing as if I believe it can be SAVED — why? — because pessimism is so boring.
In fact boredom is already a sign that the enemy is very near — it’s the sine qua non of consumer trance and obedient wage slavery. Cheat boredom (as the Sits used to say) and already you’re winning something back.
Adventures in Mutualism will have to start small — but even a few neighbors can organize a car-pool — or share other “necessary” technologies like electric power, garden tools, telephones, etc.
The next stage of sharing might include cooperatives — a neighborhood CSA or food bank or home-school group. Then the next stage could be institutional and move toward genuine Mutual insurance and banking (Fraternal/Sororal organizations used to supply many of these functions — including the Grange and the Knights of Labor.)
The next stage would be federative, nets of groups and regions as envisioned by Kropotkin and Landauer as well as Proudhon — and by the free Russian Soviets before the Bolshevik coup in Oct. ’17.
The key here would be to “organize the kernel of the new world inside the shell of the old” as the IWW Preamble suggests. In other words NOT to wait till “conditions are ripe” in Marxist terms but to begin here & now — not just with demonstrations and media games and info info info, but also with real-life economic and cultural organizing. Why? — because who wants to have to wait to enjoy some fruits of Revolution if it were possible to experience at least a few of them NOW — or after a few years of intense agitation and attention.
Such organizing certainly doesn’t “take the place” of resistance (including even riot and crime, much less squatting or debt refusal). It already IS a form of resistance — but also a pleasure in itself — a prime reason for human sociality — a structure for creativity and imagination — for poesis or aesthetic making, whether it be tools or human relations or music or gardening or shelter or just normal everyday conviviality — that lost ideal.
In any face-to-face confrontation with Wall Street “we” must always lose — because WALL STREET IS EVERYWHERE. The up-side of this is that therefore we must occupy “Everywhere.” We must inhabit our own space-of-daily-life — the real physical space/time we live in. If necessary we will squat it. And from the space of tactical retreat (not abject dispersal and defeat, but the orderly retreat toward logistic reinforcement — to quote Guy Debord quoting Napoleon!), from the liberated zones whether temporary or not, we will plan our next moves in this end-game between Money and Life itself.