Blog Post

Occupy Wall Street and a Polyphonic General Strike

It has been quite some time after Georges Sorel has proposed the idea of General Strike.More than a hundred years has passed since then, but looking at the contemporary anti-capitalist movement, this concept comes to mind more often.This syndicalist statement has become more relevant in postindustrial and postmodern times.

First of all we have to admit that the left did not benefit from the feudal and violent approach to social transformation. In fact, on the opposite—the Soviet example proved that the violent and centralized way of solving the problem of capitalism does not work.  I have spent the first 21 years of my life in the Soviet Union and I can say that by the end of its existence the “Land of Soviets” was even more imperialist, consumerist and to a greater degree bourgeois than Western countries. Even now, you can see that the biggest protagonists of the neoliberal system are in the former Eastern Bloc.  Eastern Europe and Eurasia became now the new frontier for Social Darwinism.  And partly that is because of the mistake that Lenin, Stalin and their brethren made with their statist, centralized approach to power.  The Red Revolution was lost at the Kronshtadt when it suppressed the revolt of different leftist groups.   So state violence and central command proved to be a very insufficient way.  On the contrary, a decentralized approach has almost always proved to be most effective and workable.  Delegating initiative works. 

Capitalism at the grass roots level is quite a creative and dynamic system—it gets ugly when it becomes big and outsized.In neoliberal system government serves the needs of the corporate elite and defends it from people—most of whom are disenfranchised.  So the challenge that the 99 percent face now is how to out-create capitalism, how to be more innovative than the bourgeois consciousness.And I think it is important to remember that artificial need for scarcity is one of the main problems in contemporary postindustrial society and on the contrary, creative entrepreneurship is based upon the unlimited human talent to create abundance in this world.So, we as the 99 percent need to be thinking about the abundance of revolutionary thought, how diverse those ideas could be and how well they could strike exploitative elements in the corporate system. 

By the end of 20th century it became obvious that capitalism transcended the boundaries of nation-states—multi-nationals got bigger and bigger and have incorporated more and more different nationalities in their ranks.Today, they are easily able to defeat any national labor union, since they can always outsource and find cheaper labor.So, the working class needs to learn from this example—it needs to become more international.Events of last year, starting with Arab Spring and continued in European Union and the US gives a new hope that another International will be created.This time it is the most innovative business—Internet in empowering revolutionaries—that allows the structure of information in  technology to overcome borders easier.In 1993 Derrida in his “Specters of Marx” has talked about the need for the New International—today this becomes more obvious.Violent overthrow of any government would not solve the problem, as Soviet experience proved—and also the strike in just one country is not sufficient enough today to improve the conditions of poor and working class.

Today, there is a need of Polyphonic General Strike and Solidarity—with many different cultures, nations, religions, social groups coexisting in strike and understanding their differences, while going towards a universal goal.I don’t understand why we can't talk about the minimum salary of world citizens—universal declaration of human rights provides that all human beings on this planet have equal rights.Why shouldn’t labor rights become equal as well? The International Labor Organization has been around for a long time and it still is not able to guarantee the rights of many workers around the world.Outsourcing and exploitation are big problems of the world today—and polyphonic solidarity is needed to understand the needs of different communities.

Also today, a little less than 1 billion people are starving because of commoditization of food.Scarcity of food is artificially created by commodity markets and hedge funds.But it is a taboo to talk about it, since we are led to believe that scarcity is biggest dogma of the neoliberal world order.In fact, it is very good for farmers business to start producing for those people who don’t have foodcreating abundance will create more jobs.But, again, maybe some speculators on Wall Street would lose some profits.Here again, we as 99 percent, need to find creative ways to overcome this problem.  More places join the general protest it will get more powerful.

Franchises of occupiers need to be able to do something very creative and innovative to out-create corporate system.  All of us need to become artists—to envision our freedom as human beings in our creative action.Not just protest—but also a constructive action that would lead to the construction of new self-reliant communes of people that would rule themselves peacefully and construct the future.The communes of free entrepreneurs, free artists, who build their future together and who have a responsibility to have sustainable vision is very much how I imagine the future of this movement.

It is so exciting to think about the Occupy Wall Street movement that has just started, but also, as Zizek said rightfully, it is important not to fall into self-congratulation—we have succeeded, since the Mayor of New York granted an indefinite right to protest.It is not just protest—we need to create—create the art of living—create our future without bourgeois consciousness of scarcity and exploitation.  This is a constructive process that lasts for a long time—while the protest is an important part the search of alternative is even more important.

One more point to counteract the dogmatic Marxist assumption is that consciousness matters—we see it today that human beings are artificially creating hunger and starvation because they are taught so be the neoliberal economic doctrines.So we need to be able to work with different people—some conservatives and some religious people as well—to reclaim the right to abundance.

Irakli Zurab Kakabadze's picture

Born in 1969, Irakli Kakabadze is a Georgian writer, performance artist, peace and human rights activist. His first prize was awarded in 1990 by the TSISTAKRI MAGAZINE for the best creation of 1990 - Allegro or Chronicle of one Year. In 2009, he was awarded the Oxfam/Novib PEN Freedom of Expression Prize. Kakabadze's articles and stories have been published in Georgian, Russian, and English newspapers and magazines. In 2007 he received the Lilian Hellman/Hammett grant from Human Rights Watch. From 2008 to 2012, Kakabadze was based in Ithaca, NY, where he developed a new method of integrating performing arts and social sciences, called "Rethinking Tragedy" or "Transformative Performance." Kakabadze has also pioneered a multi-lingual and multi-narrative performing style, called Polyphonic Discourse. Irakli Kakabadze's work as an artist-activist is subject of an American verite documentary At the Top of My Voice filmed by Indian American Director Sudhir Venkatesh and Larry Kammerman.
In May 2008 Kakabadze shared a stage at PEN World Voices Festival in New York with György Dragomán, Hasan Elahi, Asli Erdogan, Péter Esterházy, Chenjerai Hove, Jenny Marketou, Ivy Meeropol, Francine Prose, and Ingo Schulze, at the Writers and Artists Against the Surveillance State. In November 2008 at the Miami Book Fair Kakabadze shared a stage with Sarah Mkhonza, Russell Banks and Derek Walcott to perform another piece of Polyphonic Blues. Kakabadze has performed his polyphonic style of poetry at the Frankfurt Book Fair (2009) and “Free the Word” in London (2010) (23). At the 2010 “PEN World Voices” Festival in New York Kakabadze performed Polyphonic Discourse at the Cabaret Show that featured the author with Natalie Merchant, Ben Okri and Ariel Dorfman. He has performed at many literary and peace festivals including in Berlin (2014), Palma De Mallorca (2016), Valencia (2016), ext. His book 'Umberto vs Ernesto' or 'Marginal Delirium' was published and has introduced polyphonic discourse in December 2013. In 2017 publishing house 'Intelekti' has published another book of his essays "Love Doctrine" that is highly influenced by the works of Mahatma Gandhi.