Against the Institution: A Warning for ‘Occupy Wall Street’ by Andrew Gavin Marshall
This article was originally published on andrewgavinmarshall.com on October 3, 2011.
While I fully endorse the efforts and actions of the Occupy Wall Street protests, now emerging internationally, there are concerns which need to be addressed and kept in mind as the movement moves forward.
The process through which a potentially powerful movement may be co-opted and controlled is slight and subtle. If Occupy Wall Street hopes to strive for the 99%, it must not submit to the 1%, in any capacity.
The Occupy movement must prevent what happened to the Tea Party movement to happen to it. Whatever ideological stance you may have, the Tea Party movement started as a grass roots movement, largely a result of anti-Federal Reserve protests. They were quickly co-opted with philanthropic money and political party endorsements.
For the Occupy Movement to build up and become a true force for change, it must avoid and reject the organizational and financial ‘contributions’ of institutions: be they political parties, non-profits, or philanthropic foundations. The efforts are subtle, but effective: they seek to organize, professionalize, and institutionalize a movement, push forward the issues they desire, which render the movement useless for true liberation, as these are among the very institutions the movement should be geared against.
This is not simply about “Wall Street,” this is about POWER. Those who have power, and those who don’t. When those who have power offer a hand in your struggle, their other hand holds a dagger. Remain grassroots, remain decentralized, remain outside and away from party politics, remain away from financial dependence. Freedom is not merely in the aim, it’s in the action.
The true struggle is not left versus right, democrat versus republican, liberal versus conservative, or libertarian versus socialist. The true struggle is that of people against the institution: the State, the banks, the central banking system, the corporation, the international financial institutions, the military, the political parties, the mainstream media, philanthropic foundations, think tanks, university, education, psychiatry, the legal system, the church, et. al.
The transfer of power from one institution to another does not solve the crisis of our ‘institutional society,’ whereby a few have come to dominate so much, to concentrate so much power at the expense of everyone else having so little. True liberation will result only from opposition to ‘the institution’ as an entity. Placating power from one institution to another renders resistance ineffective. The power structures must be discredited, and power must be distributed to the people, through voluntary associations, communal groupings, and people-powered (and people-funded!) initiatives.
In order to survive as a movement, money will become a necessity. Do not turn to the non-profits and philanthropic foundations for support. The philanthropies, which fund and created the non-profits and NGOs, were themselves created to engage in ‘social engineering’: to ‘manufacture consent’ among the governed, and create consensus among the governors. The philanthropies (particularly those of Carnegie, Ford, and Rockefeller) fund social movements and protest organizations so as to steer them into directions which are safe for the elites. The philanthropies are themselves run by the elite, founded by bankers and industrialists striving to preserve their place at the top of the social structure in the midst of potentially revolutionary upheaval. As the president of the Ford Foundation once said, “Everything the foundation does is to make the world safe for capitalism.”
Money from philanthropies will organize the movement into a more professionalized entity, will direct its efforts around the promotion of legalistic reform, making slight changes to the system’s symptoms, promoting particular legislation, rallying around very specific issues removed from their global historical context. The effect is to turn anti-system revolutionaries into legalistic reformers. With such funding, movement organizers are drawn into the world of NGOs, international conferences, international institutions, aid agencies, and mainstream political participation. The leaders of the movement become professionalized and successful, both in prestige and finances. Thus, their own personal position becomes dependent upon promoting reform, not revolution; on maintaining the system (with minor changes to the aesthetic), not moving against it. The movement itself, then, would be institutionalized.
For the finances to grow without the threat of institutional dominance, the money must come from the people. A truly populist cause could be funded by the people. Keep the people in charge.
If we truly want freedom and liberation, we must begin to act free and liberated. If we want the ‘true liberation,’ we must understand the true system of power that confines, oppresses, segregates, exploits, impoverishes, and controls us. It is not a matter of the state or the banks or the corporations. It is a matter of the institution, itself. The structures of power must be struggled against so that we may come to liberate humanity from all that confines it, and experience what our true ‘human nature’ is.
If one studies mice in a maze, no matter for how long or what the maze is built of, looks like, feels like, you cannot deduce the nature of the mouse separate from that of the maze. Break down the maze and you may observe the true nature of the mouse. We have been living, always, within a maze. The walls are constructed as institutions which direct, steer, manipulate, define and segregate us from one another.
First we must tear down the barriers that bind us from ourselves, and then we may truly understand what it is to be human and free.