There is a Time for Asking, and There is a Time for Action: A warning against the fetishization of process. Strategy has to respond to conditions.
“The Jacobin Spirit,” by Slavoj Zizek:
We have gone through a long period where the order’s accusation of violence, as served upon challengers, has been unassailable and final. This pacifying hegemony has almost fully infiltrated the Left.
“In the history of radical politics, violence is usually associated with the so-called Jacobin (the partisans of unity and of the struggle against factions) legacy, and, for that reason, dismissed as something that should be abandoned if we are truly to begin again. Even many contemporary (post-)Marxists are embarrassed by the so-called Jacobin legacy of centralized state terror, from which they want to distance Marx himself, proposing an authentic ‘liberal’ Marx whose thought was later obfuscated by Lenin…” (Zizek)
And yet eventually we (Leftists and conservatives, certainly. But even liberals.) have to reconcile with the fact that the order devolves into inescapable violence.
Just as violence is taboo property to us, the (terror) state is regarded as absolutely alienated from us. The logic: the state alone has legitimacy/efficiency in deploying violence, including on us; we never legitimately/efficiently use violence, yet as the order shrinks to the 1% all our (the 99%) actions, our very existences and survival, are felt as, officially declared oppositional and violent–Hence all the conservative law and extreme executive and corporate privileges. Therefore, we are absolutely alienated from the state. Violence is the unbreachable wall between us and the state.
Perhaps Zizek thinks the point of order dissolution is now. Perhaps it is (momentarily) in some places. A vigorous power-taking (surplus appropriating) strategy is thereby structurally required, and it is simply a matter of who claims that strategy, for what ends.
“This bring us to the key political point, difficult to swallow for some liberals: we are clearly dealing here not with blind market processes and reactions, but with an elaborate and well-planned (conservative) strategy — under such conditions, is not the exercise of a kind of ‘terror’ (police raids on warehouses, detention of speculators, etc.) fully justified as a defensive counter-measure? …
The problem today is that the state is becoming more and more chaotic, failing even in its proper function of ‘servicing the goods.’ Are we still required to remain at a distance from state power when that power is itself disintegrating, and in the process resorting to obscene exercises of violence in order to mask its own impotence?
…(As a Left response,) Even Badiou’s formula of ‘subtraction from the state’ plus ‘only reactive violence’ seems insufficient in these new conditions” (Zizek)
There comes an historical point when people have to recognize it is anachronistic, absurd, and delegitimizing (giving up legitimate power), to run around asking permission for disrupting and overthrowing the old order and building toward a new utopia (eg. a communist horizon).
“The Revolution has already decided the matter, the very fact of the Revolution means that the king is guilty, hence to put his guilt to the vote would mean casting doubt on the Revolution itself” (Zizek).
The assumption here accords with the social movements (McAdam, Political Process) conclusion that the fact of social movement means absolute power is no more, a realization that authorizes social movement legitimacy (the social movement is performing a necessary function) and frees social movement momentum, cascade.
So far, OWS has not lost its power through asking permission, through process-oriented prefigurative politics.
That is because, even though the state is well into tyrannical “disintegration”, social movement is as yet nascent. Too many Americans, adrift, wait for elites to have a change of heart and relaunch the old liberal FDR class compromise, or, especially amongst the most powerful and their lieges, actively labor to re-establish the conservative Southern Jim Crow serfdom settlement. Most don’t imagine what’s politically possible beyond these historical tropes.
OWS still has a nascent role to play in the anticapitalist struggle, the stage after the Seattle breakthrough. That nascent role involves raising consciousness and elaborating the vision of an alternative, desirable order, as well as increasing people’s experience with collective action and socialist organization.
The role of contemporary Jacobins should be to theorize and sell the communist horizon, for the long haul. Revolution, if we’re lucky and not afraid of mobilization, organization, strategy, praxis, disruption, building alternative social structures, and intellectual work, tends to take a century of wins and losses. There will come a point when we are beyond asking permission, not to worry. I would never bother with arguing against the early-going rebels’ strategies. Nor would I dismiss the important intellectual work of setting the long-term agenda.