Academic journal article Capital & Class

Crisis Protests in Germany, Occupy Wall Street, and Mietshauser Syndikat: Antinomies of Current Marxist- and Anarchist-Inspired Movements and Their Convergence

Academic journal article Capital & Class

Crisis Protests in Germany, Occupy Wall Street, and Mietshauser Syndikat: Antinomies of Current Marxist- and Anarchist-Inspired Movements and Their Convergence

Article excerpt

Introduction

Several protest movements in Western Europe and North America emerged in the aftermath of the crisis in the global financial markets at the end of 2008. A first huge wave of crisis protests in Europe--inspired by the success of the 2011 Arab Spring--reached mainly the Southern European countries in summer 2011, culminating in a week-long occupation of public places in Spain and Greece. Later, in the fall of 2011, with the occupation of Zuccotti Park in New York City and the start of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement, the protest wave came to the USA. By focusing on self-organisation, equal participation and internal deliberation, OWS was mainly engaged with forms of direct action in the tradition of (European) anarchism (Franks 2003: 16; Anarchist Studies Network 2010). (1) In Germany between 2009 and 2010, there was also a movement formed to protest against bank bailouts and for an alternative organisation of society. These latter crisis protests used mostly conventional forms of protest and production of meaning, mainly focused on political institutions and representative and state-centred forms of democracy (Vey 2011: 471), and can therefore be classified as standing in a Marxist tradition. (2) These two protests allow a simple but useful differentiation between at least two different types of crisis protests: new anarchist movements on one hand, and more conventional Marxist movements on the other, and can act as a starting point for further differentiation between similar movements in the future. (3) Having grown out of two different leftist traditions and thereby offering different perspectives on society, politics and capitalism, the movements' actions and strategies as well as its success are influenced by the opportunities but also by the shortcomings that follow from these different ideologies.

In this paper, I examine the crisis protests in Germany as one example of a Marxist-inspired movement, and the Occupy Wall Street movement as an anarchist-inspired one. Analysing these two movements with their different theoretical and practical traditions can give some indication of how anarchist and Marxist ideas are being realised today, and how these political currents could learn from each other. I will start with an introduction to the protests in Germany in 2009/2010 as a Marxist movement. I will present the results of a discourse analysis on the crisis interpretations and demands of the activists that I conducted in my dissertation on counter-hegemonic perspectives in Germany (Vey 2015). Based on this, it becomes possible to identify shortcomings of the crisis analyses and demands put forth by various actors. These shortcomings will be explained by referring to J. K. Gibson-Graham's concept of capitalocentrism. In the next section, I will give an overview of the contents and strategies of the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City in 2011 as an anarchist movement, and describe how the activists managed to overcome the shortcomings of the Marxist protests in Germany. However, I am also going to identify the shortcomings and problems that had a negative impact on the success of the movement, particularly from a long-term perspective. In the final section, I will present possibilities of a conjunction of both strands, thereby offering a way to solve the problems posed by each political approach. The example of the apartment-house syndicate in Germany is used to show what a fruitful connection of both leftist strands could look like.

The crisis protests in Germany 2009-2010: A Marxist-inspired movement

Triggered by the bankruptcy of the investment bank Lehman Brothers and the resulting crisis in the global financial markets at the end of 2008, the existing anti-capitalist protests in Germany intensified. Nationwide crisis demonstrations, congresses and councils were organised. Even though the protests in Germany were less intense than in other Western European countries, one can speak of a wave of crisis protests in Germany in 2009-2010. …

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