Against the Extreme Centre

Tariq Ali · Occupy Wall Street

After the hopeful Wisconsin flutter, might this be the beginning of an Egyptian summer in New York? Spring has absconded from the heart of political America for far too long. The frozen winters of the Reagan and Bush years didn't melt with Clinton or Obama: hollow men who rule over a hollow system where money overpowers all and the much-maligned state is used mainly to preserve the financial status quo and fund the wars of the 21st century. Discussion, serious debate, openness have virtually disappeared from mainstream political life in the United States and its more extreme versions in Europe, with Britain as the cock on the dung heap. The extreme right is small. The extreme left barely exists. It is the extreme centre that dominates political and financial life.

The Occupy Wall Street protesters are consciously or sub-consciously demonstrating against a system of despotic finance-capital; a greed-infected vampire that must suck the blood of the non-rich in order to survive. The protesters are showing their contempt for bankers, for financial speculators and for their media hirelings who continue to insist that there is no alternative. Since the Wall Street system dominates Europe, local versions of that model exist here too. The young people being pepper-sprayed by the NYPD may not have worked out what they want, but they sure to hell know what they’re against and that’s an important start.


  • 1 October 2011 at 3:23am
    Daly_de_Gagne says:
    I appreciate Tariq Ali's comments, and look forward to his continuing analysis as the New York "spring" progresses.

    One could say that "spring" has come late to New York this year - but at least it has come, finally, and there is a political stirring. There's always the risk of being too optimistic about what the positive outcomes of emerging movements may be. It seems realistic that, at the least, many people will gain important experience in organizing and developing political perspectives. For many of the younger people, this experience may be their first; among those gathering to "occupy Wall Street" are many people, middle aged and older, for whom this late New York spring will trigger memories of past struggles. The mixing of the generations is important, and may turn out to be a valuable strength of this young movement.

    A question: What of the Twitter hash tags reflecting incipient "occupy" movements in other major US cities, including Chicago, as well as points from coast to coast, and also in Canada, including Vancouver and Toronto? Is it realistic to think that the grassroots movement begun in Manhattan at the heart of finance capitalism will spread in any significant way to other cities in the US, Canada, and even beyond? And if it does, what is the tipping point beyond which governments will feel forced to push back in an increasingly repressive manner? The actions of the New York Police Department are not a good omen.

    I am guardedly optimistic that, if nothing else, the experience of Occupy Wall Street, and perhaps similar movements elsewhere, will at least instill among progressives a renewed sense of the value of grassroots movements, as well as providing younger people an all important teaching that has too long been lacking.

    With centrism firmly entrenched in both the US and Canada, and a noisy, well funded (at least in the US) anti-intellectual, self-centered right playing on people's fears, and attempting to increase its political power, there has long been a need for new life among progressives. Perhaps, this is it.

    • 2 October 2011 at 5:06pm
      Bob Beck says: @ Daly_de_Gagne
      It's a pity for any "occupy Vancouver" movement that the old Vancouver Stock Exchange, a not-particularly-glorified bucket shop, is no more. It would have been a splendid place to occupy, though it was really a self-satirizing sort of concern. Fraud was so blatant and frequent that there actually some arrests from time to time -- of traders and promoters, not protestors.

  • 2 October 2011 at 10:26am
    pauloz says:
    From Melbourne Australia: ABC Television News covered the AFL grand final, the NRL grand final, the Rugby World Cup and a family boating tragedy in NSW but did not even mention 400 arrested in New York for protesting against extreme capitalism. Australian Journalists need to wake up too.

  • 18 April 2013 at 12:51am
    macthered says:
    I do see how you now have a strong international profile.

    For me, since I tried to help you with your remarks to the Bristol University students in 1968 and later, by pointing out to you that you were confusing a liberal movement with a revolutionary one when you were addressing sundry students after a VSC demonstration, complexities within these shores have kept me here within those confining boundaries.

    Such a parochial and pedestrian trajectory does sadly have its temptations, not least to feel, wholly wrongly I think, that those flying high and wide may have given less attention to matters in the small than they otherwise might have done.

    I'm sure this isn't the case here, but I do worry. So I am asking you straight:
    Isn't the correct policy for the little old British Labour Party to take into public ownership and control the whole finance industry here? It's just that I haven't seen you calling for it even though it seems to me to be the correct policy in every polity in the whole world.

    The advantages of the policy as a step towards/back to/within socialism seem obvious. I merely list here redistribution of wealth and debt, release of social capital, redirection of investment, abolition of private profit taking, and so on and so on and so on.

    You seem to be in a unique position to promote the policy everywhere, comrade.... and, importantly for little old parochial me, to endorse it as the proper policy for the British Labour Party.

    The fact is, that this policy would make wholly political all the economic machinations of the world of finance. It would in its construction, one might say in its praxis, reduce and submit the deliberate over-complexity of international capital's instruments and transactions, to a few simple political initiatives.

    What it doesn't of itself do, of course, is explain how the credit crunch was a deliberate policy designed to prevent the further progress of the West's workers during the speculative boom and to weaken the progress of competing capitals in China, India etc, and that the sub-prime crisis and the ensuing recession were created deliberately. The full impact on China is beginning to be felt with the Fitch action and its currency and exchange rate intentions.

    So, comrade, can we count on you?