But here was also remarkable: not only the feebleness of the previously existing reformist tension of the gigantic middle class, but the lack of any pretense at reform on the part of the politicians.
The Marxists, who only see the world in the night where all cows are black, have nothing to say to Americans other than the sad banalities they offer everywhere else. With this proviso, that here it is even a provincial and helpless variety. The Europeans can join Die Linke or Syriza, the American Marxists can offer only a ghostlike repetition of past failures, and an analysis of the economy in which no one believes anymore, and about which certainly no one cares. Moreover the Americans, with their fierce Protestant individuality, were never and could never have been attracted by Marxism. All the great heroes and traditions of American leftism are explicitly anarchist or anarchistic: Haymarket and May Day, the Wobblies, Sacco and Vanzetti, the Diggers and the counter-culture at large, the Battle of Seattle, the intellectuals of Bookchin, Chomsky, Graeber, etc.
The Americans are not even aware of their own history, perhaps even more so for radicals, and thus the turn of events of Occupy also makes no sense to them. Tom Hayden, in his excellent study The Love of Possession is a Disease With Them, remarked how when he visited the North Vietnamese, they knew more of America’s history than he did. They studied it as one studies an enemy from afar. How more greivous is the error when one does not study an enemy up close? The only branch of the workers’ movement that had some staying power, some cultural resonance and grounding in the U.S. was Anarchism, and that on the West Coast. Which is not to overstate the case: the French wrote that one cannot transpose Greek conditions to France, the land of the period of revolution from 1789 to 1871. How much more so would this be true for the Americans. Yet the Beat poets were aware, and wrote, that in some small way the wobbly spirit had survived to live on in the West. One might attribute this to the cultural dimensions of the restlessness of the frontier spirit, admirably captured by Frederick Jackson Turner, that, having reached the Pacific, turns inward against the newly constituted social order. The frontier only closed in 1890 with the Ghost Dance War, the wobblies were battling shortly thereafter. From thence to the struggles of the Depression, and the counterculture of the 60’s, then to the Battle of Seattle, the green anarchy movement and the student skirmishes of the past few years: only on the West Coast is there a tradition, however small, and only there is there the tiniest acceptance of political violence, as demonstrated in the refusal of Occupy Oakland to condemn property destruction. And if the complaint of the pointlessness of going to Oakland seems to have finally been taken into account on May Day, then so much the better. Berkeley and San Francisco offer better chances and targets, and it makes more sense for white revolutionaries to trash their own neighborhood rather than the visibly dilapidated and impoverished downtown of Oakland.
General analyses of America divide it roughly into a North, South, and West. The West has specific historical conditions that allow a form of Anarchism to exist there in some force, under its own banner. But not so elsewhere. Thus it is simply unreflective to demand that others emulate the West Coast in areas that are, effectively, separate countries, just as in Europe, Spaniards and Greeks can share aspirations as Mediterranean nations with a long history of extreme political violence, but the idea of transposing Greek tactics to Germany or Sweden, for example, makes absolutely no sense. We know from history the former two regions of North and South are so different as to have been separate countries at war for years. They are Sparta and Athens, one a landed aristocracy, the other a city-based democracy. Neither of the two have a tolerance for political violence; but the South for violence in general, yes, whereas for the North, not at all. The South is the bucolic countryside, the North is the urban sprawl of one contiguous ‘megalopolis’ from Boston to Washington. The South has Poe and Faulkner, terror and madness, the brooding over lost wealth; the North Thoreau, Whitman, the spirit of quaker pacifism, Anglophilism, and tolerance.
Finally the South deserves notice because it is the heart of America, America’s America of tiny towns and well-trimmed lawns, contentedness and civic pride. This is because it was the South that won the victories of the revolution, the planter aristocracy giving forth victorious Washington at Yorktown along with Jefferson and other theorists. After all, even the acts of treason to the Union in 1861 are constituted on the basis, the exact blueprint, of 1776, with the calling of state representatives to decide for independence and forming a new government. Hence the South is the cultural heart of America, and no wonder it gives such undue support to the Republican Party and the Army. However now Southern conditions are about to be generalized: only in the South has great wealth been lost in disastrous wars, and on the riverboats that the stock markets come to resemble more and more, and poverty nestled among American masses, and a universal reprobation met its abhorrent behavior. But now all of America has lost its war on terror, the money is drying up, and because of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, the general society all of America now deserves to be treated as was the South during Civil Rights, namely, as infamous and uncivilized. Agamben also writes that all societies go bankrupt in their own fashion: the Italians under Berlusconi, the Germans of 1933, etc. America has become spiritually bankrupt, much as MLK warned, and whenever this happens material bankruptcy is not far off in arriving.
Thus the real issue now posed to the Americans is: how to relate to the collapse? The U.S., the land of micro-fascism and molecular capitalism par excellence, is now evaporating, molecule by molecule. There is no austerity plan to protest against because the austerity is already being carried out in the hidden corners of the country. The small town library closes, the post office shuts up for good, the mayor’s office declares bankruptcy. Without as many police the people decide to police themselves, as we read for Vallejo, Ca. Americans are in a more revolutionary situation than they realize: they are in a situation like the end of Rome, where objectively a revolution should have happened long ago, but did not, and now the society is decaying and dying, like a butterfly too weak to shed its chrysalis: the last kernel of loyal citizenry has been wrecked by the War on Terror, they no longer believe in anything but suicide. Just read a newspaper. Graffiti is sprouting up everywhere. There is only a police force that everyone hates, and taxes and debt and no jobs. The society is collapsing in an orgy of its own violence: the violence that constituted the social fabric of the Americans, this blind bloodlust of Custer that so horrified the Indians, is now turning against the social fabric itself. The Hobbesian myth is becoming an unreal reality, for a time, before peace and contentedness return to this shattered, wounded, ancient land. But the Americans are lucky: whereas Rome collapsed into a foreign and inferior superstition of feeble-minded slaves and jaded aristocrats, the Americans fall back on what existed agelessly before their unhappy civilization. Indian simplicity, harmony with nature, collectivism, simple and unadorned love and devotion, guerrilla bravery. . .these are the things to remember. Americans don’t have to worry about a state to smash-they won’t even be at any comparable level of strength for years, they only just now begin a process of decades– they rather have to find something redeeming worth living, to save something from the final suicidal catastrophe of the American death culture.