An early Adbusters ad. (c.1999)
There is certainly a lot of "explaining" going on out there. Tells me this #occupyeverything movement has, shall we say, broken through the barricades behind which our rulers have long been hiding, and they want to know what the hell all those kids are doing on their lawn. And, for the nonce, how long they might have before the tumbrils come for them.
The origins of Occupy Wall Street explained
Salon talks to the editor of Adbusters about the practical and philosophical roots of the movement
I enjoy the casualness of his approach to what he envisions turning into a global revolution more profound than that of 1968.
We are not just inspired by what happened in the Arab Spring recently, we are students of the Situationist movement. Those are the people who gave birth to what many people think was the first global revolution back in 1968 when some uprisings in Paris suddenly inspired uprisings all over the world. All of a sudden universities and cities were exploding. This was done by a small group of people, the Situationists, who were like the philosophical backbone of the movement. One of the key guys was Guy Debord, who wrote “The Society of the Spectacle.” The idea is that if you have a very powerful meme — a very powerful idea — and the moment is ripe, then that is enough to ignite a revolution. This is the background that we come out of.
1968 was more of a cultural kind of revolution. This time I think it’s much more serious. We’re in an economic crisis, an ecological crisis, living in a sort of apocalyptic world, and the young people realize they don’t really have a viable future to look forward to. This movement that’s beginning now could well be the second global revolution that we’ve been dreaming about for the last half a century.
Well, that's certainly an original interpretation of the uprisings of 1968, not necessarily wrong, but I would say incomplete. It's a revolutionary truism that the spark comes -- always -- from a very small group of people who may not even be intending the revolutionary result. But to suggest that the Situationists were able to trigger the 1968 uprisings sui generis all around the world is hilarious. And very wrong.
And for him to suggest that the 1968 eruption of unrest was a "cultural [kind of] revolution" borders on -- I'm sorry -- crazy. Of course, I realize he's "playing" with the interviewer, and is not meaning to be taken seriously. (For the historically impaired, there was a Cultural Revolution going on in China prior to and continuing well past the eruptions of 1968 that took place elsewhere. The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was a state-sponsored rebellion primarily by the young against the remaining counter-Revolutionary elements in China. Most scholars in and out of China agree that it was a devastating set-back for the Chinese People. It is generally thought to have begun in 1966 and concluded ten years later.)
People in the West knew there was a Cultural Revolution in China, and those who were paying close attention knew -- sort of -- what it was about, but it was recognized even then that the Chinese Cultural Revolution was not a spontaneous uprising of China's youth. It was directed from the very top; Mao himself, his wife Jiang Ching, Lin Piao, Chou En Lai, and so on, were intimately involved in the inspiration and direction of the Cultural Revolution, and local Party cadres were never far from the action. Of course some of them got caught up in it, but still...
It's nothing like what happened in the West in 1968 -- unless, of course, Lasn is hinting that maybe those uprisings weren't quite as spontaneous as they seemed.
The idea that conditions now are far more "serious" than they were in 1968 is an interesting way of looking at how the situation has changed. The threats people were living under in 1968 were different than today's, certainly, but they were no less serious. In certain parts of the world, they were much more serious. This was before the Green Revolution and serious efforts at pollution control were underway, remember. The Indochinese War was reaching a crescendo on the ground. Starvation and environmental degradation and pollution were so commonplace as to be assumed.
Simmering discontent at the general oppression by the ruling classes was constant and spreading. That simmering discontent led to violent uprisings against authority in many, many, many cities and lands well before the more widespread uprisings of 1968. The pattern of rebellion had long since been set. The explosion was unexpected in scope and duration but not a surprise, because so much of what happened had already been pre-figured.
That aside, Lasn's comparison of today's global sit-in/occupation demonstrations to the uprisings of 1968 may be intended to give the occupiers a historical sense of greater purpose. I myself see what is going on as more intentional and purposeful than the more or less inchoate rebellions of 1968. They partake of some of the same energy of frustration, though, in that those who rule us now -- as then -- simply will not hear the People, and they continue to rule counter to the Peoples' interests. I call it "governing contrary." And now, as then, the People are not going to take it quietly any more.
The rebellions of 1968 were mostly a phenomenon of youth, widely influenced by radical leftist thought. Not so much now, however, nor is there any interest in confining the current uprisings to the young and the left.
It's everyone, the 99%, against the tiny minority who own and control governments all over the world. No matter their age or condition.
But as I say, Lasn seems to be "playing" with his interviewer. He makes the points he needs to make in a way that may have a very interesting psychological effect on the 1% -- if they ever see the interview. It's a clever way to put the Fear in them without a direct threat.
A more recent Adbusters ad (date?)