The neurotic repetitions in public opinion against Occupy

Revolution is the radical demystification of desire beyond demand; conservatism is the mystification of desire by its reduction to demand.

Media spokespeople, critics on the right, and even sympathetic but timid bourgeois progressives everywhere will not cease clamoring, in so many obviously trembling equivalences: “Eventually, you’ll have to, sooner or later, focus, articulate demands, we understand your rage, but eventually, you’ll have to narrow the issues, what exactly do you want?” And so on and so forth. Of course, what is too frightening for most observers and the mainstream media to say aloud if they are even able to comprehend it is a certain realization that is increasingly obvious to many of us on the ground: that everyday more and more of us lose even the idea that we might ever again want something from the political system. Many of us, over the past few months, have simply lost the capacity to be delightfully charmed by the idea of anyone giving us anything.

Historically, the relative few in positions of power have had centuries to give the less powerful multitude what they want but, needless to say, those with power only ever concede the bare minimum required for the multitude to cooperate. The multitude has been asking for more since time immemorial, while every now and then some people get clever enough to try and take it, usually through centralized models such as building union power or skipping right to clandestine vanguards. Today, the arrogance and ignorance of the wealthy will be their downfall because now we’re just saying in all seriousness that the 99% should just take what they want, together and openly. And the reality is that when one has learned to take, asking becomes absurd. This logic is obvious enough, and its revolutionary significance explains the neurotic repetitions we hear over and over again. “Uh, eventually, sooner or later, you’ll need to make demands, uh… please,? please, please!” In fact, an expression such as “narrow down the issues” is a rather hilariously transparent euphemism, quite close to a good-old fashioned Freudian slip, for “please make your movement smaller and weaker.”

These neurotic repetitions from those who sit comfortably in the status quo not only serve to dissimulate and discredit the truth and reality of the revolutionary preference for taking over asking, a conversion of consciousness by which many of us on the ground are obviously being carried away. They are additionally symptomatic of a truly stunning repression of historical memory. Even many sympathetic progressive folks, if they sit comfortably in the status quo, will insist in all honesty that for strategic purposes we have to focus on specific demands. They are truly textbook neurotics insofar as their repetitions are symptoms of the repressed memory that the latest and greatest examples of the most powerfully revolutionary movements have been wildly unfocused, non-specific, and non-demanding. The first fact is that the only time we’ve approached genuine, democratic, non-authoritarian revolution in a postwar “liberal democracy” (France in 1968) has been through a social movement of unfocusing organization, proliferating rather than narrowing the issues, refusing to make demands, and the contagious occupation of physical spaces. The second fact is that this most genuine revolutionary surge of militant democracy was betrayed, defused, and thwarted precisely by a hierarchical reimposition of organizational focus by the unions and parties, a narrowing of issues, the making of demands, and exactly at the cost of, in a direct negotiated trade for, the end of occupations.

A theoretically and empirically rigorous analysis could show that these neurotic repetition compulsions against us, which we find across the board of bourgeois American opinion, are better interpreted as evidence that mass occupation and the refusal to make demands are indeed exactly the right approach. We must learn to interpret the pronouncements of status quo figures not as thermometers of contemporary feeling but as all the more convincing negative indicators of the true contemporary feeling, just as Freud interprets the neurotic who swears their dream is not about their mother…

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Murphy, Justin. 2012. "The neurotic repetitions in public opinion against Occupy," (April 24, 2017).