Revolution #252, December 11, 2011

Political Disobedience vs. Revolution: An Exchange and Debate on the Significance and Implications of the Occupy Movement

On December 2, Occupy Chicago sponsored an exciting event, "Political Disobedience vs. Revolution: An Exchange and Debate on the Significance and Implications of the Occupy Movement" featuring Bernard Harcourt and Raymond Lotta. It was held at a gallery of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Approximately 125 people attended, including Occupy activists and many college students.

Bernard Harcourt is Chair of the Political Science Department and Professor of Law at the University of Chicago. He is the author of The Illusion of Free Markets. Raymond Lotta is a political economist and contributor to Revolution. He is an advocate of Bob Avakian’s new synthesis of communism. The exchange was prompted by an article written by Harcourt on the Opinionator blog of the New York Times in October. The issues being wrangled over had both a sense of the immediacy of the situation giving rise to the Occupy movement as well as weighty implications for envisioning a new model of society. The exchange was full of substance and contained sharp differences—even as both speakers expressed the positive impact of Occupy and share concerns about the larger issues of injustice and inequality in U.S. society.

Both gave wide-ranging presentations. Lotta spoke about the nature of capitalism and the need for revolution and put forth a vision of communism informed by Bob Avakian’s new synthesis and concretely expressed in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal). Harcourt set forth his vision of "political disobedience" and how this connects with what he sees as the new and important features of the Occupy movement that have longer-term implications for answering injustice. An exposition of this position can be found in his November 30 article in the UK Guardian, "Occupy’s new grammar of political disobedience."

A central theme in the debate involved Harcourt’s argument for "leaderless resistance" in sharp contrast with Lotta’s arguments about the need for communist vanguard leadership to meet and defeat the repressive state power of capitalism-imperialism and to go on to transform society and uproot deep structures of oppression. Harcourt’s argument posited that continuous "political disobedience" contains the potential of breaking free from what he sees as "failed paradigms," while Lotta argued that this amounts to a "holding action" while capitalism continues to strangle humanity. Both speakers referenced the statement "A Reflection on the 'Occupy' Movement: An Inspiring Beginning... And the Need To Go Further" by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.

The audience was highly engaged with the speakers’ presentations and actively participated in the discussion. The exchange very much embodied the Occupy movement’s spirit of opening space for discussion. This was a very robust and principled debate. The moderator announced that Occupy Chicago will be posting a video of the program.

Send us your comments.

If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.

What Humanity Needs
From Ike to Mao and Beyond