Adbusters’ Kalle Lasn on Occupy and a resurgent Left

Joel Bleifuss writes: Last July, Adbusters sent out this invitation addressed to those “ready for a Tahrir moment”: “On Sept. 17, flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street.” And thus, the Vancouver-based nonprofit magazine published by self-described “culture jammers and creatives working to change the way information flows, the way corporations wield power and the way meaning is produced in our society” sparked a movement.

Estonian-born documentary filmmaker Kalle Lasn co-founded Adbusters in 1989. Lasn, 70-years-young (“old,” as in “old Left,” is an adjective he eschews), draws his inspiration from the Situationists, avant-garde European revolutionaries who believed corporate capitalism perverted the human spirit. The Situationists reached their zenith in 1968 Paris and disbanded in 1972, but their efforts to affirm what it means to be free live on in Adbusters.

In These Times spoke with Lasn in March to see what “the man behind the curtain” had to say for himself and the movement he helped ignite.

What challenges does the Occupy movement face?

It is a replay of what happened in 1968 when an insurrection in the Latin Quarter of Paris exploded onto campuses and cities around the world. For a few brief moments it looked like the first global revolution. Occupy is round two of 1968. Young people around the world have this sinking feeling that the next 30, 40 or 50 years of their lives will be one big black hole of ecological and political and financial and personal crisis. And if you are facing that sort of prospect you realize that unless you stand up and fight for a different kind of future, you don’t have a future. Unlike 1968, it is going to have legs.

We on the Left have become an ineffective, whiny, complaining, finger-pointing kind of movement that hasn’t had a new out-of-the-box idea for a couple of generations. Everything we’ve tried, including the Battle of Seattle and all sorts of anti-globalization movements, has fizzled out.

A power struggle is going on in the movement, between the old vertical type of a Left and a new young Left that has social media at its finger tips and isn’t so enamored with the old wolf pack mentality but is ready to do things in a much more horizontal way without leaders – sometimes even without demands. The question is: In this tussle between the old Left and the new Left, who will win? And if temporarily the old Left triumphs then we’re in for a hard year this year and possibly even next, but bit by bit this movement does herald a new Left. This movement has made the Left cool again. [Continue reading…]

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