Building A Debt Resistance Movement

On Tuesday Feb 26th, around 30 people came to hear George Caffentzis give a presentation to Occupy Boston’s Strike Debt working group. George is a professor of philosophy, a marxist, and a prominent figure in NYC’s Strike Debt movement.

A portion of the talk focused on the differences between debt and wage struggles. There are many examples of wage struggles (think labor movements and unions), but far fewer examples of debt struggles. The populist movement, Catiline, Shay’s rebellion, and Christianity’s rejection of usury are the more well-known examples of debt resistance; there aren’t many others, and we’ll need new movements to produce a rich history of debt resistance.

Debt struggles are unique in two significant ways: debt tends to isolate people more than it brings them together, and debt struggles typically cross class boundaries. The very poor can go to debtors prisons, but so can the middle class, and the very wealthy. This makes it challenging to decide who is in a debtors movement; for example, is a small business owner a capitalist, or are they running a business to satisfy their basic personal needs?

Finally, despite the hardship and unfairness caused by the 2008 financial crisis, we’ve been slow to develop a movement to strike out against bank bailouts, foreclosures, and indebtedness (several years passed between the TARP bailouts and the first Occupy encampment in NYC). We still have time to build a movement, but the window of consciousness may be closing.

A rough transcript of the presentation is available here: