The issue of the ‘end of protest’ is obviously of vital importance. We can try to list some of the issues…
But first we should dispose of the Occupy Wall Street movement. I was always suspicious of the way this ‘movement’ sabotaged itself and other alternatives.
There are a number of hypotheses here? We know the ‘velvet revolution’ (plus creepy svengalis like Soros) long since pioneered phony protest movements, and this effect was most suspiciously an aspect of the Arab Spring. Can the OWS be far behind? Answer: we may never know, but it is hard to think of how a movement like OWS was any better than a fake with hidden covert control.
We can conclude nothing final, and, in any case, there is the hopeless muddle created by anarchists and false gandhians. These groups have confused the issue of activism.
Next, the older left has become virtually defunct. The issues here are:
the legacy of bolshevism/stalinism
the extensive efforts to destroy unions
the confusions of marxist theory and the constant repetition of marxist cliches and refuted theories
the failure of the leftist membership to read the critiques the right reads and uses to squelch radical activism: consider a classic like Ko?akowski, Leszek (2005). Main Currents of Marxism. New York: W. W. Norton and Company. p. 909. ISBN 9780393329438. How many leftists have even read such a book, and there are more. Instead they trot out still one boilerplate defense of Marx on crises, or the labor theory of value…
in the same vein, the failure to address the real economic situation beyond moral hot air and denunciation: the neo-classical economic world is a sitting duck for a critique but the left is almost incapable of studying the issues beyond a vague perception of inequality (a good start, to be sure)
the economic calculation debate was an effective tactic to make too many give up thinking socialism was unachievable
the cooptation of the ‘working class’: let’s face it. The American working class is mostly a mass of idiots, now in evidence at Trump rallies, and it has been more or less destroyed since Nixon by psychological manipulation. These idiots spent a whole generation (some of them) hypnotized against their own self-interest and voted republican. The right must be laughing at how easy it is to brainwash the working class.
Beyond that the working class is mostly an export: the chinese and other proletariats are beyond the reach of american leftists. the real proletariats are also subject to totalitarian control regimes.
The working class concept in marxism is flawed, a point noticed at the time of the first world war. A class is not an active historical or revolutionary agent, only individuals are. Surely Marx’s analysis was flawed here.
The still unionized ‘left’ is totally deradicalized and capable of nothing beyond their paycheck focus.
Last and First Men suggests thinking in terms of the ‘universal class’ of all members of all classes. This can be a working approximation (which might energize the working class from the outside) that can actually organize those ready to protest or become activists, e.g. the members of the OWS which was not working class, or the members of the old left, who need to be reorganzied in a new movement, as part of the universal class.
the old marxist left with its historical materialism, positivism, and Iron Cage shadow existence was unable to communicate with the larger society (and this was evident as early as the abolitionist movement, which had religious roots).
Last and First Men suggests creating a larger superset of modernist beliefs that can communicate with all sectors of the modern spectrum.