Occupy London, a space for discussion

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In recent weeks, comrades of the ICC have attended, and on two occasions given, talks at the Occupy site in St Paul’s. As has been the case in the last few years with movements in North Africa, Greece and, most notably, Spain there is a multiplicity of ideas being discussed. The Occupy movement is no different. As we wrote in the last edition of WR, there is a need to wage a struggle within such movements for a workers’ perspective Occupy London is not only smaller than the movements in Spain and the USA that inspired it, but the voices raised in support of a working class perspective have been relatively weaker, and those defending parliamentary democracy relatively stronger. For instance the efforts to send ‘delegations’ to the electricians’ protests only a short walk away were seen as an entirely individual decision and initiative of those who participated, whereas in Oakland the Occupy Movement called for a general strike as well as evening meetings so that those who had to work could also participate.”

The movement as a whole is heavily impregnated with reformism – the idea that if some aspect(s) of capitalism were changed this would change the overall functioning of capitalism, and its current dynamic. There is a widespread idea that capitalism can be made a ‘fairer’ more ‘humane’ system and that it’s possible to tackle the biggest economic crisis in its history.

Among some of our experiences:

       One comrade attended one of the Tent City University meetings, entitled ‘Here’s the risk: Occupy ends up doing the bidding of the global elite’. Presented by Patrick Hennigsen, an American investigative journalist, who made some very pertinent points about attempts by bourgeois foundations like the one funded by George Soros to recuperate Occupy movements from Tunisia to New York. Hennigsen insisted that ‘right versus left’ was a dead-end. His alternatives however weren’t that illuminating – taking money out of banks and putting it in credit unions, etc. He also argued that if there’s no free market, it’s not capitalism. We spoke to say we agreed with the danger of recuperation but we had to have some basic clarity about what capitalism is otherwise the movement will indeed be trapped in false alternatives.

       Another comrade attended a meeting presented by Lord Robert Sidelsky entitled “The crises of capitalism” which asked questions such as: Why does the system collapse? How do we recover from the present recession? How do we build a better system? Again, there were some interesting observations made. For example that capitalism is not just about economics, but that it’s also a system of power and hierarchy, that the crisis in the eurozone is not the cause of the UK crisis, that figures for GDP in themselves don’t say everything about ‘growth’ – all valid questions for discussion. However, again, the answers that were put forward were entirely within the framework of changes already proposed by one or other faction of the ruling class, such as for a Tobin Tax on all financial transactions, more work sharing, a government investment bank etc.

Despite all the illusions in the possibilities of reform, the occupation has provided a space for a discussion of ideas, even ideas that are rarely heard. As another comrade said “… a couple of people in the tents near our stall put out a piece of cardboard saying ‘Discussion point’ and an impromptu discussion about whether a new society was possible began with around a dozen people taking part. The best contribution was from a woman who felt that it was the process of discussion itself, people breaking from isolation to come together and talk, which was the most positive thing about the Occupy movement.”

Some comrades of the ICC gave a talk about the ideas of Rosa Luxemburg on the rise and decline of capitalism. There were barely more than a dozen there but nonetheless the discussion was lively and interesting and posed things in a deeper way. It is the capacity to have a political confrontation of ideas that is the basis for a development in consciousness and political maturity in the face of the questions capitalism is posing to the whole world today.  

Graham 10/12/11

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