UK Politics

The occupation is empty

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the Occupy London Stock Exchange crowd  as they sit outside of St Paul’s Cathedral and elsewhere in London. As the protest has trundled on it strikes me that it has become increasingly divorced from what those involved are campaigning for i.e. vague changes to the way our democratic system operates (Occupylsx: “We’re in agreement that the current system is undemocratic and unjust”) that, of course sitting in front of churches for weeks on end always delivers.

Its genesis in the Occupy Wall Street movement always seemed very positive. Here was an international movement that was genuinely broadbased, that had a powerful slogan in the 99%, and was able to voice the fears and concerns of large sections of society about the way that capitalism operated within Western democracies and how the banking system in particularly had taken our economies to the brink of disaster and in the process hurt the lives of millions and continues to do so.

There is little there that many of us do not support of agree with and it was heartening to see these protests spread and flourish around the globe. Those early occupations had impact, they had voice, and they had purpose, but as they have dragged on that has all been frittered away as any momentum that the initial occupations brought was lost.

I think the clearing of the Occupy Wall Street protests was a blessing in disguise for New York, although lamentable in the way that the NYPD brutally cleared them out, as it gives them a chance to think and focus on how to take the movement forward. To think about what Occupy is about. What does it want to achieve and how can it best do that?

Political movements that survive and prosper are ones that are dynamic and full of ideas. They are not one trick ponies and that is what the Occupy movement generally, and Occupy London in particular, have so far revealed themselves to be. They are not dynamic the are moribund and their immobility defines their political thinking.

Trotskyists might have at one time accused them of having no program (they probably still do), but it is a valid criticism. The thing that initially gave rise to the movement, the act of occupation, has become the movement and today that tipped over the edge into self parody.

The Occupy London Stock Exchange protesters have today extended their action by taking over an empty office block in Hackney, east London, belonging to the bank UBS. That’s right not only are they sitting outside of a big church,  but now they are in an empty office block. Words fail me. I don’t know if they chanted “occupy the empty building now as they went in”, but I’m sure someone was thinking it. Even more amusingly the Guardian was liveblogging the occupation the move. As David Aaronovitch tweeted: “Is it true that the Guardian is liveblogging the occupation of an empty office? Do we all become parodies of ourselves in the end?” Yes, it was true liveblogging the occupation of an empty building (Occupy London takes over empty UBS bank – live).  Two acts of emptiness in one go.

So who are these people? It seems they are not so much campaigners or protestors, but professional occupationists, those who see occupation as an end itself, and the occupation really is empty. A move into an empty building really says it all and as a result the movement is bleeding wider public support and direction.

Gene adds: Recommended reading: Bob from Brockley on the Occupy movement.

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