I do not disagree with the sentiments expressed in the statement released by Occupy London, but since this movement hit our shores I have followed it as much as I can and to be honest I am confused. It is clearly apparent that the vast majority of wealth and power lies in the hand of a very small minority. I am fully aware that the cuts are not necessary and are simply ideological vandalism and I am also convinced that many of the myths spread about the deficit are false.
Obviously any protest movement needs to say what it is against and ideally offer workable, coherent alternatives and garner public support. This is where my problems with the ‘Occupation movement’ start. To my uneducated eye they seem to have jumped straight in at the deep end demanding ‘global change’. Again, I do not disagree with the general ideals expressed; however we need to be aware that different countries are in different places concerning how far the corruption of capitalism and global corporatism has penetrated their systems. And it would pay to remember that the statement has originated from the Occupy Wall Street movement. We may be getting closer but as yet, we are not the States. When it comes to change, one size does not fit all.
I may be wrong but from what I have found out so far, the Occupy movement’s main objective, at the moment, is to raise awareness. This is all well and good, but by having a static location you are reliant on people coming to you and good media coverage. I suspect that most who visit will be of similar opinions, so you may encounter the problem of only talking to the converted. As for relying on the media, well, good luck with that! If this is the aim, then to me, the starting block should have been talking to the wide range of anti cut / protest groups and the Trade Union movement about taking the message out to the wider community. All these organisations endeavour to represent the ‘99%’ and have already built up support and links within the community.
I am unclear what are the Occupy movement’s ultimate objectives are. Eradicating corporate greed and creating a ‘fairer society’ is one hell of a monumental jump from where we currently are. If you are to make such sweeping statements I think you really do need to elaborate as to how you are going to get from A to B (and in this case more like A to Z). I realise that people involved in occupying spaces come from disparate groups and opinions which may account for why the statements are so vague but if you want to draw in mass support you need to let the mainstream public know what you stand for.
Maybe I am too much in ignorance of how this is all meant to work but holding General Assemblies to decide the general direction of what the 99% want, does not seem to be a million miles away from how parliament works. Several hundred people voting on what is ‘best for the rest’. In order to engage the public, I feel clear policies are needed. The following are just mine, and no doubt will not be everyone’s, but direct achievable demands need to be made.
• A Robin Hood tax on all bank transactions
• Re-nationalisation of utility companies
• Higher rates of tax for those earning over 150k
• A free universal public health service
• Tougher regulation / law to make it harder to ‘avoid’ tax and large fines for those that do
• Radical changes to how Councils / Parliament operate to make them more accessible and accountable to the public. Manifestos should be adhered to and any unannounced policies must wait until it has been included in a manifesto and voted on by the public
• A total revamp how disability benefits are awarded and social care budgets allocated to ensure the most vulnerable are protected
We need to be realistic – right here, right now – in the UK we do not have much of a choice. We have a 3 party system and although they slightly differ in policies, they all embrace the current economic system. Added to that, it is clear this country is nowhere near ready for a ‘revolution’ of any shape or form. As much as many will not like it, the best we can hope for at the moment is to build mass public support, locally and nationally, and then push political parties to adopt these demands in their policies. But, and a very important but, is that we must continue to fight all the cuts tooth and nail in the meantime.
A walk of a thousand miles begins with the first step and trying to change the world is not the first step. It seems that at some point the global economy will collapse and this will be a really dangerous period when all and sundry will try to seize power. Until then, in order to ‘raise awareness’ all forms of protest should be used; strikes, flash mobs, picketing, direct action leafleting, fly posting etc and yes, occupations. Take a page from the book of the establishment in the way they have enshrined that austerity measures are the only answer into the psychology of the public over the last few years. It is imperative that the message of radical change is spread to the public to build support across all industries and sectors of the working class, including retail, utilities, services, the unwaged, retired and students. All around us, an ideological war is being waged and those who believe there are alternatives must join the battle, but outside of the political bubble. Whatever you choose to do, Solidarity is, and will always be, the answer.