THE OCCUPATION

I’ve just read Incubus’ comment on the general assembly at St.Pauls last night so here’s a few thoughts of my own. About 6pm we got the megaphone and Occupy eton banner up and announced  we were off to Old etonian AGM. Positive response from crowd and an audble gasp when I mentioned Bruce Foxton of Eton Rifles Jam fame had sent his son there.I was asked to repeat the story. About 20 peole accepted our invitation and came with us to Withers. The cops had previously confirmed that the AGM had indeed been cancelled (talk about Blog power!). On arival at Withers I tunelessly sang the eton Boating song (about 3 times) then asked if anyone else wanted to speak. A woman stepped forward and said she had something she wanted to read out.It was Charlie Chaplin’s speech at the end of The Great Dictator. She read it out facing Withers. It was curiously moving hearing above the traffic swirl this plea for humanity being addressed to the stone walls of tax avoidance solicitors and Old etonians. I admired that she had wanted to do something which years ago I’d have probably scoffed at. It was in this thoughtful mood – after a few pints with ancient comrades – that I passed back through the St.Pauls occupation. The general Assembly was about to begin. A big crowd maybe about 400 – attentive and eager. I tried to think of what it reminded me of and historically I think it was the Provo occupation of Dam Square in the 1960s. At this point the facilitator was doing OK – explaing the consensus decision making process, the agenda etc. I looked round – how ambitious to hold a general assembly open to anyone at this time of night. A couple of weeks ago it would have seemed a pure fliht of fancy. I had a bus to catch so left before long thinking of the assembly and the reading of the Chaplin speech. Something new is happening which my old tramline brain was having difficulty understanding. i didnt know anyone there – it wasn’t the usual activist types I’d expected a few weeks ago. A whoe lot of new people were doing it their way. I felt a bit shamefaced about laying my old class war Eton rhetotic on them. This was their time.  They had no need of anyone from lefties to me parasiting old agendas on to them. Time to stand aside and marvel. What a year from riots to a hot November in prospect. A rep from the Direct action Group was listing what needed supporting – electricians, November 9th. The hands waived supportively in the air. Incubus describd the corruption of the later process but the potential is still there. Yes I think the Provos in Dam square was thhe nearest I could get to historical comparisons. But the people at St.Pauls didnt ned such historic references – they were making history on the steps – haphazard, halting and sometimes risible  but comrades – they are doing it. Smetimes the best thing you can do is get out the way.

43 Comments

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43 responses to “THE OCCUPATION

  1. Chip

    What a considered, generous piece mate. You just get better and better. Nice one.

    • mick

      err.. yes. well said. you need a bit of light and shade and honest head-scratching sometimes, otherwise it’s just a script. Scripts are what shag us up, often as not, and the ones who need them the most fervently
      (manifesto’s, qurans, bibles, national curriculums) are the ones who will always shag us up the most.

  2. SW9Red

    That is a very honest posting.I salute you for it.

  3. Darren Australia

    At the Sydney occupation,they even had coppers reading their pamphlets-and I don’t mean scoffing at them either.I was on the way to see a solicitor,so I looked around and had a chuckle at wot I deemed the ‘middle classness’ of it all.But whilst I was falling asleep listening my brief talk absolute shite,I thought about the occupation and how I’d much rather be with them now then listening to this tosser pretending to give a fuck about me.And when I walked back there ,I stayed a few hours and chatted to them about their ideas and such.It was genuinely refreshing to hear people talk about the struggle for a brighter future,without any attempt to recruit me, and the meglomaniacal power of the banks and the stock exchange.There was no talk of class.And I didn’t bring it up.And I didn’t bother bringing up the fact that 25 years ago we organised Sydneys first ever Stop the City,from this exact point-and we all got locked up for it.I didn’t want to negate the importance of what they are doing.And that they are out there in the streets doing it-right in the face of the fat cats who battery farm all of us.It was passionate,idealistic,and committed.And I am so glad that I didn’t rip into them with my usual rhetoric.I thought,at the end of the day,I couldn’t give a fuck where they come from,class wise.They are out there putting a mirror up to society to see if we all like the reflection.They are up against the media beast,and they refuse to go home.
    So,yeah,I understand what you are saying about not trying to ‘redirect’ peoples focus sometimes.And really,we don’t need to-we agree with what they are saying and doing.And the potential for this movement to really gather momentum when the truncheons come out,is exciting.

  4. Tom Hodgkinson

    ‘They are doing it’ – wonderful.

  5. Responsible Citizen

    Late News:

    Craig Murray, ex-ambassador because he exposed HMG’s complicity in torture, is speaking at St Paul’s at noon today:

    ‘I should make it plain I am not claiming some greater wisdom, just some knowledge to share of what it looks like inside the belly of the beast.’

  6. Greg

    Thats fair enough but there will come a time when it will need a bit of bite. Have no doubts the powers that be will be working out/or have already done so -a strategy for the dismantling and discrediting of this movement. Secretly they will be shitting themselves that it could get bigger. It will be coupled with some watering down of the extreme forms of capitalism, some wanky bankers tax -and one of them might be publicly hung out to dry as a distraction. As the weather deteriates, it’ll be like the San Francisco 1969, the movement fracturing with health scares, flu, trench foot etc. The positive difference though is that its a global phenomenum, in 96? cities. Even Royal Bath.

  7. Ray

    Cracking post Ian. I felt the same about last winters student protests as well. Join in or fuck off is the message I think. During the past year we have not made a bad job of that as it goes!

  8. Anonymous

    Good post Ian but you know what they say “the old one’s are the best :)”
    Joe

  9. joe

    Good post Ian but you know what they say “the old one’s are the best ” 🙂
    Joe

  10. Liam

    I think we need to be a bit more realistic about what effect this protest movement will have. At the end of the day even the largest protests have no more than a few hundred people involved. Yes they are globally spread but they are passive and so diverse in the aspirations of those taking part. It is as if the act of having a occupation is seen as an end in itself.

    Indeed in a recent speech at the occupation in Belfast one of the organisers was citing the fact that the Belfast occupation has been reported on various other Occupy websites as a sign of the success. The same group are vehemently anti politcal and antagonistic to any notion of class struggle.

    This movement will gradually run out of energy with nothing achieved and nothing built for the future.

    • Dora Kaplan

      It’s the healthiest development in decades. The general assembly process locks out leninists/Labour Party hacks and other opportunists, and provides a foundation for future action. Developments in Oakland demonstrate the capacity of the movement to rapidly raise the game: What started as an occupation is now evolving into a citywide general strike organised by industrial action committees and neighbourhood assemblies.

      It’s worth remembering that we live in a highly atomised, depoliticised society. People aren’t going to turn up at an occupation on Friday night and become committed activists by Sunday morning. But any process of real, democratic engagement inevitably leads to a class struggle dynamic. Give it time.

      • alan on tyneside

        How does any process of real, democratic engagement INEVITABLY lead to a class struggle dynamic?

        Is what’s happening at Occupy London’s general assemblies a process of real democratic engagement? (I don’t know because I haven’t been there). Are there concrete measures in place to ensure that the less-confident, less-experienced & less-articulate have an equal voice for example?

        Are London comrades getting carried away with the relative success of the occupation in their own city and not looking at the wider picture? Sure, it would be great to be in Oakland now, but many of these occupations are still characterised by exactly the same problems that they started with; reformism, an inablity to decide whether they are anti-capitalist or not, an emphasis on peaceful protest to the exclusion and invalidation of other tactics and a heavy presence of fruitloops and conscious counter-revolutionaries.

        The general assembly process is great as a practical exercise and a lot can be learned from it; but some comrades seem to be celebrating and substituting this PROCESS for the whole of the agenda that it will be necessary to implement for the overthrow of capitalism. Not good.

      • INCUBUS

        Spot-on Alan mate!

  11. Cheers Ian, I’m sat on the edge of the OccupyLSX camp, smiling after reading your blog. I’m doing one too, ‘from the frontline’ – hazelhedge.wordpress.com
    Liam – I think, and hope, that you’re wrong. I’ve never experienced anything like this. Maybe, as Ian sez, there was such a surge of energy-for-change in the 60’s – but I wasn’t born then.

  12. Ashe

    Don’t be so pessemistic. You could say that the Miner’s Strike or the Grunwick Strike achieved nothing and built nothing for the future. What the occupy movement has done is show that (a) people are not all passive and (b) provided a focus for action.
    The fact of occupations and the use of assemblies has shown that they are possible strategies, but more than just change the terms of debate by taking action the occupy movement has changed reality , split the church, highlighted the undemocratic nature of the City and its institutions, raised issues relating to the use of force to police demonstrations and in a way that has captured the popular imagination. The occupations and the assemblies are bringing new people into the struggle and building a new coalition for action in the future. If only the anarchist movement could learn from the occupy movement instead of nitpick about how correct their analysis and phraseology is. Of course it won’t lead directly to a revolution – but it has changed the whole mood of protest.

  13. Paul Cardan

    Hopefully the protest will not leave behind the foundations for the re-emergence of the revolutionary party.

  14. Greg

    It also highlights the redundancy of all mainstream parties as a vehicle for change, and that people are realising that voting changes fuck all.

    In Bristol Barbera Janke, Council arse and Cathedral vicar are getting a bit twitchy -Mrs Janke said: “I wanted to share with them some of the things we have been doing on these issues and to see if we could channel their protest into some form of action for change. I also wanted to tell them the encampment is illegal, and that we want them to move. I asked them to be gone by Remembrance Sunday” No chance. 50 + tents now and growing.

  15. Anonymous

    “At the Sydney occupation,they even had coppers reading their pamphlets-and I don’t mean scoffing at them either.”

    Stranger still in Oakland, where they replied with a call for general strike as a counterpunch to police brutality.

    —-
    “As your police officers, we are confused,”
    —-

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/11/02/MNOS1LP3SB.DTL

    The Oakland Police Officers Association released a statement Tuesday noting that after officers cleared the Occupy Oakland camp early on Oct. 25, Quan allowed the protesters to start returning the next day. The raid was accomplished with the help of 16 outside agencies, and follow-up protests turned violent that night, resulting in serious injury to a military veteran who was demonstrating.

    The camp is now larger than it was before the raid, with more than 300 people squatting before City Hall in more than 100 tents.

    “As your police officers, we are confused,” the union said.

    The city is allowing employees to participate in the strike that Occupy Oakland has called, the union said, while all officers have been ordered to work.

    “That’s hundreds of city workers encouraged to take off work to participate in the protest against ‘the establishment,’ ” said the union, which represents 645 officers. “But aren’t the mayor and her administration part of the establishment they are paying city employees to protest? Is it the city’s intention to have city employees on both sides of a skirmish line?”

  16. Paul Cardan

    Sometimes things go wrong – an old anarchist used to warn me about becoming what you set out to destroy. Decide on this report from the US

  17. terry the shadow

    Anyone got any idea when the Occupy LSX group are intending to like, er, OCCUPY the LSX, rather than camp on a piece of land outside a cathedral while they talk about stuff?

    Or am I missing the point here?

    • Goldmanballs

      Nah don’t think so.

      Goldman Sachs (soaking the rich since 1869) , 10-15 Newgate Street (don’t look for the sign… they took it down after J18) are still pissing in each others pockets and lining those of the ever diminishing numbers of their increasing wealthy clients in these hard times (seen the cost of mooring fees down the Med lately)?

      The ECB (check out their new ex G-Sax chief – http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/10/31/is-goldman-sachs-poised-to-takeover-europe/) is on the brink of attempting once again to fuck us all over big time . Yep the elephant is well and truly in the City….can’t you smell it from the cathedral close?

  18. Ned

    Best post since ‘Fucking Hell’… Couldn’t agree more.

  19. b

    One thing is for certain – the London occupation must go forward…somehow…how? I don’t know, but ‘staying put’ won’t get them anywhere – it’ll just make the place a permanent small ‘festival’. A lot of the people involved clearly have minds that are open, they’re on the right side and getting off their arses, and they’re trying to put the finger on where the real fucking problem in social conditions lies, and to do something about it, so power to their elbow and I’m optimistic about link-ups later in the month, because workers on strike are doing all of this too.

  20. Ned

    This diverse global phenomenon, with its local variations (presenting limits as well as opportunities) isn’t following the prescriptions laid down by the Left and the anarchists. If anything, it seems experimental… Which calls to mind something someone said in the paper today (nothing to do with the Occupations): “Experiments never fail – they just produce different results which take you in a different direction.”

  21. INCUBUS

    I can see exactly where Ian is coming from, I mean, what he wants, what we all want, is a classless society, so bitching on about class can seem self-defeating and sometimes a contradiction in terms, but…I don’t know how many pints Ian sank to make him so misty eyed and (dare I say it) mellow on the subject of class…Personally I find the practice of Direct Democracy fucking exciting, but my greatest fears are that the OLSX camp is developing its own class of ‘Main People’ (see vid above) whose aims may well be the creation of some sort of repugnant ‘ethical capitalism’ which maintains the class system through how it protests and its political aims…

    Last night it wasn’t only me that felt unease, the GA was actually losing people as it went along-a considerable number simply started to drift off. I fear that some kind of ‘neo-bolshevik’, eco-activist technocratic micro-class of leaders is emerging. One that is promoting some sort of New-Civic politics, ( I’m actually reminded of the ‘First Earth Battalion’ from ‘The Men who Stare at Goats’) replete with its ‘Tranquility’ Teams (Security) and an obsession with its media image -the excellent ‘Capitalism is Crisis’ banner has gone, only to be replaced with ‘Real Democracy Now!’.

    The facilitators at the assembly last night seemed hell bent on forcing consensus through, as if the very pressing nature of the issues at hand made it OK to cut democratic corners….and while I quite agree with Greg that political parties have been successfully, necessarily, excluded,(leaving them impotent,but scoffing) and with Dora, that a class struggle dynamic ‘ought’ to appear, I have serious doubts that it will. The reason for my doubts is that there is no effort to encourage the extension of an assembly movement beyond the realm of the Occupation Movement itself (workplaces and communities), as if it is only a tool of protest set within a limited political paradigm and set of ‘reasonable’ demands…and almost some sort of ‘Parlour Game’ for aspiring academics and media wannabees (see Naomi Colvin, on the telly alot, and writing for the Guardian and New Left Review).

    For this movement to become truly radical, and to start to address the reality of the contradictions of Capital and Class, it needs to go well beyond its current limitations. If not, I think the Movement will either disappear through self-induced co-option, be suppressed, or be overtaken by the events of the growing crisis…. I want to see Sparks Assemblies, Chav Assemblies, Estate Assemblies, Tube Worker Assemblies., Unwaged Assemblies, Pensioner Assemblies…
    I don’t for one minute want to sound like a miserable old git of a pessimist, but nor do I want to throw away my capacity for critical thought and join the all-pervading, Happy-Smiley-Clappy-Positivity-Consensus… We are the 99% / We’re All In This Together / Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others / Keep Calm and Carry On…?

    PS:-
    ALL POWER TO THE POPULAR ASSEMBLIES..DEATH TO BUREAUCRATS AND THE SPECIALISTS OF PROTEST AND REVOLT!
    (sorry, needed to get that off me chest)

  22. thebristolblogger

    Not sure the best thing is to get out the way.

    While it would be churlish to write off the occupy movement completely, it’s far from the complete article. Some of its drawbacks have been mentioned above but the most obvious one is that it’s not a popular mass movement – yet. And it’s hard to see how it will get there at present.

    Last time I looked Ian, you were a pretty good populist. I wouldn’t get out the way if I were you – they might need you.

  23. Another Al

    Great post Ian.

    And its not just us who stand back and wonder WTF is going on. Paul Mason has a blogpost today
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-15562965

    about how the G20 “great & good” are wrongfooted by #occupy.

    Quote “In any case, anybody with even remote knowledge of the early 1930s knows that the moment street politics within a nation start dictating its stance at international summits is the moment you have to worry about the global system fragmenting.”

    I wonder whether the reluctance to evict St Pauls is less about upsetting the church/media and more about our rulers trying to learn lessons from Oakland.

    The use of force to clear a peaceful camp has led in less than a week to a general strike which seems to have effectively closed down a port and brought large chunks of the town to a standstill. People are now using the language of communes

    and their GA has called for the occupation of foreclosed and empty properties.

    Will that happen? Who knows but it is more likely than it was a week ago and its clear that the bosses can see non-political people seeing action works and forming alliances with “activists”.

    An event like Nov 9th with workers, students, #occupiers squatters etc could be a spark for unexpected progression in the struggle. They may be waiting to use other methods to divide and discredit before closing the camps down. If I were one of them I’d be worried.

  24. INCUBUS

    I can see exactly where Ian is coming from, I mean, what he wants, what we all want, is a classless society, so bitching on about class can seem self-defeating and sometimes a contradiction in terms, but…I don’t know how many pints Ian sank to make him so misty eyed and (dare I say it) mellow on the subject of class…Personally I find the practice of Direct Democracy fucking exciting, but my greatest fears are that the OLSX camp is developing its own class of ‘Main People’ (see vid above) whose aims may well be the creation of some sort of repugnant ‘ethical capitalism’ which maintains the class system through how it protests and its political aims…
    Last night it wasn’t only me that felt unease, the GA was actually losing people as it went along-a considerable number simply started to drift off. I fear that some kind of ‘neo-bolshevik’, eco-activist technocratic micro-class of leaders is emerging. One that is promoting some sort of New-Civic politics, ( I’m actually reminded of the ‘First Earth Battalion’ from ‘The Men who Stare at Goats’) replete with its ‘Tranquility’ Teams (Security) and an obsession with its media image -the excellent ‘Capitalism is Crisis’ banner has gone, only to be replaced with ‘Real Democracy Now!’.
    The facilitators at the assembly last night seemed hell bent on forcing consensus through, as if the very pressing nature of the issues at hand made it OK to cut democratic corners….and while I quite agree with Greg that political parties have been successfully, necessarily, excluded,(leaving them impotent,but scoffing) and with Dora, that a class struggle dynamic ‘ought’ to appear, I have serious doubts that it will. The reason for my doubts is that there is no effort to encourage the extension of an assembly movement beyond the realm of the Occupation Movement itself (workplaces and communities), as if it is only a tool of protest set within a limited political paradigm and set of ‘reasonable’ demands…and almost some sort of ‘Parlour Game’ for aspiring academics and media wannabees (see Naomi Colvin, on the telly alot, and writing for the Guardian and New Left Review).
    For this movement to become truly radical, and to start to address the reality of the contradictions of Capital and Class, it needs to go well beyond its current limitations. If not, I think the Movement will either disappear through self-induced co-option, be suppressed, or be overtaken by the events of the growing crisis…. I want to see Sparks Assemblies, Chav Assemblies, Estate Assemblies, Tube Worker Assemblies., Unwaged Assemblies, Pensioner Assemblies…
    I don’t for one minute want to sound like a miserable old git of a pessimist, but nor do I want to throw away my capacity for critical thought and join the all-pervading, Happy-Smiley-Clappy-Positivity-Consensus… We are the 99% / We’re All In This Together / Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others / Keep Calm and Carry On…?

  25. Marcus

    I passed by the daytime assembly yesterday, some black guy wanted to talk on the mic about racism, but the people there didn’t want to give him any time in their meeting. He stood his ground though and demanded to be heard. Quite a few of the occupy campers got up in his face and were trying to intimidate him, but he still resisted, so it all ended up in a big shoving match and they dragged him away. The few who stood up to say leave him alone were accused by the campers of being with him and of being in the pay of the bankers to disrupt their meeting. I really couldn’t believe what I was seeing. They came across to me as paranoid control freaks who are desperate to control the message through their own particular ideological control of public space. After experiencing this I now feel that there’s very little difference in mentality between them and the cops or bailiffs. Dissapointed to say the least.

  26. INCUBUS

    Tonight/day in Oakland-
    ‘Some protesters voiced their desire to smash the bank’s windows; other protesters stood in front of the bank and prevented them from doing so.’

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/nov/02/occuply-oakland-general-strike-live

  27. AG

    Occupy Bristol issued a statement late on Tuesday, a ‘Dry camp announcement’: “We have decided as a camp that we can no longer have any drinking on site, we intend to be a ‘Dry’ site.
    Those who cannot do this must leave. We will contact the police if necessary.”
    A dry camp? Fair enough given some problems they’ve had, but call the cops? Oh dear! So much for self-organisation, self-management and anti-hierarchy. And not knowing who your real enemies are.

    An example of the confused thinking of Occupy, and of the ways it could go very bad. But it still has potential.

  28. INCUBUS

    Things can change…
    Tweet-
    californiabeat California Beat
    BREAKING: #occupyoakland protesters shatter windows at Bank of America branch at Kaiser Center. Pic: pic.twitter.com/yCflqYWA
    1 hour ago

  29. stoploss

    what the fuck are they putting in you and Darrens water!?

  30. Ashe

    Decisions to drop eviction proceedings are the start of recuperation and containment of the occupy movement, its the public relations equivalent of kettling, or as Marcuse expressed it “repressive tolerance”.

    • INCUBUS

      Yes, either that or because of the bullshit about ‘Fire Brigade access’ (which has already been sorted) a prelude to repression…

  31. Alan and Incubus are spot on – Liam too pessimistic I feel. and Ashe too optomistic about the Occupation movement.

    It is an experiment and unfortunately the educated and able middle class look like they are imposing their terms. Make no mistake, the process is one of class struggle, and if the anti class activists win out (which looks like happening) then we are all poorer for it.
    However, there is no holy grail, the class composition of these people is interesting – who can afford to camp out indefinately? So where are the similar age group working classes in this occupation? (The ones in my areaare at home with the kids, banged up, but are certainly not occupying anything). And certainly the wider critique of the occupation movement needs to be made. In my area (towns in County Durham), there is NO OCCUPATION MOVEMENT, nor signs of one emerging.
    From where I stand, the occupation movement is a lot of smoke on the generalised and underground oceans of class struggle. The American example, the exception which proves the rule i identified. The secret is to stay loyal to your class contacts and perspectives, and see what is emerging in the real world, and not some stunt at St Pauls. And I say this as a fan of stunts. All political tendencies use stunts, some become more succesful than others though.

  32. alan on tyneside

    OK, I’ll stop pissing about with the other kids at the back, take my feet off the desk & politely hold my hand up. “Please Sir!, can we have a ‘photo of the year’ award thingie some time before the end of December?”

    Don’t know what my nomination would be, but this one from Oakland completely blows me away for some reason:

    Of course, these are just vandals hijacking a peaceful peaceful protest, as this typical piece of occupationalist bullshit will make clear, (the comments are good though):

    http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2011/11/487900.html

    Nevertheless, some mother is going around Oakland, (Oakland USA), spraying up “Class War” next to smashed up banks. Like!

    • INCUBUS

      Yeah man- see these quotes by ‘Occupationists’ in Oakland from twitter-

      ‘Michelle Klein-Hass Anarchists ruining everything…we need to weed out the provocateurs among us because we are associated with the hooligans whether we like it or not.
      23 minutes ago · ‘

      and-
      ‘Rick Whitaker Yeah, a non-violent protest is CRUCIAL! Hooligans out!
      19 minutes ago’

      A friend reminded me of whay Jim Morrison said- “‘When you make Peace with authority…..you become the authority’ ”

      My Nomination for the photo of the year award would go to the one above of Mr.B. -It looks like he’s saying ‘Wot? No Class?’ 🙂

  33. Anonymous

    “‘Michelle Klein-Hass Anarchists ruining everything…we need to weed out the provocateurs among us because we are associated with the hooligans whether we like it or not.”

    But there are provocateurs, internet already has the faces of US cops both in uniform and in jeans+t shirt with occupiers.
    ‘fraid violence serves the state just fine.
    You may be able to recognise an genuine anarchist by their unique smell, but a lot of people just think you are probably the cops when you start smashing stuff, especially on TV where that special smell doesn’t come over very well.

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