Thursday, 20 October 2011

You say you want a revolution..?

Well, where to start..?

With the Occupy movements

Occupy Wall street, New York

Occupy London Stock Exchange

Developing from the Occupy Wall Street movement, the Occupy London Stock Exchange action is attracting a lot of interest at the moment and the movement has spread far and wide. But it seems to me that confusion reigns within the movement and its supporters, and so in turn, its detractors.

We all want to change the world and if they just wanted greater reform to the Banking sector, economic reform and a ‘fair deal’ for the poor, then it would be more coherent, would garner wider support and gain greater momentum. The UKUncut movement and the anti-cuts ( movement are at least clear in their aims.

However, this Occupy movement encompasses all of the anti-coalition politics that has gone before and more. They did manage to gather round and come up with a statement detailing their objectives.

This was welded together from the meeting of a lot of very strongly opinionated groups and gives a picture of the wide variety of viewpoints and aims of the people involved. They want a lot; a lot of very different things.

What is it that you want to do..?

'We want to be free...'

The first clear contradiction is that they state the current system is unsustainable, but then go on to say they do not accept the need for cuts and support student and public sector strike action.

So they want to overturn the ‘current system’, but they want to maintain the systems that the Labour government funded on the tax receipts from the boom in the financial sector and the pension arrangements that have been developed by successive governments over post-war years. Pensions that could only be sustained through continually increased input from younger generations, not to mention good performances in the stock market. I’ve mentioned previously that the students and public actions don’t actually sit very well together, if the students actually thought about it.

None of it fits together… But I’m sure they’re working through ideas how to marry it all up; a new system that will maintain public sector jobs and services, create worthy jobs for millions, make education free for millions and pay for the pensions of millions of people to retire for some 20 to 40 years on a reasonable income.

Good luck chaps…

The stated aims would seem reasonable to many and as I say, they do blend a lot of what has been demanded by public protests over the last couple of years. However, the first aim about the unsustainable system, as well as the ‘structural change’ mentioned in point seven, represent the underlying theme of the movement which is anti-capitalism, even the idea of a genuine revolution and a desire for anarchism or communism. I think the political theory gets somewhat blurred there.

All over the world, a symbol of defiance from a Hollywood film

The mask company must be doing very well

Regardless of any stated aims, wanting an end to the capitalist system, revolution, a communist system or anarchy means so much more than wanting the bankers to pay their ‘fair share’ and economic reform.

Again if we’re talking anarchy, as in no government, then the desire to maintain government spending and public sector spending is incongruous.

Laurie Penny (PennyRed) and many more would very much like an end to global capitalism apparently.

Rage against the machine

I'm intrigued... Let's give 'em a go..!

Anarchy in the UK?

It is with these anti-capitalist notions that everyone gets confused, supporters and critics alike. A good example of this occurred on ‘Have I got news for you’ on BBC One 21/10/2011

Within the scoffing of this Tory (Louise Mensch) there is a point and it’s completely overlooked, deliberately by Hislop, Merton and Baker; anti-establishment radicals that they are. She attempts to mock the anti-capitalists for participating in the capitalist society and enjoying its spoils; buying ‘coffee’ and tents, using smart phones, but she is rebuffed, of course. How could all of them get by without participating? A revolution cannot live on fresh air alone… Simple actions like buying coffee do not undermine your principles.

Well not in most cases. But this lot have been queuing up at Starbucks, the epitome of global capitalism! If she had just talked about the likes of Starbucks then she’d have made a point.

The fact is companies like Starbucks and Tesco do represent the system, its success as well as its failure, in pushing out smaller traders for instance.

Hislop et al (and hundreds more on Twitter) mock the Tory for saying the protesters are hypocritical for ‘buying coffee’, but the point should have been made clear about where it was bought. You can get coffee in all sorts of places, many independent. If you are making a very public protest against capitalism and you buy coffee from Starbucks, a massive global corporation, then it is contradictory.

I appreciate we’ve all got to eat, drink and clothe ourselves and the fact is where else would they get a tent and unfortunately for anti-capitalists, phones (very useful for revolutions it seems) are only produced by multi-national conglomerates. We all have to live within the current system, but Starbucks is something else (using them for the toilets or not. Or is just using the toilets sticking it to the capitalists..?).

One Twitterite questioned if she was suggesting that they should grow the beans themselves (aha hahahaha…). No, they could go to one of the many independent coffee shops, that I have no doubt there are in the city of London! You smug p****.

Too pricey? Is that because of the system? F*** ‘em anyway, they’ll just look like hypocritical t***s. To the right wing at least.

But maybe that’s it, they don’t care? They get cheap coffee (and/or use the toilet) and don’t see it as hypocritical, because when they finally get it together these corporations won’t exist..? Might as well get a reasonably priced coffee while you can and if you’re independent in London (charging more) you’re just as much a slimey capitalist… The employees will be liberated from both forms of slavery..!

Rejoice comrades, you will be free!

To do what instead..?

Maybe it’s ok because it’s fair trade (apparently, more Twitter…), but it took public criticism to get them to stop their policy of leaving the f***ing taps on non-stop! Not very environmentally conscious.

And that’s effective action right there, by the Sun newspaper no less

Would the Occupy protesters have crossed this picket line?

'You will be free, soon. But I just want an Americano right now...'

In Bristol there have been a number of protests about a Tesco store opening in an area known as Stokes Croft. Basically the protesters believe they’re defending their area from the effects of an evil corporation. If they boycotted the store, as well as smashing its windows, yet went round the corner and shopped in the more established Tesco superstore in a nearby area, wouldn’t that be hypocrisy?

Late night shoppers turn nasty

'We don't want your sort round here!!'

But in the cold light of day, a change of heart...

'It's just sooo convenient...'

It seems a lot of Lefties are willing to overlook hypocrisy, right wing bloggers are usualy quick to pick them up on it though - Guardian’s Tax Hypocrisy is Ridiculous

On the subject of the Guardian, their tax and Left wing hypocrisy, Twitter contributor @NewRedDawn ended that particular discussion with another user on this note:

"@fatcouncillor If I cheated on my wife, would I be a hypocrit (sic) for saying another man should not cheat on his? yes, but my advice invalid? no" (22/10/11)

“Don’t do as I do, do as I say” seems to be the order of the day for some Leftists.

NewRedDawn's tweets make for interesting reading and he does have some distinct views and ideas, also here on his blog, which I am yet to become completely familiar with…

As indicated by this gem of a tweet - "#occupylsx: communism to me, as a goal = super abundance of goods, elimination of want. Surely that is always a worthy goal?" (22/10/11). He advocates pure socialism/communism and he appears to think the 'do as I say' doctrine is perfectly reasonable. If he is right about the revolution, what in the Lord’s name does the future hold? Nothing different from the past…?

They seem to only worry about hypocrisy if it comes from rich Tories, because ultimately they’re in the right and they remain morally superior.

Hislop would normally love to pick up such contradictory behaviour, but this one is text book Daily Mail and the point was incredibly badly made by a Tory. Hislop, Merton and Baker couldn’t be seen to be on side with a rambling Tory and ridiculing a ‘popular’ Left wing movement, opposing the bankers and Coalition. But I’m sure one of them would have slipped in the Starbucks line had it panned out differently and everyone would have loved it…

Not sure what the Leftists on the internet would think though, they wouldn’t have been so quick to tweet their derision. They’re happy to gloss over their contradictions when they’re on the front foot against a bumbling Tory; very much like their current opposition to the coalition, happy to overlook their failings in government over 13 years that has lead us to this situation.

The confusion on the programme was clear, Louise Mensch saying being anti-capitalist you shouldn’t enjoy any of its benefits while campaigning against it and Hislop saying you can buy a coffee and still protest against banks, corporate greed, etc. But they want so much more than that, more fundamental than just wanting to stop cuts and make bankers cough up, and Mensch was just all over the place.

The global movement has gained some support and of course the anti-cuts protests already have massive support in this country, and more so the action against banking and corporate greed. But I doubt there’s much popular support for communism or anarchism, particularly in the US. People want a fairer system and representation but I don’t believe they want a true revolution. What exactly would that involve? (Historically speaking, armed conflict)

I don’t think people really understand what they want and that includes many involved in the movement. What kind of system do they actually see being created? One where everyone will have smart phones and there are still companies (or collectives?) producing them in abundance…?

We’d all love to see the plan…

If they wanted some clear effective action then shouldn’t they boycott Starbucks and other such companies? They might actually hurt the system that way. If a worker’s main power is (or was) to remove their Labour, then so to a consumer’s most significant power is their choice of consumption. At least it would be have greater symbolism, surely the Left place some significance on such action…

UKUncut are all about boycotting and picketing companies ‘guilty’ of the legal activity of tax avoidance. Topman, Vodafone, Boots and God knows many more, they’re all at it and all have them have been caused tremendous inconvenience by hordes of UKUncut and anti-cuts activists.


And in

It seems to have quietened down recently, maybe building up for further action, such as Occupy or combining with the strikes in November.

But maybe they realised they could no longer buy anything (and live without feeding the capitalist pigs..!) because all these c**ts are screwing over their tax, off-shoring their activities and where would one shop if one stuck religiously to your ideals…?

I imagine Starbucks must be alright with their tax (?), though judging by the Guardian example that can’t be certain, they like the coffee just as they like the media support…

They certainly couldn’t boycott Apple. Where would a revolution be without iPhones, iPads and all the other smart devices on the capitalist market? Along with the social media on the internet, they’ve revolutionised revolutionary movements and the organisation of protests. Although guns and/or military backing still seem to be the main difference with a successful revolution.

Throughout this (points 2 and 7) and previous action the participants and advocates have tried to claim solidarity with protests and revolutionary movements around the world, many of which have used social media, but many more that have guns as actual concern, whether it be using them or facing them.

The Occupy movement claim ‘We are the 99%’ and of course right wing commentators have mocked them for this and to be honest it’s quite fair. They are claiming to represent 99% of the population that suffer because 1% control the majority of the wealth and resources.

But they don’t represent all of the 99%, not even a fraction of it. They are just part of the 99%, but that’s not as snappy. There’s no point in even dissecting all of the groups they clearly do not represent in this nation alone, but with a core of anti-capitalism and revolutionary beliefs they are far from representing the majority of the world’s people, across a vast array of cultures and beliefs.

Even in America (where the slogan originated), with an underlying right wing or conservative sensibilities, does the Occupy Wall Street movement really represent 99% (or should the percentage be adjusted nationally for the number included in the 1% of the world’s population? It gets complicated…)?

This article suggests a majority of Americans supports Occupy Wall Street -

But what change would this huge and diverse number of people want?

The 99% are a lot of people wanting a lot of different things and most do not see the overthrow of the ‘system’ as a solution. Reform, yes and overthrow of particular governments, that’s a different subject.

When the student and anti-cuts happened there was a commonplace comparison with the uprising of the Arab spring, as mentioned above with Laurie Penny.

Gets me everytime…

But what does the occupy movement really have in common with the Arab people of North Africa and the Middle East? They have been trying to overthrow dictators and genuine oppression.

Do these people have similar ideas on freedom and do they want the same outcomes as the Occupy movements? The new rulers of Libya have recently declared that they will use the Sharia code as a basis for their law, not quite what the protesters have in mind…

As I have mentioned before a lot of the Arab political movements that ended in Dictatorships have had ‘Socialist’ principles, including Gaddafi, and Hugo Chavez, a hero of the world’s Left says Gaddafi was a martyr..! So where does the solidarity with the Libyans lie?

Do they really have much in common with the protests in Greece? There are a lot of Left wing revolutionaries there and there is action opposed to austerity, but the Greeks lived far beyond their means and too great a proportion of the population have problems with paying their taxes, so again where is the solidarity?

How about in Eastern Europe where they spent years trying to rid themselves of tyrannical Socialist governments? Now I know this lot will be professing inclusion and fairness, not the kind of centralist authoritarian governments that Eastern Europe endured but many of them do want socialism/communism. I’m not sure how that sits with those that lived in under these regimes and fought so hard against them.

Apparently Lech Walesa, the Polish solidarity hero, changed his mind about visiting Occupy Wall Street, due to the underlying influences from anti-capitalists and the hard Left.

So many of the current activists are too young to remember what happened, but don’t they research their history?

However much the current system is reformed, how will the new system work? In the globalised economy nothing works in isolation, either in a system of taxing the rich or pure communism, do they see it working in isolation? Like North Korea or Cuba (blockades and sanctions aside…)? Or like the USSR and its allies (obviously a much bigger scale)?

The Left often use the examples of much smaller countries that have successful higher tax economies (e.g. Scandinavia), but a vital difference is the population size, as well as cultural differences.

If the protesters had a proposition for some sort of global agreement on higher tax (or just equal tax levels) it might at least provide clarity. Getting agreement on it would be another thing, but a clear proposal would be a start (demanding an end to 'global tax injustice' is not the same thing).
Certainly the idea of eliminating tax havens was proposed from an early stage after the 2008 financial crisis and it did seem to have widespread support, at the G20 summit in the April 2009 for instance. However, I’m not sure how much effective action was taken, despite every UK Uncut have had to say on the matter, as this article suggests - G20 has failed to crack down on tax havens

A higher tax world economy would of course effectively be a socialist revolution. Some of the activists clearly want a world revolution of sorts, many will indeed claim to be Trotskyists and maybe some of them believe it could happen. But they must envisage stern opposition surely?

Really when you look at it closely all you’re left with is a lot of questions and if they were asked you’d more than likely get a lot of very different answers.

On a recent Newsnight programme ‘film maker’ and ‘writer’ Michael Moore compared the movement to the Suffragettes in terms of the attitude towards new movements and political concepts. But as Paxman pointed out the suffragettes had a clear and achievable goal, the Occupy movement has nothing of the sort.

People do want change and if there were some clear and considered ideas, then maybe there’d be more momentum. And it could enter the political arena and create change that way. I’m sure most of them would agree with the need for electoral reform (except maybe rabid ‘anarchists’), but following this years referendum on AV that has been set back years in some part because of the Labour party, the party that led us to the current state we’re in. The Left’s aims and objectives often differ greatly.

There needs to be economic change, though not necessarily of the nature the Occupy movement are suggesting, and maybe some change will stem from this action, it has a powerful voice when combined with its internet and media presence.
Protest movements often do cause change and pressure governments, though not quite the change that some would like. There have been comparisons with the political protests of the 1960s, particularly 1968 and how they caused political change.

The fact is in 1968 it was a different world, there were different circumstances and they had different goals.


But then whatever change occurred we still ended up in the current situation. It always settles back to the old routine…


You should learn from history (as the activists should about Eastern European socialism), but you need to understand circumstance and context, situations are rarely exactly the same. There are massive differences in the world today, already there is a huge amount of upheaval in the world economic system and the world’s powerbases and that should be the topic of my next post.

China and India are rising and while their poor populations still desire further change, the economic growth has already delivered for many. This has already affected and will further alter the West’s standard of living and it is not clear that these people want exactly the same things as the “99%” parked outside St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

The location of the camp might be adding further ambiguity to the message; they were unable to ‘occupy’ London Stock Exchange so they’re outside the nearby cathedral. So St. Paul’s closing their doors has become major news and there is no issue with the Church as an organisation, as far as anyone can tell.

But they’re always sending out mixed messages.

For example; Billy Bragg’s tweet on the 22nd October

"Now #occupyLSX have shown how easy it is, thousands of atheists will be buying tents today and camping outside their local CofE church" ???

'What the f**k are you on about Billy?!'