In an attempt to copy our brethren from New York, a collective of people from across the UK attended a rally in London yesterday under the tag of “Occupy the London Stock Exchange”. This was supposed to be in response to the anger at the fact that Banks were bailed out a few years ago and that, since then, bankers have been rewarded with bonuses for making significant profits. Additionally reference has been made to the general point over corporate greed, cuts, austerity measures, unity of people, moving away from capitalism, the oppressed masses etc etc. In fact it is not entirely clear exactly what the unifying objective was of this protest, other than the fact that its an opportunity for people to try and play a part in history, convince themselves that they are doing something important, and be concerned when the police stop them from trespassing on private property.
To cap all of this, the demonstration was attended by Julian Assange, someone with confused motives, and who seemed to have a great proportion of the crowd in the palm of his hand at one point – without question pandering to the ego of this famed narcissist.
Given that the Stock Exchange (LSE) was not bailed out, or for that matter responsible for the negligent lending of money to sub-prime clients( i.e. ordinary people who tried to borrow more, and therefore own more, than they could afford – greed on a mass scale by the working people) and the dangerous commoditisation of this toxic debt, then I’m not quite sure why they chose this target. I don’t doubt that there will be some generalised rhetoric about corporate profiteering, and “fat cats” which highlights more, their lack of understanding of the real world, than some incisive knowledge about the way forwards. A more obvious protest would have been “Occupy the Bank of England” although that may have looked too much like the G20 protests of a few years ago.
The demographics of the hard core population of this group are very familiar, and compare closely with the Democracy Village of 2010, and its clear why they can commit to staying in the camp until things have changed. I always wonder whether this belies their true objective, or whether they recognise that 99% of the people of this country have a strong work ethic and want to work hard for themselves, their family and the comminity, and pay their way through the tax system for the elements of the public services that they benefit from.
A tweet this morning proudly states. “@OccupyLSX: Its official we’re occupying st pauls! The vicar has given his blessing and asked the police to move #occupylsx #occupylondon ” – is this a different movement that recognises that the Church is a corrupt institution or just a convenient alternative which offers no resistance – #OccupySPC?
Another one politically states : “#occupylsx #occupylondon don’t give banks/corporates your business! join @CooperativesUK et al movements – take consumer power elsewhere” – throw away your iphones, blackberrys, don’t use Facebook which is funding the immensely rich Mark Zuckerberg, or Twitter…or for that matter, Starbucks which seemed to be doing a roaring trade yesterday. Quite where the consumer power is going to consume itself is not clear.
A protestor was on Sky News and pointed out that they don’t have a leader, as all leaders are corrupt. It is possible to make collective decisions when sitting cross-legged, and waving hands, when there are a few of you, however once the numbers get above those consistent with a camp-site, then other structures are necessary. His point has an interesting resonance which is that, no matter who it is, and whatever class they are, when people have money, or power then they will exploit it – even the leader of a small camp. Whilst this is a fundamental part of human nature – do want to live in a world that does not exceed a stone-age encampment for fear of leadership corruption or do we take the risk that the system is for the ultimate benefit of the 99.99999% of people.
On this occasion, this protest will not make a jot of difference as the cause is too aimless, is not supported by a broader demographic, and those that are participating are not influential – most will see them as being naive. The only person, and comment, that had any sense of reality and which could be capable of being implemented was from Peter Tatchell with his sign “Tobin Tax of 0.05% on transactions raises £100+ billion a year! Don’t cut tax!”. That will make a real difference to people, and that’s what people should be demanding. #Tobintax