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Friday, 28 October 2011

At Occupy London LSX

I managed to spend a couple of hours at St Paul’s, London last week visiting the #occupylsx camp that’s rocked up there.

Most of the occupiers are young, perhaps early 20s. Whilst there a call went around requesting help from anyone on site able to argue the case for economic reform with a visiting banker.

A crowd of occupiers listened politely to what the banker had to say. From time-to-time he was interrupted, not least by me, (to my liking he was listened to far too respectfully ) but the occupiers tossed perfectly reasonable arguments back in his direction.

‘The reason we’re all in so much debt is because governments – in particular the last Labour government - allowed banks to lend so much money.’ said the banker.

This struck me as a novel take on the coalition government’s austerity propaganda. The argument that asserts austerity is a consequence of profligate public spending in the past and not merely a conservative rendition of the same policy of neoliberalism but with slightly less public investment. Here the banker appeared to be claiming that the previous Labour government had somehow forced the banks to lend irresponsibly, against their wishes.

I asked the banker if he did not see any correlation between the rise in debt and the suppression of wages during the last 30 years. I might as well have been clicking and clacking like a dung beetle, so alien did the proposition appear to him.

A woman clutching a baby interjected with the perfectly reasonable argument that an economy ought to work towards human ends, meet human needs etc.

Responding the banker implied that she was ‘foolish’ to think the coat she wore, the shoes she stood in or the food she ate could exist without the largesse of banks. At a stroke he illustrated perfectly how far the bourgeois can become alienated from its humanity. How the capitalist, who benefits most from capitalism, is himself, enslaved to it.

The occupation’s achievement is worth many times that of the absent politicians who ought to be championing its cause (John McDonnell MP and a few others have tabled a Early Day Motion inParliament expressing solidarity with the occupiers). Although Lord Glasman, the Blue Labourite has recently found common cause withthe occupiers over the issue of the Corporation of London.

Whilst on site, I made a donation. I would have dragged bottles of butane (something the camp has been short on) or a truckload of wooden pallets (a secure base on which to site a tent in a windy public plaza). Instead I gave some money.  I hope they stay as long as they can and when I’m in London I will make sure I spend more time there.

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