“This isn’t a recession, it’s a robbery.”
A placard at the Occupy London Stock Exchange protest on Saturday read: “This isn’t a recession, it’s a robbery.” It’s that feeling of being mugged and beaten by the banks, corporations and politicians that inspired hundreds of thousands of people around the world to join the Occupy Everywhere movement this weekend.
The occupation movement is just the latest expression of anger by people no longer prepared to pay the price of capitalist crisis.
The weekend’s protests were inspired by Occupy Wall Street which was inspired by the indignant movements against austerity in Spain and Greece – themselves partly inspired by the Arab uprisings. Across the globe people are fighting back against the corrupt corporate and political classes and the austerity and pain they are imposing on us to pay for their crisis.
In Britain, since the beginning of the crisis in 2008 we’ve already seen worker occupations against closures and job cuts, street protests, a militant student protest and occupation movement, urban riots, the emergence of the UK Uncut tax justice group, angry town hall anti-cuts protests, public sector strike action and one of the biggest trade union protests in British history.
The depth of the crisis is reflected in the breadth of protesters gathered at the foot of the steps to St Pauls over the weekend. Seasoned activists, Anonymous hackers and trade unionists mixed with many first time protesters. The overwhelming impression from amongst the mass of occupiers was a mix of anger, fear and confusion. There is confusion about what we can do and even why we are there: like the protester who told a socialist activist that he didn’t come to occupy London Stock Exchange to be involved in politics. But the angry, the frightened and the confused are united by the belief that growing inequality and economic injustice cannot continue.
Matt Vidal, 38, a lecturer in sociology at Kings College, was preparing to spend Saturday night camped outside St Pauls with hundreds of other protesters. He said:
“It’s time for us to stand up and take a stand against the growing inequality and financialisation of the economy and the state continuing to support the banks and not support the people.
As a trade union activist Matt said he is preparing for public sector strike action next month:
“I’d prefer it if we didn’t have to strike but the people in power are continuing to run the society for bankers and rich people and not for the working people.”
Ash, a qualified doctor and PHD student was motivated by the government’s plans to “destroy” the NHS:
“At a recent meeting [of health workers] the feeling in the air moved from dissatisfaction to increasing militancy. Medical staff and nursing staff are talking about civil disobedience.”
“I don’t have any answers; all I know is that it cannot continue.”
Nathan, a 22 year-old support worker and first time protester said:
“The banks have got so much money, the divide between rich and poor is getting bigger and bigger, and the cost of living is going through the roof. It’s just not fair, is it. So I came here; it’s power in numbers.”
Nathan said he lives with his Mother and neither of them ever have any spare cash after paying for rent, bills and food.
“It’s just horrendous really, the way things are going. But it seems like now people are starting to wake up to what’s been going on. I do have faith that big things are coming, things are gonna change.”
Nathan’s friend Carl, a 39 year-old, warehouse worker, was also on his first protest. He said:
“Ordinary people are definitely starting to fight back. For me it’s about corporate greed. People are suffering, we’ve bailed out the banks and we’re not getting anything back.”
“What we need is to get more of the common people here. Maybe we need the trade unions involved, who represent the common worker.”
A constant refrain on the ground is “we have to do something”. But many people are unsure what it is we have to do. And many of the people now camped outside St Pauls realise this action alone doesn’t begin to really challenge the power of the ruling elite.
Whilst the global occupy movement is important and inspiring in many ways, it will take much more to even begin to turn the tide on the inequality and austerity destroying people’s lives. So it is important that trade unionists have been involved with the London protest, agitating for support for public sector strikes on November 30th. Because those strikes over pension reform have the potential to be a lightening rod for anger at all the effects of the crisis. And a politicised trade union struggle supported by the wider movement has the potential to defeat this government and show the collective power of ordinary people to fight back.Tagged in: Occupy London Stock Exchange, Occupy Wall Street, protest, St Pauls
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