We are pleased to publish an article by a reader of the blog based in Britain. We agree with most of the criticisms made of the Occupy movement in the piece, particularly those relating to its middle-class nature and the limitations this imposes upon it.
Occupy movements have sprung up all over the world attracting large swathes of society, and while we see homeless people, the unemployed, regular workers through to concerned clergy, hippies and even disaffected bankers affiliating themselves with this trend it is largely middle-class in character, at least in Britain and Ireland anyway.
We have posters reading ‘Reform Now!’ and projections telling us to ‘Occupy your mind!’. There is a strong bent towards education, with a library and ‘tent university’ at St Paul’s. They even have a regular newspaper, ‘The Occupy Times’. General assemblies are held: everyone with a right to speak, some on the left could learn here, and democratic votes are held to solidify positions. Anti-violence is key, as the protesters seem to be on the whole very media savvy and PR aware. But how dedicated are these protesters to the eradication of poverty? Is their cleverness and education of the right sort, and are they really the 99%?
This media-relations side to things is telling: the prevailing hope is that through being inoffensive they can convince an electorate of their position, which will in turn sway the government (their suggested vehicle for change) which will then start behaving itself properly. Little need be said about the fruitlessness of this liberal and reformist approach.
In Leeds however public relations took on a darker note, as when someone offered the Occupy Movement there a wood-burning heater, it was rejected for fear it would attract the homeless. Whilst we wish upon these people the most profound frost-bite, it is indicative of a certain mode of thought. In some ways these protests are analogous with the punk movement, once the middle-class discovers something they begin to believe they invented it and then quickly set about cleaning it up, sanitising it into New Wave. The roots of protest can be found in class conflict and the working-class have made it what it is today; a tool which promotes solidarity, a mechanism for raising class-consciousness and massive bloody megaphone. The middle-class may borrow use this, of course, but we still retain the accreditation.
So far so harmless, but danger lurks. When the middle-class claims to be the majority, watch out! Class consciousness is severely lacking in #Occupy: a person distributing a paper claims that we’re all working-class now, an inversion of the often bandied about New-Labourish idea that the working class no longer exists in this country, ‘we’re all middle-class now’. The former sentiment is born of bust times and the latter of boom, but both are unremittingly neglectful of vital social distinctions. A poster reads ‘Tarhir Square’, as though these protesters are facing the same challenges and are fighting the same fight as those brave Egyptians. The problem is that the squeezed middle does not face the same challenges as workers here and abroad, and whilst they are actively trying to avoid becoming working class, they arguably do not see the situation of working class people worldwide as unacceptable, but merely see that situation as unacceptable for themselves.
When they talk for us, they have their own interests to look out for, and we know all too well from the lessons of history how quickly and viciously the middle-class can swing to the right. Herein, for example, lay the roots of fascism. Low and behold, our man Trotsky has something to say on the matter in “Thälmann and the ‘People’s Revolution’” –
Now the new turn: the people’s revolution instead of the proletarian revolution. The fascist Strasser [leader of the ‘left’ Nazis] says 95 percent of the people are interested in the revolution, consequently it is not a class revolution but a people’s revolution. Thälmann [German Stalinist leader] sings in chorus. In reality, the worker-Communist should say to the fascist worker: of course, 95 percent of the population, if not 98 percent, is exploited by finance capital. But this exploitation is organized hierarchically.
He goes on to explain that the middle-class are what we might class sub-exploiters, or sub-subexploiters.
Events unfold, Otto Strasser was the ‘workers representative’ in the German fascist movement. His ‘left-wing’ faction, which included Joseph Goebbels, was in favour of strikes, nationalising the banks and industry, was not anti-Semitic, admired Stalin and wanted to ally with the Soviet Union. He was expelled from the NSDAP by Hitler in 1930, his brother Gregor was killed and his faction wiped out in the Night of the Long Knives in 1934. Hitler then became the undisputed party leader.
The subsequent demonization of the working-class and its organisations becomes entrenched, and minorities were scapegoated in the most staggering manner. (As a side note, there is practically nothing said in defence of Muslims against the ever-growing acceptability of Islamophobia by this movement, apparently it is not a key enough issue). What is evident however, and which seems to be sneaking into lefty news outlets, is this false notion of ‘the people’, Stalinist in tone and mis-educated in content. As any fool knows – we’re not all in the same boat, and it’s frankly insulting to suggest we are.
With such a broad range of ideas and opinions it becomes awkward to offer a critique of this trend as it manifests itself in these Isles, one minute someone suggests we ‘grow our own future’ and the next that a Rothschild lizard blew up the twin towers as a double-indemnity insurance scam. But the character of the thing as a whole is middle-class, probably the better part of this entity, perhaps exemplified by their sterling organisational skills. We cannot let them speak for us however, for not only does it rob the true majority of a voice, but also misrepresents our interests. Note that the Glasgow Occupiers have now declared themselves not anti-Capitalist at all and in Dublin members of the far right have been spotted acting as stewards.
Censorship should always be approached with utmost caution, because the old adage ‘I may not agree with what you’re saying, but I’ll defend your right to say it’ is defiantly in play here. These are on the whole nice people with good intensions, despite being ultimately clueless.
Maybe in this light it’s lucky that this movement is going nowhere quick, because occupying a park is hardly the strategy of the century, this thing is not Tiananmen Square, and it’s definitely no industrial strike action. In short I suggest that when a middle-class person from this movement invites you to occupy your own mind, nod and smile, suggest some reading material, but find something better to occupy yourself with instead.
Pic- Private-Eye, Oct 29, 2011.