Tag Archive: bank


We’ve Occupied – Now Try Revolution

This article is a contribution from an activist in Occupy Dame Street in Dublin. The opinions reflect his and other people’s experiences and how they see and understand what is happening within Occupy Dame Street.

This article first appeared in Socialist Voice, Communist Party of Ireland (CPI) publication. November 2011
ON 9 October 2011 a group of people pitched tents
on the plaza outside the Central Bank in Dame Street and began a protest against Irish and international finance. Inspired in part by events in New York, as well as the M15 movement in Spain, the Occupy Dame Street protest has become not only a physical stand against bank bail-outs but also an exercise in participatory democracy.

And it is the latter, rather than the former, that has so far managed to hold the disparate group together. The almost  complete lack of democratic engagement by the state with its citizens in relation to the banking crisis is the issue that gives the action coherence.

From the start, Occupy Dame Street adopted a “no banners” approach. This is in tandem with similar calls made by the M15 movement and by Occupy Wall Street. The move has been called counterproductive, short-sighted, and naive, and the criticisms are not without justification. Yet the decision to ban overt political and trade union connections at the Dame Street protest has less to do with a rejection of ideology and more to do with the realisation among the participants that the Socialist Workers’ Party is aggressively pushing to take over the occupation—and is using the call for
trade union banners as its Trojan horse.
 
Bizarrely, the SWP has openly admitted to participants that this is its objective. Whereas other political and trade union groups have respected the “no banners” approach—including the Socialist Party, People Before Profit, Workers’ Solidarity Movement, Unite, the Dublin Council of Trade Unions, and the Communist Party of Ireland— the SWP remains committed to infiltrationism. Until that issue is resolved, the distrust of left-wing political groupings will remain.
 
Unfortunately, the ban has left the Dame Street camp exposed to the ideas and conceptual frameworks of conspiracy theorists, who have descended on the camp like locusts. It is not uncommon to hear at ODS that the world is run by Jews and the Bilderberg Group, that fluoride is a mind-control drug, and that 9/11 was conducted by the American government itself. During the first week of the occupation I was informed by a gentleman that Barack Obama was kidnapped from the Kenyan jungle by the Bilderberg Group when he was four, who then raised him to be president of the United States. In the spirit of the premise that it is pointless to argue with a madman, I patted him on the shoulder and quickly walked away.
 
More recently, a group of conspiracy theorists tried to hijack an open assembly. These are held twice daily and are open discussion forums. The pressures facing the camp extend beyond the weather and logistics.Occupy Dame Street is best described as social-democratic in outlook and orientation. There is a istinct lack of class analysis, for example; and a core belief is that the problems facing Ireland have come about through the actions of individuals or politicians rather as a result of the dynamics of the economic and political system itself. The phrase “We are the 99 per cent” is a reflection of this, with the implication that a small group of greedy bankers and financiers are the root cause.
 
This is changing as the occupation progresses, with more focus and debate on the economics of  banking and speculation in Ireland, and the role of the IFSC as a pivot point in international finance. For now, though, class remains a taboo topic at the camp—that is, the idea of class as a power relation. When class is discussed it is usually portrayed as an affliction of the working class and the poor. The view of Ireland’s middle class at ODC is one that sees the middle class as benign participants in Ireland’s class system—not surprising, as the majority of the participants at ODC are middle-class themselves.
 
In general, the Occupy Dame Street camp is a positive development. It may be social-democratic, but such is the paucity of democratic engagement in Ireland that even such a stance has radical undertones. Long may it continue.

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From Socialist Fight. January 2012
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 univer-sity’ at St Paul’s. They even have a regular newspaper, ‘The Oc-cupy 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 protest-ers 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, sani-tising 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 pro-motes 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 for-mer 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 protest-ers are facing the same challenges and are fight-ing 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 some-thing to say on the matter in “Thälmann and the ‘People’s Revolution’”

Now the new turn: the people’s revolution in-stead of the proletarian revolution. The fascist Strasser *leader of the ‘left’ Nazis+ says 95 per-cent of the people are interested in the revolution, consequently it is not a class revolution but a people’s revolution. Thälmann *German Stalin-ist 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 move-ment. 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 how-ever, and which seems to be sneak-ing 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 insult-ing 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 exempli-fied 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 them-selves 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 de-fend your right to say it’ is defiantly in play here. These are on the whole nice people with good intentions, 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 defi-nitely 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.