By Tom Williams who blogs here
It was quickly getting dark as I arrived at the Occupy London Stock Exchange (Occupy LSX) camp on Monday night. The tall, imposing St Paul’s Cathedral loomed over the small rows of mismatched hastily assembled tents that were currently being besieged by a strong wind, their guy-ropes were looped around drain covers and straining in the gusts. Overhead the great dome that escaped some of the most deadly bombs mankind has ever known sat in the night’s sky with uncontested grandeur. The white stone pillars of the front façade of the Cathedral rose high in to the blackening skyline, underneath groups of people sat, huddled on the steps waiting for another general assembly to start. Eventually someone made their way to the front of the crowd, “It’s Monday night and we’re still here” they shouted in to the microphone, “that’s amazing” they added amidst the cheers.
Occupy LSX has become a working village since its chaotic inception on Saturday afternoon. A row of bins neatly labelled for recycling, composting and general waste sat lined up with a nearby crew of cycling binmen with bags balanced on the frames of their bikes ready to transport the rubbish away. Elsewhere an organised team head up the kitchen complete with an erratically tempered chef, and a sagging tarpaulin protects those furiously typing on laptops in the media tent.
As has been well documented, the occupiers are a diverse lot with contrasting ideological opinions and reasons for being camped out in the autumnal elements. What unites them however is that they are part of the majority that loses out to a system built to favour the few over the many. The global reach of the “we are the 99%” message has galvanised support in the most unlikely places from Japan to South Africa. Let us not forget that Wall Street, the place where this all began, is perhaps the most unlikely place where you would find dissent against the capitalist system. Since occupiers first converged on Wall Street now over a month ago, the UK has seen unemployment rates reach the highest levels for seventeen years with young people being hit the hardest, growth forecasts slashed and inflationary rises in the cost of living. Reasons to be cheerful are almost as scarce as solutions to the problems with the government sticking to their chosen programme of deep cuts and no investment, a programme which this week, the New York Times labelled “self inflicted misery”.
The Occupy movement has stepped in to the void left by official opposition parties who are too weak or discredited to stand against the fiscal austerity doctrine. There is a touch of the “Ya Basta” or “Enough of this” sentiment, a refusal to accept the government’s chosen path. But there is also a willingness to build something new. An occupation should always stand against something it wishes to change but also be a representation of a future way of living, a tiny slice of utopia camped out on the pavement. Many have scoffed at the ability of the occupy movement to change anything. However these are the same people who told Polly Toynbee that protestors driven on to the streets by a lack of jobs and opportunities should “start working” as if it was as simple as that. This is how out of touch the right is. They will not notice as an alternative to their capitalist greed is built quite literally right under their noses in Wall Street, the London Stock Exchange and worldwide.