Two views of the Occupy London camps

Submitted by Matthew on 2 November, 2011 - 7:32

Luke Atterton has been taking part in the camp at Finsbury Square and has just joined the AWL.

On Monday night there was a discussion at the St Paul’s assembly — around 200 people — about where the movement is going politically.

We split into smaller groups to facilitate discussion, and most people in my group were sympathetic to socialism and class politics, not just general ideas but also demands like linking up with trade unions.

Partly that was because there was an active socialist in my group, making the arguments. In general things are still quite unformed politically. A lot of people are not really anti-capitalist, more social democratic but without a clear idea about who will carry out their demands. Some people understand what’s going on in terms of corruption, not the basic drives of the system.

There are some anarchists and a few Stalinists around the edges. Then you’ve got wackier people like the Venus Project and Zeitgeist, and New Age religious types.

In terms of genuine socialists, I think our impact has been pretty limited — despite some good initiatives, like the AWL doing the “bread trick”. I keep plugging away! One of the problems is that people react badly to the word “socialism”. Even people who are sympathetic to your arguments recoil when they hear the word.

So far there haven’t been any amendments to or direct debate about the nine point programme agreed at the start. It’s been said there will be, but who knows when. The process here moves very slowly — every day there are newcomers, which is great, but it means you re-cover a lot of ground.

So far, believe it or not, there’s not much discussion about what to do if we are evicted. The threat hasn’t sunk in yet. No doubt it will as the deadlines get closer.

D is a London Underground worker, based in the City of London.

I’ve regularly attended the camp throughout the day and most evenings. I’ve enjoyed sitting down and chatting. I felt inspired being there. The more I attended, the more I wanted to go back.

The first day at the camp, the protesters appeared disorganised but that soon changed. They had a kitchen area, a donation area, a first aid tent, and were even keeping on top of all the rubbish build-up and recycling their papers and plastics. Throughout the day they invited speakers down, organised debates and discussions and even educational sessions. It was a fantastic atmosphere — everyone sharing, and helping each other. It truly lifted my spirits being there.

I’ve seen mixed reactions from colleagues at work and the public in general. Some believe that the protesters are just causing a nuisance and shouldn't even be there, that they are obstructing the cathedral. Many people I’ve spoken to say they find politics “boring”.

I thought that once, but I’ve found that a subject that’s perceived as “boring” is often due to the fact that it’s not fully understood. When something doesn’t make sense people have the tendency to switch off. I genuinely believe that if that is the case, people should take the time to try and develop their knowledge further. Knowledge is, after all, the greatest weapon.

The demonstrators want people who are unaware of their cause to take the time to stop and talk. Ignorance is nothing to be proud of. Politics does matter and people should be open-minded about the world in which we live.

There have also been many others like me who are sympathetic to the cause, and are happy to pop by after work, donating food and blankets.

The occupations highlight the greed and corruption among the elite, and expose the fact that workers across the world are being exploited and are having to pay for the crisis with attacks taking place across the public and private sectors. Jobs, pensions, NHS cuts, education, pay freezes... the list goes on. This is what workers are fighting every single day.

The occupation gives us an opportunity to explain to people that there is an alternative, and that the attacks we’re facing aren’t about “the deficit Labour left us”, but the Tory ideology of the Coalition government.

I believe there needs to be a bigger presence of unions. Some individual union members have attended off their own bat, which is fantastic, but it needs more. The unions showed practical solidarity with Occupy Wall Street and that’s exactly what needs to happen here.

Continued support is absolutely vital, and essential for building the occupation and spurring the protesters to keep fighting and standing strong.

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