Around 3,000 protestors gathered in front of St Paul’s Cathedral in London on Saturday 15 October as part of the global “Occupy” day of action against the global attempt by the capitalist class to make ordinary people pay for the financial crisis.
For updates: http://twitter.com/#!/OccupyLSX
The original intention had been to occupy Paternoster Square, but that had been blocked off by police. So the crowd, after some to-ing and fro-ing, the crowd went to sit on the steps of the Cathedral to discuss what to do. While the police formed lines over the road, stopping traffic, controlling access to the square, and blocking a lot of extra people who wanted to join the crowd outside St Paul's, and a section of the march had a face-off with them, the majority of the protestors took part in an assembly on the steps.
As of 6pm Saturday 15th, people were trying to establish a "camp", or "tent city", by sitting down in the area in front of the Cathedral.
The assembly split up into five groups, all of whom would discuss and then report back to the plenary session. This means of decision making was clunky, diffuse, inefficient and took some time to get going: but it allowed for a high level of participation and a feeling of collective involvement – at least, for those protestors who could hear what was going on through the faulty PA system (not us). The weak electrical PA was supplemented by nearby people repeating the words of the speakers as they spoke, a strange method that made it sound like people were speaking through a giant but inarticulate interpreter.
The politics of the rally, which is still going on at the time of writing, were varied. The crowd was largely young, people in their twenties, with a fair-sized minority of seasoned political activists of different sorts - Trotskyists, lefties, climate camp and direct action types and some organised anarchists.
The majority of the crowd appeared to be made up of students and unemployed graduates who previously had not been engaged in politics. There were a large number of young Spanish people in attendance. There was little of the hostility to "all politics, right or left" which some people have reported from the Spanish indignados movement: Solidarity sold moderately well, and people were happy to take our leaflets.
The “official” politics of the Occupy movement, and the “official” slogans, are vague. Slogans like “we are the 99%” dominated, as did a vague sense that the system had let people down, gambled with their money, and so on. Speakers gave vague criticisms of capitalist excess, and especially of the banks – one speaker put it straightforwardly, saying that the problem boiled down to the world’s central banks and if they were got rid of the problem would disappear. Another speaker suggested going off the gold standard (!). Others argued that the wealth of society should somehow be put under democratic control. The picture was very mixed. There was no visible trade union involvement – unlike in the States, where attempts to reach out to the labour movement have born fruit.
But overall the demonstration was a show of rage against the injustices of capitalism by new layers of people becoming active. It would be wrong to be snooty about a protest movement because all of its members are not fully worked-out Marxists. You would have to wait a long time to see a perfectly-Marxist movement arise!
The global movement of occupations is a show of anger at what the capitalist classes of the world are doing, and it is a search for answers and means of fighting back. There is a need for this movement to link up with the global labour movement, and develop clearer ideas about how to put the economic resources of the world under the democratic control of the majority; and there is a need to ditch simplistic banker–conspiracy ideas. But the movement needs support.
Whether the occupation in the UK will reach a critical mass and be able to hang on, or whether it will disappear today but come back later in another form, or how it will develop – these things remain to be seen, and will be decided by the actions of activists in the next hours and days. Workers' Liberty and Solidarity will carry updates as the situation unfolds.