On Monday bankers and financiers working in London's financial district must have had a rude awakening. To 'greet' them on their way to work is a square filled with protestors ready to spell out for them what they think of the current system with a powerful banner "capitalism is crises".
Over the week end people across the world took the streets to demand global change.The occupy movements are breathing fresh air into stale union politics and local campaigns, subverting hierarchies and creating spaces where everyone is welcome.
In London the focus of the uprising has been St. Paul's Square ( a deviation on the initial plan). The protestors, praised for their peacefulness, represent through their permanent presence the most damming critique of a financial and political system based on disparity. Through their leaderless, consensus-based assemblies, to the communal organisation of the various food, media and medical services organised at the occupation, Occupy London embodies yet another great example of participative democracy.
Despite the movement's many successes, some have begun to wonder if it will be able to transform itself into something more than a symbolic manifestation of popular discontent. Will Occupy London ,and by extension its international counterparts, stay mere examples or will they become concrete agents for social change?
Anyone who spends time at the camp in St. Paul's is immediately captured by its spirit and feels a sense of ownership towards the space. Commentators have been increasingly astonished by the high levels of organisation, cleanliness and diligence in the camp. Whilst a more structured organisation is still underway, the camp at St Paul's already boasts: a library (star.books), kitchen , hectic media tent and a donations corner. In the mean time different working groups are constantly set up and several live performances are being lined up for the coming weeks.
The atmosphere in the square is calm and relaxed, perhaps too relaxed critics have argued. Whilst there is widespread consensus regarding the refusal of violence, some question the potential of the movement to succeed without it being disruptive.
As a matter of fact the Occupy movement , which has hit first the US and now Europe by storm, bases itself upon the successes of the Arab Spring and its memorable epicentre: Tahrir Square. Whilst the root causes of these uprisings share resemblances, it is also important to bear in mind that the socio political circumstances of the Egyptian uprising were in fact quite different to those in Europe and the US.
Under a repressive dictatorial regime , such as that of Hosni Mubarak, the mere act of assembling in a public space to air opinions , was a highly subversive act. Thus from their very first appearances, the peaceful protestors, had to confront an array of repressive tactics. In this instance the simple persistence of a collective presence succeeded in exposing the grave social, economic and political injustices ongoing in Egypt. Forced by mounting international pressure Mubarak resigned, marking the first step towards a new Egypt and new Middle East.
The occupations of Puerta del Sol in Madrid and its US counterparts, have been highly successful in gathering public support. But will the mere existence of the camps create the change protestors are rallying for? If the people don't put pressure themselves, the financial and political elites will not spontaneously surrender their power.
On the other hand as intelligently put by Naomi Klein in her speech, choosing a permanent target where the movement can base itself and establish its roots is of great value. What has been created are permanent spaces, in which sharing our most valuable weapons: ideas, which in the lack of a defined overarching ideology are free to move.
The struggle in which these movements are embarking is colossal and won't be won over by the usual suspects alone( trade unionists, students and Trots). In this respect, the occupy movements have been incredibly successful in appealing to anyone, who has an alternative view on the current system.
What is currently happening is the creation of a completely new protest model. But building something anew is no easy task . What is happening in St Paul's ,and many other cities across the world, is not an end goal, nor a decisive moment within the development of the movement, they are just the start. Like every beginning, it's exciting, confusing and inherently incoherent.
At this moment it is impossible to outline how the spirit of the 15th of October will develop and evolve. The movement might escalate, dissolve or betray its mission and fall into the same structures it criticises. The only certainty we are given is that now there are two plans to confront the crises. The first is the one we all know only too well: social cut backs, austerity and increasing inequality. The other is a gamble, with a the hope for something new at its heart, something real, something that belongs to the people.
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