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Neil Faulkner

Defend the Camp: Defy the ban

(27 October 2011)

Published online by Counterfire, 27 October 2011.
Copied with thanks from the Counterfire Website.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Britain’s rulers and their media have made a fine spectacle of their stupidity in response to the Occupy London campsite. You really couldn’t have made it up, Neil Faulkner explains.

St Pauls camp

Apparently, media hacks have been taking pictures of the campsite at night using thermal imaging equipment and then proclaiming the news sensation that 90% of the tents are unoccupied.

Thermal imaging equipment is technology otherwise used by the police and the army to spy on people. And it turns out the hacks have not been using the right camera settings. As a military scientist has explained, ‘They cannot make the assumption that they have made from those images. The way they are set up, you wouldn’t be able to tell if there’s anyone in the tent or not, especially if someone is sleeping in an insulated sleeping-bag.’

But so what anyway? So what if the campsite includes protesters who come and go? That’s a good thing, isn’t it? Doesn’t that mean it represents a real cross-section, including students, workers, and parents, people who have other lives that carry on, even as they make a massive additional commitment to support the protest and be there whenever they can?

And of course, the sort of people who are banging on about empty tents are also the ones who accuse protestors of being layabouts, benefit-scroungers, serial ‘troublemakers’, and so on. Such inconsistency is utterly predictable. It is always the same.

The political right never engages with the issues – because they cannot answer the arguments – so they spit out any old bile they can at people with the temerity to fight back.

Before getting to St Paul’s Cathedral, the epicentre of the ideological ‘counter-attack’, I must mention in passing noises off by sundry Tory buffoons and dumb-wits. Specifically, Boris Johnson and Louise Mensch.

The dumb-wit first. For reasons best known to its producer, Have I Got News For You invited Tory MP Louise Mensch to partner Ian Hislop on the show this week. Mensch had presumably been told that the programme is political satire. That’s S, A, T, I, R, E – SATIRE. Like it’s meant to be funny. Not too serious. Full of jokes.

Mensch never got it. Instead, she kept asking why, if the protesters hated capitalism so much, they bought coffees from Starbucks. And she wasn’t trying to crack a joke. Not as far as I could tell. She didn’t come up with a joke all evening. This was her argument against anti-capitalist protest. The argument. The only one she had.

I have heard this argument a thousand times. The logic is simple. If you buy a coffee – or, presumably, a packet of biscuits, or a pair of knickers, or a copy of Das Kapital, or a tent so that you can Occupy London, or any of the other millions of commodities created by the labour of the international working class – you are a bloody sell-out. QED: all protest against the system is a fraud unless you live in Eeyore’s house and eat acorns in the Hundred Acre Wood.

From dumb-wit to buffoon. Johnson is one of a string of Tories who have set themselves up as unofficial advisors to the protest movement. Apparently, the protesters have made their point, and now it is time for them to move on. Thank you for letting us know. Presumably your consultancy fee is now due.

A City of London spokesperson explains why it is ‘now time to move on’: ‘The City’s not a campsite … It’s the issue around camping that’s the problem. It blocks, it snarls up, it makes it difficult for everybody to go about their normal business.’

What ‘normal business’ would that be exactly? It couldn’t be the business of financial speculation, mega-salaries, and million-pound bonuses at taxpayer expense by any chance, could it?

But the best entertainment has been provided by St Paul’s. Not least among the achievements of the Occupy London protestors has been to split the Anglican Church (again). Warm and sincere congratulations are due to Giles Fraser, canon chancellor of St Paul’s, who first moved the police off the cathedral steps telling them their ‘protection’ was not required, and is now reported saying that he will resign if force is used against the campsite.

If Giles Fraser represents the People’s Church, Graeme Knowles, the dean of St Paul’s, represents the Bankers’ Church. He appears to have been the principal author of the cathedral closure stunt – a pathetic and abortive attempt to induce the protestors to leave by moral blackmail. It was justified by lies. Like the one about the fire hazard. We know it was a lie because the London Fire Brigade has denied advising St Paul’s to close for safety reasons. And they should know. Being experts in fire hazards. (One hopes.)

Lying is usually considered a sin. Maybe God makes an exception here. He so often does in the interests of finance capital. No doubt some of Graeme Knowles’s advisors felt that He should in this case – people like David Rouch of City law firm Freshfields, Roger Gifford of the Association of Foreign Banks, Carol Sergeant of Lloyds Banking Group, and John Spence, also formerly of Lloyds. After all, God has His own investments to keep an eye on, His church of St Paul’s having multi-million-pound holdings in HSBC, Standard Chartered, Barclays, Prudential, Lloyds Banking Group, and Northern Trust. (God is not least among those grateful for banker’s bailouts.)

Our rulers have been rattled by the Occupy London protest. Everyone involved deserves the admiration and support of the entire anti-cuts movement. We should all get down there the instant there is any threat to the campsite.

The students plan to march to the City on 9 November. The police want to ban it. The streets belong to the protesters and the people, not to the speculators and the rich. We should defy the ban, march on the City, and link up with the Occupy London protesters on the day.

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