Now that the deeply reactionary Corporation of the City of London have decided to uproot Occupy London, bang on cue with Mayor Bloomberg’s similar action in Zuccotti Park in New York and under the same specious pretext of health and safety, the question arises as to where Occupy goes from here. It has been dismissed as a movement without any discernible objectives, but its website (http://occupylsx.org) clearly expresses the agenda: the bankers’ crisis, cuts won’t end social and economic inequality, industry should be regulated independently, priority must be given to job creation and health and education over arms production, and the world’s resources should go to caring for the poor not the corporate profits of the rich. We have become so cynical and self-centred that such simply expressed and powerful ideas come as a bit of a shock. Surely we’re much too sophisticated for such simplicities. The Sermon on the Mount may well have been received with similar condescension. But it’s lasted rather longer than its detractors. So will Occupy.
‘We are the 99%’ encapsulates a message about the restructuring of British society by the ultra-rich better than anything the political parties and commentariat have managed. It also captures the idea of social inclusion which we have lost amid all the in-fighting, lack of governance, lack of transparency and above all lack of voice in the development of policy. It is open, dynamic, embraces everyone on an equal footing , and repudiates the celebrity culture, bling, showmanship, one-upmanship and exclusivity of so much modern politics, New Labour as much as Tory.
Somehow the Labour Party and the Occupy Movement need each other, though both sides will deny it. Occupy needs structures to secure its objectives, but resonates with its message across a broad social movement behind it. Labour has political structures to deliver its objectives, but still at present lacks the mass appeal to fire a national movement of activism. Ed Miliband gave at party conference the most trenchant and dynamic vision of change that we have heard from a political leader for a generation or more, but that still needs to transform a party still too weighed down by careerism and a legacy of collaboration with everything that Occupy rails against.