The morning after the violent eviction of Occupy Dame Street in April 2012. This solidarity protest was the biggest Dame Street had seen for months- the movement had long since run out of steam, with only 5 or 6 protesters left for the Guards to drag out. After this protest, it fell again into oblivion. We need to assess the weaknesses of Occupy if we want to reclaim the energy and enthusiasm it released at the beginning.

1. If we want to fight the state and the corporations without becoming like them, we need loose, informal organisation, without leaders. 

The trouble with having no formal leadership is that an informal one will spring up- you get unaccountable unelected busybodies or people with no merit except the fact that they have lots of time on their hands, and that becomes your leadership.

Especially with Occupy, you’ve got those who have time and energy to spend at the camp taking de facto control. People with families, people with jobs, people who are dedicated activists- these are excluded.

In reality, some tasks need to be delegated to a minority. That’s the only way things can work and the Occupy movement proves that. The only choice is whether you want these people to be elected or self-appointed.

2. We need to work on the basis of consensus, where you move forward only when 100% of people agree, not on the tyranny of the majority. 

This sounds great at first.

What you get in the end are long, pointless debates that suck all the time and energy out of the movement. What you get is the dictatorship of the minority- frankly, one idiot can hold back the whole movement from actually doing anything.

Instead of everyone’s voice being heard, you get dissenting views silenced. Nobody wants to be the one to stall the meeting yet again- so they just pretend to agree, and no real open debate takes place.

Meanwhile everyone’s gone home because it took too bloody long and nothing was done.

3. I don’t subscribe to any “ism”. I think political labels are inherently limiting. I am neither left-wing nor right-wing. 

OK then, stop using the wheel and come up with something else.

Labels and “isms” are not comprehensive and I’m sure none can fully convey the nuances and complexity of your individuality. But chances are your views are generally in agreement with a lot of people who have previously explored these ideas and left behind a “label” for the convenience, not for the oppression, of others!

4. I think for myself rather than blindly follow any idea or thinker.

Outstanding revolutionary theorists and activists like Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, James Connolly and many others left behind excellent writings with vital lessons for today.

No-one is “blindly” following anyone, just engaging critically with their ideas. The real blindness is an ignorant, egotistical refusal to do so.

If you’re a revolutionary you should engage with an ongoing debate, rather than being like those idiots who come barging in half-way through a discussion, ignoring what everyone else has already said.

 5. I don’t want to subsume my individuality into any political party. 

We want you to join a democratic organisation and maximise your impact by working alongside others.

If you’ve got some incredible insight or ability that will be damaged by you doing that, then please, please share it with the world.

6. I was occupying that square for so long I got frostbite! And where were all ye Socialists in the meantime? Just dropping in now and then when it suits ye. 

We were busy doing things that are a hundred times more important. We were empowering thousands of people through mass civil disobedience campaigns. We were organising protests and meetings on a huge range of issues. We were building our organisation and selling our paper. We were discussing ideas constantly between ourselves and with others.

The Occupy protests were an inspiration to the world- but they ran out of steam because they couldn’t be decisive and take the struggle forward. Those of us who have jobs to go to and families to feed couldn’t really take part. Of course we would have made sacrifices and tried to come to every General Assembly, but after the first few weeks it was clear there was no real point.

7. The environment is more important than the economy. 

Climate change is the most urgent problem facing the human race. But we can’t save the environment without getting rid of capitalism. It is just not profitable for any individual capitalist, let alone the system as a whole, to make the required investment in green energy. This demands a Socialist plan of investment.

Moreover, the switch to a green economy would displace possibly hundreds of millions of people from their jobs. There’s no way people would accept that.

Under Socialism we could retrain all those workers and re-equip all those factories on a planned, coordinated basis without chaos or unemployment.

8. If you’re so much against capitalism, then why do you use money, live in a house built by capitalists, work in a job where a capitalist pays you and buy goods and services from capitalist companies? 

Because we’re revolutionaries not hermits. If you can live a more ethical lifestyle, then good for you. But it’s not going to change the world.

All our officials are on the average worker’s wage or less and none of our members live the high life. But at the end of the day we don’t look for the perfect “lifestyle” but for an organic connection, in workplaces and communities, with the working class, and a basis for struggle.

We are not concerned with “saving our souls” or being cleansed of the system.  Our goal is to unite the majority of the people and replace the system.

9. We want to leave the movement broad, inclusive and open, so we don’t want to tie ourselves down to any ideas that might alienate people. 

The Occupy Movement kept itself too broad, too uncommitted. It appeared indecisive and vague. It appeared not to do anything.

In fact my local Occupy was so “inclusive” that there were neo-fascists camping there.

Debate on a programme was impossible because of consensus-based decision-making. Demands were set out, but it was not explained how they would be achieved.

If Occupy settled on a programme and course of action then of course some would disagree and might leave the movement. But with nobody sure what the movement stands for, and no victories being won, why would large numbers of people bother joining the movement in the first place?

10. We are against politics and parties entirely.

Socialists, despite the fact that we’re organized in parties and are of course political, see this as a healthy attitude.

By “parties” people mean the cynical establishment parties which are just self-interested machines for managing, not destroying, our messed-up society. We can’t look to them for solutions, we have to organise ourselves.

By “politics” people mean the scams, lies, privilege and corruption that characterise the way society is run under Capitalism.

11. All political parties are cynical and want to hijack our movement.

The establishment parties didn’t want to hijack Occupy, they wanted to destroy it.

They succeeded at least partly because of the paranoid, sectarian attitude of some people in Occupy who were hostile to other groups and parties who were fighting for the same goals.

12. But you’re as bad as any of them.

We’re the same as you- angry as hell and determined to do something about it. But we’ve been at this a while, and learned a few important lessons.

We organize ourselves not as an occupation of a city square but as a party, just as stubborn, just as determined, but infinitely more flexible.

We organise democratically- we elect members to branch, regional and national committees. We work on the will of the majority, with the minority free to argue their case and to continue to do so after the vote is taken.

We run in elections, and our members speak to thousands of people on the doorsteps. Our deputies and Councillors and MEPs use their positions to fight for ordinary people. We don’t think we can change things through electoral politics, but we see it as an aid to the real work in the streets.

A revolutionary party has all the self-sacrifice, defiance and energy of a makeshift tent-town protest in a city square.

But it can’t be destroyed by one night of police violence. It can discuss with full openness and give air to all ideas. It can state its message clearly. It can then act with unity, determination and organisation.


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