Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Tent city

The 300 protesters camped outside St Paul's Cathedral in London seem rather confused. What exactly are they trying to achieve?

They're supposed to be taking a stand against nasty old capitalism and all its works, but all they seem to be doing at the moment is disrupting a place of worship which has more or less closed down because of the tent city.

St Paul's says it's losing about £20,000 in income a day, so maybe the protesters think they're taking a swipe at religious capitalists if not at capitalists proper.

But surely they should be joining the other encampment at Finsbury Square, which is heaving with blatant capitalist bastions like banks? Not that that protest is exactly rocking capitalism to its foundations either.

Just how are a few tents going to stop vast accumulations of wealth flowing into the coffers of a few greedy individuals and capitalists? All the refuseniks are doing right now is putting more cash into the bank accounts of tent manufacturers and primus stove suppliers.

It all seems astonishingly naive and historically ignorant. If anyone is going to challenge capitalism with any sort of clout, it's the trade unions who fight for a better deal for employees and restrain the wilder excesses of profit-grabbing companies.

They have at least forced a few millionaires and grasping shareholders to hand back some of their ill-gotten gains. Can the campaigning campers do any such thing before they get bored, pack up their tents and go back home?


  1. Are 99percent of them are perhaps "professional protesters" ?
    Just a thought..x

  2. I have the same thoughts as John Gray, and hope St Pauls's Tent camp does not become an urban Greenham Common.

  3. John - Could be, I don't think anyone's looked into that possibility. But you'd think professional protesters would be a bit more clued up about their objectives.

    Grannymar - The Greenham Common protest had a rather more practical aim, refusing to have American nuclear weapons in Britain. But even so the campaign never succeeded.

  4. sheep following sheep

  5. Myra - Yes, unfortunately there's an element of that. The 99% protests have become fashionable and people are jumping on the bandwagon without thinking through what they're doing.

  6. I don't feel quite that cynical about it. There is definitely a place for nonviolent protest. Just ask Martin Luther King.

  7. SAW stole the words out of my mouth.

  8. Secret Agent - Nonviolent protest is fine. But some clear objectives would help. Like nationalising the banks and slashing bankers' bonuses. At the moment it's all rather scatty.

    www - Ditto!

  9. Oh this is just silly. I have a friend with an acquaintance involved in the OWL stuff in LA and they haven't a clue. I heard one numbskull say when asked quite sensibly what he would like to see to change things, "I'd like bank workers to receive he same salaries as their CEO's" . . shouldn't they be out working? We moved them on here. Took away their tents and told them all to go home. For now . . . they have

  10. Baino - Bank workers and CEOs with the same salary? Nice idea, but just a few practical problems with that. Like, do they all get £1 million or £15,000? Yes, I heard the Oz authorities were being much less tolerant.

  11. No one seems to have an alternative system to suggest! Should we revert to the good old Socialist ways?

  12. I'm sure a fair proportion of them are regular protestors, but then I once was too. And when I look back, bearing witness on various issues goes on the plus side of the balance sheet of my life.
    Good to have something constructive to offer, but sometimes taking a stand is useful in itself.
    Awkward place to pitch tents though.

  13. Ramana - I'm all in favour of socialism. But genuine socialism, not just another variety of elitism as we witnessed in the Soviet Union.

    Blackwater - Taking a stand is always better than doing nothing, but what their stand amounts to except being fervently "anti-capitalist" is hard to discover.

  14. I'm not really following what's going on but at bible study last night someone said, 'God would rather us be capitalists than communists.' That shook me rather, particularly as it was Zac's bible study.

    I'd been suggesting that the basic ideal of communism, as far as I am aware, was equal shares for everyone and that it was a good theory. (But impossible because of human nature.)

    Have I got my ideas about communism and capitalism confused? It wouldn't surprise me as I'm not hot on politics.

  15. Liz - No, you're right, that's communism in a nutshell. The other definition of course is "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need." (Karl Marx)

    And if God would rather we were capitalists, why did he create communists?

  16. Still unclear why St Paul's are so against the protesters when so many of their ministers have spoken in favour.
    I think it's valid to turn up to make the point that the divergence between rich and poor has gone far enough, and that the wrong people are being rewarded/ punished.

    To make a very basic analogy, you don't have to have a coherent plan when you see a fire, but you should yell out to warn others. You should call in the fire brigade.

    The protesters are not against capitalism, they are against the increasing differentials in this society.

    I agree with them.

  17. Macy - Well, St Paul's (and local shops and restaurants) claim they're losing huge amounts of money because the usual visitors are staying away. Don't quite see why they're staying away though, the protesters aren't any threat.

    Yes, I get the protesters' basic point about the huge wealth gap and ordinary people paying for the incompetence of bankers and politicians, and I thoroughly agree. But most people probably agree with them anyway. The question is, what do they want to do about it?

  18. I'm sure the fact that the basic point is being generally recognised and debated, and that people are realising that they can get voices heard, is part of the object.

    It's not like anyone has faith in politicians or money men, so we need to work out what comes next.

  19. Speccy - If they're helping to stimulate debate, that's good, but they need some clear objectives. The Finsbury Square protesters have made a start - they say they want higher tax for higher earners, companies paying their full tax liability, and higher spending on the welfare state.