Why Occupy failed

29th February, 2012 6:10 pm

I have to make a confession. I haven’t really engaged with Occupy London – evicted yesterday from St Paul’s – in the few months since it started out. Perhaps I missed something vitally important about it all. I think I’ve written about them only once, in passing, mainly because I wasn’t sure that they were relevant to anything the Labour Party was fighting for.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I have not come to stick the boot in while they’re down. They may live to fight another day. And in many ways I admire them, as I admire anyone who will get up and do something, anything, rather than sit on their backsides and moan about how dreadful everything is. I’m for the door-knockers, the poll number takers and the leaflet-stuffers (of which roles I have done plenty over the last twenty years). I’m with them for not accepting things the way they are. After all, as I once heard a General Secretary of the party drily observe, “why would you join the Labour Party if you were happy with life as it is?”

We strive for better. The politically itchy of any stripe are to be encouraged, as long as they themselves value democratic principles (I’m afraid that excludes people like Respect and the BNP, sorry). Because without them, not to put too fine a point on it, democratic politics is dead. And before the doomsayers start saying that that is the case, it is clearly not. In fact, it is in rude health, although there are certainly things that it could do better.

But there’s something about Occupy which, like most of the varied protest movements which have flowered in recent years, seems blissfully unaligned with reality. And it has to do with the way it channels that vital discontent with the way things are.

Michael Tomasky noted astutely, in his excellent piece from last September, that Occupy Wall Street had a lot to learn from the Tea Party activists’ appeal to ordinary folk, and thus had more to do with the unsuccessful US protest movement of 1968 than the successful one of 1963:

In 1963, we had the March on Washington. No one threw anything. There were no drum circles. The protesters of 1963 said to America, “We are like you; in fact, we are you.” There’s very little arguing that it worked. The protesters of 1968 said to America, “We are not like you; in fact, we hate you.”

Essentially Occupy has done just that: gone to the Great British Public saying “we are not like you. In fact, we hate you”. It has, intentionally or not, distanced itself from the public and irritated it: rather than looking to represent it, as the 1963 civil rights activists did.

And, oddly enough, the Great British Public has duly given its considered response: “Sod you, then”. In the end, and pardon the bluntness, but its effect on the City bankers was zero; and the high point of the Occupiers’ achievements seems to have been, through its occupation around St Paul’s, convulsing the hierarchy of the Church of England, that arch exponent of, er, naked greed and capitalism. The world of politics is a brutal one, and “we have raised an important issue” is a cop-out; the perennial straw-clutch of the political loser.

It is a shame, because there is a lot of energy and passion which might have been used to make real change within a democratic framework, like, well, in the Labour Party. Perhaps we are to blame for not making ourselves attractive enough to such people, and that is fair comment. Up to a point.

But there are two lessons for us: firstly, be careful of associating yourself, as the party leadership and the labour movement well-meaningly did, with those whose aims and methods do not easily chime with your own, because you can end up with egg on your face when they diverge, and more when they collapse. As is somewhat inevitable when their movement has poorly-defined aims and is focused on a single, transitory issue. Transitory, because it is surely a truism that such a movement would not have arisen in times of economic plenty.

And there is also a second lesson: be careful of valuing the appeal of the potentially powerful, but often futile, world of protest politics – where which it is depends on how you choose to play it – above that of the gentler, sometimes dull, but ultimately rather useful world of nitty-gritty, democratic activism.

Rob Marchant is an activist and former Labour Party manager who blogs at The Centre Left.

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  • Duncan

    A) I think it’s far too early to say that Occupy has failed (see my article and interview here for further thoughts on that http://digitaljournal.com/article/320368 )

    B) I’m sure most of Occupy’s message is not how you have summed it up; I doubt that the public have responded in the way you suggest either.  (The City of London Council is not the general public I assume we both agree!)  As you have not engaged with what they are doing, it is slightly odd that you feel able to dismiss it so unambiguously.  After all, in some ways they are reaching far more people through their methods than we are through ours, despite the fact that the mainstream media has made a determined effort to  misrepresent them at every turn.

    I, of course, would like to see Occupy London transformed into a movement for democratic socialism: because I’d like everyone to fight for democratic socialism!  But I can’t deny that they are currently appealing to people we can’t, precisely because they AREN’T the Labour Party…

    • A) You can argue “it’s too early to tell” on just about anything, to be honest, including, famously, the French Revolution. But what exactly have they achieved?

      B) Re the public, it’d be interesting to see some polling now, after 4 months, to see if they retain much public sympathy. But my instinct is not much, at this point. Let’s talk again after 4 more months?

      They may have, briefly, appealed to people that we didn’t – fair point. But the Labour Party were here 100 years before Occupy, and I dare say we’ll be here 100 years afterwards, don’t you think?

      • Duncan

         Hi Rob,

        Fair point re: the French Revolution!  However, I think you can point to things that the Occupy London people have achieved, but they are different from what political parties achieve (and that’s not surprising, really).  So, I think they have achieved something quite remarkable in building and sustaining a community of struggle over such a long period of time, managing that; providing a sense of community and political function to a significant number of homeless people who joined the camp; helping to frame the national (and international) debate and getting even Tory politicians talking about capitalism and democracy; they have dripped soundbites into our language in a way that I haven’t seen a political party do in the UK since 1997 (“We are the 99%” etc); they have encouraged a sophisticated academic debate about the nature of global capitalism and democratised that debate; they have provided education; they have promoted agitational art, etc.  Now these are not achievements in the sense that introducing the minimum wage or the NHS is an achievement, but then Occupy London has not had power: the achievements of oppositional groupings have to be measured differently and, during our period in opposition, this is something we have to understand as a party too.

        I would be keen to look back again after four more months, as you suggest.  I don’t live in London and so do not walk past the protest, etc (there was a small one in Leeds) – so I don’t know to what extent there has been “protest fatigue” from those who are regularly confronted by the camp.  I have to say that I found the “Democracy Village” type protests at Parliament actually rather important and encouraging, transforming what could be a museum visit into an engagement with how democratic politics is performed.

        My point about appealing to people we couldn’t reach was quite a personal one, I suppose.  When I was a teenager and was drawn to the Labour Party, I saw it as an imperfect answer to the problems in society; I think many people who see similar problems today to those I saw as a teenager now see the Labour Party as part of the problem rather than as an imperfect answer.  And we desperately need to change that, and one way to do that is to engage seriously with movements like Occupy London and to listen, not just to speak.

        • treborc

          I agree with your point about the labour party as part of the problem.

        •  I think there is very little evidence that the Labour party is attracting those who want to see social change – there is a scepticism as to whether some members of the party really want it or not. Some clearly don’t.

  • AlanGiles

    Mr Marchant is a right-winger and big business supporter. You can hardly expect him to be sympathetic, and Mr Marchant is a bit naive if he thinks he could be a recruiting sargent given his big business sympathies

    • Dave Postles

      Alan, is he one of these ‘crony capitalists’ who seem to exist one week, but not the next – and will they reappear next week?

      • Oh, that’s funny, I’ve been posting here every fortnight for well over a year. I’m fascinated to know where the “crony” comes from – am I supposed to have got a job through my connections with the ancien regime?

        • Dave Postles

          You should keep au fait with the enunciations of Cameron: crony capitalism one week, but the messiahs the next – that’s the context, not your utterances here.

    • Oh, that’s interesting I didn’t know that. But most interesting to learn these new things about myself, in the form of a lazy ad hominem.

      • AlanGiles

        Do you seriously believe that your supercilious little paragraphs would make anybody with left-wing tendencies join the Labour party, Mr Marchant?. 

        Don’t fool yourself:  you are as unlikely to make converts amongst the left as I would be to try to get Liam Fox to vote Labour: if I may be brutally honest, it was your sort that made me give up membership a few years ago.

        • Alan, if you want to debate, I’m up for debate, that’s what the comments section is for. But I can’t be bothered with insults and ad hominems.

          • AlanGiles

            And I can’t be bothered with self-satisified grinning little scribblers, who think they are important.

          • Ever the keyboard-warrior, Alan. 

          •  Someone needs to be whilst LL gives the opinions of marchant and his ilk yet more space. He is the problem – not the solution. His ideas have nothing to do with what Labour should be about and the party will not recover of have any clear direction until they are recognised as right-wing and largely indistinguishable from liberal conservatism

          • treborc

            We are hearing that the Murdock’s may be ready to off load it’s media print empire, which will mean this bit of battle ground will go.

            I think the Tories may dump the NHS reforms or most of it.

            Since labour agree with the Tories on most other things, well they want to cut but slower, which will be difficult when the public are willing to accept the note Labour left that the piggy bank is empty and we are in massive debt.

            It will be interesting to see the battle ground for the next election, welfare looks to be the area, more then likely ending it

          • Even for you Mike, that really is reprehensible nonsense. 

            You and your ilk, the likes of the crushing bore Alan Giles and barely coherent Treborc, may bask in the ‘offer them socialism and they will come’ notion of fantasy politics – but you may have not noticed that the British public have moved on. Decades ago, in fact.

            And nobody is stopping you, or your comrades, from departing with the wisdom you so clearly think you posses and actually writing an article for LabourList.

            It is always so much easier to criticize and carp from the sidelines and, frankly, to troll this website with your ad hominem attacks and ever-narrowing definition of what constitutes ‘the Labour party’. Ironically it is exactly that attitude that so destroyed the party in the ’80s when you were no doubt sitting comfortably with the Militants Mike.

          • derek

            ad hominem comment.

          • Did you just learn that word, Derek?

          • derek

            Wow! the same mistake! fool me once and all that?

          • treborc

            Not from you that’s for sure.

          •  Hilarious – given that I voted for denis healey in the deputy leadership election and have a record of constantly opposing Militant. As did many others who have exactly the same concerns about the way the labour party went in the Blair years. I went to a very interesting debate recently on the future of the labour party, where both peter Kilfoyle, known as ‘hammer of the Militants’ in Liverpool, and Roy Hattersley, were speaking. Both have very clear critiques of New Labour – from mainstream Labour positions. That is where I stand, and it is ridiculous that anyone to the left of new labour is presented as some sort of fellow traveller.

            The Labour party remains a democratic socialist party – the policies carried out in the new Labour years often took us away from that position, towards an uncritical view of the market and support for  a deregulated financial sector, and a misplaced enthusiasm for the role of the private sector in what should be public provision. Those views are mainstream Labour.

          • Fascinating.

            My problem with you Mike is that you seemingly cannot tolerate any diversion from what you perceive as Labour positions. Those who supported Labour under Blair and Brown weren’t crypto-Tories. They weren’t and still aren’t the enemy – the Conservatives are.

            You also seem to enjoy actively shutting down discourse when it strays from your settled viewpoint. How very New Labour of you.You’ve always got plenty to say, so go on then – write an article on LabourList and let others, for once, express their opinions below the comments line.

          •  If I am asked to write an article I would be happy to do so – to date every sughgestion made by me has elicited no response. I’m not wasting time writing aticles to be spiked

          • The fact that no one wants to publish your musings Mike should tell you an awful, awful lot.

          • Oh,plenty do,David.Read the Red Book

          • My case made. 

            Who, on earth, will read the Red Book?

          • AlanGiles

            At the risk of being a “crashing bore” again, Mr. Talbot,  the problem with a lot of “New Labour” types – possibly yourself? – seem confused: you claim the Conservatives are “the enemy” but at the same time appeared to endorse Tory policy provided New Labour instituted the policy – that nice Mr. Purnell for example who made life that much harder for people like Ms. Marsh on here, for example, with the Freud welfare reforms.

            Perhaps you have a short memory and forget such things?

          • “Crushing bore” Alan.

            Please provide evidence where I have espoused support for Tory policies. 

            If you can’t your ability to debate is even less that I gave you credit for.

          • AlanGiles

            DavidPurnellsupportedFreudandpusheditthroughParliament just as Freudjoinedthe Tories =Conservative policy

          • AlanGiles

            the likes of the crushing bore Alan Giles ”

            Mr Talbot you used the same term last week. Isn’t that itself a bit – well – boring. Try to find a new word.

            And of course you don’t have to read what I write, anymore than I have to look at that ridiculous “social network” photo you insist on displaying with your missives (which one of the two are you BTW?)

          • But you are boring, Alan. Of that I am sure. So it will suffice as a suitable label for now thanks.

            I am entitled to read LabourList as I please. It just so happens that you, and your comrades, insist on festooning it with your mostly mindless posts that either lambast others who dare to express politics dissimilar to yours or those misty-eyed ‘socialism now’ diatribes.

            Considering that you have admitted you monitor the Twitter account of a poster you do not like, you should understand that as I log in with my Twitter account it automatically leaves my profile pic. Clever, huh?

          • AlanGiles

            Well read and be bored then David. Or grow up. Or shut up.

            Your choice

          • Pathetic.Just pathetic.

            The resident trolls, for that is what you are, clearly don’t like being challenged.

          • AlanGiles

            Youcouldn’t even”challenge” yourself.

          • derek

            It’s the rear end of the 
            Pantomime donkey, kicking out like some spoiled brat. Boring David Talbot.

    • Doesn’t mean he’s wrong, though.

      • treborc

         Does not mean he is right either, he was of course a follower and believer of new Labour

      •  It does mean he isn’t labour. new Labour, perhaps, but that was an entryist movement, not committed to any sort of left wing view of society.

        • jaime taurosangastre candelas

          New Labour was an entryist movement?

          It was the Government for 13 years, not a group of people plotting in a pub.  Without New Labour, old Labour’s record of government stopped in 1979, 33 years ago.  If you discount New Labour, as you wish to, then old Labour since 1924 have been in a minority or coalition Government for 8 years on 3 separate occasions, and in power as a majority for 11 years.  Not a very impressive record over 88 years, is it?

          Looking to the future, the intelligent world is very rapidly leaving behind the totally failed ideology of the left wing.  And yet that is where you want Labour to return to.

          It’s odd.  You love Labour, but yet you want the party to become even less electable.

          • derek

            Not a pub, a Scottish 
            restaurant? you take your choices, if you think the 77 years were collectively better then your history knowledge is pretty poor.

            “Intelligent world” rolling back the clock of time to Victoria standards is intelligent?I think the only proof you’ve got to suggest such a claim is the rise of the far right and that isn’t perceived as intelligent, since past masters of that ideology wanted to lock up anyone with an once of intellect.

          •  No point in having Labour at all unless it is left-wing. I love Labour because I believe it to be a left wing movement. If I wanted to be in a right wing party, there are plenty of other options.

            Elections are only worth winning to DO something. Power for its own sake is for the megalomaniac, not the principled

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas


            I think you and I come to this from opposite perspectives.

            For me, my own political views are fairly fixed.  I believe the “political compass” is a useful tool, measuring attitudes to both economic factors and degrees of state authority.  There are many sample questions to test oneself against, and over the years I am reliably 10% left of dead centre, and 10-15% in favour of liberalism.  So I look at which party best represents those views during an election.  I have in my life voted for 4 parties – 2 in Chile and in the UK both Labour and LD.  In 2015, I will make a similar judgement.  The price I pay for placing primacy on my own views is that I join no party and have no influence.

            I believe from what you write that you are a tribalist:  you picked Labour for whatever original reasons and have reliably voted Labour ever since, no matter what flavour of Labour presented itself.  This means that you have been comfortable with some Labour policies, and very uncomfortable with others, but your loyalty endures.  In your favour, your approach to this matter enables you to join the Party and contribute to discussion and development of policies that you like.  Certainly, your membership fees and activity benefit the Party.  Labour has no such reliable support from me.

            There is another perspective, that of the electorate as a whole.  There is a bell-curve distribution on both economic and authoritarian axes.  There is a “sweet spot” of electability that is centred on both axes.  So Party managers like Rob Marchant try to rein in some of the wilder policies and proposals if they drag the Party out of the “circle of electability”.  I think a further refinement would be for parties to concentrate on the edge of the circle, according to their principles, so that there is at least some differentiation and therefore debate and passion, but yet the overall values of democracy or sound economics are not turned over by some leap further along one of the axes.  

            The price you pay is that there are times when either Labour is in government but you do not like the policies, or times when you like Labour policies but being realistic have to admit there is no chance of Labour being elected.  Looking in the broadest possible context – western liberal democracies over the last 130 years since Marx was advancing left wing ideals, the general trend across all countries is that of a flirtation with hard left / hard right, but after the tragedies that those philosophies caused in the Second World War, and the rise in individualism and consumerism, of a drift to the slightly right of centre.  That is why I say that what makes you comfortable in the Labour Party is increasingly unlikely to get elected.  It is not of spite or satisfaction, just a judgment made I hope with dispassion.

          • Chilbaldi

            there is no point arguing with these guys, mate.

          • treborc

             Off back to Tory land then

          • The lovely thing about Mike, Jaime, is that he thinks everyone is an entryist. If you go to the Labour Futures site, for example, it is full of conspiracy theories of entryist groups and cliques, because that is how the far left operates. New Labour was about as far from an entryist group as you could possibly get: it was a project which completely permeated the membership, and changed the electoral success, of the party.

          • treborc

            I have a feeling we will be seeing another Luke Bozier soon.

          • I disagree. I think it was a cynical attempt to decisively shift the Labour party from being a democratic socialist party, to a centre party. I also think it was organised. Having been initially ‘taken in ‘ – I remember the brainwashing Progress weekends too – it soon became clear what it was really all about, and the further the government moved away from policies which were recognisable as Labour policies, the more obvious it was. As a result the party membership decimated and more – people simply voted with their feet, and we have never entirely recovered from that, as their are still good active people around who still won’t rejoin because they fear the party hasn’t really changed and still hankers after New Labour outcomes.

            New Labour was a mistake, and achieved very little of any lasting impact. Because it was happy with Thatcherite structures, it threw money at projects without embedding any sort of structural change, so as soon as a government with different ideas about the role of the public sector came into power, the NL flimsy cover was washed away, displaying the Thatcherite roots. The government are even talking about the minimum wage as something which could go in their second term. Hence, NL will be remembered, positively, for some good progressive social legislation on, say, equalities, but primarily for partaking in the illegal war against Iraq and the unsuccessful farce of Afghanistan. That, Rob, is what new Labour will be remembered for in the history books – along with the sleaze and lies of the spin doctors and the cynicism of Mandelson et al. Its not a terribly good legacy, ans we need to move on and ensure that we never fall into the same traps again. Don’t forget that ALL governments end up unpopular and nostalgia for a past that never existed really isn’t going to work. 

          • treborc

            yes and sorry but your right I do not think New labour is dead I think Ed Miliband weill end up going back to it if he cannot pull the party out, and its the reason why I and my neigbours who I speak to say no.

            The problems  Labour face is more about trust and each time Blair is involved means the spector of that gent forcing his ideals on the party mean people do not trust the party

  • derek

    Does the former new labour party manager ask himself the same heading?

    Deep rooted problems exist in Britain, removing the disputers so London can look like a happy place for the Olympics is a lie! I guess you wont be able to hide the truth and why should we?

    • What truth exactly do you think I am hiding, Derek? Personally I don’t really mind if they stay there all year, my point is simply that they haven’t achieved very much.

      • derek

        That people of your kind of ilk are content with conservative ideology.

        Occupy! attracted more news and media coverage  than you ever managed? 

        • Hmm, I’m not sure when I ever tried to get media coverage, but hey.

          • derek

            Ah so, the games a boggy after a few posts. You’ll collapsed and conceded that your not really serious about the articles your write, fair enough! I’ll look into that “Politeness” stuff. 

          • AlanGiles

            Mr Marchant. You seeem to be under the illusion that because you USED TO BE a Labour Party “manager”, you can still talk down to people as you see fit.

            If you demand politeness, you ought to give it yourself, not just content yourself with what you no doubt regard as clever  waspish one-liners. And “hey” you make the point elsewhere in this thread that  “Tomasky  [said]about their US spokesperson” that they were “bloody awful”. Had it occured to you that some might think the same about your goodself?

            “Hey”  aswaiting your next “witty” response.

          •  Marchant is an irrelevance who is nostalgic for the wasted years.

        • GuyM

          The BNP, EDL, Islamic Fundamentalists and assorted terrorists also invariably get lots of news and media coverage.

          Does that mean that anyone supports them or their ideals beyond a self selecting few “activists”?

          • derek

            I don’t know? Would Jesus have supported their protests?

            We’ve been a subservient nation to long and those at the bottom are being punished for the mistakes made by those at the top end of society. Is that right?

  • guvno0or

    Their spokesperson was bloody awful, which didn’t help.

    • Exactly the point made by Tomasky about their US spokesperson.

    • I’ve heard a number of spokespersons from London Occupy and some of them have been excellent.

    • Duncan

       I have to say that the people I have communicated with have been excellent – very erudite, thoughtful and self-aware.

  • geedee0520

    What I’ve never understood about Occupy is what they actually propose in terms we can all understand – as someone said on twitter ‘to keep an idea alive means you need to have one’

    Also, I don’t understand how these people can pitch their tents on a public right of way without sanction (is obstruction still an offence?) whereas if I park my car at the wrong time outside my house I’ll be fined with, ultimately, the threat of a prison term if I don’t pay.  Why do their rights to protest trump my rights to walk on that pavement?

    • Indeed. As far as I can see they stand “against corporate greed”. Always be careful of people who define themselves by what they are against, rather than what they are *for*.

      • AlanGiles

        So you are not against corporate greed then yourself?

        • Oh, “aha!”, eh Alan? You’ve got me now, eh?

          My point is that people need to define what they’re for. I don’t agree with corporate greed, but neither do I make the facile assumption that all corporations are greedy, either.

          •  By definition, they wish to make as much profit as possible for their shareholders, thus if they were not being ‘greedy’, they would not be acting inn the interest of capital. At least try and be consistent.

      • Dave Postles

         That’s what the leader of the Labour Party has denounced, without suggesting any positive agenda for achieving anything.  Occupy has produced a consciousness which EM has just adopted.  As to the numbers, there is an Occupy in innumerable US cities and towns with substantial online support.  It’s the Tea Party which has failed because it appealed only to a narrow interest: where are its candidates for the Republican nomination?  They have had to switch to Santorum because their own candidates have failed miserably.  Santorum is not a Tea Party-er, but a fundamentalist.

        • geedee0520

          This conciousness stuff is all very well but:

          Can you tell me what they stand for in terms I can understand?
          How can I vote for them if they don’t have candidates?
          Why can’t I walk where they’ve pitched their tents?

          They are in the R Murphy class of ‘ give me your money – I know best’ and then I’ll tell you what I’ll do with it.

          • Dave Postles

             1 I hesitate to convey their message in such a succinct space.  They have plenty of websites out there.  There’s one for every Occupy in US towns and cities – many, many of them – and one for the Occupy Congress on 17 January.
            2 Extra-Parliamentary activity is legitimate.  There are many pressure groups out there.  When may I vote for or against lobbyists?
            3 That’s a matter of the enforcement of the law of public order, assembly, etc, and whether the authorities feel what it is politic to do.  I suppose you will want all those lorry and tractor drivers who clogged up the motorways in the fuel protest, arrested too. 

            I’ve never read anything by Richard Murphy which doesn’t relate to tax avoidance or tax evasion, but perhaps he has opined about the rate of tax.  This government is considering a general law against abusive tax avoidance (cf the Barclays case for the definition of ‘abusive’).

          • geedee0520

            1. Can someone please tell me what they want is all I’m asking – I’m not interested in the US Occupy movement I want to know what they want in the UK please.

            2. Of course it is – didn’t say it wasn’t.

            3. Just explain to me why anyone (Occupy, lorry drivers etc ) has more right than me to use the public thoroughfares. I’ve no problem with organised protest etc but if the pavement at St Paul’s was an encampment for (say) bring back hanging, fox hunting, ban immigration, close universities or any other thing you don’t like, what would you say?

          • Dave Postles

            1 I’m more interested in the international aspects of the movement.
            2 I’ve no idea what your issue is about voting.
            3 Fine, let them get on with it.

          • Duncan

            I think what they stand for is reasonably clear.  Their position is that Western democracies no longer represent the interests of the majorities of their populations, and instead represent the interests of wealthy elites. 

            Put another way, I think they are trying to promote the interests of “the many, not the few” and therefore we in the Labour Party should try and see how we have goals in common.

      • Over the months I’ve read a number of ‘collective statements’ from various Occupy general assemblies. Most focus on concerns of economic justice – giving voice to those with little economic power.

        There’s not much in terms of detailed policy but the statements usually present a counter-perspective to the now failed neo-liberal settlement.

        Often their statements read very similar to the words on the back of my LP membership card: “to create for each of us the means to realise our true potential and for all of us a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many not the few… “

  • Dave Postles

    Occupy is international, and has been particularly vibrant in the US.  There is a large constituency out there which agrees with Occupy (see the streams at Reader-Supported News).

    • Ok. How large, exactly?

      • derek

        Larger than one square mile!

      • Dave Postles


  • It’s a shame that the Bully Boys are so active tonight; trying so hard to shut down debate: I think Rob makes some valid points here in his typically provocative and thought-provoking manner.

    • Dave Postles

       Fine, so you do.  The whole tenor of the piece is, however, to denigrate Occupy, about which some of us have a different perception.  Are we not allowed to express that opinion?

      • Consider it expressed.  Now let some other people speak.

        • jaime taurosangastre candelas

          Occupy seem to be very good at getting media attention, but less good at making financial sense.  After nearly a year of Occupy propaganda repeated parrot-like in the media, I’m still looking for an intellectually coherent argument that they make that can be sensibly debated.  I suspect it does not exist, and that Occupy are nothing more than a self-serving “Look at me, I can SHOUT and I’ve got a stupid LIP-PIERCING and RIDICULOUS HAIR STYLE and I CAN GENERATE ANOTHER 200 IDIOTS ON COMMENT IS FREE TO AGREE WITH ME!” organisation.  They certainly have not managed to move political debate onwards in their year. Publicity, yes, impact, no, and it is impact that matters.

          • Dave Postles

             Do you know anything about Occupy in the US?

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            Very little, other than the existence of the group, and also some detail of the Portland group when a poster earlier made a stupid comment that invited me to look at her history.   They appear to have a problem with a Portland pizza restaurant. She’s clearly confused in between normal debate and fascism, worse still calling for industrial murder of people who don’t agree with her policies (“gassing” – not something you expect to see advocated on LL).  Does she represent a typical Occupy US supporter?  I hope not.

          • derek

            Well, some may consider Jaime’s favoured fashion look quite laughable.


          • Good God Derek, how can you possibly consider this post to be even remotely in keeping with LL’s comments policy, i.e.: “…off-topic remarks and personal or routinely negative or deragatory attacks on… other readers…”.

            Perhaps I’m getting tired and irritable after a long day, but what possible goal are you trying to achieve with this?

          • derek

            David, you could be correct but do you share the same response to the remarks made by Jaime?

            Look at me, I can SHOUT and I’ve got a stupid LIP-PIERCING and RIDICULOUS HAIR STYLE  “

          •  Yes, but thats because you are an enthusiast for free market capitalism, so they have nothing to say to you. You’re not really amongst those who would be interested in their thoughts in any case

        • Dave Postles

          Two imperatives – the bully boy himself announces his distinguished presence.  Pray who is not being allowed to speak?  There is plenty of scope.  

          • Dave, yours are not the specific bullying posts I refer to, however at time of writing you have made 9 comments in a thread of 39 – 23% of all comments.  This is exceeded only by Rob Marchant at 10 (26%), whose high contribution is explicable as being the original author who is responding to points made.

            Together with AlanGiles (5) and Derek (4), who appear to share your views closely, the total contribution is 18, or 46% of comments: I think you can hardly claim any sort of persecution or censorship.

          • Dave Postles

             I’ve made 9 comments because Occupy is of particular interest to me and some of those were in response to questions.  It doesn’t prevent other people from commenting and I’m pleased, in particular, that Duncan has responded so eloquently (more so than me).  The voice of the article has its defenders, who seem, however, to be as inarticulate as the rest of us and dwarfed by the eloquence of Duncan’s comment – one comment worth all the rest here in its incisiveness (whether you or pro or anti).

      • GuyM

        Perhaps express it without attacking the person who wrote the article?

        Perhaps attack the arguments line by line with a reasoned argument of your own?

        As an outsider I find that the people “Labour minded people” reserve their most acerbic and nasty attacks for are other “Labour minded people” who don’t fit into the same ideological subset.

        People’s Front of Judea and Judean People’s Front yet again.

    • AlanGiles

       Rob makes some valid points here in his typically provocative and thought-provoking manner.”

      There might be a clue in there, David – “provocative” – his sneering manner, especially at his critics, usually starting with  a camp  “Oh” or “aha” and with a teenage “hey” in the middle somewhere. He patronises, he goads, and then when he gets a negative response he complains about “insults” and pleads for “politeness”. In short, he likes dishing it out, but he can’t take it.

      He starts by saying he hasn’t “engaged” with Occupy (which given his interests isn’t surprising) but that doesn’t stop him laying in to it.

      Did Occupy fail? I don’t know – but they probably got more people – all sorts of people – talking, more than another Rob Marchant pot-boiler does on LL. 

    •  I don’t think he has anything worthwhile or valid to say at all. His ideas are those which have nearly wrecked the labour party and they require resistance, not approval.

  • jaime taurosangastre candelas


    you seem to have some heavy weather in the comments.  I’m not responding to those as that may draw me into the debate you and the respondents have, and I bring my own baggage and auto-negative commenters in LL terms that may distract from your message.

    I think you are right in the outlook you have, but what no-one has yet addressed is the new media – here we are on a website – that is a completely new tool of 2-way communication and debate that no party has so far got right.  Is it not exciting that someone who is a leading light on the NEC or the tory policy panel can interact with Joe Public who is either a party member or a political opponent?  I think it is, but the trick is to interact in a way that does not disenfranchise those tens of thousands who do not engage.  It seems to be very tricky, but I welcome the fact that some will try to do so.

  • GuyM

    Who exactly do Occupy represent?

    Not one of them has ever stood for election.

    They have no manifesto or ideas that they can coherently put together.

    They are basically a small minority of self selecting people who have the sole tactic of annoying the majority in a manner of “look at us, look at us, because if you don’t we are going to annoy you some more”.

    I think by the end the majority of Londoners found them an annoying intrusion on a loved public space that they seemed to have turned into a fetid commune of the great unwashed.

    The City (the target of all this) took absolutely no notice, with thousands of workers coming and going paying them little or no attention. Local shops and tradepeople have been on local TV saying they are thankful they have gone.

    All Occupy is is an extension of the standard student type direct action demo crowd. Sort of clear what they don’t like at a macro level but not an idea about what to do about it.

    As others have said, ok you don’t like capitalism, so come up with some realistic alternative and not vague pie in the sky idealism which the majority would never vote for under any circumstances.

    I read in the Standard they now have great plans for “big things” during the Olympics, hopefully the police will be a bit more forceful with them next time around.

  • Daniel Speight

    Did Occupy fail? I guess it depends on what they set out to achieve. If they hoped they were going to pull down capitalism by sitting on the steps of St. Paul’s then they have failed. If they hoped to generate discussion on the state of capitalism today then you have to say they did achieve that. It wasn’t just them of course, even Ed Miliband can take some of the credit, but now all three major political parties have had to make statements and take a stand on the recent ‘failures’ of the capitalism, although we may suspect that some of those politicians are just paying lip service to the current criticisms.

    If there have been significant failures it is the inability of the Labour Party to find any real connection with protesting citizens. It seems whether it is these mainly middle-class Occupy protesters, students against tuition fees, public sector unions against the devaluation of their pensions, or even working class inner city kids who don’t even know what they were rioting about, the Labour Party can only take the safe line of what would look good in the tabloids, focus groups or southern swing constituencies. It wasn’t always thus.

    So Rob are you one of those that bought us to this present position? Maybe it’s your own failures you should be writing about. And one last question because you clever apparatchiks do leave me so confused at times. What in the world is a “Social Entrepreneur”? I saw it as part of your job description. What job does a “Social Entrepreneur” actually do? Is it like organizing parties for  profit?

    • AlanGiles

      What in the world is a “Social Entrepreneur”? I saw it as part of your job description. What job does a “Social Entrepreneur” actually do?”

      Here is a definition from a biased (pro) source:


      Personally, I’ve always associated them with the “I want to do good and go to Heaven, but make some money beforehand” school. They appear to think they have the answer to all society’s ill’s, provided their own pet theories  are obeyed to the letter.

      Lot’s of people around Tony Blair described themselves thus: a pompous way of saying do-gooder, just as long as they do themselves good too.

      • Social Enterprise is the future of charity; the sector knows this; it is a way of working alongside capitalism to achieve a social goal.

        Practically-speaking, it has the primary benefit of being more efficient (requiring less money that “donation”-based charity), but has the added benefit that it does not generate the many problems which have been shown to go hand-in-hand with well-intentioned charity over the last 30 years, particularly in Africa where aid-dependence and job-destruction are, perhaps ironically, keeping the recipients of charity poor.

        • Dave Postles

           It could be the future of charity, except that the actions of New Labour and this Coalition are undermining the role of charities concerned with domestic issues.  I speak as one who resolutely supports such organizations, but who reads their plaintive cries against the effects of this government’s policies.  My comment is supportive, but indicating an issue.

        • treborc

           I know it’s sh*t saving lives.

      • Hugh

        “What job does a “Social Entrepreneur” actually do?”

        Sets up businesses like The Body Shop, Cafédirect, Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen etc I’d imagine. I would have thought you supported ethical business.

        • Daniel Speight

           Hugh, are you sure that’s what it means? An entrepreneur being social like? Is Emma Harrison one with her stately home commune?

          • Hugh

            Well, I guess that’s what it means. And I suppose, like everything else, there are good and bad ones. However, I’m unsure of the ethical difference in principal between someone earning a lot of money running a social enterprise they’ve set up which also aims to do some good with someone earning a lot of money working for a large charity. Or do you sneer at them as well?

          • Dave Postles

             To clarify from my perspective, social enterprises do not need to be run by individual entrepreneurs or for-profit.  I assume that credit unions are social enterprises; the hungersite is another; lendingwithcare another.  They can be collective organizations; .  They have a role, but are not the panacea because they can only fill in the interstices alongside the more comprehensive state-provided services.  I don’t regard ATOS or A4e as social enterprises – they are just businesses – IMHO.

      •  Its about as credible as ‘social enterprise’ as a concept. Some of us see through such ‘newspeak’

        • AlanGiles

          Good morning Daniel and Mike. It always seems to me that giving yourself a title like “social entrepeneur” is so it looks good on the old business card – so “humanitarian”, so “caring”.

          I’m reminded of a couple of lines from Tony Hancock’s classic “Blood Donor”. He’s a bit miffed to find out you only get a cup of tea and a biscuit after donating:”But no badge? – I think we ought have something to show people we’re do-gooders. Nothing pretentious – a little enamel thing would do, with something like He gaveth for others, that other might live on it”

      • Daniel Speight

         Ah, you mean it’s someone who works for something like an NGO maybe. I wonder why they picked the word entrepreneur? When I think of that title I think of someone who is willing to risk everything on a business idea. I can’t really see the risk in working for the likes of an NGO, unless of course you were working in war zones or third world conditions. Oh well, another new word learned, it can join ‘triangulation’. It’s getting like the Readers Digest here.

  • Jeff_Harvey

    When all is said and done, if as many people sat up and took notice of the Labour Party as the Occupy movement perhaps the Party would be doing better in the polls – assuming Labour Party representatives had something worthwhile to say and actually stood for something of course. 

  • GuyM

    They represented no one but themselves, few Londoners will mourn their removal and no one will vote for their ideals (if they could ever put them in a manifesto).

    They were an irrelevance who got coverage simply by being annoying, not due to any merit in what they were saying.

    • derek

      Jeez! the ignorance of the uppity newspeak! it’s there! It’s real! but because you dislike it, you’ll take a stick and beat it to death.

      • GuyM

        Who did they represent Derek?

        Where is their votes to show representation? The petitions? The signatures showing they “represented” anyone?

        All they are is a self appointed group of “activists” who decided to go and squat in public space to annoy and aggravate in order to get attention.

        To add to the annoyance and aggravation they then coined a “we represent the 99%” phrase when a large number of the 99% were saying on media “no you don’t”.

        They are stuck now, the next “occupation” will have to be even more annoying and newsworthy to get publicity, else the media will have a “don’t that, been there” mentality.

        They were, are and will be in policy terms though an irrelevance because they represent no one but themselves.

        • derek

          They represented me and my family.

          Pretty strange for a 1% to ask about representation? but being democratic I’ll accept your minority post and kindly add I disagree with you.

          • GuyM

            No they didn’t represent you Derek, you never gave any assent to them and no one could say that they did or didn’t speak for you.

            They claimed they spoke for 99% yet the obvious fact that few if any Tories for instance would support them and they reguarly got a lot of flack from Londoners seems to be oblivious to them as a movement. Large groups simply did not agree with them, as the web showed on forum after forum.

            The 99% was the height of arrogance and it would be nice if it were possible for someone to take them to court under the trade description legislation

          • derek

            Yes, they spoke for me and my family and close friends, so much so, that some close friends pitched their tents in Princes street gardens in support, they spoke for the other 99% of the concerned public.It’s rather a Huxley moment to ignore and repel a valid protest…total control? nah! that’s a bit to far?

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            1% of the country is 600,000 people.  It would not be hard to find more than 600,000 people who do not support Occupy.  Particularly among the 17 million who voted for Lib Dems and Tories.

            “99%” is a conceit.  It is probably more accurate to talk about a few hundred thousand activists, 59 million completely disinterested people who have their lives to get on with, and a few hundred thousand opponents of Occupy.

          • derek

            Demographically speaking the area of Canary wharf is about one square mile or 1% of the countries square mileage, another conclusion is the 1% of high earners above the other 99%, so factually the line has a valid equation.

          • GuyM

            Errr you need to revisit the idea that Canary Wharf is 1% of the countries square mileage as the UK is a bit bigger than the Isle of Wight.

          • derek

            Can you elaborate on that? by all means extend the wharf area?

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            “another conclusion is the 1% of high earners above the other 99%, so factually the line has a valid equation.”

            What does that mean in plain english?

            The UK has 94,058 square miles which takes about 3 seconds to Google.  Canary Wharf  is about 1/1000th of the square mileage, has a living population of around 7,000 according to Tower Hamlets Borough Council, and a working population of around 90,000.  

            How can you be out by a factor of 1000 in area, 1,000 in living population,  and 88 in terms of working population?  That seems to be as precise as Ed Balls’ plans for the economy., which his family name sum up easily.

          • derek

            I don’t think I was out by any factor, indeed the other six miles will most probably be developed to?

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            Do you have an acquaintance with basic mathematics? Factors? The importance of positioning a decimal point?

            Goodness, let’s hope I don’t get a decimal point wrong tomorrow evening if I need to administer a drug.

          • derek

            That doesn’t make any sense? your consistently wrong! that’s quite an achievement.  

  • On one level, they failed because the law enabled them to be crushed. They were involved in non-violent direct action, not insurrection, and various legal changes have made that sort of protest more difficult to sustain.

    However, they certainly drew attention to a subject which mainstream politicians had not proved very successful in tackling. In this way reformist and direct-action politics can actually benefit from each other, in the way that Stonewall and Outrage did on gay rights issues. Outrage often uncovered the issue, Stonewall did the follow on work. The agendas were very similar.

    Similarly, if Labour goes along the marchant path, they will fail, becaue there is no reason for me to vote for the marchant labour party – its too much like the Coalition in just about every way. There are, in Occupy and many other movements, an expression of disillusion with the mainstream parties, and I’m afraid justifying the behaviour of banksters and monopoly capitalism, seeing globalisation as an opportunity rather than the threat to social democracy it is and always will be, will just ensure that another Tory government will be elected, as the mass abstention of the last election will be repeated.

    Taking from Occupy what decent people realise – that capitalism as it now stands is not acceptable in its operations and needs both firm regulation and reform – may give us some sort of chance of breaking through, but not with a large majority, as the electorate is prety much split between these different visions. Those who prefer the former marchant approach will, I hope, support the coalition in its aims, rather than trying to make us a pale copy of the Tories

  • Firstly, Occupy is not over. The tents may have gone from St Pauls but the movement still continues. Secondly, the public did not hate us. Polls for ICM and You Gov showed support (51-39% and 38-26% respectively), whilst 82% of Guardian readers and even 42% of Daily Telegraph readers backed Occupy. Thirdly, cast your mind back to pre-Occupy. Nobody was talking seriously about corporate greed, about bankers bonuses, about any of the issues we at Occupy campaigned for. The Tories had won the blame argument and has succeeded in making most people think Gordon Brown and public spending had caused the financial crisis. Now, because of the existence of Occupy, a space has been created for politicians and the public to debate the issues we want them to debate. Politicians are falling over themselves to talk about ‘responsible capitalism’, to blame the banks for their mess, and to claw back excessive bonuses. Nobody serious was talking about that 12 months ago. In the US, things have gone even further, and the whole election has been framed around class and corporate greed, and Obama’s recent State of the Union was described as the ‘Occupy State of the Union’. Thanks to Occupy (as well as 38 Degrees and UK Uncut) the protest movement has been reinvigorated and the Workfare protests, as well as the NHS protests have had great success, and we have succeeded in shaking up the CoE, who are now a potentially very powerful ally in our fight. We may have a long way to go, but to say we have had no impact is to do us a great disservice.

  • jaime taurosangastre candelas

    @ Mike Homfray,

    (In my trying to be helpful mode)

    You may find more success if you email Mark Ferguson direct.  I thought about an article on Clem Attlee and his achievements and discussed it with Mark – Mark was not able to publish as I am not a member of the Labour Party and the LL policy requires article writers to be members, but I certainly found Mark to be very responsive over an email discussion of 4 or 5 emails.  I’d suggest that you get in touch with him direct.

    • will do – current contract ends mid-March so I will have more free time

  • Am I the only person here who wholeheartedly agrees with the sentiments of this article? Occupy WAS weird. It WAS transient (self-evidently so in the light of the events of the last few days) and made no attempt whatsoever to appeal to the bloke from Dartford with a 3 bed semi, a wife and 2 kids. It was a kind of onanistic dead-end political activity that led nowhere. The Labour Party’s great strength is that helps the immediate problems of people and combines this with a broader advocacy of social reform. IMHO this is why it gets millions of votes in elections and has been around for a hundred years. Occupy never helped anyone and indeed never sought to do so

    • Thank you, William. You aren’t, thankfully, the only person. Furthermore, the Labour Party will be around for another hundred years, and Occupy will not.

      • Thomas Baxter

        temporal wish-fullness…Gadafi more or less used your rhetoric…appeal to past accomplishments…relent…EVOLVE!
        The left cannot have a stuttering Leader who can’t see the PM never answers his Q’s at PMQ’s (he never does..unless he says “the short answer is NO..ha.ha.ha”)
        but relies on arrogant assertion to combat and deflect left sentiment.
        False assertion that the Left left us where we are.instead of a system meltdown.

        Someone need’s to tell Ed this is not a game – its not a university debating club for making oneself look clever and scoring pitiful meaningless points….this is real LIFE. Engage the new Left…call a summit…now there’s an IDEA (rhymes with IKEA…mmmh?)…wanna talk educational policy? I’m Here… 
        Make change or give way…

  • Thomas Baxter

    OCCUPY is evolving – it is a synchronous contemporary empathic consciousness, 
    the voice of the alienated, who believe that the Politics of Left v.s. Centre v.s. Right Parties has failed to do any more than create political classes, who have failed the people, lined their pockets and are so far removed from the electorate that many voters (on all sides) now cynically vote (if they vote at all) for those they ‘dislike and distrust the least’ – rather than voting in support of the core values and beliefs of a party.

    In reality all sides have failed to regulate and face down multinational corporations and financial institutions (pirates, rapist and blackmailing extortionists). This in not anti-business – nobody but Dave Cameron would class “local businesses” with the aforementioned )we all need a plumber eventually). These multinationals that have more power and influence than elected governments, and in many ways have the power to start wars (aided and abetted by politicians) if they cant access the countries resources/markets, overthrow governments if they think default lies ahead (Greece) and fix/rig outcomes of elections or prevent referendums being held (UK-Italy). 
    I think its Labours failing’s that leave left-leaning non-partisan citizens/voters exasperated – as have the political elites unwillingness to confront this elephant in the room. 
    Also there’s far too much happening in secret in so called democracies that supposedly believe in freedom of speech and information. 
    Hacktavist groups are mushrooming – empathise, engage, regroup…BE BRAVE…
    they are new labour (lower case intentional)…ADAPT OR DIE, its up to The Labour Party.

    • GuyM

      Clear as mud (the first sentence is a legend in its own lifetime).

      Conspiracy theory a la X Files gone into overdrive.

      No discernable proposed solutions.

      And a deluded expectation that social media will ever do a great deal more for the millions of the population than allow them to plan their Friday night out (because the vast majority simply do not care).

      All in all totally bonkers but great to read.

      • Thomas Baxter

        Thank you…38 degrees…false economy…avaaz.org,..OCCUPY…Anonymous… wiki-leaks…etc. are the new left (in truth) the three/four dominant parties are all thought by the common consciousness to be flunks who’s fortunes and futures are traded for gold behind closed doors. The Left is Dead….Long Live the New Left.

        • Thomas Baxter

          Asymmetric war-game theory proves popular and non-centrally coordinated popular consciousness trumps establishment…Think French revolution WW2 resistance…9/11.
          Show me the Bankers movement occupying community centres…libraries etc. (Is that a trick question?) 

  • I’m not an Occupy activist but I really appreciate their guts and determination to embarass the complacent and keep corporate greed high on the agenda. They may not be a cohesive bunch but they sure as hell have worried the city an government. I doubt very much if we would have seen bankers giving up or being forced to give back bonuses without them. Unfortunately Labour doesn’t have the credibility to achieve what they have done.


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