How does “The 99%” become The 99%?

Mother Soapbox and I paid a visit to the London Stock Exchange Occupation on Tuesday.  Despite a chilling wind which had us dashing for a cuppa fairly swiftly, I’m very pleased to report that the camp is sturdy and well-equipped, with its inhabitants looking upbeat and for all the world look like they could remain there until the world itself, has changed.

I wonder where we go from here though? This interesting piece by Sunny Hundal draws attention to the conflict between elements of the “activist left” and Labour Party. A dispute between those who believe that the protest movement is the best way to achieve change and those who believe that the power of the people is in their vote. Clearly with many more in numbers taking part in the latter than the former. The question is how to combine the two to affect change.

In The Evening Standard, Richard Godwin says “We need to talk about capitalism” and questions the claim of the protestors to represent “the 99%”. The 99% banner is eye-catching and an excellent rallying cry with an attempt to provoke the thoughts and actions of as many as possible. But how do we actually make this movement genuinely become, of the 99%?

Below is #OccupyLSX initial statement;

“1 The current system is unsustainable. It is undemocratic and unjust. We need alternatives; this is where we work towards them.

2 We are of all ethnicities, backgrounds, genders, generations, sexualities dis/abilities and faiths. We stand together with occupations all over the world.

3 We refuse to pay for the banks’ crisis.

4 We do not accept the cuts as either necessary or inevitable. We demand an end to global tax injustice and our democracy representing corporations instead of the people.

5 We want regulators to be genuinely independent of the industries they regulate.

6 We support the strike on the 30th November and the student action on the 9th November, and actions to defend our health services, welfare, education and employment, and to stop wars and arms dealing.

7 We want structural change towards authentic global equality. The world’s resources must go towards caring for people and the planet, not the military, corporate profits or the rich.

8 We stand in solidarity with the global oppressed and we call for an end to the actions of our government and others in causing this oppression.

9 This is what democracy looks like. Come and join us!”

Some of these points are quite vague, granted, and all the answers are certainly not enclosed therein. However, there’s nothing too radical in these statements – you don’t have to be a Socialist, Trotskyite or Karl Marx, to agree with them. The occupiers doubtless remain viewed as extremists by many, the initial statement should be evidence enough that they are not. They are simply people who care enough to do something about it.

The Occupy movement is worldwide, the visual impact has been signficant as well as the amount of media attention. Those involved should take great heart and pride in these achievements. They have been successful in challenging people to think, giving them something to talk about and rally behind. However, I am left with the question of how all these achievements turn into change. How can the wider population be engaged with this and also play their role?

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