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#OccupyLSX: yes, but what are they advocating instead?

Yes, but what are they advocating instead? That question is rapidly becoming the standard rightwing putdown of the Occupy Wall Street movement and the similar demonstrations it has inspired elsewhere, now including London’s #occupylsx.

Hacks penning hatchet jobs on this one have two ways into the story. One option is to start by stressing widespread sympathy for the participants, many of whom are nice boys and girls from good families. It’s just that there is no getting round the fact that the financial sector pays the bills around here, and that the protestors have no coherent alternative to offer.

The more hardcore take is to insist that naïve college kids are being manipulated by evil Marxist revolutionaries, hell bent on erecting a new Gulag system across the West. The banks did not benefit from free market capitalism, according to Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post, but rather its obverse. And in any case, the protestors have no coherent alternative to offer.

The irony is that if past form is anything to go by, the more strident sections of the far left will soon denounce the lack of ideological clarity on display in St Paul’s churchyard. What is needed is not reformist confusion, but a clear cut revolutionary programme, we will be told. Unfortunately, the protestors have no coherent alternative to offer.

Now people behind #occupylsx have come up with their first official statement, and inevitably, there is  more than a touch of ‘overthrow capitalism and replace it with something nice’ about it. It is a document that has plainly been drafted by committee, as the saying used to go.

Old timers like me will surely be befuddled. What, no transitional demands designed to expose the inherent perfidiousness of the trade union bureaucracy? Not even a model resolution to be tabled at Labour Party ward meetings up and down the country? I mean, Hackney North general committee would probably still go for something like that.

Yet anyone who has watched the weakening of the labour movement and the traditional Marxist left will understand why class politics does not seem like the way ahead for younger activists. I’m tempted to show my age here and quote a line from the Sex Pistols: ‘Don’t know what I want, but I know how to get it.’ But that is taken from a song called Anarchy in the UK, and it’s coming sometime, maybe.

It would be curmudgeonly of me not to approve of those prepared to get off their arses and do take direct action, on whatever basis. Platitudes will do for now; the rest you can work out later.

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