Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Occupy protesters should take a leaf from the Tea Party book

As a Brit I didn’t need to understand all the intricacies of American politics to appreciate the wisdom of a recent comment column in The New Yorker magazine and draw conclusions relevant to the Occupy London Stock Exchange protest which is causing so much grief for St Paul’s Cathedral.
Hendrik Hertzberg draws important parallels with the Occupy Wall Street and Tea Party protest movements even though they are at opposite ends of the left/right spectrum.
“Both arose on the political fringe, more or less spontaneously, in response to the financial crisis and its economic consequences. Neither has authoritative leaders or a formal hierarchical structure,” writes Hertzberg.
The big difference is that the Tea Party has “never doubted the efficacy of elections.”
Its muscle toughened the resolve of a defeated Republican party and forced it further to the right.
The opinion polls indicate millions of Americans agree with OWS about the unfair distribution of wealth in their country. But patience with the camps is wearing thin and with winter approaching there is the danger the advocates of more aggressive civil disobedience will succeed losing the public’s support.
Hertzberg concludes: “Yes, O.W.S. has “changed the conversation.” But talk, however necessary, is cheap. Ultimately, inevitably, the route to real change has to run through politics—the politics of America’s broken, god-awful, immutably two-party electoral system, the only one we have. The Tea Partiers know that. Do the Occupiers?”
The same question has to be asked of Occupy London Stock Exchange. You may feel empowered by the upset you have caused to the St Paul’s hierarchy by camping on the church’s doorstep but where do you take your campaign next?
The answer, I fear, whether spoken or not will be more occupations leading to inevitable confrontations with authority.
It should be framing a political response within our own “god-awful” electoral system.
Meanwhile what is the Labour party about if it’s not fairness? Its leader Ed Miliband should have already gone down to St Paul’s to welcome the protesters into the fold if they are prepared to work within the constraints of our democracy. At the same time he should tell them to go home before they damage their cause.
I suspect, however, that he is too scared to be re-branded ‘Red Ed’ by the Daily Mail to do the brave thing.


  1. GC. I have been giving full attention to this blog and other recent blogs of yours that have touched on this area, ie protestors etc. You are not alone, as this matter is hogging UK media headlines. Moreover, Many people globally are THINKING the same way as the protestors. I am bound to point out to you that the Archbishop of Canterbury has now come out in support of al least the sentiments of the St Paul's squatters. He in turn is relying on a recent important paper from the Vatican no less, which advocates many of the banking reforms which are now part of the UK mainstream debate. As you have pointed out [in earlier blogs] St Pauls is now itself a casualty. Nevertheless, the government has to be reminded that the City is not the only institution in the UK; and, that the IMF is not the only game in town.

  2. GC. Your lifetime conditioning makes you results orientated. Think more in terms of 'the Butterfly effect'. Moreover I am not sure that you should be gracing your excellent commentaries by comparing the retrograde extreme right wing Tea Party movement in the USA with the unwashed 'poor' of St Paul's. Very few movements for change are victim free. The fact that St Pauls itself is already a victim, merely demonstrates how serious things are becoming. We await the next TUC day of action with bated breath.


What do you think? GC