Vir Cantium

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Category Archives: Communism Redux

So Farewell The #OccupyLSX Asylum

OccupyLSX defaced walls

#OccupyLSX revolting ... I mean, leading the revolution

This morning St Paul’s emerges from behind the human-scale petri dish that was #OccupyLSX and will be relegated to the pages of history … or, spoken of in reverential tones in two decades’ time in BBC retrospective documentaries in the same way as, not so long ago, was the Greenham Common Wimmin’s Camp. That exercise, too, proved just as pointless and ineffectual, though at least the sisters managed to keep a fairly consistent and clear message throughout their time there, in some contrast to the comparative rookies at #OccupySomewhereAnywhere-AsLongAsWeDon’tHaveToPayForIt.

I thought that as one of my first posts after my annual blogging sabbatical I would reflect on my own visit to the site – yes, I did go there and see it for myself, shortly before Christmas.

Of course, there were others like me surveying the camp, but one couldn’t help but get the impression they were viewing it not in awe, but going to see it out of a mixture of curiosity, quiet amusement and pity. I was put in mind of the old style Victorian mental asylums which admitted the general public as spectators. Surveying the poor wretches, living in their own little world, surrounded by others of the same affliction, convinced that their perception of reality was the truth … yes, I too felt I was having the same experience as those 19th century gawpers.

Ask any spectator what they thought, and the least offensive opinion could be summed up as “meh”.

OccupyLSX remember them?

Occupy St. Paul's ... remember them?

What is noticeable about the SquatLSX camp is the variety of ‘causes’ that have taken up residence there. Now to the organisers this is undoubtedly looked on as a ‘positive’ – yet in fact it only serves to dilute whatever could be loosely termed their original ‘message’. As with so many public protests of the Left, quantity trumps quality. A corner was devoted to protesting about an imprisoned Turkish socialist – what a way to get an obscure issue into the public domain than to hide it among the noise of every other trendy and tired leftist cause. And it is wholly Leftist, for all the talk from the SquatLSX organisers of representing the 99%.

Yet maybe I’m being unfair. Perhaps in the middle somewhere was the Ayn Rand bookshop, or the Ronald Reagan Memorial Tent. Perhaps the Finsbury Square satellite site is where they are holding the Friedman lectures.

I also noticed the portable loos were in place, though their presence clearly hadn’t stopped some from answering the call of nature at the door of God’s house. It was wholly unsurprising to sit in Starbucks and watch some of the nemeses of capitalism taking a seat on one of the evil capitalist comfortable sofas long enough to take advantage of the evil capitalist free wifi.

Now, once again the 99% can enjoy the magnificence of Wren’s creation without the added authentic squalor of Sir Christopher’s London that was provided by the squatters. Oh, and Starbucks can re-open their customer toilets.

The 1% that Capitalists and Occupiers Agree On … Sort of

Two camps (metaphorically speaking, in one case) like the free market capitalists and OccupyLondon/Wall Street are unlikely to agree on anything. Diametrically opposed views on the nature of profit, business, property, the Rule of Law, and campaigning methods make it surprising that, regarding one particular issue surrounding the banking system, the two sides actually agree. That is, that the taxpayers’ bailout of the failing banks was wrong.

Soviet propaganda poster

You say "Resource Based Economy", I say "Communism Redux"

Even on this single point, though, the differences are clearly visible. It’s like looking at a sheet of paper edge-on, move just slightly left or right and you see it has quite different pictures drawn on each side.

Free marketeers opposed the bailouts on the grounds that such institutions, badly managed and destined for failure, should have been allowed to fail (though I suspect many might accept the case for some depositor protection). We would point out that those banks were not the sole cause of their own demise; irresponsible lending means irresponsible borrowing (by both individuals and states), and government played its own part in other ways too. However, bailing out a failing bank should be as much an anathema as keeping open uneconomic coal mines, or indeed propping up any other business; it is unsustainable. Iceland is frequently now being cited as a positive outcome to a refusal to flog the bank’s dead horse.

As for the Occupiers, any attempt to summarise their political wishes must be qualified by that fact that, typically, they are but a loose collection of vaguely coinciding viewpoints, and that’s when you can find any with a remotely clear idea of an ‘alternative’.

Some talk of a ‘Resourced Based Economy’ (16 min. video here, if you fancy a laugh) with it’s global resource system, central distribution points and central planning of, well, everything, is making the classic mistake of all collectivists. Such communal living may work within a household, cathedral courtyard or kibbutz, but the more you try to scale up such ideas, the more diverse and dispirate become the needs and aspirations of the participants, and so the system – in the absence of coercion and force – breaks down.

Even so, it’s probably fair to say that a general dissatisfaction does exist with ‘the current system’ stemming, in part, from an apparent lack of control over the banks, ‘excessive’ profits, bonuses, and lack of sharing the wealth. The solution implied by the Occupiers as regards banking would be to nationalise the banks (or subjecting them to such stifling state control that the effect would be much the same).

So while neither side is happy with the bailouts, free marketeers’ discontent is that the bailouts happened at all, whereas Occupiers would rather the government had gone the whole way and nationalised the entire sector.

So much for a ‘new’ system; it seems Occupiers simply want to try good old Communism again, and ignore the lessons of history. Those of us of an Austrian economic persuasion are still hoping for the first sighting of some genuine capitalism, instead of the various degrees of corporatism which the Left mistake for it.