How would you define Occupy ?
I don’t think I can comment on any manifestation of the “movement” other than the part of it in London I was involved in – which I would probably define it as the last part in a chapter of “activism” which came about post “anti-roads” movement and which followed a time-line through the anti-globalisation movements of the mid to late 90s and eco-movements of the same time. Defining is difficult, because that would suggest an objective “thing” to be described, but I suppose I would best locate it as a strange blend of Keynesian demands mixed with the semiotics of a certain kind of eco-minded, moralising form of street protest.
What were you doing before Occupy ?
Very little, politically speaking – occupy was the beginning of an ongoing and daily engagement in political organising.
Why did you participate in Occupy?
It felt a natural development of the participation in politics that was an increasing part of my life at that time – me and my partner had been going to more demonstrations, and stumbled across an action on Westminster Bridge where the start of Occupy LSX was being announced. So, I turned up! At the time, it seemed an exciting thing, and at times I even naively thought it was really the peak of a wave of change that would inevitably follow. Why I *continued* to participate in Occupy, as time progressed, is a very different question, with a much longer answer.
What impact did Occupy have on your personal life?
Vast – it became my main preoccupation for many months – and the things I began doing after leaving any engagement in the movement became even more consuming of my time. Its main impact was to make my social life political – whilst I obviously took time away from organising to look after myself from time to time, I did enjoy the notion of contributing to something bigger than myself – where the sum was greater than the parts (however compromised and problematic I increasingly found the sum to be!)
Did Occupy change the ways you think, feel and interact with the world? If yes, how so? What do you feel that you learned (or unlearned) that was unique to Occupy?
It created the opportunity to challenge how I engage in a political economy, tho I wouldn’t say the movement itself gave much of this opportunity – my attempts to reconcile my engagement and the path it set me on were definitely formative though. It began a process that took me from a rather tedious liberal social democrat, to a full blown militant self-defining communist within the space of a couple of years – I found the whole process an invaluable education in my rejection of “activism” (a problematic relation which I am now opposed to in my organising – for a full description of this approach see Give up Activism). Today, I organise around immediate material concerns that collectively allows people to establish control of resources required to reproduce their lives – largely housing in South London, and I’m involved in much more activity to deliver consequences to a state whose continuation I’m violently opposed to. I doubt I would have followed this path without Occupy being a formative step, so in that sense I’m glad of my engagement.
What impact do you think Occupy has had on the economic and political situation?
In immediate terms, I don’t think Occupy itself has had any impact whatsoever, beyond giving a few people round the globe slightly profitable media careers. In secondary terms, I think things like the Corbyn leadership has been a successful recuperation by the institutional left of anything vaguely useful that came out of the Occupy movement. Beyond this, and providing a few pieces of rhetoric to the left (and in some cases the far right – who have used rhetoric of the 1% in their anti-Semitic sloganeering), I struggle to see any impact.
I suppose anything that can gather so many disparate people together, even for a moment, under such a broad umbrella could be considered a strength. I think most else was weak. I think it was weak that for the sake of good public relations, the movement shied away entirely from naming the problems of the system it opposed – a refusal to centre the current crisis within the racialised, gendered capitalist system, and to begin to make proposals explicitly aimed at antagonising against this reality instead gave way to at best some moralising arguments about ending corruption and greed. I felt there was weakness around accountability, and a weakness to create a sense of autonomy for participants. I don’t separate myself from any of these criticisms. I was involved, and anything I say I also had the capacity to attempt to implement. I wish I had developed these understandings sooner.
Given the current political and economic situation, what is your view on what people can do to bring long lasting systemic change?
I think it’s very possible – and more importantly, necessary. I am a firm believer in the boundless capacity of the working class across the globe to write the history of their lives. I don’t think it is easy, but it’s more than possible. The crisis will continue to deepen, and there is a rather final date on climate change fast approaching. But I believe people committed to long, tedious organising can absolutely bring about the changes they desire. My politics are now rooted in survival, and finding places where people are struggling to survive, and attempting to offer spaces that allow this survival to be collectivised, with a view to delivering consequences to those who maintain their rule through violent exploitation. Movements such as Black Lives Matter for instance, give me immense hope that the anti-black chattel slavery at the heart of our economy is finally being named, and the hyperlocal resistance to the housing crisis, and racist immigration raids also demonstrate the capacity for an immediate improvement to our situations.
Before Occupy, were you involved in activities related to the reasons why you participated in Occupy? (Activist groups, campaign groups, media platforms, volunteering, research, etc)
Are you still involved in activities related to the reasons why you participated in Occupy? (Activist groups, campaign groups, media platforms, volunteering, research, etc)
I’m still engaged in political organising – tho I largely reject the premise of the framing of the question – I look back at Occupy as being largely a moral argument, and my participation was on moral grounds. Maybe the reasons are similar, but they’re vastly different in practice? But, I organise around housing and resisting state violence in South London.
Are you still actively working or engaged with people that you met through Occupy?
What kind of activities are you doing together?
The people I met through the Occupied Times continue to produce critical media together – we’re currently working on our 30th issue together (tho it is unrecognisable when compared with the media we produced when we first met)