I haven’t been involved with the Occupy movement although I’ve been an observer since its start in Bristol as I was working in the building in front of which the protest was held. I’m sympathetic as most thinking people are to the aims of the movement but there seemed to be something a bit half-baked about the protest. Ultimately it’s good that there are people prepared to get out there and propagate and defend their beliefs. Earlier this evening (30th December 2011 – in the dark) I managed to do my bit by contributing to a gathering where we got together by the side of the camp and sang a few songs. It was organised by my friend Jo Harris and was aimed principally to promote the ideas of the Positive Money organisation.
Personally I look to Chomsky to give me guidance in the sphere of global development. I believe that he is the godfather of all this Occupy-type stuff. For me he sits astride the 20th-21st century socio-political world as Marx did in the 19th century, but whereas Marx developed a political system which would replace capitalism, Chomsky has just given us a critique of the current global political situation, there is no alternative system presented. Perhaps this is the best way.
My problem is that I look at history to provide antecedents. There’s always been a lot of shit happening and I find it hard to believe that that’s going to stop being the case. The rest is messianism.
Anyway here are a few quotations from Chomsky from an interview by Corporate Watch from May 1998,
Computers were created at public expense and public initiative. In the 1950s when they were being developed, it was about 100% public expense. The same is true of the Internet. The ideas, the initiatives, the software, the hardware — these were created for about 30 years at public initiative and expense, and it’s just now being handed over to guys like Bill Gates.
…that’s the whole point of corporatization — to try to remove the public from making decisions over their own fate, to limit the public arena, to control opinion, to make sure that the fundamental decisions that determine how the world is going to be run — which includes production, commerce, distribution, thought, social policy, foreign policy, everything — are not in the hands of the public, but rather in the hands of highly concentrated private power.
If you go back to around 1970, international capital flows were about 90% related to the real economy, like trade and investment. By now, at most a few percent are related to the real economy. Most have to do with financial manipulations, speculations against currencies, things which are really destructive to the economy. And that is a change that wasn’t true, not only wasn’t true 100 years ago, it wasn’t true 40 years ago.
So the first thing that has to be done is to create for ourselves, for the population, systems of interchange, interaction, and so on. Like Corporate Watch, Public Citizen, other popular groupings, which provide to the public the kinds of information and understanding, that they won’t otherwise have. After that they have to struggle against it, in lots of ways which are open to them. It can be done right through pressure on Congress, or demonstrations, or creation of alternative institutions. And it should aim, in my opinion, not just at narrow questions, like preventing monopoly, but also at deeper questions, like why do private tyrannies have rights altogether?