Bristol Commune report on the goings-on at the city’s Occupy camp
The occupation of the open space area in front of the Bristol Council building began on the 15th October. The number of tents has grown since then, from 20 to over 40 at the beginning of November. People who have made the camp and ‘visitors’ come from all sorts of life. One day you may get a slightly middle class hippy feel to it, on another day you hear more of Bristolian accent or mix up with local homeless people. The camp has got relatively well-built basic infrastructure (for example a marquee with chairs to have meetings while it’s raining) and holds regular assemblies and ad hoc workshops. Every weekend there is a community fun day with arts, skills workshops and various discussions.
Bristol Commune went to two of them. In the discussion on financial crisis people were respectful and tried to listen to each other. One strand of participants argued that we need to get the banks under state control. People from ‘zeitgeist’ group argued for abolition of money and a resource-based economy. We said that it is impossible to reform capitalism by ‘cleaning’ it of the ‘bad’ financial capital. By doing that we would cut the essential blood veins of the system, which would bring it to even deeper crisis. We spoke against raising demands by the ‘occupy’ movement, instead of searching for links and coordination with sections of the working class. Most people were surprised and interested to hear about the encounter between the sparks and Occupy London, which we mentioned as an example.
The discussion a week later on ‘what is capitalism’ was another story. We managed to openly discuss our differences in how we understand capitalism. While some people equated it to a rule of corporations, others used the classical Marxist-Leninist scheme – the rule of owners of the means of production. We attempted to introduce a discussion on capital accumulation, global commodity chains, the proletarianisation of the populations of Asia and responses that must go beyond national boundaries and the trade union form of struggle. Unfortunately an interesting debate was suddenly side-tracked by a state socialist “anti-imperialist” who began defending Gaddafi and his regime as an alternative to capitalism. Despite the wish of the majority, she continually returned to defend the regime. At this point, it became futile for Bristol Commune to continue to engage in the debate. Another reason for leaving was the discussion was continually being photographed and filmed by people some of whom were obviously police officers. At one point the discussion was interrupted by a crowd of people dressed up as zombies for Halloween. This brought the obvious references to people sleep walking into social disaster and zombie capitalism – Chris Harman would have been proud!
A working class friend who came along with us (and who is no activist) said that she really liked this form of protest. She appreciated that she had a chance to speak, to exchange, to learn new things. ‘That’s got much more meaning for me than going to demonstrations or marches, where they just try to make you pissed off by repeating the same slogans on and on…’, she said.