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Occupy: Pro-democracy, not anti-capitalism

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On the same day that the Guardian published details of a police report labelling the Occupy movement anti-capitalist ‘domestic terrorists’, the blog Scriptonite Daily published an unusually clear explanation of what the movement is all about. The difference between the two conceptions is laughable – and worrying.

The Guardian reported that in a ‘terrorism/extremism update for the City of London business community’, police warned local businessmen to be vigilant against ‘suspected activists’ who ‘would fit the anti-capitalist profile’. The document, which listed international terrorist threats such as al-Qaida, had another section for ‘domestic’ threats devoted entirely to the movement.

To suggest that Occupy – essentially a bunch of people in tents, last time I checked – is ‘terrorism’ on the same scale as al-Qaida is obviously ridiculous.

What’s more worrying than an absurd label, however, is that the police feel they can legitimately condemn a movement on the grounds of anti-capitalism.

Anti-capitalism is not a crime. 

The police are not here to protect capitalism. They are here to protect democracy, and the people. Capitalism may be the most common expression of democracy, but democracy is not exclusively capitalist. For the police to raise concerns over ‘activists’ – also not illegal – simply because they are ‘anti-capitalist’ is against the spirit of democracy itself.

The beauty of democracy is the freedom it affords citizens to engage in debate about the system they live in, and the potential it offers for change.

Questioning the way things are run is not a threat to democracy: it is an essential part of it. On the other hand, criminalising a movement for disagreeing with the way things are run is a threat to democracy. All it reflects is the anxiety for self-perpetuation of those in power, and the deference of the police to this.

As an Occupy London statement summed up: “The desire to participate in democratic decision-making should not be a cause for concern for the police in any free society.”

At any rate, to even label the movement as ‘anti-capitalist’ is strongly reductionist - and is to miss the point of the whole thing.

Scriptonite Daily explains the aims of the movement: “One, a socio-political and economic system created and managed by the people, for the people.  And two, a reimagining of our relations with ourselves, each other and our planet -  the recreation of living sustainable lives in community with each other and nature.”

Occupy is not against capitalism per se; it is not defined by any specific ideology. Rather, it is a recognition that certain things in our current system aren’t working – something you don’t need to be an anti-capitalist to accept – and it is a starting point for debate as to the best place to go from here.

“The Occupy Movement is breaking open the conversation. People are gathering to ask questions about social justice, equality, gender, race, sexuality, class, economics, ecology, art, education, work, our own opinions and role in all of these. This is a global conversation on a scale which has never been witnessed before, because it was not technologically possible before. But while it is global in scale, it is local in action.” 

And although the kneejerk ‘anti-capitalist’ reactionary cry from authorities may be misguided, it is also heartening. It shows that the powers that be are worried. There is real potential for change in the Occupy movement. And even though they are not so naïve as to imagine it will happen tomorrow – or even any time soon – they have set the ball rolling.

Occupy represents democracy as it should be - a process of negotiation, undertaken by anybody who wants to be involved, and with no priority given  to the ruling paradigm. People are getting angry, and worried, and excited about the movement – but what’s most important is that people are discussing it. It is hard to say what the long term effects of the movement may be, or what conclusions will be drawn from a global debate. But getting people to realise that alternatives are possible is half of the battle.

Find out what Occupy represents here.

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