Joe Glenton, a former soldier jailed for refusing to return to Afghanistan, visits Occupy LSX, the 'forward operating base ' of the revolution.
I visited Occupy LSX and became enamoured. One reason is that the last occupation I was in was Afghanistan which, if I’m charitable, is going fucking nowhere. LSX washed away that sour taste. Another is that it brought from my memory dust, heat and a sense of emergency. Here I was in London and the protestors huddled about me debating morphed into soldiers. I might be a touch mad - liberal interventionism will do that to you - but this comparison might shape how we see these occupations.
Amongst the basic tasks of the most important kind of soldier is taking and holding ground, occupying it; and from there consolidating and dominating the surrounds. This is the role of the infantryman. The name stems from the French word for children, as in Napoleon’s Enfants Terribles; his terrible children. In at least a political sense, these ideological campers are our infantry.
Those who have occupied the stock exchanges and those who later issued out of it and set up another occupation are carrying out such a role. Even the protest march which led them to Finsbury was a classic deception plan. It was carried with audacity, secrecy, tactical agency and speed that would make even the most foamingly Tory general misty-eyed.
Moreover, the grasp of reality is impressive. St. Pauls has limited space, and if the occupation is to grow it must find new space; close to but separate from the initial site with its impressive logistics and infrastructure. If you like, these are forward operating bases, as in the FOB’s of military jargon in Afghanistan and Iraq.
This comparison is further relevant; in Afghanistan and Iraq the invasions were expeditionary in nature. A point which emerged from the open-air debate in the shadow of the Bank of England is that the City and Corporation of London are nothing if not sovereign; the term ‘offshore’ was used and holds true. The occupations, worldwide and in London, are deep in enemy territory and beset on all sides. They currently compose part of the frontline between people and capital, of the fight against capitalism, and, by extension, the fight against imperialism, austerity, exploitation and racism.
As Trotsky pointed out, all innovation in military matters emerges from the ranks. Ten minutes in the LSX camp will confirm Trotsky was on the ball. This echoes a more modern expression in use in the military: 'the man on the ground is always right’. Excuse gender. The place drips with innovation, from the home-made signs to the lashing of tents to railings to the team effort to restrain the flimsy accommodation in high winds. Further, those in the struggle best understand the struggle. Those people have made every tactical decision so far and they remain to brag about it; the sullen police, bankers and establishment look on.
Like any such force, innovative and expeditionary, this one has limitations. Not least the logistical ‘bungee’; material support is required, new recruits must join the ranks, new areas taken and held. A Dale Farm pogrom may be looming. The City, as with much that goes with capitalism, is prone to psychotic outbursts. As Shakespeare said; ‘when troubles come, they come not as single spy’s… but in battalions’. For the LSX Occupation trouble will likely come in battalions of militarised police as the behest of the City and the state it directs. Just ask the ex-US marine who, having survived two tours of Iraq, was shot in the face with a baton round by police in a recent clearance operation in the States. That said, the police are not the only ones to watch.
Already the occupation in Newcastle has been attacked; apparently by fascists. The pre-dawn raid was made worse by the sluggish response of the police. Whether this was due to inefficiency, excessive donuts plus heavy body armour or the tacit approval of the far-right which exists within the state and its bodies of men remains to be seen. Either way, establishment or fascist, this was a response by capital; by way of its most bitter and unconscious offspring and against the people. Fascism, after all, is only ever inches from the nipple of its proud parent: capitalism.
With politicized charities unlikely to jump all the way left, so we must 'help the heroes'. We can identify them and their needs all by ourselves, no need to take our cues from the state and its organs on who is deserving of support. The protestors have drawn a political line in the sand. These movements, to lean on an Eagleton comment on the nature of revolutions, are not the runaway trains; they are an attempt to apply the brakes.
By way of prescription, each of us should provision the occupations as well as we can with what they need. Add to their ranks if you can; they need to be bolstered. As the Newcastle experience shows vigilance is critical. To further strengthen the occupations sentries, doubled at night and provisioned properly, should be set and rotated and the chemical entertainments removed. Courage of the non-Dutch type is required. Both of these should be considered if they are not yet in place.
Whatever you do and however we view the Occupy movements never doubt that between us and capital there is war; when you look at these little outposts realise that they are central to that effort. After all, bankers are not the only ones concerned with futures.
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