The hearing is really attempts to appeal against a court order - to vacate the sides, the City of London Cooperation applied to a court for possession of the space and for the clearance of the occupation on the whole variety of grounds including public safety and health issues. And basically for the people who are really on occupation site none of the reasons offered were valid so they are contesting the court order. On the one hand the Occupy has their certain rights to be on the space and the Cooperation of the City of London would kind of likely to be gone. And I think it’s the war of words really.
As far as I remember when I was speaking to several experts this autumn many of them were telling me that the Occupy movement would subside as winter sets on. So, obviously that hasn’t happened.
Well, I think people recon without the sheer stubbornness at the people who stayed, people who want some acer point and think the point still needs to be made. The numbers of people kept at St. Paul’s has diminished in the course of the winter. I’m not quite sure how many are still there, there still quite a number of tents there. And there have been other sites that have been occupied - there is still some occupation at Finsbury Square and at the abandoned bank building that is still being occupied. Some of the other occupations have not lasted, they were very smaller. I think that essentially the job is done, so people will stay there as long as they can and have this continuing to make the point.
What is their point, I mean what are they protesting against now?
Well, I think the general point is that on the one hand there is a large number of people who are unemployed or people who run low and diminishing income. And on the other hand we still have bankers and cooperation chief executives who to most people have obscenely large salaries and bonuses. And there is an evidence of some response certainly in public opinion, politicians, Government of some pressure on bank executives in particular to forego bonuses and maybe not to take such vast salaries. I think in the sense the people who are in the occupation are encouraged by the facts that there is this evidence of response and why quit when you are winning, I think it might be somewhere looking at it.
As an expert, just what is your forecast? How do you see this movement evolving over time, is it going to evolve?
It is very difficult to say. In the first place I didn’t expect it to happen, secondly I didn’t expect it to go on as long as it has. So, I wouldn’t be the best person to forecast where it will go from here. But I think there is a sense that we are at the turning point. There is a sense of changing both in public and elite opinion that something has gone badly out of balance with the balance of rewards under capitalism. And if you look at the general graphs of the proportions of the income taken by the richest one is 5-10% of the population. We haven’t seen the levels of inequality like these at least since the beginning of the Great Depression and in many cases since the beginning of the 20th century. And I think it is a general feeling like that is too much and it cannot go on.
These people are obviously protesting but do you think that this movement could produce some kind of constructive solution? Are they suggesting anything?
Well, there is I think a manifesto, if you like, posted on the website, a list of demands or aspirations. I think certainly what most on the left think is that this list of demands is altogether too modest. It can be summed up in a say what these people appear to be asking for – it is a reformed and kinder form of capitalism rather than any radical change of the social and economic order.
Is the UK Occupy movement just a part of the global Occupy movement or is it somehow different from the occupiers in the rest of the world?
I think these things always have some national completion to them and in that respect they differ from place to place. The one thing that keeps is the Internet. These occupiers wherever they are, are aware of what others are doing. But I think the tactics that are employed in different places vary. For one thing in Britain the policing of these protests has been very restrained. You couldn’t say that about the policing of many of the occupy protests in the United States for example. And I think the fact that the policing is more restrained in Britain means that the character of the protest is different – it is a lot less angry from day to day, if you like, than it is in, say, Auckland or perhaps in New York.
In fact as you keep on watching the development of this movement it gives you some kind of resemblance to the concept of universal communist revolution – it’s global, it’s leftist and in fact what they are targeting is the system.
Well, I guess that’s true, I mean I think there have been connections made with the wave of anti-globalization protests from around about 1999 and through the succeeding years. I think the thing that strikes me about it – yes, there are some congenialities but the critic of capitalism seems to be curiously softer at this time around than it was then. It seems to be more a bearing of witness to the possibility of an alternative and maybe an alternative isn’t either very well specified or particularly you can’t hear it, or indeed particularly radical.