Radical political analysis, commentary and discussion in Wales
Dadansoddiad a thrafodaeth radicalaidd o wleidyddiaeth yng Nghymru
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Occupy movement is coming to Cardiff

Protest camps are an old tradition on this island. The summer of 1549 and ‘Kett’s Rebellion’ was once known as ‘the camping time’ as rebels set up 18 campsites across England. Under the ‘Oak of Reformation’ commoners met to debate and demand an alternative government and condemned the first privatisation – the enclosure of the common land. Closer to our own time we recently marked the thirtieth anniversary of the famous 1981 Greenham Common Peace Camp when women marched from Wales to RAF Greenham Common to call upon the nation to choose the human race over the nuclear race.

On Friday 11th November activists in Cardiff will participate in a global day of action called by the Occupy Movement, gathering at 2 pm on Queen Street under the shadow of the statue of Aneurin Bevan, the founder of the National Health Service. The aim is to set up a city centre camp against the cuts, austerity and the lack of economic and political democracy in our society. The camp will be a space to meet new people, swap ideas and information, share survival tips, raise awareness of issues of poverty and deprivation; a visible symbol of resistance in the heart of the city.

“Tent City” may well prove an appropriate form of protest for this generation, the precariousness of life on a campsite mirroring the precariousness of our generation. Whether the ‘graduate with no future’, or the NEETs (Not in education, employment or training), or the thousands unemployed or trapped in part time or agency work, or the low waged and unwaged: A spectre is haunting the youth, the spectre of no future.

For many in Wales this winter will be grim, 10,000 people working in the public sector have already lost their jobs this year and another 21,000 job cuts are predicted, and while politicians fiddle expenses on their second homes, it is predicted that 36 people will lose their only home every day from now until Christmas.

These tragedies cannot continue to be the fears of individuals, but must become the subject of collective struggle. Mutual aid and self help must be relearned. Alongside protests, we need projects designed to help people counter some of the effects of the crisis, networks of solidarity and support for each other and community based solutions to poverty. We need musicians, writers and artists to build the movement on the cultural front, social activities where we can meet and be merry in these hard times. We also need a movement to stop evictions, a movement big and bold enough in the city that when the bankers and bailiffs come to evict people from their homes, hundreds of people in the neighbourhood will come out to occupy the streets and resist.

Recently Cardiff Bus announced a fare increase. At a time when people are already feeling the pinch, this is an attack on the living standards and pocket of those who have to use public transport. Can we build an Occupy movement in the city that would upon announcement of the fare increase immediately occupy the HQ of Cardiff Bus, blockade buses to bring the city to a standstill and launched a campaign of mass-refusal to pay the increased fare?

In Spain, occupations of public squares have now diversified into occupations of buildings, neighbourhood assemblies and other forms of resistance. In the USA, an initial protest of 150 activists attempting to storm Wall Street has mushroomed into occupations in a myriad of American cities involving thousands and spawning international movement.

Perhaps the most impressive recent demonstration was the general strike staged by Occupy Oakland in response to police brutality that left an Iraq veteran critically injured: Thousands of workers, students and unemployed staged a festival of resistance climaxing in the shutting down of the 5th largest port in America.

Meanwhile in London, electricians instructed by bosses to sign new contracts that include a 30% pay cut or face the sack have repeatedly joined forces with occupiers from the St Paul’s Cathedral camp in direct action to blockade and shut down building sites.

Wednesday 30th November, the day of mass strikes will be an important day for the anti-cuts and occupy movements, and the urgent task is now to tie our ropes together – to build bridges between striking workers, the student movement, the disenfranchised youth who rioted and looted, the camps, UK Uncut, and all the resistance currently fragmented: We are all in it together!