Opinion: Why I’m backing the Occupy Movement as my Liberal Voice of the Year

Yes, it is true. I, of all people, did indeed recommend The Occupy Movement as the Liberal Voice of the Year. My health is perfectly fine and operating at sufficient capacity; but regular readers of my blog are fully aware of my support for these protesters. Overt Marxist language and anti-capitalists rhetoric is, of course, not very liberal but the ability to comprehend the true nature of corporate welfare and its relationship with government is something liberals should be aligning with.

Free markets and capitalism are not the problem – corporatism is. Corporate monopolies deny competition and prevent new competitors from entering the market. The dinners, lunches and special events with government ministers and officials are potentially disastrous for a representative democracy. Occupy Wall Street, especially, is working hard to expose these dirty relationships and tactics in the United States. Not only should the market be free, but the government should be free as well. Mussolini passionately advocated the singularity of government and corporatism, Western democracies should not be pandering to the philosophy of the defunct Partito Nazionale Fascista.

The Business Secretary, Vince Cable, made reference to the murky world of corporatism in his 2010 Party Conference speech and cited Adam Smith to defend his remarks. The coalition government has a duty to ensure the unfair advantages of corporations are not damaging the reputation of government and the competitiveness of the economy. And the financial crisis must signal the end to the culture of bailouts and access to taxpayer’s money; capitalism is about profit and loss, and losses should not be underwritten by ordinary citizens. The car industry received £3 billion bailout in the United Kingdom back in 2009, it was not just the banking industry to receive the keys to the Treasury. As the Occupy Movement argued, if banks and other corporations can be bailed out, what about the taxpayer? Of course, knocking on the Treasury’s door and asking for some money will likely get you detained under the Anti-Terrorism Act.

Occupy Wall Street might not be dancing to an overall liberal tune, but their anti-corporatism and exposing the influences over government makes a worthy vanguard worth encouraging and defending. The British equivalent has, alas, been hijacked by the unions but we should not allow Occupy LSX to damage a positive movement. The youth are finally realising the utopia of government is far from honesty and transparent, and thus failing to represent the interests of ordinary people. In a democracy, it is a government of the people and not the lucrative corporations. The Occupy Movement deserve a mention as a potential 2011 Liberal Voice of the Year.

* Daniel Furr is a former Liberal Democrat member from Canterbury and blogs here

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15 Comments

  • Callum Leslie 5th Jan '12 - 6:34pm

    Reading your post more thoroughly, you seem to be highly confused between the Occupy movement and the Uncut movement.

  • daniel furr 5th Jan '12 - 6:40pm

    Callum,

    I have not mixed the two. Occupy Wall street started out as an anti-corporate welfare movement.

  • Callum Leslie 5th Jan '12 - 6:52pm

    I really don’t think it did. It was a ragtag collection of different groups with different agendas, and to suggest it is “working hard” on anything is rather silly. Now all that is left is a hardcore of hard hard left activists, disavowed by the vast majority of the left. The Uncut movement are doing infinitely more good.

  • cynicalHighlander 5th Jan '12 - 8:56pm
  • Malcolm Todd 5th Jan '12 - 10:50pm

    “cyncicalHighlander” — how does anything in your links amount to “slavery”, with relish or otherwise? Some banks are helping shareholders to avoid tax to the tune of about £1.50 per EU citizen per year; and lobbying companies are claiming to potential customers to be very successful at lobbying… oh, the horror.

    Mind you, I’m not impressed with Occupy on just about any level. I saw a banner at the Nottingham town square “camp”, urging us to “Occupy the World!” Er… I thought we did, already?

  • Alex Sabine 6th Jan '12 - 1:05am

    I agree with Daniel’s denunciation of corporate welfare and corporatism, but like others I’m not convinced this is the cri de coeur of the Occupy movement, or indeed that it has any coherent critique or agenda.

    Also, while Daniel rightly points out that Vince Cable warned against corporatism in his first big speech after becoming Business Secretary (invoking Adam Smith), more recently he and the coalition have floated the deeply dubious idea that powerful businessmen should have a hotline to individual government ministers so that their concerns can be more readily heard.

    This threatens to be either futile or dangerous, and certainly not something liberals should support. The essence of liberalism is the dispersal of power, not its concentration; government and big business are already powerful enough without any more steps to fuse them.

    Instead of this and other flirtations with corporatism, the government needs a more ambitious agenda of broad-based supply-side reforms (in tax, the planning system, labour market and pay bargaining, skills, welfare reform) to help markets work more efficiently and boost our flagging productivity growth. That would help businesses large and small without special favours to privileged firms or sectors.

  • Occupy is a very broad based movement. Of course there will be marxists of various shades within it. I am not quite sure why Marxism is being thrown around as a bogeyman here – liberals (and Liberals) in the past have not been afraid to share some views and work with various marxists. I think the strength of the Occupy movement (I would be certain that there are plenty of liberals, and even Lib Dems involved) is its broad base, and its appeal to the world to change the financial, economic and business parameters under which it works, because its outcomes are at present profoundly unfair (and, I would say, illiberal outcomes). Too many modern Lib Dems are too obsessed about “free markets being the best system and model to work with”, and therefore come up with a kneejerk negative response to this kind of thinking. I would suggest we have lost our way ideologically on this point in the last 10 years or so, and we need urgently to update our thinking to take account of the “bleedin’ obvious”. On a similar theme, I am very surprised at how voices from “traditional nuLab” still seem to have great influence. Once Miliband took over, I expected them to move rapidly away from their economic tenets. The fact they haven’t leaves us with space there still.

    I have already voted for Occupy as liberal voice of the year. This is not to deny the great work UK Uncut and web based groups such as Avaaz and 38 Degrees are doing, but Occupy has in many ways been the most visible movement in the mass media working in this area.

  • David Allen 6th Jan '12 - 1:39pm

    “I’m not convinced … that (the Occupy movement) has any coherent critique or agenda.”

    Well, Bouazizi didn’t do anything terribly coherent or focused, either. He just had the idea that something needed to be done to kick off change. What he did turned out to work better than any amount of careful analysis. He didn’t begin an analytical process designed to divide marxists from liberals from islamists from everyone else, which some commentators seem keen to promote (perhaps they are bankers!). My main criticism of Occupy is that they haven’t yet found the way to make as much impact in kicking things off as Bouazizi did.

  • Malcolm Todd 6th Jan '12 - 1:45pm

    I think a lot of people are confusing protest with liberalism. Neither’s a bad thing. Neither’s a panacea either. What they certainly aren’t is the same thing. Or even things in the same category.

  • Malcolm Todd 6th Jan '12 - 10:26pm

    “Both the Tea Party and Occupy understand political reform is needed to change America and thus the left and right must unite among the grassroots to achieve it.”

    Seriously? ‘We all agree that it’s all wrong, so we just need to unite to change it, and, er, then work out our completely mutually opposing views of what we need to do instead it.’

    See that’s the problem with lauding ‘protest’ in general: just because you’re all against the same thing doesn’t mean you’ve got a common interest in changing it. It matters how you change it, and towards what. These aren’t details that can be left until you’ve torn down the system, man.

  • Malcolm Todd 6th Jan '12 - 10:27pm

    *instead.’*
    Don’t know what that ‘it’ is doing there. Can we have an edit-your-own-post function? Please?

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