Sunday, 23 October 2011

One strike worth a dozen protests. But good luck anyway.

Of all the reasons to have a go at the anti-capitalists camped out at St Paul's - the most spurious are that they are disrupting the life and community of the church. St Paul's isn't a parish church in some sleepy corner of middle England that serves as the hub of a local community. People who choose to get married or Christened there are toffs or people with some tenuous connection to the great and good of the City. Or in other words - 'fair game'. And let's be honest it's not exactly a quiet spiritual haven amongst the hurly -burly of city life -  its a  sodding tourist theme park. They even charge admission.

Some Christians of a liberal bent have welcomed the protests - citing the medieval tradition of the church giving sanctuary to the people in their battles with the secular power. OK - but let's be honest, whilst the medieval peasant might well seek sanctuary from the church against the local landowning nobles, often the church itself was the landowner. Then they'd likely as not seek the patronage against church and nobles alike from the monarch. And that's exactly what happened in the 1381 peasant's revolt. It didn't get them very far and their leader Wat Tyler ended up being - both figuratively and literally - stabbed in the back for his illusions.

What's the point of this medieval detour ? Well Engels pointed out that the problem with such peasant's revolts was that they would only ever be protests - they were incapable of challenging for power because they appealed to someone else to champion their cause. And with respect I think the same goes for the anti-capitalist movement. However much I admire the camp's commitment and emotion, I can't help but think that essentially the sentiment is the same as the peasants of Olde Englande: 'this is unfair - something needs to be  done and someone needs to do something about it'.

Fair enough if the camp raises consciousness and makes people who wouldn't otherwise do so ask questions - but as far as challenging capitalism - or even trying to knock off some of its sharpest edges - then I'd have to argue that implicit in almost any strike is something  far more revolutionary; people becoming aware of and learning to flex own power.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Dean of St. Paul's has asked the protesters to leave for health and safety reasons. He mentions naked flames and a fire risk. I hope this doesn't lead to churches ending the practice of leaving unattended candles burning. He also refers to 'obvious public health hazards' which presumably is something to do with letting people go to the toilet. But they have loads of toilets in the cathedral. Weird.