Occupy Prague: We must ask ourselves if we want this kind of capitalism

Politics & Policy|Economy|Society
Petr Matějček | 02.04.2012

Q: You are proposing ten points to improve the situation in the Czech Republic. Could you briefly enunciate these to us?

CEMPER: Firstly, I’d stress that all our resolutions are adopted at assemblies anyone is allowed to attend. We sharply reject racism, xenophobia and hatred towards homosexuals. We believe that the present system is not sufficiently democratic. It's devoid of any elements of direct democracy. We consider the current system to be unsustainable over the long run, from an economic perspective but for instance also for environmental and social reasons. ‘We believe that the present system is not sufficiently democratic. It's devoid of any elements of direct democracy.’

Global corporations, banks and governments don’t give a damn about the environment and inter-human relationships. We reject the monopolies of the banks, multinational corporations, the European Union and other large international institutions. But we, for example, also reject that bailiffs in this country can nowadays do whatever they like. The current system is simply unsustainable. We should, therefore, look for alternatives which should come from us, from an awakening of society. Let us not rely anymore on politicians and the state. We have to rely on ourselves – the solution to this crisis is within us. We really have the power to create a new future.

Q: You had your first action event Sunday, April 25, in Prague’s Bunkr club. How did your “beginning of the future” work out?

CEMPER: It was a benefit concert attended by roughly 100 people. Expressing their support and performing in the Bunkr were hardcore punk bands and bands from the modern underground scene such as Drom, Kiss The Sun and Underground Theatre. Also featured was a half-hour lecture about our planned Klárov protest. We managed to collect some money for mobile toilets and basic facilities. We also distributed some materials and organized the posting-up of placards on the streets. We gear all our efforts towards April 28.

We will present a more detailed announcement of our protest a week before it goes ahead, during the upcoming trade union demonstration which, of course, has our full support. Bringing down this government is simply a necessity. The current reforms threaten a large part of the population, particularly the poor and the unemployed. The freezing of pensions and the VAT increases would in the coming year, among other things, result in a large rise in the number of homeless people. People would simply lack the money for rent and food.

Q: Will dringing down the government solve anything?

CEMPER: True, also other steps need to be taken, towards direct democracy, transparency of public contracts and the removability of politicians from office.

Q: So how will Occupy Prague proceed?

CEMPER: On April 28 we will set up a tent village at Klárov of at least 50 and up to, ideally, several hundred tents. We will organize various lectures, workshops and, above all, discussions with people. We would like to know what’s bugging them and what solutions they suggest. We would like to hear the opinions of at least 1000 people and with their help draw up a set of specific demands with which we'd go to government and opposition politicians.   

Q: What if the government and opposition completely ignore you?

CEMPER: Then we simply won't vote for them. We will also spur people to civil disobedience and the like.

Q: So specific objectives will only crystallize from that Klárov protest?

CEMPER: Exactly.

Q: How many people do you expect to come there?

CEMPER: At least 2000 people will take part in the demonstration which starts at Wenceslas Square. But not all of them need to be camping for all those months at Klárov. It will be enough if after work they come to visit, support and debate with us. We want to stick it out there to at least 12 May, which is World Occupy Day. ‘[Not] all of them need to be camping for all those months at Klárov. It will be enough if after work they come to visit, support and debate with us.’

Q: Do you already know what workshops you are going to organize?

CEMPER: Every day at six we'll have our so-called “grand assembly” when it is decided what actions will be taken in the coming days. Apart from that we already have several commitments from experts for the holding of lectures. For example professor Milan Valach, spokesman of the Movement for Direct Democracy, should be making an appearance or Ilona Švihlíková, who focuses on various aspects of globalization, while the workshop on internet security should be held by a member of the Pirate Party. This all will be complemented with happenings and petitions.

Q: How close are you to the Czech Pirate Party?

CEMPER: Quite a few among us sympathize with the pirates. Of all the political parties they are certainly closest to our hearts.

Q: In your promotion materials you also feature the Guy Fawkes mask, the symbol of the Anonymous movement…

CEMPER: Also their movement is rooted in the ideals of the Occupy movement. We are very close to them as well, since they, similar to us, don’t rely on a leadership or a charismatic personality. Like Anonymous we are of the view that we constitute a driving force capable of showing politicians and global administrations that it’s we who will decide about our future and that they’d better pay attention to us. That's where we've got a lot in common with Anonymous. It’s even sometimes suggested that Occupy is the internet appearance of the Occupy movement – the only difference being that we're on the squares while they’re in cyberspace.

Q: If anything, Czech politicians tend to make fun of Anonymous. You think they'll take you seriously?

CEMPER: The government not even takes a trade union demonstration attended by 40,000 people seriously. Each movement that aims to achieve something first has to show that it is strong, with regular people at its side who go to work and watch television but who are ready to take to the streets with them. The present government demonstrates incredible arrogance of power while it must be aware that the trade unions are capable of bringing this country to a halt.

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Biased Interview, Bad Journalism

I am surprised to see how biased the interviewer is toward the ideas endorsed by Jan Cemper. The interviewer's questions presuppose "experts" are better than informed citizens, which often is not true. And judging from his questions, the interviewer also obviously thinks Cemper's movement should not be taken seriously. That is plainly bad journalism.  An interviewer should be more objective.

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