There’ll be some triumphant march organisers tonight. At least** 50,000 people traipsed around Manchester doing the “chant, chant, slogan slogan slogan” thing.
Papers were sold (I think every single Trot in the UK was there). Placards were waved.
Personally, I had a good time but then I was there doing something specific and local that meant I was talking to lots of random people and made some useful connections.
THIS: Marches are passive. You move from A to B along the route you are told, ducking and weaving around the paper-sellers and petitioners. At the end, a bunch of speakers tell you things you already know. (Someone needs to tell Owen “Chavs” Jones to dial back on the matey demagoguery. The word “friends” needs to be retired, in the way that Deckard retired replicants, okay Owen?). You duck and weave around more paper sellers. The bins are stuffed full of discarded signs, the march route a tip. It’s as if RTS had never happened. Everyone gets to feel happy.
And it does NOT build movements.
If it did, then, given the number of marches that get organised, we would have the mass movements not just to challenge austerity but to have rendered it un-implementable in the first bloody place.
Marches may or may not “inspire” new people to get involved. But getting involved – beyond a direct debit – means turning up at a local meeting of some small group. And my experience of this has been that those small groups are managed/”led” terribly, with new people either ignored, patronised, squeezed out or treated as newspaper-selling fodder. And almost all of those new people attend for one or two or three meetings and then are never seen again. They can’t all have been cops. Some of them were potential responsible citizens, till they got dismissed and demoralised by the wretched culture of the “left.”
So maybe instead of spending quite so much time doing the same old thing (and you know, I think the Tories might just know they aren’t liked. In fact, I think they might actually revel in that fact), we could take a long hard look at how these marches allow people to show off their coach-booking skills, their oratory and their ego-fodderification skills. And how
THEY. DO. NOT. BUILD. MOVEMENTS.
* A reference to this song
** There was a time when you could get a narrow range of attendance guestimates by doubling the number the police put out and halving the number the organisers put out. The police now have a self-interest in inflating numbers. I don’t know what the new formula should be