Do you hear the people sing?

I was at the London March for a Future That Works yesterday (October 20).  And my answer to the title question can be best summed up with the fact that I considered titling this post ‘The People’s Flag is Palest Pink’.  The march was … a big march.  I’ve been on them before and because you are all marching in the same direction you don’t get to see much of what is going on.

I arrived in Hyde Park to be greeted by a Green activist telling me I’d just missed Mr Millibean being booed for saying he’d be implementing cuts. Or more accurately telling us that Ed Miliband had been terrible.  He did not, contrary to Twitter, arrive in a Rolls Royce; that picture was taken in Hull (see the watermark). But from the linked video you can see exactly how bad a speech that was give to that audience.

Of the speeches I saw, little needs saying.  There was plenty of red meat for the crowd (some provided by Osbourne attempting to fare-dodge) including the union leaders and Bob Crow in particular calling for a General Strike.  Hint: This isn’t 1982.  Or even 1926.  There hasn’t been the will or the strength for a general strike in my lifetime – it’s nothing more than seeking one big battle to be crushed in.

And this brings me on to the core of my observations.  I was walking round and looking at the crowd far more than I was the speakers.  They were far more interesting.    And far more of an indication of what sort of unrest there was.  They were claiming 100,000 people at the time and the official claim is over 150,000.  Which is 100,000 down on the march a year ago – a very bad sign.  But worse was looking round the crowd and seeing who wasn’t there.

To quote the Billy Bragg version of The Internationale “Freedom is merely privilege extended,
Unless enjoyed by one and all.”  And the people there?  I’d estimate UNISON were the largest group, followed by the other unions (PCS, RMT, NASUWT, etc.).  The SWP were there, of course.  So were the other various socialist parties.  The Quakers.  Oddball left wing groups like the Red Leicester Choir.  Various local Labour party groups.  The Stop the War Coalition.  In short it was just about all left-wing rent-a-mob.

And who was missing?  My first observation on hitting the rally was that I didn’t think I’d seen a crowd that white in London since I lived in Eltham (the site of the Stephen Lawrence murder).  My second thought was that the students were missing.  There may have been a group of students from Warwick – and the two trolls carrying signs (one asking ‘Haven’t the bankers paid enough’) may have been students.   There were also other students in the crowd – but a distinct lack of students groups.

And this lead me to my second observation.  The overwhelming majority of the crowd were either people who I thought would have marched in the 70s or their children.  It seemed that the crowd was almost entirely a subset of the white upper working/lower middle class.  So much for “International Solidarity” –  they couldn’t even manage to attract outside a specific wedge who will be completely ignored by this government because I believe 99.9% of the crowd that turned up wouldn’t vote Tory if you paid them.  Marches are supposed to show strength.  That showed weakness.  It showed a lack of solidarity and a group that almost can not affect this government.

So no, I don’t hear the people sing.  The group preaching solidarity have turned into a pressure group.

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3 thoughts on “Do you hear the people sing?

  1. That’s really frustrating. One of the most effective and moving protests I ever participated in was a huge climate change protest in London in 2007. Even though it didn’t get a lot of media coverage, it was encouraging to me because of the diversity of religion, culture, and age.

    • Indeed it was 😦 And I’ve been sceptical about any effect marches can have for more than inspiration since the anti-Iraq war marches, which put about a million people onto the streets of London.

  2. Pingback: Updated This Week In The Slacktiverse, October 27th 2012 « The Slacktiverse

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