or, what to do to make the buggers take more notice next time!
One of my daughters, my brother, and I, went on a terrific march in London on 20th July. Contrary to the understanding you may have picked up from the national “news” media, there were lots of other people there too! In fact there were thousands of other people there. It was the March For Change: essentially a march against BREXIT and against Boris Johnson’s ludicrous ascension to Prime Ministership.
By the way this gives rise to a new breed of conservative, The Breximorons: These are Tories who appear to have convinced themselves that Johnson will unite the Tory party; unite the Nation (notice which comes first); leave the EU by the end of October; bring back trust in the establishment; and all this whilst making the rich even richer without anyone noticing. Johnson will no doubt be doing all this boring stuff at the same time as screwing around, producing even more children, creating widespread mayhem, and abusing minorities of all shades. Oh yes, he also has a small matter of avoiding a war to sort out. If only he wasn’t such a twat!
BREXIT, BOLLOCKS, BORIS, Bedfellows, and Bastards
In the light of this, the purpose of the march, best summarised by its theme chant: Bollocks to BREXIT, Bollocks to BORIS, to the rhythm of Bring out the Branston, seems quite appropriate for the 62.5% of the electorate who didn’t vote for any kind of BREXIT, let alone a hard one, but ended up in this kind of pickle anyway. Come to think of it, 71% of the electorate didn’t vote for a Tory government either. Where is democracy when you need it?
Now, since BREXIT, BORIS, and Bollocks are such good bedfellows, along with Johnson’s tendency to fuck (up) almost anything, I’m looking forward to some fresh deniable offspring.
Anyway, back to the march: a march of two parts
It started from two places – I’m not sure why, but that was a mistake. Our group walked up to Park Lane and joined the huge throng there. We were then held up in the baking sun for the best part of an hour, milling around until, grumbling in a very British middle class way, we eventually set off and wended our already weary way, down past Green Park, through Piccadilly, past the fringes of Trafalgar Square, to Whitehall. Having briefly joined in the “Shame on You” chanting at the gated entrance to Downing Street, we ended up in a huge jamboree in Parliament Square. We seemed to miss the Boris Blimp, along with the other half of the march which had started from Green Park, presumably on time, and covered the same route, but the police took great pains to keep the parts separate.
One could put a charitable face on it and say this forced separation was for administrative reasons, but I’m sure that conspiracists would see things differently. In any event, it had the (desired or accidental) outcome of minimising the impact of the march.
Now, as I have explained, we were becalmed in one half of the mass of people and we certainly couldn’t see the front or the back of our section at any time. The width of the throng varied from say 6 to 12 people so that was….bear with me……one heck of a lot of people who cared enough to get off their backsides and onto the streets. I have no idea how big the other part of the march was, but it was a pretty remarkable event that deserved better coverage from the “News” media.
I expect nothing from the likes of the Sunday Torygraph, The Sunday Excess, The Mail on Spinday, The Old Etonian Times, etc, but coverage from the more sympathetic press also seemed strangely muted to those that attended.
TV coverage was also poor – from the BBC in particular. One of my Facebook contacts reported that early incarnations of the BBC website mentioned that “hundreds” of protesters were marching in London, although by the time I saw the site, that had been upgraded to “thousands”. In direct response to this lamentable state of affairs I shall henceforth be encouraging all I meet to refer to the BBC online presence as The BBC News Webshite because that better reflects their approach to news coverage.
This all got me thinking about the characteristics of a good demo.
So, what makes a good demo?
This march was trailed pretty well. It was fairly well organised. It was well attended from all over the country and beyond. It had some good speakers; it had the support of all sorts of good and worthy pressure groups. Banners and other materials were in abundant supply, and it was a really good event to have attended.
The people around me were articulate, friendly, well-mannered, good-humoured, willing to listen, open to others’ ideas, interested in where others had come from, and what their views were. At one stage they happily stopped to let a party of tourists cross the road – no problem, no need to be rude after all. They were knowledgeable: they knew who their MP’s were, they knew about article 50, about proroguing parliament, about the implications of leaving the EU, with, and without a deal, about the implications of BREXIT on the make-up and future of The UK, and a possible United Ireland, and so on.
They took encouragement from each other but seemed strangely shy about being there. Many of them were obviously embarrassed about chanting rude words.
The one thing they most certainly were not, was Militant!
There was a far greater risk of starting a street party than a riot.
True there were a few more strident types there, but the overall tone was one of “It will be terrible if this happens”, rather than “over my dead body”.
So, how should we go about raising the profile?
I guess the first thing is to get noticed
In many ways this is the easiest thing to do. The groups working on the next march in October have already started to set out material for the mother of all marches and it will take a concentrated effort to bring together all the strands of this into a cohesive whole.
Thinking about it though, it seems to me that we need more than a march. We also need a demo. The more I think about it, the more I realise that there is some significant space between a March and a Demonstration. Marches are generally well organised, friendly affairs, with good family input and a carnivalish atmosphere. Rather like last weekend’s March for Change. They are law abiding, well mannered, safe, and can maximise the sheer number of people that we can get out onto the streets. On a slack news weekend, these might be well covered. However, we should be aware that our opponents are masters of the art of diversion. Just watch how some anti-Labour party scandal happens to erupt on the same day. We need to be launching so many attacks that they are kept on the back foot.
However, we can do much more to poke the wasp’s nest. We must be more defiant, more radical, cause disruption, and upset the normal order of things.
It seems as though something more threatening, more disruptive, with a sinister edge, is needed to gain the attention of the authorities and the news media. If we are going to harness maximum attention, we need both strands. The Respectable and the Disreputable with some clear space between them. This has the added benefit of providing lots of news angles for the press to pick up on, lots of internal squabbles for them to invent, lots of personality clashes for them to dwell on. We do need to keep a good gap between disreputable demos and a respectable, well-regulated march, with clear deniability on the part of the march organisers. However, there is no reason why they should not happen at the same time, in support of similar aims. The demos can be peaceful but unlawful, using a civil disobedience approach, seeking to overstretch systems already under pressure in the mould of extinction rebellion, but the key thing is that we will not go quietly into the dark night that is BREXIT.
Then convince them that we can and will do it again, only more so
The people we are up against think they hold all the cards. We need to disabuse them of this idea.
Our opponents need to be made to understand that we can mobilise enough people who care enough about a common set of issues, to make life difficult for them. They generally like to see things in terms of spreadsheets and balance sheets, so we need to give them reasons to think again. It is no use trying to invoke their higher feelings – they have a different understanding of higher and they like being there! They also have a well developed herd instinct that enables them to take off in a well-heeled run for cover, leaving their weaker members to the wolves. They can always return later like jackals to pick over the bones of former colleagues looking for any scraps of residual value.
I’m not suggesting that we should smash things up, but we should do all we can to disrupt their business, to make life difficult for them, to make a lot of very public noise about just how bad they are until they change their ways. This means a flexible approach to disruption. Big Pharma is unlikely to be hugely affected by weekend demos in city centres; Big Global Brands are not likely to be hard hit by disruption in Trafalgar Square, Big Finance is unaffected by anything much happening on the streets in London on a Saturday. The Petro-Chemical Giant polluters don’t give a monkey’s what happens outside their head offices at weekends, and so on.
Targeted weekday disruption, weekend boycotts ?
One of my family members was suggesting that we need to develop alternative and more effective ways of influencing the ways of the world. Essentially, we agreed that this means disrupting business, disrupting those who make money off the backs of the rest of us. If we can make a dent in their business model they may change their behaviour or apply some pressure on others to do so.
To quote Naomi Klein, ” No is not enough”, we should work out how we want things to be, before we set out what we need to change to get there.
However, sometimes we just need to stir things up a bit because it is all running away from us.
So, what next? Is anything going on out there?
i’d love to hear from you.