I was at the Anti-Trump march and rally in central London on Friday. For me at least, there was definitely something of the 15th February 2003 anti-war march about it. That is not to say that there was anywhere near as many people there, but the make up of those attending was very similar. Many protests and rallies can end up feeling like the same old faces and banners, but every once in a while one stands out. Friday was one of those. The usual faces were there, as were the usual banners, the usual students bunking off school, the usual random and not so random flyer’ers, and of course the usual portable gazebo/newspaper stalls selling the inside track on the route to revolution. But on Friday, like the 15th February 2003 before it, there seemed to be more to it than just that.
As I arrived at the start of the Anti-Trump march the UK mainstream media was in the middle of it’s usual two-step. In the week leading up to the protests, it had warned in ominous tones of the potential for widespread violence and rioting from small groups of mindless hooligans, citing the Poll Tax protest, and the undirected riots of 2011. (Sorry that was the wrong link, this is the proper one). What I saw on Friday, and what I would estimate well over 150,000 other people saw, was something quite different. The march was made made up of families, workers, students, and pensioners. It was normal people, from all sorts of lifestyles, that had decided, regardless of the what the ruling class was telling them, that there is something very nasty happening within the capitalist system, and they cannot remain silent any longer.
I think that there are many reasons for this growth in discontent, not least of all the return of sections of the Labour party to its socialists roots, the withdrawal of the right to the comfort-blanket of its elitist far-right roots, the decrease in deference of each subsequent generation to the institutions of power, and of course the shift in power over mass-audience communications from the traditional media institutions to the social media networks. Whatever the reasons or catalysts for this change are, for me at least, the change itself seems to be manifesting itself in two key ideas. Firstly, an increasing acceptance that we are caught in a very clear and rigid class framework where the rich exploit the poor, and the various institutions of social control perpetuate and rationalise this exploitation. And secondly, that it is through our own inactivity, silence, and introversion that this is allowed to continue. I think there is a danger, if we are not careful, that the establishment will try to shepherd this mass-politicisation into the cul-de-sacs which they already control.
After the Friday Anti-Trump march, when the mainstream media’s predictions of anarchy and revolution in the streets were proved laughably wide of the mark, again, they quite predictably fell back into their usual script of either downplaying the numbers or just pretending it didn’t happen. Although not all of them seemed to have a copy of that script. Strangely, the Evening Standard figured it at 250,000 people on the Friday Anti-Trump march. Then, things took a quite nasty turn. On Saturday, we got to see what Pro-Trump support looks like when it is stripped of it’s Eton accents, Ivy League educations and bespoke tailored suits. It looks like a few hundred, possibly a couple of thousand Tommy Robinson acolytes, and what’s left of UKIP. Interestingly, in the Metro coverage of this far-right provocation, the UKIP leader Gerard Batten is alleged to have compared Tommy Robinson to the Suffragettes, Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. Personally, I am not getting that. But maybe that is just me.
I’ve spoken at length previously about my fear and distrust of anyone attempting to regiment groups into uncritical foot soldiers, whatever the cause; be it the right, the left, the nation, the monarch, the president, the constitution, a race, a gender, a type of employment, or even a class. For me at least, if we are not freely and critically associating with each other in order to bring about absolute equality, then we are just looking to transfer the reigns of control from one elite to another. If we are not seeking to engage and share knowledge with everyone, then we are simply attempting to mirror their systems of manipulation and coercion. In 1937, after the Capitalist, Communist and Fascist nations joined forces to wipe out anarchism from Spain and the history books, Emma Goldman famously said that it would take us a hundred years to get back to where we were. It’s been just over eighty years, and across the world, in ever-increasing numbers, people are once again beginning to embrace two key ideas, that we are being exploited and oppressed, and that working together on an equal footing we can bring an end to it.
Whether we realise it or not, these protests impact the world and the communities in which we live. Even when the mainstream media try to airbrush them from history. Shortly after the 15th May 2011 I was in Barcelona visiting family, when I stumbled into a meeting being held by the occupiers of a square. It was an impromptu planning meeting of several hundred people. They agreed that the square had been successfully occupied, so the question now was what to do next? Amongst the crowd where people like me that had just happened upon the meeting. I was standing next to a women in her seventies, wearing the traditional black shawl of a widow. She wasn’t part of the occupation either. We both stood side by side for several hours listening. As the discussions drew to a close and the voting began she noticed I wasn’t voting and asked me why not. I told her that I was just visiting family and would be leaving in a couple of days, and felt that it would be unfair to vote on something that I might play no part in. She told me that it was no excuse. She told me I was there at that moment, and my loved ones would still be there after I left. She reminded me that the decisions I make, will reverberate long after I depart, and impact a great many more people than just myself. It is something that has stayed with me ever since. That is why I was at the Anti-Trump march.
As always, I am taking the opportunity of writing this post to put up when of my old pieces of work. It is a review I wrote for the Morning Star of System of a Down’s fifth studio album Hypnotize. I was introduced to System of a Down by one of my oldest friends. We had grown up together and been sharing interests since we were 11 years old. There is something reassuring when someone says I think you’ll like this and you do. Community is built on mutual respect and understanding, on sharing and growing, on protecting and supporting. I’ve got no idea what System of a Down are doing now, but what I do know is that for a long period of a time they had a very special place in life. Not least of all, as a small part of the cement that holds together my community. Morning Star were kind enough to publish this review on 26th November 2005. Unfortunately it seems to have been archived. To read it here or to download a .txt version please click through to the page.