Wednesday, 30 March 2011

'We are many, they are few'

From Lindsey German's new article 'What did demonstrations ever do for us?'

'On the left recently, there has been an insistent criticism particularly of the anti-war marches, dismissed as boringly going from A to B (what’s the alternative… going round in circles?) and not actually stopping the war in Iraq. Small direct actions have been privileged over mass demonstrations as really making a difference.

This approach suffers from many problems, not least an ignorance of what big demos do and what they are for. Saturday’s demo surely gave the lie to the idea that big demos are boring. Everyone on it looked exhilarated, confident and determined, talking to new and old friends, marveling at the diversity of the march, spotting homemade banners and placards. By the end of the day the overwhelming feeling was of size, solidarity and a growing confidence among the demonstrators that together we really can take on the government and defeat them.

That’s what demos are about: they are about publicising our cause, making politicians and the public know we’re there, but also and as important, about organising our side into a fighting army. We began that task on Saturday and while we still have a long way to go, we now know it’s a big army. It’s an army which is learning very fast, and learning from each other how we argue successfully against all the cuts, not the Miliband lite version that Labour would give us.

The sense of solidarity and organisation is one reason for demos as opposed to letter writing, online activity or shouting at the television (all of which have their place but are no substitute for being there). Another is that demos do change public opinion because people see that there is an opposition. It may take years to do so, as with the century-long battle for universal suffrage, but there is no short cut to doing it.'


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