Saturday, July 22, 2006

Yo Blair Go Blair...!

It was a humid, sticky, airless and icky day in London and not the best for demonstrating. I got to the Embankment just after midday and there was a bottleneck of demonstrators forming outside the tube. I saw a variety of placards from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Respect (with the humourous catchy little slogan, "Yo Blair Go Blair"), MAB, SWP and home made ones. One bloke wearing a tee-shirt which said, "Bush, you disgusting warmongering bastard", really caught my eye and if he had not been too far away I would've asked him where he got it from.

I reckon there was around two thousand people (I'm crap with figuring out the numbers though the telly will undoutedly underestimate attendance. The police will say 700 while Lindsay German will say 5,000 and do a bit of subtraction which gives you around 2,000) but it grew a bit during the hour as kick off was 1pm. What I noticed by their absence was the lack of trade union banners (actually banners overall as I only saw placards). I saw a PCS banner and a Unison banner and that was it. I know this was literally organised within a week but still, where was the trade unions?!!

It was papersellers galore and the SWP was out in force, same with my old trot group (Socialist Outlook), Socialist Party (headline: Stop the Carnage), Weekly Worker (their ludicrous headline: 2 secular states), Workers Power, and some really obscure ones.

It was a good humoured demo and while walking through Piccadilly the rain finally came and brought some desperately needed breeze. We marched to Grosvenor Square to the American Embassy where loud collective booing was heard as we drew close. The Embassy had been barricaded off and was surrounded by Her Majesty's Finest so we couldn't get that close. Once we moved on we saw more of Her Majesty's Finest clad in riot gear (I have some great photos of that) all blokes with one woman (Very Equal Opps).

We marched to Hyde Park and unfortunately we weren't allowed in the park. The speeches were held outside in the road! Andrew Murray started the proceedings and announced that there would be 20 speakers...!! I listened to about 3 speakers. One speaker compared the situation in Palestine to apartheid South Africa, by asking whether 2 states would have been an acceptable solution there. The answer "No" was shouted by the crowd. He said 2 states for Palestine would mean a Bantustan for Palestinians (Yes, I agreed). He finished saying that the only solution is one state and Hezbollah will liberate the people of Lebanon.

That last sentence frankly worried me. So any old one state then? Unfortunately, "secular" being the operative word he omitted. Hezbollah has the politics of desperation and religious fundmentalism. They will not liberate the Lebanese. Yes, it is wrong for the Israeli State to not recognise the elected Hamas government. Palestinians look towards Hamas as a way of taking on the occupying force of Israel. But have they the political strategy to liberate the Palestinians?

With that note I left disenchanted and worried about the way forward for the anti-war movement. I am a Marxist who supports self-determination and a single secular state but surely this can only be achieved through socialist and secular solutions...?