There follows a diary entry made on the return journey from the End Austerity Now demonstration in London last week, by one of around 160 protesters who travelled on three coaches from Cambridge.
Saturday 20 June 2015
Radical politics lives in asking questions. But as we marched in Whitehall today, as we marched a year ago, the question I asked myself was: what's the point? (A moment of doubt, not of despair.) I found two answers – which should of course be questioned.
Marching from here (the City of London) to there (Parliament Square), on the anniversary of a march to the same place: action on such patterns hardly puts the government on the back foot, but there is a role in strategy for the exercise, which doesn't force an opponent's hand but informs his calculations. Today we gave the government notice that our numbers are growing (several times as many people marched as did last year) and that with us, last month's election settled nothing.
At the same time the patterns I indicated (repetition on a calendar, a symbolic disposal, a common journey) recall those of observance, which sustains a group and its efforts. Maybe in these marches more sensibly than elsewhere – in our observance of a date and what follows – we see ourselves experimenting in the new political form of the People's Assembly.* In May the Conservatives strengthened their rule, taking single control of Britain's almost unlimited state apparatus; in June, we've strengthened our resistance – enough to go on.
* Lawrence Goodwyn's book The Populist Moment (1978) carries the epigraph, 'The people need to "see themselves" experimenting in democratic forms.'