Sunday, August 06, 2006


To demonstrate that class is alive and well in Britain, you only have to compare the coverage of yesterday's anti-war march with that of the Countryside Alliance a few years back. 100,000 people marched from Speaker's Corner to Parliament Square yesterday in what, according to the organisers, was the largest emergency demonstration ever held in this country; yet, it received barely a hint of coverage from the mainstream press.

No matter: it was an excellent day. In fact, in many ways it was the perfect march: great weather, solidarity between all ages, religions, genders, classes and political orientations, a great mixture of sadness, rage and good humour, and a handful of great speeches at Parliament Square. Craig Murray, in particular, played an absolute blinder. It was great to see Walter Wolfgang, recently elected to Labour's national executive (which I guess proves that the Labour Party still retains an element of socialism in a few dark, dusty corners) there too.

There were two things that particularly enthused about this march. The first is that there must have been thousands of people there yesterday who do not usually march, or who perhaps have never marched before. A friend of mine, a departed New Labour supporter (I know, I know), turned up to what I know was his first anti-war demonstration in this country. He has a natural antipathy towards the Left, and questioned the "We are all Hizbollah" posters.

Well, fine. Those posters do rile people - there were two adolescent American jockito bystanders who stared at Nasrallah's image with open-mouths as we passed them by on Piccadilly. But even those who distrust the glorification of Hizbollah must confess that this is of secondary concern while Lebanese civilians are being slaughtered while the rest of the world (Western and Arab) looks on.

The second thing that made me smile was the attitude of the many bystanders who watched the march go by. Probably many of these people were tourists - I certainly saw some intrigued faces on those tourist double-decker buses. There was plenty of smiling, and even a few spontaneous rounds of applause as the marchers went by. It always warms the cockles of my heart to know that every tourist who visits the House of Commons must also, via Brian Haw's banners and posters, reflect on what the inhabitants of that chamber have inflicted on people around the world. Well, yesterday that message got across in an even more lively and vocal way.

The only bad thing about the day, from my point of view, was my failure to recharge the battery for my camera. I bet Cartier-Bresson never had these problems. As usual, however, Lenin is here to save the day with some excellent photos, footage and commentary.


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