How to build the movement

Love is a difficult word, sometimes

How to build the movement

I went on the Wirral march against NHS privatisation and cuts today. There were about 100 people in the end and it was good to see so many making a statement in a place that’s traditionally relatively quiet. Particularly as there was a demo in Liverpool and lots of places today.

One of the groups there was quite loud, had their own megaphone. On the march itself it was fine - they helped lead the slogans and keep spirits up to a degree.

We got to the park gates and the rally started with speakers from the various campaigns. The group with the megaphone weren’t going to be asked to speak, because they’d been thrown off the organising committee. Same thing happened on the Liverpool side of the river too. I remember saying to one of the Liverpool people a few months back that it seemed a little unfair. The response was interesting. In essence, these guys are impossible to work with and if you want to get anything done it’s easier to keep them out of the room.

It’s weird for me, because politically I agree with most of their positions. They are anti-imperialist, and anti-capitalist. Also not deluded about the uselessness of the Labour Party. I also understand why people can’t work with them, though. It’s not about your political positions, but also how you relate to the people around you. If you don’t spend time with the working class you’re trying to become the vanguard of you can be very pure, very correct, and so far away from their day to day you couldn’t relate to it if you used the Hubble telescope.

I saw the really sad sight of two of the activists almost screaming in the face of a steward who was asking them not to use the megaphone when there were speakers on the stage. I kept quiet, no-one needs an old white guy to intervene in a high volume political argument between three women comrades, things were already fraught enough.

It hurt me to see, though, hurt me right in the heart. We all want a better world, we all want a world that doesn’t need such marches, where kids aren’t starving in one of the richest countries (of course they should not be anywhere), why were people wasting their energy over something so trivial?

The other thing about the march was it was very much the same old faces. Which isn’t a bad thing, at least we’re turning out and keeping the flag flying. But when you think about what our vicious government are doing, you’d think there’d be hundreds, if not thousands, marching too.

A couple of thoughts occurred to me when I was thinking about this tonight.

First, you want to be on the platform? The group has a lot of young people in it, full of energy and passion. Why not spend that energy talking to the working class and building on issues like the attacks on the NHS and public services so you bring hundreds of people to the demos? Why not join in distributing the leaflets building for the demos? Then you would have a place on the speaker platform without any argument. We should all do this if we can. Less than ten paces from the park gates are houses full of flats, full of people who are probably relatively poor and have things to say about what matters to the working class and what’s being done to them right now.

Maybe we should talk to those people and work on what they care about? Then maybe they will come and support demos against the thieving Tory parasites? It’s not as if it would be a hard sell in one of the most deprived areas in the country. Just turning up and moaning because you’ve done a lot of unnecessary shouting at people and they don’t want you to piss in their well when they’re organising things is a heart breaking waste of time.

Maybe we should listen, and put down the Cuban flags unless they fit with the theme of the demo (but not the support for the beleaguered anti-imperialist country) and find flags and banners that resonate right now? Maybe we should be closer than some galactic distance to the needs of the people we want to take up our revolution to make it their own, and be mindful of what they want instead of what we desire for them? Treat them like human beings with some autonomy? You don’t have to compromise your principles, but you also don’t have to ram them everywhere. If you want to be on the platform you have to earn it.

One of the women kept shouting that she had the perfect right to be on the demo. Well yeah. Of course. We all had a perfect right to be there. So did everyone else who wanted to listen to the speakers from the platform. Being able to channel middle class righteous anger and make it all about you feels wonderful and empowering. But that isn’t what solidarity is, is it? It isn’t what will reach out and create a movement, us all being individuals shouting to the echo inside our own heads.

There’s a word missing from the discourse of people who want a better world. It’s not spoken anywhere near often enough.


Solidarity is about approaching other people with love in your heart and wanting the best for them, even if right now you’re being asked to turn your megaphone off. Solidarity is feeling this love, even for people you disagree with fundamentally. Solidarity has nothing to do with your political position being right. Being right doesn’t oblige anyone to agree with you. Love gives you a route to that person that being right could never give you on its own.

One of the people I follow on twitter made the point that he had no interest in condemning or cancelling people. What he wanted to do was lovingly and carefully help them get past their fear and understand the world the way he does. So, think like an anti-imperialist, and so on, because that’s what their hearts tell them is right. The two things being indivisible.

So don’t be afraid of love - we can’t make any progress without it.

As an aside - why are conservative forces so heartless, exploitative and parasitical? They don’t start from this love, they don’t understand the solidarity that comes from opening your heart to your fellow human beings. To them family is half a dozen people. That’s why they can do what they do. They are, in fact, quite broken. But that doesn’t excuse the stuff they get up to. I think it might also be why some of them seem to be so stupid - you can’t think things through effectively if you left your empathy at the door on your way into your life.

The dialectic

Dear old Marx’s dialectic is often caricatured as a one force is contradicted by another and then they merge to create the new, they merge to create the force that moves society forwards. In the technical language thesis meets anti-thesis, which then creates a new thesis. The most obvious being the tension between the owning class and the working class. It’s often taught in this trivial way because it makes it seem inconsequential, instead of one of the most fundamental concepts about how societies develop and change we’ve ever discovered.

I think it’s more like a woven cloth, with many factors interacting, sometimes contradicting, sometimes neutral, sometimes aiding each other depending on the material conditions. The main driver is still the class struggle, but all sorts of things interweave and thread together to create what humans call history and allow society to reproduce itself. The relative strengths of each class help decide what’s possible in each epoch of the struggle. For example in the UK now the NHS can be broken up. When this process started in the Thatcher period they wouldn’t have dared because the working class was still too strong. You can see similar dynamics in the USA and Europe, where things get taken away or changed depending on how hard the struggle is being waged.

When you read the writers like Hegel, Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin they talk about the force of the masses and how things built up to make change possible. Then in times of breakdown new things can emerge. You can also often see the new poking out from behind what we already have. Things like the highly automated distrubution networks of companies like Amazon and Walmart being the potential basis for what we would need once capitalism is gone. Not everything need be reinvented, just the ownership and purpose changed to work for us instead of our owners.

The problem with the broad sweep of history narrative is it hides the gargantuan amount of human suffering that creates the forces that create the conditions to make fundamental change possible. So even if you can see the possibilities there’s nothing to be exultant about. People are suffering and dying to create the new consciousness that makes change possible.

This is why we need love more than ever now.