Trump generates a new generation of protesters
The London protest against Trump on 30th January was not only impressively large for a demonstration called at short notice it also had more home-made banners and placards than any I can remember since the 2003 Stop the War march. Such events do require organisation but it was a sign that many who had not protested before had come out to make their voices heard. Social media was full of reports from people attending their first ever demonstration, not it must be said a regular thing in recent times.
I hot footed it (as far as you can with a bad knee) from chairing a socialist history seminar at the Institute of Historical Research, determined to turn theory into practice, to the Whitehall demo. I’d been following it on social media during the seminar. I saw people leaving the demo, often with those home-made placards, as I walked down Charing Cross Rd, and at 7.30pm, 90 minutes after the start, Whitehall was still entirely full of protesters.
I took a photo and posted it on twitter describing it as ‘amazing’. Well that isn’t perhaps the most helpful description. I was just too young to be there but I’ve heard the story of how a representative of the then International Socialists (now the SWP) spoke at the 1968 Grosvenor Square demonstration (its recounted I think in Widgery’s The Left in Britain). Their task was to analyse the day in marxist terms, point the way forward and so on. Instead they just burbled on about how amazing it was.
Monday was another of those days. I don’t recall ever in almost 50 years of demonstrating, seeing Whitehall full of protesters on a weekday evening.
Engels, writing about the London May Day procession in 1890 noted that it represented the grandchildren of the old Chartists stepping into the line of battle. Likewise on Monday it looked like a new layer of people were coming out to make their standard against racism and for equality. Perhaps we do have something to thank Donald Trump for. He has awoken the next generation of the left, although some may not yet realise they are the new left. That’s how political change works.