Protests against the Scottish Tory Party Conference are generally jovial affairs; there was that nice day out on the Beach in Troon a few years ago, that strange Nat organised one with like a million speakers, being kettled trying to get an ice cream, setting off flares, rattling fences, going to the pub and going home. Saturday’s march was much the same for me to be honest, I caught up with some pals, no less than 4 flowers were in attendance (a remarkable feat in itself), met some new people, eat expensive burgers, drank cider, I was sick a lot and then, eventually, went home.
There was one marked difference this year though, I didn’t see any Tories on Saturday – just all the usual same-old same-old conservative folks I see all the time – not sitting listening to Ruth Davidson but the ones running the demo, at the front, on the platform, everywhere. I’m writing this out of sadness; sadness that we cannae muster more than a few hundred folk to stand in Festival Square, away from where the Tories actually were to listen to Labour politicians and the SWP telling us austerity is like, really bad and stuff.
Let’s skip to the start. We were all standing around the Mound, miles away from Tories. Great champion of the Labour and trade union movement/the guy who called IDS a ratbag shouted in our general direction that “we knew the script” and he was right. Solidarity at the front (obviously), no wait Jackie Baillie at the front, then Solidarity. No sign of the leader of the misogynist man cult but still folks wrapped in flags, carrying, appropriately, a cardboard coffin. You couldn’t make it up.
Other than the Cock-Bloc of Trotism, there was RIC bloc being RICish, the anarchist bloc being anarchisty, some Labour students being dapper, and by far the most interesting and vibrant were the blue faced Braveheart types. We marched off through the backstreets, shouting/pissing into the wind and when we actually got anywhere near the conference, the “organisers” insisted we march on, again “we knew the script”. Congrats to the SWP & chums for having the fucking gall to try to photobomb RIC while simultaneously attempting to drag them away like naughty weans. And so we arrived in Festival Square, miles away from the Tories.
The best thing about the Square was also the Fleggy, nationalist “END LONDON RULE” display – which made all the speakers from everyone’s favourite sect seem dull as fuck. Who is Jackie Baillie again? The one who tried to ban Buckie? What a working class hero. Tony Benn, Bob Crow (but no mentioned of Ailsa McKay from the platform) would be so proud of us all, listening to Baillie, Neil Findlay, 2 or was it 3 speakers for the SWP…? I mean STILL? [***TRIGGER WARNING: discussion of rape***] If every organisation in attendance was a well represented as that tiny sect – and we now mean tiny, given how many members have left since their failed attempt to cover up a rape by one of their paid leading lights – we’d all still be standing in Festival Square, trying to give each other leaflets that none of us will ever read.
By the time Jackie Baillie took to the stage, we were so bored/disgusted we decided to shout random nonsense. As did many others. We ticked off the phrases “Labour and Trade Union movement” and “broadest shoulders, biggest weight” on our austerityballs bingo cards and wondered why we didn’t just have a lie in. When we were done booing, we then also had Neil Findlay to boo, as the crowd continued to disperse with boredom, probably someone else from the SWP spoke or something (I think maybe even someone sang a wee song at some point? I was too busy looking for silly things to take pictures of) and then Carole Duggan spoke at the end. To the 50-odd people left.
Her speech was incredible. No-one walked away while she was on the platform, no-one said a word, no-one moved. For a few minutes, no papers were sold, as Mark Duggan’s aunt spoke of what started as gentrification in her community before transcending into social cleansing and then, the ability to kill with impunity. By the time she had finished, people were crying. Yet, Carole and what she represents got shoved to the back, while the same Trots are gleefully sandwiched between notorious anti-Buckfast campaigners, while there were still some people there to listen.
Elsewhere, we’re reliably informed the Glasgow Against ATOS and disability rights campaigners protested outside the Tory Conference. You know, that thing we were supposed to be doing.
There’s nothing wrong with a wee demo to raise our spirits once in a while but Saturday didn’t really raise much of anything. The old left looked tired, weak, irrelevant. It’s a sad indictment that I frankly feel more at home amongst the blue faced brigade, who at least bring a tiny bit of energy and creativity to proceedings than amongst those who purport to share my economic perspective (who clearly don’t share my idea that demos can be something other than giant paper sales). We now have the ISN and the ISS to add to the ISG, the SWP, the CWI/Socialist Party Scotland, the SSP, Solidarity, the Bedroom Tax Federation, RIC and the array of random commies and Labour lefties throwing bits of paper in our direction. It wasn’t really clear if the demo, miles away from Tories was against said Tories, or against austerity, for independence or just a wee walk. But we can only lead people to listen to the SWP and Labour for so long, that “so long” should have been said at least 20 years ago. Let them carry their coffin if they like but we can’t allow the dead left to dominate what remains of the movement.
If we want to gain any ground from Braveheartism, we have to not look like total saddos and have something more to say than “would you like to buy a copy of X.“ To do this, we’ll have to challenge the conservative stranglehold, which means that demos like Saturday always end up being dominated by this bizarre coalition of the insular, misogynist “left” who march us up and down hills to their familiar “script.”
Thankfully, there were practically no ordinary people in attendance to observe this same tiresome routine being played out for the billionth time. Nae punters, nae Tories, just another day at the pub for the hacks.
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