The first London march that I attended took place in 1963. I was a teenage member of the Cardiff Young Socialists and we had been infiltrated by a Trotskyist element based at the university, though I was too naive to realise it at the time. I was excited to learn that they were organising a coach to London to join some demonstration or other and, not least because I was keen on a girl who I knew to be going, I eagerly consented.
All I remember about the occasion is that we could not find the event. I had the humiliating experience of wandering round in a group in Central London asking various pedestrians if they had seen a march. I recall little of the cause – though it was almost certainly not one I would support today – but I do remember that, given this inauspicious start, my intended relationship did not progress. All in all a disappointing experience.
Over the subsequent decades I became a regular participant in such activism: I marched against apartheid and against various military interventions, most noticeably the Vietnam War. My elder son has told his friends that I participated in the Chartist March to Newport in 1839 and the Tonypandy riots of 1910. Whatever the reality I thought that, at my advanced age, my marching days were over. It was a push from generations below that made me take to the streets again.
At the instigation of one of my sons I joined the Haringey Labour Party contingent on the ‘Unite for Europe’ march on March 25th. Two of my granddaughters (aged 5 and 3) came along with their parents and so did my 15-year-old niece who travelled up from Wales with her father. It was an inspiring occasion. Most of those present seemed to have strong personal motives: one woman was wearing a t-shirt that read ‘my husband is a migrant and he is the only person in our village with an OBE’; another had a hat that read ‘I am German, I am a chef, I work here’. The extreme left were nowhere to be seen, which meant to my relief that there were no indigestible and unreadable Trotskyist publications on sale. At the end of the event many people, my son included, laid floral tributes at Westminster Green in memory of the policeman who died last week defending our democracy.
It is this sort of vision and spirit that brought me into activism. Dare I believe that we are starting to build a progressive alternative?
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