Tuesday, February 12, 2013


(Since I spent most of my time on this blog arsing on about our myriad wars, and since we're coming up for the ten-year anniversary of The Fabled, Most Awesome Virtuous Anti-War March Ever To Achieve Pretty Much Nothing, I thought I'd revisit TFMAVAWMETAPMN.  After all, every other lazy bugger is). 

I remember it was very cold, and I was very hungover.  It took a long time to get to Glasgow - either lots of people were driving through for the protest, or there was a football match on.

I remember it was damn loud and some jokers had brought drums, but I recall being fine with that.  It was all kind of exciting.

I remember we joined in right behind a bunch of Commies with shouty placards, since it seemed as good a place as any.  "Who are these guys?", Mrs R. asked me.

"A bunch of Commies, by the looks of things", I told her.  I seem to recall that the crowd behind us were crusties, Greenie types, although my memory is vague by now.

I remember that when we turned south and made for the Clyde, a workman in a hardhat shouted down from some scaffolding at us.  "Don't you have anything better to do?  Get a job!"

Get a job?  I had two, for Christ's sake.  "It's Saturday, dickhead" I shouted back, and added the finger for good measure.  I was a youngster, you know how it is.

I remember Mrs R's friend phoning her right then.  "Youse are pure fannies", Mrs R's friend told her. "Do you want Saddam to bomb us?"

Mrs R told me her friend thought we were pure fannies and wanted to know whether we wanted to get bombed by Saddam.  I told her I thought brainless, credulous horseshit like that was one of the main reasons for being there in the first place.

I remember when we got to the Armadillo, where the Labour Party conference was being held, we had to wait for about an hour and a half for everyone else to arrive.

I remember the Prime Minister had showed up earlier than expected for his big troop-rallying, let's-bomb-fuck-out-of-Iraq-for-reasons-that-make-no-damn-sense speech and then buggered off long before we got there, to avoid any unpleasantness with the huge crowd of pissed-off people.

I remember the snipers on the cranes overlooking the Clyde, and how big their rifles looked even at long distance.  I remember the police cars parked at the Armadillo all had one copper driving, and another with a sub-machine gun in his lap.  MP5s, I'd learn later from playing Call of Duty.  Deadly effective up close, but not so much at range.

My mate thought they were there to protect us from terrorist attack; I thought they were there to protect the Labour Party delegates from popular attack.

I remember thinking there must have been about sixty thousand people there.  I'd been to enough football games to know what a big crowd looks like, and this was a big crowd.  I remember the cops thought it was half that size.

I remember that the protesters were about evenly-split between Barber-jacketed middle class folk, studenty/crusty types, and ordinary Glaswegian punters.

It was the Glaswegians who actually made an effort to speak to you.  They were nice and many were clearly from rough parts of the city, and although some of them had some fairly wacky ideas, all of them appeared to be basically aware that wars involve killing fuck out of people in vast numbers.  That put them far ahead of the lawyers at my work, who mostly thought this war was an awesome idea.

I remember that many of the speakers were boring as hell.  I remember Tommy Sheridan blared slogans at us like an angry foghorn, exuding little of the personal charisma that he's apparently famous for.  I remember John Swinney gave us a hedging, if-this-then-that speech of the genus you'd expect from a professional politician with higher ambitions.   Mind you, I remember that Jimmy Reid - I think it was Jimmy Reid, anyway - was witty and acerbic, which I liked, although I had no idea who he was back then.

It may be because I like her so much that I remember Margo MacDonald making most of the points I agreed with: the ones about how the whole affair was a stupendously retarded and dangerous idea, certain to end in a godawful bloodbath; about how the Vietnam War must've struck people as sane at some point, even though it was plainly deranged, but mostly about the jaw-dropping levels of political bullshit citizens were being forced to wade through, to get at anything that looked like a semblance of truth.

Somebody pointed out that the previous Gulf War had been sold as a virtuous police action, but later turned into an insane death-rampage, although I don't recall who.  Somebody else noted the many and various porkies that had been told about the new war, and how you couldn't trust anyone who you caught telling you porkies.  You couldn't trust them at all, and you were a sucker if you did.

And then, we walked back to Mrs R's car and went home.

I remember it was still very cold, even though it was a beautiful sunny day, but I remember there was a widespread feeling of satisfaction, like something good and worthwhile had been done...  Like maybe, some kind of contribution had been made to the debate, a statement that couldn't just be ignored or slyly shoved aside.  The crowd was plainly a mish-mash of political cranks and ordinary citizens, but getting this many people to take time out to agree on one basic message - This war is total bullshit - felt like an achievement.

I don't remember whether it was that night or the next day that we got the Prime Minister's response, but I do remember that I was out of the front room, and that Mrs R shouted me through to the TV.

"Tony Blair was just on talking about the marches", she said with a confused look on her face.  I asked her what he'd said.

"He said he was glad that we could protest, because people in Iraq can't do that", she said.

"Uh, okay.  What else did he say?"

Mrs R shrugged.  "That was it.  He said it's great that we can march, because Iraqis can't".

"That was it?"  I looked at the TV.  The newsreader was talking about something else.  I clearly remember rubbing my temples like I had a bad headache coming on.

"The man's a fucking lunatic", I said eventually.

"Yes", Mrs R said.  "He is".

Then, we watched the football reports.


levi9909 said...

That's funny, I was hungover on the London demo. It had been a friend's fiftieth the night before.

Makhno said...

> I remember the cops thought it was half that size.

Which confirms your estimate. Want to know how big any demo was - take what the polis say, and double it. For some reason this applies even to tiny demos where everyone present can name everyone else.