Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

I Felt My Cause Had Been Hijacked

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

I Felt My Cause Had Been Hijacked

Article excerpt

When it comes to popular demonstrations, the French are the Carly Simons of Europe: nobody does it better. In autumn 2003, I was one of the 50,000 young Europeans who flowed into Paris to take part in the second European Social Forum (ESF). It was more a parade than a demonstration. Onlookers were treated to music all day: samba, French rap, those guys with tin whistles, and a girl on top of a bus shelter who played classical violin to the appreciative crowd gathered below. In short, it was a carnival of good feeling: thousands of people shouting, singing, ambling, debating and flying the flag for social justice on a sunny November afternoon in Paris. I went home, my pockets stuffed with pamphlets, humming Joan Baez and eager to devote my energies to this new, borderless, impassioned collective of like-minded individuals.

A few months later, and by now a little addicted to the high of walking shoulder to shoulder with strangers for a common cause, I cheerfully reported for duty at the Place de la Republique for a peace march to mark the first anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. Socialist Workers Party: check. Free Palestine supporters: check. Guys playing the in whistle: check. That, however, was it. It was a left-wing march, but not as I knew it. In fact, it was like all the marches I had ever avoided.

Although only a few days had passed since the 2004 terrorist bombings in Madrid, the only peace being marched for was peace in the Middle East. …

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