'Comradely but critical' – Anonymous 1

Submitted by Fozzie on April 21, 2021

Here are a few of my reflections on the May Day action -I hope they are "comradely but critical". First, the turn-out - to be honest it was a bit of a disappointment to me. Less than 10,000, probably around 5 to 6,000. I had hoped for more than J18, but instead only half that number turned up. Why? Some people were maybe put off by the police announcement of their biggest mobilisation for 30 years, either because they don't like violence/confrontation or they don't want to be filmed or picked up for previous actions, but that doesn't fully explain to me why there weren't double the numbers of J18, which was what many people expected. I can only think that the following may explain it, based on many people I've spoken to: J18 had just one event, one assembly point, one time on one day, May Day, in contrast was less well-defined. There was this conference business spread over three days, guerrilla gardening and something at the same time as that at Bond Street, which I assume fizzled out or failed to take place. To be honest, almost all the people I spoke to about it were just not interested in a conference (and could not afford the cost of travelling and/or staying in London for that length of time), they wanted to get stuck into a big street action.

Then there was confusion as to what was actually going to happen, we all know the importance of keeping the Authorities guessing and sowing confusion amongst them as to what's going to happen, but my impression was that the confusion was equally sown amongst potential supporters. First we thought it was going to be a giant game of Monopoly, then a protest against the Terrorism Bill, then a conference, and finally guerrilla gardening. This led some people predicting that numbers on the streets would be spread too thin, leading to greater risk of police attack, so they felt they wouldn't bother coming because it could be a flop. Then when the guerrilla gardening idea finally emerged quite late in the day with the strange slogan "this is not a protest". The obvious response to this slogan is "well, if it's not a protest then I’m not coming". That slogan might have meant something to those in the know, was it a quote from someone or something? But to the uninitiated it just seemed daft or at least a bit counter-productive, I'm not suggesting it was a major reason for poor turnout, but it might be one small factor. The decision to spend a lot of time and energy in organising a conference, which let's face it is not an event that appeals to many people, was perhaps not the best idea. It may have been too ambitious (and high-minded) for the relatively few people at present involved or even interested in protest. If there had been just one big event on one day, as with J18, it may have drawn more people in. Just keep it simple and hard-hitting. A Carnival against Capitalism was a much more attractive and appealing idea to draw in the crowds than guerrilla gardening, which sorry to say does conjure up a rather sad, harmless hippy-type of scenario.