The other day I found it operating from – of all places – the north wall of St Paul’s Cathedral. I ordered myself a pint of Winstanley and watched through the doorway some hippies being friendly to police officers. A man sitting next to me introduced himself and we fell to talking about large-scale organising for a different political system that would give us more control over our lives.
Within moments he admitted to being a ‘Blairite’, a crime for which he seemed unrepentant, but this was the Poachers Arms so I made no comment. In the true Blairite tradition he said he thought that left and right needed to unite in order to change the world.
I suggested that if he meant the promoters of right wing ideology who used their money and power to impose their self-interested ideas on others then I could not join him in his quest for global unity, but if he meant Daily Mail readers then actually I agreed. We then had a discussion about whether you could divide the rich from the comfortable working class or middle class at some particular level of income and decided that you couldn’t. I pointed out that there are, however, reasons why particular people, including powerful people and even those on low incomes, will always support the status quo. It was important to understand, I suggested, that there would have to be movement without having everyone on board.
This bothered him a little, as though he, like the hippies outside, thought that the whole world could sing together in harmony. He didn’t want to pursue the matter though, instead taking a sip of his pint of Cromwell and gazing around for a moment until he hit on a new topic.
My new friend seemed worried about one particular idea he had heard doing the rounds: the idea of bringing other people into the ‘movement’ for change. This was too much like conversion for his liking, and I agreed.
“People will join in large numbers if and when they feel pissed off enough,” I said. “I don’t think there’s much point in trying to persuade them to take action before then.”
“Ok, that’s good,” he said, “Because I was starting to feel a religious vibe around here.”
“I do think that people experimenting with politics right now, without mass support, are important,” I said. “When more people are tired of being made poorer, they will be joining a core of people who already have experience organising.”
“As long as the education process isn’t going one way,” he said.
“Since those people active in politics in this country hasn’t brought about a new world lately,” I said, “I think that everyone needs to learn from each other.”
He raised his glass in agreement. I drained mine and left. Outside the Poachers Arms the police officers were stopping and searching a homeless man.