Spectacle of Defiance & Hope parades through Dublin


Saturday saw the 2nd Spectacle of Defiance & Hope take place in Dublin, just ahead of the budget cuts that are expected to further devastate community organisations & services. The Spectacle describes itself as a "broadly based alliance of community organisations from Dublin and beyond" and also represents an attempt to break from the standard pattern of demonstrations in Dublin to create something more fun, participatory & engaging.

Saturday's event, essentially a parade from the gates of Dublin Castle to the GPO, was a colorful as last years. The vast majority of participants were dressed in red except for the lone black clad masked women on a horse who led the parade and the various floats and music trucks that helped make up the body. The front of the parade was composed of children each carrying a tombstone with the name of a community project that has been closed in the cut backs already imposed.

The parade stopped briefly at Occupy Dame Street where a contingent of ODSers carrying an inflatable globe of the world with "Another World is possible" on it joined. Some other groups that carried banners or spoke at the march were the Migrant Rights Center, Respond!, SAOL, Common Ground, Rialto Drug Team, Clay Crumlin, Ballymun Regional Youth Resource, Irish Travellers Movement, AOSOG, Bluebell CDP, and other groups from Inchicore, Cherry Orchard and St Michaels Estate. Claiming our Future and the United Left Alliance also had banners. There were no other political banners probably because the organizers had said in advance "We highly recommend bringing White heart-shaped Placards with messages of protest, hope or support rather than Party Banners or Flags."

One of the floats was a huge book, representative of the 20+ books of Grievances and Hope that were displayed in front of the stage at the end of the parade. The Spectacle web site describes the idea behind these books in some detail, reproduced here "The idea of collectively making a Book of Grievances and Hope takes its inspiration from the story of the Lists of Grievances gathered at the beginning of the French Revolution. There were three Estates in France or three broad sections of society. The first two Estates were made up of the Clergy and the Nobility. The third Estate was made up of everyone else: the emerging middle class, the working class and the peasants. In 1789 King Louis XVI called a meeting of all three Estates collectively known as the Estates-General. Prior to the meeting all three Estates were asked to compile their Lists of Grievances or Cahiers de Doleances. This was intended as a cynical exercise, nothing more than a tokenistic consultation with no real substance.

However, the lists of grievances grew and grew, coming in from all over the country and from a very broad spectrum of people. They became a powerful articulation of issues that people felt needed to be fixed or sorted out, such as the unfair tax system and the high prices that ordinary people had to pay for basic food items such as bread. The Lists of Grievances played a major role in the revolution of 1789 and the subsequent transformation of French society and the establishment of the National Assembly or People's Parliament. We are using the same basic idea to hear what your grievances are. However, we have added one slight twist to this idea. We also want to hear your hopes and aspirations for change in this country so get busy!"

The Spectacle ended at the GPO where there was music from a few groups, very brief speeches and in Occupy 'People's mic' style a reading of a 'Proclamation of the Second Republic.'

 The Spectacle of Defiance and Hope* salutes the 99%* in Occupy Dame St and Wall St* In Cork, Galway, Belfast, and London* and over 2000 locations worldwide* Yis have funny hand movements* but yis are alright*

The Proclamation of the Second Irish Republic*

Irishmen and Irish women* Regardless of where your parents were born* Ireland summons her children* and strikes for her freedom* She strikes in full confidence of victory*

We declare the right* of the people of Ireland* to the control of Irish destinies* and Irish natural resources* The 1% have not extinguished that right* nor can it ever be extinguished* except by the destruction of the Irish people* In every generation* the Irish people have asserted* their right to national freedom* and sovereignty* cherishing all the children of the nation equally*

And we say to our peoples masters* to the 1%*

Tyrants, hypocrites and Liars*
You that have bullied and bribed*
Beware of the thing that is coming*
Beware of the risen people*
We will take back what you would not give*

Arise the risen people*

Arise arise arise*

Arise arise arise* 

Afterwards I heard that one four year old on returning home said that he'd been 'at a party' so on that level the Spectacle clearly worked this year as it had last year. It made a sharp contrast with the rather dour mood (and too many long speeches) of the somewhat larger Dublin Council of Trade Union's march of the previous week. The organizers had certainly managed to engage a good number of people from the community groups present and it would certainly appear they went home with a positive buzz from the event.

That is obviously important but as with last years event there was a sense that this protest was still showing its roots in sectional lobbying for the most vunerable at a moment when the 'partnership' process that once delivered limited results for such lobbying is dead and buried. The organizers are certainly aware of that but the event still seems somewhat trapped in the assumptions that went with such lobbying. In part this is simply a reflection of the tension between community organisations and unions in Ireland (even though there is also a good deal of co-operation), itself also in part a product of the partnership process and one being played off against the other by the bosses & state. The Spectacle is no more to blame for the fragmentation of opposition to the cuts then any other group organizing against them but it does seem odd that over the last month we have had three separate demonstrations against the cuts each mobilizing slightly different sets of people. Occupy Dame Street, the DCTU and now the Spectacle of Defiance and Hope have all held marches through Dublin center in that time.

The problem all face is that a march of a thousand or two thousand (or indeed twenty or a hundred thousand) people is not going to change the direction of government policy. So from that point of view the fact there were three marches each in the 1,000 - 2,5000 range isn't that important a difference if set against the potential for one march of perhaps 6,000. But the 3 separate events and in particular the divisive row within Occupy Dame Street about participation in the DCTU march point to the complete lack of a common concept of how to move forwards. If these sort of demonstrations are going to provide anything more than a chance to let off steam (ahead of the axe falling once more) it is that common concept of what it would look like to win that we need to collectively develop.

With the latest budget cuts being announced today, the Euro plunging further and further into what might be a terminal crisis, and the failure of the global economy to recover it appears that we will face many years of cuts. A common outlook, and one very much pushed by the government, is that this will mean a short period of pain followed by a future recovery. Perhaps that is why so many appear to have their heads down and concentrating on survival rather than resistance, convinced that all they have to do is get through and await a better day.

Taking a step back though and it looks very much like the drastic drop in living standards so many are experiencing may be very much more what the future looks like rather than the brief 'prosperity' of the Celtic Tiger years. That was the product of a strange co-incidence of economic and political factors - it is telling that the best hope politicians have for a return to such days is preserving our scandalously low corporate tax rate and hoping for a recovery in the property market. Not only is it unlikely we will see the same combination of factors again but far more seriously the twin and related crisis of the peak having been reached in cheap fossil energy supplies and the increasing inevitability of apocalyptic climate change mean the global economy is more realistically likely to go deeper into a crisis for which there is no cyclical recovery.

If, as seems likely, that is the future then the need for the left to get its act together becomes all the more desperate. That will require some deep soul searching to understand why in a time of crisis the far left has become so unpopular that polite and not so polite requests to not bother showing up with banners have become so common. Unless we can understand that then there is no way the sort of movement that we need to build can even began to be built.  

Spectacle of Defiance & Hope website

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