Left Unity Leamington members ran a stall today, handing out leaflets and literature, chatting to passersby. So bloody what, you might say. Lefties run a stall. What will you report next? That the Pope has tendencies towards the Catholic?
Well, OK, but this time was different. It was the most successful and enjoyable stall we’ve held in a long time, perhaps ever. We ran out of leaflets. Magazines went. Badges eagerly pinned on. It was actually fun.
Which naturally got us wondering… what had changed? Anyone who has done stalls on even an irregular basis (you poor buggers) will know that, with the best will in the world, they can be pretty boring and dispiriting affairs. You stand there with your paste table covered with dingy old leaflets and boring newspapers, trying to stop it being whisked off down the road with the breeze. People cross the road to avoid you. They take a leaflet and stand in front of you staring at is as if you’d just handed them one of those little bags with a dog turd in it. They turn and ask you whether you haven’t ever considered, you know, human nature, or the real world at all? If you’re really unlucky, you might even end up in some kind of pathetic turf war – someone from the Labour party, perhaps, who is worried that you might be reminding the proles what Labour is actually like in power, or is perhaps staging a power play to wrest control of a campaign with five members away from the other four.
It would be enough to make a sensible person pack it all in. But then, there are times, like today, when things are different. The sun is shining. We have a table worthy of the name, covered in a smart and bright banner, covered in professional-looking and interesting material. People come up to the stall, curious, and begin chatting. Others bound up with a smile, delighted to hear the Good News that the left is not yet completely dead. They leave again reluctantly, muttering about having to get back to work. People cross the road … to you! To take a leaflet! Conversations, jokes, banter, debate, pass back and forth across the table, both with passersby, and with your comrades. All the depressing stuff inherent in life on the left fades into the background of your mind and you remember why you ever bothered with all this stuff in the first place. Because it matters.
What is it that accounts for the difference? It might just be the sunshine and the luck of the draw – the sample size here is too small to be sure. But I couldn’t help wondering whether there wasn’t more to it. The disastrous, boring stalls – haven’t they always been on busy shopping streets on a Saturday? Who wants to be pestered with a leaflet when you’re out enjoying yourself, or just filling the larder joylessly in the consumer-zombie parade, and wanting to get off it again as quickly as possible? And the stall today – wasn’t it done away from the consumer main drag, catching people in their lunch break, when they are more amenable to things more interesting than the daily grind, with the time to stop and chat? And wasn’t it too done in the more working-class part of town – where even if people are initially hostile to your arguments, have at least some intuitive sense of what the fuck you’re talking about, so preferable to the harder-to-forgive, comfortable complacency of the middle and upper classes?
Perhaps I’m talking nonsense, or perhaps I’m just unknowingly repeating the accumulated wisdom of lefty stall holders everywhere – wisdom I’ve just not come across or accumulated myself. Whatever the case may be, it’s nice to be reminded that political activity needn’t be boring – that, indeed, if it is, you’re doing something very wrong. More stalls soon – and other non-boring activities planned and in the pipeline. Stay tuned.
(Thanks to Ally and Mary-Ann for doing the legwork.)