Marcus Rashford, political activism and people power
Tom Sharkey, PhD candidate and sessional lecturer reflects on the success of Marcus Rashford’s campaign to support hungry children during school holidays.
On Wednesday night, at Manchester United’s Old Trafford, Markus Rashford walked off the pitch with the match ball under his arm. This was the first hat-trick the Manchester-born striker has scored for his club, but he might not judge it to be his biggest achievement this week. His campaign to feed schoolchildren during the holidays has been front and back page news.
Rashford’s recent success has helped to illustrate to me how this relates to some of the key elements of my research in political activism. In calmly restating his case to aggressive MPs on social media and declining to involve any mainstream political institutions Rashford may be refusing ‘Politics’, but what he is engaged in is certainly political. His actions represent what we might understand as a form of micro-politics, small interventions which can have a major impact. This is a form of power we all have: we might not have the reach of Rashford, but we can contribute to the mutual aid of those in need.
The response of charities, local authorities and businesses to Rashford’s call for the feeding of children demonstrates to us that far from residing in halls of Westminster, power exists all around and with all of us. The implication of this is that power is not centralised. We can achieve more by turning away from the imaginary place of power and look instead to the power that we wield in our own lives. If we understand our lives as consisting of lines which interact with all the other people we share them with, then, as Todd May tells us, ‘political intervention must be along or across these lines and the intersections they form’ (May, 1994, p.96).
Tom Sharkey is a PhD Candidate and sessional lecturer in Politics and International Relations at Canterbury Christ Church University.