Glasgow: For action and democracy in the fight against ATOS

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The ruling class attacks on sick and disabled people are escalating as the poorest sections of society are being forced to pay for the capitalist crisis. ATOS – the French multinational installed by the Department of Work and Pensions to implement the destruction of social welfare provision – has been subject to growing militant protest and pickets by Glasgow Against ATOS (GAA). Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! supporters in Glasgow have been working with GAA for the past year.  The statement below has been produced by Glasgow FRFI in response to recent attacks on them from within GAA.

In recent days, individuals claiming to speak on behalf of the Glasgow Against ATOS campaign have used social media to engage in slanders against Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! (FRFI). In an immature distraction from serious campaigning and organisation, some people have chosen to promote such smears. We are active democrats that respect and have promoted the open structure and constitution of GAA. We have no wish to engage in personal attacks and will not abuse our role in Glasgow Against ATOS to do so. FRFI’s campaigning record speaks for itself. We have members facing criminal charges for their role in building the campaign. To now question our political integrity and accuse us of financial irregularity is a contrived cover for an attempt to limit and control political expression by a minority in GAA. FRFI and other GAA supporters reject this reactionary garbage and commit ourselves to continue to build the GAA. Join us!

On the accusations that FRFI members have been responsible for 'stealing' money from Glasgow Against ATOS, the position is clear. The tickets, posters and Facebook event for the fundraiser held on Thursday 2 May, and distributed and shared by all members of the campaign without any objections being raised at the time, all stated that the funds raised would be going both to Glasgow Against ATOS and the Glasgow Defence Campaign. There was subsequently a dispute about what allocation had been agreed. At a meeting instigated at the behest of other members of GAA on 20 June, a DEMOCRATIC VOTE WAS TAKEN at which a majority – not solely FRFI members – agreed that the funds would in fact be divided equally.

As founding members of Glasgow Against ATOS, FRFI members have been consistent campaigners throughout the past year, taking up much of the administrative and organisational roles, while encouraging others to engage, organise and take a leading role. Our members have been present on – and contributed fully to - every single GAA picket and meeting for the past twelve months. We have contributed whatever political experience and practical resources we possess to building the campaign – campaign materials, room costs, printing, megaphones, establishing the GAA blog, typing up and sending minutes. As a socialist organisation committed to building working class opposition to the cuts, we are proud to have done so and worked alongside others in this activity.

For our part in the struggle against ATOS, two members of FRFI were violently arrested for the crime of speaking on a megaphone on a rolling picket against ATOS on 22 February 2013. The Glasgow Defence Campaign was formed by supporters of FRFI precisely to defend people from such criminalisation, and has a proven record of doing so successfully. The GDC has organised free speech rallies, court pickets and various publicity with the express purpose of ensuring that the right to free assembly and freedom of speech is defended for all. It has been our position throughout that this critical battle must be won to advance the struggle for the defence of the disabled against the cuts and defence of the working class.

We reject the argument, advanced by a minority, that the defence of democratic rights is a separate issue which should not be taken on by GAA. Funds from the benefit night are being shared with the GDC. We will not be accepting criminal charges against those arrested for opposing ATOS and will not be accepting fines which can then be 'paid off’- as a dismissive, unsupportive contribution has put it. We want to publicly challenge the Police and the Courts who are determined limit free speech and assembly and to criminalise protest. We are determined to continue campaigning with the GAA and to defend the right to campaign. 

We reject the lie that FRFI have 'plastered' their name over Glasgow Against ATOS and tried to 'manipulate' the campaign. The thousands of GAA leaflets we have printed for the campaign, and which have been distributed for months by all without any objection, were agreed on by the campaign itself and are a matter of public record.

What is true is that FRFI have never sought to hide our socialist politics. Alongside contributing leaflets and materials for GAA, we have also produced and distributed our own literature, as is the right of any progressive organisation. We are committed to building a campaign in defence of the sick and disabled, but also to broadening out this fight to the class struggle being waged against the poor as a whole.

As the founding constitution of Glasgow Against ATOS – democratically agreed – states:

GLASGOW AGAINST ATOS founds itself on open, collective action and structure. Open, regular meetings are proposed as the means for taking action forward. All can speak, all can contribute, and all can be represented. We completely reject censorship and bans on political views and expression. All can distribute material and display their political affiliations.

We make no apologies for being organised. We make no apologies for distributing an anti-racist, anti-imperialist newspaper which is the only publication which has consistently covered and promoted the fight of Glasgow Against ATOS. We have never sought to silence anyone else who wishes to contribute to the campaign. We are for the fullest democracy and activity in the GAA campaign. Debates about tactics and strategy are the lifeblood of all real campaigning organisations and we welcome such discussions. We are determined to defend our campaigning reputation and political views openly and vigorously. We are likewise determined to stand with all those who want to build Glasgow Against ATOS. Join Us!

 

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