Glasgow RCG: fighting for democracy to defend Palestine

RCG and supporters hold a sit-down protest in front of a Glasgow Friends of Israel stall

In a victory for democratic and militant protest, dozens of demonstrators led by the RCG surrounded a Zionist stall for an hour in the centre of Glasgow on 19 May in solidarity with the Palestinian people. The demonstrators had ignored attempts by opportunists to prevent such an action, and those present agreed to do it again the following week. It followed on the successful grassroots mobilisation to prevent the Confederation of Friends of Israel Scotland (CoFIS) from joining the Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) demonstration in Glasgow on 17 March (see FRFI 263).

The action was a response to the 14 May massacre on the Great March of Return and followed a series of events during which opportunist forces tried to suppress any meaningful opposition to the Zionists.  Typical was a Stop the War (STW) event on 15 May in Glasgow. Like SUTR, Glasgow STW is led by the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), and aligns itself with the racist and imperialist Labour Party. During the small and brief event, one of us approached the SWP organiser Angela McCormick, who was controlling the megaphone, to ask if we could be added to the speakers’ list. SWP bully Keir McKechnie drew his finger across his throat to a young female RCG comrade stating ‘no way’. There had been three speakers by this point. All were supporters or allies of the SWP, all had given short, inaudible and dull speeches and all had previously defended CoFIS participation on the March SUTR demonstration. When McCormick called an end to the protest without allowing us to speak, we decided to use our own megaphone to address the dispersing crowd. However, SWP supporters, mainly older white men, showered the RCG and those who stood with us with verbal abuse and physical threats: ‘you little shit, you miserable little splitter’, ‘you’ll end up in a box’; making wanker signs and physically threatening a young female RCG comrade. McKechnie even went so far as to claim RCG comrades had phoned his workplace making death threats – a completely absurd lie.

The following day, we attended a much larger Palestine protest called by the Irish solidarity organisation Cairde na hÉireann in George Square. They allowed speakers including the RCG to address the crowd; this added more life and spirit to the protest. The RCG speaker received enthusiastic applause for calling on those present to oppose the Glasgow Friends of Israel (GFI) weekly stall in Glasgow city centre the following Saturday.

When Saturday came, there was a further pro-Palestine protest, this time organised by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) and its allies in the respectable Association of Palestinian Communities – Scotland (ACPS). Once again, these sectarians, organising under the title of the Palestine Alliance, denied us speaking rights. The chair of ACPS told us that there was a speaker list which had been agreed days before the protest and that it would confuse him to change this. Another lie: Sandra White, SNP MSP, told us that she had been invited while the event was taking place to speak. Other speakers included film scriptwriter Paul Laverty; the Scottish Green Party; Unison Scotland; the Muslim Council of Scotland; the newly set up Scottish Jews against Zionism, the Scottish Unemployed Workers Network; SPSC and the Campaign Against Nuclear Disarmament. The RCG/FRFI, which had been centrally involved in Palestine solidarity work in Glasgow over the previous three months, was the only excluded group.

As the ACPS chair tried to wind up the protest – an hour before the scheduled time – we continued to insist on our speaking rights, pointing out that there had been no mention of the GFI stall. When we were once again ignored, one of us got up and with our own megaphone addressed the crowd, many of whom stayed to listen. While the anti-democratic organisers of the demonstration packed up to go home, a large section of the crowd voted, by show of hands, to take independent action against the GFI stall. Led by the RCG, young and old people, Palestinians, grassroots Palestine campaigners and working class forces, marched down to and surrounded the GFI stall for an hour-long sit-down protest. GFI tried to persuade the police to remove us – but to no avail. In a further show of hands, we agreed to return to the GFI stall the following Saturday.

This action showed what is possible when Palestine protests are democratised and militant action is proposed. We had already shown this in the militant opposition to the Zionist participation on the SUTR demonstration in March. The RCG will continue to push for open platforms on all protests we attend as we understand that both democracy and militancy are the key to building a united, fighting movement to challenge British imperialist support for the racist state of Israel. This means confronting the racist imperialist Labour Party, the Zionism which it supports, and the sectarian opportunists who try to shut everything down to protect their own narrow interests.

Dominic Mulgrew

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 264 June/July 2018


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