- Created: Wednesday, 12 August 2015 09:32
- Written by Scotland Branches
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In Scotland, fighting austerity means taking on both the Scottish National Party (SNP) and the Labour Party.
Whatever the anti-austerity rhetoric of SNP MPs in Westminster, on the ground it is a different story. In Dundee, it took 13 weeks of all-out strike action by117 hospital porters in Dundee, Unite union members, before they won their fight against low pay with demands for pay re-grading and back pay. They were up against the SNP Scottish government which backed down only after the porters began pickets of the office of Dundee East MSP and Health Minister Shona Robison. Caledonian MacBrayne ferry workers, members of the RMT and TSSA unions, are also calling strike action as the Scottish government moves to privatise the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Service with no guarantee over jobs, wages and conditions. On the same day as the 20 June anti-austerity rally in Glasgow, the SNP’s trade union group met in Stirling but did not extend an invitation to the striking Dundee porters.
In Dundee, the all-out strike of 117 hospital porters is moving into its ninth week. The porters, members of Unite and Unison, have been in dispute over their pay grading which is set at the lowest level in the NHS. They are seeking regrading and the payment of back money owed over years. Years of poverty pay and getting nowhere with intransigent management and dishonest negotiation has forced the workers to withdraw their labour. The picket lines have been solidly maintained at Ninewells and Royal Victoria Hospitals. Donations have poured in to support the low-paid staff and they have marched in solidarity with striking council care workers in Glasgow.
‘Labour gained 142 seats and Glasgow sent off 10 ‘Red Clydesiders’ to Parliament to abolish poverty. It is recorded that on the train down these MPs were concerned chiefly to discover if being thrown out of the House of Commons meant a loss of salary. Abolishing poverty was one thing but joining the ranks of the poor was not their intention.’
(1922 General Election, quoted in John Maclean, Battlepost of the Poor)
The Scottish National Party (SNP) has styled itself as the new party of progressive social democracy in Scotland and campaigned for a parliamentary anti-austerity alliance with the Labour Party. This strategy unravelled with the Tory victory. The September 2014 referendum posed the question: who will represent the working class? Our answer then was neither the Scottish Labour Party nor the SNP. That has not changed today.
As we approach the general election, polls suggest that Labour could lose all but five of its 41 seats in Scotland – a historic defeat. Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy insults the electorate with populist policies such as reintroducing alcohol to football grounds. The ‘Red Tories’ are a ruling class party and must be buried.
Meanwhile, the Scottish National Party (SNP) is swallowing up the ground lost by Labour. Its membership, now over 100,000, has more than quadrupled since the referendum. It is proclaiming itself to be an anti-cuts party and has implemented measures to increase free childcare to 16 hours a week for three- and four-year-olds and some two-year-olds, grant free school meals to children up to Primary 3 and continue to meet the cost of the bedroom tax with discretionary housing payments.
In FRFI 242 we stated that: ‘Home Rule will represent the limit of the aspirations of the middle class and better-off sections of the working class: the SNP is a bourgeois party and it will implement whatever cuts are necessary to preserve economic stability.’ The historic referendum on Scottish independence saw the mass of the working class, the youth and progressive people vote overwhelmingly to secede from the imperialist United Kingdom. 1.6 million people in predominantly urban and poor working class constituencies voted Yes. However, the working class has reached the limits of what can be achieved by voting at this moment. Now is the time to organise across Scotland a fight against the austerity programme of the Tories, the Labour Party and the SNP. Any progress in this struggle requires an end to the reactionary Union and with it a complete break from the bankrupt British labour movement. It must become a fight for socialism.
On Saturday 22 November, FRFI supporters were among 3,000 activists who attended a conference convened by the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC) in Glasgow. At the same time, possibly as a spoiling tactic, the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) organised a rally at an arena a hundred yards away which attracted 12,000 people. Politics in Scotland has undergone a dramatic change as a result of the referendum on 18 September. The genie is out of the bottle, and it will be very difficult for the ruling class, whether in Scotland or in Britain, to put it back. As political parties prepare for the 2015 General Election, the question is: who will speak for the Scottish working class?
On 19 September, the British ruling class breathed a huge sigh of relief when the results of the previous day’s referendum on Scottish independence were announced. The possibility of a Yes victory had caused widespread panic in the days beforehand. But on a massive turnout of 84.6%, 55.3% had voted against independence, with 44.7% in favour – two million as against just over 1.6 million. Within hours of the result, pledges by the three Westminster party leaders offering more powers to Scotland in an effort to bolster the No vote, were bogged down in petty party squabbles. Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) and Scottish First Minister, who had spearheaded the Yes campaign, announced his intention to resign his positions.
2,001,926 (55.3%) voted no, with 1,617,989 (44.7%) voting yes. Overall turnout 84.5%.
The British ruling class is today breathing a huge sigh of relief. The possibility of a Yes victory in the Scottish referendum had caused widespread panic. A triumphalist media is now congratulating everyone on how democratic and peaceful the referendum was. We are told that the result represents the will of the people; but the reality is that it represents the fear of the people. Following the result, SNP leader and Scottish Minister, Alex Salmond announced his intention to step down from his positions. Within hours of the result, the pledges by the three Westminster party leaders to offer more powers to Scotland, lie in tatters.
'May He sedition hush, And like a torrent rush, Rebellious Scots to crush.' - 1745.
Sixth Verse of the UK National Anthem, God Save the Queen.
The emergence of the Scottish working class, particularly its poorest sections, into the campaign for Scottish independence has been a very recent phenomenon. A YouGov poll published on Saturday 6 September showed for the first time that a majority of people intended to vote Yes. With ‘Don’t Knows’ stripped out, 51% are supporting independence while 49% are for remaining in the UK. The next day saw falls in the value of the pound and billions of pounds were wiped off the value of Scottish firms. The skies are darkening for the loyal Labour, Tory and Liberal No campaign.
On 18 September the question, ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’, will be put to the Scottish electorate, estimated at around four million, when newly franchised 16-year-old voters are taken into account. A ‘Yes’ vote will begin a process of negotiation between the governments of Scotland and the United Kingdom on future constitutional arrangements. Michael MacGregor argues that this opportunity should be used to advance the interests of the working class and to undermine imperialism.
I have been a long time supporter of FRFI in Glasgow. The analysis provided in the paper of the ever increasing attacks on poorer sections of the working class, casualisation and the role of the unions and the Labour party in implementing these attacks has been confirmed time and again in my own experience as a worker.
For the past four years, I have worked in an arts venue in Glasgow managed on behalf of Glasgow City Council by Glasgow Life, one of the Arms Length Management Organisations (ALMOs) established by the Labour council in 2007.
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.
Memories of the Poll Tax still run deep in Scotland, where Thatcher first implemented the hated tax, and working class resistance to it first arose. With the bedroom tax now set to affect 105,000 social housing tenants, around 80% of whom are disabled, anger and organisation is building once again. Yet so too are the opportunist forces on the left and in the Labour Party who sought to control the anti-poll tax movement, and seek to hold back resistance again.
On Thursday 14 February, members of the expanding Glasgow Against Atos (GAA) campaign including an FRFI supporter met with representatives of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union to discuss how the PCS could help GAA fight against welfare cutbacks. GAA was set up in October 2012 as a broad-based campaign following successful pickets of Atos initiated by Glasgow FRFI.
‘The law is simply and solely made for the exploitation of those who do not understand it or of those who, for naked need, cannot obey it.’ Bertolt Brecht
The last two months have again seen significant victories in Glasgow in the fight against police repression, vindicating the relentless political campaigning led by Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! members and the Glasgow Defence Campaign.
The crisis facing education in Scotland is deepening. According to the BBC, classroom teachers are now being forced to purchase basic education materials such as pens and paper out of their own money.
Strike action on 30 November against the attack on pensions is being taken by most Scottish teaching unions. This follows over a year of increasing animosity and frustration by members with the Education Institute of Scotland – Scotland’s main teachers’ union. The union has spent the past period agreeing voluntary redundancy agreements. The con-sequence of these is ever-growing unemployment among newly qualified teachers as posts disappear. According to the General Teaching Council for Scotland only one newly qualified teacher in five can expect to find a full-time, permanent teaching job on completion of their induction year.
Over the past few months in Scotland, politicians and public figures, newspapers and the police have begun a war aimed at criminalising progressive football supporters. The Scottish Parliament is currently debating the Scottish National Party’s Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill. The Bill bans the singing of ‘offensive’ political songs and would give each police officer the power to arrest and charge people for acting in a way that the state deems offensive. Although the Bill will affect all football fans, there can be no doubt that it is aimed at, and will be used most against, supporters of Celtic Football Club because of their support for the Irish Republican movement and for the Palestinian struggle.
December 2011 marks one year since two members of FRFI were targeted, arrested and charged by police on a militant student demonstration in Glasgow. FRFI members were singled out following months of organising against police harassment through the Govanhill Defence Campaign, established after unsuccessful attempts by officers to shut down stalls and ban the sale of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! in August 2010. It was clear state intimidation was set to intensify, and the Glasgow Defence Campaign was formed:
‘Having opposed political policing and intimidation on the streets of Govanhill in Glasgow, we will stand up for all our rights as we mobilise against the budget cuts and organise in defence of the working class...We call for maximum unity in defence of all those attacked and imprisoned by the British state in its attempts to silence dissent.’ (GDC statement, December 2010)
Scotland has not seen anything like the outbreaks of disorder, mass protest, civil disobedience and inner-city uprisings which have shaken the authorities in England over the past year. There has been no serious struggle as yet against the cuts in Glasgow. Trade unions continue to accept wage freezes and negotiate voluntary redundancies; genuine working class campaigns, such as that against the closure of the Accord centre, remain isolated; student occupations and direct actions have ebbed and flowed.
On Saturday 15 October at 11am the occupy movement spread to Glasgow as tents were erected, anti-cuts banners hung and progressive messages chalked on the red surface of George Square, in Glasgow’s City Centre. Opposite the occupation sits Glasgow City Council’s (GCC) chambers of corruption which are controlled by the Labour party. Below is an eye witness report and observations of a Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! (FRFI) supporter who has attended the occupation in solidarity on Tuesday 18 and 19 October;
On 13 October 2011, Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! supporter Dominic O´Hara appeared once again in front of a judge at Glasgow District Court, the latest in a long line of court appearances for FRFI activists over the past year of political harassment, arrests and trials. 15 supporters held a protest outside the court, standing with the banner of the Glasgow Defence Campaign (Don´t panic – organize!) and distributing leaflets to the many working class people coming and going through the revolving doors of sham Scottish justice.
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! condemns the open political policing that was employed on Saturday's Scottish Trades Union Council march from Glasgow Green to Kelvingrove Park. Throughout the march people were harassed and stalked by lines of officers intent on provoking a response from the peaceful protestors. Coalition of Resistance supporters were taken aside by officers and warned to behave, IRSP Alba and John Brady Society followers were questioned for flying a Starry Plough flag and a Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! and Glasgow Defence Campaign (GDC) supporter, who has been targeted on previous protests, was detained by officers for condemning political policing as the march passed Cranstonhill Police Station, 945 Argyle St.
The following video captures the scenes as the arrest took place only for him to be de-arrested due to the popular will of the protestors.
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! sends its solidarity to the people who left the march and successfully secured our supporters release. As the targeted comrade said after re-joining the march 'a victory for one is a victory for all!' FRFI will continue our role in the Glasgow Defence Campaign to make sure the actions of Strathclyde Police are recorded, publicised and organised against.
In Glasgow, campaigns against the cuts have been successful in getting increased support from working class people. However, in a significant development, these campaigns have encountered undisguised hostility from those whose support they might have taken for granted – the trade unions and the main organisations on the Scottish left.
On 22 June Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! supporters in Glasgow joined a successful occupation of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) offices on Cochrane Street in the city centre. The direct action had been organised by the Black Triangle disability rights group and the Citizens United campaign, with the support of carers from the Save the Accord Centre campaign. The action had been called to highlight and oppose corporate tax evasion which is estimated to be worth £120 billion a year.
The fight against the cuts in Glasgow has also become a fight against police repression. FRFI supporters have been harassed, arrested and face court trials for their role in protests last December against tax-evading monopolies and student fees. To oppose this political policing, they have set up the Glasgow Defence Campaign (GDC, http://glasgowdefencecampaign.blogspot.com), now supported by John Pilger and Ken Loach.
The Save the Accord Centre campaign has now become the most significant struggle against council cuts in Glasgow. The Labour council is demolishing the learning disabilities day centre to build a bus park for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Carers, parents and service users from the working class community of Dalmarnock have been fighting for a like-for-like replacement. The council is refusing to build one, citing the ‘economic climate’ while handing over millions to private developers and land speculators. At a protest outside the City Council Chambers on 31 March, 20 police faced 15 demonstrators. As the protest ended, two FRFI supporters were seized by the police and dumped in the back of a police van. One was questioned by a police officer who was due to appear as a witness in a court case against him. The second was threatened with a charge of ‘breach of the peace’.
The defining moment of the Scottish election, supporters of the Save the Accord Centre campaign confronting Labour Leader, Ian Gray. Glasgow 7 April 2011
On 5 May the Labour Party suffered a major defeat in the elections to the devolved Scottish parliament in Edinburgh, as the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) swept to the first overall majority in the Parliament since its inception in 1999. The election saw the SNP make significant gains in the traditional Labour heartlands in Lanarkshire and Glasgow. The dismal results for the left outside the Labour Party confirmed the political standpoint of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! – the need for socialists to make an explicit anti-Labour position central to the rebuilding of the socialist movement.
How to deal with police harassment - Glasgow Defence Campaign
The Glasgow Defence Campaign and the Free Hetherington Occupation held a joint protest between 12 and 2pm on Saturday 16 April on Gordon Street against Strathclyde police’s campaign of intimidation and harassment against anti-cuts activists. If the cops thought their hands-off approach on the day of the protest would undermine our defiance and quieten things down they must have spluttered over their station tea as the issue got front page coverage in the widely read Glasgow Evening Times. Now tens of thousands of people know about Strathclyde's police’s recent behaviour.
We condemn the attempts by Strathclyde police to intimidate and undermine Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!(FRFI) in Glasgow. So far this week, three of our supporters, including a 14-year-old have been arrested. A further two anti-cuts activists, both aged 17, have also been arrested this week in relation to the anti-cuts protests in Glasgow which took place on 9 December 2010. All have been charged with breach of the peace for entering a Vodafone store. They have been released with police bail conditions which prohibit their attendance at ‘at any assembly of two or more persons’ and which exclude them from parts of Glasgow city centre. This is a breach of their human rights; it shows the extent to which the police will go to attack effective opposition to the cuts.
The arrests follow the conviction on Monday 11 April of FRFI supporter Dominic O’Hara on trumped-up charges of police assault. This week’s events are yet further examples of the constant police harassment that Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! supporters and other activists are experiencing for their involvement in successful anti-cuts actions in the city centre. This includes attempts to charge supporters with selling our newspaper on the streets. We have set up Glasgow Defence Campaign in response to oppose political policing and defend democratic rights. (see glasgowdefencecampaign.blogspot.com)
On Tuesday 24 March, security guards at Glasgow University, with the authorisation of senior management, called in Strathclyde police to assist them in evicting the seven-week long occupation of the former Hetherington Research Club building on campus, which had been taken over by students and re-opened as an anti-cuts space. The operation grew to include nearly 100 police officers, dog teams, eighteen police vehicles blocking off roads and a police helicopter. Over the course of the morning, hundreds of students responded to the call to defend the occupied space, gathering inside and outside the building. Police responded with overwhelming numbers, violently removing and dragging out peaceful protesters. Four students suffered injuries, including two left with dislocated shoulders. One young woman, Kate Connelly, suffered concussion after security smashed her head off a wall. She was transferred to the Western Infirmary in an ambulance with concussion before police officers charged her with obstruction and threw her in Stewart Street police cells for several hours. Four others were detained then de-arrested on site, possibly to avoid inciting a riot.
On 19 December 1980 the Glasgow 2 -Mike Duffield and Kirstin Crosbie, arrested on 9 August whilst selling Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! outside Celtic Football ground –were found guilty of 'conducting themselves in a disorderly manner' by shouting 'inflammatory slogans likely to occasion a breach of the peace'. Mike and Kirstin were fined £150 and £125 respectively.
There are over 40 anti-Poll Tax groups in Glasgow in most of the working class areas, including Drumchapel, Castlemilk, Maryhill, Govan, Govanhill and Pollok. The Pollok group in particular is big. Hundreds attend the meetings and it has mass support in the community. All these groups are outside the Labour Party's 'Stop It' campaign which has done nothing apart from produce a leaflet, make a record and get publicity on TV.