Resist austerity with FRFI! /FRFI 226 Apr/May 2012

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism 226 April/May 2012

The government’s response to the global economic crisis has been to attack public services and drive down living conditions within Britain, and to intensify its plunder of oppressed countries. FRFI supporters are active on the streets and in communities every week, organising to help build a movement against exploitation at home and abroad, and to fight for a socialist alternative to austerity.

Fighting cuts and privatisation

As part of the national day of action called by Boycott Workfare at the start of March, FRFI supporters took part in protests in Lewisham, Brixton and Oxford Street in London, and in Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Dundee. High street shops using forced labour under the government’s Workfare scheme were picketed by protesters to raise public awareness and to put pressure on the companies to cut all ties with this vicious scheme.

During February and March councils set their budgets at meetings where they voted through the next wave of cuts. In Newcastle, FRFI helped organise a ‘noise protest’ outside the Council Executive as it agreed proposals which added cuts of £30m to last year’s £44m, and a city centre demonstration and march as the full council met to vote on the budget. In London Islington at the 2011 budget meeting, a packed public gallery had shouted down the meeting and people were ejected by the police. This year we went again to the demonstration, organised by Islington Hands Off Our Public Services.  However, having tied itself absolutely to the trade unions and the Labour Party, it could hardly muster a protest.

The Liberal Democrats had the gall to hold their spring conference in the North East in Newcastle, a region badly affected by the cuts. As part of the local Anti-Cuts Network (ACN), FRFI activists were central in organising a march from the working class neighbourhood of Byker, through the streets of Newcastle to the conference, and were harassed by the police the entire way. The march was supported by the majority of anti-cuts groups in Newcastle, but was opposed by the SWP who accused the organisers of abandoning the working class because they did not simply tail the trade unions’ Public Sector Alliance march, which only moved 100 metres along the quayside. The success of the ACN march shows that there are people prepared to resist the government’s austerity programme, but we need to be organised in order to pose any threat.

Defending targets of state repression

FRFI has consistently warned that capitalist governments’ austerity programmes will require repressive policing in order to stamp out resistance, and that every person targeted must be defended. This is not limited to Britain. In February FRFI supporters in London joined a demonstration outside the Italian embassy to protest against the arrest of 12 communists in Bologna. The communists had been active in the movement against austerity, and were arrested using laws created under the fascist regime of Mussolini.

Opposing imperialist war and plunder

Alongside austerity measures targeting the working class in Britain, the ruling class is stepping up its efforts to exploit other countries. The RCG wants to strengthen the struggle on both fronts by building links between the movement against austerity here and anti-imperialist resistance in oppressed countries.

Somalia is one country receiving increasing attention from the British ruling class, and so in January we initiated the Hands off Somalia (HOS) campaign, to mobilise opposition to an international conference hosted by David Cameron in London on 23 February. We did this together with the Somali community in London and other anti-imperialists, and held a public meeting in Kentish Town at the start of February. On the day of the conference the limousines carrying diplomats and NGO workers were greeted by angry demonstrators who used the open mic to make sure everyone knew what they thought of the imperialists’ plans. The protest continued throughout the day and swelled to hundreds of people. The campaign is planning to hold a public meeting in April to talk about imperialist intervention in Somalia. Follow HOS on Facebook and Twitter (@HandsOffSomalia) and at www.handsoffsomalia.co.uk, where you can watch videos of the demonstration.

The war drums continue to beat against Syria, with a massive media campaign to demonise the Syrian government. In March a pro-NATO intervention march was organised in London. FRFI however, joined members of the Syrian community in a counter-protest, demanding an end to sanctions and the threat of war. Speeches pointed out the hypocrisy of the British ruling class, which has plundered the world and murdered and tortured millions in its quest for profit.

Thousands of British troops continue to occupy Ireland, Britain’s oldest colony. In January Scotland RCG joined the Bloody Sunday March in Derry, commemorating the 14 citizens of Derry murdered by the British army in 1972. Thousands marched, declaring that since there was not a single soldier behind bars for the crime, they would continue to march for justice, and cheered speakers as they expressed support for campaigns including that to free Marian Price and the protesting prisoners at Maghaberry.

Solidarity brigade returns from Cuba

In February FRFI supporters from across Britain took part in a solidarity brigade to socialist Cuba, taking material aid to support the revolution and bringing back inspiring lessons for the struggle in Britain (see pages 8 and 9). The brigadistas have spoken about their experiences in public meetings in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Sunderland, Glasgow and Dundee.

Building the socialist alternative in Britain

The government’s claim that there is no alternative to austerity is a lie – and our alternative is to resist. A new movement has to be built, which makes common cause with those resisting imperialism and building socialism in other countries. The RCG organises street events, meetings, film showings and cultural events in towns and cities across Britain. Contact us today and join us in this important work.

GDC steps up pressure on Crown Office

The Glasgow Defence Campaign has launched a petition calling for an end to police and Crown Office criminalisation of political protest in Scotland. The petition demands that Strathclyde police end the practice of kettling demonstrators, and calls for an end to the misuse of charges such as breach of the peace, obstruction and street trading legislation to criminalise political activity in Scotland. It also calls upon the Procurator Fiscal to recognise that pursuing charges against peaceful anti-cuts protesters is not in the public interest.

The petition will be handed to the Crown Office to show the public’s belief in the right to protest.

On 1 March, the trial of Dominic O’Hara, where the debate over the legality of the police tactic of ‘kettling’ was due to take place, was once again postponed as the Crown was ill-prepared.  It has been re-scheduled for 2 April, when the GDC will protest outside the court. This is the first legal challenge in Scotland to this abuse of police powers and forms part of the GDC strategy of challenging those who seek to undermine our basic democratic rights. The GDC has also recently produced Know your rights bust cards, which are available from the campaign.

The GDC petition can be signed online at:

www.petition.co.uk/defend-the-right-to-protest-oppose-the-criminalisation-of-protest

 

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