Friday, 4 February 2011

Succesful GDC meeting builds unity against police harassment

On the 26th of January, the Glasgow Defence Campaign organised a successful meeting on the southside of Glasgow on fighting the cuts and defending democratic rights. Representatives from Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!, the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Scottish Socialist Youth and Scotland Against Criminalising Communities all contributed to the meeting and agreed on the importance of organising unity against political policing and harassment. The meeting agreed to organise protests outside police stations whenever someone was arrested, keep a log of all police harassment, increase street activity, demonstrations, militancy and organisation in the anti-cuts movement and take seriously the question of defending our right to organise on the streets. 

The authorities got a taste of this when, following the arrest of an FRFI supporter after an anti-cuts demonstration in Glasgow on Saturday 29 January, 40 people immediately held pickets outside Stuart Street and then Baird Street police stations to demand the young activist's release. On the Monday, the Glasgow Defence Campaign organised supporters to attend his court hearing. Strathclyde police and their political paymasters can be sure that their anti-democratic activities will be exposed at every turn.

Below are reproduced two of the talks given to the 26 January meeting, the first from a representative of the Revolutionary Communist Group, the second by a supporter of the Glasgow Defence Campaign.

1. RCG talk:

In August last year representatives of my organisation the Revolutionary Communist Group following a period of sustained harassment of our supporters met with Chief Inspector of New Gorbals police, a Stephen McAlister, where he declared that the police and his officers were what he termed ‘a political’, and would never engage in political policing. Our people took a different view.

Since then, events have confirmed our point, as the crisis has deepened the role of the police has changed, just as our role as political activists has to change in order to relate to these new objective conditions.

There is something wrong with society when police men start policing politics. They are attempting to restrict the distribution of our newspaper Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! which for over 30 years has been sold in this city. Now Strathclyde police, along with the state prosecution, the Procurator Fiscals office, are attempting to use the courts in order to criminalise our supporters. It is vital that this is resisted.

We stand in long tradition, since the foundation of the RCG over 35 years ago, literally hundreds of our membership have faced harassment and arrest for carrying out political work advancing anti imperialist politics. It has taken many forms, be it in relation to anti racist work, in support of the revolutionary national struggles in Ireland, South Africa and more recently in support of the Palestinian people. At home our work against state racism led us to become involved in defence campaigns, in support of the striking miners, and in relation to the non payment of the poll tax. Throughout it all we have learned important political lessons.

The most important of these is to understand the enemy, to understand the forces we are up against. This is the central task facing those in the receiving end of attacks on living standards. The need for clarity and understanding demands of us a higher level of understanding and political consciousness.

The first question to ask is why are these attacks happening now?

We are living through one of the biggest crisis of the capitalist system since the First World War, almost one hundred years ago.

For those of us attempting to build opposition to the cuts, we have not heard enough politics. Meeting after meeting, discussing sometimes irrelevant details, the need for clarity is confused. Often this is carried out on purpose.

I have heard some say that the present cut backs are ideologically driven, that they are ‘Tory cuts’, this is outright deceit. It’s a position increasingly common among the left. You will hear this often, it’s a lazy way of attempting to explain the crisis.

We need to be clear - we are living through a structural crisis of the capitalist system as a whole, at its heart stands the over accumulation of capital, and the overall crisis of profitability. This is a material phenomenon; it is born out of contradictions inherent within the capitalist system, independent of everyone’s will. It is not a question of ideology – as all of the ruling class parties are united in defending the the capitalist system, practice has demonstrated this point time and time again beyond all reasonable doubt - who here can claim that fundamentally there is a difference between the Labour party the Tories, the Lib Dems, and for that matter the SNP, when it comes to defending capitalism and protecting the system of profit?

We need to oppose those who wish to rehabilitate the Labour party. Recent months have been a real lesson in political opportunism. It’s almost as if the 13 bloody years of Labour in office never happened. The Labour party who in 1998 abolished student grants, introduced fees for the first time, founded the private enterprise called the Student Loans Company, now posture in opposition as the champions of student rights; this is an insult to our intelligence. We refuse to let them or their allies away with such deceit.

The only way this can be restored is by attacking living standards. This is the process which is now underway; we need to be part of building the conscious opposition to these cuts. We need to be clear in advancing the position that the responsibility for the crisis does not lie with the working class, but with the system of capitalism and those who wish to defend it. We say we will not pay for the capitalist crisis.

We are already witnessing a realignment of class forces. New divisions will emerge, and intensify; between those with privileges and those without.  Between the property class, the real property class that is, and those who rent. The dream of home ownership is ending for the vast bulk of the working class, leaving all but a relatively tiny few. Britain’s unique high levels of home ownership will come under a severe test as the crisis unravels. Real battles lie ahead in terms of housing and also in jobs; the attacks on education are merely a taste of things to come. The recent announcement of higher levels of graduate unemployment confirms our point. Already there are less and less working class people receiving further education. Faced with this situation, we say we have no other option other than to educate ourselves. The period of luxury and passiveness is coming to and end.

I would like to end by making some further points in relation to the period ahead.

We need to cease the corrosive sectarianism which dominates, and divides the left. New forms of organisation will be required in order to fight these cuts.

For those who argue in defence of the Labour party we say take your apologist imperialist politics elsewhere, do not be polluting the new generation with your reactionary politics, you are part of history.

We need take strength and encouragement from those who in recent days have shook the world in Tunisia and Egypt. May they see victory and self determination! These are the forces of the future.

Oppression breads resistance; this is a rule of history, and we can add that resistance breads victory. And we know what victory looks like as we take inspiration from our comrades in Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and elsewhere where they have advanced the cause of anti imperialism and socialism  - this must be at the heart of the new movement.

In conclusion I would appeal for people to engage with us in political education and discussion. We make no apology for advancing the cause of socialism. There can be no capitalist solution to the crisis. This is the central task facing the anti cuts movement, to understand the period we are in, to recognise the crisis as an imperialist crisis, and to understand the politics and economics behind it. It demands higher levels of organisation and understanding. My organisation is pledging all of its resources, experience and collective knowledge in order to meet these immediate tasks in the next period.

Thank you.

Paul Mallon, Glasgow RCG, 26 January 2010

GDC Talk:            

‘Challenging centuries of repression’
I am supporter of FRFI and the Glasgow Defence Campaign.

On the 9 December I was violently arrested on a protest in Glasgow city centre. This had been organised to show solidarity with English students who are set to face tuition fees of up to £9,000 for one term at university. From a static demonstration this rally developed into a lively and spontaneous protest which attracted the support of the public and the participation of working-class youth. The police reacted by manhandling and attacking the peaceful protest while a helicopter hovered above. Another supporter of FRFI was singled out and arrested at the end of the protest.

We were detained overnight at Stewart St police station. During our stay I was unnecessarily strip searched and we were both approached by CID with the aim of extracting information on the groups and individuals involved in the protest.

We suspect our detention was linked to our involvement in the Govanhill Defence Campaign, which was set up to oppose political policing, and to our consistent work against racism and the spending cuts. For many the battle to defend education services from government cuts is being taken from the streets to the courts. This criminalisation of protest and attack on democratic rights will increase as resistance to the spending cuts increases.  This is nothing new; activists who oppose capitalism and imperialism can expect at some point or other to be taken to court because opposing injustice is a crime in the eyes of the ruling class.

Focus must now be put on building defence campaigns for those targeted by the state. Defending people who have been arrested and opposing political policing and the spending cuts are interlinked struggles and must be fought alongside each other. The fight to defend democratic rights is not separate from the fight to defend the right to a university education or good health care.

Opposition to political policing can only be mounted when people see the police for what they are, ‘an arm of the state used to force the poor and oppressed to accept their lot or to attack them when they do not’. The police, or as they are more commonly known ‘the pigs’ are defenders of a system which condemns thousands of people in this country to poverty and enforces on people throughout the world starvation and war. This is while the rich maintain and expand their wealth and power.

History exposes as a liar anyone who claims that the police are not an enemy of poor and working class people. Right back to the time of the Chartists, who campaigned for universal male suffrage in the 1800’s, the police have been used to infiltrate and crush progressive movements. In the early 1900’s suffragettes were imprisoned and tortured by the authorities, those who opposed the first imperialist world war were arrested in their hundreds and revolutionary figures like the Marxist school teacher John MacLean were singled out for mistreatment. In the midst of the great capitalist crisis during the 1920’s and 30’s hunger marches led by unemployed workers were attacked by the police. In the 1960 & 70’s anti-Vietnam war protestors and black civil rights activists were targeted. In the 1980’s miners and black and white youth in places like Brixton were forced to defend themselves against police brutality. Anti-poll tax protestors were attacked in the 1990’s. The new millennium has seen a continuation of these repressive tactics; in 2001 Govanhill residents were attacked for opposing the criminal closure of the swimming baths, state racism and surveillance was and is still being used to scapegoat and terrorise the Muslim community in Britain, in 2009 people protesting against Apartheid Israel’s bombardment of Gaza were brutalized and imprisoned. The latest attack on student protests does not come as a surprise to those who have even a slight understanding of history. Over two hundred arrests have been made down south and a number of people have been charged in Scotland.

The Govanhill Defence Campaign has been expanded into the Glasgow Defence Campaign in response to these developments. We have so far held two successful free speech rallies in the city centre. We call on all progressive people and groups to attend future rallies and to bring their newspapers, banners, leaflets and anything else which helps to draw the public into the fight against the cuts along. There is a megaphone open to anyone who wishes to express their views.

Over the weekend anti cuts activists, Irish republicans and people handing leaflets out against cuts in disability benefits were harassed; the British ruling class is organising its forces to crush any dissent, we urgently need to organise our own if we are to challenge the repression which has met progressive movements for over a century.

Another FRFI supporter is due in court in March for selling a political newspaper to locals in Govanhill. The thought that working class people might escape the racist and anti-poor propaganda spewed out by the mainstream press is of great concern to the authorities who rely on ignorance and racism to divide and rule the poor. Had he been selling the Sun or the Daily Record it is unlikely he would be facing charges.

Protests will be organised on the main dates of the trials of each of our comrades; leave contact details if you’re interested in coming.

The Glasgow Defence Campaign sends our solidarity to the people of the Middle East who are challenging the agents of US and British imperialism in their own countries and echoes the chant of the Egyptian people 

“Revolution, revolution, like a volcano, against Mubarak the coward." 
Victory to the resistance! All power to the people!

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