Friday, 4 September 2015


The Current Situation in Greece - Kimon Bukas (Antarsaya)

The referendum
The referendum took place amidst threats and blackmails:
* The EU institutions, Greek reaction and media all came out and openly said that it was a vote on EU membership.
* The media took scaremongering to an unprecedented level.
* On the day the referendum was announced, the ECB cut off Greek banks from liquidity. As a result, for the week prior to the referendum, banks remained closed and people could only withdraw 60 euro a day. Apart from the psychological impact, this affected people as they couldn’t pay their bills, small shopkeepers couldn’t pay their suppliers etc.
The Greek people were indeed frightened but their response was one of anger and refusal to surrender
* 62% voted ‘NO’.
* This is extraordinary under the mentioned conditions and must be built upon.
* Shortly after the referendum, “No until the end” groups were formed at local/grassroots level.
* The vote was deeply polarised. In poor Athens neighbourhoods 90% voted ‘NO’ and vice-versa in rich ones. Youths also voted ‘NO’ in huge numbers.

The 3rd memorandum
A few days after the referendum, the 3rd memorandum was more or less agreed upon.
* This will bring more savage austerity. The Greek government is forced to make cuts of about 3.8 billion euro p.a
* It is much more than just an austerity package however. It predicts the selling-off of public assets and the handing over to the Troika of parts of the Greek state.
* The memoranda are the strongest weapon of the Greek and international elites who have made a killing out of the crisis through the slashing off labour costs and rights, the privatizations for scandalous amounts etc.
* Apart from making people’s life miserable, it will give the economy yet another blow and will increase the debt as the previous memoranda have proven (something that is openly admitted even by the IMF)
The majority of SYRIZA admitted that the deal was a bad one but stated that there was no other alternative and that what is important is that the left wing government survives. Few want to return to the previous hated regime, but what’s the point of having a left wing government if it can’t implement left wing policies?

Lessons to be learnt
Others simply attributed the deal to Tsipras’s treason. But what is important is that conclusions are drawn and lessons learnt so that the same mistakes are not repeated.
* Syriza has been presented as a radical left wing party in the media but in reality its programme was a moderate Keynesian one which aimed to combat the worst consequences of the crisis in agreement with EU institutions. Moreover, since 2012 it has gradually been moving towards the right and blunting many edges of its program in order to become “electable”.
* The success of even such a moderate program however was unacceptable to the European elite and the leading European politicians, which have spent the last couple of years telling their people that the only antidote to the financial crisis is austerity.
* This is the main lesson which must be learnt: one cannot convince the elite through negotiations and sound arguments to hand over part of their profits and power. You must go to war with them and expect them to fight back by any means. Faced with their might, the only hope for a left wing government is the active support of the people, who the left must tell the truth to, must convince regarding its’ strategy and must prepare to defend it actively on the streets and workplaces. Syriza on the other hand won the election by promising people what they wanted to hear: a break with austerity inside the Eurozone.
* This is simply not possible, especially for Greece. It is impossible to implement even moderate left wing policies without a break with the Eurozone and the EU.
* Democracy inside Syriza was also a factor as the leadership has gradually become more and more independent form the party base.

What has the SYRIZA government brought Greece?
* Positive laws were introduced allowing children of immigrants born in Greece to obtain Greek citizenship and same sex couples to form legal “civil partnership” contracts.
* A vague promise of debt restructuring was obtained.
* The Greek problem was internationalized.
BUT at the same time...
* Disappointment/demoralization
* The credibility of the left has been damaged, not just in Greece, but across the world.
* The “there is no alternative” doctrine originally introduced by Pasok and New Democracy has become much more credible/believable in the eyes of people now that it has been embraced by Syriza.

Developments after the agreement
* The “Left Platform”, a left (minority) fraction within Syriza voted against the memorandum, although they continued to support the government.
* After elections were announced which meant that those who had voted against the memorandum would be excluded from Syriza electoral lists, Left Platform members left the party and formed “Popular Unity” which will stand in the forthcoming elections. Every day, more Syriza members (not just Left Platform members) are leaving the party.
* This is a positive development, although (even though it’s still early days) “Popular Unity” shows worrying signs of repeating the Syriza mistakes.
o It has followed the “Tsipras’s treason line and has not publicly analyzed “how we got here” or applied any self-criticism.
o Its program is Syriza’s previous election one + a break from the Euro if necessary.
o It does not have a clear position on the EU.
o Questions regarding democracy in the interior have been raised as even though “Popular Unity” claims to be an open front for all left wing anti-memorandum forces, it is not clear what proceedings have taken place in its interior, who elected its leadership, how the program was decided etc.

* The battle is far from over.
* Whatever government is elected it will be hard to enforce the memorandum.
* It is certain that the measures will fail and that Greece will not meet its financial targets.
* The left must organize democratically from bellow and sincerely explain that a break with the EU is absolutely necessary if Greece is to leave this vicious circle.
* It must do its best to strengthen the “No until the end” groups to fight against the application of the memorandum.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015



RIC Edinburgh meetings

RIC Edinburgh continues to meet fortnightly, although we took one break in August for the holiday and Festival, Since the RIC-Scotland AGM on July 25th RIC-Edinburgh has held the following meetings.

August 17th - Resisting Austerity - Mike Vallance, Autonomous Centre Edinburgh  - Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty - 25 people attended
August 31st - Kimon Bukas, Antarsya - The new political situation in Greece.

(for Discussion Topics see

We now have 90 RIC card-carrying members in Edinburgh.

RIC-Edinburgh Activities

The holiday period has led to a slackening off of activity. Members have been mainly involved in campaigns against TTIP, or the effects of the cuts in their communities and workplaces. Some have been involved in Festival Fringe events. Allan Armstrong spoke on the Edinburgh Legacy of James Connolly for the Edinburgh Peoples Festival at the Liberton 'Yes' Cafe on August 10th. RIC also held a small meeting with visitors from Catalunya in the Yes cafe on August 12th. Pat Smith was on the panel of the Common Weal Butterfly Rammy Fringe event speaking on the Indyref.

Edinburgh-RIC includes members of the ISS, Greens, RCN, SNP, SSP, SWP and those in no political organisation at all. ISS, RCN and SSP members, along with others have now joined RISE. The Edinburgh launch was attended by 90 people. RIC-Edinburgh continues to be a coalition of people from different political organisations, various local campaigns and those who are not in other organisations.

A forthcoming event backed by RIC-Edinburgh is the national demonstration for justice, organised by the Sheku Bayoh Justice Campaign on Sunday, September 6th, 14.00 at Kirkcaldy Town House, KY1 1XW


Allan Armstrong - RIC Edinburgh Minutes Secretary, 2.9.15

Tuesday, 1 September 2015


Resisting Austerity - Mike Vallance,
Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty, Autonomous Centre Edinburgh (ACE)

ACE, which has its office in Montgomery Street, developed from the Edinburgh Unemployed Workers Centre (EUWC) in Broughton Street. The EUWC was closed down by the city council in 1997. ACE is a centre for benefits claimants, low paid, part time and temporary workers. ACE handles cases by representing people when dealing with the authorities.

This involves fighting individual claims. We also support collective struggles, in particular against welfare abuses. We see this as just part of the international struggle against capital.

Since 1997 there has been a weekly drop-in at ACE every Tuesday. The main problem we deal with is benefits, but we also handle debt and housing problems. Many of the cases now involve benefit sanctions, particularly for the unemployed and disabled. There has been a huge increase in our caseload. The drop-in is officially from 12.00 - 15.00, but sometimes we have to remain open until 17.00 or 18.00, such is the increase in numbers. The horror is stepping up.

Workfare leads to community work placement for up to 6months. This involves 30 hours work a week for no extra money. Even MAXIMOS (the replacement for ABOS) admits that people who are unsuitable get put on Workfare.

To counter the threat of people being put on Workfare, we have developed the Solidarity Network (SN), which can draw upon 200-300 people in the city willing to give support.

Recently a claimant was asked to turn up at the Stockbridge Hospice of Hope. About 10 people from SN went along in support. The management had been told that those being directed to work were all volunteers. When confronted by the people from the SN, the manager agreed to pull out of the system. He also said that he would ensure that the authorities were told that it had been his decision not to take on the claimant. We have the support of Learn Direct, which represents genuine volunteers.

Adam (present at the meeting) is another person we have represented at 4 different levels of the Workfare procedure.

The Department of Work and Pensions do have courses to provide help, financed from the Flexible Support Fund. However, they do not advertise this. The SN is able to provide real help through its knowledge of the system.

What we are trying to develop is a counter-power to make Workfare unworkable. This was achieved with the Anti-Poll Tax Campaign.

We also have links with other groups in the UK. These include Boycott Austerity, Action Against Austerity, Dundee Against Welfare Sanctions, Perth Against Welfare Sanctions, Castlemilk Against Austerity, IWW and the Anarchist Federation.

We saw the 'Yes' vote in last year's referendum as a vote for fairer society. However, we don't believe you can rely on the state. There are many other issues that will bring people up against Holyrood, e.g. fracking and open cast coal mining.

In Edinburgh the council is run by a Labour-SNP coalition. They have been involved in a continued offensive against the cleansing workers. We have been involved in blockades against scab lorries. Dundee Against Welfare Sanctions was prominent in the campaign in support of the Ninewells Hospital Porters.

One problem has been trying to link up with the workers employed in the Jobs Centres. The last useful contact we had was Bill Scott. A major job is to try and link workers and benefits claimants in the face of the huge offensive to divide the working class. There is a link between the employers' workplace offensive, and the attacks on housing and on disability benefits.

One important case is the upcoming case against Tony Cox. He was representing a particularly vulnerable woman on Arbroath. Job Centre officials called the police, and although Tony was no longer in the office when the police arrived, he was still arrested. He comes up for trial in the Sheriff Court in Forfar on 13th October. There will be activity at Job Centres on October12th in support of the right of advocacy.

Kate said she had been involved in the struggle for justice since 1992. People had been driven to despair by Thatcher. The City of London had wanted mass unemployment to promote a divide between the employed and unemployed. This divide was economic, social and psychological.

In the move from an industrial to a service economy, many people became "surplus to market requirements". Blair and Cameron have continued Thatcher's war and stepped up the propaganda offensive. The charities, which have been increasingly left to deal with the social consequences, do not recognise this offensive.

In Drumchapel women are being denied welfare rights. People dying of cancer, who are deemed to have more than 6 months to live, are being denied benefits. Many young people are increasingly accepting individual responsibility for socially created problems. They are being demonised, driving some to suicide.

Kate had been to Nicaragua in the past and learned from the women there that people who do not understand their history or present can not make their future.

Jane asked how much support there was from the voluntary sector.

Mike answered saying that there was support form the Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations, Shelter, Oxfam, and Church Aid. They all wanted to keep the voluntary sector voluntary.

However companies like Poundland and Asda resort to Workfare labour.

Stewart said it was a heartbreaking situation. The growth of food banks shows there is now mass hunger. Workfare is designed to undermine the bargaining power of labour. The problem is that people have internalised capitalist values.

Willie said that he had leaned from the Occupy movement. He had been involved in occupations of charities. However, he felt frustrated by the lack of action on a mass scale. Who will be the agent of real change? How do we involved wider layers of people?

More people are now anti-austerity. The political terrain is changing. This is reflected in the Corbyn campaign and the election of 56 SNP MPs. It is reflected in RIC and now the Scottish Left Project. We need political action as well as direct action.

Bob said that we need to reach out to union members, especially the workers in the benefits offices. An injury to one is an injury to all. However, to do this meant that members had to reclaim their unions and broaden their vision.

Kathy said that people were believing all the propaganda and had begun to internalise this. As a consequence people who had to claim benefits for the first time were really shocked.

Pat said that a lot of work needs to be done to deal with all the hype. The papers and the government are out to demonise the poor.

However, Pat's experience during the referendum campaign was that people began to see others' situations and think differently. People understood that the problem lay in the lack of power.

Luke said that Labour were part of the problem. Three of the current leadership candidates voted for Ian Duncan Smith's welfare cuts. Even the tax credits brought in under Brown were just subsidies for the employers. Will Corbyn organise extra-parliamentary action? Only this could be successful in resisting austerity.

Izy said that the use of language was important. We shouldn't describe people as claimants but as unemployed or disabled.

Mike said that people are increasingly judged by the job they do, not by any other contributions they make to society.

We need a society which can guarantee shelter, food, heating and transport for all. Our aim is not to get everybody into employment. Being employed is being exploited.

Back in the 1970'sMike Cooley and the Lucas Shop Stewards, when their factory was threatened with closure, produced a plan of socially useful production.

The Edinburgh Campaign Against Poverty was involved in direct action. But this is not all. We must relate to post-'Yes' campaign situation.

Campaigning can be successful. This was shown by the Anti-Poll Tax Campaign. There were over 30 local groups in Edinburgh. The poll tax was defeated. The Scottish government was forced to back down over the Bedroom Tax and provide funding.

In Spain there is a mass movement to resist evictions. Other countries such as Italy and France had a better record of workplace activity. The Edinburgh cleansing workers had had to fight against their unions as well as the city authorities.

Mike saw electoral work as a dead end. It is difficult to organise autonomously.  He had visited the Zapatistas in Mexico, where people had taken over the land and were running their own communities.

Mike said that he was prepared to work alongside those who held different political ideas, so he welcomed the invitation form RIC to speak to the meeting..