Monday, 8 May 2017

EDINBURGH PEOPLES FESTIVAL CELEBRATES GRAMSCI COMMEMORATION TRIUMPH


Two veterans of Radical Independence Campaign events, Hilary Wainwright, editor of Red Pepper, and Ray Burnett,  Benbecula historian and author, at the EPF's Gramsci event.


For a report on this event go to the EPF website at:- 

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

RIC-EDINBURGH ASSEMBLY, 26.4.17 LOCAL DEMOCRACY - GOING BEYOND THE BALLOT BOX


The Organising Committee decided that this assembly should look beyond the forthcoming local elections and examine meaningful local democracy. Maggie Chapman Co-Convenor of the Scottish Greens and Brian Robertson, City of Edinburgh UNITE were the two invited speakers.

1. Maggie Chapman

Democracy is about more than elections. Politics needs to be embedded into the everyday, so we have power over our daily lives. We need to have control of resources for our community.

We live in a sham democracy. Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU, but there has been no engagement from May.

We were told in the Independence referendum that voting No was a condition for remaining in the EU.

1 million people marched against a war in Iraq, yet war was started using the lie of Iraq having weapons of mass destruction.

Westminster is not democratic. The forthcoming general election is being conducted in defiance of the Fixed Parliamentary Terms Act, and purely for Tory party convenience. It is not about power for the people, but power over the people.

The cuts to services have led to the alienation of communities.

Cuts have led to false economies. Cutting meals on wheels leads to more people needing to use medical services including hospitals.

Westminster and Holyrood both see centralisation as the same as collective action. This is true of both Right and Left.

The rights to appeal in planning decisions are lopsided favouring businesses, not communities.

Lesley Riddoch has pointed out that the UK has the least local democracy in western Europe.

Collective decisions have to be taken at the appropriate level. Combatting climate change can not be done effectively at the local level.

We need to move away from arms spending and fossil fuels including fracking.

We need to examine the different levels of government, and also increase access for women, people of colour and LBGT communities.

Yet, where local communities are have gained greater power, such as the Isle of Eigg, they have gone from strength to strength, bringing local job security and community solidarity.

We need to see participatory democracy, including over budgeting, planning, education and health.

We need citizens' assemblies, housing and consumer cooperatives.

New technologies, e,g. IT,  can increase the scope for decision making online. The process can also be used to increase transparency and greater accountability.

2. Brian Robertson

There are different ways to actively participate in the democratic process, other than voting.

Anyone can go to a local council meeting provided they give a day's notice.  People can speak to a council meeting for 10 minutes.

There are also petitions to parliament, Most recently Holyrood has received petitions against Brexit and an official Trump visit.

You can also make a Freedom of Information request. I have made use of this as part of the Council Debt Campaign.

Leith Neighbourhood Partnership asked for community participation in deciding how to spend £10,000. They decided to have a swing park and improve the local graveyard.

The big problem facing local councils is funding. The City of Edinburgh Council is responsible for education, social work, council housing, roads and lighting, rubbish collection, environmental health, local planning and licensing.

In 2008 the council spent £963M. In 2106 £936M was spent. If you add the cost of inflation this amounts to about a 10% cut.

Council taxes only account for about 18-20% of funding. The Scottish government is responsible for the rest, Business rates are also collected by the Scottish government and redistributed to local councils.

However, the third highest item of expenditure after education and social work is paying off interest. A good deal of this consists of payments to the Public Works Loans Board, under the control of the Treasury. Punitive interest rates were set when interest rates were much higher than today.

There is also a new Programme of Transformation. This is all about making cuts. There have been 1300 voluntary severances and there are planned reductions for example in janitors and school cleaners.

Although union resistance can prevent certain cuts, these are displaced on to weaker sections. There is a need for more united action.

Questions and Answers

Allan asked if another problem was the role of senior council officials. They seemed to make the real decisions, which the councillors were meant to rubber stamp. These officials were highly paid, enjoyed similar lifestyles to the business owner and managers they met socially. They had no direct experience of the communities they were often trying to impose their decisions on.

Maggie said that this was a problem, and there were councillors all to ready to do the senior officers bidding. New administrations could be more of a pushover. However, councillors could make a difference, if they provided alternative scientific evidence.

Callum also argued that another problem was the role given to consultant accounting firms like Price Waterhouse Cooper, which were taking and increasingly large cut for their services, and also directly intervening in making recommendations which favoured a business orientated approach to the provision of council services.

Luke asked how willing councillors were to consult trade unions. Labour controlled Clackmannan Council just ignored trade unions.

Maggie said that the SNP had a better record than Labour.

Willie argued that we don't have a real voice on the council. Councillors are now managers, back in 1984 we had some real influence over a left labour led council. There were 44 tenants associations and council chamber occupations.

Today there is no generalised fight back. We fight cut by cut. Even when trying to campaign over a community centre, we face three different managements. Redundancies and worsening conditions had a direct affect on the quality of services.

Today activists need to be political fighters.

Callum pointed to some positive examples. He worked in community education. They had started the Democracy Project to get school students involved at the tine of the IndyRef1. Youth Forums had been set up and hustings organised.  Students had been involved in poster making and writing songs. A Scotland Event had been organised in which the students became highly involved.

School students had also been given a direct say in how money should be spent, they had come up with improved music provision and spending on special schools.

The Napier Partnership had also given £3000 for young people to decide on how to spend.

The Scottish Youth Parliament is another example, but it costs money to run.

One problem in schools is the impact of the National 4s and 5s and the Curriculum for Excellence, which with its constant testing, puts massive pressure on extra curricular activity. Teachers feel they don't have the time to set aside for extra-curricular activity anymore.

He argued that it was possible to resist cuts if you did the research and were able to counter the arguments of the councillors,

Angus pointed out that the proposed new increase in council tax (after the prolonged freeze) didn't amount to a 3% increase in spending, because council taxes only accounted for 20% of local government spending.

He suggested that direct income tax should be reduced so that local councils could raise most of their own spending, and that there should be local council control of business taxes.

Maggie pointed out that in France 84% of local funding was raised locally, whilst in Germany 73% was raised locally, compared to 20% in the UK. Responsibility for local funding was necessary to build community power.

Brian agreed that because of the low proportion of money raised locally, cuts had a huge effect on the provision of local services.

He also suggested that a Citizens Debt Audit should be organised and then an alternative budget.

He liked the idea of working in and against the state, as well as using the methods of Paulo Freire from Community Education to get more effective participation.

Discussion

The meeting divided into 2 groups, Here are the main things raised in these groups.

Group 1.

*          Open different spaces for dialogue, e.g. students on school boards
*          Democracy works better when there is money. If there is no money then'democracy' is about making cuts.
*          People don't vote if they don't think it will make a difference.
*          What are we aiming to change? Saving a local bus route versus establishing local democracy
*          Local authorities could get involved and active by providing services again,  e.g. the provision of heat and power
*          Support for all social movements is essential
*          Redistribution of wealth is a national issue
*          How do we educate? - It's about doing not learning principles
*          Active participation leads to longer term engagement
*          How do we get people to feel they can make a difference?
*          It is important to protect social centres - libraries, community centres, schools and to keep the cost of hiring venues down

Group 2

*          It is difficult to motivate young people in trade unions today  - guilt tripping doesn't work. Unions are no longer organising centres for large numbers of people.
*          Perhaps the structure and organisation of trade unions today no longer addresses today's situation. In the nineteenth century there was a move form  the narrower craft unions to the more widely based industrial unions. Maybe we need social unions, which link workplace and community.
*          In Barcelona unions try to organise from the cradle to the grave, linking people in workplaces and communities.
*          There could also be regularly elected officials who are on the average pay of  the members they represent so they share common interests.
*          The experience in Sydney, Australia was outlined. Local councils had been amalgamated to eliminate Left councils. A major road development had taken place in Sydney without any regard for its consequences, or consideration of alternatives like improved public transport.
*          Edinburgh is a wealthy city, so why are the cuts happening?
*          The public gets very little of the benefits of tourism, which mainly goes to private individuals, yet there are considerable social costs - litter, traffic congestion and pollution.
*          The present council has a real poverty of imagination. This is the city which produced the New Town and Patrick Geddes.
*          The council is so trapped into promoting the city as tourist centre, that it wants to develop central Edinburgh foe the benefit of 'Stags and Hens'. The Edinburgh Tourism Action Group, which represents hoteliers, shopkeepers, etc., shows no interest in public concerns but is only interested in private profits.
*          At a national level, the drinks manufacturers' successful opposition to the  government's proposed additional tax on alcohol shows what we are up against.
*          There could be a tax on tourism, e.g. on hotel beds.
*          Other possibilities could include a Supermarket Levy
*          In Germany there are extra local rates on private concreted areas compared to grassy areas to ensure that there is proper drainage.
*          Sports facilities are under threat - Meadowbank (again) and the Jack Kane Centre (Craigmillar). How doe we get beyond purely local protests to pushing the council into having a integrated sports and health policy for the whole city?
*          A Citizens Audit could provide a check on the council.
*          Education was valuable, particularly when done on a participatory basis.


Thursday, 20 April 2017

DISCUSSIONS ON INDYREF2 AT RIC NATIONAL AGM






Here are the contributions, discussions and decisions taken at the RIC AGM held in Glasgow on 1.4.17


J.S. (RIC-Glasgow West) gave a brief introduction on the political situation RIC faces since May's triggering of Article 50, and Holyrood's declaration of support for IndyRef2. He made the following points:-

1. The EU was very much a background issue in IndyRef 2, with the majority of the Yes camp assuming that Scotland would remain a member after independence.

2. Although, the Euro-referendum result showed a very clear majority to remain, about 30% of Yes supporters voted to leave the EU, with even bigger percentages in some Glasgow constituencies. Therefore, it could not be assumed that all Yes supporters would still give their support in any IndyRef2, if the SNP government tied the issue of Scottish independence to remaining in the EU. Nor could it be assumed that the majority of No voting Remain supporters would now transfer their support to independence,

3. Thus, although the 62% Remain vote did indeed provide the opportunity for the SNP and Greens to argue the political circumstances had changed, justifying IndyRef2, it would still be necessary to detach the two issues in any IndyRef. (RIC's agreed statement, written in response to May's denial of IndyRef 2, reflected this  - see http://radical.scot/radical-yes/)

4. The SNP and the neo-liberals offer their own version of internationalism, an internationalism from above, e.g. involving the EU and NATO. It was important that the Left could counter this with a practical internationalism from below, as RIC did during IndyRef1.

5. If we look at the leading groups on both sides, and compare them with IndyRef1, May's Tories now enjoy an absolute Westminster majority, whereas Cameron was in coalition with the Lib-Dems from 2010-15. The SNP, whilst despite falling back slightly in terms of MSPs at Holyrood in 2016, emerged very much strengthened, particularly in relation to Westminster in 2015 (56 out of 59 MPs), and also throughout civil society. This position could be further strengthened after the May Local Council elections, although the Tories could also well make gains.

6. The SNP leadership were playing things very cautiously, exhausting each parliamentary and legal alternative option in turn, and taking their time before declaring any date for IndyRef2. In the immediate future much SNP campaigning would be focussed on the forthcoming Local Council elections, which would not be over until May. We would then have a clearer idea of the balance of political forces.

7. In the absence of the prospect of an immediate referendum, this meant that RIC had some time to develop a coherent strategy. It was premature in thinking we could recreate a mass movement in the absence of an actual referendum campaign. We should look to get the local groups re-established, initially to take part in a debate over strategy. This would mean taking today's discussion out to the local groups, with the idea of reconvening in August with concrete proposals.

_____

The meeting then broke up into 4 groups to discuss the following 4 questions:_

1. How is the political terrain different now than in 2014? How have the political forces involved changed? What are the implications for making radical, left-wing case for independence?

2. The Tories are blocking the referendum. How should we respond?

3. The question of Scottish independence takes place against a background of international crisis and change and the rise of the Far Right. How can RIC factor this into our work in the coming years?

4. What can be done now to practically prepare for a referendum?


Results of group discussion. Group or individual points raised:-

1. How is the political terrain different now than in 2014? How have the political forces involved changed? What are the implications for making radical, left-wing case for independence`?

It was helpful to go back to 2010, and the election of a Conservative/Lib-Dem government. There had been a sudden spurt of official protests, pushed from below by activists, culminating in the massive public sector pensions strike in 2011. However, the union bureaucrats had sat on all this, defusing the anger.

There had also been the big upsurge in student activity, especially the 2011 occupations. In 2012, many of the activists who had been involved in these actions leapt at the opportunity created by the SNP government's announcement of an independence referendum. The space for Left activists to come to the fore was considerably assisted by the SNP's own climb down over NATO membership, hence the new situation that led to RIC's impressive first conference in November 2012.

Given the SNP government's predilection for trying to fight referenda on conservative grounds (2012 - drop opposition to NATO, "nothing will really change that much" - and 2017 - defence of the EU, "now let's reach out to the middle classes", i.e. drop more radical policies), RIC must remain based in this activist layer, which now includes many amongst the ordinary and much expanded membership of the SNP (their influence was shown in their ability to hold the SNP leadership to an anti-fracking line). Quite a few of these SNP activists are concerned at the lack of internal democracy and the top-down control freakery displayed by the SNP leadership and their cohorts of political advisors.

RIC remains a cross-party and non-party organisation, whose membership is based only on support for its Five Principles.

(RIC stands for a Scotland that is:

a)         For a social alternative to austerity and privatization
b)         Green and environmentally sustainable
c)         A modern republic for real democracy
d)        Committed to equality and opposition to discrimination on grounds of gender, race, disability or sexuality
            e)         Internationalist and opposed to war, NATO and Trident)

There may well be differences over strategies of how to achieve these held by particular individuals in RIC.  Such differences should be accepted and welcomed. RIC has been able have platform speakers from a wide variety of organisations and bring people together to discuss differences in a non-sectarian spirit. We should neither suppress debates over controversial issues, nor let these become political point scoring exercises, acrimonious and personalised. RIC's ability to set up debates in a genuinely democratic way was demonstrated in the debates over Brexit membership (and RIC-Edinburgh's ability to hold well-attended city wide hustings before the 2016 Holyrood elections).

It was suggested that we should also to look into the relationship between RIC and other independence campaigns. J.S. said that RIC already had place on the Scottish Independence Convention mark 2.

One break-out group emphasised the importance of responding to the rise in racism. The position of migrant workers had become more precarious since the Brexit vote. Scotland is affected by this too.

The degree to which the SNP will be all-dominant in IndyRef2 was also discussed. Although the SNP is probably the most centralised and disciplined party in the UK at present, there are still large numbers of new members who are more open to discussion and involvement outside official SNP auspices. The dismissal of the SNP as Tartan Tories by various Left unionists (including sections of Scotland's Corbynista intake) is ludicrous, given the record of the Labour Party (in Better Together and in various Westminster votes). (Indeed many of those who have joined the Corbynistas in England are very similar in social outlook to many of those who have joined the SNP in Scotland). Socialists should not be dismissive of the whole SNP membership. One of the reasons for many on the Left being pulled into SNP in Scotland, or the Labour Party in England, has been because of socialists own divided and often sectarian legacy  (e.g. the post-Sheridan fiasco).

It was suggested that when it became clearer when the date of any referendum was going to be an attempt should be made to target previous 'No' areas to build support there.


Nobody had questioned J,F.'s introductory comments. Several contributions amplified his points. None of the suggestions raised in this session led to any real disagreements. They could form part of a RIC strategy paper to be put to a future national meeting, after local groups discussed them.


2. The Tories are blocking the referendum. How should we respond?

There was now a strong possibility of the Tory government denying any new Scottish referendum. (Just as they have already dismissed the possibility of a Northern Ireland Border Poll, which the Good Friday Agreement provides constitutional provision for).

The Tories clearly don't want to fight a multi-front constitutional battle. Their efforts are concentrated on the Brexit negotiations. They haven't dismissed a future Scottish referendum outright, saying that the results of the Brexit negotiations need to be concluded first. However, it is pretty clear that their real strategy is to delay things until after the next 2020 Holyrood elections, hoping that the record of the SNP in office, in relation to education, health, welfare, etc., will lead to the end of a pro-independence majority in Holyrood.

There are some indications that the SNP leadership maybe prepared to accept a delay in a referendum beyond 2018 or even 2020, if a date can be agreed with the Tory government. If this turns out to be the path the SNP leadership chooses, this could provide a political opening for RIC, since many SNP supporters will be very unhappy about this delay. (Furthermore, any Westminster sanctioned future post-Brexit referendum, would exclude EU residents in Scotland, just as the Brexit referendum did for the whole of the UK. This slip from civic to a more ethnic nationalism would be a politically retrograde step. This has already led to the emergence of groups like Scottish Resistance and letters to The National to restrict the franchise in any future independence referendum.

Furthermore, the hard line approach being maintained by the Tories has a countervailing effect, which RIC could organise round. Ever since the announcement of the invoking of Article 50, May has fallen back more and more on the UK states anti-democratic Crown Powers, by trying to deny the devolved assemblies and even Westminster any role. The Brexit leaders' 'Take Back Control' is showing itself to be mechanism for reinforcing the most reactionary aspects of the UK state.

In IndyRef1 we were up against conservative unionists wanting to defend the Devolution-all-round status quo. They were able to masquerade as liberal unionists, using Labour's post-1997 record and Cameron advancing devolution as recently as the 2011 Welsh Assembly Act. Now we face a reactionary unionist anti-independence Tory government (before this, reactionary unionism only had a majority in Northern Ireland). Reactionary unionists are quite prepared to undo elements of the Devolution-all-round settlement, and attack existing powers.

A suggestion was made that RIC should be beginning a campaign, which publicised every instance when May's government overrode Holyrood, (and Cardiff Bay, Stormont, and even Westminster), building up to the possibility of a demonstration later in the year demanding real democracy and the right to hold an independence referendum.

It was suggested that the Tories would be looking closely at the situation in Catalunya, where the Spanish government had been denying an official independence referendum for some time, and has now gone as far as removing senior Catalan nationalist politicians from their office. It would be possible to invite people from the Catalan independence movement, whom we'd made links with in IndyRef 2, to address a demonstration. There was also the possibility of inviting somebody from the Border Communities Against Brexit, since the Tories obviously saw the Scottish and Northern Irish/Irish challenges as linked.

Another contribution said that any such build up should also be making a more general democratic point. The Tory government was using the state's powers to railroad through a whole battery of anti-social measures, which directly affected the working class, without any parliamentary mandate.

This was followed by two more general points, It was argued that the emphasis needed to be on class rather than the more nebulous appeal to Scotland. Another contribution argued that RIC's approach should always be bottom-up, with focus on community and local activists rather than 'the great and the good'. Another contribution argued that we shouldn't be afraid of invoking Scotland, but should put forward our own alternative view about how we saw Scotland's future - Another Scotland Is Possible.

There was then another suggestion that RIC should act as a focus for all democratic and social opposition across the UK, and push for a demonstration outside Westminster, inviting people from England and Wales to join. Another person expressed their reservation about focussing first on Westminster, without having built up a strong presence in Scotland first.

In this session there were two main proposals, although they were not necessarily contradictory. (If both were accepted, the question of timing became important) However, there were also qualifications, about both proposals, which will need to be addressed).

These contributions too could form part of a RIC strategy paper to be put to a future national meeting, after local groups discussed them.


3. The question of Scottish independence takes place against a background of international crisis and change and the rise of the Far Right. How can RIC factor this into our work in the coming years?

N.G. (RIC-Edinburgh) put forward a specific proposal, which was for RIC to organise Another Europe Is Possible conference.

The discussion around this tended to take much of the time in this international session, although RIC-Edinburgh pointed to their heavy involvement in the anti-Trump and anti-fascist demonstrations (also see RIC-Edinburgh Report, and the earlier report on work done with migrant workers, in the RIC website). (The issue of the rise of racism and its effect on migrants had also come up in response to question 1)

In support of the proposal that RIC organise 'Another Europe Is Possible 'conference, it was pointed out that this was the middle slogan in RIC's Another Scotland, Another Europe and Another World Are Possible. During IndyRef1 RIC had a good record of organising speakers from England, Wales, Ireland (both sides of the border), Catalunya, Euskadi, Greece Spain and France, as well as sending speakers to these countries. RIC played a prominent part in demonstrations in support of the Greek people facing the EU leaders' draconian austerity measures. Speakers should be drawn from such sources, as well as from migrant workers living in Scotland.

However, Brexit referendum had led not only to Little Englandersim, but to a certain Little Scotlandism, which thought that you could ignore the wider international context, and concentrate all efforts on Scotland in the next IndyRef2. Developments in Europe and the wider world would likely have a bigger effect on IndyRef2 than on IndyRef1. The world is now an even more polarised and volatile place, with people of many political persuasion looking to international precedents to bolster their politics, e.g. the populist Right looking to Brexit, Trump (Brexit plus, plus, plus) and on to Marine Le Pen (Frexit); (the Far Right organising conferences, particularly in Hungary, where Jobbik is strong); and the SNP trying to cultivate high level EU member state contacts.

It was important that RIC is able to project its own internationalism, since the ability to do this would have a big impact on the outcome of any IndyRef2. . This did not necessarily mean giving support to the EU. Its leadership had abandoned any pretence of creating a united Europe, which could advance the interests of the majority, and now used the EU only to defend the interests of bankers and corporations. This was highlighted most drastically in its treatment of Greece (but also in Spain, Portugal, Italy and Ireland). It was time for the Left to project its own version of European unity, which could benefit the majority.

There was general agreement that RIC should organise 'Another Europe Is Possible' conference. Specific proposals for this should be put together for a future national meeting


4. What can be done now to practically prepare for a referendum?

If we looked around RIC we could see that since the Indyref2 active participation had declined. There are two main political reasons for this:-

a)         When RIC was at its height from 2012-14, there were supporters who saw their role as only maximising the 'Yes' vote, and, in effect, reaching the parts the SNP could not reach. They placed far less emphasis on developing or putting over RIC's own distinctive politics. Where these people had formed a majority it became harder to sustain local groups after September 18th, 2014.

b)         There were RIC activists with experience in a large number of campaigning organisations. After the fall-off in activity in 2014, many of these had gone back to their campaigns, or joined new ones. Many others had joined or gone back to activity in political organisations (e.g. the SNP, Greens and RISE), although some members from all these organisations continued to be active in RIC.

(It should be recognised that whilst RIC-Glasgow hasn't been able to sustain local group activity, there is still a core of very experienced activists, who have proved very competent in organising a number of national conferences. Furthermore in C.B. and J.S., we have people who have access to the media, i.e.. C.B.'s articles in The National and J.S's articles in bella caledonia)

Where local groups had been sustained, this did not depend on population size, as the experience of Angus & Mearns, East Kilbride and Inverness showed. It would be useful to find out how this had been done.

RIC-Edinburgh, which and been the first local group, has sustained itself in the following manner.

IRIC-Edinburgh:-

            i) has meetings which are divided into two parts. The first always consists of a particular topic. These have always been very wide ranging - see http://radicalindyedinburgh.blogspot.co.uk/2015_12_01_archive.html) with invited speaker/s followed by break-out discussions. The second part always consists of organising particular activities.

            ii) acts as clearing house for whole number of local campaigns, sometimes with members taking leading positions, other times participating in the campaign activities, and taking the banner to demonstrations or day- events.

            iii) has a card-carrying membership of 108 members, made up of anybody who agrees to RIC's Five Principles. They are kept fully informed of all RIC-Edinburgh and RIC-National business by e-mail. There is a wider contact list of over 600 who are informed of RIC's public activities. RIC-Edinburgh blog is linked to the national blog.

            iv) has also been able to host three national events, including a RIC conference and two Scottish Radical History days.

RIC-Edinburgh thinks that, with modifications due to area size, this could provide a good model for establishing new groups. However, RIC also needs to draw on the experience of other local groups, which have also sustained themselves.

It was agreed that the existence of local groups should not be taken for granted.

The Facilitation Team (if necessary with the help of others) should:-

a)         Try to find all the remaining contact lists to see if the areas where these people live has been given. Where there are clearly names from a common area, these should be collated.

b)         Contact existing local groups could also provide e-mail addresses of their supporters.

c)         When this has been done, tours could be organised to establish or re-establish local groups (with various forms of local advertising to supplement already known people).

d)         The people speaking at these meetings should be drawn form a wider pool than has been used up to now.

e)         The immediate purpose of these meetings should be to discuss the proposals coming from this AGM, so that the local groups have an input into the meeting planned for August.

f)         Model/s for sustaining local groups should be suggested at these meetings.

g)         There should also be an emphasis on trying to draw in a new layer of activists, as was done very successfully in IndyRef1.

It was agreed that a Strategy Working Group should be formed to prepare a paper for a conference in August, using today's discussions.

Those who agreed to be on the Strategy Working Group are:-
 A.A (RIC-Edinburgh), N.D (RIC-Edinburgh), C.L. (RIC-East Kilbride), M.H (RIC-Aberdeen), J.S.  (RIC- Glasgow West), S.R. (RIC-Glasgow West)
Others are welcome to join this group.

A.A., RIC Secretarial team, 10.4.17


Thursday, 13 April 2017

THE LIFE AND LEGACY OF ANTONIO GRAMSCI - 29.4.17


RIC-Edinburgh is not hosting  a Scottish Radical History event this spring (we are considering an event later in the year). We are urging those who have supported  the last two events to get a ticket for 'The Life and Legacy of Antonio Gramsci event', organised by the Edinburgh Peoples Festival. Ray Burnett who is a member of RIC, and spoke at our last two events, will be speaking on Gramsci, Hamish Henderson and Subaltern Scotland. Hilary Wainwright, editor of Red Pepper, who spoke at the joint RIC/Global Justice conference in Glasgow earlier this year, is also a speaker.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

RIC-EDINBURGH ASSEMBLY, 29.3.17 - TURKEY, THE KURDS AND THE STRUGGLE FOR DEMOCRACY





This talk on this followed from RIC-Edinburgh's participation on the November 10th, 2016 Protest outside the Scottish Parliament against the jailing of the Parliamentary opposition in Turkey and the suppression of the Kurds

Ezgi Denli of the Edinburgh University Kurdish Society gave the following introduction:-


Overview of the current situation in Turkey and Kurdistan

Turkey’s war on Kurds.
End of democracy and human rights.
Rise of fascism and racism.
Erdogan’s Presidential referendum and steps towards one-man rule

_______

General elections June 2015
HDP Peoples Democratic Party (HDP) gained 80 seats.

July 2015 Ankara and Suruc massacre Large scale oppression and human rights violations

November elections 2015
PDP gains 59 seats
Still 3rd largest party

Early 2016 - Turkish State's war on the Kurdish population begins

       Examples of state killing:-

       Taybet - Mother
       Haci Lokman Birlik - filmmaker activist
       Cemile - 11 year old girl
       Mother cries wanting to go to her son, burning alive in a basement floor. Cizre 08.02.2016

       Examples of state destruction of towns
      
       Lice, Cizre, Nusaybabin, Qandil, Sheik Mqsood, Gever

       Action of Turkish fascists at HDP offices
       Turkish state indoctrination of children
       Search of Kurdish girl at gunpoint


       BBC reported UN’s findings on human rights violations in curfew hit areas of south-east turkey (north Kurdistan Up to 500,000 people, mostly Kurds, were displaced between July 2015 and December 2016, a UN report said.

       In the period that followed, UN investigators documented thousands of killings, disappearances and cases of torture during government operations that affected more than 30 towns and neighbourhoods.

       Turkey to be added to European list of undemocratic countries.

       In a further blow to Turkey’s spotty global image, the Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) called March8 for Turkey to come under its formal scrutiny, a status reserved for members that are deemed to be backsliding on democracy. Nine countries, including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Russia are currently on that hook.

            Examples of resistance

            Statement from Asli Erdogan -Turkish author and activist
            Felenknas Uca MP - protecting an activist

15th July 2016 - So called "Coup" attempt fails. State of emergency established.

July, 2016 - Erdogan introduces purge.

       Education - 42,799
       Police - 9298
       Armed Forces - 6361
       Justice - 3000
       Sports - 2345
       Banking & Finance - 1637
       Others ministries - 1442
       Media 377
       PM office - 257
       Governors - 246
       Intelligence - 100
       Others - 308

Jan. 2017 - Erdogan attempts to suppress elements of remaining parliamentary democracy and introduce a Presidential system and end independent judiciary

April, 2017 - Referendum to be held

The NO Campaign is making the following points:-

The office of the prime minister disappears, making way for a strong, executive president supported by vice-presidents.
       
The president would have the power to appoint cabinet ministers without requiring a confidence vote from parliament, propose budgets and appoint more than half the members of the nation’s highest judicial body.  

The president would also have the power to dissolve the national assembly and impose states of emergency.          
       
Parliament would be elected every five years, instead of every four.   
       
It also introduces technical requirements that would make it harder for the assembly to remove the president from office or bring down hisgovernment 


Erzi gave some examples of the activities of solidarity campaigners

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Discussion

In the following discussion, the following questions were asked:-

1. Will there be a NO vote?

There is probably a No majority, but the Turkish government is doing everything possible to prevent this occurring.

2. Who is Erdogan's base

Erdogan was originally able to appeal on both the basis of Turkish nationalism and Islam and the earlier success of his economic reforms. However, his increasingly authoritarianism, and the worsening economic situation has led to a shrinkage in his base of support.

3. Is the HDP a party for Kurdish independence?

The HDP includes people who support Kurdish independence, but following Abdullah Ocalan's (leader of the Kurdish Workers Party), now jailed since 1999)  strategy , the party is now for building grassroots democracy, not the exiting state, and has support form a much wider spread of people - including socialists, feminists and minorities.

4. What is the situation in Syria and Iraq,

The YPG 's (Peoples Protection Units) are similar to the PKK, whilst the Democratic Union Party has similar politics to the HDP.

However, Barzani's KDP government in northern Iraq is allied with Erdogan.

5. What sort of help can RIC provide?

Joining the protests against Erdogan and attending solidarity meetings. There is also an attempt being made to resuscitate the cross-party group in Holyrood.

6. Will Trump make things worse?

Very likely. There has been some cooperation between the US and YPG in the defence of Rojava when under attack by ISIL.  However, Kurds always knew that this was likely to be short lived, and that after ISIL has been defeated, the US will abandon the YPG. There is a Kurdish saying - "We have no friends but the mountains"