EDINBURGH KILL THE BILL PROTEST

Nearly 400 protesters attended the Kill the Bill demonstration at The Pavilion on The Meadows on May 1st. This demonstration was held to protest against the Tory government’s new Police, Crime, Sentencing and  Courts Bill.  Amongst other things, this bill targets organised demonstrations following Extinction Rebellion, Black Lives Matter and the police attacks on the women’s vigil at Clapham Common, after the murder of Sarah Everard, for which a police officer has been charged.  As a consequence, more than half the Edinburgh demonstrators and speakers were women, including two of the three BME speakers. It was pointed out that the proposed new law provided a possible ten year sentence for attacks on property (such as the toppling of statue celebrating a slave trader, Edward Colston ,in Bristol in June 2021) compared to only 5 years for rape.

Other speakers pointed out that although the Bill did not extend here, Scotland had its own record of police violence, highlighted in the killing of Sheku Bayoh in Kirkcaldy in May 2015.  The women’s prison at Cornton Vale, in Stirling, has become termed the ‘Vale of Death’, following the high level of suicides.  This prison has been  described by Lord Advocate, Eilish Angiolini, as “antediluvian and appalling.”  Furthermore, the Scottish police already have some of the new powers in the proposed bill under ‘breach of the peace’ legislation.

A Gaelic speaker told of the longstanding oppressive record of police. They were sent in against crofters in Skye and Tiree in the 1880s.  Travellers and Roma have also long suffered police harassment, and this new bill has provision for further attacks.  It is only very recently that both the Scottish miners, sentenced during 1984-5 Miners’ Strike  and Shrewsbury Pickets convicted in 1973, both of whom faced organised police lying in court, had their sentences quashed.  A Living Rents speaker also pointed out that police have been nowhere to be seen when tenants have been threatened with violence by landlords attempting to evict them during Covid-19. 

No right has ever been conceded by the British ruling class without a struggle which challenged the laws of the day.  This is true whether struggling  to gain security of tenure for crofters, trade union rights for workers, a widened suffrage for  women, or anti-racist legislation for those from a BME background. So as one placard said “Protests R Meant To Be Annoying’, especially to an arrogant and  privileged British ruling class, and to aspiring Scottish emulators.

3.5.21

EDINBURGH MAY DAY

EDINBURGH MAY DAY ONLINE RALLY

Saturday, May 1st, 13.00-14.30

                  To register for the rally go to- 

https://edinburghandlothiansmayday.wordpress.com

EDINBURGH KILL THE BILL DEMO, 1.5.21, 15.30

at the Pavilion on The Meadows

(social distancing will be observed)

——————–

Edinburgh RIC has also received this May Day statement

from Dumfries Trade Union Council

May 1st – International Workers’ Memorial Day

Open Letter to Alister Jack MP, Secretary of State for Scotland  

Dumfries & Galloway TUC decided to mark International Workers’ Memorial Day by writing to you as the Scottish representative of the UK Conservative Government. 

Three consecutive governments (those of David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson) have imposed austerity on the UK. For the NHS the strict budgetary controls had the effect of preventing the updating and replenishment of stocks of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). 

This was your government’s responsibility, as the Scottish Government’s website makes clear: “Prior to Covid-19 the purchase (of PPE) was carried out by the UK Department for Health and Social Care with a Scottish allocation.” (https://www.gov.scot/publications/personal-protective-equipment-ppe-covid-19-scotlands-action-plan/pages/3/

The result was catastrophic for workers ( those who your Government clapped and called “heroes”) in the NHS and social care. 

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), between 9th March and 28th December 2020, 414 healthcare workers and 469 workers in social care died from Covid-19. (These figures are just for England and Wales – separate figures for Scotland are not published by occupation.) 

In addition to these preventable deaths, many thousands of health and social care workers have been off work with Covid-19, due to the PPE shortages in the first wave of the pandemic.  

There was a further insult to NHS and care workers in the panicked response to these shortages. Your Prime Minister presided over a system of procurement that squandered billions of pounds of public funds on Conservative donors and supporters who were given deliberate preferential access to NHS contracts for PPE and the pitiful “test and trace” system in England. 

Conservative austerity should be inscribed as a principal contributory cause of death on a lasting memorial to the workers who have died caring for others in hospitals, care homes and the community. 

                                    Yours  

                                 John Dennis, Secretary Dumfries TUC 

SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE AND THE PATH TO CLIMATE JUSTICE

Independent from Imperialism – Independent from Inequality – Independent from Fossil Fuels

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Mim Black, one of the speakers at Scottish Independence and the Path to Climate Justice, argues that true independence for Scotland would mean “independence from imperialism – independence from inequality, independence from fossil fuels and independence from a devotion to profit above all else.”

2021 is a crucial year for the Scottish climate movement, with the COP26 (26th Conference of Parties) UN Climate Negotiations coming to Glasgow. At the same time, as polling for independence is at an all time high, the Scottish independence movement is increasingly splintered between political party machineries and reactionary elements of the Yes movement, with critical conversations about Scotland’s future not taking place.

The fight for climate justice and independence are potentially transformative moments to radically rethink the systems we live in. Our global political economic system has pushed us past breaking point, where inequality is not only accepted, but indeed required for profit, and those profits (mostly of large corporations) hold vastly more political weight than any needs of the people. The top 1% are responsible for double the emissions of the poorest 3.5 billion people, most of whom do not have access to electricity – the inequality is staggering. And the state-level response to the Covid-19 pandemic has been a game of who can kill the most people whilst making the most money. This is a mere curtain raiser to how we’re currently tackling the climate crisis. 


The vision for what Scotland could look like, and in some ways already stands for, is one committed to justice, fairness and equality. To make this vision truly a reality, we must be independent from more than just Westminster rule. We must be independent from imperialism – as both the colonised and colonisers – independent from inequality, independent from fossil fuels and independent from a devotion to profit above all else.

We must challenge the status quo, with the recognition that the global political economic system is deeply invested in maintaining it. While it may seem like there is no alternative, capitalism is only a few hundred years old and neoliberalism only decades. Without changing the systems and tackling the root causes which have created and embedded structural inequality and domination, an independent Scotland will only deliver more of the same, draped in a Saltire. And without systemic change, action on climate change is only deepening inequality, with climate apartheid and ecofascism looming both on the level of the nation state and within country lines.

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The fight for climate justice is rooted in the understanding that those who have contributed the least to the climate crisis are the ones who will, and are already, bearing the sharp end of it. The climate crisis does not hit equally: we may all be in the same storm, but we are not in the same boat. While the elites (and richer countries) invest in safeguards, techno-fixes and hard borders to keep climate refugees out, it’s the previously colonised countries of the Global South – most of Latin America, Africa and Asia – who are being treated as sacrifice zones in the boom of extractivist mining for renewables, in the campaign to continue ‘normal life’ in the North. Similar sacrifice zones exist here in Scotland, with poorer more rural areas being subjected to toxic air and terrifying vibrations, as is the case with the residents of Cowdenbeath in Fife, terrorised by the ExxonMobil Mossmorran plant. 


Wars are being fought over lithium and water, while tech is built with ‘planned obsolescence”. Richer countries who have the infrastructure to decarbonise (like Scotland) must do our 
fair sharenow, so that countries which have extreme rates of poverty have more time to do so. The climate crisis doesn’t recognise borders. We are in a planetary crisis, which requires a global, equitable response, accounting honestly for historical responsibility. If Scotland is to be independent, will it step onto the world’s stage as a competitor in the mindset of scarcity, or as an ally to those worst off?

There has always been enough to go round – enough good food, clean air and fresh water, enough warm and affordable homes to live in. Can Scotland commit to really taking the steps needed to be an independent country that makes the deeply transformative changes which both end the climate crisis and work towards collective liberation? 

Scottish Independence and the Path to Climate Justice

Part of From the Ground Up #2: Take Action Now, a Global Gathering for Climate Justice to move our thinking towards how we can collectively tackle the multiple crises we are facing.

Register here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/from-the-ground-up-ii-taking-action-registration-144664839429

DEFENDING KOBANE IS NOT A CRIME

Sarah Glynn makes an appeal for solidarity with the Kurdish People’s Democratic Party, currently being suppressed by the Erdogan’s Turkish government. This article first appeared in bella caledonia.

In what dystopian world could support for Kobanê as it withstood siege by ISIS be considered a crime? The answer, it seems, is in Turkey. On 26 April, 108 leading members of the leftist pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) will face trial in Ankara for calling on people to protest against the ISIS attack on Kobanê over six years ago. This case is part of a campaign that aims to expunge the party from Turkish politics. Already, thousands of party members have been imprisoned, including former MPs and mayors and the party’s former co-chairs. The HDP have called on everyone who cares about democracy to show their solidarity on the day that the Kobanê trial starts. To help you do that from your home, we are asking you to send us a photograph of yourself holding a supportive sign, which we can then combine into a collage for publication as a virtual protest that day. (More details at the end)

In October 2014, news from Kobanê was getting more and more alarming, and the black flags of the as-yet unbeaten ISIS militias could be clearly seen from across the Turkish/Syrian border. The Turkish government had promised help, but instead were using their military to prevent Kurds and others crossing into Syria to join the defence. At that time, the HDP were facilitating peace negotiations between the Turkish government and the PKK ,and they didn’t want to do anything that might threaten fragile relations, but they could no longer keep silent.

A meeting of 108 people, who formed the HDPs Central Executive Board, agreed to send a call, via Twitter, for people to join the street protests against ISIS and against the Turkish government’s closure of the border. The protests were large and passionate, and they were attacked by members of the Turkish security forces, and by far-right Islamists and Turkish nationalists. The ensuing violence resulted in tens of deaths and many more injuries. President Erdoğan only heightened the tensions when he announced, with seeming pleasure, that Kobanê was about to fall. The official death toll was 37; the actual number was probably around 50, of whom the great majority were people protesting in support of Kobanê.

The HDP has made multiple demands for a full investigation into what happened. Each time they have been refused and no investigation has been carried out. Instead, over six years later, everyone who was at that HDP Executive Board meeting is being held responsible for the deaths, and is also accused of disrupting the unity and territorial integrity of the state. The prosecutor is calling for life sentences without parole.

Before the case was extended to cover so many people, the same charges were used to detain the HDP’s former co-chairs. Selahattin Demirtaș has challenged his pretrial detention at the European Court of Human Rights. The court’s ruling, issued just before Christmas, left the Turkish prosecutor without a legitimate leg to stand on. They concluded that the entire case was baseless and politically motivated – and called for Demirtaș’s immediate release. Instead of releasing him, the Turkish prosecutors extended the charges to include everyone who was then on the HDP’s Executive Board.

If you would like to help us show the Turkish government that they can’t hide behind a show trial and that the HDP are not alone, then please take a photograph of yourself holding the following message: Defending Kobanê is NOT a crime. Solidarity with the HDP from [Name of your town], and please send your photo to us at scottishsolidaritywithkurdistan@outlook.com. Please send your photos by 24 April at the latest to give us time to collate them.

22.4.21

___________

This was first posted at:-

https://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2021/04/19/defending-kobane-is-not-a-crime-an-invitation-to-show-solidarity-with-the-hdp/

also see:

RIC EDINBURGH STATEMENT 8.3.21

RIC Edinburgh recognises the vote taken at the RIC AGM to disband RIC at the national level, whist allowing local branches to continue.

RIC Edinburgh has taken the decision to continue to operate and campaign for an independent Scotland based on RIC’s five principles:

1.      For a social alternative to austerity and privatisation.

2.      Green and environmentally sustainable.

3.      A modern republic for real democracy. 

4.      Committed to equality and opposition to discrimination on grounds of gender, race, disability, sexuality or age.

5.      Internationalist and opposed to war, NATO and Trident.

Furthermore, RIC Edinburgh will:

A. Look to work with other RIC local branches and collaborate when advantageous such as demonstrations, conferences and events.

B.      Look to build links, when and where appropriate, with Now Scotland, Pensioners for Independence, Scottish Independence Foundation, Voices for Scotland, Women for Independence etc.

C.      Continue to support progressive campaigns locally, nationally and  internationally.

D.      Promote events in relation to Scottish independence and progressive campaigns.

E.      Continue to operate a regular assembly, not just to discuss Scottish independence, but also giving the opportunity for people involved in other campaigns to discuss the issues around their campaigns. 

F.      Invite people with expertise in topics to address our assemblies for discussion, such as Catalonia, currency, Universal Basic Income etc.

G.      Continue to operate as an inclusive campaign, welcoming people who are members of different political parties and none who support Scottish independence and also those on the left who have not yet decided to support Scottish independence.  

H)      We will contribute our own archive and reports of meetings to a national archive of RIC materials to be made available to campaigners and historians. We urge our members to write up their own experiences of RIC to add to this. 

Agreed, 8.3.21

REPORT OF EDINBURGH RIC ASSEMBLY, 24.2.21

EDINBURGH RIC – WORKING OUR WAY FORWARD

Facilitator – Bob Goupillot

21 people attended.  2 sent their apologies

Allan Armstrong outlined the work that Edinburgh RIC had done, as already posted at

https://edinburghric.org/2021/02/22/edinburgh-ric-working-our-way-forward.

Pete Ca and Willie put the case against continuing with a RIC national organisation.  (see

https://edinburghric.org/2021/02/22/edinburgh-ric-working-our-way-forward/).

The reply to these arguments were not raised at the meeting, which the Organising Meeting of 11.2.21 had decided should deal with proposals for future Edinburgh RIC activity.

However, the arguments for reviving RIC as a national organisation can be seen at :- 

  1. https://republicansocialists.scot/2021/02/ric-is-dead-long-live-ric-2-0/ –   Grant Buttars 
  2. http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2021/02/06/freedom-come-all-ye-resisting-the-ric-terminators/) – Allan Armstrong

Luke said there were other significant national developments, such as All Under One Banner and the Socialist Independence Group (which had emerged within the SSP)

_________

Reports from other RIC local group experiences

Grant supplemented Edinburgh RIC experience with the possibilities of a revived RIC group in Fife, with possible activity around Moss Moran and Raytheon.

Emily talked about the work that Dundee and Glasgow RIC had done. They had held a successful meeting led off by Drugs Reform campaigner, Peter Krykant.  This had even pushed Dundee City Council into taking some limited action.

_________

Edinburgh RIC discussions and proposals

A) An Edinburgh RIC Statement 

Stephen had said that it was important to get out an Edinburgh RIC statement emphasising the continuation of the local group.  It was agreed that Stephen should draft a statement for the open Edinburgh RIC Organising Meeting on 8.3.21the next meeting

B) Now Scotland

Pete Cr thought we should be taking the opportunity to influence the new mass movement in Scotland – Scotland Now ( the successor to All Under One Banner). We shouldn’t leave it to others.  The political situation was changing rapidly.  The Holyrood election was likely to see a strengthening of the Scottish Greens.  He thought we should be advocating a local Now Scotland group in Edinburgh. Willie also emphasised the working class nature of Now Scotland. He thought that George Kerevan (Now Scotland convenor) should be invited to address an Edinburgh RIC meeting. 

Lyn said that we shouldn’t associate ourselves with particular individuals. Stephen raised his concerns about Kerevan’s past. Eric pointed to the socially reactionary nature of some of those prominent in Now Scotland.  . He had an acquaintance – a very active left-of-centre independence campaigner in the run-up to the independence referendum, who had told him she would never consider being involved in Now Scotland because of the views of some current prominent members – and Eric commented that he thought this might be a fairly widely held view and that he would himself need strong convincing to participate.* Grant also expressed concerns about Now Scotland. 

George argued that we should be able to ride two horses at once and develop Edinburgh RIC, but also form a republican and socially progressive pole within Now Scotland.  Allan highlighted the work Edinburgh RIC had done in trying to persuade RIC and the wider Scottish Left of the significance of All Under One Banner (https://www.conter.co.uk/blog/2018/9/7/the-yes-movement-the-left). He had attended their last open national meeting for RIC  in February 2020 and also the two founding meetings of what has become Now Scotland. 

Since Now Scotland was area of controversy, it was agreed that involvement would initially be more fully discussed at the Organising Meeting.

C) Important economic and social issues

Lyn said we needed to address issues which challenge the SNP government.  He thought that small groups could still be quite influential. They can form wider e-mail groups.  We can also work through other groups. Jane  added that she thought that Edinburgh RIC had been a very good organisation, but that we should take the time to decide on our overall approach.  Lyn and Jane suggested that a) a Critique of the Growth Commission b) Currency and c) Universal Basic Income were important issues which Edinburgh RIC could address.  Emily emphasised the importance of Feminism and in particular the issue of Abortion Rights.  Willie added Climate Change and agreed that Women’s Rights should be proposed topics for discussion.

George raised the idea of having discussions on deeper political issues such as republicanism and their link with real economic and social reforms. There was still much to be learned from the debate between Edmund Burke and Tom Paine, which Bernadette McAliskey had also highlighted  at  an earlier RIC conference.

The meeting agreed that economic and social issues would be more fully discussed at the Organising Meeting.

D) Election Hustings

One area where there was general agreement was that Edinburgh RIC should try to repeat its successes in 2015, 2017 and 2019 and organise a hustings for the Holyrood elections in May.  This was suggested by both Allan and Willie.  Nick (Scottish Greens) pointed it the significance of the Scottish Greens in this election.  They supported another independence referendum, rejected sterling as Scotland’s currency, were committed to a Green New Deal and its leadership is based on the 50:50 principle. The Scottish Greens are to the left of Labour under Corbyn.

It was agreed that the organisation of a hustings would be discussed at the Organising Meeting.

D) 3rd Scottish Radical History Event

Allan raised the issue of Edinburgh RIC sponsoring its third Scottish Radical History event around the theme of John Maclean.  This could also be a cultural event with poets and musicians.  He had been in contact with Ray B (who had given his apologies  for this evening’s meeting).  Ray had some specific proposals . Pete urged caution since we did not know whether we could get the speakers or the money. Allan agreed that we would need a Working Group (as for the 1st and 2nd Scottish Radical History Conferences) to examine the possibilities.  The issue of who might wish to join such a Working Group would be raised at the Organising Meeting.

E) Edinburgh RIC as a clearing house for campaigns and struggles

George emphasised Edinburgh RIC’s role as a ‘clearing house’ for campaigns and struggles in the city, nationally and internationally. Edinburgh RIC had gained wider credibility for the role had undertaken in this. It was able to attract people from other Left backgrounds, e.g. Labour, who did not necessarily support RIC’s aims. 

It was agreed that this aspect of Edinburgh RIC’s work should continue. Whatever struggles were taking place forming part of the agendas of RIC meetingsEmily had already highlighted Abortion Rights.  Pete and Stephen had emphasised the importance of the Cop26 conference later this year.

F) Support for the Dundee Glasgow RIC meeting on the Catalan elections

Allan raised and Willie supported Edinburgh RIC giving its backing to the forthcoming Dundee/Glasgow RIC meeting on the outcome of the Catalan elections.  We could approach Edinburgh RIC member, Gerry Mulvenna to sing at this event. Gerry had written In Defence of Our Professor (Carla Ponsati) (https://edinburghric.files.wordpress.com/2020/04/defending-clara-ponsati-23.3.18-1.pdf),  Support for this meeting was agreed by the Assembly.

_________

It was agreed that the next Edinburgh RIC Organising Meeting will be on Monday, 8.3.21 at 18.00. Bob Goupillot will arrange the Zoom meeting and will act as co-Facilitator with Pat Smith. 

Allan Armstrong, 2.3.21 

  • Eric later clarified (in post-meeting correspondence) that that was why he thought RIC Edinburgh should take a formal position on Now Scotland, issuing a statement along the lines that any participation by RIC members in that organisation did not imply endorsement of the actions or views of any of the other Now Scotland participants with regard to anything other than the principle of independence, or support for anything other than an egalitarian, socialist and republican independent Scotland.

EDINBURGH RIC – WORKING OUR WAY FORWARD

ZOOM MEETING, WEDNESDAY, 24.2.21, 19.00

https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZwkdOirpj0iHNYEiaxpckkYYivnHVow81DT%C2%A0

Many Edinburgh RIC members have been involved in the continuous work our group has been doing since April 2013.  This includes the important part we played in ‘IndyRef1’ in this city, joining with autonomous ‘Yes’ groups to register and canvass voters.  We also organised well-conducted debates with Left ‘No’ groups.  Our preparedness to engage with others was also taken into the election hustings, which we organised and participated in, in 2015, 2017 and 2019. 

We have been involved in support for a wide variety of economic and social struggles, e.g. striking workers in Dundee and Glasgow, Living Rent campaigners , and have provided immediate solidarity for victims of racist attacks, e.g. Deborah Kayembe and Shabaz Ali.  We also have a consistent record of solidarity work with the Welsh, Irish ,Catalans, Kurds and Palestinians.  We participated in the mass rally in support of Black Lives Matter in June 2020

Edinburgh RIC has sponsored a successful RIC national conference in Spring 2018 and two Scottish Radical History conferences in 2015 and 2016.

Edinburgh RIC took the lead in an attempting to revive a national RIC at the 2019 conference, in recognition of  the changing political circumstances.  We face an intransigent, reactionary unionist, Tory government, the collapse of Labour in Scotland and an SNP leadership which has no effective strategy to win independence.  We also face attacks on jobs, pay, working conditions, the right to secure accommodation, and on consumer and environmental safeguards.  These will be greatly exacerbated by Covid-19 and the growing environmental crisis.  

We need to act not as passive British subjects but as active Scottish citizens. Come to the meeting and make your views  and suggestions for the future known. 

 

CAN REASON END THIS WITCH HUNT? – STANDING WITH KEN LOACH

This article by Edinburgh RIC member, Sarah Glynn, was first posted on bella caledonia.

When, last week, I wrote about attacks on academic freedom in Turkey, I didn’t expect to be following that article with one about attacks on academic freedom in the UK, but this an era of increasing authoritarianism in many different countries. The UK example is hardly as brutal as what is happening in Turkey, but it is an element of what might be described as a ‘very British coup’. In both cases, these attacks need to be understood as an integral part of a major assault on the left and on opponents of the current order, and on the oppressed groups that the left has defended.

The prompts for this article are two pieces of news, one depressing, the other offering a chink of light.

Even after Jeremy Corbyn’s hounding out of the Labour Party and the effective decimation of the revived Labour left, the witch-hunt continues of any left figure who has shown sympathy with the plight of the Palestinians. And why wouldn’t it? The political right, together with Zionists who want to shut down all criticism of Israel, have developed a very successful formula to decimate their joint enemies, and they will go on using it.

Their weapon of choice is accusations of antisemitism, which, for a group that gives importance to the fight against racism, are particularly hurtful. These accusations need have no basis in reality, but can be enough to sink a career. And so, we have arrived at the absurd situation where those who have been most active in fighting racism are being accused of prejudice by a right-wing establishment and media whose own racism is rarely challenged – and where a disproportionate number of those smeared as antisemites are themselves Jews who also happen to be left-wing and supportive of Palestinian rights.

As a Jew, as a socialist, and just as a human being, I am well aware that antisemitism persists throughout society – though consistently much more on the right than on the left – and of the need to address this. What I am writing about here has nothing to do with tackling real antisemitism, but it succeeds by making people think that it does, and by feeding excessive fear among British Jews.

The most recent person to come under attack in this modern witch hunt is Ken Loach, who would be deemed a national treasure if his politics weren’t so critical of the establishment, and who has come into the line of fire of Oxford University’s very politicised Jewish Society. In its response, the prestigious university has demonstrated a lamentable lack of critical understanding.

But, at the same time, the Academic Board of University College London (UCL) has just voted to retract their adoption of the highly problematic International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism – a definition that has been widely condemned for its examples that conflate antisemitism with criticism of Israel and of Zionism. This decision is based on a review compiled over the course of a year by a working group specially set up by the board. The review concludes that the IHRA definition, which has been an important tool in many of these defamation cases and was central to the complaint by the Oxford students, ‘is not fit for purpose within a university setting and has no legal basis for enforcement’.

Ken Loach’s case provides an illuminating (and infuriating) example of how a witch hunt operates. Various things he has said have been repackaged, with the help of the IHRA definition, as antisemitic, but the main attack stems from the 2017 UK Labour Party Conference, where Miko Peled, an Israeli Jew, spoke at a fringe meeting organised by Free Speech on Israel. In illustrating his views on freedom of speech, he argued that people should even be free to question the holocaust without being criminalised. What he was defending is actually the existing situation in British law. However, several hostile reporters wrote that the meeting ‘questioned the holocaust’ – and Howard Jacobson even suggested that this was part of the conference, informing readers of the New York Times that a ‘motion to question the truth of the holocaust was proposed’. How many of these reporters heard what they wanted to hear and actually believed their own stories, we cannot know. The anti-Corbyn Labour right, including the party’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, was happy to play along with these reports.

Loach, a prominent supporter of Corbyn and of Palestine, entered the picture when he was challenged by an aggressive BBC interviewer to condemn the reported discussion. He had not been at the meeting on which he was being asked to comment, but, with more integrity than Watson, responded that he didn’t think that this had happened. He then made a somewhat clumsy attempt to turn the conversation onto Israel’s history.

A few poorly chosen words were enough for the Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland, who took a leading role in the smearing of Corbyn, to twist into a story that suggested Loach thought holocaust denial acceptable. Of course, Freedland never approached Loach for his comments, and the Guardian wouldn’t print Loach’s proffered repost, allowing him only an (edited) letter.

The whole process had absolutely nothing to do with preventing antisemitism, but was all about smearing a prominent Corbyn supporter.

These events resurfaced this week when Oxford University Jewish Society attempted to prevent Loach from speaking at a meeting at St Peter’s, his former college, where he took part in a discussion of his films with the college Master, Professor Judith Buchanan. Buchanan refused the society’s demand that she cancel Loach’s invitation but hasn’t challenged the substance of their accusations. She has apologised to the students for the ‘pain’ generated by the ‘events of this week [which] have caused significant hurt to many within the College, University and beyond, and specifically to members of the Jewish community.’ 

What about the totally unwarranted pain, and worse, caused to Loach, the college guest?

Led by the Jewish Society, who claimed that ‘On numerous occasions, Loach has made remarks that are antisemitic under the IHRA definition, which was recently adopted by the University of Oxford’, https://www.facebook.com/oxfordjsoc/posts/1366769213672548 St Peters students voted to condemn the meeting, and this has been followed by similar votes at other Oxford colleges. The story has been lapped up by the press – the Mail, Telegraph, and Jewish Chronicle, of course, but also the New Statesman, which participated in the destruction of the Corbyn project.

The especially sleekit nature of this British version of control is that people are persuaded to police themselves and vote to curtail their own freedoms. St Peters students diligently produced a document that attempted to show how Loach breached various examples of ‘antisemitism’ given in the IHRA definition. While the students’ document is hardly an advertisement for Oxford University’s teaching in logical thought, it still manages to demonstrate the absurdity of the ‘definition’.

Let’s hope that the review from the UCL academics can help provide a robust rebuttal to this whole absurd process.

The UCL review argues that the IHRA definition is doubly problematic. As a tool for combatting antisemitism it is tokenistic, and actually less than useless as it can undermine other policies; and then there is the serious issue of restricting free speech. As the review summarises:

‘Another concern is the manner in which the IHRA working definition disproportionally draws debates over Israel and Palestine into conversations around antisemitism, potentially conflating anti-Zionism with antisemitism, and offering a large number of examples focusing on political conflict, thereby muddling the explanatory power of the definition and risking the suppression of legitimate speech and academic research.’

It may seem to some readers that this review is another case of academics proving at great length that bears shit in the woods. The problems with the definition are well kent and have been discussed many times, not least by the man who wrote it, who never intended it to be used as it has been. However, this sort of thorough analysis with impeccable credentials may be necessary to cut across the extraordinary acceptance that has been given to the definition – an acceptance that owes much more to its pull on the heart strings and to carefully nurtured fears of appearing prejudiced, than to any serious examination of what it might achieve.

Of course, nothing is that easy. Even UCL, who – curiously – adopted the IHRA definition first and carried out their review afterwards, is currently still using the IHRA definition while their Council considers their Academic Board’s recommendation to find an alternative definition and continues to consult the ‘UCL community’.

The UCL report comes at a time when the UK government is trying to enforce adoption of the IHRA definition on all English universities. The Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, has even threatened that those who don’t adopt it could face financial penalties, prompting a group of senior lawyers to describe his threat as ‘legally and morally wrong’. In a letter to the Guardian, they quote the Human Rights Act, and observe ‘The legally entrenched right to free expression is being undermined by an internally incoherent “non-legally binding working definition” of antisemitism. Its promotion by public bodies is leading to the curtailment of debate.  And they note that the implementation of the Minister’s threat to the universities ‘would be an improper interference with their autonomy.’ As this letter makes clear, it is not just academic freedoms that are under attack. We must push for the UCL review to be noted by all public bodies – including the Scottish Government – who have adopted the definition.

We are continuously reminded that it takes more than good arguments to change minds and actions, but they do provide important ammunition, and if UCL can act on the recommendations of their Academic Board then we could begin to see a turning point. There will be a time when future university historians look back at the treatment of people such as Ken Loach and ask their students to write essays explaining how such an absurd situation was ever able to gain a foothold.

14.2.21

This article was first posted at:- https//bellacaledonia.org.uk/2021/02/14/can-reason-end-this-witch-hunt-standing-with-ken-loach

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For other articles on the Edinburgh RIC blog by Sarah Glynn also see:

The Palestinian Struggle for Self-Determination and thr IHRA Statement on Anti-Semitism

https://edinburghric.files.wordpress.com/2020/04/the-palestinian-struggle-31.10.18.pdf

From Blairgowrie to the Black Sea – Strawberries and Nutella

https://edinburghric.org/2020/09/16/from-blairgowrie-to-the-black-sea-strawberries-and-nutella/

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The National RIC AGM, 17.1.21

The AGM formed the main topic of discussion at an Edinburgh RIC meeting on Wednesday 6th January.

Allan Armstrong, who is acting as one of the two facilitators for the RIC National AGM (Connor Beaton Dundee RIC is the other), introduced the discussion.

The first part of the AGM will be held on Sunday, January 17th, at 14.00.  The two main items on the agenda will be the proposed new Constitution drawn up by the RIC Constitution Working Group and a proposed amended version of the RIC 5 Principles from the RCN (of which Allan is a member`), one of RIC’s affiliated organisations.

The date of the second part of the RIC AGM to discuss and agree upon Strategy and Campaigning will be decided at this meeting on January 17th.  It is likely to be about a month later.

If the new Constitution is agreed on January 17th then existing and new members can sign up and pay the new proposed subscription, to be part of the national organisation (something not possible under the old Constitution).  Only then would the election of new office bearers take place.  This would probably be done in association with the second part of the AGM.  But this will be decided on January 17th.  All members will be able to participate in the online ballot.

We have existing groups, which meet in Angus & Mearns, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow.  They will all be able to put motions to the second half of the AGM dealing with strategy.  We also have individual members in Aberdeen, Borders, Dumfries & Galloway, Fife, Highlands and Islands, Lanarkshire, Paisley and Stirling, as well as international members.  If they can form new groups before the second half of the AGM, then they too will be able to put forward motions.  Where this is not possible, Allan’s suggestion is that they could attend the online Zoom meetings of their nearest RIC group .

The proposal to relaunch RIC as a national organisation comes about because of the greatly changed political situation since 2012-14.  The work of RIC at the time was mainly focused on getting a ‘Yes’ vote in September 2014.  Some groups like Edinburgh always saw the work of RIC as being far wider than this.  We have continued activity ever since.  Others only formed for the IndyRef1 period and have fallen way at different dates since the 2015. 

Allan argued that underlying Edinburgh’s success was a commitment to open and democratic discussion, and the involvement of all the constituent parts of RIC – Left SNP, Left Greens, Socialists, independence supporting Labour and those in no political organisations at all.  Edinburgh RIC has been involved campaigning over a wide range of issues – economic, social, and environmental, trade union and international solidarity.  One example is the Living Rent Campaign, now a completely independent organisation, which came out of Edinburgh RIC.  A look at the Edinburgh RIC blog archive (https://edinburghric.org/archive/) shows all these activities and the general election hustings we organised.

However, it is no the longer the pro-austerity, liberal unionists (the Tories, Lib-Dems, New Labour in ‘Better Together’) we face. Nor is there any immediate prospect constitutionally based referendum. Instead, we face a right populist and reactionary unionist Tory government.  It is not likely to grant a legal referendum, and indeed is planning to rollback even the current devolution settlement.  The neo-liberal and constitutional nationalist SNP leadership has no effective strategy to counter this.  Hence the growing divisions, originally highlighted by the formation of All Under One Banner, but also in internal party splits..

Allan argued that the new political situation demands a more sophisticated response, able to challenge the ineffectiveness of the SNP leadership’s strategy.  They seek their mandate and sovereignty from their control the devolved institutions of the UK state.  In effect, they are looking for a junior managerial buyout in Scotland.  To counter this, he argued that RIC needs to campaign on a republican, ‘sovereignty of the people’ basis.  This of course needs to be linked to supporting all the other campaigns, which Edinburgh RIC has been involved in.

Edinburgh RIC participated in the national RIC Constitutional Working Group, but as yet has not discussed the 5 Principles or Strategy.  I would very much hope that, after January 17th, which is primarily about forming the structures to relaunch  RIC nationally, that Edinburgh RIC, with its wealth of experience, will have contributions to make in the later Strategy and Campaigning  section of the AGM. 

Discussion

Peter C raises the issue of RIC’s relationship with ‘Yes Alba’. It seemed to have some quite right wing members in its new leadership.

Objects – “Yes Alba is a campaigning organisation with the aim of gaining independence for Scotland in order to improve the way the country is governed. ‘Yes Alba’ believes that Scotland would be better running its own affairs, as part of an international family. ‘Yes Alba’ believes in an inclusive citizenship, which embraces the fact that all who choose to make Scotland their home – regardless of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation – are full citizens of the Scotland.”

Allan said that he had attended the two meetings to launch ‘Yes Alba’, which had come out of AUOB. He read out the Objects of the proposed ‘Yes`Alba’ – 

He thought that these Objects still reflected the best features of Indy Ref1 – a civic national inclusiveness and internationalism, which had also been seen on the AUOB marches. However, there were undoubtedly Yes Alba committee members who did not adhere to these principles.  However, should they air their prejudices, it would have to be in their own name, and they could be challenged under the Objects.

The immediate problem facing ‘Yes Alba’ was the challenge to its name, and whether it was attempting to be an alternative to all the existing ‘Yes’ groups, or an umbrella organisation.  Leading ‘Yes Alba’ member, George Kerevan (who is also an Edinburgh RIC member) supports the latter, using the popular organisation in Catalunya as an example. 

Bob said he was quite enthusiastic about the possibilities of ‘Yes Alba’, and that we ought to put some effort into developing a relationship so that we could broaden the base for RIC’s politics..

Pete C argued that the argued that the proposed national RIC AGM agenda, item 5, The relationship between RIC and AUOB/‘Yes Alba’ and item 6, -The initial discussion on Strategy and Campaigning, should be reversed.

Allan agreed that this made more sense.  The only reason it was positioned there was because it was an outstanding item left over from the last National Forum on 22.2.20.  The following National Forum never took place because of Covid-19.  Allan said that he would change the order when the final agenda went out this weekend.

Peter C returned to the nature of Yes Alba asking if it was Left or Right?  What were the politics of the new committee members? Although, Craig Murray, for example, had done some excellent work, particularly in Kazakhstan, he appears to have been moving Rightwards recently.

Pete C highlighted the changed political situation we face since IndyRef1.  The SNP leadership are even more neo-liberal.  This is shown by  the role of the Sustainable Growth Commission, which argues that dependence on the market is the only way forward. 

In addition, there has been growing resistance shown in the school strikes associated with Extinction Rebellion, and by Black Lives Matter  RIC needs to develop new ways of thinking to relate to these campaigns.

Nick argued that it is likely if Covid19 is under control, there will be an opportunity to get out on the streets again in later 2021.

Sturgeon will ask for a new referendum, but she is unlikely to get it.  Johnson will say ‘No’.  The SNP leadership don’t have a strategy.  If there is a popular campaign the UK state might not react in such an open brutal way as in Catalunya, but it could still resort to repression.  Timing will be important.

Jean said that she was keen to be re-involved in RIC.  She was already active in her local ‘Yes’ group, and ‘Pensioners for Independence’.

Pete C highlighted the importance of socio-economic issues if we were to motivate people for independence.

Allan summed up by saying that he looked forward to Edinburgh RIC members attending the January 17th AGM, and to Edinburgh RIC’s further development of national Strategy and Campaigning.

Peter C said that we had a new opportunity now the Cop 26 conference was going ahead later this year.  Joe Biden would be in attendance.

The only counter to Johnson’s rejection of a Section 30 Order to permit a new referendum was mass working class mobilisation. This is why an emphasis on socio-economic issue was needed.

The political direction of ‘Yes Alba’ was important . Although there was no commitment to socio-economic issues in its Objects, the mobilisation of those who were prepared to take action over the denial of IndyRef2 was important,

Allan agreed that these were crucial and had always been central to his own lifetime of campaigning. But we also needed to go beyond being the economic wing of the independence movement and challenge the SNP for the type of Scotland we want. This also meant pushing for a Constituent Assembly to draw  up a new constitution, as Edinburgh RIC had successfully proposed at the May 2014, RIC National Forum, if a ‘Yes’ vote had been won in September.

Allan summed up by saying that he looked forward to Edinburgh RIC members attending the January 17th AGM, and to Edinburgh RIC’s further development of national Strategy and Campaigning.

Another Edinburgh is Possible

More than a decade of cuts and job losses has left local services in Edinburgh in a dire state.  The impact has been greatest on the most vulnerable who have been at the sharp end of cuts in the social security system.  The hollowing out of services has been exposed by the onset of Covid 19 with local voluntary and mutual aid groups struggling to fill gaps in basic needs.  Unemployment, child poverty and mental distress has increased.

At the same time local government has become a sham.  Successive administrations, Labour, SNP and Lib Dems in different combinations have pushed through cuts while focussing on Edinburgh as a city for tourism and big business.  Press releases describe a policy world at odds with the lived experience of most Edinburgh residents.  Couched in the language of ‘savings’, ‘inclusion’, ‘progress’, ‘just recovery’ and sustainability, they never refer to the growth in inequality that is the consequence of cuts and job losses. 

Since 2012/13, Edinburgh City Council budget cuts have amounted to £320 million. At the beginning of this year it was estimated that there would be further cuts of £87.3 million by 2023.  However, the Council Finance committee meeting at the end of October 2020 received a report that suggested that the cuts will be even greater.  Already the Edinburgh Integration Joint Board, which administers integrated health and social care, has agreed cuts of £8 million.  

The relentless round of cuts has not gone unopposed.  Every year there has been action from community organisations and trade unions in opposition to proposed cuts.  Sometimes specific cuts have been deflected but the axe has then fallen elsewhere.  It would be wrong to say that people are resigned to the cuts but opposition has become defensive and almost ritual.

In the summer, under the backdrop of Covid, the inadequate local response and with more cuts being discussed, activists from the Edinburgh East and North Edinburgh Save Our Services Campaign began to discuss what is to be done.  An initial meeting was organised which attracted a diverse range of union and community activists.  There was a consensus that simply attempting to mitigate new cuts was no longer an option.  Enough is enough.  There was agreement that opposing cuts had to be part of arguing for a new approach to local authority funding and provision of jobs and services that met peoples’ needs.  Reinstating services that had been lost, thinking about needs that had never been met and should be.  Putting democracy at the heart of a new approach to local public provision.  The group has continued to meet on a regular basis and now operates under the title of Another Edinburgh is Possible.

Another Edinburgh is Possible illuminated local and national government buildings around the city in advance of November’s Edinburgh City Council Meeting and held a protest at the City Chambers on the day of the meeting itself.  It is now conducting a survey of how people feel about council services.

To find out more about the campaign email edinburghjustrecovery@gmail.com