Referendum rant from an immigrant 2:55 am / 18 September 2014 by taisdealaiche, at Edinburgh Anarchist Federation
This is going to be a bit of a rant rather than a carefully crafted piece because I desperately need to get it off my...
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This is going to be a bit of a rant rather than a carefully crafted piece because I desperately need to get it off my...
The ‘Nordic model’ is the name given to the economic and social policies shared by Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Iceland which stress welfare provision, high taxation, and a corporatist approach to industrial relations and governance. It has come very much into vogue in Scottish political culture as part of the Independence debate, and is said to provide a more egalitarian yet achievable example for what an independent Scotland could look like, or at least, what it could aim for. There is no doubt that relative to our current neoliberal status quo the Nordic countries - and there are important differences between them - have a higher quality of life and a smaller gap between rich and poor. However, the Nordic example has become to a large extent mythologized and, because it has so much significance to the political direction here, especially among the Left, it deserves a more critical, class analysis. This is a big subject so here I only intend to point to a few examples of what has been happening recently to give some light to the other side of Nordic society.
So far there have been five nights of rioting in Sweden‘s capital city, Stockholm. Many cars have been burned and the buildings attacked include schools and a police station. This comes after a man was shot dead by police, who said they acted in self-defence. The scale of the rioting, with firefighters responding to 90 different incidents on Wednesday night, declining to 70 last night, has shocked Swedish society. It has also led many people to look at why this could be happening in what is meant to be one of the most progressive countries in the world.
The first Scottish Anti-Bedroom Tax conference took place on 27th April in Glasgow, its aim to unite local groups across the country into one campaign with greater strength and resources. I’m surprised it hasn’t received more coverage and criticism. I suspect that’s because people are holding their tongues and focusing on organising locally and in other campaigns. However, I would argue that we need to discuss what’s happening nationally so that we can be more effective in challenging the Bedroom Tax, and any government cuts, but also to ensure that a campaign like this is controlled by working class people themselves.
Earlier today I was at an Edinburgh and Lothian meeting against the Bedroom Tax which aimed to launch a coalition of all the local groups and campaigns currently existing and to encourage groups in new areas.
Like a lot of these sort of meetings there was a good bit of repetition and I was really gasping for a cup of tea by the end of it. Overall, though, I thought it had a really positive outcome.
The meeting agreed that decision-making power should be in the hands of local groups and that the co-ordination between them should be done through recallable delegates.
Instead of handing over power to some committee or media personality, by stressing this organising principle we should have a genuinely grassroots federation and campaign, controlled by ordinary folk – and I hope those directly affected by the tax will become particularly involved.
This was argued for by a number of anarchists and other activists, but it seemed that most people present were in favour anyway. I like to think this shows that we have a reasonably good culture in the Edinburgh left, and that bottom-up ideas are becoming more widespread. At the same time, grassroots organising also allows competing factions to co-operate in the first place.
The meeting, as I understand it, was meant to be for group delegates and observers but this could have been clearer and hopefully there won’t be any confusion at the next real federation meeting.
There were differences in perspective between those who put more emphasis on engaging in a dialogue with politicians and those more emphatically in favour of no compromise and direct action, like anarchists. In the end it seemed like the meeting agreed that different tactics could be pursued by different groups or individuals. Also, to be fair, no-one was arguing against a direct action approach.
Another outcome was that local groups alone will send delegates to the first Scottish Anti-Bedroom Tax Conference on the 27th April, instead of another proposal that the meeting today will also send four delegates. This was the right decision. Today’s meeting was only meant to co-ordinate local groups and potential groups, and they hadn’t had a chance to discuss the national conference themselves.
The question, though, is what will the national conference amount to? This was called by the West of Scotland Anti-Bedroom Tax Federation, which I’ve been critical of in the past for putting Tommy Sheridan onto it’s ‘interim committee’ which he subsequently resigned from. How are they organised now and how many local groups do they have? Will there be a clash between the directly democratic structure of the Edinburgh groups and that of the Glasgow federation(s)?
A delegate from the West of Scotland federation was present at today’s meeting and talked far too much about politicians’ backing and fighting the Tories. We need an independent campaign that’s critical of all politicians and doesn’t just slide into an easy anti-Toryism. At Westminster, Labour is in favour of the tax, and in Holyrood, the SNP could do a lot more to ensure that people won’t be evicted. In short, just like we don’t want to give up control to committees neither should we give it to any politician or union bureaucrat.
The meeting in Edinburgh was only a first step towards a wider federation organised from below. There’s a lot of work to be done to set up new groups and to create a campaign that has effective tactics and gets results. We also need to build on this, and argue for recallable delegates and autonomous local groups across Scotland.
If you’re in the Edinburgh and Lothians area, get involved in your local anti-cuts group. You can find details on the Edinburgh Anti-Cuts Alliance site.
As part of a day of action across Scotland and the rest of the UK we’ll be supporting pickets against companies that use workfare (the unpaid labour of benefits claimants). Come and show your festive anger in Leith, this Saturday!
Assemble at 12 noon at the Kirkgate Shopping Centre, at the foot of Leith Walk.
Last month we co-hosted a talk with ECAP by Lindela Figlan from the South African shackdwellers’ movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo. Organising from the bottom-up, thousands of people are involved in the movement fighting for social change, land and housing and abstaining from voting. We recorded the talk and include some quotes from it below. We hope to keep in touch with Abahlali baseMjondolo and continue to show solidarity with them!
Before 1994, I was a member of the ANC and I used to trust the ANC thinking maybe, if the ANC can be [in] power maybe I’ll be free. But after 1994, I noticed that we are not free and it seems as if we will never be free if we don’t stand up and fight for our rights. That is why we started the movement, known as Abahlali baseMjondolo movement [...] We started it out of anger, hunger, panic and disappointment. Just because our government promised us so many things, good things, but later when we asked them to fulfill their promises they decided not to listen to us. The reason also why we started this movement, we decided [...] let us create our own democracy – where the people living in shacks will define themselves.
Abahlali baseMjondo, they decided to start their own movement, in order to define themselves. In order to speak for themselves.
…if we can try by all means to stop the capitalist system which is all over the world I think that would be good. Just because the reason why there are some people who are too much rich and others they are too much poor is because of the capitalist system. If we can come together, all of us and make sure that we fight this giant, the capitalist system, and build the world, a world which everybody will be equal, where everybody will share the economy of the country, where everybody will feel as a part [...] of the society that is what we want as Abahlali baseMjondolo.
Just because we believe [in] a bottom-up system where the people on the ground, they have to define themselves. Where the people on the ground they are going to be respected, just because in South Africa our government doesn’t want to respect the poor people. If we were respected the government would come down and talk to us, not … the other way round, just because even now our government, they are busy building the houses for the people, they are not building the houses with the people. … we want to make sure that the government in whatsoever development which is going to the people, the people they must be involved. We don’t want this kind of approach, a top-down approach, we want to be involved in whatsoever plans, decision made by the government for the people. We want to make sure that the governemnt of South Africa understands and really knows what we are talking about. We are not contesting, we are not [a] political party, we are not doing anything, the only thing, we want the government in South Africa to respect us and also to deliver what they promise before 1994, that is what we want as Abahlali baseMjondolo.
Abahlali baseMjondolo, they have got an objective, their objective is to bring the democracy to the community by empowering the community to represent themselves in their political engagement.
…we are organising grassroots structures which are led by the poor. Our movement is a movement of Abahlali baseMjondolo, the people who are living in the shacks.
Whenever you come to our movement we tell you straight, you are not here in order to see a consultant. We are not the consultant. We are the movement of the people. Once you join our struggle, you are going to fight your own struggle. We are not going to fight for you, you are the one who has to lead your own struggle. We are going to support you to fight your struggle. Just because you are the one who knows how you are suffering, if now somebody from somewhere come and fight for you it seems as if we are imposing. The people they must lead their own struggle.
South Africa now is full of corruption. They are saying they are the custodians of democracy, whereas on the other side I think they are the custodians of corruption. That is what they are doing in South Africa.
Our government must give us land, just because without land there is nothing you can do.
On Kennedy Road, where we started this movement they decided to attack us on the 26th September 2009. And they destroyed whatsoever we had, and they burnt our shacks. The reason why they did that is because of this movement. Just because they say we are the traitors of their democracy. Whereas we don’t see any democracy in South Africa.
We notice we are going the very same way with the people more especially in London and Scotland, these people calling themselves the anarchists. I think we are going the very same way. I think it would be very good if maybe we can make an alliance also with those people, just because mostly they are saying what we are saying. That is what I like with the anarchists.
We want to get rid of capitalism. Those who don’t want capitalism must stand up and fight against capitalism.