Friday, 23 September 2011

Govanhill Baths meeting goes ahead!

‘Govanhill Baths for the people not for big business’

Locals and supporters of the baths in the Pandora

On 20 September 2011 Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! (FRFI) hosted a public meeting titled ‘The Great Deception: 10 Years of the struggle for Govanhill Baths’ in the Pandora Bar on Victoria Rd. This was attended by local residents, ex Govanhill Baths campaigners, community activists and supporters of The Merrylee Matters campaign and FRFI. Despite numerous attempts to sabotage the meeting; including ripping down posters advertising the meeting, phone calls to the venue and the appearance of two police officers; it successfully went ahead.

With further rumours of the Govanhill Baths reopening the meeting had been called to discuss and question the cosy relationship that the Govanhill Baths Community Trust (GBCT) and their Centre for Community Practice (CCP), situated on Calder Street, shares with Govanhill Housing Association (GHA), Glasgow City Council (GCC), Strathclyde Police, the Scottish government and private companies – the very bodies who brutally shut down the baths 10 years ago and have since left it to rot.

An FRFI speaker introduced the meeting calling for transparency and arguing that the present attack on living standards would produce future struggles in defence of community resources – it was therefore necessary to learn from the inspiring resistance to the closure of the baths in 2001. The example of socialist Cuba, which has successfully provided the necessary sporting and community resources for it’s people in the harshest of times, was given and the speaker was clear in stating that socialism was the only solution to the deprivation of working class people.

In the true spirit of democracy the crowd heard a local resident and ex pool campaigner describe how the campaign to reopen the baths had been highjacked by a ‘small middle class elite’ who do not represent the interests of the working class people in Govanhill. He demanded that the Govanhill Baths be re-opened with the three swimming pools it originally had; pointing out that the GBCT’s proposal for one pool was ‘inadequate’ and would not afford religious groups and the wider population the swimming rights they had previously. Recalling his time spent manning the picket during the occupation of the pool he stated; ‘i did not face mounted police charges 10 years ago and stand on the pickets to see the baths being siphoned off to private companies to be run for profit!’.

A speaker from the Merrylee Matters Campaign condemned the complicity of the GBCT in the ‘sordid social engineering exercise’ that has taken place since the baths closure; excluding working class people from the campaign. Evidencing the claims of the previous speaker, that the campaign had been highjacked, he stated that only 26 people attended the GBCT Annual General Meeting in 2011 despite Govanhill consisting of over 8,000 households and that in fact there was more people at this meeting which was questioning the role of the GBCT. Countless examples of the hypocrisy of some of the main characters involved in the GBCT were given; including Fatima ‘director of many companies’ Uygen who condemned social enterprising as a cover word for privatisation in an article printed in Variant Magazine, Issue 21, Winter 2004 and titled “A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk, along the briny beach”, and yet today is an active participant in it.

GBCT Chairman Andrew ‘golden BMW’ Johnson, who invited corrupt former Labour MSP Frank McAveety, a supporter of the closure of the baths, to open a Charity Art Auction held in the baths in March 2011 was also discussed. His attempt to slander a local resident and FRFI supporter by claiming that they had intimidated female GBCT staff when they approached the Calder St offices to ask a couple of innocent questions was repudiated and exposed. Finally the speaker, acknowledging the good work and honest intentions that many of the people who volunteer with the GBCT and other community groups have, stated that the meeting was not to personally attack individuals but to attack the GHA/GCC scheme, that the GBCT were a part of, and warned that they too would be victims in the final outcome with a socially/privately run enterprise excluding those without money.

The floor was then opened to discussion. One local female resident backed up the speakers in challenging the lack of transparency amongst these so called community groups pointing out that it was not just the GBCT that needed to be exposed but a number of groups around Govanhill. She spoke about the ‘middle class viciousness’ which she herself had faced for raising questions about these groups and their schemes (‘Southside Seeds’ was named as one of them). Another resident expanded on this point stating that the exposure of GBCT would open up a can of worms and bring into question the whole cottage industry that continues to grow off the backs of the poverty and problems of Govanhill residents (unemployment, littered streets, few community resources, racism etc). He was clear in stating that socialism was the only a way out of the ‘Govanhell’ many residents had found themselves in.

Glasgow FRFI would like to thank the Merrylee Matters campaign for speaking at the meeting and their dedicated work in exposing the dirty tricks and schemes of Govanhill Housing Association. We would also like to thank the local residents and ex Govanhill Baths campaigners who shared their experiences of the original campaign and attended the meeting. If anything was learned from the meeting it was that more discussion and action was needed on this issue. Finally we would like to note the absence of the Govanhill Baths Community Trust who had been invited along to the meeting to address the issues under discussion or as one speaker noted ‘defend the indefensible’. Glasgow FRFI and local residents were previously invited by GBCT to discuss these issues behind the closed doors of their offices but we declined stating that we thought that any issues surrounding the Govanhill Baths should be discussed in the public arena. It is after all for the people of Govanhill, those who opposed the viciousness of Glasgow’s Labour City Council and defended themselves against the brutality of Strathclyde police, to decide where the campaign to reopen the baths goes. The GBCT clearly has other ideas.

Ten years on we say no compromise with a corrupt Labour City Council or Strathclyde Police and Govanhill Housing Association who continue to deprive and harass working class people.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Direct action against the cuts!


The old and young united today in Glasgow to oppose the ongoing attack on the living standards of the poorest and most vulnerable people in society. Supporters of the Citizens United campaign successfully held up traffic passing through Glebe Drive at Nelson Mandela Place, Glasgow City Centre, before being moved off the road by police. The action was supported by Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! and the Save The Accord Centre campaign. Speaking to one of the organisers an FRFI supporter reported; ‘this was a protest against a criminal system which robs and demonises the poor whilst allowing the rich to evade billions of pounds worth of taxes. We must demand taxation of the rich but we do not limit ourselves to this call for we do not seek to reform Capitalism - we are fighting to get rid of it! Socialism is the only way out’.

An organiser went on to highlight some of the cuts detailed in the Scottish budget announced yesterday; the housing budget will reduce from £268mn to £155mn in the next year (BBC website 21 September 2011) leading to poorer quality and less housing, spending on Further Education (FE) colleges will have fell by over £70mn, from £545mn this year to £471mn, in 2014/15 translating into less college places at a time of high youth unemployment, larger class sizes and more staff redundancies - over 1,000 college jobs were lost last year (The Herald 22 Sep 2011). A public sector pay freeze for those earning over £21,000 will also continue for another year (BBC website 21 Sep 2011).

These direct actions must be supported by all progressive people and are as much a product of the relative inactivity of the trade unions to combat the cuts as the injustice of the cuts themselves.

We say - Speak, for this brief time is long enough 
before your body and words die 
speak, for the truth still prevails 
speak up, say what you must.

We will be vindicated!!! 

Professor Ilina Sen (wife of jailed Indian human rights activist Binayak Sen)

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Quarriers Staff Out On Strike!

Quarriers staff brave the rain in George Sq

On Tuesday 6 September Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! supporters joined hundreds of striking care workers employed by the charity Quarriers. The workers are represented by the UNISON union and took the action in response to an attack on the wages and conditions of 2,000 staff who face a range of vicious cuts. Pay cuts of between 10 and 23% are planned, along with cuts to maternity and sick pay. The option presented by the management is accept the cuts or face up to 200 redundancies.

Quarriers staff support vulnerable groups such as adults with learning difficulties, teenagers and families and it was heartening to see the fighting campaigners for the Accord Centre bring their support to the lunchtime rally in George Square. Once again the lessons that need to be learned about fighting all cuts - No Cuts-Full Stop! - were there. The most active groups to challenge the cuts so far have been the first victims of them and these have been the most vulnerable people in society. Along with their families, communities and supporters they have made the first challenges to the argument of the ruling class that everybody is in this together. Low paid care workers like the Quarriers staff are now joining that battle and were joined by service users in the protest.

FRFI sends its solidarity to the Quarriers staff and their supporters and pledges to stand with them in their struggle to defend services and defend the working class.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Glasgow FRFI statement on attacks on supporters in Govanhill

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! (Glasgow) is putting on the public record our intolerance for the personal attacks, aggressiveness, slander and intimidation which greeted our members last night following the Right to Work campaign’s ‘Southside Against the Cuts’ meeting in Govanhill (7 September). This is the reaction which has greeted FRFI’s distribution of an article entitled ‘The Great Deception?’ by a local Govanhill resident, looking back at ten years since the original fight against the closure of Govanhill baths and questioning the role of the Govanhill Baths Community Trust. Glasgow FRFI stands fully behind the contents of the article but urges people to read it and make their own judgement. We reserve absolutely the right of criticism and believe this is crucial for the development of independent working class resistance.

Following an uneventful meeting within the plush confines of Govanhill Housing Association HQ, at which FRFI members did not speak, Andrew ‘gold BMW’ Johnson, chair of the Govanhill Baths Community Trust, and Danny Alderslowe, local Green party councillor, saw fit to deal with the political questions raised in ‘The Great Deception’ with a particularly unpleasant mix of aggression and condescension. The former character, once described by an original member of the Govanhill pool campaign as a ‘man open in his contempt for the working class’, approached FRFI members literally spitting with rage, slathering personal slanders and baseless accusations, aggressively facing up to a 15 year-old and attempting to snatch leaflets out of our hands while simultaneously telling those leaving the meeting that ‘these people are dangerous’. Mr Alderslowe deigned to patronise and belittle a local FRFI member, accusing him of ‘being nothing’ and ridiculously claiming that he did not live in the area. So incensed was one local resident who witnessed this tirade that he was forced to intervene and told our honourable friend in no uncertain terms to back off (which he rapidly did).* FRFI members refused to respond to either of these attempts at provocation.

We urge all our supporters to counter the poison of such elements, who will resort to any lengths to prevent criticism of the privileged position they have attained through similarly disreputable means. Glasgow FRFI takes very seriously any threats – physical or verbal – against our supporters; we refuse to be intimidated and reserve the right to defend ourselves in such circumstances. We have dealt successfully with uniformed police in Govanhill attempting to shut down our political work. We will deal successfully with these other policemen of the working class.

Statement issued by Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! (Glasgow)
Wednesday 7 September 2011

* This entire incident has been recorded

Monday, 5 September 2011

Marching for the Accord centre

Supporters of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!/ Revolutionary Communist Group were proud to bring along their new No Cuts- Full Stop! banner to the march and rally organised by the Accord Centre Campaign on Saturday 27 August. The working class streets of the East end of Glasgow echoed to the defiant slogans of  protest as we loudly stated that we were with the campaign and all those affected by the Commonwealth Games carve up of the area. Those streets heard the alternative view expressed forcefully and clearly: "Commonwealth Shame!", as we passed by the shiny new cycling velodrome which will provide a few days entertainment for the priviledged sporting elites, named for the privately educated and knighted Chris Hoy. What a bitter contrast to the plight of the users of the Accord Centre and the family of Margaret Jacconneli who are being pushed aside by the building contactors and big business that are steering the phoney games agenda forward. In the driving seat has been Labour controlled Glasgow City Council who are demonstrating again that they stand by the wealthy and powerful. Their councillor stooges were cheerfully named and shamed by the march as it gathered support from the people of the area. Accord Centre- we are with you! No Cuts- Full Stop!

Unfortunately the old left, in the form primarily of the ex- SWP International Socialist Group, are gaining control of the Accord Campaign and putting their reactionary agenda in place: speakers from FRFI- long time supporters of the campaign- and other groups, were excluded from the rally platform but room was made for an SNP speaker whose party has handed over care homes for the elderly to big business. Trade unions- such as the PCS- whose platforms had themselves excluded the Accord campaigners recently, were also invited to address the crowd. Given the cosy and ongoing relationship between the ISG, SWP and the Right to Work Campaign would we be surprised to find this squad desperately trying to dig up some Labour councillor to opportunistically sign up to the campaign and its public face.

The people of the Accord Centre and their supporters have fought and struggled long and hard, the campaign is overwhelmingly working class in its composition, tactics and demands. They have given real support to the  battle of the Glasgow Defence Campaign to protect the rights to protest and open political organisation. It is tragic now that the middle class left are influencing the campaign and making political space for parties who support the cuts agenda while excluding those holding to the No Cuts-FullStop! principle.

We have to say forcefully that this is not the way forward. We are for the fullest democracy and activity in all the fights against the cuts. We need to mobilise everyone in this battle and give everyone their voice and space in the movement. That is how we make sure that the working class is heard- and listened to!