Saturday 24 November 2018

Still we rise - marching against racism and fascism and for internationalism, freedom and justice

The ATUC St Andrew's Day March in its 150th anniversary year was a colourful sight on a grey November day as it made its way down Union Street behind the stirring tunes of the Pipe Band.

The red of Unite, the purple and green of UNISON and the bright yellow of the EIS mixed with the banners and colours of other trade unions and political and community groups.

All came together to pledge "Still we rise" to combat the scourge of racism and fascism and for internationalism, freedom and justice.

Shoppers stopped to watch and wave as the March passed by. The free Scotland wrap around edition of the Morning Star was well received by the marchers and onlookers alike.

Iain Daniels
The Rally at the Castlegate was chaired by ATUC President Kathleen Kennedy, and heard from a range of speakers all condemning the rise of racism in this country and across the world, in part as a result of the political rhetoric of the UK Tory government with their "hostile environment" policy and the politics of Donald Trump which fans the flames of racism in the USA and beyond.

The rally was kicked off by Iain Daniels of the Living Rent Campaign, a democratic organisation run by and for tenants.

He condemned profiteering landlords, telling the rally, "We want homes for people not for profit, to redress the power imbalance between landlords and tenants and to ensure that everyone has decent and affordable housing.

Mike Arnott with Kathleen Kennedy
"Our main aim as a tenants' union is not just educating but defending our members against bad landlords who, with their illegal fees, disregard for the condition of their properties and high rent, put profit above the welfare of people.

Mike Arnott of Dundee Trades Union Council then spoke in his role as a member of the International Brigade Memorial Trust. He reminded us of the sacrifice of the men and women who went to fight fascism in Spain, including many from Aberdeen and other parts of Scotland.

"We owe it to those brave people, some of whom never saw their homelands again, to continue their struggle against the rise of racism and fascism."

Martin McKay
Martin McKay of Grampian Health UNISON told the rally that "the NHS is our greatest socialist achievement - a beacon of love and inclusion.

"Why?" asked Martin, "Because it cares for all regardless of colour, or creed or wealth, at time of need free and without prejudice."

He reminded us that the NHS is also delivered by people of all nationalities and called on us all to stand against the rising tide of racism and fascism raising its ugly head across the world.

Davie Donaldson, a young Scottish Traveller then gave a moving and shocking account of the racism that he has experienced throughout his life.

Davie Donaldson
From his school experiences when teachers wouldn't mark his homework because he was a "Gyspy who wouldn't do anything with an education;" to the name calling and assumptions, based only on his ethnicity, that he was a thief; to the signs littering the UK banning Travellers and Gypsies from entering shops, bars and restaurants; to his experience when he was 8 and a man tried to run him over; to the incident on a train a few months ago when a man threatened to shoot him, telling him that if he had a gun he would shoot all travellers. No one came to his aid.

"Statistics say travellers experience some of the worst inequalities on every measure the state has," said Davie.

He called for us to come together in solidarity to defend the rights and wellbeing of all members of society.

"Racism is taught in our society. It is not automatic. It's learned behaviour based on ignorance and a lack of empathy. We can choose to end racism, discrimination and prejudice. We can choose instead to teach acceptance and inclusion," added Davie, expressing his hope that his children will grow up in a world that accepts and values them for who they are.

Alison Evison
Emphasising the importance of this, the next speaker, Cllr Alison Evison, who had just returned from  a remembrance service in Sarajavo spoke of the horrors of Srebrenica, which happened in 1995, in Europe in a place we can fly to in 2 hours.

"Never again. We’ve said those words and we’ve meant those words. But we haven’t acted to ensure that never again is a reality," warned Alison, describing how the people of Bosnia turned on each other, because of their ethnicity and religion.

She reminded us how, on 11 July 1995 General Mladic and his Bosnian Serb forces entered Srebrenica and murdered over 8000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys; and took away many women and girls on buses to be raped and raped again, "as part of a determined campaign of ethnic cleansing."

"The people of Bosnia need our help and our support," said Alison, "But many of them also want us to learn our lessons from their experience. Let’s not let hatred grow in our communities. Let’s call out every individual incident.

Bill Ramsay
"And let's ensure that friendship and respect for each other is so strongly embedded in our communities that it can withstand pressures from elsewhere."

"Never again. Those words need an active response."

Bill Ramsay, Depute President of the EIS then spoke about the importance of tackling racism in schools.

"Racism is not left at the classroom door," warned Bill.

Sarah Glynn
Sarah Glynn of Scottish Solidarity with Kurdistan spoke of the achievements of the radical Kurdish movement, inspired by jailed leader, Abdullah Ocalan, to break down ethnic barriers and cut through religious prejudices.

 "In a part of the world known for overwhelming patriarchy, their movement is actively feminist, pushing for women to take a full role in society and ensuring every organisation has male and female co-chairs.

"Theirs is a movement that values ecology and sees humanity as part of the natural world, and a movement that tries to ensure that all ethnic groups are able to practice their own culture and language and take a full part in running society."

Sarah warned however that the Kurdish people and way of life is at huge risk from Turkey and other powers in the Middle East, and highlighted the importance of publicising this to make it harder for governments at home and abroad to act with impunity.

"International solidarity is vital to protect both the Kurdish people and the revolutionary ideas they have gifted to us."

Kate Ramsden
Kate Ramsden, ATUC Exec Member sent solidarity to the STUC march and rally taking place in Glasgow and read out the STUC's statement for today's events. The rally then observed a minute's silence to the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue shootings as well as all other victims of racism across the world.

The rally closed as always with two readings by Unite's Tommy Campbell. The first was La Pasionaria's Farewell Address to the International Brigaders in 1936, which you can read here.

The second is a poem that Tommy penned himself, Granite City Heroes, in tribute to Aberdeen's International Brigaders.

Tommy Campbell
Granite City Heroes 

Working-class heroes, so strong; so proud
your ideals keep us fighting, shouting aloud
whilst we campaign for justice, your hopes see us through
in this time of peace in Aberdeen, paid for by you.

Your voices still echo, in the old Castlegate
where you challenged the fascists and spoke out against Hate
with your thoughts for the future and a better world yet to gain
the same dreams of freedom that took you to Spain.

Your courage emboldened on an Aberdeen street
you determined your fate and accepted no defeat
humanity, so chiselled, seen sharp on your face
the photos now displayed in so many a place.

Your flame, burning gentle, we will keep it alight
fighting the good fight, for right, against might
and the love for all others that’s the meaning of you
your example a guidance, a help to bring us through.

Your proud battle flag is there for all to see
it mirrors your conscience and marks your bravery
shrouded in blood and shrouded in pain
your memory lives on as you have not died in vain.

For the campaign’s not over, as onwards we go
we are strong, proud and many, we want all to know
No Pasaran was their call and it’s with us still
for we’re holding that line and we always will.

Tommy Campbell
8th August 2018

Following the rally there was soup, sandwiches and music from Elias and Fred in the Parkvale FC social club. Thanks to Laura McDonald for organising it, to the Club staff and to Fred and Elias for their uplifting songs and music.

For many more photos go to our Facebook page

Or click here (with thanks to Jacob Campbell)