By JAMES REED
— GLASGOW — This article collects together two pieces, originally published on the Scottish left platform Interregnum, that I wrote on the 17th of June about an asylum seekers’ demonstration on Glasgow’s George Square. The first article was written in the afternoon, prior to the demonstration, and the second was published later that evening, after the demonstration.
To give some background, much of the debate about Black Lives Matter in the UK has been taken up with issues around statues and monuments to slave owners and other figures of racism and oppression. These statues have formed a strong pole around which the far right have begun to mobilise, claiming that they are defending statues and particularly war memorials from BLM, from “Antifa”, from whoever they dislike. Of course, this has simply given them a cover to oppose any demonstration they feel like by claiming that it poses a threat to any nearby monuments, as shall be seen.
As things go in Scotland, the “monument men” have been particularly successful of late. Organised in the National Defence League—a group stemming from traditions of British nationalism, Orange Lodges and Ulster loyalism—the far right had already held George Square, the main public square of Glasgow, twice on the 13th and 14th, forcing away an anti-statue demonstration on the 14th. On the 17th, they announced once more that they would be holding an event on the square, at a time chosen specifically to clash with a refugee support demo scheduled for the same day …
Don’t be fooled: The statue defenders are doing the bosses’ work
By JAMES REED
It has been announced by a group called the National Defence League (NDL) that they will be holding a demonstration today at 5 pm at George Square. They talk about how they want to stand up against the apparent “division and anarchy” of the extreme left, how they want to protect the war memorial from vandals.
Do not be mistaken: It is no coincidence that this demo by the NDL is being held at 5, just one hour before a demonstration by the No Evictions Campaign is due to take place at George Square. This demonstration by the No Evictions Campaign is organised and led by those asylum seekers so cruelly forced into unsafe hotel accommodation by Mears, the company currently holding the Home Office’s contract for housing asylum seekers. In these hotels, the asylum seekers have been faced with the withdrawal of their financial support, with cramped living spaces that make social distancing impossible, and with undercooked, mouldy food. It was amid these squalid conditions that Adnan Olbeh, a young man seeking refuge from Syria, died on the 5th of May.
It is no surprise, then, that 20 asylum seekers at the Ibis Hotel, McLays Guest House, and Park Inn have begun refusing food in protest of their barbarous treatment by Mears. And it is for the memory of Adnan Olbeh, and for the safety of everyone trapped in the hotels, that the asylum seekers and their allies in the No Evictions Campaign are putting on the demonstration at 6 pm, demanding:
- An Immediate change to food in the hotel
- The reinstatement of weekly financial support
- The ending of hotel detention and the provision of safe accommodation
So what are the NDL protecting the Cenotaph from? The No Evictions demo has nothing to do with statues or monuments, and it will be a peaceful demonstration. The truth is this: For all the bravado and pious whinging about “our national history” and the statues, the NDL and other organisations like it, the DFLA and the EDL, only care about power—their power to force the popular movements of downtrodden working-class people from the public squares and the streets.
How could it be otherwise, when they intend to hold the square against a group of asylum seekers and their friends? If the NDL succeed in their aims today, all they will have done is defend the profits and the image of Mears Group, a huge private company with a revenue in the hundreds of millions, from the demands of asylum seekers desperate to simply be treated like human beings. Here we see the NDL, these glorious defenders of the British nation, for what they really are—the obedient attack dogs, unwitting or not, for capitalist robbers and murderers!
We at Interregnum call for our readers to make it down to the No Evictions Campaign demonstration if you can. The asylum seekers need all the support they can get. All conscious friends of the people must know that the offensive by the NDL and all the other henchmen of the bosses will not stop with asylum seekers. What next? Independence demonstrations, workers’ rallies, picket lines? Stand together now, for the self-defence of the working class! For Adnan Olbeh!
NDL does the bosses’ work at George Square!
By JAMES REED
And so it came to pass that the National Defence League (NDL), as we expected in our previous report, used their supposed defence of the George Square Cenotaph as a cover to attack the asylum seekers’ demonstration put on by the No Evictions Campaign an hour later. We can confidently dismiss all of the “history and statues” posturing by the NDL and its supporters. All they were there to do this evening was beat up people of a different skin colour, refugees who dared protest for decent living conditions in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. All the NDL did was defend the profits of Mears, the Home Office’s housing manager, from the scrutiny of the people.
Let’s all face the truth: All the NDL are is a pack of capitalist servants, a gang of brutes happy to beat down any resistance to the rich if it means they get to feel like a good British patriot. It does not matter if they acted independently, if they did this with no command from Mears—the end result is the same. The NDL have gladly acted as the trained dogs of a massive, mega-rich corporation, showing themselves as scabs and class traitors of the lowest order. Lower even than the muck that pools in gutters.
In the end the No Evictions demo had to pull back from George Square inside of a police kettle. But even in retreat the asylum seekers and their comrades conducted themselves admirably, still chanting slogans as they marched in good order to a point where they could safely disperse. If the demonstration was physically driven back, its spirit of resistance to Mears remained utterly unbroken, no matter the tricks of the bosses and their henchmen the NDL. The asylum seekers will yet win justice for themselves and for Adnan Olbeh!
And to all those who came to stand with and defend the No Evictions demo, we would like to express our complete solidarity and our heartfelt respect. In the weeks to come we will be supporting all those friends of the people arrested today through the whole of their legal processes. Comrades always have each others’ backs.
Let today’s events be a lesson. For all of you in other parties, unions, organisations, the time is fast approaching when you too may face attacks from far-right groups intent on sweeping your rallies and marches off the streets. The NDL’s recent victories in Glasgow will clearly serve as a huge confidence-booster for the far right, and we would be fools to expect their attacks to let up any time soon. We must be ready for the next time, and we cannot meet them divided. We are living in a time of capitalist, far right offensives against our movement, and we can only be certain that the bosses will take stronger actions against our organisations as the new economic crisis develops. Now is the time for the united front, for proletarian self-defence. In short, the bastards are coming for us all. Will you be ready?
Not a step back! All together against the bosses’ henchmen!
Find more information on the No Evictions Campaigns at:
(Photo: Twitter @shotbalowski)