The Scottish Defence League (SDL), all twelve of them have been at it again. A wee day outing to Dundee this time, I suppose it gives their communities respite for the day. They came, they were kettled, they shuffled off, I guess Dundee was a bit too far into the frozen North to get the buses from the North West of England to trundle up. There was however an excellent turn out by anti-FA and Dundee United, and if the rumours are correct, some rather excellent samosas keeping the assembled counter demonstration fed.
I’m not sure how many of the Glasgow Anti-FA travelled up to Dundee. I suspect not that many – given the frequency of fascists popping up in Glasgow of late, most of us are a bit sick of dealing with this handful of people causing bloody mayhem in Glasgow, attacking the Palestine Human Rights Stall, the Communist Party Stall and with the support of the police, moving on a refugee support demo and restricting the liberties of passers by in Glasgow. Four hours on a coach seems disproportionate to the scale of the threat that the pose, but at the same time, its like a rodent infestation. You need to deal with the wee buggars where ever they appear or suddenly you are overrun with them. Its easy to get complacent about a bunch of knuckledraggers, but complacency can be dangerous. It is only just over a year ago, that a fascist massacred kids attending a political summer school, and only last month that the fascist infiltrated police force of Athens rounded up, beat and imprisoned thousands of refugees.
Resistance to fascism must be home-grown, and arise from community awareness of the threat that it poses and the need to combat it. The central belt of Scotland has a much more ethnically diverse population than it did at the turn of the millenium, yet in large parts of Scotland a non-white face is a rarity. I moved to Aberdeen in the mid-90s from Liverpool and I was genuinely shocked at the level of racism I encountered there. One afternoon as I was standing at the traffic lights on Union Street, a group of young men started chanting racist slogans at someone also waiting. On my other side was a police officer. I turned to him just as the lights changed and asked him what he was going to do, as we walked across the road, he shrugged and said “What can you do?“. I was too stunned to respond.
Beyond the overt colour based racism, there was significant prejudice against anyone with an English accent. Decades of internal migration associated with the oil industry, had seen English people, buying up desirable village properties and sometimes Manses and large rural houses taking advantage of the price differential between the South of England and Northern Scotland, breeding resentment and hostility among the locals. As the independence movement grows, while we should not shy away from highlighting the manner in which RoUK capital is used to commandeer Scottish resources, we must be mindful of the ways in which resentment to this can manifest in anti-English racism.
…and while we are on the subject of resistance to racism, its worth highlighting the work that Palestinian Solidarity activists have been involved in this week promoting a boycott of Batsheva, an Israeli dance company performing at the Edinburgh festival, led by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. When this protest was initially announced some questions were raised about the tactic of boycotting cultural institutions. Batsheva is part-funded by the Israeli state, part of the Brand Israel initiative designed to “show Israel’s prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war.” as the Deputy Director General for Cultural Affairs announced in the aftermath of the Gaza War.
The PCACBI have clear guidelines for how to deal with attempts of the Israeli state to whitewash the ongoing violence, destruction and terror that the inflict on the Palestinian people. Israel is a racist apartheid state, and like South Africa before cannot continue in its current manifestation. With over 100 Palestinian supporters turning out on three consecutive days determined not to allow the performance to go ahead unchallenged, supported by major figures in the Scottish cultural scene, it is clear that the Scottish people are prepared to demand that culture which is showcased in Scotland is firmly put in a context which demands respect for Human Rights. The decision of the Edinburgh International Festival to allow a dance company which is considered Israel’s “best global ambassadors” by the Israeli Foreign Ministry is quite irresponsible, and must call into question the judgment of the Festival Director, Jonathan Mills.
Racism and fascism must be fought first from within, but the fight against fascism is global. As we remember those killed in Norway, those imprisoned in Israel, those detained in Greece, the words of Dolores Ibárruri have a distinct Scottish accent as we declare “Nae Nazis here”.