RIC, STUC, Syriza Scotland, Podemos Scotland and anti-austerity groups set for Valentine’s Day march
HUNDREDS of demonstrators are expected to march from the Scottish Parliament to the Greek consulate on 14 February, Valentine’s Day, to show solidarity with Greece and its Syriza government in its battle with the EU to end austerity measures that, they claim, have impoverished the country.
The demonstration, ‘Democracy vs Austerity: Scotland stands with Greece’, has been called by the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC), and is an attempt to swing Scottish opinion behind the radical left Syriza party, which now heads up a government with an anti-austerity mandate following the Greek elections on 25 January.
Jonathon Shafi, RIC co-founder and an organiser of the demonstration, argued that the context of international solidarity is crucial.
“It is vital that the anti-austerity movement all over Europe stands shoulder to shoulder with the people of Greece,” Shafi said. “Syriza offers a beacon of hope, but the ECB are unrelenting and viciously opposed to progress based on a social alternative to austerity.
“We can only defeat austerity on an international basis, and that is why the Democracy vs Austerity rally on Saturday is important,” Shafi added.
Syriza are locked in negotiations with the EU over trying to come to an agreement about a financial plan for the country, ahead of a 28 February deadline where, if no deal is done, Greece would effectively default on its debts. Syriza says an end to EU-imposed austerity policies in Greece is essential to end the “humanitarian crisis” in the country, with record breaking levels of unemployment.
The Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), which represents trade unions in Scotland, will also be represented at the demonstration, and General Secretary Grahame Smith believes the Scottish Government and “all of the parties of the parliament” should be backing the Greek Government’s strategy.
“The overwhelming support for anti-austerity parties in the Greek election and the election of Syriza represents a key moment in the battle against austerity economics in Europe,” Smith told CommonSpace. “Their entirely sensible proposals for promoting economic recovery including renegotiation of debt, investment for growth, tax reform and protection of workers and ordinary people – is an entirely orthodox approach that has been championed by mainstream economists globally.
“Working people in Greece did not cause the crisis any more than did workers in Scotland and they should not be bearing the brunt now,” Smith added.
“The STUC calls on the Scottish Government and all of the parties of the Parliament to express its support for the Greek Government’s strategy and to put whatever pressure it is able to on the European and world institutions which make up the Troika”
The Scottish Government has said the Greek election result should be “respected”, but Smith believes it should be putting pressure to bear on the powers at be in Brussels.
“The STUC calls on the Scottish Government and all of the parties of the Parliament to express its support for the Greek Government’s strategy and to put whatever pressure it is able to on the European and world institutions which make up the Troika, as well as the major European powers, to adopt a serious and constructive negotiating stance,” Smith said.
The rise of Syriza from fringe party to government has given a boost to the left across Europe, including in Spain where anti-austerity party Podemos is challenging to become the leading party in October’s Spanish elections.
Podemos Scotland and Syriza Scotland are both supporting Saturday’s demonstration, and Dr Myrto Tsakatika from Syriza Scotland told CommonSpace that there is now a burgeoning European anti-austerity movement.
“The citizens of Greece voted to reverse the politics of extreme austerity. They are fighting tooth and nail to have their democratic right to choose respected. A movement of solidarity is growing across Europe and the world. It is not a just a movement in support of the Greeks, it is a movement to reclaim the power that markets and financial institutions have taken from us. Join us on Saturday, make your voice heard,” Tsakatika stated.
Lynne Henderson, vice chair of People’s Assembly Scotland, an anti-austerity campaign, will also be speaking at the demonstration, and said Syriza’s “stunning election victory is an inspiration to those of us who know there is an alternative to this austerity gloom”.
Henderson added that a note of caution was necessary, as the anti-austerity movement shouldn’t look at Syriza through “rose-tinted spectacles”.
“We must be careful not to only look through rose tinted spectacles and to recognise the economic limits to the concessions that Syriza is offering, the requirement for coalition with right wing forces, the acceptance of Nato membership and so on,” Henderson said. “However, the People’s Assembly Against Austerity Scotland stands with the people of Greece and their democratically elected government in their mandate to oppose austerity. They will be challenged by the Troika, the establishment and by home-grown oligarchs. It is our job to stand with them.”
The demonstration begins at 12 noon outside the Scottish Parliament, before making its way to the Greek consulate at 12 Queens Crescent.