Biggest political demo ever in Scotland.
On Saturday 2 July about 250,000 demonstrated through the streets of Edinburgh to protest against the G8 summit which will be taking place later on this week in Gleneagles. It became the biggest political demo in the history of Scotland. The CWI was present with a very young and prominent contingent.
The organisers had asked everyone to wear white clothes. This appeal was followed by about 90% of those present. It reminded us of the White March in Belgium in 1996 when 300,000 demonstrated against the role of the judicial apparatus following the disappearance and murder of several young girls. Just like at the 1996 White March the white colour in Scotland was used to limit the political character of the demo.
While the appeal to demonstrate found a huge response, the organisers mainly considered the demo as a way to put pressure on the G8 and the world leaders to ask them to make poverty history. The big mobilisation from churches and NGO’s meant that this position was shared by quite a lot of those on the protest. But there also was an open attitude to more radical ideas. The big turnout on itself was an expression of the fact that many are prepared to come out onto the streets to take action against poverty and misery. And may were looking for ideas on how to fight poverty.
The daily paper ’Sunday Herald’ today wrote about the demo and mentioned how in between the white masses a lively group of young people wearing red T-shirts were chanting slogans. This was the contingent of the ISR (International Socialist Resistance) and the CWI. In the article there is a short interview with Sarah Sachs-Eldridge of the Socialist Party saying: "When we live in a capitalist system, there will always be poverty. The G8 works for big business. They are not to be trusted. We need to change the system or there will never be change."
In our contingent we had about 250 members and supporters coming from many different countries, including Scotland, England/Wales, Ireland, Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden. We were the most visible and loud group. Our fighting slogans were heard in Edinburgh and our contingent was very visible because it was red: red T-shirts, red banners and flags.
The demo itself was pretty short which meant that demonstrators were still leaving the starting point in Meadows Park as we were already arriving back at the same place. Even at 6 pm there were still people starting to demonstrate. In the afternoon the park looked more like the scene of a festival with an emphasis by the organisers on entertaining the audience rather than political speeches.
There was a very enthusiastic response to the ISR and CWI. Belgian CWI members on the demo alone sold about 230 papers and collected a few hundred pound of fighting fund through selling wrist bands. The CWI intervened with a special paper of the written by its members in England/Wales and Scotland. It was the only paper giving a clear idea how to end poverty through fighting for a socialist alternative. We made a big difference with this paper. Besides this we also sold T-shirts and wrist bands which further strengthened the red character of our intervention.
Speaking to some demonstrators
On the demo we spoke to a number of people about the G8 and the protest against it. Three youth from Spain said: "It is very difficult to make poverty history as the problem of poverty is linked to the capitalist system. Poverty, just like all important questions, is a political issue. ’White’ demonstrations won’t be enough to fight poverty".
An English demonstrator said he came to the demo because of the huge world problems today. But when we asked people on the protest what they thought could be done against it, many replied that a better division of power and natural resources was needed.
There also was confusion about the debt relief of the G8. One demonstrator told us it could be a way to help some countries to develop and get out of poverty. The promised debt relief however is very limited and won’t bring any fundamental change. Others agreed with this point of view. A young demonstrator told us: "It is not enough and peanuts if you compare it to the amount of money spent on the war in Iraq."