Solidarity! This week. With the Tamils, with Visteon.

Submitted by martin on 7 April, 2009 - 2:48 Author: Robin Sivapalan

Tuesday, 7 April, morning: Hi campers: It's all going on from where i'm standing, my head can barely take it, people on such a scale, from all different struggles, are taking action these days.

I hope the news is spreading today, 7 April, that hundreds of Tamils have been occupying Westminster Bridge since last night, blocking traffic and holding back the police, putting out the call that people must continue to gather outside parliament until the genocide in Sri Lanka stops.

I think all the demands are problematic for a number of reasons. I cannot say I support the Tamil Tigers, but what is clear is that in the last months 2,800 lives have been lost, and there has been the most terrible slow motion scenario for a few months now of some 200,000 Tamils who retreated with the Tigers in the face of the Sri Lankan Army onslaught (to what extent with Tiger coercion, I don't know) being held in the crossfire. They are starving and dying of disease, they are periodically shelled, despite being in a government-declared safe zone. Those who do flee are detained in an army camp, from where grim stories are emerging.

It always astonishes me, where I'm standing, how little solidarity and identification can exist among peoples who live side by side in a city like London. The Tamil people must be one of the biggest diaspora communities in this country. Maybe 40% of the Tigers' money comes from the 300,000 strong Tamil community here.

About 120,000 Tamils marched on 31 January in London against the Sri Lanka war. That is a huge number of people, and as big as and much bigger than most of the recent demonstrations after the Iraq war started. Yet in my experience little is known of Sri Lanka, and on that demonstration maybe 50-70 non Tamils marched. For someone like me, from a Tamil background, born in N W London, now a socialist activist, this fact blows me away.

I hope we're building a transnationalist movement, for climate change and generally. I think that we are doing this in many important ways, Copenhagen for example. I made a decision to base my activism in London because I've always felt it to be an international city. Where I grew up, in the left-wing educational haven that had been carved out my unionised teachers, we grew up with a lot of the world at our doorstep, where I live is I think officially the most diverse place in the world, this is something we were taught to value. Along the way, I'd say as a result of a couple of decades of working-class defeats, this seems to have fractured, communities have fractured, unions have dwindled, nationalism, communalism and fascism feel on the rise.

Such events as this Tamil demonstration, these Visteon occupations in Belfast and Enfield, our climate camp, the schools that have been occupied in Glasgow, will hopefully see the small actions we have all been taking, become something that is the new standard. Our slogan of Take the Power back is reflected in the events of the last week.

Solidarity is what will make the difference.

Solidarity between climate campers (climate campers have been among the very few activists allowed inside the Visteon occupation by the workers) means that there are the beginnings of conversations about just transition and control over work. This is great. This is how we can nurture and fructify a movement.

Last week, standing outside the police cordon of the camp, having returned from the Visteon occupation with money and support from our protests, having been run down the road with police trampling on fallen activists, everyone felt really powerless. It was really quite upsetting. I walked slowly back to the camp, and got a text message about the guy who'd died. Friends and comrades were inside the camp, and it seemed clear to me things were going to be brought to an end in the next few hours, and my phone was nearly dead.

There were a group of rail maintenance workers as I got back to the camp cordon. One guy stopped me and asked if I was one of the protestors, obviously hostile. I said yes, I am. He asked if I even knew what I was protesting about. What was I protesting about? Do you have a job? No you can't do, look at your shoes. I've got steel caps. (Mine are police issue plimsolls). Go on, what are you protesting about?

Do you want me to give you a list? Well, they're losing us money. How? We don't get paid for standing around. Are you in a union. No, I'm my own union. Right. Well that explains it. Are you Metronet or Tubelines? Balfour Beatty. Yeah, but Metronet or... someone else answers Metronet. So, you're supposed to be back in-house.

Anyway. so, I've come back because someone's died tonight in police custody, I have friends in there. They're protesting about climate change, but actually, other people in your union at Bank station, who are actually in the RMT, have been handing out leaflets to protestors saying they support their action. Those people over there, the climate camp in London, passed a resolution unanimously last week supporting your upcoming action. Someone died. Yes.

I dug out of my bag some Tubeworker bulletins on their strike. They all took one quietly.

I hope that as many people as possible will go and bolster the numbers at Westminster throughout today, into the evening.

I hope that on Thursday [9th] at 11am, people will descend on Enfield. Yesterday, workers were warned to expect that their two convenors would be imprisoned for their occupation. Instead, the eviction was delayed pending talks with an agreement made on the workers' behalf that they would leave peacefully on Thursday.

At a public meeting last night, in front of the union official who kept his hands pressed to his mouth, the three workers who spoke said they found it unlikely that they could leave on Thursday. For them this is no longer just about them. They said they felt they owed it to all of us who have given them support, to win. They have been blown away from the solidarity from people of all political and life backgrounds, that have been inspired by them.

There's a woman Linda, whom I met on the first day. She's spent hours sitting and walking around with a collection bucket. She went and bought white matierial for banners, the last bit of which got used to make a film screen to watch the Take, about the Argentinian factories under workers' control (provided by Isa and JJ). She spoke, and the meeting decided to end after her contribution.

She explained that she has worked all her life. She has a family which is what she has worked all her life for. She was a wife, a mother and a worker. She said, it's all changed now, she has been overwhelmed by people's kindness, from everywhere. She said, I couldn't walk down the road and walk past anyone now who needed my help, all the blinkers have gone.

Love and solidarity


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