HOW WE FIGHT POVERTY AND WHY WE DO IT THAT WAY
A statement of principles by Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty
ECAP organises to combat poverty on the principle of solidarity and self- activity in communities and workplaces, actively rejecting influence by any political parties. We work and fight alongside individuals facing poverty related problems and oppressive behaviour from the authorities. We also conduct wider campaigns on specific issues using the same principles of solidarity and self-activity. Our actions are practical examples of the differences we can make in our day-to-day lives by standing up for one another. But why does ECAP embrace self-activity and reject political parties?
Poverty is no natural disaster but a result of how people organise the world. ECAP considers poverty to be an inevitable part of an economic system based on exploitation and profit. The use of debt to generate profits gave this system a few more decades of supposed stability. But the current global crisis has burst that bubble and now standards of living for waged and unwaged are under attack as the true nature of an exploitative economy is again exposed.
ECAP regards calls for political elites to behave more fairly, appealing to an illusory ideal of ‘democracy’, to be fruitless in the long term. Politicians pursue the ‘National Interest’ which we take to mean the interests of the ruling class as we do not accept that exploiters and exploited share a common interest. To pursue change through parliamentary and electoral channels is to see our struggles dissipated, defused and co-opted. While states like to describe themselves as ‘democratic’ they are a world away from a truly democratic society. Their alleged ‘democracy’ has been adjusted over centuries to appear democratic while leaving the same fundamentally anti-democratic forces in power.
But shouldn’t we be ‘realistic’ and work within established power structures? ECAP considers that when the term ‘realistic’ is used in this way it is just a code for ‘doing what the rich want’. We do not accept that our struggles must forever obey this false logic. This is why ECAP believes that no political leadership can be trusted, that they are cynical and manipulative by nature. We instead propose that only solidarity based on recognition of shared interests can challenge the bankrupt, greed fuelled economic system. So we actively seek to encourage links between different sections of the working class, eg employed and unemployed, recent immigrants and long-term residents – we reject nationalist and other divisions.
We believe that with enough people direct action can make the rule of bosses and their political protectors unworkable. We aim to establish a truly democratic counter- power, pressurizing authorities in the here and now and giving people a means to defend themselves in their daily lives, whilst simultaneouslychallenging the whole capitalist system, demanding and working towards a world without classes, borders and oppressive elites. Such a world would do away with production for profit – instead people would co-operate as equals to directly satisfy human needs. We recognise the importance of also combating other intertwined forms of oppression such as racism and the oppression of women by men.
TEXT OF INTRODUCTORY LEAFLET TO ECAP :
Faced with any of these PROBLEMS ?
- Bad conditions and insecurity at work
- Harrassment by sheriff officers and debt collectors
- Hassles with the Benefits authorities
- Soaring electricity and gas bills
- Rip-off landlords and housing problems
- Don’t suffer in isolation. Don''t accept being ripped-off.
- Join together with others to stand up for our needs.
- There is somethiing you can do about it – we have won many victories against the authoriities.
As the world economic slump hits Edinburgh, bank bosses like Fred Goodwin bag the bailouts, while most of us face many problems.
But there is something we can do about it. We can join together to support each other whenever we have problems with employers, landlords, benefits offices, debt collectors, fuel companies and other authorities.
- If we are isolated, then people in power can walk all over us. But if people are organised at the grass-roots, at work, in the community, as claimants, or wherever, then it is different. If we join together we can turn the tables and stand up for ourselves.
- If a debt collector, sheriff officer or dole snooper turns up at your door, don’t let them in, don’t speak to them. If they phone, say they have the wrong number, don't speak to them. Contact us for support and advice.
- If you are having problems with the authorities, like the benefits people, or your employer, and you have to go to a meeting with them, don’t go alone, take a friend or workmate. This is your right.
- If you have to ring any authorities always get the person's name.
- If you are in a job we encourage you to join the IWW, a grass-roots union committed to workers supporting each other and battling for better conditions and wages, and building up the power for workers to eventually take control of all workplaces. There is an active IWW branch in Edinburgh.
STRENGTH IN NUMBERS
Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty are building a phone tree of people who can turn up to support people who are having serious problems with authorities like employers, landlords, benefits authorities, debt collectors, fuel companies etc. It might be to protest at the offices of a bad landlord, or to back up someone who is having sheriff officers come to their home. It could be to demonstrate against an exploiting employer, or at a benefit office which has cut someone’s money.
First we try talking to the authorities, but if the problem cannot be sorted out by negotiations, then we can alert everyone on the phone tree so we can all act together in solidarity.
You don’t need any special knowledge or skills to join up, and if you are unable to make it certain times that’s ok. If you want to help out other people like yourself when you can, then please join our solidarity telephone tree – contact details at bottom of this page.
The tabloids and some politicians try to divert attention away from the system which is really responsible for our problems. They go on about asylum seekers, dole scroungers, immigrants from East Europe, and so on. This is just divide and rule.
Asylum seekers for example, are forbidden from working while their claim is being considered, and are paid LESS benefits than British citizens. And remember for centuries Scots have emigrated all over the world to escape oppression and poverty. Don’t be fooled, the real enemy is a system which is only concerned about making money and profits.
DON'T PUT UP WITH IT!
Governments world-wide are privatising services and changing laws so big business can make more profits. This means more temporary contracts, heaping more work on employees, attacking hard-won rights. The mad rush for profits is even endangering the survival of the planet, due to global warming.
But equally, all over the world, people are resisting. Just one example - in spring 2006 a massive movement rose up in France to oppose a new law which would have made it easy for employers to sack young workers. Widespread street disturbances, occupations and direct action forced the French government to abandon the law.
After all, why should governments and big business have all the wealth and power? Why shouldn’t the world’s resources be shared cooperatively among us all? Why shouldn’t things be done to meet human needs, instead of for profit? Why shouldn’t everyone, man or woman, black or white, gay or straight, be respected and valued equally? It’s no use relying on politicians - we need to get organised ourselves and take direct action. It’s our world, let’s take it back.
Drop into ACE
To find out more, to get involved, or ask about a particular problem, visit the Autonomous Centre of Edinburgh at 17 West Montgomery Place any Tuesday between 12 and 3pm, when Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty and Edinburgh Claimants run support and solidarity sessions.
Get our special free leaflets on Debt, Housing Benefit, and Benefits medical examinations or look them up on the other sections of this website. We also have info on workers' rights.
We are not paid, and we are not experts, but we have experience of many of these problems and when we join together and argue our case to the authorities as an organisation they can be forced to listen.
Join the phone tree, take our leaflets and posters to distribute, drop in on a Tuesday, come to our regular meetings, the last Monday of every month at 7pm at ACE.
Contact Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty, c/o ACE, 17 West Montgomery Place, Edinburgh EH7 5HA (junction with Brunswick Rd, nr Leith Walk) Tel 0131 557 6242 (ansaphone plus staffed tues 12 - 3pm) Email firstname.lastname@example.org
ACE website www.autonomous.org.uk