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Letter to the STUC about the Glasgow Anti-Racism March

Stand Up To Racism Scotland and the STUC have recently issued a joint statement about the anti-racism march they are co-organising in Glasgow on 16 March 2024. SACC is one of a number of organisations that, as in previous years, will be staying away from the march because of the failure by SUTR Scotland to state that Friends of Israel groups will not be welcome.

The joint STUC/SUTR statement might be read by the unwary as implying that our decision to stay away from the march is based on false claims. That is categorically not the case. The following letter has been sent to the STUC on behalf of SACC.  A response has been received from the STUC and is noted below.

To: The STUC

18 February 2024

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing on behalf of SACC in connection with the joint statement from the STUC and SUTR Scotland headed “Why you should join the #MarchOnTheHomeOffice, Glasgow, Sat 16 March.”

SACC is one of a number of organisations that, as in previous years, will be staying away from the march because of the failure by SUTR Scotland to state that Friends of Israel groups will not be welcome on the march.

Our latest statement on this matter, issued on 14 February, can be found on our website. It reflects a position we have held and announced publicly since 2018. The joint STUC/SUTR Scotland statement appears to be intended, in part, as a response to this position.

It says:

“We wish to make it absolutely clear that, contrary to false claims that have been made, SUTR Scotland has no formal or informal relationship with the COFIS and GFI groups. Claims that SUTR "works closely" with or "invites" these groups are false - this year or in the past. Neither is it true at all that these groups have ever been "involved at an organisational level" or that SUTR has “coordinated” their participation. Lists of all the trade unions, campaigning groups and civil society organisations backing the demonstration are always publicly available, with logos listed on publicity.”

I read this paragraph with surprise, since it sets out to rebut allegations that SACC has never made, and that as far as I am aware have not been made in any public statement issued by any organisation taking a position similar to out own.

Anyone acquainted with SUTR would recognise that it has no formal relationship with COFIS and GFI. A number of words and phrases appear in quotes in the STUC/SUTR statement without source or context. They appear to have no basis in any statement or communication from SACC. I can only suppose that they have been excerpted from individual communications or social media posts, and that those individuals have noticed or been made aware of public interactions between figures associated with SUTR Scotland and COFIS/GFI and have drawn conclusions that may be thought to go beyond the evidence, and that are denied by SUTR Scotland.

The existence or otherwise of informal relationships is completely irrelevant to SACC’s position. What is needed is a formal public statement by the organisers of the march that COFIS, GFI and similar groups are not welcome on the march. As set out in the SACC statement:

“Our objection is not to individuals joining the march, which we agree should be open to all committed to fighting racism, irrespective of their ethnicity, religion or politics, but rather to the participation of organisations which exist for the purposes of defending the racism of Israel.”

The paragraph about relations with COFIS/GFI in the STUC/SUTR statement is a straw man argument that appears to be intended to deflect opposition to the march.

We in SACC have seen straw man arguments of various sorts put forward by SUTR Scotland in previous years. We generally make no response, as we do not wish to give oxygen to misleading discussions of this kind.

However, we are unable to similarly ignore a statement published in the name of the STUC. We work with many trade unionists who are likely to see the statement, treat it seriously and conclude that SACC’s objection to the march is based on false claims. That is unequivocally not the case.

Israel’s genocide in Gaza is the by far the most extreme act of racism being carried out in the world today. Were we in SACC not staying away from the march because of the likely presence of Friends of Israel groups, I would be troubled by the fact that the only mention of the genocide in the STUC/SUTR statement is with reference to its secondary effects in prompting Islamophobia and a crackdown on civil liberties in the UK.

In any case, I find it odd to read near the end of the STUC/SUTR statement:

“It is crucial in 2024, in the face of the far right's advance, that we build a mass, united movement that takes on racism, Islamophobia and antisemitism. Building this unity in the face of the far right’s advance may not be the focus of every campaign, but it is a crucial task. As the history of the 1930s and the horror of the Holocaust tells us, we must take the threat of division seriously.”

The unity being sought here appears to be a unity that declines to exclude organisations that deny the Gaza genocide and support genocidal acts by Israel. I should not need to labour the inappropriateness of invoking the history of the 1930s to promote this position.

We in SACC greatly appreciate the support that the STUC has given over the years to the Justice for Sheku Bayoh Campaign, which was launched on 25 July 2015 at a meeting co-organised by the Justice for Sheku Bayoh Campaign and SACC.

We also greatly appreciate the excellent contributions by STUC speakers at protests organised by the Gaza Genocide Emergency Committee (to which SACC is affiliated), most recently by Roz Foyer at the national demonstration held in Glasgow on 17 February.

We would welcome any efforts the STUC might make to secure a public statement that GFI, COFIS and related groups are not welcome on the march. In the event that any such efforts are unsuccessful we will of course maintain our current position and will not support the march.

We recognise that the STUC may take a different position to SACC on the value of involvement in what we believe to be a deeply flawed anti-racism march. But we object very strongly to the STUC issuing a statement that is likely to mislead people about the basis for our objections to the march. We hope you will take steps to address the problem.

We would suggest, for example, that the potentially misleading paragraph about links with COFIS/GFI could simply be removed from the STUC/SUTR statement, or that STUC backing could be removed from the statement. We would also ask that in any further statements or publicity issued by the STUC about the march care is taken to avoid comments that might lead people to misunderstand our objections.

Our statement can be found at

In solidarity,

Richard Haley
on behalf of SACC

Update. STUC Deputy General Secretary Dave Moxham replied on 27 February. He said that the STUC/SUTR Scotland statement  “Why you should join the #MarchOnTheHomeOffice, Glasgow, Sat 16 March” is a "fixed position" and confirmed that no statement will be issued to say that COFIS, GFI and similar groups are not welcome on the march or to clarify the comments about "false claims" that we believe are likely to mislead people about our objections to the march.

This is a very disappointing response. We regret that the STUC has allowed itself to be used to provide cover for a serious political misjudgment by Stand Up to Racism. It is very odd indeed that both organisations find it so difficult to issue a simple statement that GFI and COFIS - organisations that applaud Israel's genocidal actions - are unwelcome on the march. We will not be participating in the march. It remains to be seen whether GFI and COFIS actually turn up.   

Photo: Demonstration in Glasgow, 10 February 2024 © John Pacetta