The growing Merseyside movement against the bedroom tax has astonished and delighted long-standing activists with the speed of its growth, both in terms of numbers and geographical spread. From the initial meeting in Liverpool city centre just four months ago, it has grown to involve thousands of people from across the region. Each local group is very different from the next, and this is to be welcomed, so long as it doesn’t stop us uniting when it matters.
But one difference which absolutely cannot be tolerated – as the new all-Merseyside federation unanimously agreed at its meeting last Saturday – is the inclusion of fascists. The anti-oppression motion stated:
Far right organisations pose a real threat to the groups that they discriminate against. They seek to control the streets through violence and their involvement in demonstrations and meetings risks creating a hostile environment for PoC, LGBTQ people and women. Far right organisations also have a history of attacking trade unionists and left wingers, including some who have been involved in organising against the bedroom tax since the end of last year when the local campaign began.
It was therefore decided that:
As a federation, we will not associate with racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise oppressive organisations and/or their members. Racist, sexist, homophobic organisations and/or their members are not welcome at meetings, demonstrations or other events that the federation or its member groups have organised. The federation will not support or promote events or local groups that involve racist, sexist and homophobic organisations.
This motion was put forward by a group of bedroom tax activists who had become concerned that far right groups were starting to get a foot in the door, with the danger that what should be a broad, class-based campaign could be divided against itself. The federation had to choose: exclude the fascists, or by our inaction effectively exclude the groups fascists would happily send to the gas chambers.
Local fascists calling themselves the “Scouse Nationalists” have been hovering on the edges of the bedroom tax movement since the end of February, when they announced they would attend the first Stand Up In Bootle demonstration, before making do with popping up on the opposite side of the road. The same pair – Stephen Dumont and Kurtis Cawley – then made an appearance at the Labour Party-organised event in Liverpool city centre two weeks later. On both occasions they received a frosty welcome from antifascists before returning home to post a bizarre collection of lies on their blog.
But they seem to have carved out a niche with Knowsley Fight The Bedroom Tax, whose internet admins have reacted angrily to suggestions that they should be kept away. On Sunday, the Federation’s motion was posted on the Knowsley page, and again antifascists were met with hostility. Instead of defending people that fascists would love to oppress within the working class, the admins decided to defend the fascists, declaring that:
We do not judge people we do not know, and we can only take people as we find them, by what they do and by what they say. We will not prejudge people, we will not make assumptions and we will not put out any statements banning people who we have never met or have never spoken to. We would be discriminatory if we did.
Like all ‘neutral’ poses, the statement works to defend the oppressors. But more than this, people pointing out that Dumont posed with a Greek fascist flag over the weekend (see above), or that Cawley has made the Liverpool Echo for his anti-Muslim actions, had their posts removed, were dismissed as “clucking hen wives”, told they “need to get laid” and eventually banned. It is clear that Knowsley Fight The Bedroom Tax have chosen their path, and unfortunately it leads away from hopes of uniting the working class against the government.