Yesterday saw the Merseyside Anti-Bedroom Tax Federation take one more step towards irrelevance when it voted to allow the Knowsley Fight the Bedroom Tax group to affiliate. This group contains and is guided by a number of prominent local fascists, members of the Liverpool “Scouse” Nationalists group. One such member, Kurtis Cawley, was exposed as the vile individual that he is by this story in the Liverpool Echo. He claims to have won damages from the paper over these allegations. However, if this is the case, why is the story still on the Echo website? The filth of the Liverpool “Scouse” Nationalists is available for all to read on their blog, which I won’t be linking to here. This has included the posting of pictures and personal information of people who have been involved in the anti-bedroom tax campaign from the beginning.
All this despite the anti-oppression statement which was adopted by the federation a few weeks ago. Suddenly, at the behest of certain individuals within the federation, and despite the vote on its adoption, this statement is no longer binding and has now become “something the federation should work towards”. I don’t think I need to point out how ridiculous this is.
The claim is that the federation is an inclusive group and that this means anybody who disagrees with the bedroom tax should be allowed to take part. But this leads us to the obvious question – if fascists are allowed to affiliate to and play an active role in the federation, who are we including and who are we then excluding? Because effectively the inclusion of fascists logically leads to the exclusion of people of colour, LGBTQ people and other minorities targeted by fascists.
The lack of class consciousness and the utter disregard for the feelings of people of colour, LGBTQ people and anti-fascists already involved in the federation is disturbing. The inclusion of the Knowsley group puts these individuals in particular in serious danger and also jeopardizes wider working-class organization in the city. The individuals involved in pushing for the inclusion of the Knowsley group are very fond of talking up their “35 years’ experience of campaigning and organizing” (I call this the “Roy Hodgson mantra”). Indeed, this has in the past been used as a tool to undermine the opinions of younger activists and tenants among the federation since its inception.
The constant undermining, belittling and ridicule of some members of the federation has been an issue for a while. At a meeting a few months ago, I was on the end of this myself when I suggested that if the fascists were allowed to stand among us unchallenged, they would inevitably gain some kind of traction with tenants who may already be harbouring certain (false) resentments and prejudices. I was literally laughed at by these “long-time campaigners”.
Yesterday though, this aspect of the federation took a very ugly turn. One person who was arguing against the inclusion of the fascists was being undermined and patronized by having her name constantly and deliberately mispronounced and her arguments dismissed by these “long-term campaigners”. Eventually, this became intolerable for the individual and for other members of the federation, who felt they could no longer remain in the room.
Ironically, all of this has taken place in a building named after the prominent local trade unionist Jack Jones, who was wounded while fighting fascism in Spain. Indeed, there is a memorial plaque in the reception area of the building dedicated to all the local working-class people who fought and died fighting Franco’s fascists.
This isn’t the only problem with the federation, however. Almost immediately after their election as mandated officers of the federation, these officers met in secret with no input from and no output to tenants. This is behaviour clearly outside the mandate of the officers and has disturbing implications for the democratic nature of the federation. The direction of the federation and the control of the campaign MUST remain in the hands of the tenants and their local groups. We can’t allow certain ambitious and highly politically motivated individuals to begin pulling the entire campaign around by its nose. I don’t believe the tenants want to lose control of their campaign to these people.
In line with the original motion behind the federation, and the anti-oppression statement the federation adopted (both summarized here), I’m calling for the immediate recall of all of the recently elected officers and the immediate expulsion of the Knowsley group. A federation-wide meeting needs to be held as soon as possible and a condemnation of the recent behaviour of Celia Ralph and Freddie Taylor towards the individual mentioned earlier must be issued. An apology from Celia and Freddie must also be forthcoming.
The campaign against the bedroom tax across Merseyside has been one of the most encouraging things to happen for working-class organization for decades. We can’t let the good work of the past six months be in vain.