Merseyside Anti-Bedroom Tax Federation and the Nazis

12Jun13

These posts are from Infantile Disorder, from over the last month:

Merseyside Anti-Bedroom Tax Federation Go Animal Farm on “The Anarchists”

A campaign of lies, in aid of fascism

In a sickening act of deceit, the Merseyside Anti-Bedroom Tax Federation Twitter account has begun attacking “the anarchists” with misinformation designed to cover for the undemocratic actions of the committee in the run-up to affiliating with the fascist-linked Knowsley group. In doing so, it is attacking some of those who first came up with the idea for an anti-bedroom tax campaign, who put in much of the early spadework, and continue to work hard in their communities. It is also labeling all those who oppose the committee as “anarchists”, merely because they are consistently standing up for democratic norms and against fascism.

This flurry of tweets came a week ago, in response to a woman from down south who had come across my article ‘Affiliating With Fascists and The Poison of ‘Left’ Opportunism‘. She was understandably alarmed and wanted to spread the information. The MABTF account responded with “Don’t be drawn in Michelle, anarchists trying to destroy fed and the enormous amount of work gone on”, and “@MABTF is vehemently anti-fascist”.

The first part of this is just silly. Anarchists and others are angry about the Knowsley affiliation precisely because they are worried that allowing the allies of fascists into the Federation will destroy it, by effectively excluding those particularly targeted by fascists. The second part is true only to the extent that an anti-oppression motion was originally passed by the Federation, with those labelled as “anarchists” to the fore in promoting it. However, this unanimously approved motion was then dismissed as “something to work towards” by the committee’s chair, as she pushed for a vote on affiliating Knowsley. So while “the anarchists” are “vehemently anti-fascist”, and the anti-oppression motion they drafted certainly was, the Federation cannot be said to be. For the Federation chair, we work towards abolishing oppression by allowing some of the most oppressive scum to be found anywhere a potential seat at the table.

When the woman who posted my article asked why anyone would try to break the Federation, @MABTF declared that “the anarchists” had “been destructive from the beginning and think screaming in peoples faces is debate”.

Anarchists tend not to be backward in coming forward about their beliefs, and frustration at opportunism has created a lot of anger, but no screaming in anyone’s face has taken place at Federation meetings. This is more fiction.

But even more ridiculous is the claim that “the anarchists” have been destructive of the bedroom tax movement “from the beginning”. The truth is that it was an anarchist who came up with the idea of a mass meeting on the bedroom tax last autumn. Those dismissed as “the anarchists” did much of the work building for, organising, and facilitating that meeting,which took place at the Black-E in January. As many local groups sprang out of that central meeting, it was an anarchist who went to each group’s initial meeting, giving a Powerpoint presentation on the bedroom tax and his ideas about how it could be fought.

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Affiliating With Fascists and The Poison of ‘Left’ Opportunism

Last Saturday’s affiliation of the fascist-linked Knowsley group to the Merseyside Anti-Bedroom Tax Federation bears more looking at. After all, it took place in a building which has a monument to the International Brigades who fought fascism in Spain, and which the same two fascists in question attacked just a few months back, after they had been rebuffed at a demo in nearby Bootle. What can possibly account for this? My answer is necessarily a long and complicated one.Firstly, the Merseyside Anti-Bedroom Tax Federation is no longer operating as a federation in any meaningful sense. A steering committee ‘elected’ a few weeks back has taken it upon itself to stage manage federation meetings. It has held unannounced caucuses, without a mandate from the federation. And during the last federation meeting, the chair manouevred in such a way as to get Knowsley affiliated without a full and democratic discussion.

For a start, the affiliation of Knowsley was not on the agenda which was circulated via email last week. So local groups had no time to discuss it at their local meetings. The first that many delegates knew about the Knowsley group was when they were told there had been unspecified “disagreements” between them and another group. When an antifascist comrade complained that “people have a right to know what the disagreements were about”, the chair then dismissed it as “Facebook gossip”. A vote was moved quickly, and known anti-fascists were not recognised by the chair, leaving them with no option but to break with procedure and speak out of turn. But the original offence was the political bias shown against a group she has labelled as “anarchists” and “troublemakers”. It should be added that the local bedroom tax movement was initiated by some of these anarchist troublemakers. But even if it hadn’t been, there can be no excuse for the committee’s anti-democratic behaviour.

To understand how this has happened, I think we need to take a step back. Though local bedroom tax groups have been organising since January, the idea of a federation took a couple of months to develop. When it did, it was pushed by long term activists of all ‘left’ persuasions, including “the anarchists”. It seemed a simple step forward – we would be stronger organised in greater numbers. But it was not particularly a demand ‘from below’.

Why I Won’t Be Giving In To Enablers Of Fascism

Fascist Kurtis Cawley (hands in trouser pockets) at a Knowsley demo

Last Saturday, I was sitting on the bed at home, when my mobile went off. It was a text informing me that the Merseyside Anti-Bedroom Tax Federation had just voted to let the Knowsley group I’d written about a couple of weeks back affiliate. This was a shock, because I believed our anti-oppression statement would be enough to effectively exclude them so long as they continued refusing to exclude and distance themselves from actual living, breathing fascists – fascists who have attacked the very building they were sitting in. Sadly I was wrong in that belief, and Rhiannon Lowton has explained in some detail how that happened.

‘That’s it then’, I thought to myself, ‘no-one other than white, straight, cisgendered, able-bodied, right-wing men can consider themselves safe at Federation meetings.’ After all, surely I don’t need to state that fascists have killed already oppressed and marginalised people again and again and again. This was absolutely not, as I heard the chair had described it, just “Facebook gossip”.

So that was a bit shit. Then just one minute later I got a tweet from the victorious and fully approved Knowsley Fight The Bedroom Tax. “U have until midnight Sunday to remove the comments about us on ALL blogs, or legal action commences”. Now this wasn’t a total surprise, as the Knowsley admin had threatened such activity on the comments section of my post outing the group. In that exchange, he had completely misrepresented my arguments, and then called allegations I had never made ‘lies’. But it was galling that there was such an obvious timing link between the Federation’s backing and his reinforced threat to pursue me for libel.

He’s welcome to waste his time, energy and money doing that, if he has any spare. Personally I don’t, and I’d much rather he spent his on something for the people of Knowsley he claims to care so much about. Oh, and unfriend this man on Facebook.

Knowsley Fight The Bedroom Tax Embrace Fascists, Exclude Antifascists

Dumont (centre) posing with the flag of Greek fascist party Golden Dawn

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.

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