Sunday, May 12, 2013

Merseyside Anti-Bedroom Tax Federation Formed

Merseyside has already seen a few large demos over the bedroom tax
At the end of the first week in April, the first Merseyside anti-bedroom tax conference was held at the Unite building on Islington in Liverpool city centre. The mood at that event was buoyant and confident, with people discussing various strategies and listening to talks given by invited speakers. At the end of that meeting a proposal for a Merseyside-wide federation was put forward, with the aim of better coordinating certain collective activities and most importantly direct actions.

At the end of my article on the events of that day, I reported that "a federal motion was put forward, which will debated in local groups over the next couple of weeks." Those two weeks turned into three and then five, as a total communication breakdown between the ever-growing number of local groups meant that not only did many not see the federal motion until this week, but some neighbourhood collectives do not seem to be in contact with any others at all.

While work on anti-bedroom tax campaigns continued on a neighbourhood basis, some felt a frustration that we appeared no closer to the long-discussed phone tree, and other practical measures which will become important as time goes on. In groups with only a handful of regular activists, a creeping sense of isolation grew, and some doubted stories told by those who had been in contact with activists from other communities.

We are building a new movement. This will inevitably be an uneven process, and it's still stunning that we've got as far as we have in four short months. But we can do better with greater organisation, and we will need to if we are to overcome the challenges coming our way. The problems confirmed - rather than weakened - the need for a highly organised federation. In that spirit, yesterday's much-delayed second Merseyside-wide meeting unanimously agreed that:
"[...] we will set up a Merseyside Federation of anti-Bedroom Tax groups. This Federation stands in solidarity with all those fighting the cuts in the welfare state, and against those who wish to divide us. We will brook no such attempts, on the grounds of race, religion, gender, status, or any other spurious grounds. The Federation will stand against all such cuts - not just the Bedroom Tax."
A few amendments to the original motion were debated, and it was agreed that each local group would send two delegates to each federal meeting, with one vote per group. Everyone agreed that it would be preferable if people currently directly affected by the bedroom tax could be delegated, but a proposal for this to be made mandatory fell on practical and pro-local autonomy grounds. The idea of trade unions being asked to send delegates was also rejected, with the overwhelming majority feeling that the bedroom tax was primarily a community issue rather than a workplace one, and that any trade unionists offering their skills would be more than welcome at their neighbourhood meetings.

Arrangements are being made for the first full federation meeting, at which the formation of an organising committee will be considered and an anti-oppression motion will be proposed.
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