Over 2,000 poeple attended the anti – bedroom tax rally in Glasgow’s George Square on June 1 called by the Scottish Anti Bedroom Tax Federation.
The mobilisation, only a few weeks since the national conference at which the federation was founded, showed the growing activist base and national reach of the campaign. Banners were visible from many housing schemes in Glasgow and across the West of Scotland but also from the Highlands, Dundee, Perth, Stranraer, Ayrshire, Edinburgh as well as from trade union branches.
The rally, combining trade union representatives and the grassroots campaigners who are organising anti – eviction armies, put out a determined message in response to the bedroom tax having being implemented since April 1 and councils and Housing Associations finding many tenants unable to pay. The crowd were also entertained by Dislabled (a group of disabled activist musicians who have been enraged by the benefit cut) and Citizen Smart of you tube fame who is releasing a CD of anti – bedroom tax songs to raise funds for the campaign.
Cheryl Gedling from PCS Scotland opened the rally bring the support of gneral secretary Mark Serwotka and president Janice Godrich and expressing her union’s support for the campaign explaining PCS members see the effects of the welfare attacks in the workplace and are facing attacks on pensions, wages and privatisation. Cheryl stated that the trade union leadership had a responsibility to lead the fight against austerity and said PCS supported the idea of co-ordinated general strike action against the cuts. The rally also heard speakers from the EIS and UCU trade unions who pledged support for the campaign.
Some of the loudest cheers came for the speech of Brian Smith, Socialist Psrty Scotland member and Secretary of Glasgow City Unison who are affiliated to the Federation and have been crucial in supporting the campaign with resources. Brian echoed Cheryl’s call for a general strike "to bring down the Tories and their rotten system" and also made demands on SNP and Labour politicians in the Scottish Parliament and local councils not to implement the Bedroom Tax. "We need more than warm words, we need commitments that there will be no evictions, they will bail out the counils and housing associations. If you’re not on our side, you’re on their side! you need to make a choice" Brian called for opposition to all cuts including the proposed closures to disability day centres in Glasgow.
Campaigners were heard, a few making their first ever rally speech, from the East End of Glasgow, Dundee, Ayrshire, Stirling and the Lothian’s. Betty from Barlarnock, Ian from Irvine and Ronnie from Dundee all spoke about how they are directly affected by the Bedroom Tax. This gave a flavour of the new politicised layers of working class people who have been drawn to the Federation and their determination to fight.
Luke Ivory, National Secretary of the Federation and Socialist Party Scotland member gave a wider political context pointing to the struggles of working people across Europe against austerity. Luke also explained that the SNP government and Labour councils have the powers and resources to bin the bedroom tax tomorrow through borrowing powers and changing legislation but are not willing to fight the Tories, Luke also raised the idea of standing anti – cuts candidates.
The rally closed with a rousing speech from Tommy Sheridan, chair of the Federation who agitationally made points about the hypocrisy of millionaire Tory politicians robbing the poorest and pointed to the obscene bankers bonuses. He made an appeal for everyone who attended to become "organisers against the bedroom tax in your area". "Politicians need to understand that Bedroom tax victims, don’t have a choice they can’t pay the bedroom tax. What we need to say to every bedroom tax victim you will not stand alone. There will be no bedroom tax evictions in Scotland. This is a line in the sand issue we can’t pay but we won’t leave!".
"Can’t pay, Will Stay" was the headline on the 163 copies of the Socialist that Socialist Party Scotland members sold at the rally. The paper contained a four page pull out explaining our strategy for beating the bedroom tax with organisational points on building an anti – eviction army, political analysis linking the fight against the bedroom tax to wider austerity cuts and advice to those affected. An impressive £140 was also raised for the Fighting Fund including from selling the Socialist Party Scotland anti-bedroom tax badges. These ideas will be key in strengthening local campaigns as the next stage of the battle will be raising the confidence of people in arrears to stand up to the harassment from social landlords and laying the basis for organised physical resistance to evictions.
Tommy Sheridan speaking on Saturday: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10201051591562152
Luke Ivory speaking on Saturday: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10201053382606927&set=vb.1538833687&type=2&theater