Members of the Anarchist Federation in Nottingham, the “Autonomous Nottingham” group and some individuals staged a protest at the Nottingham May Day rally which ended up disrupting the whole rally.
The anarchists opposed the inclusion of Mansfield Labour MP Alan Meale on the platform of speakers.
Meale is undoubtedly a self-serving, middle-of-the-road Labour MP. He was once a supporter of the miners in their battle against the Thatcher government, but any vestiges of explicit working-class politics have long since vanished from sight. Meale has been knighted by the Queen. He was embroiled in the expenses scandal and he was loyal voting fodder under Blair and Brown.
So how did he come to be invited to a May Day rally organised by Nottinghamshire Trades Council? The official explanation is that by extending an invitation to Meale, people would be encouraged to attend the march and rally from the north of the county.
AWL and other delegates to the trades council didn't like the idea and spoke against the invitation at Trades Council meetings. Others weren't too keen but were willing to accept the invitation. The majority saw no problem with inviting Meale — or indeed any other Labour politician — to a May Day event, either because they saw it as a good opportunity to draw him into the active labour movement, the better to put on some political pressure, or because they are active supporters of, and trade union affiliates to, the Labour Party. Some delegates to the Trades Council are even Labour councillors.
Should Meale have been invited? No. But the ins-and-outs of his invitation are secondary to the technicolour display of crass, ultra-left and sectarian “militancy” put on by some anarchists. Their actions disrupted the meeting and prevented Meale from speaking.
AWL members and others in Nottingham — including a number of other anarchists — thought behaviour to be anti-democratic and counter-productive: a childish and disproportionate stunt that alienated and irritated a good many trade union activists.
Unfortunately, the stunt was not an isolated incident and seems to have been part of a national strategy. Anarchists carried out similar “actions” against less starkly offensive Labour representatives in Manchester and Newcastle. The latter action (whether by accident or design) was carried out in conjunction with the ultra-Stalinist Revolutionary Communist Group.
A full report on the day, further analysis of AFed and a response from Nottingham AFed members can be found at the links below.
• Report from Pete Radcliff on events at Nottingham May Day here
• Analysis by Tom Unterrainer of AFed in Nottingham here