It’s down to us but most importantly, it’s down to YOU!

The point of our project at South Essex Radical Media (SERM) with our publications, The South Essex Stirrer and The Estuary Alternative, and our alliance with Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA) is simple – to inspire, encourage and support people to take action at the grassroots in order to bring about meaningful change.

SERM is basically about propaganda. It’s our job to report on what we see across the region we cover and, not just point out what’s wrong but to stir people up to start acting collectively to bring about change. BASHA are community and housing activists. As well as holding Basildon Council to account for their repeated failings, they aim to encourage residents and tenants on the estates to start taking collective action to bring about change.

This is why we and BASHA support and facilitate the work of groups such as the Vange Hill Community Group (VHCG) and help to facilitate actions such as this: Doing it for ourselves on the ¾ estate in Vangehttps://theestuaryalternative.wordpress.com/2017/12/03/doing-it-for-ourselves-on-the-3/4-estate-in-vange/ It’s not for us to tell VHCG what to do – their supporters live on the estate and know exactly what needs to be done! All we do is provide logistical support and some equipment on clean up days and help them to produce their propaganda. We hope that what VHCG do will act as an example to other estates and inspire people to start collectively taking action.

With The Estuary Alternative, the ultimate aim is to hand the project over to grassroots activists in the region while we move on to other initiatives. As stated in this piece: The future of this project…https://theestuaryalternative.wordpress.com/2017/12/11/the-future-of-this-project/ we don’t want to be lumbered with the job of finding content for it for ever and a day. The aim of The Estuary Alternative is to foster a greater degree of communication and co-operation between and among the range of grassroots groups operating in the region. That means that ultimately, it has to end up as a collective, collaborative project…

There are only a few of us and we have to be focused on what we can achieve with what are limited resources. Running The South Essex Stirrer and the On Uncertain Ground blogs (and the paper) takes up a lot of our time and energy which is why when we launch an initiative such as The Estuary Alternative, we really do want other grassroots activists to eventually take it off our hands!

It’s the same with BASHA, there are only a few of them and they want to focus on their roles of a) holding Basildon Council to account and b) facilitating and supporting grassroots groups and activists on the estates. They are not a back up service to be called upon when the roads haven’t been gritted or the rubbish hasn’t been collected. If residents and tenants want to act together to deal with issues like this, BASHA will happily support and facilitate them but they’re not going to do the bloody job for them!

We’ve had a fair few discussions about this dilemma that we’re facing and why people look to us to do stuff rather than them collectively doing it for themselves. There’s no single answer to this…

In the case of BASHA, on a growing number of estates, it’s a toxic cocktail of factors such as a general collapse of morale in the face of austerity plus demographic reasons such as the growing number of buy to let landlords and houses of multiple occupation leading to a constant churn in the population. Atomisation isn’t just a word bandied about by sociologists in academia – it’s the brutal reality we increasingly find on the estates.

With SERM, our biggest headache is getting other people to write for our blogs. We do get a few guest pieces for which we are incredibly grateful but we still have to do a lot of the legwork in terms of sourcing content. To broaden our reach we’re increasingly using re-blogs and cut and pasting media releases from groups we trust but it’s no substitute for having a rota of regular contributors. With all of our publications, we really want to open them up to as many individual groups and activists as possible to make them truly representative of what’s going on.

Drawing to a conclusion, it seems that we are up against the evils of demoralisation and atomisation on the estates and a worrying degree of complacency in a number of grassroots groups who seem happy to plod along doing the same old thing rather than reach out, link up and step up a gear. Going into what is looking to be a turbulent and unpredictable 2018, we’re going to need as much solidarity as can be mustered to deal with the onslaught that’s coming our way.

We don’t pretend to have the answers to this dilemma by any stretch of the imagination. We’re more than happy to listen to what other people have to say on the problems of demoralisation, atomisation and passivity and how they think they can be overcome. We admit that this piece can be seen as us venting some of our frustrations! Having said that, the intention is to foster a constructive discussion on how we can move forward and get ourselves into a position where we can deal with whatever 2018 throws at us…

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Get your copy of the The Estuary Alternative paper

This was first posted on our sister blog, The Estuary Alternative but, as this one gets more traffic, we’re posting it here because we want to see as many of you as possible when we’re distributing the paper:)

If you want to get hold of a copy of The Estuary Alternative paper and talk to us about what we want to achieve with this project, you’ll have your chance this coming weekend. On Saturday 16th, we’re going to outside the Southend Christmas Vegan Fair (Bellvue Baptist Church, 484 Southchurch Road, Southend-on-Sea, SS1 2QA) – https://www.facebook.com/southendveganfair/ – from 1pm onwards for a couple of hours. On Sunday 17th, we’re going to be at the Stop the Cliff Development Demonstration (Prittlewell Square, Southend-on-Sea, SS1 1DW) – https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/11/28/protest-against-the-development-desecration-of-the-cliffs/ – from noon onwards. If we have any papers left over from the Saturday, we’ll be handing those out at the protest – if not, we’ve got flyers to hand out instead. We look forward to meeting as many of you as possible this coming weekend and to work out a way of taking this project forward in 2018…

The future of The Estuary Alternative…

This post was originally published on one of our sister blogs, The Estuary Alternativehttps://theestuaryalternative.wordpress.com/ We’re re-posting it here, because unless enough local activists step up to the plate in 2018 to contribute to The Estuary Alternative and help to turn it into the collaborative project it was intended to be, sadly there will be no option but to pull the plug on it…

The Estuary Alternative was launched after the Southend Radical Fair that took place back in May. The original aim of this project was to a) promote projects and actions offering a positive alternative to the dysfunctional political, social and economic system we currently have to endure and b) to act as a clearing house for an exchange of ideas, experiences and expertise between the various alternative / grassroots projects operating across southern Essex. The question we’re now asking ourselves is this – is the project achieving the aims we set out for it?

The harsh truth that has to be faced is that it’s falling well short of those aims. Apart from a small handful of groups sending us information about what they’re doing, we’re having to do a lot of the legwork to get content for this blog – we’re also having to do a lot of legwork to get The Estuary Alternative paper distributed as well. Regarding the paper, the current issue is a one off produced to get the ball rolling. If there’s going to be a second edition a) funding from grassroots groups across the region will be needed and b) content will also be needed as on the back of the current edition, we clearly state that we have no intention of writing any copy for the next edition!

This is supposed to be a collaborative project with the eventual goal of it being handed over to grassroots activists across southern Essex by the autumn of 2018. It’s still our intention to do this – however if by the summer of next year, we’re still doing most of the legwork in producing the content for this project, sadly we’ll have no alternative but to pull the plug on it. So, if grassroots activists across the region want an online resource (and a paper) where, ideas, experiences and expertise are exchanged as well as a diary for what’s going on, now is the time to step up to the plate and get involved…

We’ve had a bit of a slim down of the content on this blog as well… The reason being was that we felt it was turning into a bit of a lifestyle listings resource and straying from it’s original remit of covering and supporting ideas and actions aimed at building a new world inside the decaying shell of the dysfunctional and increasingly dystopian one we currently have to endure. In other words, it was getting too fluffy, and while there’s a place for that, it’s not in a project like this which is aimed at bringing about fundamental political, economic and social change.

We really do want this project to succeed but it has to be on the understanding that it’s a collaborative project. We’re going to be at the Southend Vegan Fair – https://www.facebook.com/southendveganfair/ – for a few hours on Saturday 16th handing out copies of The Estuary Alternative paper and talking to people about what we want to achieve. We’ll also be at the protest against the proposed development of the cliff top in Southend – https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/11/28/protest-against-the-development-desecration-of-the-cliffs/ – on Sunday 17th from noon onwards to hand out any papers that are left. We look forward to meeting people willing to join us in taking this project forward…

Dovers Farm Estate – decision day on Village Green application

+++ IMPORTANT UPDATE +++

We have been notified that our application will be decided at a public enquiry at Romford Town Hall on the 11th of January 2018.

This is great news as it means the evidence will be considered by an independent Inspector.

It does mean that some people will be asked to give verbal evidence to the Inspector on the day.

We will be holding a meeting on the 17th of December which we would urge anyone who wants to help out before or at the enquiry to attend.

We can’t stress enough how important this is, this is the final stage of the application.

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for all their work, support, and attendance over the last few years, lets not ease up on them now!

Some perspective…

This short tribute was originally published by the Independent Working Class Association. We’re posting this in a bid to bring some perspective to the somewhat heated discussions about identity politics that are currently taking place in anarchist and radical movements…

On this day in 1969 Fred Hampton, Chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, died. Hampton was murdered by state forces assigned to the office of Attorney Edward Hanrahan, whose anti-gang rhetoric Fred had called a “war on black youth”.

Fred Hampton began his political journey in the Youth Wing of the NAACP. Hampton was soon attracted to the Black Panther Party and was inspired by its working class socialist vision as outlined in the 10 Point Program.

He then joined the Illinois chapter of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee where, alongside his comrades, he began to score gains. These gains included, but were not limited to, encouraging and negotiating a nonviolence pact between Chicago street gangs.

Hampton realised the class nature of the struggle against poverty, racism and all other by-products of capitalism, including black struggles. He strove to push identity aside and ploughed time and effort into bringing together working class people of all races on a common ticket, one of social class.

Hampton and the rest of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party forged alliances with the Hispanic Young Lords and the white migrant Appalachian Young Patriots Organisation. The Black Panther Party in general, Illinois chapter in particular under Hampton, without foregoing the specific struggles faced by their own part of the community, pushed a class agenda.

This was the unifying factor upon which they chose to lay their foundations, under the leadership of Hampton. This is what the state and capitalist society found most terrifying: working class people foregoing arbitrary notions of identity, instead emphasising what brings us all together. For this, they murdered Fred Hampton in cold blood in his bed.

We learn from the past to shape the present and the future, and we must look at and become the legacy of genuine working class heroes such as Fred Hampton and the Black Panther Party.

Rest In Peace Fred Hampton!

Local residents standing up to Havering Council

Residents on the Dovers Farm estate in Rainham have been fighting plans by Havering Council to build homes on the green space in the middle of their estate. Green space that was intentionally planned in as an integral part of the estate when it was built in the 1950s to provide recreational opportunities for the residents. The people fighting this proposal to cover their green with houses are not NIMBYs. They accept that new housing is needed in the area but they rightly do not want to see open space that’s used by the community sacrificed to provide it. Particularly when there’s lots of genuine brownfield land available in the southern part of Havering and over into neighbouring Barking & Dagenham.

The latest phase of the residents’ campaign to save the space is getting it adopted as a Village Green which will give it protected status. A similar campaign was fought in Vange against plans by Basildon Council to build on Kent View Road Recreation Ground which the residents won after a long battle: https://www.facebook.com/groups/VANGE.COMMUNITY/permalink/867527176740291/

This is how the issue is being covered in the Romford Recorder: Council makes only objection to Rainham estate residents’ application for Village Green statushttp://www.romfordrecorder.co.uk/news/council-makes-only-objection-to-rainham-estate-residents-application-for-village-green-status-1-5300769

This is a statement from the Dovers Farm Estate Green Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/groups/DFEVG/:

New campaign: ‘ADOPT OUR GREEN!’

The public consultation on the Dovers Farm Estate Green’s application to make the locals’ ‘open space’ into Village Green, ended on the 15th November. Only the Council objected. Despite this and the Committee’s response we hope that the Council will think again and finally accept that this Green is an historic and much loved space.

We are calling upon the Council to think again and adopt the locals’ application to turn the space into a Village Green. If you agree please e-mail the Council Leader in your own words or the following to councillorroger.ramsey@havering.gov.uk:

‘The green space bounded by New Zealand Way is much loved and used by locals. The Council is already expecting us to accept the intensification and loss of community space in the nearby flats and absorb the impact upon our streets from traffic generated in the proposed Beam Park development. Please do not take away our Green too. I request the Council does the right thing by adopting the (Village) Green. Show us you are a fair Council?’

This is yet another local authority thinking they can ride roughshod over the wishes of their residents and get away with it. The arrogance of Havering Council in trashing green space valued by the community that uses it is another example that backs up our assertion that the system of local governance we have is simply not fit for purpose: Falling apart…an update:(https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/09/23/falling-apart-2/ We sincerely hope that the residents of the Dovers Farm estate stick to their guns and that in the end they prevail with another victory for people power…

Doing it for ourselves on the ¾ estate in Vange

Promotion of this community clean up which took place on Saturday 2nd December started a month ago. It was called as a response to longstanding issues with rubbish collection on the ¾ estate and the amount that was remaining uncollected. We had visions of a day of litter picking and re-bagging burst, split and festering sacks of uncollected trash…

Well, ever since Vange Hill Community Group (VHCG) and Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA) announced the clean up, residents have noticed a marked improvement in Basildon Council’s performance when it came to collecting rubbish and not leaving uncollected sacks lying around. Coincidence? No, not a bit of it… Basildon Council didn’t want to be embarrassed by our photographs of a rubbish strewn estate so they pulled their fingers out and actually did the job that they’re meant to do. Okay, it wasn’t 100% pristine but residents we spoke to said the estate was looking cleaner than it has for some time. We’ll take this as a victory…putting on the pressure pays off…

So, with not a lot of rubbish to collect, what did we do? Well, we did a bit of gardening, cutting back, strimming, weeding and sweeping instead. Which to be honest, is infinitely preferable to dealing with festering sacks of uncollected rubbish. We were working in two separate locations. The aim is to use these two locations as examples of what can be done by residents, facilitated by VHCG and BASHA. It’s hoped that these examples will inspire other residents across the estate to start taking care of their closes with the eventual aim of linking these up and starting to totally transform the place.

The point of today was to facilitate resident action in cleaning their sections of the estate up. This is the first step in empowering them to take more of an active role in making the ¾ estate a decent place to live and dispelling the bad reputation it has gained over the years. The more the residents can achieve, the more empowered they’ll feel and the more ambitious they’ll get in terms of getting a meaningful say in how the estate is run and developed.

A few words of thanks are due… Firstly to the residents who care about where they live and came out to put in some hard graft on tidying the place up. Secondly to Basildon Council who provided the litter pickers and black sacks – the gesture was appreciated. Thirdly to the Basldon Council workers who took away a fair amount of the rubbish and green waste we had collected when they showed up. Lastly but by no means least, many thanks to the residents who made us cups of tea and coffee to keep us going…that really was appreciated:)

All in all, it was a good day when we could see the result of our pressure on Basildon Council and from the graft we put in. This will be the first of a number of actions on an estate where residents are starting to take an active role in turning the place around…it’s onwards and upwards from here…

Are Amazon digging a hole for themselves at Tilbury?

Since the Amazon distribution facility opened in Tilbury at the start of October, over 600 workers have either quit because the working conditions are so bad or they’ve been sacked for failing to meet onerous productivity targets. See this report in the Thurrock Independent for full details: Sacked worker backs report into poor conditions at Tilbury Amazonhttp://www.thurrockindependent.com/2017/11/30/sacked-worker-backs-report-into-poor-conditions-at-tilbury-amazon/

This piece in the Thurrock Independent was based on an interview with an ex Amazon worker, Gary. This is a sample of what he had to say…
“You are constantly timed on how much you do, and if you don’t stow 3,000 items a day they basically kick you out the door. A lot of people walked out on the first day it was so bad.”
“The way management speak to you is so condescending, and as soon as you step away from your station they are asking where you’re going and timing how long you’re away.”
“They basically just want to have a team of robots working for them. You get two half hour breaks and if you’re back a minute late they scan your badge and deduct 15 minutes from your wages. It could have been a great place to work, but I don’t agree with how they’re trying to work this, I don’t agree with their philosophy and I don’t agree with their working standards.”
“You can’t talk to people, you can’t have a bit of fun, with this you’ve pretty much just got to work in silence. What they want are people who don’t have backbone and you’re not going to find a lot of people like that in Thurrock.”

The more we look into this, the more it seems that Amazon don’t give a toss about the number of workers walking out the door because they’re being treated like shit. This is because Amazon take the view that in the post industrial Thames estuary employment landscape where there are more potential workers than there are jobs, there will always be a queue of people willing to take the place of those who quit or are sacked.

If for some odd reason, Amazon believe the myth that migrants from Eastern Europe are more compliant and start to try and recruit them to replace the workers they’re shedding like there’s no tomorrow, they may be in for a massive disappointment… One of the consequences of the Brexit vote is that inward migration from the EU is already falling and many EU workers, pissed off at the reception they’re getting in this country, are heading homewards back over the Channel: Immigration figures have dropped by almost a third in the last year, as EU workers begin to pack up and leave following the Brexit votehttp://www.cityam.com/270821/uk-immigration-falls-rising-number-eu-workers-return-home If they think non EU migrants would be a pushover, they’re in for an even bigger shock because they’re not a pushover in any way, shape or form: Unions take note…this is how you take action!https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/10/01/unions-take-note-this-is-how-you-take-action/

Amazon in their arrogance are digging a hole for themselves. There are only so many workers they can piss off before it has consequences for them. As indicated above, it could be argued that Amazon are running out of workers they can screw over. Which leaves them with the option of completely re-fitting facilities such as Tilbury so they are largely automated. It can be done – the new super-port at London Gateway is largely automated but that was only possible because the owners, Dubai Ports have very, very deep pockets. Whether Amazon are willing to spend heavily on re-fitting and automating a facility they’ve only just opened is open to question…while there’s still a source of cheap, exploitable labour, automation will remain on the back burner…

What options do Amazon have? Relying on an ever punitive benefits system that forces people into jobs they’re not suited for but end up having to endure because if they quit or are sacked, the option is no benefits and destitution. In other words, a modern form of slavery. Given how people on benefits, even those who are working, are demonised, those who can’t stand the relentless, inhuman pace of work Amazon expect from their staff will get little sympathy from the mugs who’ve brought into the ‘hard working families’ rhetoric coming from the right wing media and too many politicians across the spectrum. However, how many people are actually buying into that myth about ‘hard working families’?

Thurrock with it’s industrial heritage has historically had a reputation of being a place where a lot of people are not afraid of a hard day’s graft. The qualifier is that workers in places such as Thurrock still generally want to a) be treated with respect and b) get paid a decent rate. On that basis, even though many people in Thurrock see themselves as grafters, they can see that Amazon are taking the piss something rotten…

This means there’s an opening to take on the likes of Amazon and win. In continental Europe, workers are not taking the shit they’ve been getting from Amazon lying down – they’re fighting back: Amazon workers are fighting backhttps://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/11/28/amazon-workers-are-fighting-back/ Granted, the situation in the UK is very different from continental Europe in that here, the process of smashing any form of collectivity and atomising people is more advanced than over on the other side of the Channel. Despite this, people still have a sense of fairness and they can see that Amazon are crap employers and they’re getting angry about it. If we can recognise the difference between here and continental Europe, tailor our rhetoric and tactics accordingly, there’s everything to play for in taking Amazon on and sending out a signal that no employer can get away with treating their workers in this way…

The next print edition of The Stirrer will be hitting the streets by mid January

Work has started on writing and laying out the next print edition of The Stirrer which will be going to print as early as possible in the New Year. There are going to be a few changes, the most obvious one being a front cover that’s visually attractive with more of an emphasis on imagery and graphics – the wordage will be inside and on the back. We never like to stand still with this project hence the experimentation with ways of making the paper more attractive so our message can get out to more people.

As we think about what’s going to be in the next print edition of The Stirrer, we’re also thinking about changing the distribution method. We’ll be cutting back on the door-to-door distributions and focusing more on handing them out on the high streets / town squares. This is why we want a visually attractive front cover!

So far, we’ve lined up Southend – High Street, Basildon – Town Square and Romford – South Street as possible locations for handing out The Stirrer. These will be taking place (depending on the weather!) from mid January onwards. Obviously, the more people we can get out to help us the better, as it creates a buzz that will attract the punters and gives us better security. We’ll be fixing definite dates after the New Year… If any of our supporters want to join us on any of these distributions, contact us with your preferred location and we’ll take it from there…