Stirrer special edition back from the printer

For a while we’ve needed something we can hand out at anarchist/radical bookfairs, on protests and to any people interested in what we’re doing to explain what we’re about. Sure we can give them a printed copy of the Stirrer but that’s generally us commenting on local issues from our political perspective rather than explaining where we’re coming from as activists. To resolve this, we’ve produced a special edition of the Stirrer on two sides of a sheet of A4 which explains our roots in class struggle and community activism, arguing that to achieve real change, you have to build from the grassroots upwards. It’s fairly generic in its content so it’s a resource we can use for the rest of this year – or until we run out:) All things being equal, we hope to be at the Bristol Anarchist Bookfair on Saturday May 12th and we’ll be handing them out then. Hopefully our message about building from the grassroots will get a positive reception and we’ll take it from there…

As ever, we don’t have a massive budget and can’t afford long print runs so we’re making the paper available as a downloadable PDF from here.

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Thurrock bin workers standing up to ‘Big Brother’

Bin workers at Thurrock Council are set to strike in protest at the installation of cameras on the refuse trucks which will livestream 360 degree images to the manager’s desk. It would appear that not only will the cameras monitor the workers, they could also be used to look at the homes of residents for any possible infringements of bin etiquette. This is coming on top of management not listening to the concerns of workers which has lead to a decline in morale. See here for the full story: Bin collectors in Thurrock to strike over ‘big brother style cameras’.

The signal the council are sending out with installation of cameras is that not only are the workers not to be trusted, it’s residents who can’t be trusted either. When every function a worker performs has to be monitored and recorded on a continuous basis, it inevitably leads to a decline in morale as bin workers lose the autonomy they have to collectively decide how to get the job done as efficiently as possible. When residents are also monitored like children for any infringements in bin protocol, it leads to a breakdown in trust between them and the council who are supposed to serve them. This breakdown of trust says a lot about where we are as a society, namely in a pretty bad place where social solidarity is replaced with mistrust and fear.

We offer our unconditional support to the striking bin workers. Sure, people are going to be inconvenienced but that’s the whole point of a strike – to get the point across that society cannot get by without the labour of a key group of workers. A few days of the trash not being collected will hopefully make people appreciate what the bin workers do and show them the respect they deserve for a dirty, physically demanding job. In an ideal world, that would go beyond appreciation to active solidarity. However, we do not live in an ideal world – we live in an atomised, dysfunctional one so there’s a lot of work to do to build that solidarity.

Havering Tories and dog whistle politics

The Tories in Havering have produced a leaflet that has generated a lot of controversy: Labour condemns Tories for racially charged attack on Sadiq Khan. This example of dog whistle politics is so over the top, it almost reads as a parody of itself!

Let’s unpack this leaflet… The first bullet point refers to ‘massive population increases from London’. Havering has been a London borough ever since the creation of Greater London on 1st April 1965. What they fear is movement from inner to outer London. Funny that, because a lot of the housing built in Havering from the start of the 20th century onwards was to facilitate the desire of people to move out from the crowded streets of inner London to the suburbs. This is something that has been going on for over a century! When the Tories talk about ‘massive population increases’, they are dropping a not very subtle hint that some of those moving out may be of a different ethnicity to the white, 50 years plus demographic they’re targeting for votes. This is classic dog whistle politics in action.

The second bullet point talks about vast numbers of high rise blocks. In case the Tories in Havering hadn’t noticed, there’s this transport link called Crossrail running all the way from Reading in the west through to Shenfield in the east and passing right through Romford. There’s this thing called the ‘Crossrail effect’ which is boosting property prices all the way along the route and fuelling the development of clusters of apartment developments aimed at people commuting into London. You would have thought that rising property prices and the potential nest eggs they could provide would be good news for the Baby Boomer demographic the Tories are targeting with this leaflet.

What the leaflet fails to mention is why there’s such pressure to release land for housing development in Havering. Central and inner London has block after block of high end luxury apartments that are nowhere near fully occupied and whose function is to act as investment vehicles for the super rich who buy and sell them for a profit. Developments which were warmly welcomed by none other than the previous Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. So, it would seem that Havering Tories are railing against developments that are pretty much a direct consequence of the policies of Boris Johnson! When you have housing in central London built to function as an asset instead of providing somewhere for ordinary Londoners to live, it’s not surprising there’s such pressure on locations such as Romford for housing developments where people can actually live.

All the way along the estuary, local authorities are being asked to identify land that can be released for development to meet government designated housing targets. If local authorities fail to come up with a plan to identify land suitable for housing, central government have said they will intervene and undertake the task themselves. In effect, the Tories in Havering are questioning the housing policies of their Tory government – just take some time to think about that one because you couldn’t make this up!

The third bullet point talks about ‘building on our cherished open spaces’. If there were schemes to concrete over spaces such as Raphaels Park, Bedfords Park and the like, it would be understandable if people were getting outraged. If there was any hint of a threat to those spaces, we’d be joining in with the outrage! From what we understand, a lot of the high density apartment blocks scheduled for Romford are going onto brownfield sites. Also, as they’re apartment blocks, by their very nature, they’ll be going upwards and will have a relatively small footprint. Yes, there are issues with infill proposals in some neighbourhoods which are posing a threat to loved and used recreational spaces and residents are rightly opposing those and by and large, we would support their efforts to resist this.

Then there’s ‘Havering ruled by Mayor Khan’. Now, as anarchists and housing activists, we don’t have a lot of time for any mayor of London, regardless of political affiliation, who they are or where they’re from. However, this statement has to be taken apart and shown up for what it is. As we’ve stated before, Havering has been a part of Greater London since 1965. As part of what is now the Greater London Authority, Havering like every other London borough is subject to the policy decisions of the elected mayor which happens to be Sadiq Khan. The Mayor of London has a policy remit that’s more of an overview of Greater London than day to day interference in what goes in in each and every London borough. Okay, it’s obvious what’s going on here…it’s the Tories playing on the fears of a certain section of their target demographic about someone with a ‘foreign sounding’ name having a say in how their lives are run. Even though Sadiq Khan was born and raised in south London. Again, this is classic dog whistle politics…

To be honest, when we saw this leaflet on someone’s Facebook page, our initial reaction was this has to be a spoof as it has so many holes in it. A couple of minutes of checking proved that it wasn’t a spoof and was the real deal. At the start of this piece we jokingly said this leaflet reads as a parody of itself. On a more serious note, this is a real throwback to the kind of reactionary rhetoric we used to see thirty or more years ago. The fact the Tories in Havering feel confident about putting this out is an indication of how reactionary the political and social climate is becoming. We have a lot of work to do to counter this…

A good weekend in Southend:)

We had an interesting and productive two days over the weekend of the 24th/25th March. We spent Saturday afternoon at the Mendip Wildlife Gardens Wonderful Family Gathering at Dunster Avenue on the northern fringes of Southend and all day Sunday at the Southend Community Wellbeing & Vegan Festival.

The event on Saturday was a community festival with an interesting vibe held on a council estate on the fringes of Southend up by the A127 and right under the flight path to the airport. An area that has more than its fair share of problems but also has a pretty good sense of community as well which in these troubled times, is essential in building neighbourhood resilience. It gave us (South Essex Working Class Action) some ideas on persuading residents on one of the estates we work on in Basildon to think about putting on something similar with us helping to facilitate it. It was also interesting to see what various groups of volunteers have done with the Mendip Wildlife Garden – a lovely little oasis right in the heart of the estate.

On the Sunday we had an Essex Social Strategic Alliance stall at the vegan festival with a table loaded with leaflets and papers. We shifted two thirds of the print run of the current edition of The Estuary Alternative (we kept a third back for distribution at suitable venues across the region). Not only that we had a fair few interesting conversations and made some potentially useful contacts in the process. What was good about this event is that unlike a lot of vegan fairs which can be very lifestyle orientated, there were a healthy number of campaign stalls present to help put some politics and context into veganism.

Lastly, but by no means least, a big thank you to Chay Godfree, Dean Ward and the teams of volunteers out on both days for organising and running both events. Both events in their own way provided an opportunity for the community to get together – on the Saturday to enjoy themselves and on the Sunday for an insight into veganism and also a chance for local activists to do some serious networking.

Sack the council, save the Cliffs

SKIPP press release (25-03-18)

Whether it be by design or sheer incompetence, Southend Council now poses one of the greatest threats that our town has had to face in its long and illustrious history as a seaside resort.

The deliberate council policy of allowing and indeed initiating commercial development on our historic Cliff Gardens has to be opposed. If we do not take action now our town faces the very real threat of watching helplessly as its council colludes with developers to spread the blight of concrete and steel across the entire cliffs from the Pier to the Pavilion. The Esplanade Pub and cliff slip carbuncle museum are just the beginning and once the flood gates are open the concrete will spill across the cliffs like a tsunami of ugliness.

With the local elections only just around the corner the people of Southend have the opportunity to defend the town from the arrogant lot in their ivory civic tower by voting them out….. Sack the council to save the cliffs.

The SKIPP Committee
Patsy Link
Sheena Walker
Mark Sharp

Campaigners call for a ‘People’s Newham’ as Robin Wales is voted out.

A set of demands we can fully endorse…we’ll be doing our level best to get into Newham when we can to support this campaign:)

Focus E15 Campaign

On Saturday 17 March, Focus E15 campaigners celebrated the news of Robin Wales’ deselection by riding through the streets of  Newham in a open-topped bus. The bus was draped with placards, banners and flags displaying clear political messages about the lack of social housing in the borough. Campaigners sang out the good news that the Mayor had been deselected, chanting in unison ‘Robin Wales has gone -so long so long’ and received many thumbs up and happy waves from Newham residents amazed at the sight of a bus load of campaigners. There were many joyful beeps and hoots from supportive motorists.  Back on board the bus, exhilarating live drumming kept the freezing temperatures at bay as did the constant chanting of ‘Robin Wales is Out’ all set to the sound of popping champagne corks and loud cheering.

This celebratory mood is understandable as the Labour Mayor Robin Wales has been…

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Tragedy

SKIPP press release (23-03-18)

We read with horror in today’s Echo (23rd March) that a man has been found dead in a Southend town centre public toilet. The council, police and press have labelled him as homeless as if he doesn’t matter and is somehow less than human because he had nowhere to shelter apart from a public loo. But he was not just homeless, he was a person, a human being the same as everyone else in our town.

It is to our town’s collective shame that we are seemingly just sitting back and accepting the fact that people in his situation are going to die alone and in squalor in a public bog. This may seem like a harsh statement pointing the figure of blame at the whole town, however, we live in a democracy and it is the people of this town that are responsible for electing and maintaining the current council administration in power. This is the same administration that’s response to the huge homeless situation we face is to spend £75,000 on employing consultants to investigate the situation. Maybe if they were proposing to spend that £75,000 on actually doing something rather than just talking about doing something then it might help to prevent further tragedies.

We are not naive enough to think that a mere £75,000 could solve the homeless problem, however this money could actually be used to help save people’s lives if it was given directly to the homeless shelters, service providers and soup kitchens which are run by people who are actually trying to do something to help, rather than just paying lip service to the problem by “investigating” the situation.

Given the very limited resources that the council are willing to spend to deal with the homeless situation we have to accept that all we can afford is a sticking plaster for the wound rather than a cure for the problem, however, it is no good buying the sticking plaster and then just throwing it in the bin.

Finally please remember, the majority of people living in our town are only a few missed rent or mortgage payments away from being in the same desperate situation as the ever growing number of homeless people in our town.

The SKIPP Committee
Patsy Link
Sheena Walker
Mark Sharp