At the risk of endlessly repeating ourselves…

We’d like to draw the attention of the relevant Basildon Council officers and the ward councillors for the area covering the ¾ estate in Vange to this list of posts we’ve written about the issues on the estate and the frustrations the residents are experiencing in trying to resolve them:

Stop moving the sodding goalposts!https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/10/06/stop-moving-the-sodding-goalposts/
Falling apart…an update:(https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/09/23/falling-apart-2/
Admit it…you need us!https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/09/20/admit-it-you-need-us/
Doing it for ourselves (because no one else will!)https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/08/22/doing-it-for-ourselves-because-no-one-else-will/
Evading responsibilityhttps://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/08/20/evading-responsibility/
The fightback starts nowhttps://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/08/02/the-fightback-starts-now/

For a blog that has only been going since February and which covers an area stretching from Southend in the east to Dagenham in the west, this is a heck of a lot of posts about one estate! We shouldn’t have to be writing these posts. If Basildon Council officers, the local ward councillors, Essex County Council and both the Circle and Swan housing associations were doing their jobs properly, the ¾ estate wouldn’t be experiencing anything like the problems it has.

To all of the agencies and the ward councillors involved, we ask you to listen to the residents and don’t dismiss their concerns, fob them off with excuses, give them the runaround or treat them with contempt. Remember, you’re supposed to be the servants of the people, not their masters.

When things do eventually get done on the ¾ estate, all too often it’s been after persistent nagging and pressure that creates mistrust and bad blood between residents on the one hand and council officers, councillors and housing association staff on the other. It shouldn’t have to be like this. We know that both the Vange Hill Community Group and Basildon & Southend Housing Action would prefer a co-operative working relationship with Basildon Council, Essex County Council and the relevant ward councillors.

The offer is on the table… Forget about what’s gone on in the past, get round a table, talk the issues through face to face, show residents you’re serious about working in partnership with them and let’s make a new start with a clean slate. It shouldn’t be that hard should it?

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Independence for Canvey Island!

The Canvey Island Independent Party (CIIP) is pushing ahead with plans to break away from Castle Point Council. The CIIP holds 14 out of the island’s 17 seats on Castle Point Council yet feel the concerns and aspirations of the islanders are being ignored by the Tory controlled authority. See here for the full story in the Independent: Canvey Island pushes ahead with Catalonia-style bid for independencehttp://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/canvey-island-independence-bid-essex-thames-push-ahead-catalonia-a8002866.html

Not a moment too soon we say… Canvey Island has just one main road leading off the island – the A130 Canvey Way leading up to the Saddlers Farm junction on the A13. There’s also the B1014 that crosses East Haven Creek and winds its way up through suburban Benfleet to the A13 at Thundersley. That’s it, just two roads off an island that’s currently home to 38,000 people. An island that’s below sea level at high tide and is home to a petro-chemical storage facility. In the event of tidal flooding or/and an incident at the storage facility that would necessitate evacuation of the island, it’s these two roads that would have to carry all off the traffic. These roads would not cope and there would be chaos…

This post from the Canvey Green Belt Campaign: Continued Development Necessary, for Canvey Island to Thrive Economically and Socially, despite the Hazards!https://canveygb.wordpress.com/2017/09/04/continued-development-necessary-for-canvey-island-to-thrive-economically-and-socially-despite-the-hazards/ eloquently deals in detail with the risks briefly mentioned above and argues that Canvey Island cannot take any more development. Now were not NIMBYs and realise that people have to live somewhere. However, it should be common sense to realise that when it comes to housing, Canvey Island is full up.

Yet despite the reasoned, thoroughly researched and eloquent arguments from the Canvey Green Belt Campaign, Castle Point Council continue to press for more housing development on the island. Presumably the Tories have done the maths and feel pretty confident they’ll continue to hang onto power, therefore they can get away with dumping on Canvey Island while ensuring the leafy heights of Benfleet, Hadleigh and Thundersley continue to stay that way.

There’s an honourable history of Canvey Island people standing up to the big oil companies to stop them building refineries on the island as this piece from The Canvey Community Archive relates: The Oil Refinery fight on Canvey Island in the 1970shttp://www.canveyisland.org/page/the_oil_refinery_resistance_group Spoiler – the people of Canvey Island won their fight. As a bit of an aside, Wilko Johnson was on one of the demos and there’s footage of him doing this on the Julian Temple film, Oil City Confidential.

As anarchists, we support any initiative that’ll bring power closer to the grassroots and this one ticks enough boxes for us. Okay, it might not have the glamour of the Catalonian bid for independence (which is a matter of debate in anarchist circles) but as Canvey Island is on our doorstep, it would be rude of us to not offer our moral support to the CIIP.

Another ‘church and king’ mob?

The second appearance of the Football Lads Alliance (FLA) on the streets of London on Saturday 7th October is causing a fair amount of head scratching on our end of the political spectrum as people are working towards an understanding of where they’re coming from. The FLA march, numbered in the tens of thousands, was called in response to recent terror attacks in Britain. It took place when there was a break in the Premier League and Championship fixtures to accommodate the qualifying matches for the next World Cup, although Leagues One and Two and all of non league football went ahead as normal on the day.

Unlike the EDL in 2010, the two FLA marches that have been called so far have been completely devoid of national flags – all that has been seen have been club crests and insignia and wreaths in memory of those killed by terror attacks in Britain. It would seem that the organisers in the FLA are doing what they can to avoid their movement being accused of having fascist tendencies by discouraging displays of flags or political insignia associated with the far right. It’s this seemingly disciplined appearance that has got some people on our side wondering if there’s something new emerging that may be worth engaging with.

Some historical perspective is needed here… Type the phrase ‘church and king mob’ into any search engine and you’ll come up with plenty of pieces about reactionary mobs essentially doing the work of the ruling class in maintaining the established order and quelling dissent. Here’s one example of their manifestation: Priestly Riotshttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Priestley_Riots Here’s a lengthy examination of plebeian reaction which should inform our analysis of where the FLA are coming from: Popular Loyalism and Public Violence in the North-West of England, 1790-1800https://www.jstor.org/stable/4285276?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

These examples come in the period before industrialism and what’s considered to be the formation of the working class. While the Industrial Revolution did lead to class conflict and working class militancy, it never had the edge that would push it towards full blown revolution. This is because the British ruling class have always conceded just enough in the way of reforms to keep uprisings at bay. As the 19th century progressed into the 20th, it was the spoils of empire that would be used to pay for these reforms and concessions. Allied with some pretty effective propaganda, the ruling class have managed to keep the lid on any meaningful dissent that would threaten their interests. This piece in the Telegraph by the conservative writer Charles Moore acknowledges the contribution of these factors into creating the kind of working class Toryism that could well be informing the strategy of the FLA: A vast, loyal band of working-class Conservativeshttp://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/charlesmoore/7983677/A-vast-loyal-band-of-working-class-Conservatives.html

The FLA could be seen as a twenty first century manifestation of the traditional ‘church and king’ mob. This is what veteran anarchist, Martin Lux argues here: FOOTBALL LADS ALLIANCE “MARCH AGAINST TERRORISM”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fArtDmZS2RQ This is what was said about the English Defence League when they first emerged: The EDL: a “Church and King Mob”https://liveraf.wordpress.com/2010/12/17/the-edl-a-church-and-king-mob/ There are certainly fascists circling around the FLA looking for recruits to their cause and this has to be monitored. However, it could be said that the more patriotic, reactionary elements within the ranks of the FLA might find fascism a bit too ‘continental’ for their tastes and may well prefer a more historical form of reaction.

The FLA may like to think they’re countering the nihilistic, random terror inflicted by ISIS / Daesh. It has to be pointed out there there are people putting their lives on the line to fight ISIS / Daesh: War on Isis: Western fighters joining Kurds to fight terror group in Iraq and Syriahttp://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/western-fighters-joining-the-kurds-to-fight-isis-in-iraq-and-syria-a7041136.html while the likes of the FLA are merely posturing on the streets of London.

It could well be said that the FLA are unwittingly acting as the ‘useful idiots’ of the ruling class. While protesting against the likes of ISIS / Daesh, they were seemingly happy to march past near empty apartment blocks bought as ‘investment opportunities’ on Park Lane and in nearby Mayfair without batting an eyelid. Whether this is through ignorance or an unhealthy level of deference to the super rich is a matter for debate. The fact is that the FLA are acting as a diversion from the real forces that are screwing us over. A diversion that the establishment must be privately celebrating as yet again, they get let off the hook.

How do we deal with the FLA? We haven’t got all the answers yet but we would like to offer a few suggestions. Calling them fascists is counter-productive – as stated earlier, fascism’s a bit too ‘continental’ for people who prefer a more traditional form of expression for their patriotism and reaction. A degree of historical understanding of reactionary elements within the working class in Britain is needed to inform any strategy that needs to be devised to counter the FLA – some of the links listed above are a tentative start to this process. Exposing the reactionary elements in the FLA as the ‘useful idiots’ of the ruling class is essential but that can only be done if we can successfully articulate our vision of what working class solidarity should be.

To say that the project of articulating a vision of working class solidarity has been undermined by the rise of identity politics is an understatement! However, that is an ongoing debate which we have touched on in previous posts in On Uncertain Ground and one we intend to return to in the future. To conclude, this post has to be seen as our initial reaction to the rise of the FLA and as a work in progress that will hopefully be part of a constructive debate on how we deal with this latest manifestation on the streets.

Stop moving the sodding goalposts!

This is what we’ve written about the Vange ¾ estate over the last few months as part of our commitment to supporting the work of the Vange Hill Community Grouphttps://www.facebook.com/groups/180311358699122/

Falling apart…an update:(https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/09/23/falling-apart-2/
Admit it…you need us!https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/09/20/admit-it-you-need-us/
Doing it for ourselves (because no one else will!)https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/08/22/doing-it-for-ourselves-because-no-one-else-will/
Evading responsibilityhttps://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/08/20/evading-responsibility/
The fightback starts nowhttps://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/08/02/the-fightback-starts-now/

Basildon & Southend Housing Action – https://www.facebook.com/basacton/ – and now the Vange Hill Community Group have been bending over backwards in trying to encourage residents to put out their rubbish on the right day, correctly sorted and in the right location. Sounds easy doesn’t it? All that’s needed is for Basildon Council to come up with a clear set of guidelines for residents to follow and the problem of uncollected rubbish will be solved once and for all.

Cue manic laughter… FFS, getting blood out of a stone would be considerably easier that getting a straightforward, comprehensible rubbish collection protocol from Basildon Council that leaves residents and council operatives in no doubt as to what needs to be done! Seriously, how hard is it for council officers to come up with a rubbish collection protocol that residents and operatives can understand and implement? We’re not talking about anything complicated here – we’re talking about one of the basic functions that people expect their councils to be able execute efficiently and without any dramas.

It seems that every time Basildon Council have been contacted over this, the answers have been contradictory, evasive and misleading. They keep moving the sodding goalposts! The council need to bear in mind that they’re dealing with community groups who want to do the right thing and get the rubbish collection problems on the Vange ¾ estate resolved once and for all. Groups that would like to work with the council to make life better on the estate rather than having to battle them all of the time.

We don’t want to be pushed into a position where we have to name the council officers who we think need to pull their weight but the time has come… James Hendry, please give the Vange Hill Community Group a) a clear, understandable rubbish collection policy that residents and council operatives can implement and b) give the Vange Hill Community Group the respect they deserve for trying their hardest to make their estate a better place to live…

The consequences of a planning disaster

Back in the early part of September, there was an assault on and an attempted robbery of a man by two teenagers under the flyover where the A13 passes by the Tesco superstore in Pitsea: Plea for CCTV after knifepoint attack in subway by Tesco and Pitsea train stationhttp://www.echo-news.co.uk/news/15574869.Plea_for_CCTV_after_knifepoint_attack_in_subway/

We’ve commented in previous posts on here and on our predecessor, the Heckler, about the breakdown in community cohesion and solidarity that leads to an anti-social element feeling they can carry out these kind of assaults with impunity. We think the Independent Working Class Association pretty much nailed it on people like this with this piece: Dealing with the renegadeshttp://www.iwca.info/?p=10134 There have been calls for CCTV around Pitsea and other underpasses around Basildon in a bid to deter such opportunistic crimes. Sadly, until there’s a major social transformation, crimes like this will be a feature of an increasingly atomised society – more CCTV is merely putting a sticking plaster over a gaping wound.

As well as this crime yet again throwing a light on the fractured state of society, it also shows the folly of past planning decisions that have unintentionally planned opportunities for crime into the infrastructure of new towns such as Basildon. These places were conceived in more optimistic times when separating pedestrians and traffic seemed like a good idea. They were also conceived in a period that not only celebrated the motor car but also demanded that our towns and cities be planned around it.

Well, the result of that is the planning disaster that has separated Pitsea raliway station from pretty much every residential district in Pitsea apart from the affluent enclave of Brackendale. Pedestrians going to and from the station have the unenviable choice of walking under the A13 flyover as it passes by the Tesco superstore or negotiating the series of underpasses leading to the town centre. That can be a grim enough walk in daylight – after dark it can be downright scary!

Again, it’s going to take a major social and political transformation before we can have a planning and urban development process that puts people first and would avoid planning disasters such as the underpasses under the Pitsea flyover. However, while we’re working towards such a transformation, we would gladly welcome any initiative that creates a safer and more pleasant environment for pedestrians to get to and from Pitsea station…

Unions take note…this is how you take action!

The previous post on here was about the struggle of two striking cleaners, Angelica and Fredy, at the HR Owen luxury motor dealership in South Kensington: Please show some solidarity…https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/09/27/please-show-some-solidarity/ They weren’t directly employed by HR Owen – their roles were outsourced to Templewood. Like many outsourced cleaners, they’ve had to endure crap pay and working conditions. Well, they’ve had enough and with the support of the United Voices of the World (UVW) union, they’re taking action… Please consider making a donation to their strike fund if you can – https://www.uvwunion.org.uk/hr-owen/

The first public manifestation of that action came with a protest in South Kensington yesterday (Saturday 30.9). Around sixty people assembled outside the tube station and then started marching, first to the offices of HR Owen just round the corner and then down the Old Brompton Road to their swanky showroom.

It was a lively, noisy and feisty crowd of UVW supporters, other cleaners showing solidarity and Class War amongst others. Not a single Trot paper seller in sight poncing off someone else’s struggle…just people committed to winning not just this fight but to improving working conditions for thousands upon thousands of low paid, exploited workers. It was militant…the showroom was shut down for the afternoon and the road was blocked for two hours.

While militant, it was also disciplined. The (possibly just above) minimum wage security guards lined up outside the showroom weren’t abused or threatened in any way shape or form. In fact, many of us felt sorry for them being put in the position they were in…looking at the facial expressions and body language, their hearts were definitely not in the task at hand and we suspect that most of them sympathised with the cause of the cleaners.

Actions like this aren’t sticking to the mainstream union rulebook but sticking to the rulebook doesn’t get results. The tactics of outsider unions such as the UVW, IWGB and others get results because they get in people’s faces and don’t back off. The action outside the HR Owen showroom was noisy, disruptive and got a lot of attention. FFS, it even got covered by the Mail of all publications! Mop-wielding protesters attack luxury car showroom after it ‘suspended husband-and-wife cleaners who went on strike in bid to win a £2.25 pay rise’http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4937128/Mop-wielding-protesters-attack-luxury-car-showroom.html We wouldn’t normally link to this rag but it shows that the tactics used get people’s attention and get the issue onto the agenda…

Some people out here along the estuary may well be asking why we had a presence at a protest in London in support of striking migrant workers. It’s called solidarity… Angelica and Fredy aren’t just striking for themselves or indeed other migrant workers…they’re striking for all workers enduring low pay and abusive, insecure working conditions. That’s why we offered our support to them because an injury to one worker is an injury to all of us and we will not let the divide and rule merchants get away with their attempts to split us along lines of nationality…

Falling apart…an update:(

In the latest print edition of the Stirrer, the main feature is about how our local authorities are failing us, the people they’re supposed to serve. The never ending government imposed austerity agenda is one major factor in this. However, there are other factors such as toxic internal cultures which serve to exacerbate external pressures such as austerity. No two local authorities are the same and they all respond in different ways to external pressures. It has to be said that on the anecdotal evidence we’ve heard, Basildon Council has an internal culture that is toxic – this is manifested in the shit way they treat their residents and high levels of staff turnover.

You only have to look back through this blog and you’ll find a fair number of posts where we’re taking Basildon Council to task. Don’t just take our word for it – if you want to read what people at the grassroots are saying about the way Basildon Council are treating them, we recommend that you check out the Vange Hill Community Grouphttps://www.facebook.com/groups/180311358699122/ and Basildon & Southend Housing Actionhttps://www.facebook.com/basacton/

We heard a story of a Basildon resident who worked for the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham but changed jobs and started working at Basildon Council so they could cut down on the commuting. Within a matter of weeks they were on the phone to Barking & Dagenham begging for their old job back because the culture at Basildon was so dysfunctional they couldn’t take any more! We’ve heard another story from the Recovery section at Basildon Council where people are leaving in their droves because they can’t deal with the toxic work environment there and the pressures on them to treat residents like shit.

With a combination of high staff turnover, an all too often hostile attitude towards residents and services such as rubbish collection which on estates such as the ¾ in Vange that can only be described as piss poor, the evidence is mounting up that Basildon Council is falling apart. In the previous post: Admit it…you need us!https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/09/20/admit-it-you-need-us/ we listed some of the ways community groups are having to step in and fill the breach while holding the council to account at the same time. Without being over-dramatic, Basildon Council is giving every impression they’re falling apart…

When the state fails to deliver, whether that’s at a national or local level, it has to be seen as an opportunity for grassroots campaigners to step in, not just to hold up failing services but to change the balance of power so we have a considerably bigger say in how our estates and neighbourhoods are managed and develop in the future. Let’s start to take that opportunity, not just in Basildon but anywhere where the state is failing, get power down to the grassroots and start to bring about some real change…