Making some points on the housing crisis

Getting the banners out at the start of the action at Potters Field next to City Hall

On Saturday 24th February, we joined activists from Class War and the Revolutionary Communist Group in an action to highlight the dire consequences of the housing crisis in London. Regular readers of this blog out in Essex may ask why we went on an action in London when we have more than enough issues relating to housing out here along the estuary. Simply, it’s because what happens in London with housing has a direct impact on the situation out here in southern Essex: A house in Vange owned by…Local Space Stratford

What exacerbates the housing crisis in London is the construction of block after block of high specification luxury apartment blocks which are all too often left empty to be just brought and sold as investment vehicles by the global super rich. Building homes for the ordinary Londoners whose work keeps the capital functioning is way down on the priority list to kowtowing to the wealthy elite. Sure, there have been promises by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan to address the problem and build more ‘affordable’ homes but the pitiful results do not in any way match the rhetoric.

We have the obscenity of workers on low wages with precarious employment conditions being forced to sleep rough. Go to the Stratford Centre (next to its more prestigious neighbour at Westfield) on any evening and you’ll see plenty of rough sleepers trying to get some kip in the relative warmth before undertaking a day’s work. These people are the lucky ones in that they have managed to find some kind of shelter. Many just have to survive as best they can on the freezing streets of London, constantly in fear of assault from those who have swallowed the poison from the right wing media about the ‘undeserving’ poor. One of the speakers at the start of the action pointed out that with the bitterly cold weather to come over the next week or so, we could be witnessing a ‘slow Grenfell’ with scores of rough sleepers freezing to death on the streets of the capital.

The protest started at the privately owned Potters Field next to the Kuwaiti owned City Hall which is where the Greater London Authority (GLA) is based. This was to draw attention to a) the lamentable record of the GLA in providing genuinely affordable housing and b) to how many buildings and what seem to be, but aren’t, public spaces that are owned by the super rich. After a few rousing speeches and a brief stop right outside a windswept City Hall, we proceeded through a luxury housing development down to Tooley Street. We then took the road until London Bridge station before turning a sharp left and making our way to Qatari owned Shard where there was a protest earlier in the month: They couldn’t stop the protest at The Shard There were more speeches highlighting the obscenity of empty luxury apartments at the top of The Shard while the homeless freeze in the surrounding streets. The action was finished off with a swift advance to the front of the News Corp building to express our disgust at the demonising of the poor carried out by Murdoch’s papers.

Okay, the numbers who turned out weren’t what we were hoping for. That meant that certain things that were planned couldn’t happen. It was a case of thinking on our feet to deploy what numbers we had in the most effective way possible to get the points about the housing crisis across in the most direct and clearest way possible to the members of the media who turned up to cover the event. The speeches and the interviews left the media and the watching public in no doubt as to what we think of the super rich poncing off the capital while a growing number of Londoners struggle to get a roof over their heads. As for the disparity between the numbers who shared the posters and memes about the protest on social media and those who actually turned up, that’s something we’ll be writing about on our sister blog, On Uncertain Ground sometime later this week.

Security at the front of the News Corp building experiencing a moment of frisson as we approached the entrance

One pile of shite (The Shard) framed by another pile of Shite (the News Corp building) – an axis of evil if ever there was one


Doing the Lambeth Walk (through Southwark)

Saturday 24th February, 1pm at City Hall then off to The Shard

This isn’t your normal point A to point B housing activists march with mass produced placards and the usual speeches at the final rally before everyone dutifully goes home thinking they’ve done their bit. This is a Class War protest. It will be VISUAL! Let’s face it, have you ever seen a protest where everyone is doing the Lambeth Walk? No, of course you haven’t! Well, you’ll have a chance to not only see but be a part of a mass Lambeth Walk. It will be irreverent, taking the piss and with absolutely no respect for authority. Did the owners of The Shard (and all the other owners of ghost apartments across London) think that after we beat the odds and had our protest outside The Shard on Thursday 8th February, we’d just sit back on our laurels thinking it was job done? We’ve got news for them – the job is not done and won’t be done until housing provision is back in the control of ordinary Londoners and not the super rich parasites who’ve been poncing off the capital for far too long. Every pissed off Londoner and militant housing activist needs to be on this action – feel free to share this far and wide and let’s get the numbers out for this one…

Just to whet your appetite, here are the words (and chords) for the Lambeth Walk:)

[C] Any [F] time you’re [C] Lambeth way,
Any [A7] evening, [Dm] Any day,
You’ll find us [Dm7] all [G7]
Doin’ the Lambeth [C] Walk [G7] Oi!
[C] Ev’ry [F] little [C] Lambeth gal,
With her [A7]little [Dm]Lambeth pal,
You’ll find ’em [Dm7] all [G7]
Doin’ the Lambeth [C] walk.[G7]
[Am7] Every thing [D7] free and [G] easy,
[D7] Do as you darn well [G] pleasey,
[Em] Why don’t you [A7] make your [G] way there,
[Am7] go [D7] there, [Dm7] stay [G7] there.
[C] Once you [F]get down [C] Lambeth way,
Ev’ry [A7]evening, [Dm]Ev’ry day,
You’ll find your[Dm]self [G7]
Doin’ the Lambeth [C] Walk.[G7] Oi!

They couldn’t stop the protest at The Shard

As we wrote in our previous post, the owners of The Shard were doing everything they could to stop the protest called by Class War highlighting the obscenity of the existence of tower after tower of empty luxury apartments – all too often acting as investment vehicles for the super rich – while London is experiencing a severe housing and homelessness crisis. This included dragging Ian Bone to the High Court and having the nerve to ask him to pay their court costs!

Well as you can see from the photographs above, the protest did go ahead. It was undertaken in the usual irreverent Class War style with the to the point Lucy Parsons banner and a number of heartfelt speeches from seasoned housing and class struggle activists. Numbers were bolstered by other activists outraged at the lengths the owners were going to in an attempt to scupper the action. For the record, Ian Bone didn’t have to pay the court costs of the owners.

Despite the desperate attempts of the owners of The Shard, they were held to account in no uncertain terms for their part in exacerbating the housing crisis in London. A crisis that now sees low paid workers on zero hours contracts having to sleep rough because they cannot afford a roof over their head in a city that fetishises housing as an investment as opposed to the basic right it should be for everyone. The action at The Shard cannot be a one off. There has to be an ongoing series of protests across the capital pointing out the obscenity of luxury apartments built and left empty as investment vehicles while people are forced to sleep on the streets.

As for the owners of The Shard, on their own terms, they screwed up monumentally. They not only failed to stop the protest, with their attempts to throw the weight of the law at Ian Bone and the subsequent media coverage that was largely sympathetic to him and the reasons for having the protest, they created their own public relations disaster!

On Thursday 8th February, one section of the global super rich who thought they were invincible and could solve any perceived threat to their privilege by waving lawsuits at their opponents were found to have gaps in their armour. Note what the headline on the latest print edition of The Stirrer says: 2018 – EVERYTHING TO GAIN (and everything to lose) – we don’t normally like to blow our own trumpet but given what has happened, we think it’s an apt comment.


A little difficulty at The Shard

Class War have called a protest at The Shard to highlight the obscenity of the existence of tower after tower of empty luxury apartments – all too often acting as investment vehicles for the super rich – while London is experiencing a severe housing and homelessness crisis. In particular, Class War want to draw attention to the many survivors of last year’s Grenfell Tower disaster who are still stuck in inadequate temporary accommodation while the capital is awash with empty apartments. The Shard was picked because it’s an iconic* building and a high profile example of the problem with its empty luxury apartments.

Then, the owners of The Shard got wind of the planned protest and sent in the solicitors. This situation is ongoing so it’s best we don’t make any comment which may inadvertently prejudice the situation for Class War in general and Ian Bone in particular. However, there has been plenty of media coverage since the solicitors got involved so we’ll present what we’ve seen so far here and we’re sure you’ll be able to draw your own conclusions.

Shard owners seek to ban protest by Class War activist (The Guardian)
Qatari royals in High Court threat to South Norwood pensioners (Inside Croydon)
Shard’s Qatari owners try to halt pensioner class war activist from holding ‘ghost towers’ protest (RT)

It’s fairly certain that there will be more media coverage of this. We’ll allow ourselves one little comment… If the owners of The Shard thought that a court summons for an injunction hearing would nip this protest in the bud then it has to be said that their efforts are an epic fail! The media are picking up not just on the story about the injunction but also on the issue of the empty investment apartments that led to the protest getting called. Whatever the owners of The Shard do from now on, the story is out there and they’ll be fighting an increasingly desperate rearguard battle to stifle it.

As far as we can make out, unless the owners of The Shard and their solicitors can conjure some pretty draconian restrictions to apply to a large area surrounding the building, a protest will be taking place this Thursday evening from 6pm onwards. One that is likely to be a lot bigger than initially anticipated owing to the shit storm generated by the actions of the owners and their solicitors. We will be in attendance at this one – given what we’ve had to say on the impact of the social cleansing of London on the housing situation out along the Thames estuary, it would be rude of us to not attend.

Given how desperate the owners are to nip this one in the bud, we would advise those attending the protest to be wary of any attempts to sabotage, undermine and discredit the action. Bear in mind the very, very close proximity of the offices of The Times and The S*n to the proposed location of the protest.

* Personally, we think it’s a feckin’ eyesore and a massive monument to hubris!


Getting on with it…

We don’t normally cross post from On Uncertain Ground but as a result of some of the criticism we’ve received since the London Anarchist Bookfair, we’ve got a few points to prove to certain people and would like to set the record straight…

One of the problems with anarchism are certain elements who are only too willing to criticise comrades involved in campaigns, grassroots community projects, actions and the like but who never seem to get out and do anything themselves. This post is a celebration of people and groups who just go out and get on with stuff – people and groups we’ll do our level best to support. Before we go any further, here’s a little warning… Some of those mentioned are not political in any way shape or form – they’re just local residents frustrated at the inaction of their local councils and who’ve decided to take matters into their own hands…

A couple of us volunteer as gardeners at the community run Hardie Park in Stanford-le-Hope – We remember what it was like back in 2007 and 2008 when we contested the Stanford East & Corringham Town ward…

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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… 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 –

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’ 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…