We’ll be at the London Anarchist Bookfair on Saturday 28th October

With our friends from Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA), we’ll be jointly running a stall at this year’s London Anarchist Bookfair. The venue is Park View School, West Green Road, London, N15 3QR and the bookfair runs from 10am – 7pm.

Why are we going? Firstly to talk to people about our community focused politics and actions, and the need to work from the grassroots upwards in our neighbourhoods if we’re serious about fundamental change. Secondly to boost the audience for all of the South Essex Radical Media blogs and publications, and hopefully get some donations to help with the cost of running and producing them:) Thirdly, to build alliances with any like-minded groups who share our approach and tactics in the project of building a movement for change. Finally, we also hope to be able to meet up with our supporters at the bookfair to plan and plot for the future…

We’re attending the bookfair because we try as much as we can to operate on anarchist principles. However, we can’t really say with our hands on our hearts that we really feel we’re part of the broader anarchist movement. That is partially down to our geographical isolation out on the Essex shore of the Thames estuary which means we can operate in a more flexible way if it means we get results and can build useful alliances.

Also, when we have been out on the streets during the course of this year, apart from a few outings with our friends from Class War, we’ve been out and about with a range of groups who don’t really see themselves as anarchists. United Voices of the World: 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/ and Focus E15: Marching from tower to towerhttps://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/08/14/marching-from-tower-to-tower/ are two of the groups we’ve been out with.

Basically, it’s showing solidarity with people who really are at the sharp end of what a dysfunctional society has to throw at them but who’ve no intention of taking it and fight back instead. In these circumstances, as far as we’re concerned, solidarity is considerably more important than ideological purity…

To conclude, the whole point of an anarchist bookfair is to have a space for constructive debate so we can all move forwards. We feel that a point has been reached where some serious soul searching is needed as to how we can make anarchism relevant to working class people…

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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…

Don’t let them suck you in!

Local councils hate gobby, pushy pressure groups. This is because local councils hate being held to account for their failings and having the truth about how they operate being told to all and sundry. The same applies to pretty much most housing associations who have forgotten their roots and have morphed into vast, unaccountable corporate entities.

Local councillors and housing associations will come up with any convenient excuse they can to avoid having to deal with a grassroots, community based pressure group. This is simply because they will not deal with any group they can’t exercise a degree of control over. This leaves your gobby, pushy pressure group with a dilemma. Do they continue to operate in a way that maintains their independence giving councils and housing associations an excuse to continue to ignore them or do they go down the route of forming a properly constituted residents association that will get a degree of recognition from the authorities?

A word of warning… As soon as you have started to move your gobby, pushy pressure group towards a properly constituted residents association, you’re being sucked into their system. Why else would a local authority freely publish a template constitution for a residents association if they didn’t think they are the kind of groups they can co-opt? Take a look at this example and see what you think – www.highland.gov.uk/download/downloads/id/3145/sample_constitution.pdf Think of the amount of time that will have have be spent on discussing procedural points in a formally constituted residents association instead of what could be done to challenge the authorities by a more nimble, flexible and responsive pressure group.

When your ward councillor suggests that forming a residents association is the only way that the authorities will listen to and work with you, alarm bells need to start ringing very loudly. When a councillor suggests such a format, what they’re trying to do is nudge you towards forming something they can put constraints upon and exercise a degree of influence over. What they’re also trying to do is get you to work with a system of local governance that exists to deliver the government’s austerity agenda. Not only that, they’re trying to get you to work with a system that we all know from bitter experience is dysfunctional and broken. Read the latest print edition of the Stirrer to see what we mean – https://www.dropbox.com/s/x5ixljqiomcwkx5/STIRRER_No_2.pdf?dl=0

Obviously, even a gobby, pushy pressure group has to have some kind of structure in place to ensure that decision making is based on consensus and that it’s not dominated by a small cabal of activists. The point is, there are many ways of achieving this that fall outside the template of a residents association that’s favoured by the authorities. Seeds for Change has a lot of useful information on setting up and running grassroots groups that can offer them the autonomy they need to offer the alternatives / resistance to the shite that comes from local councils and housing associations – https://www.seedsforchange.org.uk/

So, if you’re a gobby, pushy grassroots group that’s finding itself getting nudged by your local councillors into forming a formally constituted residents association, resist that pressure. If your group is about empowering your local community to start running its own affairs, why would you want to be sucked into to working with a system of local governance that’s dysfunctional and broken and whose agenda is about control rather than serving the people?

We got it wrong on the turnout…

A few posts back, we predicted that there would be a low turnout at the general election: Election 2017 – some thoughts from outside the bubblehttps://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/06/01/election-2017-some-thoughts-from-outside-the-bubble/ Well…we were wrong on that one weren’t we?! The turnout was up, boosted by many young people registering to vote and then going on to exercise that right: Huge number of young people believed to be behind vote that rocked Torieshttp://metro.co.uk/2017/06/09/youth-out-in-full-force-as-72-of-young-people-vote-in-general-election-6696890/

A fair number of them voted for Corbyn’s Labour. It has to be acknowledged that despite Corbyn starting out from a pretty dismal position in the polls, the ensuing campaign energised a lot of younger people into registering and voting, making May’s campaign look wooden and stilted by comparision. Yes, regardless of our criticisms of Labour, we’re admitting that Corbyn has created a new force in British politics and that has to be acknowledged. The question is, what happens now?

We still stand by every criticism that we and our comrades have made of Labour, particularly the way Labour controlled councils in London are actively complicit in the process of social cleansing in the name of ‘re-generation’: Clusterfuck! Labour’s Shameless Council Estate Rip-offhttps://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/06/07/clusterfuck-labours-shameless-council-estate-rip-off/ However, we also realise that many of the people who were swept up by the enthusiasm of Corbyn’s campaign were not aware of the reality of what Labour councils in the capital are actually doing. Those of us who are calling these councils to task (Architects 4 Social Housing, Class War, Focus E15 to name a few) don’t have the reach or clout we would like to get the message across and we know we have to up our game in order to do so.

The election is over and we would like to leave the arguments within anarchist circles about voting or not voting behind us and start to look at the task ahead. If just some of the people who were energetically campaigning for Corbyn can get stuck into grassroots activism in the community, workplace, colleges and out on the streets, it really would start to make a difference: What now? Fighting austerity in a hung parliamenthttps://libcom.org/blog/what-now-08062017