We’re moving…

This blog was born out of a series of misunderstandings in the early stages of building for the Southend Radical Fair, held in May 2017, that led us to pulling out of organising the event. These led us to conclude we had to scrub the predecessor of this blog, the South Essex Heckler, which was closely associated with the early stages of building the fair and start anew with this blog. The problem was that alongside this, we also started two other blogs – The Estuary Alternative and On Uncertain Ground. All had their specific functions but to be honest, it was a bit messy and many people looking at our range of blogs were, quite rightly, left wondering exactly what we were about. Also, this blog had been straying from it’s original remit, thereby adding to the confusion.

The Estuary Alternative and On Uncertain Ground blogs have been deleted. This blog is being terminated after this post and will remain online as an archive. As a number of people have linked to or re-blogged material from this blog, it would be a bit rude of us to delete it!

We’re starting a new blog with a class struggle anarchist / community activist perspective which in tandem with the South Essex Working Class Action Facebook page and Twitter feed, is a considerably more straightforward proposition. This is the new blog:

The Heckler – https://thehecklersewca.wordpress.com/

Yes, we’re bringing the Heckler name back! Hopefully, it’s onwards and upwards from this point…

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We’ve been going for a year…

Today is the first anniversary of this blog and it’s sister project, On Uncertain Ground. Our predecessor was the South Essex Heckler which had been going in various forms since 2011. At the start of last year, we thought the Heckler had lost its focus and was trying to be all things to all people. It was veering from fairly punchy posts focusing on local and some national issues, attempts at more theoretical pieces through to what some would see as more ‘fluffy’ promotions of community focused projects.

Having all of this under one roof became too much so we binned the Heckler in early February last year and after a short experiment with localised blogs covering Thurrock and Basildon respectively, the South Essex Stirrer was launched and this is where we are. Our other sister blog, The Estuary Alternative which as you may guess from the title, promotes positive alternatives in the form of grassroots projects that make a difference in the here and now, was launched in the aftermath of the Southend Radical Fair which took place in early May last year.

How are we doing? Reader numbers on the Stirrer are up to what they were on the Heckler before it was scrapped so we’re making pretty good progress here. With On Uncertain Ground which is for the longer, more theoretical pieces, it only gets updated every couple of weeks so when a new post goes up, the hits come in but then tail off until the next update. As for The Estuary Alternative, it’s not taken off in the way we wanted. That’s down to a number of factors, one of which was not having the time to seriously push the project last year. We’ve reviewed the situation, come up with a few new ideas which we’ll be implementing so hopefully it’ll be onwards and upwards for The Estuary Alternative this year.

The Stirrer, On Uncertain Ground and The Estuary Alternative all come under the umbrella of South Essex Radical Media which has a presence on Facebook. This is where we announce the updates for all of our blogs as well as briefly commenting on issues and sharing events and items of interest from other like minded pages. South Essex Radical Media also has a presence on Twitter as well.

What we want to do with all of our blogs is make them more open and collaborative. We do not want to be writing all of the posts for the blogs and all of the copy for any papers we bring out. With the Stirrer, we’re making reasonable progress in sourcing material from external sources but we would warmly welcome more! With On Uncertain Ground, as it’s intended to be a bit more theoretical in its outlook, we’re more than happy to accept guest posts from people who are broadly in agreement with our politics. As for the Estuary Alternative, the long term aim is to hand that over to other grassroots activists in the south of Essex so we need you to start contributing to it sooner rather than later!

All of the above blogs and the Facebook page are linked to in the side bar on the right hand side.

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…

Reviewing our propaganda

This was how our propaganda looked when it was laid out on our stall at the London Anarchist Bookfair on Saturday 28th October. It was gratifying to hear praise from people for how neat the stall looked and the way our literature is designed and produced, however…

If we’re being brutally honest with ourselves, when we look at what we produce and who reads it, we still get the impression that a lot of the time, we’re preaching to the converted. Given the remit we and our comrades in Basildon & Southend Housing Action have set ourselves, preaching to the converted is NOT what we want to do! What we do want to do is reach the disenfranchised people on the estates who know they’ve been abandoned, are pissed off about it but at the moment, don’t know where to turn.

One thing we’re becoming acutely conscious of is the existence of the digital divide and the fact that many of the people we need to reach on the estates do not have, or cannot afford, a reliable internet connection. Therefore the only way we can reach them is via the tried and tested analogue method of flyers and newsletters. Punchy, eye catching flyers, papers and stickers that will grab people’s attention and inspire them to act. As stated previously, we’re an evolving project and if we’re honest, we’ve still got a way to go before we can produce the kind of propaganda that will grab the attention of the audience we need to reach and mobilise.

We think we’re getting to the point we want with the split in the blogs after the demise of the Heckler and the setting up of the Stirrer, The Estuary Alternative and On Uncertain Ground. Granted, we had to do a fair bit of explaining at the bookfair to people who knew us in our previous guise as the Heckler but they did understand our reasoning for doing it as each of these blogs is way more focused. However, we really would like more people to be contributing to all three of these blogs…

It’s the printed material we produce that needs to evolve to the point where it does the job it’s supposed to do which is mobilising people who feel they’ve been abandoned by the system to start fighting back. Which means more in the way of experimenting and trying out new ways of writing, designing, producing and distributing our material to see what does and doesn’t work. The one constraint is the cost of printing. We spent £50 for a stall at the London Anarchist Bookfair and it could be argued that we would have been better off turning up as punters and spending the money for the stall on printing the flyers and stickers we need to get our message across. Which is most likely what we’ll be doing next year…

What we always have to bear in mind that our propaganda is a means to an end – namely stirring people up to the point where they will start to take action. Supported by our producing material that will facilitate that. Which means that if we’re producing something that isn’t getting the results we want, it’ll get binned or substantially altered until it does start delivering results…nothing is sacred…