Elite jitters over a planned protest 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. At the time of writing, 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)https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/feb/06/shard-owners-seek-to-ban-protest-by-class-war-activist
Qatari royals in High Court threat to South Norwood pensioners (Inside Croydon)https://insidecroydon.com/2018/02/06/qatari-royals-in-high-court-threat-to-south-norwood-pensioners/
Shard’s Qatari owners try to halt pensioner class war activist from holding ‘ghost towers’ protest (RT)https://www.rt.com/uk/418034-shard-protest-court-grenfell/

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.

What’s really interesting about all of this is what the reaction by the owners of The Shard and their minions tells us about the state of mind of the super rich. A few posts on Facebook from Class War – a group who on their own admission use the tactic of irreverently taking the piss to draw attention to the failings of the system – has provoked a reaction out of all proportion to any threat that may be posed. Despite the rhetoric of some of the material posted by Class War, based on past experience, the protest will be pretty theatrical, ribald and irreverent with the the aim of getting across to the passing public a serious point about the roots of the housing crisis in London. A nuisance and an embarrassment to the owners of The Shard, certainly but a serious threat to the integrity of the tower, no way.

Despite this, the owners are throwing everything they can at Class War to nip this protest in the bud. A super rich elite confident about their place in the world would simply shrug this protest off. The over-reaction suggests an elite who are anything but confident about their place and purpose in the world. Using a sledgehammer to crack a nut is the action of an elite that is becoming increasingly fearful as they become more aware of the growing levels of resentment at their privilege. While they can call upon the weight of the law and when push comes to shove the force of the state in a way that threatens our very existence, their actions are born out of fear. Whatever the super rich and their minions throw at us in the coming years, as long as we remember they’re acting from fear, eventually we will prevail.

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Thurrock UKIP have gone – what comes next?

All 17 UKIP councillors in Thurrock have quit the party and have established a new political grouping called the Thurrock Independents – see here for the full story in the Thurrock & South Essex Independent: BREAKING: Local UKIP councillors quit party and form new Thurrock Independents group: http://www.thurrockindependent.com/2018/01/26/breaking-local-ukip-councillors-quit-party-and-form-new-thurrock-independents-group/ Given the comments from some of these councillors, most notably Cllr. Luke Spillman (Aveley & Uplands) about the direction that UKIP had been taking for the last few years, this news hasn’t exactly come as a surprise for us.

Predictably, Labour and Tory councillors have swiftly poured scorn on this new political venture: Opposition parties react to new Thurrock Independent Party: http://www.thurrockindependent.com/2018/01/26/opposition-parties-react-to-new-thurrock-independent-party/ With the balance of power on Thurrock Council meaning that in recent years, neither Labour or the Tories have had an unassailable majority, slagging off councillors and a political grouping that either party may need to call upon after the local elections in May to form an administration may not be the wisest move. However, this sniping is typical of the playground attitude that quite often can be a feature of proceedings at Thurrock Council.

It has to be assumed that the councillors making up the Thurrock Independents have been doing a fair bit of soul searching before reaching their decision to quit an obviously failing UKIP. We would like to think that some of that soul searching may have been about the role of a local councillor. Now, obviously we never had a brief for UKIP councillors in any way, shape or form (and never will have a brief for any reactionary independents) but as they now claim to be independents working for the benefit of the residents, we’d like to offer them our thoughts on the role of local councillors: A few thoughts on local councillors…https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/11/17/a-few-thoughts-on-local-councillors/

We’ve been having a look at the comments about the Thurrock Independents on social media and it would be fair to say that the reactions are mixed ranging from supportive to outright derision. Given that a fair few people voted for these councillors because they were standing in the name of UKIP, the point has been made that they should all consider quitting and put themselves up for re-election either in by-elections or at the next local elections in May. Obviously, some of the former UKIP councillors have served their terms and are up for re-election anyway but there’s a body of opinion (mainly UKIP supporters in denial who can’t accept that it’s over for their party) that thinks the lot of them should face the electorate to see if they’re still wanted.

It does appear that Tim Aker who as a councillor is one of the Thurrock Independents intends to carry on as a UKIP MEP: Thurrock MEP defends defection to the Independentshttp://www.thurrockgazette.co.uk/news/15900674.UKIP_MEP_says_he_had__no_choice__but_to_defect_to_the_Independents/ This would indeed be an unusual, possibly unique situation with one individual fulfilling two political roles with two political groupings. Aker has justified this by claiming that UKIP still has a job to do in Brussels as the Brexit negotiations move along. How Aker’s split political loyalties will go down with his fellow UKIP MEPs will be interesting to see.

It was only a few years back that Thurrock was touted as the area where UKIP would get an MP and be the catalyst for national success. Thurrock was graced with visits from former UKIP leader, Nigel Farage and resources were showered on Thurrock to make it a stronghold for the party. Now UKIP no longer exist in Thurrock – from heroes to zeros in just a few years. It is a sign of how volatile politics is becoming when a party can rise very swiftly and then more or less collapse just as swiftly. Alan Sked who founded the Anti-Federalist League in 1991 which changed it’s name to UKIP in 1993 thinks they’re long past their use by date and should disband now to save the Eurosceptic cause any further embarrassment: I founded Ukip. It’s a national joke now and should disappearhttps://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/22/founded-ukip-national-joke-disappear-henry-bolton-alan-sked

So what now? Many commentators have said that UKIP have fulfilled their stated aim of securing a vote for Brexit and there’s no reason for it to exist. However, over the years, UKIP has adopted a more openly anti-immigrant stance. Across southern Essex, this aspect of UKIP proved attractive enough for many former BNP voters looking for a political home after the rapid decline of that party to vote for them at local council and general elections. With UKIP’s demise in Thurrock which we strongly suspect will be getting repeated across the country, there’s currently a political vacuum for those of an anti-immigrant disposition.

Despite numerous protestations from UKIP about their party not being racist and not having anything to do with political elements further to the right, there has always been an element in their ranks who have flirted with the far right. In 2016, we found that a UKIP local election candidate in the Pitsea North West ward in Basildon, one Michelle Regan, had attended a protest supporting truckers in the company of the British Movement. When we pointed this out to the then leader of the UKIP councillors on Basildon Council, Linda Allport-Hodge, she vigorously defended Regan, managing to ignore the British Movement supporters and the sunwheel flag they were holding she was standing right next to!

Vigilance is needed because there are reactionary elements waiting in the wings to fill the vacuum that is being created by the ongoing implosion of UKIP. You only have to look across to continental Europe to see how slickly presented identitarian parties are hoovering up the votes and moving into positions where if they aren’t close to gaining power, they potentially hold the balance of power. Which means we have to develop a radical politics that working class people can engage with and unite around as a matter of urgency. We only have a short period of grace to do this before the malign reactionary elements regroup and come crawling out of the woodwork to exploit people’s concerns about immigration for their own nefarious ends.

Some interesting readings on identity politics – 14.1.18

I’m slowly finding the time to re-start reading and thinking about various aspects of identity politics with a view to improving my understanding of the issues involved. Below is a short selection of readings that I’ve found useful, interesting and thought provoking. Inclusion in the list is not an endorsement or condemnation of the readings – it’s merely to say that I’ve found them useful and wish to share them with others to see what they think. On that basis, please feel free to suggest your own readings…

Race and class

BACK TO SCHOOL ON RACE AND CLASS – Kenan Malikhttps://kenanmalik.wordpress.com/2018/01/07/back-to-school-on-race-and-class/

Cultural appropriation

THE ART & POLITICS OF CULTURAL APPROPRIATION – Kenan Malikhttps://kenanmalik.wordpress.com/2017/12/08/the-art-politics-of-cultural-appropriation/

Gender

Sex and Gender – A Beginner’s Guide – Rebecca Reilly-Cooperhttps://sexandgenderintro.com/

Gender is not a spectrum – Rebecca Reilly-Cooperhttps://aeon.co/essays/the-idea-that-gender-is-a-spectrum-is-a-new-gender-prison

Why self-identification shouldn’t be the only thing that defines our gender – Rebecca Reilly-Cooperhttps://theconversation.com/why-self-identification-shouldnt-be-the-only-thing-that-defines-our-gender-57924

Our ground rules for 2018

As we’ve written previously, 2018 has the potential to be a volatile and unpredictable year where we will have to be on our mettle: Looking back and looking forwardshttps://onuncertainground.wordpress.com/2017/12/21/looking-back-and-looking-forwards/ We’re writing this piece in the spirit of openness so people can know what to expect from us over the coming year. It covers who we ally ourselves and network with. It also covers what we do in a bid to try and try to get people to have more realistic expectations of what we can offer.

ALLIANCES AND NETWORKS

We’re not empire builders but we do want to work with other groups on an ad-hoc basis in an informal, flexible network, linking up and supporting each other as and when required. When we work with a group, we’re not expecting ideological purity or an exact match with our beliefs – if we did apply these criteria, life would get very lonely indeed! Obviously when we work with a local community group, we do undertake a check first to make sure there are no racist / reactionary elements lurking within.

When it comes to political groups and organisations, we’re happy to work with them on an ad-hoc basis on issues of mutual concern. Which is why we’ve found ourselves out on the streets with the likes of Focus E15 whose work is facilitated by the Revolutionary Communist Group (RCG). Focus E15 are a housing activist group – with our alliance with Basildon & Southend Housing Action, we’re also housing activists – why shouldn’t we work with the likes of Focus E15 when there are areas of mutual concern?

With the anarchist movement in a state of flux after the fallout from events at the London Anarchist Bookfair (28th October, 2017), we’re taking a bit of a step back when it comes to our engagement with it. This is down to us not wanting to get dragged into the debate around the issues of gender and identity politics that informed the tensions at the bookfair. Given the areas of activity we engage in and our lived experience, we don’t have a detailed understanding of the issues of gender and identity politics behind the tensions and as such, feel it’s not our place to comment upon them.

Obviously we extend our solidarity to those comrades who feel threatened because of their identity and sincerely hope that the movement will reach a point where people no longer have to hide who they really feel they are because they fear being on the receiving end of repressive behaviour. We’re aware of forthcoming discussions aimed at trying to find a way forwards for anarchism in London after recent events – we hope that all involved succeed in this aim.

Needless to say, whenever possible, we will still be out with our comrades from Class War… As things stand at the moment, they’re about the only anarchist group in London actually out on the streets doing actions in their usual irreverent, theatrical style and it would be rude of us to not support them when we have the chance to do so:)

Having said this, we expect to be out and about in 2018 with groups and organisations who are not from the anarchist tradition such as the RCG, the United Voices of the World Union and the like… We’re not making any apologies for this – as one of our number comes from an anti-imperialist, communist tradition, why shouldn’t they continue to express this as a component of their politics, particularly as imperialism is still a major issue in the global imbalance of power?

WHAT WE DO AND WHAT WE CAN (AND CAN’T) DO

South Essex Radical Media, as you can tell from the title, is primarily a propaganda group. A key part of our propaganda is about encouraging people to act collectively to start to bring about radical change. It’s also about encouraging the formation of a network of grassroots groups who will work together as and when required and are willing to learn from each others experiences and exchange ideas and skills.

We work closely with Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA) who are community and housing activists. They see their role as holding the council to account and encouraging residents and tenants to start collectively taking action to improve conditions on their estates. BASHA see their role with tenants and residents as facilitators and they’ll willingly provide whatever support is needed to help a group get off the ground – we take an active part in that when a propaganda aspect is needed. What BASHA and we will not do is hold the hands of a group forever – we want to empower people to collectively act for themselves, not to become a client group of ours because we simply don’t do client groups!

We refer you to this piece we wrote recently which we hope will make things clear: It’s down to us but most importantly, it’s down to YOU!https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/12/12/its-down-to-us-but-most-importantly-its-down-to-you/

OPENING UP OUR PROJECT

At the moment, we write the majority of the content that goes up on our blogs. That’s not an ideal situation as we really would like all of our blogs (and any papers we produce) to be collaborative projects. Ideally, we’d only be writing around twenty to thirty percent of the content and editing the rest written by people who support our vision for bringing about radical change from the grassroots upwards.

As we’ve mentioned previously, we’re into networking and alliance building as a strategy for building a movement that can bring about meaningful change. A key part of building that is having blogs (and papers) which reflect the strength and diversity of these networks and alliances so, please start sending in your reports, thoughts and musings and let’s open things up!

This also applies to distribution of our papers which currently is a right pain to undertake. On the basis that many hands make light work, any help with distribution will be greatly appreciated: Stirrer No.4 off to the printerhttps://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/12/26/stirrer-no-4-off-to-the-printer/

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…

Some perspective…

This short tribute was originally published by the Independent Working Class Association. We’re posting this in a bid to bring some perspective to the somewhat heated discussions about identity politics that are currently taking place in anarchist and radical movements…

On this day in 1969 Fred Hampton, Chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, died. Hampton was murdered by state forces assigned to the office of Attorney Edward Hanrahan, whose anti-gang rhetoric Fred had called a “war on black youth”.

Fred Hampton began his political journey in the Youth Wing of the NAACP. Hampton was soon attracted to the Black Panther Party and was inspired by its working class socialist vision as outlined in the 10 Point Program.

He then joined the Illinois chapter of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee where, alongside his comrades, he began to score gains. These gains included, but were not limited to, encouraging and negotiating a nonviolence pact between Chicago street gangs.

Hampton realised the class nature of the struggle against poverty, racism and all other by-products of capitalism, including black struggles. He strove to push identity aside and ploughed time and effort into bringing together working class people of all races on a common ticket, one of social class.

Hampton and the rest of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party forged alliances with the Hispanic Young Lords and the white migrant Appalachian Young Patriots Organisation. The Black Panther Party in general, Illinois chapter in particular under Hampton, without foregoing the specific struggles faced by their own part of the community, pushed a class agenda.

This was the unifying factor upon which they chose to lay their foundations, under the leadership of Hampton. This is what the state and capitalist society found most terrifying: working class people foregoing arbitrary notions of identity, instead emphasising what brings us all together. For this, they murdered Fred Hampton in cold blood in his bed.

We learn from the past to shape the present and the future, and we must look at and become the legacy of genuine working class heroes such as Fred Hampton and the Black Panther Party.

Rest In Peace Fred Hampton!