reports on the commune’s summer school

On 19th June The Commune held the ‘Beyond Resistance’ summer school in London. 67 people registered. We are planning to publish reports on all sessions as well as some video footage, and welcome contributions by those who attended. The first such contribution is this reflection on the day by Sharon Borthwick.

Bengali secular activist Ansar Ahmed Ullah spoke about EDL and Islamist provocations in east London

Very much enjoyed the summer school. I went to Sean Bonney and Danny Ryan-Smith’s Alienation and Critique of Everyday Life in the morning. Interesting points were raised by speakers about the bourgeois control of every aspect of our lives and people’s general acceptance of strained, alienated living.

We discussed the misery of people living without control over their lives; religion on the rise for solace instead of people attacking the real powers that be; the rise of mental illness under circumstances of such unnatural existence. And the new favoured remedy – cognitive therapy which tells you to change your own thought patterns (and is very cheap to run – rapidly trained therapists and large group sessions) over R D Laing’s theory that it is rather mad not to be mad under capitalism. Many participants suggested ideas for further reading including Marx, Adorno, Lafargue, Meszaros. There was lively talk about estranged work and leisure.

After lunch I attended the Community Organising session. Talks were given by LCAP and Friends of Hackney Nurseries. This was really practically useful for ways to be activist in the local community. LCAP are concentrating on housing issues and give good advice on their website about what legally councils are required to do for you when you are homeless and listing the tricks councils engage in to not even put you down on the housing list. LCAP are fighting for decent housing for all, empty properties to be used, rents to never be more than 25% of people’s income. Based in Hackney, LCAP are now concentrating on spreading their efforts throughout London and beyond.

Friends of Hackney Nurseries told us about the extent of the cuts – very few public service nursery places are left available, the private sector encroaching over all. FHN get the media involved and organise fund raising events and demonstrations. LCAP are also involved on behalf of the unemployed and are preparing for welfare reforms, e.g. those on incapacity benefits being pushed into work even though there are already not enough jobs – merely to appease the populist right wing, for show, as its hardly a practical measure. LCAP are active against private enterprises such as A4E which are running absolutely useless unemployment schemes at huge government expense. They have occupied job centres as well as leafletting.

Speakers from all over Britain were involved in this discussion – from Dundee to Lewisham. We heard about a Lewisham school occupation which extended its original remit to link with workers from eg. Visteon and Vestas. This is surely the way forward – for us all to get involved in each others’ local struggles to whatever extent we can. Talking of which, users and staff at Goldsmith’s nursery have been told without any notice that it is going to shut. Petition here.

The last session I went to was on Capital and the Democratic State. Jo Taylor held this alone and was absolutely brilliant. She talked about the state and debt. How the election served as propaganda for the cuts over any other alternative such as raising taxes; bonds selling to be bought back beyond means enabling further spending on defence; the lack of transparency on what actual state spending is; the whole debt thing as a constructed discourse (all in it together) over real things like people’s needs. Some people at this discussion seemed to see no alternative to the state and thought it would still have to be there and a part of any revolutionary action. I don’t at all understand this line of though and nor did Emma. Are most of us at least against the state? I hope so.

See here for a report by Permanent Revolution