resistance begins at home

Izzy Parrott reports on Hackney Housing Group’s fight against housing cuts

Unless we stop the changes, in April and October of this year we will see cuts to housing benefit make thousands of families homeless and effectively cleanse inner London boroughs of poorer households. We will also see the nature of social housing change, with government plans to allow social landlords to charge 80% of market rent and permit social tenancies in place of life-long security of tenure. Sadly these cuts will also be coming to a sector, which has already suffered from under-investment, poor quality and over-crowded housing and harsh ‘gate keeping’ practices at Homeless Person’s Units.

Hackney Housing Group plans to keep fighting for affordable housing, winning housing for its members and to fight the cuts at a local level. The group has been meeting regularly for the last two years and members have supported each other to win housing from the council through a range of tactics such as marching down to the housing office and refusing to leave until demands are met. Continue reading “resistance begins at home”

anti-cuts: room for concern and room for hope

Steve Ryan reflects on the progress of the anti-cuts campaigns

As we move towards spring and towards what is being billed as the biggest demo for years on 26th March, now is perhaps a good to time to reflect on the anti cuts “movement “ and where it is going.

So far it has looked very good. Hundreds of cities and towns now have anti cuts groups. There have been a series of demonstrations, events, public meetings stunts etc. Anyone who uses social networking sites will not have failed to be aware of this. It looks rich and diverse.

Before Christmas the student protests galvanised the movement with a series of imaginative demonstrations and occupations. There have been strikes, for example, the London Underground  and Department for Work and Pensions, and currently the UCU lecturers’ union is balloting over pay. Couldn’t be better. Could it?

Well yes, actually. There are clear signs that the movement is stalling. Continue reading “anti-cuts: room for concern and room for hope”

an image of the ‘big society’? a report from woodberry down community library

by ‘Lady Stardust’

The Tories are talking about the Big Society; anti-capitalists are talking about self-organisation and the commons; and the anti-cuts campaigns are demanding the preservation or re-instatement of state run and controlled services. Amongst this finding a radical critique of the state whilst defending those state services; finding a critique of self-exploitation whilst acknowledging the great things communities and small groups are doing to change lives and empower people – is not always easy. To take a concrete example we did a couple of interviews with some people running a community library in Hackney, North London.

The history

Woodberry Down is a huge run-down estate in Hackney with a population of 280,000. It has had a long planned and long delayed regeneration programme, resulting in repairs not done and empty flats; along side a huge building site for a flashy new development of ‘mixed housing’. Continue reading “an image of the ‘big society’? a report from woodberry down community library”

Council housing, and the changing needs of capitalism.

Barry Biddulph explains the historical restructuring of council housing

The state provision of Council Housing has always been  bureaucratic, and top-down, based on the needs of capital.  The nature and scope of council housing has changed with the changing needs of capitalism.

Its heyday was the long post-war economic boom. Since then the structural crisis of British capitalism has led to social engineering by Conservative and Labour governments making council housing mainly accommodation for those stigmatised as the “undeserving poor.”In other words, working-class people who will not or do not conform to the requirements of the market economy and can function as a reserve army of labour when necessary. Continue reading “Council housing, and the changing needs of capitalism.”

more work, no pay

editorial of The Commune

On 7th November the ConDem coalition announced its plan to force unemployed people to work a 30-hour week of manual labour to ‘earn’ the £65 Jobseekers’ Allowance.

Tory Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said the Work Activity scheme will “make work pay”. Quite the opposite. It will make people work for free, slaves to the state.

Government rhetoric claims that people in work are having to support the “work-shy”, and that this tax is unfair. Yet the whole coalition cuts project means that working-class people will get less services for the tax money they have to pay to the state, which is of course as high as ever. Continue reading “more work, no pay”

resist cuts to jobs, services and benefits

A bulletin distributed outside Sheffield Council buildings this morning

Cameron, Osborne and their chum Clegg have declared war on working class people. They are attacking welfare and public sector jobs: 490,000 public jobs will go. The £81 billion cuts are not a neutral economic necessity.   They have been denounced by many leading economists as they risk slowing growth, reducing government income, and therefore making the debt even harder to pay off.  The real agenda?  Thatcher’s old tune: less for the working class, more for the powerful.

the cuts coalition

It is a lie to say that we are standing on the brink of economic ruin or that the money has run out. It is spin to claim that we are ‘all in this together’. Continue reading “resist cuts to jobs, services and benefits”

women at the cutting edge… 30th october

A day of discussions hosted by Feminist Fightback. 11am – 5pm, Saturday 30 October at The Arbour, 100 Shandy Street, London E1 4ST (nearest tube Stepney Green)

On 20 October the ConDem government’s “Spending Review” will detail enormous cuts in public services. We are already feeling the impact of earlier cuts many effected by Labour; nurseries and libraries are closing, jobs are being lost. As the government “austerity drive” steps up, the reality is that cuts will hit the lives of all but the wealthiest. In many cases women will be hit the hardest with recent reports estimating  that women will suffer 72% of the tax and benefit cuts. Continue reading “women at the cutting edge… 30th october”

fighting their attacks, defining our alternative

On 11th September The Commune hosted a conference ‘From Meltdown to Upheaval’, discussing the effects of the crisis and the existing working-class response. The purpose of the day was not just to rhetorically condemn the cuts and celebrate resistance, but rather to help define our demands and means of organisation.

This website will feature reports based on the discussions at the day’s workshops, starting with the two below on ongoing struggles and community and voluntary organising. Continue reading “fighting their attacks, defining our alternative”

welfare capitalism and the cuts – sheffield, wednesday 3rd november

The next meeting of the Sheffield communist forum takes place from 7pm on Wednesday 3rd November at the Rutland Arms, 86 Brown Street, S1 2BS. Considering the current historic attacks on the welfare state we will be considering defending ‘welfare capitalism’ and the need for an alternative.

Questions which we hope to discuss:

1 Are the cuts an economic necessity?

2 Will the cuts smash or restructure the Welfare state?

3 Do we simply defend the welfare state?

4 Can trade unions defend jobs and services?

The texts listed below may provide an insight to differing views on this issue.

Essential reading:

Are the cuts Necessary, and does it matter? – Oisín Mac Giollamóir
and subsequent comments.

Other suggestions:

A war on the welfare state – Keith Harvey in Permanent Revolution issue 17 summer 2010.

Where does resistance come from? – Sheila Cohen

In and against the state (1979) – London Edinburgh Weekend Return Group

People over profit – Noam Chomsky

Karl Marx on the nature of trade unions, in Results of the Direct Production Process of Capital Volume 1.

Contradictions of the welfare state – Claus Offe

The future of the capitalist state – Bob Jessop.

Trade unions under capitalism – Tom Clarke and Laurie Clements.

The political Economy of the welfare state – Ian Gough.

Class capital and Social policy – Norman Ginsburg.

State and capital – John Holloway and Sol Picciotto.

Crack Capitalism – John Holloway

Housing and the welfare state – Peter Malpass

All welcome. Email for more details.

are the cuts necessary, and does it matter?

Oisín Mac Giollamóir responds to a debate on whether UK capitalism ‘needs’ to make the cuts

First, does it matter whether the cuts are necessary or not? Some might say “No. Everyone knows that Labour would have introduced them as well. The point is to show how they are necessary regardless of who is in power and to argue that the only real solution is revolution.”

I disagree: it is not the task of revolutionaries to merely point out the limitations of Labour and situate ourselves to the ‘left of Labour’. Rather, we should fight for anything that increases the power, confidence and autonomy of the working class. We should support wage-workers and their dependents making demands for themselves independently of the needs of capitalism. Continue reading “are the cuts necessary, and does it matter?”

the ‘social wage’ and the hackney nurseries campaign

Camille Barbagallo and Nic Beuret look at the role of public services and how the cuts axe is falling

Childcare services in the UK are under attack. Childcare services across the country are being defunded, abolished and downgraded. In this article we start with the specific cuts in Hackney to nursery places and analyse these cuts in the context of the gendered nature of the ConDem’s austerity budget. We explore both what enables these cuts to happen now and what their effects will be and conclude with some reflections on possible paths of resistance within the current crisis of care.

Let’s be honest – the public services that are being cut include things that we need, but we hate how they are given to us: like unemployment benefits. They also involve jobs that we rely on but resent having to do. But what is also true is that they are part of a ‘social wage’ fought for and won by pervious generations. Continue reading “the ‘social wage’ and the hackney nurseries campaign”

is unison ready to fight the cuts?

A UNISON branch official looks at the attacks on the left within the union at a time when public sector workers face major cuts

This summer Dave Prentis won his bid to become General Secretary of UNISON for the third time with 67.2% of the vote (based on a very poor 14% turn out). As a speaker at conference Dave Prentis often talks left.

However, despite his fine words, he has been at the helm during a period when the left have suffered serious attacks from the leadership. Several very well known and respected left wingers in UNISON have faced harassment and even expulsion on trumped up and unfounded charges. Some of these instances are well known amongst the wider labour movement. Continue reading “is unison ready to fight the cuts?”

cuts agenda tough on peckham

Ahead of our September 11th assembly on the crisisSharon Borthwick writes on the changes in social composition and public services in Peckham in recent years, and the meaning of the crisis and cuts plans.

The sign outside Academy at Peckham reads, “Our facilities are unparalleled by any other school in Britain”. And well they might be! But the ‘facilities’ spoken of here are nothing to do with the vast playing fields of Eton. There are no well-stocked libraries. They can’t boast a rowing lake or a Latin Master. Learning for learning’s sake is not the object here. The facilities consist of things such as a “Professional Hospitality and Catering Suite” and a “Hairdressing and Beauty Salon”.

The children of Peckham are being told what career paths they are cut out for. Though academies are mostly funded by public money, Lord Harris of Peckham is the chief ‘sponsor’ of Academy at Peckham and nine other South London Academies; he likes them all to bear his name. Harris is a Conservative member of the House of Lords and contributes substantial donations to his party; he is also a vocal opponent of gay rights. The Academy at Peckham is set to make job cuts, specifically in support staff. Continue reading “cuts agenda tough on peckham”