…or does it explode?

Joe Thorne looks for the meaning of the recent wave of inner city riots

Eventually, it always explodes.  But what dream has been deferred, how, and by whom?  Who are the rioters, what motivated them – and does it matter?  Was there a radical kernel to the riots which would speak to us, if only we would listen? Or were they the mute reflex of a nihilist or egoistic sub-generation of looter-consumers – pitiable, and understandable, but nothing more?

Clarence Road, Hackney, Monday night.

To the former idea corresponds a romanticised account of the figure of the rioter as a new vanguard-subject in the class struggle, flawed, but in essence communistic.  To the later idea corresponds the view that the rioters need to be rescued by the political programme or organisation of some other segment of the working class: the primary significance of their disorder is as a moral rebuke to the movement which has forgotten them.  Both are attempts to constrain a complex reality under too-easy an analysis.  There is no ‘essence’ to the riots; beyond their expression of a particular phase in the recomposition of the class-relation in Britain’s inner cities.  As we shall see, the riots were partly products of a real, positive and intentional class consciousness, albeit the consciousness of a very particular sub-section of the class.  There were also elements in it that were not only nihilistic and selfish, but vicious and cruel.  Continue reading “…or does it explode?”

monday night in hackney

GP Jonathan Tomlinson reflects on the riots in Hackney, and their social context.  Please note that this is a different version of the article originally published in this post.  The original article is published below.

On Monday night one of my patients was attacked by a gang of youths barely a hundred yards from my surgery. He was held up against a wall by two of them while another cut his neck with a knife, not deep enough to do any serious physical damage, but more than enough to add another psychological scar to the multitude he already has.

A light-hearted moment during the riots on Mare St: but there was also a darker side

The attack had nothing to do with the riots which were going on a couple of miles away right outside my front door on Mare Street. His attack was part of a sustained campaign of intimidation by bored, sadistic kids on young gay men in Hoxton. Violence is endemic around here. The receptionists explained that they cannot get pizza deliveries because the kids on their estates keep nicking the mopeds. In the winter months our elderly patients will not book appointments after dark for fear of being mugged. There is a memorial on Hoxton Street to 16 year old Agnes Sina-Okoju who was shot dead outside a takeaway last year. Last month a patient found a gun hidden in his garage and put it back where he found it in case the owner returned. Continue reading “monday night in hackney”

reflections on june 30th strike day: a movement taking its first steps

For Izzy Parrott, the J30 day of action was about more than pensions: but it didn’t have the feel of a wide, grassroots movement. 

I went to the strike with Hackney Welfare Action, a benefit claimant and unemployed workers’ group in Hackney, where members support each other with problems at the Job Centre, take action collectively and campaign against ‘work for your benefits’. This is sister group to the Hackney Housing Group, which I’m personally involved in.

Hackney Welfare Action members first went to the picket line at Hackney Benefits Centre, which was a useful show of support for the three workers on the picket line, including one trade union representative. Only fifteen out of three hundred workers crossed the picket that was made up of three workers and roughly thirty supporters. The workers were pleased to have the support and the dialogue we had reminded me that the picket line is still a great place to have conversations! Continue reading “reflections on june 30th strike day: a movement taking its first steps”

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”

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”

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”

local report from hackney, london – crisis in the city’s ripped back-yard

Written for debate at The Commune’s assembly on September 11th 2010 in London.

1) Intro 2) Class/Capital Structure in Hackney 3) General Re-Structuring in the Working-class Terrain 4) Overview of the Cuts 5) Recent Strikes / Resistance 6) Initiatives of the Left 7) Open Questions for Communist Strategy 8) Questionaire for Local reports 9) Footnotes

Continue reading “local report from hackney, london – crisis in the city’s ripped back-yard”

workers’ report: general conditions and the conditions for generalisation at hackney street cleansing department

Here follows a report about working at Hackney Street Cleansing Department – waste collection and street sweeping –  as part of the preparation for the ‘From Melt-Down to Upheaval’-Assembly of ‘The Commune’ in September 11th 2010 in London. For details of the meeting click here.

The scope of the report is limited in itself, a work-place story. Nevertheless, looking collectively at these ‘individual experiences’ and to debate the common tendencies is a necessary step if we want to go beyond lefty campaigning and preaching. Working at the depot de-constructs certain myth about the ‘monolithic public sector’, which is currentlly undermined by private contracts, agency work and day labour.

While unions and the left focus on certain ‘issues’ (single status agreement etc.), the actual conflicts evolve around the question of work-intensification and work-force re-composition. While the left still sees the union as the main door-knob for getting in touch with ‘the working class’, the influence of the union is rather limited. Continue reading “workers’ report: general conditions and the conditions for generalisation at hackney street cleansing department”

hackney community college needs a community fightback

A report on the recent cuts by an hourly-paid ESOL teacher

Cuts and Compulsory Redundancies

Earlier this year 68 members of staff at Hackney Community College were issued with notification of possible redundancy. After two successful, solid strike days, negotiation and many voluntary redundancies there are now only a handful of people facing compulsory redundancy. Continue reading “hackney community college needs a community fightback”

a ripple in the storm

Joe Thorne reports on anti-cuts initiatives in Hackney

On the last day of June, nearly fifty trade unionists, socialists, and community activists met in an old church hall in Hackney, east London.  We came together to discuss the wave of public sector cuts which has already begun, and how we can organise to push them back.

Around the city, and across the country, equivalent meetings have been held or will be held shortly.  Many of them, such as ours, will decide to establish campaigns of one sort or another.  The real content of these campaigns, just like the content of the meetings, will differ widely. Continue reading “a ripple in the storm”

defend hackney nurseries! fun day 30th may

From Feminist Fightback

Join us and Friends of Hackney Nurseries on Sunday 30th May, 11am-2pm at London Fields for fun, games and organising to save childcare provision!

At the end of April at least 8 community nurseries in Hackney were informed of immediate cuts in their budget of up to 60%, or about £50,000. This will mean the serious threat of nursery closures, and hardship and distress for parents, workers and children. The Learning Trust and Hackney Council are denying that there is a programme of cuts to nursery provision – so we want to know: Where has the money gone? How can nurseries keep running with such drastic cuts? Why are all the politicians and officers passing the buck and not answering our questions?

Continue reading “defend hackney nurseries! fun day 30th may”

strike solid at hackney community transport

by Joe Thorne

More than 40 pickets were stood at the gates of the Hackney Community Transport (HCT) bus depot this morning.  Playing football, waving flags and milling about on Ash Grove, off Mare St, the strikers are amongst the worst treated workers on London buses.

Union members try to persuade a fellow worker not to scab

Contrary to what some may assume, not all London bus drivers are on the same terms and conditions.  HCT drivers are on £11.52 an hour, lower than most bus drivers.  And they get no extra pay for overtime or unsociable hours.  The company is offering a derisory 2.25%, while union members want to see wages and conditions brought more into line with those of other bus drivers in the capital.

Continue reading “strike solid at hackney community transport”

a death in the community

by Joe Thorne

On Friday night, at around 1am and at the bottom of my road in Hackney, Jahmal Mason-Blair was stabbed in the neck and dead within the hour.   He was 17, the ninth teenager murdered this year on the streets of London.  The boy who has been arrested for Jahmal’s killing is 13 years old.

At a nearby  cafe yesterday morning, Jahmal’s murder was still on the minds of locals.  Jahmal was what they call a ‘good kid’.  A talented, ambitious footballer, someone who knew where he was going.  People say he was trying to break up a fight.  But the talk in the cafe is all about punishment; capital punishment, preferably.  I point out that they have capital punishment in the US, and it’s worse there.  Nobody listens.  One guy tries to talk about prison; but others pipe up about not wanting their taxes to go to buy food for the prisoners, let alone Playstations.  “If I could, I’d get a machine gun…” are the last words I hear as I walk out the door.

jahmal-mason-blair-tributes Continue reading “a death in the community”

protest for decent housing in hackney

On Saturday 7th around sixty people marched down London’s Stoke Newington Road to Hackney Town Hall in protest at the council’s neglect of Hackney residents in temporary accommodation, who are subject to very low levels of maintenance and poor hygiene as well as expensive rent. After speeches by residents outside the Alexandra Court Hostel describing the bad conditions (as detailed below), we marched through the streets. The protest was organised by the London Coalition Against Poverty, whose appeal for the protest is reproduced at the bottom of this piece.

p07-02-09_160701 Continue reading “protest for decent housing in hackney”