…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”