deeper into essex: how you are allowed to be in your cities

Sharon Borthwick reviews Annan Minton ‘Ground Control: Fear and happiness in the twenty-first century city’

“Town-scapes are changing. The open-plan city belongs in the past — no more ramblas, no more pedestrian precincts, no more left banks and Latin quarters. We’re moving into the age of security grilles and defensible space. As for living, our surveillance cameras can do that for us. People are locking their doors and switching off their nervous systems.”

A protest against Dow Chemical, a sponsor of the Olympics

This is a J G Ballard character in Cocaine Nights talking, yet it couldn’t be a more fitting quote to go accompany Anna Minton’s, ‘Ground Control: Fear and happiness in the twenty-first century city’, first published in 2009 and reissued this year with a new chapter on the legacy of the Olympics. I kept expecting Minton to quote Ballard at some point in the book, but she is more concerned to give voice to actual people than to characters of dystopian novels. We travel with her on her research, getting off the tube at Canary Wharf, meeting young people and youth workers in Manchester, people in Salford, Edinburgh and London, Town Planners, experts in planning law… Lets take her encounters in, Manchester, our ASBO capital apparently, where the young people have been served an especially raw deal, not allowed into pubs before the age of 25 they are wandering the streets to meet, no clubs or anywhere they can afford to hang out. But here’s the rub, if they are seen congregating together on street corners they are told to go home. The police stop and search the boys for no reason. Dispersal orders are even preventing young children from playing out in the street, one mother saying her daughter was ordered home out of the kebab shop by a cop. AM asks a simple question, what if the money was spent on facilities for them instead of enforcement? Continue reading “deeper into essex: how you are allowed to be in your cities”

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london busworkers: olympic 500 – phoney war or wages battle?

First published in Solidarity Forever, paper of London Regional Committee IWW(IWGB), which comprises the London Busworkers Branch (IU IU530)

The union Unite has raised the profile of the campaign to secure a £500 bonus payment for the 28,000 bus workers in London. Leaflets, posters and even executive members have appeared in some garages. The demand for the bonus is just. The increased revenue the bus companies will make during the Olympics will more than cover the cost of a bonus in recognition of the even more stress and demands placed on bus workers. However, this issue raises far wider questions. The campaign has placed on the agenda the more important issue of the steady deterioration of bus workers wages and working conditions. Continue reading “london busworkers: olympic 500 – phoney war or wages battle?”

…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”

planning london meetings and activism

From 7pm on Monday 4th January the London branch of The Commune will be holding a meeting to organise our forums, reading groups and activism for the early part of 2010.

We will be planning a continuation of our reading group discussion on workplace organising and trade unionism, with a look at the organisation of work today and the shape of the class society. As well as discussing activism in the capital, the meeting will also look to organising a communist theory discussion group, and forums on themes of capitalism and the working class today. Continue reading “planning london meetings and activism”

update on the commune’s activities around britain

Communards in Wrexham have been busy pushing a May day march and rally through the local trade council. The theme will be around May day as a workers movement day as oppossed to the racism and hate of the BNP, who are active in the area.

After the march a series of meetings are being arranged around the title “Storming the heavens – alternatives to capitalism”.

Paper sales will also be launched in and around the town centre. Contact Steve Ryan via uncaptiveminds@gmail.com

In the West Midlands we take part in the Coventry Radical Network, whose  next meeting is on Monday April 27th from 7.30pm at Friends’ Meeting House, Hill Street, Coventry. 

The topic of the meeting is Private Finance Initiatives (PFIs), with Dave Green (Northampton Save Our Services) on the fight against Schools PFIs in Northampton – the largest scheme in Europe and a speaker from Coventry Friends of the Earth arguing against the £1 billion PFI Incinerator scheme in Coventry. More info: call Dave Spencer on 02476-450027 Continue reading “update on the commune’s activities around britain”

report of 17th january palestine demo in london

After last week’s massive march to London’s Israeli embassy in opposition to the Israeli state’s attack on the people of Gaza, a much smaller set of regional actions was called for Saturday 17th by the leaders of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Stop the War Coalition. In London, a rally in Trafalgar Square was followed by a “women and children only” protest at Downing Street.

However, as an eyewitness who spoke to The Commune reports, not everyone was happy with such conservative ideas of how to protest:

The rally in Trafalgar Square attracted a few thousand people. There were the usual speeches: Tony Benn called for the RAF to drop humanitarian aid over Gaza… When the women and children’s march headed for Downing Street at about 4 o’ clock we tried to go with, but a steward kept repeating “You are neither a woman nor a child!” and held me back. Around one to two thousand people were left in the square.

At the same time, a few dozen people started heading down Cockspur Street, planning to go to the Israeli Embassy in Kensington but the police ‘kettled’ them [ surrounded them] right there and told them they couldn’t leave the square. People from the rally swarmed round them, breaking the police ‘kettle’ and freeing them. There was then a contingent of about 400 people, itself surrounded by police on horseback and with dogs… but this police line was also only one deep, and another group of 200 protesters broke through. Continue reading “report of 17th january palestine demo in london”