Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Justice for Grenfell


On the 14th of June 2017 a fire broke out in a tower block in West London. It took 24 hours to get it under control and over 60 to get it fully out. At least 71 people have died. 

The story of Grenfell didn't start at 54 minutes past midnight on 14/07/17 though. It's one episode in the long neo-liberal journey towards the total destruction of social housing in the UK. In this case it was in the aftermath of huge cuts to the body that regulates social housing. Roger Jarman the former head of housing at the Audit Commission - which has previously inspected social housing for safety - wrote to the Guardian newspaper in the days after the fire saying this:

"Unlike the healthcare, social care and education sectors, social housing in England no longer has an inspection regime that assesses the performance of landlords delivering services to the 4 million households living in housing association or local authority housing. Between 2000 and 2010 the Audit Commission carried out 1,400 housing inspections of housing associations and local authorities, but when the commission was abolished by the coalition government these inspections stopped".

The tenants who lived there had already given stark warning of what could happen. They had been ignored. 

2 days after the fire, on Friday 16th of June word spread via social media that a protest was planned. I was free that evening and jumped straight onto the train after work. I arrived in Kensignton to find the town hall occupied and local people filling the streets. 

We then began marching towards the tower:

The atmosphere was like nothing I'd experienced before on a protest. While the likes of the Socialist Workers Party had predictably turned up there was nothing they could do to 'manage' this protest, they were spectators at best. 

On route all vehicles stopped, car horns were beeping loudly, people were getting off buses to join in with the protest, people were shouting and whistling from balconies along the way. As we arrived speeches were given, almost all from local people as far as I could tell. 

Demands were read out. Posters were up all over the place with names and pictures of those who were still missing, many people were in tears. 

The Justice for Grenfell campaign continues. 

There will be no justice until people responsible for cutting corners are fully identified and dealt with and social housing rises again and the working class in the UK are saved from the clutches of corrupt housing associations that have long lost their purpose, greedy scheming private landlords, massive capitalist housing developers and the banks.

All of us who live at the mercy of landlords who don't give a shit about us unless the rent is late live at risk of fire, mould, pest infestations, poisoning and being worn down by cold and damp conditions. This kind of housing is killing us all slowly.

Decent social housing for all, democratically controlled by the residents is a revolutionary demand. When we have control of our own homes and our streets and our neighbourhoods we will be well on the way to taking control of our lives and living in the safe, healthy conditions that the class of people who have built the entire cities we live in deserve.

Friday, 9 February 2018

Leave it to the left

I've seen what happens when Liberals go toe to toe with the right in a debate. When they face off with anyone from mainstream conservatives to the alt-right to full-on fascists it nearly always ends in embarrassment.

Why should we socialists feel embarrassed by the antics of liberals that get in over their heads?

Because, for better or worse we get associated with them, especially when it comes to dealing with the reactionary right.

I've seen enough of liberals tying themselves up in knots, stumbling over their words, saying things they didn't mean to say (or at least saying things they didn't like the sound of when they came out). And the 'logical', 'strong', 'intelligent' right winger launches blow after blow with a smile on their face as, to their delight, everything they expected to happen when they got into a debate with a liberal does, in fact, happen:

The average liberal's world view turns out to be mere fluff. Full of inconsistencies, based on assumptions about expected norms of 'right' and 'wrong' and belief that social pressure can continue to enforce these, lacking any background study and so failing to understand the philosophical points at stake in each round they begin to look for a way out, or worse they begin seeking compromise or approval.

Why does this happen?

Because the right wing arguments are perfectly suited to their natural environment, capitalism. They often make fairly good sense in a world where everyone is an individual, responsible for whether they 'win' or 'lose'. In this world, plainly, everyone, is already getting what they deserve, because they deserve whatever they managed to grab during this short life and 'losers' deserve their lot too.

Liberals enter into the debate with the same basic individualist assumptions, even if they've got icing on top of theirs, it's the same cake.

If you accept a world where capitalists have freedom to run a private business you're going to struggle to show how people who don't own that business get a say in how it operates. If you accept a world where everyone has to compete to survive you will find it quite a challenge to justify inserting in special clauses that limit the way this operates to ensure that people who are ostensibly 'losing' don't get such a rough deal.

It gets worse.

I have literally heard liberals argue that all migration is good on the basis that "if we don't let migrants in who's going to do all the shit jobs we don't want to do?" At which point, presumably the fascist who hadn't considered the benefits of importing a class of slaves to clean their toilets begins to reconsider their position...

Leave it to the left. Please.

Let us show how the right are acting as lap dogs for the capitalist class who own our homes and our workplaces and run our government, require us to feel atomised and isolated, blaming ourselves for anything that goes wrong and/or being willing to step on people's heads to stay just above them on the ladder while the capitalists are ten floors up at the party already, egging us on and laughing. Listen then, to how our message - that if we all learn to have a bit of solidarity with the rest of our class  and start working together against these greedy bastards we can win - starts to sound a bit more appealing... no? Where are the right wing going to go now they've been exposed?

Let us show that private businesses are based on systematic theft and that the socialist alternative where industry is run democratically by the class of people who do the work, not unaccountable bosses is the only solid ground for demanding equality for all. Not begging the boss to be nicer, or kissing the bosses ass as the right advocate.

Let us show that people deserve the right to settle where ever they want but also deserve the right not to be bombed or starved out of their homes too. That bosses do try to use open borders to bring in cheap labour but that, obviously, isn't the fault of the workers than come to take up the offer. That the value of all working class people, immigrant or not isn't found in whether we can be of useful service to the boss or please the ruling class by adhering to their bourgeois morality or nationalism, but in our human dignity.