Friday, 25 February 2011

EastEnders must fight back



Writers block comes like a theft in the night, all of a sudden my mind and thoughts are paralysed, powerless and unable to function  like I did say just a day or two before. It may be the depressing London weather that seems to drag on winter’s bitter bite, or it could just be me, and I suspect the latter.

The condition (writers block) amongst writers is said to vary widely in intensity. It can be trivial, a temporary difficulty in dealing with the task at hand. At the other extreme, some "blocked" writers have been unable to work for years on end, and some have even abandoned their calling. It can manifest as the affected writer viewing their work as inferior or even unsuitable, when in fact it could be the opposite.

Well I don’t really know about any of that, being just an unskilled very amateur contributor to this blog, but I don’t think that it will have any permanency, just one of those things that I find happens now and again.

Whilst walking the other day from Canning Town Tube Station, and along down the Barking Road. I could not help myself from detecting and feeling the uncertainty written but well hidden on the faces of people that I passed by, and in the metaphorical sense on that globe-trot home. Now at this moment in time, Canning Town is rather like a massive building site; work has now begun on Phase One of the redevelopment of Rathbone Market, and all that which is a part of what the council says is regeneration. Now I know nothing lasts for eternally, and often change comes sometimes at a pace that is beyond the control of ordinary people, the council may call it in this case regeneration, but in fact it is anything but; regeneration for whom and who I have constantly been asking myself.        

In the last few years we have seen the decanting and demolition of about 600 homes, and many that were left empty awaiting the bulldozer and contractors, were taken over by homeless (squatting) Eastern Europeans, however just before Christmas the council evicted them, so they either moved on, found new squats or slept out on the streets, but worst still the council rendered the houses which are still standing, uninhabitable; ripping out all pluming and electrics, smashing toilets and bathrooms, then fixing great steel fittings over windows and doors like armoured plated protection, only this was to keep homeless people out.

Before anyone asks, this part of Newham like the rest of the borough is a Labour Party fortress which has never seen a Tory on the Council, but that may change in the not so distant and far-flung passage of time.

For years and until recent times this part of the East End was just another rundown working class area, whose children before its demise supplied and were the labour to the docks and supporting industries; long before my time here, there was a real community who lived, worked and fought together. It really is all too easy to turn that page in class history and forget what working class East Enders had to put up with down through their own unique and unparalleled history. A little reminder has always been the scars of the Blitz that were still visible in the East End, two decades on, and I always think of this when workers uncover and discover an unexploded WW2 bomb one of many that rained and were rammed down during those dark day’s of war, and of course not forgetting the many thousands of ordinary working class East Enders who lost their lives defending and working on the docks or living nearby during the war.

People in poverty from the 1960s

Then there is the history of the Labour Movement entrenched, but not so dug in as it once was. On the other side of the A13 that runs through the hart and divides Canning Town is a council estate, or I should say a former council estate, most of the housing sold off by Thatcher and the Tories during their last innings at the stump; however a little run-down but with a clue to a past time, retaining the name of the Keir Hardie estate you feel and sense the history of past battles, which I think should be a general conscious and awareness to all, but sadly its not, and I'm going to get on to that latter now that the writers block is evaporating as the sun shines on a pool of rainwater left by a summers downpour.

We should never forget our history; history leads us to our future, and what we are and what we have now here in the present.

The East End grew rapidly during the 19th century. In the first place it was an area characterised by villages bundled together around the City walls or along the main roads, surrounded by farmland, with marshes and small communities by the River, serving the needs of shipping and the Royal Navy. Until the arrival of formal docks, shipping was required to land its goods in the Pool of London, but industries related to construction, repair, and victualling of ships flourished in the area from Tudor times. The area attracted large numbers of rural people looking for employment. Successive waves of foreign immigration began with Huguenot refugees creating a new extramural suburb in Spitalfields in the 17th century. They were followed by Irish weavers, Ashkenazi Jews and, in the 20th century, Bangladeshis. Many of these immigrants worked in the clothing industry. The abundance of semi- and unskilled labour led to low wages and poor conditions throughout the East End. This brought the attentions of social reformers during the mid-18th century and led to the formation of unions and workers associations at the end of the century. The radicalism of the East End contributed to the formation of the Labour Party and demands for the enfranchisement of women.

So from the above condensed critique; I hope that I’m able to put across the history the contribution that working class East Enders made to the emerging Labour and Trade Union Movement, and I must say a history that lies in the dust of time, but with a few indications that provide us with a clue; telling something about a past. And it’s at this very time when our class is being attack by the Rottweiler’s of capitalism that we should learn from our history both good and bad and then organise the fight back. I have much more to say about Newham, Canning Town and what I think I will be doing and urging others to do in my locality in the time to come.

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