Monday, 31 August 2015

Poverty gap widening

Last week we were contacted by Press TV and did the following interview:

A new study has found that the number of millionaires in the UK has increased significantly within the past five years.

Figures released by Barclays, a British multinational banking and financial services company, indicate that Britain now boasts 41 percent more millionaires than it did five years ago.
According to the report, there are now 715,000 millionaires living in Britain compared with 508,000 in 2010.

It is estimated that one in 65 British adults is now categorized as having a seven-figure fortune.
The rise is seen as a result of booming house prices and stock market gains.

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Saturday, 29 August 2015

Last Of The Summer Wine - Squat Update

As if children around the country who are on their last weeks of summer holidaying don't already know it - but the weather has taken an unfavourable turn in recent weeks.
Which we also notice here, the change slowly in hand in our squat as we move closer to Autumn, there is a wee chill about in the morning and early evening, but not as yet that ferrous like and biting cold, but it’s not far away that's for sure, something for all of us to look forward to I suppose - and I'm joking of course.

Just keeping warm and eating the right quantities of healthy food will be the next battlefront to be fought on by many a family in the coming months. What a job parents have had to do this summer in just feeding hungry young people during these annual holidays but still 40 per cent of teachers believed children weren’t eating enough in these holidays, and even research from Kelloggs has shown that one in five families struggled to feed their kids during this time.

Facing Eviction Once More

After almost six weeks we went to court yesterday to defend our occupation of this former Victorian public house here in Kentish Town, Camden. The result was predictably the same as it has always been in all of the buildings we have occupied during the course of the last 10 months - ordered to be turned out onto the streets. The owner however, did fail to gain an interim possession order in court as he neglect to attach a response sheet to the paperwork served on us, however, the Judge did award a full possession order which we believe is somewhat unusual in these circumstances so we will be considering lodging an appeal after the bank holiday weekend.

Open Weekend And Film Nights

Queens Crescent facilitates one of London's oldest Street markets which did have up to 90 mainly family-run stalls that have been passed down from generation to generation but sadly like so many such markets situated in such working class parts of London is now in decline and only half the allocated stall spaces are in use, a singing of the times. Queen's Crescent market has been described in the past as a mixture, with pretty plain white houses sitting side by side with large council estates, some of which sit in beautifully landscaped grounds.

It is therefore evident from our stay in and on Queens Crescent that the general population are being squashed, squished like mud under foot and squeezed by austerity, the cuts, and of course gentrification as the developers move in which is part of the plan which the owner (in partnership with the Royal Bank of Scotland) of this property is hoping to profit from.

Yesterday, we opened our doors to the public and invited those interested to take a look at our squat, to take tea, coffee and enjoy skipped cake from a high-class cake shop in Soho. We set up a free book stall outside our door and gave away balloons to children, the response was amazing and very supportive. A postman told us that he was very worried about the future in an area that has been home to generations of the same families, we received donations of both food and money and in the evening we held a film showing featuring some short films about gentrification in other European countries and how to fight it such as in Turkey with the main film showing of Cathy Come Home by Ken Loach made in 1966 still very power today. The play tells the story of a young couple, Cathy (played by Carol White) and Reg (Ray Brooks). Initially their relationship flourishes; they have a child and move into a modern home. When Reg is injured and loses his job, they are evicted by bailiffs, and they face a life of poverty and unemployment, illegally squatting in empty houses and staying in shelters for the homeless. Finally, Cathy has her children taken away by social services.

The day was indeed very successful we hope to do much more of this sort of thing in times to come.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Gentrification Is Class Warfare

Gentrification is class warfare. Whether it is libraries closed by Tory cutbacks, council estates demolished and replaced by yuppie flats, or pubs and local shops forced to close due to soaring rent prices, make no mistake: the destruction of working-class areas is intentional.
Squatters and Homeless Autonomy have occupied the Mamelon Tower in Kentish Town in opposition to the replacement of working-class culture with yuppie flats. Historic pubs, such as this, have always maintained the connections within working-class areas. In an age of isolation, knowing your neighbours is the first step to resistance; and the closure of buildings such as this is an effort to divide us and make this resistance impossible – replacing our power with their profit.

The developer at the Mamelon Tower, Macneil Ltd., has a net-worth of over four million pounds, and will make hundreds of thousands more from selling the “authentic north London experience” wrapped up in an upmarket flat to toffs all around.

But grassroots resistance to gentrification is happening. Tenants and squatters are resisting evictions at the Guinness Estate, where young people refuse to cooperate with the pigs. Past demonstrations Reclaim Brixton, Reclaim Camden and Reclaim the Beats have shown the vigour with which we can fight back. The Queer Punks Collective fought against the destruction of queer culture by an overtly straight gentrifying force with the occupation of the recently closed Black Cap in Camden. The upcoming Reclaim Shoreditch demo on September 26th promises to show yet another example of fierce community resistance. All around London, an angry dissatisfaction is growing.

We are using the space at the Mamelon Tower as both an organising and community space. A public library space will be opening here soon, and the first anti-gentrification coffee morning and cinema evening will be taking place tomorrow, Friday 28th, from 2:00pm.

From Brixton to Holloway, Hackney to Elephant and Castle, property developers are closing down our shops and pubs, bailiff scumbags are evicting our friends, Bullingdon boys are closing our schools, libraries and hospitals. Let’s give them the “authentic north London experience”: let’s evict them from our city.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Those that have the least bring the most and those that have the most contribute the least.

Those that have the least bring the most and those that have the most contribute the least.

Funny that but very true.

I have noticed that some people with whom I live and I live in a squat in North London, seem to only be interested solely in eating, smoking, drinking or doing both and then sleeping. As if this has become a lifestyle done on the cheap, an escape from all the commitments that a great many have taken on to support themselves and their families which to a great extent restricts freedom of action. For the great many there is no escape from life's daily treadmill, holding down a job to pay the bills off, the rent, the mortgage and so on, the list is endless.

A new study by the ONS has given us a snapshot of what happened to household debt levels during the recession and into the recovery, if we can call it that, it’s a recovery for some, not all.

However, not including mortgages, the total household debt reached £104 billion between 2010 and 2012, an increase from £96bn in 2008-10. In 2010-12, the average household owed £3,500 on credit cards, overdrafts or loans and more than half of all households believed their debt was a burden.

There’s hardly any wonder then - that a great many are obsessed with money?

Everywhere you look, people appear to be extremely obsessed with wealth and money.  

And because we have taught and allowed entire generations to think that becoming wealthy is one of the primary goals in life, it is creating a tremendous amount of envy, jealousy, frustration and anger among those that have not been able to become wealthy and done well in life, it could be that they don’t fully understand why; it could also mean that many start to turn on their own and find another way of chasing money to pay them bills, life is cruel and harsh for many under capitalism.     

In recent years, the level of bitterness and resentment that the rest of the nation has toward the very wealthy has risen to a new level.  It has now become more and completely apparent to many that the system is designed to funnel wealth to the very top of the food chain, and many of those at the bottom of the food chain are starting to become extremely upset about this.

PEOPLE living in poverty pay around 10 per cent more than average for essential goods and services – a “poverty premium” which can push people on low incomes into crisis, a report has warned this week.

Low-income households are paying up to £112 a year more for their energy due to a lack of ability to take advantage of switching or finding cheaper tariffs.

Since the last financial crisis, almost all of the income gains have gone to the top one percent of all income earners, whilst on the other hand working families are feeling the pinch from flatlining wages which are completely out of line with the every spiraling costs of living.

None of us are perfect or as good as it is possible to be in the present system, we are after all the product of the environment we are born into and to some extent we may mimic that system in our own lives.

However, all is not lost no matter how frustrating it may seem at times, that’s why I continue to move and be as good an active crew member of Squatters and Homeless Autonomy, 45 squats down the road.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Destroy Power Not People - On The London Front Line Fighting Gentrification

Destroy Power Not People    

Which is a really good slogan that I'm warming to, as I think over in my own mind the many experiences and situations of squatting in versus buildings (45 in all) throughout London, mostly in central London and currently in north London, that slogan begins to make more and more sense.

October last year and I started taking an interest in a young group of squatters, who had taken over a derelict and deserted former NHS eye hospital in Marylebone and set-up home. On my first visit I discovered there were in fact 60 people having taken up space in the empty building. This was the beginning, the start of an unforgettable voyage of discovery and a trip around staying in (squatting) some of the most expensive real estate property in London worth billions in hard cash.       

The group had been brought together by a young man who had become somewhat of a celebrity having made a name for himself by climbing onto the domineering and ugly statue of Winston Churchill, that hangs around as if permanently loitering in Parliament Square, this during an Occupy Democracy week of action.

And that comrades, brings me to where I am today - living, participating - in a very active and what I consider a live squat, here in the heart of capitalist London on the front line or gentrification; opposing, occupying and resisting the social cleansing that's attempting to transform a city once often referred to as the metropolis in the 1970s. The times have indeed moved on since then and very much so to the detriment of working people who built a city, defended it during times of war, always the providers and labours that manned great factories, the great docks an integrable part of a past and bloody empire. As long as I can remember, I have always seen London through the description given by Charles Dickens in general, as a place where the majority are working people, but in my own opinion, always serving the owning and controlling class or elitist order.

In posts that are yet to come, I will narrate some more of my story regarding the crew that I move and live with, they have all the makings and indeed the ability to make a real difference by continuing to oppose gentrification of this city.                                       
Housing, or the lack of it has always been an interesting and intriguing subject for me over the years and now after almost five years of austerity, along with the disproportionate and gross attacks on the living standards of working people, the most vicious attacks on benefits which have continued to hit the very poorest sectors of the working class under both Labour and Coalition governments and now a Cameron-led Tory administration, has led to an explosion in homelessness in the UK.
Homelessness Among Young People

There has been a surge in homelessness among young people in the U.K., as the real number of homeless exceeds the government's "official figures" by three times, according to a  study by Cambridge University.

The survey also revealed that the availability of data on homelessness among young people has decreased since 2009 and discussed and noted the rise of what has been called "sofa surfing." With nowhere else to stay, 35 percent of the 2,011 youngsters who participated in the survey admitted to having sofa surfed at some point, on friends’ sofas or in cars, tents or open spaces.

The problems created by the shortage of affordable housing here and right across Britain can be traced to the 1970s - when the Conservative government abandoned and cancelled the construction of new council houses and stopped subsidizing social housing tenants in favour of enriching landlords and banks.

This policy continued into the 80s when Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government introduced a “Right to Buy” scheme, which enabled council housing tenants to buy their council houses.

Britain's current Conservative government claims to be reforming what it has deceptively called “affordable housing.” But in reality, many argue the new program makes it easier for housing developers to opt out of creating a small percentage of housing dedicated to lower rent in their schemes.

Extending the “Right to Buy” scheme to housing association tenants will be subsidized under the current plan by “forcing councils to sell ‘high value’ homes, speeding up rent rises, social cleansing and the gentrification of Britain’s cities.”  

Monday, 17 August 2015

Jeremy Corbyn Is A Good Type Of Guy But...

From my own experience of him - I do know that Jeremy Corbyn - is a good type of guy - when it comes to Labour Party, politics and the current election for a new leader.

Without any doubt about it in my own mind - I do believe, that he is both a reasonable, fair and an honourable left politician.

It's all good then, that which is happening right now within the Labour Party - I am delighted and I do suspect like a great many, who are following events and this particular leadership election and its eventful outcome,  and hopefully, to see in the end game, the departure of the Blairites from the influential and dizzy heights of public life within the organisation they infiltrated and captured.

In the first year of Blair's leadership and at his first party conference, I found myself travelling overnight in a hurry to attend and lend support to Glasgow Maryhill CLP who were trying to holt and to stop the ditching of Clause lV.  The eventual changing of Clause IV a year later was seen by political commentators of that time as the defining moment at which Old Labour became New Labour, this ultimately happened the next year and as Blair said it would, such was the hold he was given, which is something worth remembering.

The conference held in Blackpool enabled me to invite Corbyn to travel up to Scunthorpe and address party members at a public meeting, which he did on a very cold winters night. I spent some time with him before and after the meeting, and therefore, I can if you like, vouch for his integrity as a left socialist.

The same could not be said of the other 3 people running for the leadership of the Labour Party along with Corbyn, they are in my own estimation, failing to tell the general public about their policies and exactly what changes they would introduce, this is what I have noticed during the course of this very interesting development in the Labour Party and a leadership campaign with a difference.      

Corbyn’s opponents - are those who have gained a great deal of personal wealth, power and status as a result of the present immoral and unequal crony capitalist system and are desperate to promote Cooper, Burnham or Kendall as they see them as being no different to Osborne and Cameron. They do not want any power to shift from the few to the many, even within the Labour Party, which is after all,  a willing participant in capitalism and the ‘state’ as it stands. I will always recall Tony Benn even saying - that the Labour Party has never been a socialist party.

Such is the history of Labour

Labour lost the plot in the seventies and has been in a downward spiral since then.
Turning its back on principles and propping up consumerism at every opportunity, and then to start lead and lend support to US imperialist wars and campaigns of terror around the globe.    

Now they cannot produce an original thinking leader to move them forward as they become another Conservative party.
An opposition party (in this cesspit of a parliament) is  generally assumed to produce effective opposing ideas and policies not abstain and thereby support an oppressive government. They may or may not split, or they may change their direction, the drubbing by the SNP north of the border should have woken them from their slumber. I myself cannot see them ever returning to the party of the poor, oppressed and needy. There is no money in supporting those at the bottom, they are more concerned with gaining appeal to bankers than workers.

Jeremy Corbyn's campaign has the right wing inside the Labour Party frothing at the mouth - his successors have gone wading in - and in the hope, that it will impade and change the mind and motions of thousands of ordinary members in this leadership election. However, Corbyn has drawn if not lit up a new path for thousands travelling in the direction (very different) to what has been on offer from New Labour thus far. Sick to the back teeth with the politics of austerity, the invasions and wars of the Blair and Brown years, that have left behind in its wake a much poorer and a  worse off youth in this 21st century, who have been targeted used and abused by both New Labour and now the Tories.
How out of touch would you have to be to think Gordon Brown would stop people voting for Jeremy Corbyn?

Corbyn is galvanising support from all sections of the working classes as he speaks out against the attacks whether on benefits or the NHS. He calls for affordable housing, so desperately needed by millions faced with high house prices and rents or sleeping rough out on our streets.

Almost four in ten homes sold through ‘right to buy’ are now in the private rented sector (Inside Housing). Now housing associations are supposed to become ‘agents of aspiration’ according to the housing minister Brandon Lewis as the government extends right to buy to housing associations.

These are indeed interesting times for an outsider like myself to watch the developments within the Labour Party and this election for a new leader, the one thing that can be said about Corbyn is that he is a principled, honest representative of the left wing of old Labour. Like Bevan, Foot and Benn who came before him, Corbyn is an eloquent spokesman for the cause of parliamentary ‘socialism’.

History and a study of past events within this party and in government show that all the old Labour governments of the past have loyally served the British capitalist and ruling class which brings to mind the story of Ramsay MacDonald the first Labour Party Prime Minister, leading a government in 1924 had a meeting with the then King who asked MacDonald if he could try to persuade his members in Parliament to refrain from singing the Red Flag in the chamber
While the platform and demands posed by Corbyn are indeed supportable, they cannot be achieved through the old Labour parliamentarism of the past, a history that has surely taught us all - that much?

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