As we can only afford a limited print run, as well as making a downloadable PDF of the latest Heckler available, we’re reproducing the content of the paper in full below:
It’s difficult to predict what’s going to happen over the next few months, however, to clarify a few things, this is our position on Brexit and on government:)
We’ve had ten years of austerity that’s leaving our class in a precarious state. A brutal benefits regime is pushing more people into poverty, homelessness, a greater likelihood of premature death and towards suicide. Even at the surface level, you can’t escape the neglect and physical decay that’s blighting our neighbourhoods. As housing tenure becomes ever more insecure, the sense of community solidarity that could play a role in pulling people back from the brink is fracturing and dying.
As long as the authorities can keep the lid on the situation, they’ve no problem with the fracturing of community solidarity. They actively undermine our solidarity by dividing us into the ‘hard-working and deserving’ and the ‘work shy, feckless and undeserving’. Challenge this by showing the number of in work households who are in receipt of benefits and they’ll imply that the working poor need to be striving harder.
Don’t fall for divide and rule
This is exacerbated by the other games of divide and rule as the so called ‘indigenous’ working class is pitted against allegedly ‘job stealing’ migrants. This is worsened with the denigration of anyone who steps out of the bounds of an increasingly resurgent traditional ‘conventionality’ and tries to live some kind of alternative lifestyle.
It only takes a loss of employment and income to propel someone from ‘hard-working’ to ‘idle’, ‘a burden’ and on benefits. Unless someone is in the top quarter of the social pecking order, not only are they at risk of poverty in an increasingly precarious world, regardless of who they, crumbling public services and infrastructure impact on their lives. Looking at what we have to put up with, there’s more that should be uniting us than dividing us. Despite what the powers that be who want us divided and at each others throats may wish for, we’re all in this together.
Start at the grassroots
How can we re-build the sense of solidarity we need to fight back against this and eventually, build the better world that we deserve? Start small and where you live. A simple act of solidarity is looking out for the neighbours on either side of you and for them to do the same. Even if it’s a house of multiple occupation, quite often, it’s possible to strike up a rapport. We’ve seen this happen with a member of the Vange Hill Community Group reaching out to and forming a working relationship with EU migrants in a house of multiple occupation in their close.
In order to get people to know each other a bit better, canvass opinion and organise a practical activity such as a community clean up. Not only will you see a physical difference after a few hours graft, for a lot of people, working collectively with their neighbours will be an empowering experience. Even if it’s just a close or a small street, it’s a start and if people on other parts of the estate see what’s been achieved, hopefully they’ll be inspired to do the same.
Get stuck in
One step up from a clean up is starting a community garden if you can find a suitable location. That can be anything from putting in a few flower beds to brighten up an otherwise dreary close to starting to grow your own vegetables and fruit – or doing both if you feel ambitious and can get enough people involved.
It’s down to you if you want to ask the council for permission first. If your council has a record of being uncooperative when dealing with tenants and residents on your estate, just go ahead and do it anyway. Given how stretched councils are, providing you’re sensible, they’ll most likely leave you alone. If they do decide to get stroppy, mounting a campaign to save your garden will bring people together and should you win, will boost morale on your estate.
Organising regular cleaning, doing whatever maintenance you can take on and running a community garden brings people together. Picking up the skills needed to do this boosts people’s confidence and self esteem. Not everyone will be able to make an equal contribution because of time pressure or disability – accept that any contribution is valid and ensure support from those who can’t take part is valued. Once a level of cohesion has been built up, work out ways of making sure vulnerable people in your community are being checked upon and their needs are being met.
On isolated estates, food poverty can be an issue due to the lack of shops selling decent quality, affordable food and poor public transport to shopping areas where a wider range of food is available. As well as running a community vegetable and fruit garden, you could start to think about an estate run food bank or food buying group. Obviously, this takes more effort and there’s a learning curve involved but if you put the effort in, you’ve achieved a vital objective – getting more control over your food supply.
Use what’s already happening
Use what’s there to boost community solidarity and morale and ensure the needs of the more vulnerable people in your neighbourhood are met. When a church such as Trinity Methodist Church in Vange has a community cafe for use by the whole neighbourhood, contributes to food banks, offers support to disabled people, runs toddler groups, offers youth activities to all young people in the community to name just a few, it would be churlish to not accept the help and support they offer. A lot of what they do is similar to what some more grounded, neighbourhood anarchist groups abroad who’ve got their act together undertake!
The priority has to be re-building community solidarity in ways that work. Also, empowering people who want to make life in their neighbourhoods better is an essential task. As we’ve seen from what’s happened with the community run Hardie Park in Stanford-le-Hope, the transformation in the lives of those involved plus the boost to morale in the town proves the worth of sticking at this. Small victories steadily lead to a growing sense of confidence and collective strength that will give people a growing degree of independence from local and national governance that’s increasingly failing us.
Dealing with the renegades within
None of this is going to be plain sailing and one of the more difficult parts will be dealing with the anti-social element in a neighbourhood. In an ideal world, those chaotic households where there’s a risk of members falling into anti-social behaviour or crime would be getting helped by the surrounding community. We want to get to the point where that can happen and there’s less need for outside intervention.
In the interim, once a degree of community solidarity starts to emerge, the people best placed to decide how to deal with anti-social behaviour are those living in the neighbourhood. They’ll have knowledge of the perpetrators and a shrewd idea of the risks involved – that will go a long way to enable them to devise a strategy to deal with the situation.
It’s a learning curve…
These are just a few ideas on what can be done. They come from our days in the Independent Working Class Association and our more recent experiences working with Basildon & Southend Housing Action, Brooke House Residents, Vange Hill Community Group and Friends of Hardie Park. We don’t pretend to know it all and are honest enough to admit that we’ve made a few mistakes along the way and have learnt from them. If you decide to go down this path with your neighbours, you’ll find that it’s a continuous learning curve. It’s better to make mistakes, learn from them and grow rather than being ground down by a system that doesn’t care about us…
Some ideas on how to maintain a community garden from…
Questions and answers
Is there a committee? NO
Do you have meetings? NO
Is it run by the council? NO
Is it run by a church? NO
Do I have to join a group to come and help? NO
Do I have to know lots about gardening to help out? NO
Do I have to turn up on a regular basis? NO
Can I just go on my own and do weeding or litter picking? YES
Can I go and use the picnic benches at any time? YES
Do I have to pay any money to come and help? NO
Am I allowed to donate plants? YES
RUN BY NO ONE FOR EVERYONE
William Morris – A factory as it might be
This is a historical piece and technology today is light years ahead of when William Morris wrote these words but, given the rise of bullshit non-jobs, the underlying message about the necessity and meaning of work is in our view, still relevant.
“Now as to the work, first of all it will be useful and therefore honourable and honoured; because there will be no temptation to make mere useless toys, since there will be no rich men cudgelling their brains for means for spending superfluous money and consequently no “organisers of labour” pandering to degrading follies for the sake of profit, wasting their intelligence and energy to contriving snares for cash in the shape of trumpery, which they themselves heartily despise. Nor will the work turn out trash; there will be no millions of poor to make a market for wares which no one would choose to use if he were not driven to do so; everyone will be able to afford things good of their kind and as will be shown thereafter, will have knowledge of goods enough to reject what is not excellent; coarse and rough wares may be made for rough or temporary purposes, but they will openly proclaim themselves for what they are; adulteration will be unknown.”
ABOUT THE HECKLER
The South Essex Heckler is run by a couple of class struggle anarchists who’ve been round the block over the years when it comes to various forms of radical activism. Even though we’ve been involved for more decades than we care to remember, we can’t afford to rest on our laurels as the need for radical change is greater than ever as the world we live in becomes ever more dysfunctional and dystopian.
Obviously as anarchists we believe that real change leading to a more just and sane world will not come from putting a cross in a box on a ballot paper every few years. It will only come about by people getting stuck in at grassroots level in their communities, workplaces and colleges, building and linking up from there to create a movement that will bring about the radical change we desperately need.
If you share our political outlook, live anywhere across the south of Essex and are involved in a local campaign, feel you have something to say and could contribute to our blog and any papers we bring out, we’d love to hear from you. The aim is to make this project as inclusive as possible – so it’s over to you…
This is our sister project. It’s easy to know what you’re against in a dysfunctional, unsustainable and increasingly dystopian world. Railing against the world we have to endure may make you feel better but…does it lead to positive change? We know that the political, economic and social system we inhabit is rapidly heading towards its use by date and that we have to bring about radical change if we’re going to survive. There are many ways of bringing about the change that’s needed. What Alternative Estuary is about is what can be done in the here and now to boost sustainability, community cohesion and neighbourhood resilience in an increasingly volatile world. It’s about building the new world we need and want in the decaying shell of the old one we currently endure.