Created: Friday, 06 August 2010 15:00
FRFI 216 August/September 2010
Ellen Luby 1923 -2010
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! salutes the life of Ellen Luby who died in July this year. Many of us have warm memories of Ellen whose life as a working class warrior and scourge of the boss class and their ‘mercenaries’ is an inspiration.
Ellen was a leader of the St Pancras Rent Strike of 1960 when over 2,000 council tenants in this London Borough (later to become Camden) went on partial rent strike, joining up with 35 other Tenants Associations to form the United Tenants Association. The battle against the Tory Council was brutal, with violent evictions by police and bailiffs and attacks on marches and protests. When a Labour Council was subsequently voted in they found it ‘illegal’ to reduce the new rents despite their election promises. Ellen never forgot or forgave this act of class treachery. She saw it repeated many times, particularly when a nationwide struggle took place against the Poll Tax which was introduced in 1987 under Thatcher. It was a residents’ tax in which ‘a duchess would pay the same as a dustman’. Ellen was central to her local ‘Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay’ agitation. But again she saw a Labour Party terrified of an alliance with the poor and councils which refused to support the All-Britain Anti Poll Tax Federation’s pledge of non-payment and non-collection because it was ‘illegal’.
Ellen mostly fought on her home patch and hardly ever missed the chance to attend Camden Council meetings which she would heckle and disrupt when necessary. Ellen always knew the real story and set out to expose corruption, hypocrisy and money-grabbing and did not care who was embarrassed by the truth. She was banned from attending council meetings but somehow carried on. She marched and protested against cuts in services and for the neediest in society for the rest of her life.
On news of her death the leader of Camden’s Conservatives said, ‘I am saddened to hear of her death. It really is the end of an era.’ He is wrong. The era of class struggle is about to start again. Inspired by the memories of fighters like Ellen we must once again defend our rights against the attacks of the capitalist class.