Letters - FRFI 261 Dec 2017/Jan 2018

Labour hypocrisy over social housing

The Labour MP for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC), Emma Dent Coad, has produced a 19-page report on the Grenfell Tower inferno. Amazingly it makes no mention of the estate regeneration programme that actually caused the fire.

I sat through a number of residents’ meetings on estate regeneration on the Silchester Estate that lies alongside the Lancaster West Estate – on which Grenfell Tower stands – from early 2016 through to 1 April 2017.

In these meetings residents from both Silchester and Lancaster West estates expressed their misgivings and alarm about the RBKC’s proposals for more of their planned ‘regeneration’ programme. I saw that vast sums of money were sometimes poured into various fake ‘consultations’ about this so-called regeneration, organised by RBKC complete with expensive plans, maps, glossy brochures and glossy ‘presenters’ to help residents through the ‘options’. These were a maze of carefully-drawn squashed-up blocks arranged in varying degrees of unsightliness, fooling nobody since this kind of hanky-panky had been going on since the ‘regeneration’ cladding of the neighbouring Grenfell tower – while nothing had been done to rectify the abysmal state of fire safety in the Tower. In fact, to make things a thousand times worse, its emergency access had been blocked by the new private school and swimming pool/sports centre they had built alongside it. Fittingly the last of these ‘CONsultation’ events about ‘regeneration’ took place on April Fool’s Day 2017 – and fooled nobody!

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Letters FRFI 260: Grow Heathrow squatters show the way

Grow Heathrow squatters show the way

The Bolsheviks robbed banks to fund their activity. At Grow Heathrow we squat land and source waste food from skips.

Grow Heathrow is five acres of gardens, protest camp and community centre in Sipson – a village where people’s homes would be demolished by the proposed Third Runway at Heathrow. We celebrated our seventh birthday in March.

We aim to be a hub for organising, a base from which action against the Third Runway can be launched and a model for other organising. Key to the successful growth of many modern movements has been a consistent space, held by that movement and open to the public, such as Zuccotti Park in New York or Tahrir Square in Cairo. We aim to be that space for the movement against the Third Runway. Last year we provided a base and logistical support for over 700 protesters taking action against the runway, including mass theatre in the terminals and a bike blockade of the roads.

We have a close relationship with local residents’ associations and campaign groups. Our original members lived in the area for six months before squatting the space, forging these relationships. We were asked to take the site by the local community. The land we occupy had been an illegal dumping site.

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Letters - FRFI 259 Aug/Sep 2017

Corbyn and communist tactics

The election issue of FRFI (No 257) made the important points that Corbyn is backtracking on his radical promises, and that Labour councils are carrying out the Tory’s austerity policies. But the slogan ‘Don’t vote – fight for socialism!’ appears ultra-left in present circumstances.

Corbyn is something new – he is not Michael Foot or Attlee, Wilson, Kinnock or Blair – and his rhetoric and appeal is new. So the RCG needed to respond in a slightly different way to previous elections, not least because he was not chosen by the bourgeoisie or the worst kind of social traitors of the Labour Party, but elected by those previously outside the Labour Party, and in the teeth of opposition from the reactionaries. The response also needs to take into account the possibility that, like Labour leader George Lansbury, he might choose to resign on a matter of conscience.

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Letters - FRFI 258 Jun/Jul 2017

Shame-faced socialists

Dundee Against Austerity decided to assess what principled scope there was for using the Scottish council elections in May 2017 to build in the working class communities most affected by austerity. Our stall at the local shops in Fintry became a wee focus of interest and education: primary school bairns engaged us in discussions about the welfare cuts and sanctions that some of their parents – and of course themselves – were experiencing; women workers in private care provision told us about their low wages, local street cleaners expressed their fears about looming privatisation, people who had been forced by the DWP to take a job at Amazon revealed the shocking accident rate in the warehouses as massive machines were used to pick goods.

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Letters FRFI 256 April/May 2017

Deaths in Scottish prisons

What place do prisons have in our society to punish or rehabilitate? This is understandably a contentious issue but it is usually agreed that death is not a suitable endpoint of imprisonment. The figures however seem to run counter to this idea; there have been 121 deaths since 2012 in Scottish prisons. In 60 of these cases, Fatal Accident Inquiries (FAIs) have still not been undertaken.

At the time of writing, 24 deaths in 2015 and 2016 are awaiting FAIs, with the cause of death established in only five of them; one being the suicide of a 35-year-old man on remand.

In the cases where an FAI has been carried out, 98 examined deaths since 2010, 32 were by suicide. The youngest deaths to be ruled suicide were those of Andrew Stone and Jordan Barron, both aged 19, in Polmont young offenders’ prison, and Ryan McNeil, also aged 19, in HMP Inverness.

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