Keep Radical and Carry On: the Cuts Cafe

Red Pepper logoThis article was first written for Red Pepper who have kindly allowed us to repost it!

Cuts Cafe opens its doors on October 5th, Ewa Jasiewicz explains what will be happening in the cafe.

Inspired by occupied spaces such as the Leeds Cuts Cafe, Manchester’s OK Cafe and the recent Palestine Place in London. Cuts Cafe’s call out states: The government tells us that cuts to public services and social security are needed to save an economy in crisis, but in reality the crisis is capitalism. For the two weeks leading up to the Trade Union Congress demonstration on October 20th, Cuts Cafe will provide a radical space in Central London to build resistance to these devastating cuts, and to explore the real alternatives to austerity.

Already youth groups, disabled activists, anti-cuts, union and community organisers have registered workshops. Activists from Unite the Union, London Coalition Against Poverty, Sparks Rank and File, Disabled People Against the Cuts, The Blacklist Support Group, Boycott Workfare, Fuel Poverty Action, UKUncut, Move Your Money, Black Activists Rising Against the Cuts (BARAC), Compass, Stop the G8, Red Pepper and Radical London are taking part. More are getting in touch every day. The family of Sean Rigg, killed by police in 2008 will accompany Ken Fero’s film ‘Who Polices the Police?’ and legendary class-struggle film-maker Ken Loach will present his Miners Strike classic ‘Which Side Are You On?’

So why is this happening?

More space, more time, more interaction, organisation and joint struggle are needed between all groups and organisations, big and small, in resisting the co-ordinated corporate and government rescue of free-market capitalism using our labour and capital and attempting to crush our commons.

Cuts Cafe is about furthering the kind of resistance that allows us to reclaim our labour, our time, our housing, our bodies and our communities from relentless commodification and cuts. Its about finding and co-creating alternatives, strengthening solidarity and confronting the causes of austerity.

Spending time together, drinking tea together, decorating, cleaning, talking and taking direct action builds trust and organisation which we need now more than ever. Cuts Cafe is a safe space open to anyone. For those who’d like to dismiss this as ‘another leftie talking shop’ – think again, the organisers are diverse and participating groups broad. And also, we need talking. And planning and sharing to sustain our resistance. Popping up in an unexpected central London space also means many non-aligned passersby will be welcomed inside.

We’d like to see Cuts Cafes emerge all over the country, particularly when our right to squat empty property has been banned for the first time in history, and cuts to libraries and other community resources are constricting our space to meet and organise. Never underestimate the potency of a few cups of tea, new knowledge and strangers becoming friends.

Cuts Cafe will be having a public meeting with DPAC, UKUncut and the Greater London Pensioners Association on October 1st at Unite the Union’s HQ, 128 Theobalds Road, London.

Framing it right: how language limits the left

Word cloud from an article on the economy

Ever wondered why, given the horrendous repeated failures of right-wing policies, right-wing arguments about the economy are still so persuasive?

According to linguist Anat Shenker-Osorio, a lot of it comes down to how we talk about the economy, and what effect the language we use has on how people see change happening.

Word cloud from an article on the economy

What the problem is

Progressives and radicals tend to be good at “critiquing the free market” and “articulating [our] desired goals”. Where we fall down is explaining “how the economy works”.

Stories about how complex systems (like economies) work often use “cognitive metaphors”, easy to understand stories to better undertand abstract ideas i.e. fear as: fluid in a container, “filled with fear”; an enemy or opponent, “fear crept up,” “fear overwhelmed”;  an illness, “sick with fright”; a supernatural being, “haunted by fear”.

The danger comes from how our minds work – unconscious influences are often more powerful than conscious ones, because we never stop to question them.

Conservatives basically always use the same metaphor styles.

The conservative model

Metaphors used personification e.g. health (“ailing”, “recovering”), water (“flowing”), weather (“storms”, “cold business climate”), emotional being (“angry”)
What that implies about the economy organic
What impression this gives the economy is natural, autonomous and self-regulating. Human interference is irrelevant at best. People not being referenced encourages passivity and acceptance of whatever ills there may be.
What that implies the economy is for a moral enforcer, rewarding hard work and punishing laziness.

Basically: simple and straightforward, this metaphor has definite dominance (even amongst the left) in the UK.

Car crashWhat can be done

We don’t use a consistent model, which – according to Shenker-Osorio – leads to cognitive dissonance and a subconscious mistrust when we explain our ideas.

This could be solved by trying  to use a potentially powerful model a lot more often.

The proposed progressive model

Metaphors used machine (“kick-start”, “driving the engine of”, “on the right track”, “stuck in a rut”, “stock market crash”).
What that implies about the economy human-made
What impression this gives need for action by ‘drivers’. Leads to thoughts about quality, direction, speed of movement
What that implies the economy is for the economy should facilitate our journeys, rather than impose its desires on us

Conservatives at the moment have the upper hand in terms of discourse, but given the power of the “life is a journey” metaphor, we should be able to turn that around.

It’s also worth nothing that it’s not just for the economy that this is true: think of “gaps” to describe inequality (explains the what but not the why) versus “barriers” (explains the what and the why i.e. someone put them there).

Links

The economy is a ‘machine’, not a ‘body’ Al Jazeera

Common Cause: The Case for Working with Values and Frames, a great handbook on – n an over-simplified nutshell – why we should pay attention to how we word what we’re doing.

 

This article was written by a member of the Cuts Cafe group.

Guest Blog on Squatting by a London Anarchist and Squatter

The housing crisis is a war- Squatting is our (not so) secret weapon

On every street, down every alleyway, and in every housing estate in London you will be hard pushed not to notice a strange and almost haunting phenomenon. This city is plagued with it, ravaged by it, consumed entirely in some cases by its slow rot and crumbling brick; the empty houses, offices, and factories that pierce endless soulless rows of chain stores and corporate commercial ventures. Even shiny central London’s prestigious Oxford Street sports two such bastions of emptiness; whilst elephant and castles monolithic heygate estate is a ghost town of over three thousand empty homes. Yet crying out against the cold, in the darkened doorways and silent stairwells of abandoned buildings, the homeless are freezing to death.

In the last year alone, there was between a fourteen and seventeen percent rise in the number of homeless people in England and Wales, with 48,510 households being classified as homeless in 2011[1]. At the same time there are nearly a million empty or abandoned homes in the U.K, 300 thousand of which are long term empty[2]. We are in a state of war. On one side we have ordinary people savaged by cuts to housing benefits, 1.7 million people long social housing waiting lists[3], mass unemployment, and now new laws against squatting; and on the other we have politicians, land lords, and developers fighting tooth and nail to keep house and land market prices high.  The government has no centralised targets for the number of houses needed, and puts no guidelines on what this housing should be, or how much it should cost; despite the crisis house prices in London continue to rise[4]. The market therefore is rife with developers and speculators who are happy to see their shiny centres of yuppiedom sit empty, and callously wait till their over inflated rents can be met.

This year, I lived in an abandoned property in Dalston situated behind Kingsland station. The eight bedrooms and two bathrooms that in the past had made a micro bedsit empire for its owner (grossing him nearly £1000 a week) had been empty for more than a year and had been left to rot (when we got in, windows had been left open to allow for damp, wind and rain, one floor was entirely flooded, and many pipes and radiators were left damaged or leaking). On speaking to local residents as to why an enterprise which would have grossed its owner around £40,000 per year would be left completely empty (no dole scum such as myself could afford to lose that much money a year) we uncovered some sickening information about our slum lord millionaire. The slum lord, one Isah Gluck was a real estate and property villain, who heavily disguised himself behind a number of shell companies, fake development agencies, and other tax dodging guises; his main aim for our building, to let it fall down. The really interesting bit though is why. It turns out Mr Gluck had dreams of moving up the ladder from slum lord to respectable proprietor of the white middle class dream- the swanky condo in an edgy part of town, next to the coffee shop selling things most people can’t spell let alone afford, and the rent that starts in quad figures a month. Standing in his way however was planning permission, and the only way out of this was to let the building simply crumble something he could only do so long as none lived there. He, unlike the rest of us, could afford comfortably to lose 40 grand a year safe in the knowledge that in a few years time that yuppie palace would be well in vogue and worth millions.

 It’s slum lord filth like Gluck who perpetuate the housing crisis, keeping all of us on the streets, in temporary accommodation, and hostels so that they might make a fat buck out of our poverty: there greed is our misery- we must go on the attack, and take what they won’t give us. Undoubtedly (as in the case of Gluck) they will fight us, (like some spoilt child deciding it wants its long forgotten, damaged toy, the very second a new child starts playing with it) they may evict us, but they will never destroy us-  we have nothing to lose but our chains.

There is a simple fact greater than the situation we find ourselves in, and the line those in control of property have drawn in the sand against us, is a fundamental fact- regardless of the housing crisis, regardless of situation, and regardless of government- rent is theft, we must all join the rent strike. How is it that the rich, the landed, the powerful, have all convinced us it is just and right to pay them for the so called privilege of a roof over our heads; that we should drag our sorry selves out of bed five days a week, twelve hours a day, to enter into their work money system, break our backs and still barely, just barely, afford the cost they put on our right to shelter.

 A storm is brewing inside the heart of this housing crisis (in the same way that it exploded in the Thatcher years) soon many thousands of us will be faced with a choice- the street or the squat. In this writer’s opinion, it is awareness of this coming storm that has pushed the hegemonic serpent of privilege (sometimes called the conservative government) to act against squatting. The rich know that if ordinary people are left dying on the street they are powerless, marginalised, and unlikely to form resistance; but if they are allowed to re-expropriate the properties landlords have stolen from them they will grow in strength and number, imagining alternatives to the ownership of property and taking for the common good that which the rich have kept for themselves- your landlord fears you, always remember that.

In response to the attacks on our right to shelter, we must arm ourselves, where they cut our benefits, we must cut their sources of income through rent strike, when they fire us from jobs, we should sack them as our landlords and use our rent for home improvement, and when they evict us from our homes we must squat theirs- as workers, unemployed, students and all others we have the keys to every door they claim to possess- we just have to grasp the confidence to use them. The answers to this housing crisis will not come from governments, policy makers, or Balfour fucking Beatty- this crisis to them is only another money making opportunity, another opportunity to keep us down; for us this crisis is our lives- what we do now will make the future.  This crisis of housing will only end when each and every one of us fights back until every mouth can honestly speak the words “everyone and no one owns this house”;  one avenue along the road to this reality is to squat that which they would have us pay for. It is time we woke up to the evils of property; it is time we squatted the world.

Peter Bonanno


[2] Report by the Charity Empty Homes

[3] From Shelter article “The Housing Crisis” http://england.shelter.org.uk/campaigns/why_we_campaign/the_housing_crisis#_edn2 Stats taken from Housing Strategy Statistical Appendix Data 2010, Communities and Local Government, 2010

Stop G8 Call for Anti Capitalist Mobilisation for October 20th

#Oct20. Cut the crap. The problem is Capitalism.

CALL OUT: for a radical anti-capitalist presence on October 20th.

The TUC (Trades Union Congress) is organising a mass demonstration in London
against spending cuts and austerity. Up to a million people may take to
the streets.

We know an afternoon spent marching through the streets of London will not
force the Government to back down. This Government – like any government
– has no answers, or solutions. We need to face the real enemy:
capitalism.

Capitalism exploits and oppresses the many, for the interests of the few.
It is the source of countless hardships. It is the driver for climate
change, as natural resources are plundered for profit. Capitalism dictates
poverty and austerity.

Over the past 100 years, workers the world over have struggled against
capitalism, winning – with greater or lesser degrees of success – a range
of “concessions”. In the UK and Europe, for example, workers and the unemployed have won
improved wages and working conditions, pensions and the welfare state. Now
the elites are trying to claw back these hard-won gains, using the excuse
of the financial crisis they caused. But people are resisting: in work
places, within communities, on the streets.

The crisis of Capitalism is global. While we are divided and alienated by
borders, capitalism moves freely, inflicting its misery world-wide. People
across the continents of Africa, Asia, and South America have long lived at
the coal face of this destructive system. Cuts and privatisations are
imposed upon workers in the Global South to service crippling
international debt repayments mis-sold as “poverty alleviation”. Our
resistance to capitalism must also be global, linking up strikes, revolts,
and solidarity across the world.

The time to join this resistance is now. Hence the call out for a radical
presence on the streets of London 20th October. To organise for the day,
there will be open meetings held from around 5 October on at the CUTS
CAFE.
For further info contact:
stopg8@riseup.net.

WE ARE MANY, THEY ARE FEW, AND WE ARE EVERYWHERE.

signed:

StopG8 – StopG8 formed to prepare a massive anti-capitalist response to
the G8 summit being hosted in the Uk in 2013 and help spawn a movement. We
hope you’ll join us, starting October 20th.

Smash EDO – is a direct action campaign aimed at closing down the EDO arms
factory in Brighton – http://www.smashedo.org.uk

Fitwatch

ALARM — All London Anarchist Revolutionary Mob

Frack Off

It’s starting! Public meeting Oct 1 (Unite office, London)

The meeting was live streamed, you can see the full unedited video here  (start at 19:25 to miss out a co-facilitator doing nothing for 20 minutes).

Circle of people with facilitator in centre

Small print: may look nothing like this

Joyous news – we’re having a public meeting in a few weeks!

As you probably know, for the two weeks leading up to the Trade Union Congress (TUC) demonstration on October 20th, Cuts Café will provide a radical reclaimed space in London to build resistance to the cuts, and to explore real alternatives to austerity.

We’re holding a public meeting, to give everyone – groups and individuals – the chance to find out more about the project and how to get involved.

Venue: Unite Head Office (ground floor suite), 128 Theobald’s Road, Holborn London WC1X 8TN
Date: Monday 1 Oct
Time: 7pm
Speakers: including Disabled People Against the Cuts (Andy Greene), Greater London Pensioners Associations, UK Uncut, and ourselves (Ewa Jasiewicz)

We’ve got a Facebook event too, so if you’re a social media type, say you’re attending and invite your friends? We win, you get to look cool.

For more info: cutscafe@riseup.net
To propose an event (skillshare? workshop? film screening? discussion? anything else?): eventscutscafe@riseup.net
Twitter: @Cuts_Cafe
Facebook: Cuts Cafe