Housing action, community organising (Mon 15 Oct)

HOUSING ACTION

  • Who was there: Different housing movements came together to discuss their campaigns and how to draw them together. Including Squash (resisting the criminalisation of squatting), Digs (private renters in Hackney), Housing Solidarity (direct action against exploitative letting agents), Housing for the 99% (building a coordinated housing movement), Eviction Resistance, Private Tenants Action Group Haringey, Lewisham People Before Profit, Squatters Legal Network and more.
  • What’s happening: online map of long-term empty buildings and who owns them; landlord rating website for Hackney; inspections on letting agents in Haringey (about reference checks and how much each agency pays); housing session at the Up the Ante event in December.
  • Outcome of the meeting: plan to form a coalition to share updates and news, support on fellow projects, sharing resources. Meeting to discuss on Saturday 17 November at Pembroke House (Heygate Estate). Campaign to maybe focus on include filling empties, rent caps, security of tenure/tenancy for life, and building council housing.

RADICAL LONDON ON COMMUNITY ORGANISING

When the cuts started to hit, loads of borough-based anti-cuts groups started up, made up of Labour, Green Party, trade unions, anarchists, Trotskyists, etc., but a lot disintegrated after a while when they didn’t have any sustained successes.

They largely failed because they were made up from a number of pre-established groups coming together for a time-bound campaign, and didn’t have a solid community grounding.

It’s part of a wider problem – most activists only engage in single-issue campaigns or broader coalitions. Little effort is put into the long hard work of community organising.

What community organising is:

  • Building a sense of community before embarking on any other campaign.
  • Using the strength of the community to work on community-related issues e.g. housing, cuts.
  • finding the key issues that motivate your neighbours regardless of political allegiance e.g. housing problems with landlord
  • “people against politics”
  • working with people that don’t share your politics, so to show your politics you have to put it into practice
  • going deep into a community
  • a tool to use, alongside workplace organising and single-issue campaigning (either like environmentalism or within a specific identity), to struggle for change.

What community organising isn’t:

  • Just a single-issue campaign
  • Just skimming off the local lefties for your organisation
  • Like workplace organising where there’s a background (uniting to struggle and protect rights) for people to understand. You need to build the background up yourself.
  • Just resistance – it’s building the future we want to live in
  • Necessarily good e.g. community can have negative connotations (small suffocating village communities, the idea of fixed communities exclusive to travellers), and organisations can be bad (racist! fascist!)
  • better or worse than workplace organising (it’s just more neglected in the UK)
  • the same as American community organising (cf. Saul Alinsky) though there are obviously elements to learn from over the pond

Problems with community organising:

  • Not feeling a part of the community. Solution: get fuckin’ involved (local governor for a school, trustee for local charity, volunteering, campaign groups)
  • Gentrification forcing up house prices and meaning people can’t afford to stay put
  • Getting disheartened with endless meetings about potholes, dog-shit and CCTV
  • Dealing with racism/sexism etc. (given moralism/hyper awareness of such issues amongst activist cliques). Solution: deal with as one person to another, not as an enlightened moral agent bringing down the word of Righteousness. Make sure you’re always aware of what your identity (e.g. as an open anarchist) makes people assume about you, and how that’ll colour what you say.
  • If there’s no pre-established solidarity group, then either
    (a) join other local groups
    (b) find 5-10 other people and start a group (Radical London in Londonn a good network to be in)

There’ll be a session with more practical tips on how at the anarchist bookfair

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