I thought it’d be worth posting this online. I got it as an email recently about the reading groups and I’m quite excited. It should be fun, chilled out and open.
Two new reading groups on Marx and autonomist thought will be starting this September at UCL, run by a diverse group of activists, academics and anyone that wants to turn up. If you are interested please email sam.halvorsen.10[at]ucl.ac.uk.
1. Open and Autonomist Marxisms
This group will explore some key texts from two schools of radical Marxists that have been popularized in the late 20th Century. In the first term, we will read the work of renowned Open Marxist John Holloway in his two most recent books “Change the World without Taking Power” (2002) and Crack Capitalism (2010). We may try and supplement these with some readings from others texts, such as the edited trilogy entitled “Open Marxism”. In the second term we will look at the work of Autonomist Marxism, a tradition that emerged in 1960s Italy and has largely rejected the dialectical approach taken by Open Marxists. We will decide on the exact texts to read during the first term, but will likely include some classic work by Autonomists such as Negri and Tronti.
A great book providing an overview of these traditions has recently been published, see:http://www.ashgate.com/isbn/9781409411741, however I have yet to find a downloadable version.
2. Reading Marx’s Grundrisse
Following our reading of Capital Vol 1 last year we are going to tackle the text that for many Autonomists is Marx’s most important one, which was originally written as preparatory notes for Capital. The idea is to read it together throughout the year, hopefully engaging with other literature and debates as we go. The suggested text to accompany it will be Negri’s “Marx Beyond Marx: Lessons on the Grundrisse” which, although not a guide book, should be useful in placing this text within the autonomist tradition and how it has been applied by many.
Each group will meet fortnightly, at UCL near Euston, on weekday evenings (7-9pm). At the moment it is looking like Group 1 will meet on Monday evenings, starting on September 23rd, and the Group 2 will meet on Wednesdays starting on September 18th.
PDFs of the main texts from both groups can be downloaded here:
Please pass this email on to anyone else who may be interested.
Yesterday evening we took a stroll along Rushcroft Road to check out a tweet from the Brixton Blog which said there were still bailiffs about. Bailiffs and security were outside guarding the now empty buildings. Lambeth council are determined that only those who can afford extreme rents will get access to these, and they’re happy to pay out to ensure that this is the case. What a disgusting sight.
To take some comfort, our presence, walking along, trying to look inconspicuous whilst taking photos to document how stupid Lambeth council are and the whole housing as commodities, certainly put them on edge. One of the security guards didn’t take his eyes of us as we passed and watched us until we reached the end of the road and the bailiffs were getting visibly frustrated. At two of the buildings though, security looked a little more lax…!
I guess these guys will be about until ‘guardians’ move in. Today’s Guardian featured an ace article that critically looks at this new form of housing precarity. Check out one Camden councillors promotion of hazardous, slum housing and advocation of social engineering.
As you have probably heard – yesterday saw the violent eviction of many homes on Rushcroft road, Brixton, met with strong resistance. I wanted to write down some notes of things that maybe haven’t been reported yet, especially in the mainstream media’s accounts. (This is quite difficult, yesterday was very emotional in many ways. This is the neighbourhood I have grown up in and live in today, watching it be further impoverished as we lose yet more desperately needed public housing stock, seeing people lose their homes, and watching police and bailiff violence on my friends.)
A bit of background
Six beautiful buildings on Rushcroft Road were left in a state of disrepair by Lambeth council back in the 80s. People moved into these buildings, repaired them and turned them into homes. Some residents were given short life licenses for their flats whilst other flats were squatted (the law change that bans residential squatting was not relevant here, as squatters in these flats had a tacit licence from the council). With property prices soaring in gentrifying Brixton, Lambeth council suddenly took an interest in the Rushcroft Road buildings and decided they wanted them back so they could sell them off to private property developers. That these are people’s homes and important public housing, in a borough with massive overcrowding problems, an ever-growing housing waiting list, forced relocation of residents to seaside towns and cities north of London, didn’t perturb Lambeth council who went ahead and ordered the ‘National Eviction Team’ bailiffs, known for being particularly big and violent (and who had brought along their own FIT team with two bailiffs holding small portable cameras and filming people constantly).
Brixton residents gathered on Rushcroft Road from 6.30am to try to stop the evictions. The numbers were not huge, but despite numbers of around one hundred, from the start, people were fucking determined. Barricades were set on fire at the top of the street, paint found its way onto bailiffs and cops (with some supporters getting covered in yellow gloss too), people sat across the road blocking the progress of the cops and bailiffs (“There’s police and bailiffs, it’s just like the old days!” one woman was heard saying into her phone at the roadblock), people blocked front doors as bailiffs charged at them, barricades were put up inside the buildings (a boom would ring out across the street as the bailiffs knocked down doors of the flats from inside the building). Looking back that evening at the days events people remarked what a strong resistance it was from a smallish group. It felt like some fucking feat to have kept them off so long, to have made their job so difficult, to defend the homes as best as we could. Just imagine what we could have done with even more people.
The violence used by the bailiffs and police was incredibly heavy, disturbing and traumatising. As we defended the door to the last building I watched a friend be dragged by the bailiffs over broken glass, people getting strangled, one person on the ground being beaten up, bailiffs charging through the people with a crow bar, police pushing people who were trying to help others away to let the bailiffs get on with their violence. Rows of people were standing in front of the door to stop the bailiffs getting in. Bailiffs charge at doors to knock them down. Only this time they were charging as they would for a door but at people, massive crow bar in hand. I jumped out the way over a small wall in the front yard, and found a bailiff in my face about to attack. I shouted that I was nowhere near the door and wasn’t going to go there and he finally backed off. It was probably the most heavy violence I’ve ever seen – I’ve seen a fair amount of police and bailiff dickheadery. Several very experienced activists said they hadn’t seen anything like this in some time.
It was devastating to watch each block be taken from us, bailiffs tramping in and out, people made homeless, yet more loss of our public housing stock, and the continuation of class cleansing in the neighbourhood. Someone had left some of their vinyl collection outside on a window sill and a woman carried the vinyl down with us, hoping to return them to the owner or someone else who would offer them a home, as we were forced down the street with each eviction.
Two Lambeth council officers turned up to watch people be made homeless. I’m not sure why they thought it was OK to do this. People realised these men in suits were from the council and mobbed them, shouting at them for making people homeless and privatising housing and following them down the street as they tried to escape. They were properly hounded to the end of the street and felt so unsafe that the walked back the way they came to get protection from the police. This was a wonderful scene and will happen more often I hope.
Walking along Coldharbour Lane later on, we met some local people outside a shop who had been watching the evictions. They told us they were impressed and supportive of the fight we had put up against the police and bailiffs. “Is this the end?” one man asked. The other man answered confidently: “This isn’t the end. They’re squatters, they’ll find another way back in through some window…I like anarchists, they love sharing stuff.” We told them about Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth which is starting an eviction resistance tree for the area to fight every eviction and they were supportive.
All evictions are shit. The law is shit. But it seems that the last building that was evicted was done so illegally. A man standing on the doorstep asked the police for paperwork as the residents had not been given any. Two policewomen mumbled back “we’ll get the paperwork” very unconvincingly. Then they stood back to make way for the bailiffs to charge at the rows of people to the door. When a friend told a policeman he had been hit in the head by the bailiff that was standing behind him the policeman responded “I’m too busy (being a dickhead)”
I think 4 people were arrested. I received a message about arrestee support at around midnight, but I had fallen asleep way before this. It sounded ace though: “Good vibe, local community support and outdoor living room going down opposite Peckham cop shop…”
And a big thanks to the love and solidarity on Rushcroft Road itself, the neighbouring streets, and from over Twitter.
Over the last couple of weeks, Brixton has seen bailiffs get shot at, an occupation and rowdy protest at Foxtons, and the burning barricades on Rushcroft Road. Brixton doesn’t like evictions.
I had so much fun this afternoon on an M&S workfare picket today.
Feminist Fightback, North London SolFed, Rhythms of Resistance, and Boycott Workfare descended on M&S off Mare Street, Hackney. As the hot sun scorched Hackney, the samba band rang out across the street interspersed with chants of ‘M&S pay your workers’. Passersby were loving the samba, with two children clapping along as they waited for a bus and then improvising their own instruments with two twigs. People stopped and joined the demo to chant ‘M&S pay your workers’ with us. There was loads of support and good vibes from people. We handed out so many ‘How to Avoid Workfare’ leaflets and leaflets explaining about M&S’ use of forced unpaid labour that we had to rush off and photocopy another batch.
Lots of people stopped to speak to us about their experience of workfare, people spoke to us about how they had been sanctioned or threatened with sanctions. People thanked us for the rights leaflets and advice we gave them. One man who joined us said, “I’ve never been on a picket or demonstration before, but I’m so angry about what they’re doing, it’s exploitation.” He said he’d stay in touch and come to future demos. He kindly went off and bought us all bottles of chilled water. Another guy asked what we were doing and asked “but they get paid social security”, but that’s not a wage, that would work out at a quid an hour, and then M&S will get rid of their paid workers. “You’ve got a point” he said, genuinely convinced, and it seemed, converted.
There were two community support officers inside the store all day but we managed to enter the store in pairs to hand out leaflets and speak with the workers (and to enjoy the cool air of the refrigerators). The manager had warned workers not to speak to us and we were then escorted from the shop shouting that they should pay their workers. When we were outside again the whole group joined in a rousing chant of “M&S hear us say, we won’t work for JSA”. One person who’d stopped to speak with us remarked “Now that’s what I call a demonstration, just going in there and telling it straight!”
After a solid two and a half hours of leafletting, we started to pack up. North London SolFed are hardcore and kept on going.
It was great spending time talking in the street with strangers and making connections, encouraging them to stay in touch and let us know if we could support them. Hackney did have a welfare group ‘Hackney Welfare Action’ (part of London Coalition Against Poverty) but it’s sort of fizzled out, but from our picket today there’s definitely a lot of people who would be interested in being involved in a welfare action group. I headed back to south London feeling good – it’s all about the street solidarity!
Residents of Rushcroft road, who are facing eviction by Lambeth council on 15th July, organised an afternoon against evictions and gentrification in Brixton (and everywhere). Hundreds of people gathered in sunny Windrush square with individuals and housing groups (including Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth, Squash Campaign, Loughborough Estate Tenants and Residents Association) speaking out about the housing problems they face and what we’re doing about it. Banners decorated the square, ‘homes not jails’, ‘housing for all’, ‘join the rent strike’. There was a quiz too.
We spotted two pairs of triangular ears and ran over to a wicker basket sitting on a ‘rent strike now’ banner to find two tiny kittens opposing evictions.
One woman who was speaking to the crowd called on us to go onto the high street and do a flashmob at one of the new stores or posh cafes. We called out that Foxtons was nearby – ‘perfect!’ People were really up for it and a crowd of over a hundred headed the short distance across the road to the glass fronted Foxtons. People dashed inside with the ‘yuppies out’ banner and the rest of us spilled out onto the street and road. Chants of ‘yuppies out’, ‘no evictions’, and ‘fuck off back to Chelsea, fuck of back to Chelsea, la la la la, hey, la la la la, hey!’ filled the streets. There was a really good response from people passing by. Many stopped to join in with the ‘yuppies out’ chanting. We stuck around for a good half an hour. People who still had energy after this called on us to head for Brixton Village, another striking symbol of Brixton’s gentrification, and a group of people headed along. It was exciting to see this organic, autonomous action emerge and the support that it got.
Lots of people signed onto a mailing list to support the residents of Rushcroft road and to organise further actions – with the housing crisis being felt so intensely and the blatant class cleansing that is so visible to us all, there is sure to be plenty more.