Posts Tagged ‘David Graeber’

DPAC 4th July Tea Party 2014

Thursday, July 4th, 2024

DPAC 4th July Tea Party: One of the many strange questions that Americans ask on Quora (a web site I occasionally waste some time on and usually regret) is why we British don’t celebrate the 4th of July. It’s actually a rather better question than most – perhaps we should celebrate when we got rid of a nation that can produce Trump and Biden, one of whom still seems likely to be the next president when clearly neither is suitable.

4th July Tea Party

Of course, here in the UK we have our own contest today between Sunak and Starmer, neither of whom in my estimation fit to govern, and, as in the USA elected by an archaic system designed to frustrate rather than provide democracy. If you were unfortunate not to have heard the late David Graeber speaking in person about US Democracy (and haven’t read his book on the subject) you can hear him talking on video (and read a transcript) on The Lost Byway, the site on which more usually John Rogers publishes the videos of his remarkably upbeat walks around London.

4th July Tea Party

Of course I don’t believe that there are Americans dumb enough to write most of the stupid questions that are posted on Quora, which must surely employ a whole squad of AI-driven bots to generate and post them.

4th July Tea Party

Should we need an excuse for a party in the first half of July we would of course do better to wait 10 days and celebrate with the French (also this year embroiled in election madness.) That would almost certainly be far more fun and a good excuse to drink wine, though I might draw the line at accordions. Its 58 years since I found myself in the square in front of the Mairie in a small French municipality a few mile south of Paris and I haven’t forgotten it.

4th July Tea Party

But I have photographed at protests over the years which have deliberately been timed for various reasons for US Independence Day as well as rather more that totally ignored any significance the day might have.

On Friday 4th of July 2014 Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) celebrated Independent Living Day with an Independent Living Tea Party at the Dept of Work & Pensions, calling for a stop to the removal of the Independent Living Fund which provides funding, education and transport that enables disabled people to live in the community.

The chose American Independence Day stating “The famous Boston teaparty led to a revolution against the British government let’s see where our teaparty leads….”

It wasn’t a huge protest but “Fifteen or so people in wheelchairs along with around as many walking but with other disabilities along with carers and supporters filled the pavement in front of the DWP in Caxton St, and at times made a considerable noise. As well as their voices and a megaphone, some had brought whistles and other musical instruments (and some less musical) to liven up the event. For those with hearing difficulties there was a BSL signer.

The future looked desperate for the almost 18,000 who then received support through the fund, and they were engaged in a long fight to try to prevent it being closed. In 2013 the government had lost a court case over its closure, but four months later the government had decided to go ahead and close it anyway in 2015. A fresh legal challenge failed.

Responsibility for supporting disabled people being passed to local authorities who were given funding roughly 12% less than the ILF – and this was not ring-fenced. DPAC said that given councils were having already to make massive cuts it seems unlikely that all of this will make its way to the disabled and that councils will largely be unable to find the staff to properly implement fair schemes. They point out that the ILF is a well organised and cost-effective scheme and any replacement is almost certain to be less efficient and to severely impacting the quality of life of severely disabled people.

DPAC fear that many currently usefully employed disabled people will have to give up work and will no longer be able to live independently but will have to go into residential care – at much greater cost.

Protests that are well-behaved and follow the rules seldom get coverage in the media – as last weekends massive Restore Nature Now showed – 60,000 people supported by a huge range of groups marching through London was not ‘news’ for BBC Radio 4, and there has been a huge news blackout on all the many peaceful marches calling for a ceasefire in Palestine.

So DPAC always like to end their events with a little disruptive action, usually in the form of a road block, although despite this their protests are still ignored by the mass media. Around half of those taking part decided to take part and blocked busy Victoria St by stopping their wheelchairs and holding banners on the pedestrian crossing.

Police arrived a few minutes later and tried to persuade them to move, getting a little firmer and eventually threatening protesters with the possibility of arrest for obstructing the highway.

Before long there were around four times as many police as protesters and when it began to look as if the police might carry out their threat of arrest, the protesters who had been receiving a great deal of support from tourists and others – even including some in the traffic being held up or diverted away down Great Smith St – decided it was time to end the protest and wheeled their chairs away.”

Despite this action I don’t think the event received any publicity outside some specialist print and online media. There were a couple of celebrity weddings, another getting sentenced for indecently assaulting girls, a hurricane in the US, an underpass collapse in Brazil – and some celebrations in the USA and many other stories.

More at Independent Living Tea party.


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LSE Resist – Working Class, Kidbrooke & Cleaners

Friday, September 29th, 2023

LSE Resist – Working Class, Kidbrooke & Cleaners: in September 2016 then LSE research fellow Lisa McKenzie and a couple of students organised a series of discussions, films, lectures and exhibitions in the 3 day campus-wide 3-day free ‘Resist: Festival of Ideas and Actions’. The festival explored how political resistance is understood within academic research, the arts, grassroots activism campaigns, student debate and mainstream politics.

LSE Resist - Working Class, Kidbrooke & Cleaners

As a part of this festival LSE cleaners began a campaign for parity of treatment with other workers at the LSE. I had contributed some protest pictures to be used in publicity for the festival and attended some of the events on 28-29th September 2016.

LSE Resist - Working Class, Kidbrooke & Cleaners

The success of this festival was perhaps one of the reasons why Dr McKenzie was not given a further contract at the LSE. She has since worked at Middlesex University, Durham University and the University of Bedfordshire and is Board Chair of the Working Class Collective.


Working Class debate at LSE Resist – Wednesday 28th September 2016

LSE Resist - Working Class, Kidbrooke & Cleaners

There was a lively open debate around ideas of the working class at lunchtime on the steps in front of the LSE building in Lincoln’s Inn Fields led by LSE Professor of Anthropology David Graeber and Martin Wright of Class War with contributions from others including LSE research fellow Lisa McKenzie and Class War’s Ian Bone.

LSE Resist - Working Class, Kidbrooke & Cleaners

I arrived late, partly because the LSE then was a huge building site and the Facebook invitation to the event had included a map incorrectly suggesting it was taking place in Houghton Street, so unfortunately missed the some of the opening remarks by Graeber.

He was followed by Whitechapel anarchist Martin Wright, a working-class activist from East London who told us he was proud of his record of not working. He now regularly broadcasts his pithy comments on current affairs on the ‘Red and Black’ channel on You Tube.

Ian Bone, the founder of Class War, once described by the gutter press as the ‘The Most Dangerous Man in Britain‘ gave a typically witty and thought-provoking contribution.

And of course Lisa McKenzie spoke at some length and depth, and there was a great deal of discussion among the main speakers, with contributions from many of those sitting around on the steps, mainly LSE students. I took a great many pictures some of which you can see on My London Diary, but think I managed to keep my mouth shut and listen rather than speak.

More pictures at Working Class debate at LSE Resist.


Simon Elmer of ASH indicts LSE

The following day I was back on the same steps to hear Simon Elmer of Architects for Social Housing (ASH) give a lengthy and detailed indictment, ‘The Intellectual Bloodstain’ on a report by a group of LSE academics on Kidbrooke Village, a development by Berkeley Homes and Southern Housing, on the site of a council estate which was demolished between 2009 and 2012.

The Ferrier Estate had been built for the Greater London Council in 1968-72 on the site of a former RAF base. The first section had five 12 storey towers and three years later a second section six more were added. The estate had around 1,900 flats.

When the GLC was abolished in 1986 for having opposed the Thatcher government it was a sad day for London in general, with the capital being left without its essential city-wide authority, something it has not yet recovered from despite the setting up of the GLA in 2000. But for the Ferrier estate in was even worse news as the estate was transferred to the Royal Borough of Greenwich.

Greenwich made Ferrier a sink estate and failed to maintain the estate properly; its population were markedly multi-ethnic, including many refugees while most of the rest of the borough’s estates were predominantly white.

You can read Elmer’s talk in full on the ASH web site and it makes interesting reading. Perhaps the key fact is that the estate still had 1732 flats which were housing council tenants at social rents, but in the replacement Kidbrooke Village although there will be 4,763 new apartments, only 159 will be at social rent. Some of the others will be ‘affordable’, meaning at up to 80% of market rent, but that means completely unaffordable to those who previously lived there – or to almost all of the 15,000 on the council’s housing waiting list.

As a former member of Greenwich Council was quoted by Elmer as stating, ‘Ten years ago residents on the Ferrier Estate were told that they would have the right to come back. What Greenwich Council didn’t mention is that they would need to win the Lottery to do so.

Elmer uses the case of Ferrier to ague about a key tropes behind the LSE produced report, the idea of ‘urban villages’ and also points out some of the omissions and inaccuracies of the report as well as attacking their use of inadequate and often misleading concepts such as ‘human scale‘, ‘unique identity‘, ‘social interaction‘ (which means going to shop at Sainsbury’s), ‘locally driven‘, ‘mixed communities‘ and more as well as pointing out some simple lies lifted directly from the developers’s marketing book.

His report points out “the white elephant standing in the middle of the living room of every one of these luxury apartments – that is, their complete failure to meet the housing needs of the local community” and went on to look more widely at housing issues in the UK before concluding his talk by convening a People’s Court for the indictment of the LSE Four, listing four charges and calling for their suitable punishment “in the name of Architects for Social Housing and on behalf of the former residents of the Ferrier Estate.” I think they were unanimously found guilty.

At the end of the meeting Petros Elia, General Secretary of the United Voices of the World trade union spoke briefly about the failure of LSE management to protect the interests of the LSE cleaners in outsourcing them to a cleaning contractor with no insistence on decent working conditions and conditions of service and inviting all present to a meeting later that do to discuss further action.

More pictures at Simon Elmer of ASH indicts LSE.


LSE Cleaners Campaign Launch

Later on Thursday I went to the meeting where cleaners at the LSE began their campaign for parity of treatment with other workers at the university.

The cleaners, employed by Noonan on a LSE contract, are paid the London Living Wage, but have only the statutory minimum holidays, sick pay and pension contributions, while workers directly employed by the LSE have more generous terms. They also complain they have lost rest facilities, are not allowed in the canteen with other workers, exposed to dangerous chemicals, not allowed to use lifts to move heavy equipment between floors and are generally treated like dirt.

We were all shocked when one of the cleaners stood up and told how she had been sacked by Noonan after 12 years of service at the LSE. The UVW will fight her unfair dismissal as well as pursuing their other claims.

Others attending the meeting included most of the students from a new graduate course at the LSE on issues of equality, something the LSE has a long history of campaigning for outside of the institution but seemed rather blind to on its own campus. Support for the cleaners was expressed by the LSE Students Union General Secretary and by several LSE staff members, and Sandy Nicoll from SOAS Unison told the meeting about their 10 year fight to bring cleaners there in-house.

Several of the cleaners spoke in Spanish, and their comments were translated for the benefit of the non-Spanish speaking in the audience,

There were suggestions for further actions to improve conditions and fight the unfair redundancy, and I was to photograph some of these in the months that followed, eventually leading the them being taken back in-house as LSE employees in 2017.

More pictures at LSE Cleaners campaign launch.


LSE Cleaners Protest, Police Arrest Lisa

Wednesday, March 15th, 2023

LSE Cleaners Protest, Police Arrest Lisa

LSE Cleaners Protest, Police Arrest Lisa: On Wednesday 15th March 2017, students and supporters joined cleaners on the picket line at the London School of Economics for a lunchtime rally on the first day of the 2 day strike by members of United Voices of the World union.

LSE Cleaners Protest, Police Arrest Lisa

Cleaners at the LSE have felt let down by management at least since January 2012 when the contractor who the LSE had outsourced them to cut their hours and was bullying them into signing new contracts.

LSE Cleaners Protest, Police Arrest Lisa

As I wrote back then, “Outsourcing – as doubtless research by the LSE will have shown – almost invariably leads to lower wages and poorer working conditions for the staff involved. And although the cuts and alleged bullying is being carried out by Resource Group, the responsibility for it must lie with the LSE who are responsible for the contract with them.”

David Graeber (right) at the protest

In September 2016 the cleaners with the United Voices of the World trade union launched a new campaign for parity of treatment with other workers at the university with a meeting which was a part of the LSE’s 3-day ‘Resist’ Festival organised by LSE research fellow Lisa McKenzie which had featured talks and debates often critical of the LSE, with contributions by LSE Professor of Anthropology David Graeber and Martin Wright of Class War and in particular a damning indictment by Simon Elmer of Architects for Social Housing (ASH) of a report by a group of LSE academics on the redevelopment of the Ferrier Estate, deliberately run-down, demonised and emptied by Greenwich Council from 1999 onwards, as Kidbrooke Village.

LSE Cleaners Protest, Police Arrest Lisa
Protesters walk into the estates office foyer

The protest on 15th March 2017 began with a rally on the LSE campus demanding equal sick pay, holidays and pensions etc to similar workers directly employed by the LSE and an end to bullying and discrimination by their employer Noonan.

LSE Cleaners Protest, Police Arrest Lisa

Grim Chip of Poetry on the Picket Line performed and there were several speeches by UVW members including LSE cleaner Mildred Simpson.

Dvid Graeber and Petros Eila

The protesters then marched the short distance across Kingsway to the LSE Estates Division where cleaning contractors Noonan have their LSE office. They walked in and occupied the foyer there for over and hour, only leaving after being promised that Allan Blair LSE Director of Facilities Management would talk with the cleaners union the United Voices of the World.

As they left the foyer, police jostled some of them before assaulting and arresting LSE academic Lisa McKenzie, charging her with assault and then bundling her into a waiting police van.

Apparently the receptionist at the estates office had complained that she had been assaulted by McKenzie as the four people holding the UVW banner pushed past her on their way into the office. I had been following close behind them and neither I nor the other protesters had seen any evidence of assault.

None of the other three holding the banner were arrested and it seemed fairly clear that the arrest was not for any offence. Perhaps the police were still aggrieved after a case against her when she was wrongly charged for three offences at a protest in Febnuary 2015 was thrown out of court. That had taken place at the time she was standing in the General Election against Iain Duncan Smith and was an arrest that appeared clearly politically motivated.

But on this occasion it could well have been that the LSE management had pointed her out as a trouble-maker. McKenzie, a working class academic and author of a highly acclaimed study of class and culture on the Nottingham estate where she lived for more than 20 years has been the a subject of constant criticism from others both inside the LSE and in the wider academic community, and when her contract there came to an end it was not renewed.

The protesters were left angry and confused. Why was Lisa being picked on? The protesters felt it must be politically motivated and it was difficult to see any other reason. I think she was later released without charge, possibly because there was CCTV evidence that showed there was no case to answer.

More on My London Diary:
Police arrest Lisa again
LSE cleaners strike and protest


2015: Grow Heathrow at Five

Sunday, February 28th, 2021

On 28th February 2015, Grow Heathrow, a non-hierarchical free community in an occupied derelict nursery at Sipson, just north of Heathrow Airport celebrated 5 years with open workshops and a party.

It had been set up as a symbol of community resistance to the economic, ecological and democratic crises and to oppose the increasing development of the aviation industry and Heathrow, at a time when local residents, myself included, were protesting against the building of a “third runway” to the north of the current airport.

Local protests had begun back in 2003, and by the time squatters occupied the long-abandoned market garden victory on the specific issue of the new runway seemed more or less assured. Transition Heathrow’s ‘Grow Heathrow’ had longer term and more far reaching goals, hoping to create more sustainable and resilient Heathrow villages after the dropping of the third runway and more widely to build long-term infrastructure and networks to deal with peak oil and the threat of climate change. On their site they set out to demonstrate how we could live differently, ‘off grid’ and with a different and cooperative lifestyle.

I wasn’t particularly closely involved with Grow Heathrow, though I visited the site a number of times for various events, as well as taking part in the local protests and events at the nearby Greenpeace ‘Airplot’, where I was one of the 91,000 of beneficial owners of a very small area of land. It’s an area I knew from my youth, when I often cycled through Sipson ,Harmondsworth, Longford, Horton and Colnbrook.

Grow Heathrow weathered a number of legal battles to stay in occupation, but were evicted from the front half of the site where most of these celebrations took place two years ago at the end of February 2019 after around 9 years of occupation and growth. I’ve not visited since the eviction but so far as I am aware there are still some residents on the back part of the site – which had a different owner, but visits have not been possible since the start of the pandemic.

The project was an important one and brought together many people from different backgrounds, including local residents and international visitors, some who stayed for months and years. Among those who came to the 5th birthday party to join the celebrations and speak were local MP John McDonnell, Tristram Stuart, a pioneer of the radical food movement with his 2009 book on food waste, anthropology professor David Graeber and activist Ewa Jasiewicz.

Grow Heathrow was an inspiration to many, though some of us were unable to envisage its rather spartan lifestyle for ourselves there were lessons that could be learnt in particular from its involvement with the wider community. Heathrow expansion is back on the agenda today, though it is hard to believe it will go ahead given the growing realisation of the vital importance of the climate crisis. Aviation as we know it is incompatible with the kind of Green future our government now plays lip-service too – and will need putting into action for civilisation to survive.

Many more pictures at Grow Heathrow’s 5th Birthday.


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