Socialist Worker


Issue No. 1980

Police officers during the raid to evict residents of St Agnes Place (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Police officers during the raid to evict residents of St Agnes Place (Pic: Guy Smallman)

This is an unjust eviction

Riot police evicted 150 people from their homes in St Agnes Place in Kennington, south London, on Tuesday of last week. Squatters had first occupied the street in 1971.

When the councillor in charge of housing heard that the court order had been won to secure eviction he said that he was happy to get the “parasites” out.

I live on the Myatts Fields estate near St Agnes Place and when I heard that on the news I was very shocked. I and two other people visited the local residents.

They were extremely worried. Lots of people were looking out wondering if the police were coming next. They were living in fear.

People in the squat with children were waiting to be herded out. They did not deserve that — these people were not rebels.

An old man had been there for 30 years. He had tried everything to stay there.

But it was Lambeth council they were dealing with. All it cares about is money.

It is going to demolish the houses on St Agnes Place and put up cheap prefabricated homes. I am horrified about what will replace these beautiful houses when I look at the other houses built round here recently.

We are losing a bit of our history — an arty, Rastafarian, nice place is going.

Everybody I have spoken to thinks it is a real shame and are really sad that this has happened.

The housing situation is getting worse across south London. There has been no investment in council housing for years. Repairs have not been done, we are overrun with rats and cockroaches. I have had four major floods in the last few months.

It is unbelievable that we are living in these conditions in the 21st century. I hope that the families who have been evicted are rehoused and not messed around. A Christmas in temporary accommodation would not be very nice.

Sharon Sitahall, South London

Don’t tolerate violence against women

It was great to see Ann Henderson’s article (Zero tolerance of violence against women, 3 December).

Part of my job is to develop policy and strategy for what a local council does for victims of domestic violence.

It’s amazing to see how there is still a level of tolerance for violence against women that exists in our society — the conviction rate for rape is only 6 percent.

This is reinforced by the clear inequalities in society that women still experience. Thirty years after the Sex Discrimination Act, women still earn less than men, receive smaller pensions and are still expected to work and look after the family.

The Nia Project, formerly Hackney Women’s Aid, celebrated its thirtieth anniversary last month.

It shows how small community and voluntary organisations make a difference in ordinary women’s lives. But statutory agencies like councils, the police and the criminal justice system let them down all too often.

Minister Tessa Jowell last week launched a nationwide consultation to find out what women want from government. Haven’t women been telling government what they want for over 30 years?

Isn’t it time the government stopped talking about it and did something about it?

Kerri Parke, East London

Sceptical on hate bill

It is wrong to suggest that Respect “made the right decision in backing more protection for Muslims” (Letters, 3 December), if by that Jiben Kumar means to imply that Respect “backed” the religious hatred bill.

In fact, Respect conference agreed “not to line up with those who oppose the bill”, because so often such opposition is a veil for Islamophobia. Conference did not, though, commit Respect to supporting the bill itself.

This is more than meaningless playing with words. There is a good argument that in the current climate, Respect should not mobilise against a bill seen as one designed to protect Muslims.

However, we should be sceptical not only of the government’s motives, but of the ways that this bill could be used. To be active cheerleaders for it would be dangerous.

Jiben is quite wrong to suggest that such concerns are “spurious” attacks on “political correctness”, or are “hypothetical”. There are plenty of concrete examples of seemingly progressive legislation being used against critical and progressive voices.

If that occurs in this case, Respect must oppose the way this bill is used (which is not the same thing as actively opposing the bill itself).

The first person prosecuted under the 1965 Race Relations Act was a black power activist, Michael X.

This does not mean that radicals should have opposed the 1965 Act, with its measures to make incitement to racial hatred a crime, any more, perhaps, than Respect should “oppose” the religious hatred bill. It is, however, good reason for us to be careful of actively “backing” any such laws with which our state can later attack us.

There is a legitimate debate going on within Respect about how to wrestle with this issue. Both sides make good points, and should avoid parodying or sneering at each other’s positions.

Respect has performed an admirable feat of not lending its weight to a chorus often tainted with Islamophobia, while retaining a critical distance, and not lining up behind a bill which may be used against progressives.

China Miéville, West London

Housing transfers and Blair’s slum landlords

Tenants on the South Lambeth estate will be asked to vote for a handover from the council to a housing association next year. Lambeth council has a terrible record as a landlord and many tenants and residents will find the housing association option attractive.

We have been promised many improvements if we leave the council. Rents will go up by £5 a week, but our rent has been rising under the council anyway.

All the main parties want to wash their hands of responsibility for housing working class people, but are scared to directly hand over to the banks and private landlords. How can we resist?

Gordon Blair, South London

Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) are home to 1.4 million people who live in 650,000 bedsits and shared houses. HMO tenants experience some of the worst features of the private rented sector.

New Labour’s licensing scheme for the HMO sector will be introduced next year but HMOs will only need licensing if they are at least three stories high.

Landlords do not need planning permission to convert family homes into HMOs. The new law will drive bad landlords into private estates and former local authority housing. Labour is reliant on HMOs to provide sub-standard housing in London and the south east of England.

Paul Burnham, North London

SW mistaken on climate strategy

In the report on the Respect conference (Climate change and nuclear power, 26 November) Socialist Worker equates contraction and convergence with emissions trading. I do not think this is correct.

Although the Global Commons Institute, which invented contraction and convergence, supports emissions trading, this is not central to the concept.

It is often added to try and make it acceptable to the US government.

The basic concepts of contraction and convergence are equity and the need for enforceable cuts on emissions. We need something like 80 percent global reductions in emissions by 2050. At the moment emissions per person in the US are over 100 times higher than in Afghanistan.

Contraction and convergence says that we need to reduce and equalise emissions per person, and sets out a timetable for this.

Countries like Afghanistan will have an opportunity to increase their emissions while the US (and Britain) have to drastically cut theirs. Socialists don’t have to accept tradeable rations to agree with the aims of the concept.

James Woodcock, East London

Well done for web article

Can I congratulate John Bomba and Socialist Worker on the wonderful article, My four days inside Mugabe’s prisons, which appeared on Socialist Worker’s website.

I used to be a supporter of the Zimbabwean regime but have now realised it is against workers’ interests. People like John have shown a force that is neither Mugabe nor Blair.

Ayoola Johnson, by e-mail

This man is no Welsh hero

A dreadful new waterfront museum opened in Swansea recently. It includes a “hall of Welsh heroes”. In a place of honour is the Liberal demagogue and arch-imperialist David Lloyd George.

As the British prime minister from 1916-22 his most notable achievement included sending tens of thousands of young men to their death in the First World War. He ordered the use of state terror to try to keep Ireland part of the empire.

If the museum was looking for modern MPs to fill its hall of shame I would put forward New Labour minister Peter Hain, who has been the biggest supporter of the war on Iraq.

Phil Knight, Neath

Sticking it to the Nazi BNP

I recently plucked a Nazi British National Party (BNP) sticker from a post box.

It said, “Nick Griffin and Mark Collett are innocent. No to New Labour police state. Be free. Vote BNP.”

The BNP are using the arrest and coming trial of its führer Nick Griffin for incitement to commit racial hatred as a way of suggesting that the country is turning into a police state.

It seems a bit rich coming from a group that has supported this government’s actions when it imprisons asylum seekers, vilifies Muslims and holds suspects without charge for weeks.

Nick Griffin was bailed on his day of arrest. Would this be likely if he were a young Muslim man?

Alyson Deer, East London

Best broke all the rules

Three points to add to Eamonn McCann’s heartfelt obituary of George Best (3 December).

Firstly, Best’s comparable artistic stature in sport to Muhammad Ali. Both broke all the rules of their game with breathtaking balance, speed and audacity.

Secondly, would Best have been so forsaken yet exploited by socialist Bill Shankly at Liverpool? Was the Catholic, conservative Matt Busby reluctant to support Best’s unorthodox lifestyle and Protestant background?

Lastly, some of the carping about Best’s death smacks of the reactionary view that the 1960s were all about selfish individual excess. Best’s freedom of expression was an inspiration to millions in all walks of life.

Nick Grant, West London

True working class icons

Eamonn McCann gave an excellent assessment of the legacy of George Best.

But you only have to take a look at some of the other “icons” of the 1960s era to put Best in his place. Muhammad Ali and John Lennon both started out their careers being more or less apolitical.

But they grasped the significance of the political movements of the 1960s. Although they too attained great fame and wealth, they were proud of their working class roots and used their positions to fight for change.

Ali refused the draft into the US army, and Lennon campaigned against the Vietnam war. They spoke for millions of black and white people who rejected the hypocrisy and racism of those in power, and wanted a better world.

Best was a great footballer — but Ali and Lennon were true working class heroes.

Janet Noble, South London

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Article information

Sat 10 Dec 2005, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1980
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