Over the last three months we’ve put out another two issues of the Forest Fields Fire, to if not universal acclaim then at least begrudging acknowledgement that it does fit through letter boxes.
Here are the pdf’s
Another one is due out this month, and you’ll be at least 2,001th to here about it.
Today a group of anti-workfare activists took to the streets of Nottingham to picket some of the corporate workfare profiteers and to highlight why workfare is such a dangerous idea. We visited Burton, Barnardo’s, Primark, Greggs and Superdrug before we got through all of our leaflets and decided to call it a day. On the whole, the public responded positively to our message including several who agreed to boycott particular shops as a result of getting a flyer.
Workfare is the name given to various government programmes that force benefit claimants to work full-time jobs just to get their dole money. Various companies have signed up to get this very attractive (for them) workers that don’t have to be paid. It is obviously bad for the unemployed because they are being exploited and don’t get any reward, but it is also bad for paid workers who might be replaced by free labour from the Job Centre.
We met at the left lion in Market Square and were sent off with an anti-workfare speech from a local anti-austerity campaigner who had a stall. Despite the somewhat pro-state slant of his words, it was good to receive some solidarity.
We were well equipped with a sound system in a pushchair pumping out revolutionary hip hop and our “Workfare ain’t fair” banner as well as a stack of fliers. We walked and wheeled across the square to our first stop, Burtons. Burtons is part of notorious tax dodger Philip Green’s Arcadia group, which has a policy of using workfare. The Burtons management immediately threw a massive tantrum, shutting up all but one of the doors to the shop and then standing in the remaining one snarling at us and chuntering on about how they had nothing to do with workfare and spent their whole days helping the sick and needy by giving them free suits, etc. All they managed to do was make their shop very unwelcoming for the time that we were there.
Next stop was the Barnardo’s charity shop a few doors up. Barnardo’s is one of many high street charities which is supplementing their volunteers with forced labour from the Job Centre. The workers were, perhaps unsurprisingly, much more sympathetic to and interested in our protest and read our leaflets. Some PCSOs came along to ask whether we were a peaceful protest and what time we were leaving so they could “update the control centre”. When they went in to let the staff know we weren’t dangerous psychopaths, we slipped off to Primark.
Primark was a bit mental. There were just too many people rushing in and out of those doors. We didn’t stay long.
Next stop was Greggs on Clumber Street. There was more space to stop and have decent interactions with people and people had time to read our leaflets in the queue. One man went in taking a leaflet and then emerged a few minutes later without having bought anything thanking us all for letting him know about Greggs exploitative practices. Another man took a leaflet and said “I won’t be buying anything in there then” and a group of kids in hoodies tutted a bit and then were overheard saying they wouldn’t be going in again.
For our last stop we moved over to Superdrug on the other side of the road and gave out the last of our leaflets. One man stopped to have a conversation with me about how he’d seen this coming with the New Deal and previous government attacks on the unemployed and how his son was involved in anti-workfare campaigning in Plymouth. “Why aren’t there more of you?” he asked.
We will back and we hope that next time more people will join us. There are plenty of shops on our list that we didn’t get to visit today, including Wilkinsons, Argos, Poundland, Miss Selfridge and Tescos. We know that anti-workfare campaigning is working: earlier in the year Holland & Barrett pulled out of workfare after sustained, nationnwide pickets of its stores. We just need to keep up the pressure.
On Saturday after the comedy, chaos and acrimony of the May Day rally, Autonomous Nottingham and friends from Afed and elsewhere descended onto the Saturday city streets to do a wee bit of spread the word about the ruling classes latest attack on us precarious workers and unemployed. They like to call it Workfare, we call it another pile of steaming crap.
These were the leaflets we were handing out, about 1,000 got distributed in all, and fuck yeah it’s class war. The people at the top end of this capitalist system have been at it for a while now and over the last thirty years partly under the cover of the welfare state they’ve been ripping the working poor a new one. Atomizing our social life, individualizing political lives and turning the cultures we create into commodities to make profit for their markets. The cuts, the recent austerity measures they’re all part of this. Having fragmented our communities and attempted to end collectivity and solidarity amongst us. Having destroyed local industries, having beaten the artisans and craftspeople to the margins. Having filled our cities and neighborhoods and cities with plastic crap we never thought we’d need. They’re now trying to make us work for less 1/4 of minimum wage.
To be fair to this mysterious “they” they’re only pushing capitalism to it’s logical conclusion and they’re so indoctrinated into this system, having been spoon fed it since birth in the ways it will make them happy, that it’s hardly surprising they push and they push it no matter what damage it does to others. The tories are at it now, and it was labour before them who started this Workfare bullshit. And that’s why some of us went around some of the shops listed in the leaflet.
Some of the conversations we had on the street were positive, with people surprised and angry that this was going on, some of the shop workers and managers professed not to have a clue that it was happening. And in eagerness to report what happened we gotta say that one dude said he’d been put on workfare and had got a job out of it, so it was okay by him. It’s not however okay for everyone, and it wouldn’t be financially viable for this shops to start paying wage so each person who they could be getting for free if they kept them on through the workfare program. It was clear that some people shared our view, because outside Poundland we asked to our bafflement who had dropped the stick bombs in the shop. We all assumed that stick bombs went out with the Beano and Dandy, but apparently some folks are still using them. More power to them, use whatever weapons you got whenever you got them I say.
The workfare program must be stopped in its tracks, it’s already affecting hundreds of individuals who are now having being forced to work for their benefits, some of whom will have recently been forced off incapacity benefit due to the latest Atos Origin propelled attack on the sick. We have to crush this program before it crushes us, the more people are forced to work for their benefits the less waged work there is, which means more go onto JSA and are then forced to work for their benefits. Slowly but surely corporations will have a labour force they don’t have to pay for. We have to work out a way to stop this, precarious workers and the unemployed together. This month we’ll be organising a meeting to talk about how we’re going to do this if you’re interested drop us email and let us know. Likewise if you’ve got any workfare related stories, the more we know about how and where it’s been operating the better able we will be to beat it back.
Over the past few weeks Lenton Flats residents and Autonomous Nottingham have organised a couple of meetings in order for the residents to come together to share their grievances, anger and frustration at the behaviour of Nottingham City Homes, Nottingham City Council and the plans to demolish Lenton Flats. See here for more detailshttps://network23.org/autonomousnottingham/2012/03/22/demolishing-lenton-flats/
These meetings have been disrupted by NCH, the council and other organisations who are funded by the council.
At the first meeting organised around 30 people attended, the main theme was that of confusion and frustration. As the residents expressed their concerns it drew light on the piss poor way in which NCH have communicated with the residents, apparently dropping the occasional letter threw the mail box telling you you’re going to get evicted, your home demolish and yes, we’ll be in touch soon to help find you a new house, is a reasonable way for NCH to treat its tenants. We’d decided at the start of the meeting not to impose our position on the meeting. A resident had got in touch with us, and asked us to help arrange the meetings, but we’re not residents and whilst we’ll show solidarity with the residents we didn’t feel it was our place to be guiding the fight. Unfortunately one local charity/community worker, funded in part by City Homes decided it was her role. She admitted to receiving a call from the council asking her to attend the meeting, and it was clear that she saw her role as eviction mediator. Framing her opinion as objective and omnipotent she constantly invalidated any residents attempts at discussing resistance, individualised each persons situation by offering help finding suitable accommodation to a select few and repeating NCH’s corporate lines over and over again. Despite this many residents continued to express their anger at the way they are being treated, and most were steadfast that everything the council or NCH tell them is a lie.
- If the eviction goes ahead hardly any of the residents will be able to stay in Lenton, instead a community will be dispersed across the city.
- There isn’t enough social housing in the city to accommodate those who currently need it, so their is zero chance of their being enough for the 500 household currently living in lenton flats.
- If the flats are demolished the current residents know that the land will sold off and within a few years new student accommodation will take it’s place.
A week after that meeting another was held, this one was attended by 20 or so people, including handful of the same residents who came to the previous meeting, two from Autonomous Notts, and then bizarrely 2 NCH workers, the local area manager, and another council representaive. Fortunately we’d been tipped off about council presence, and also decided that we’d made a mistake in allowing the previous meeting to be unstructured. We’d been asked to help create a forum for residents to talk about fighting back against NCH’s plans, and in silencing ourselves we’d allowed someone to hijack the meeting from the residents. So, we explained at the beginning that this was a meeting for residents to talk and for non-residents to listen. The first half of the meeting went in this direction with residents discussing the variety of ways they’re connected to the flats and the area in general, as well as their distrust in the explanations given to them by Nottingham city homes and the council. There was also wider concern and anger at the ways in which they have constantly been treated by goverment bodies, both local and national, and looking ahead at other ways they’re about to be screwed over. NCH representatives interrupted in order to recite the line that management has drilled into them, and they in turn were occasionally taken to task by different residents who saw through their bull shit. At a couple of points during the NCH blahdeblah we lost our tempers and ranted back at them. At the time we thought this was a fuck up, but after the meeting it turned out to be the smartest thing we could have done. Once we’d made clear in no uncertain terms what we thought of NCH and the council, the residents in private were even more vocal about what they thought about the entire situation. The meeting ended slowly with things coming to a collective impasse, of the residents either resigned to being treated the way that city council always treat their residents, and others seething and disbelieving and with a willingness to fight on.
Autonomous Notts would like to thank the current residents for their general awesomeness in the face of oppression, and we will continue to show solidarity to all those who want it. More meetings will happen and we won’t let city homes or the council anywhere near them. Ironically nearly all residents told us that they now new more about the eviction process and they now knew more about the rehousing plans then they did after the meetings city homes had put organised. Make of that what you will.
May Day is an international day of celebration and commemoration of working class struggle. This year, a Nottingham May Day march and rally is being organised by Notts Trades Council. The organisation has invited Sir Alan Meale, MP for Mansfield since 1987, to speak at the rally.
It takes a very short memory to forget the Labour Party imposing their brand of neoliberal capitalism on the working class. Neoliberalism leads us to ever more precarious working practices and decreasing wages, in tandem with the rolling out of huge personal debt to keep up our consumption levels. Alongside this we saw massive increases in executive pay under Labour, increases in prison building, the rolling back of welfare and asylum provision and the associated demonisation of their recipients. Labour embraced the process of privatising every part of the public sphere. Most recently we see one of Labour’s policies, workfare, being seized upon as a flagship Tory policy. Labour were also more than happy to export this model abroad via the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan.
The same government also completely failed to repeal some of the most restrictive anti trade union laws in the EU. The Trades Council, being a council made up of representatives of trade unions, putting this man on a platform to speak has all the logic of turkeys putting the owner of the local slaughterhouse up there. Unlike many of us, trades unionists included, when was the last time Sir Alan Meale worried about paying his rent? When did Sir Alan Meale forgo a trip to the pub because he was skint? When was the last time Sir Alan Meale borrowed £20 to see him through till pay day? Having someone on the salary of an MP with the associated expenses and perks lecture us on the ills of austerity is a joke.
Some Labour MPs have supported working class struggles, against the wishes of their party. Alan Meale is not one of these. Sir Alan is loyal to the New Labour project and voted in favour of the Iraq war and against subsequent investigation of it, was strongly in favour of draconian anti-terror legislation and the authoritarian ID cards scheme, and voted strongly for making the asylum system tougher and more punitive. He has also treated the working class with contempt by claiming £13,000 in expenses for gardening and £7,000 for redecorating his home whilst many of his constituents struggle to make ends meet. “Sir” Alan Meale got his knighthood because of his political contribution. He has demonstrated himself to be an opportunist politician who has not hesitated to sell-out the working class to further his career prospects.
Representatives of Notts Trades Council say that they are inviting a broad range of speakers from the labour movement to make the event “inclusive”. We think that inviting Meale is guaranteed to alienate the working class people he has betrayed time and time again over the course of his political career. Indeed, some local campaigns have refused the invitation to speak on the same platform as him at May Day. Therefore we urge the Notts Trades Council to withdraw its invitation to Meale and not to give a platform to the anti-working class politics he represents.
Autonomous Nottingham and Anarchist Federation (Nottingham).
Autonomous Nottingham presents The Forest Fields Fire, a monthly newsletter for the area, delivered to a 1,000 houses each month.
A couple of us went to one of the meetings regarding the demolition of Lenton Flats yesterday. It was the third of three meetings held during the day by NCH and the two local councillors Susan Piper and David Trimble. The earlier meeting had been targeted at Lenton, Digby and Abbey court residents whilst the one we attended was for Wiloughby and Newgate residents. We met up with the resident who’d invited us to come along with him the meeting.
The meeting began with the usual council info share nonsense, where those chairing the meeting explained to the residents what NCH would be doing for the residents, and how supportive and caring they intended to be.
During the meeting the following points were covered.
1) Over a six month period starting in April the Lenton garages and Lenton Court would be emptied and the residents would be rehoused. This rehousing process would involve each flat being visited by an NCH worker who would guide them through bidding for available social housing. All residents will apparently be placed in Band 2 for their bidding, which is the urgent needs priority level.
2) At the end of this six month period the Lenton garages and court will be demolished. In October 2012 the rehousing of the residents in Digby court will begin. In April 2013 it’s the turn of Abbey. In September 2013 it’s Willoughby. In October 2014 it’s Newgate.
3) During the same time frame as this social housing in Strelley, St Annes, Meadows and Radford will also be demolished. In total around 900 homes to go, at present there are 150 available social housing places.
4) The only new social housing they said would be made would be a sheltered scheme on the site of Lenton court, which the pamphlet says willbe for Newgate residents.
5) If residents find suitable housing during their designated time slot, and if they’ve been a resident for over 12 months prior to the demolition being approved, they will be £4,700, any existing debts will be subtracted from that.
6) The councillors and NCH dude weren’t stupid enough to promise that everyone would get rehoused in Lenton, or any other area in particular instead referring to support in finding suitable available housing.
There was then a q&a. I reckon there were about fifty plus people at the meeting, some drifted in and out, around 20 or so asked questions.
The councillors also constantly blamed the current government for the situation, saying that it was the tories who were demanding that local governments re-structure and finance their social housing provision.
According to the councillors and the NCH there are no set plans on what will happen to the land after they are demolished. One councillor said over her dead body will they be turned into student housing. But the possibility of new social housing being built there was not emphasised, which if it was even remotely likely it would have been sung from the chandeliers. I think it’s clearly going to be sold to developers, with student housing in mind, this was a few shared by many of the residents.
Many of the questions focused on individual issues of ensuring they’d get the 4,700, or the help they’d recieve in moving house (NCH are saying they’ll provide a full removal service), A lot of the questions were around the finding of appropriate property to move to, and what if it wasn’t found, the answer to this was that NCH would do everything they could to ensure that this would not be the case.
I’d say that there were a good number of people in attendance who were distrusting and frustrated with what was happening, and their questions represent this.
It’s been pointed out with the residents of the Lenton Flats being placed on band B, a whole load of people on lower bands and already waiting and bidding for housing are going to be pushed further down the list. One dude in attendance pointed out that he’d been searching and bidding for 13 months prior to the announcement of the demolition to no success.
Reasons to engage with what the NCH and the city council are doing to social housing in Nottingham.
1) The sheer number of people being forced out of their long term homes. Due to the current governments reckless austerity measures, and the local councils ineptness and feeble attempts to protect those it claims to represent.
2) This is going to have a dramatic effect on the homeless situation in the city. Homelessness has already risen due to evictions and repossessions, this is a very real effect of capitalism, one that is drastically enhanced as the system attempts to defend it’s primary beneficiary.
3) There are a lot of pissed off people in the flats, many of who have already been massively screwed over by capitalist society.
4) I lived there as a kid and have long had an issue with the dismantling of the working class Lenton community in favour of the students.
Despite the freezing cold Autonomous Nottingham hit the road to travel down the A46 to Morton Hall Immigration Removal Centre, to hold a solidarity noise demo with those imprisoned by this countries cruel and abusive government. With a sound system pumping out revolutionary hip hop, pots, pans, xylophones, air horns and our gobs we made a racket as circled the prisons perimeter. Those inside sent us text messages to let us know that our noise was heard inside, and some prisoners waved from their cell windows as we stood outside. We put up with a minor irritation in the form of a single little piggie, and headed home vowing to return in the near future. Whilst there are those who are kept behind bars by the state then it remains imperative for those on the outside to show solidarity and support in every way.
Morton Hall was formerly a prison for female foreign national prisoners but has now been converted to an immigration removal centre for male detainees. It is run by HM Prison Service in collaboration with the UK Border Agency. Less than 30 miles from Nottingham it is the only detention centre in the East Midlands.
Immigration detainees can be held indefinitely, as detention is not automatically reviewed by the courts, and many end up in these prisons for years. None of them are being detained as punishment for a crime. Most detainees are asylum seekers whose claims have been refused. Other people are waiting to find out if they will be allowed to stay in Britain or are waiting to be returned to their countries of origin. Many experience extreme isolation and distress, knowing no-one in the UK and with very limited understanding of the language, law, their rights and entitlements. Many people have already been traumatised by their experiences in their home country and are further scarred when they find themselves detained with no release date, and by the prospect of being forcibly returned.
Instances of racism, brutality and neglect in detention centres are rife. In 2009 two guards at immigration detention centres were found to be members of the fascist British National Party. Last year a guard at Yarl’s Wood IRC was fired after a detainee became pregnant whilst in detention. The denial of medical treatment is commonplace in detention centres. Examples include denying wheelchair access to a detainee unable to walk after an assault during a forced removal attempt, which meant that she couldn’t go to eat. Denial of medication to patients with health problems is common. For example HIV positive detainees have been denied access to anti-retroviral drugs whilst in detention. A Kenyan detainee, Eliud Nguli Nyenze, died in Oakington IRC last year after an ambulance called for him by detainees was turned away by staff.
According to the rules regarding detention, victims of torture and people with psychiatric conditions are not suitable for detention. However, these regulations are routinely ignored. Indeed, the experience of detention can exacerbate or precipitate poor mental health. Ahmad Javani, an Iranian national detained for over thirteen months comments: ‘If any single normal person came to this place you’d go mental, mad in this place. I was a normal person before coming to this place, and now, I’m forgetting things always. Like old people that forget things. I can’t understand, I’m not the same person. I’m a different person. Who gives this power to them to keep these people here for years and years and years, to make them mental and crazy?’ Levels of self-harm and suicide attempts in detentions are high.
This inhuman system has resulted in a huge amount of misery and many people have died in UK detention centres over the years.
In the face of the degrading conditions they are subject to and often with no idea of how long their incarceration will last, struggles from within detention centres are commonplace but are frequently misrepresented by mainstream media. Detainees have been on hunger strike and rioted to show their outrage. People who speak out against their treatment are generally subject to further punishment. For example Denise McNeil, who went on hunger strike in February 2010 and was then moved from Yarl’s Wood IRC to Holloway prison.
There are also groups on the outside committed to working to end the detention of migrants and support people who find themselves trapped in the system. The Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees lists visitors groups across the country that support detainees. No Borders campaigns for the end of border controls and supports detainees organising from within detention centres to challenge their treatment.