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  • troovus 4:23 pm on August 8, 2018 Permalink | Reply  

    Anarchy in the Labour Party 

    Earlier this week, I joined the Labour Party. I still think of myself as an anarchist, and joining a political party is a bit of a contradiction. So…

    What kind of anarchist am I?!

    First of all, anarchism has many definitions and flavours. From the social to the individual, from the revolutionary progressive to the pro-capitalist. For me, one of the key things is opposition to authority. An important follow-on from that is that social change should not be forced on people from on high, but come from the bottom up. This obviously puts traditional British party politics at odds with most anarchists, but as Chomsky and Durutti both said, there are worse compromises. One of the dangers of party politics of course, is believing that if you elect the right people, you’ve won and can stop worrying about things for another five years. I’m old enough to remember the bitter disappointment and betrayals of the 1997 Blair government.

    So why would an anarchist join the Labour Party?

    The short answer is because I’m lazy and introverted. Despite 30 years of very sporadic activism, my natural tendency is towards hermitism. An anarchist way to change the world isn’t simply to tear down the old world order and demand a better one, but to create the better world one interaction at a time. I know anarchists (and other activists) whose lives exemplify this approach, and they make much more of a positive difference than merely voting, campaigning for votes or joining a political party. But that’s not to say that party politics are irrelevant. People have been sanctioned, deported, made homeless, work long hours at insecure jobs to pay exorbitant rents because of the policies of the current Conservative Party government. Inequality, landlordism and institutional racism are not unique to Tory governments of course, but a Labour party currently opposed to those things will make a big and positive difference to millions of people’s lives, especially if a mass membership holds it to its promises.

    Aren’t anarchists against the state?

    Most are, and ultimately, so am I. But there’s a difference between wanting a different system and wanting to tear down the existing system in the absence of a current viable alternative. When the Soviet Union crumbled, its replacement was corruption, nationalism, kleptocracy. Widespread progressive organisation simply wasn’t there to fill the void when the totalitarian regime went. We’re all social creatures and we’re socialised (partly deliberately) to see a hierarchical power structure as natural, to feel the need for leaders. When the power structures fell in Spain after Franco’s insurrection in the 1930s, large areas collectivised and organised effectively to continue production and provide for people’s needs. This wasn’t because of some innate drive of people to cooperate, but because anarcho-syndicalists had already been organising along these lines for the previous 70 years, providing for themselves and for their communities what the state had not been providing. Only when the general population is socialised to be cooperative and self-reliant can an alternative to state-like structures emerge without the likelihood of the gap being filled by gangsters and tyrants. Nobody knows how the state and capitalism will be overthrown, but chances are it will be by them being made increasingly irrelevant by the ways sufficient numbers of people have started organising themselves. Organising in a political party, though only a step, is not necessarily at odds with that growing grassroots self-reliance.

    But aren’t anarchists against organisation?

    No. Hierarchical power structures, yes, but organisation is at the heart of anarchism. Free association and mutual aid are the opposite of expecting someone to tell you what to do. Vote for someone to be in charge, and you’re not organising, you’re colluding with oppression. An MP or PM should not see themselves as elected to rule, but to represent. They should be constantly held to account, not elected once and allowed to take their place as part of the privileged ruling class. The power of recall should be extended and mandatory MP candidate reselection introduced for political parties. There’s a good reason why this is a key debate currently happening in the Labour Party.

    So why the Labour Party?

    Pragmatically, because a Labour government is the only likely scenario that ends the Tory Party’s current vicious, elitist, thieving, racist regime. Also, because it has started to become since 2015, a mass party again, with policies to serve the majority of working class people (whether working or not). I’m under no illusions as to the likely disappointments ahead, but the need to stop the Tory attacks on us is critical. In England, the Green Party has progressive policies that I also support, but currently under the unfair voting system, most votes for the Green Party are ineffective. This is very likely to end in tears, but for a lazy anarchist like me, it’s the least I can do!

  • troovus 6:18 pm on February 15, 2017 Permalink | Reply  

    The Bus out of Neoliberaville 

    Sophie and Owen are waiting in a long bus queue when to their surprise a bus arrives. “Ah, finally, a bus leaving Neoliberaville!” says Sophie.

    People at the front of the queue, many of whom are looking pretty desperate, start boarding the bus. When Sophie and Owen get near the front of the queue, Owen says, “Hmm, I don’t think that’s the kind of bus I want. I don’t like some of the places it’s already been to.”

    Sophie says “But we’ve been waiting to get out of here for 35 years. It might be as long again before another bus comes along! Are you sure you really want to leave? You do look quite well-fed and happy with your lot…”

    Owen says “Of course I want to leave, just not on this particular bus. I don’t like its colour and quite frankly, some of the passengers look a bit iffy to me.”

    “Well suit yourself” says Sophie, “I’m getting on whether you want to come or not.”

    As Sophie starts climbing on board, she sees Owen slashing the bus’s tyres.

    “What are you doing?!” she asks.

    “I’m just showing you how unfit the bus is to get us out of Neoliberaville”, says Owen. He then proceeds to beat up the driver and throw off as many of the passengers as he can, accusing them of threatening a better bus’s chances of getting them out of there some time in the future. He tells everybody to go home (those lucky enough to have one in Neoliberaville) and wait for him to arrange a new bus with a more acceptable colour scheme and route.

    As for a happy ending or punchline, you’ll have to write your own…

  • troovus 12:53 pm on December 2, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Robin Wales’ Vision for Newham – social cleansing and gentrification 

    Below is an extract from Robin Wales’ Vision document from 1997. It makes clear his contempt for Newham’s service users and any people who want to move to the borough who are not ‘his kind of people’.

    How this attitude has manifested itself in the two subsequent decades is all too apparent (e.g. see here). The claimed reason for the policy to increase property prices and rents (to swap Newham’s population with a richer one) has predictably failed. Rent and house price increases have merely further impoverished many Newham residents and enriched its private landlords (many of whom are Newham Councillors, who have done very nicely out of this, thank you very much). It has concentrated ownership in fewer hands – see:

    Newham’s residents who are not part of the landlord set are stuck in a rent-trap that many could never hope to escape from. Those who haven’t been driven out of the borough that is.


    Below is an extract from The Vision document produced in May 1997 by Robin Wales, then-leader of Newham Council, now Newham’s Mayor
    Our vision for Newham

    Sustainable communities

    This means promoting communities which have the mix of people who can contribute what Newham needs to prosper. Our anti-poverty and equalities strategies are both critical to this aim. Regeneration will only be sustained if these social conditions are present. What is required is increased housing choice, greater diversity of quality housing and incentives to attract people to stay who have the means to move elsewhere.

    People only stay in communities where they feel safe and free from harassment, and where they have access to good shopping, parks, arts and entertainment. In Newham persuading the young generation of Asians and minority ethnic communities to stay would make an enormous and positive difference. The Local Showcase approach will help deliver these improvements.

    There are too many people, those currently living in Newham and those attracted from other London boroughs, who survive on low incomes or who present themselves as homeless. Whilst we will offer support and carry out our legislative duties, our aim will be to increase Newham’s property values and raise the income profile of all our residents.

    What we must take action to avoid is a continued flow of people from other boroughs requiring sustained support. With Newham’s current property values and informal local networks, this is a real threat that cannot be ignored.

    Addendum – Newham’s Best Value Pilot from September 1997

    Another of Robin Wales’ more-Blairite-than-Blair policies, his aggressive outsourcing and attacks on council staff pay and conditions was made clear in 1997, and continues to this day with his latest disgraceful anti-worker plans.

    Newham’s 1997 Best Value Pilot – extract

    1.4 Newham’s Best Value Foundations
    We are not complacent nor do we underestimate what has to be done. Newham has in the past relied almost wholly on Council provided services. This reflected both political preferences and an often inadequate local supply. This approach will change with the Council’s commitment to a diversity of suppliers. We are setting the following targets for the 3 year planning period:

    • Move over 5 years from 10% to 35% of services externally supplied
    • Overall cost savings of 5% over 3 years
    • Improvement in service quality levels of 10% over 3 years.
  • troovus 4:00 pm on September 24, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: global warming, hydrogen economy, renewables, solar   

    Using Renewable Methane and Existing Infrastructure For Backup Electricity Generation 

    I’ve often wondered why hydrogen (or methane) is not used as an energy storage medium. With excess renewable energy routinely being produced in many countries, power to produce these gases can be effectively free. I have an interest in renewable energy but no expertise in the area, so I thought I’d put down my thoughts on it, see if I can get some feedback on whether it might work or why it wouldn’t.

    One of the main problems with renewable energy is its variable or intermittent generation capacity. When there’s no wind, there’s no wind power. At night, there’s no solar power. On a cloudy day, there’s less solar power.

    So the big challenge to achieving 100% renewable energy (or at least a significant percentage) is storage. There are several current technologies for doing this, such as pumped hydro-electric, thermal and battery storage, but all suffer in varying degrees with capacity and expense issues. One method of storage that would have virtually no storage capacity problems is methane. There is already a huge national natural gas (mostly methane) infrastructure. Using power-to-gas methods to extract  methane (via hydrogen) from water (using renewable energy) would give virtually unlimited storage capacity (i.e. enough to bridge any supply gap due to weather fluctuations). [I’ll call methane produced this way renewable methane to avoid clumsy wording.] The power plants currently using natural gas could run on renewable methane with no conversion costs. The main cost would be the building of many high capacity renewable methane production plants.

    So what’s needed to bring this about? The main reason gas extracted from gas fields, oil wells and fracking is cheaper than making it from water and air. Arguments for its continued extraction are that it is often vented anyway as a by-product of oil extraction, and that burning gas for electricity or direct domestic heating produces less greenhouse gas than equivalent power generation such as burning coal or oil.

    Because our electricity generation is run for private profit (with some state regulation), the mechanisms for controlling supply are largely price. Subsidy (ultimately paid for by customers) is needed to keep the supply from running out. Producers would love to run their power plants at full capacity at all times. The government (assuming they are honest in their desire to achieve a good deal for the consumer and to minimise greenhouse gas emissions) want the cheapest, least polluting / global-warming power generation to be used at any given time. This means the producers of the capacity needed to kick in only when renewable sources are not delivering enough must be given high subsidies to keep their power plants off but at the ready. So coal and oil-fired electricity generators are paid higher subsidies than their much greener cousins.

    So to move away from oil, coal, and eventually natural gas, the following is needed.

    • A strong ballast of reliable, always-on capacity, such as tidal, nuclear (arguably), geothermal, hydro-electric. This must be enough so that the slack can be taken up by intermittent renewables most of the time. (If the capacity of these were sufficient to produce all our electricity, well, job done! But for now, that’s a very long way off.)
    • Enough intermittent renewable generation (e.g. wind and solar) to produce (along with always-on generation) an average excess of capacity, the excess being used to generate methane.
    • A large proportion of the natural gas (but now run on renewable methane) electricity-generation plants used mostly only when intermittent renewable-powered generation is producing a shortfall nationally.

    I’m personally in favour of public ownership of infrastructure and utilities and especially the occasional-use power plants would make sense to be publicly-run to avoid the need for complicated subsidy arrangements, but the current method used for coal (etc.) stop-gap electricity generation could be continued with the renewable methane power stations.

    Of course there could be further benefits from the large-scale hydrogen production necessary as a component of the methane production. Hydrogen can be used as a fuel for cars and industry both as a direct fuel and in fuel cells. The much-discussed hydrogen economy could replace the petrol economy in many areas where grid electricity is not an option.

    Other methods for aggregating and storing energy would still be used of course, and the average excess generation percentage would fall the wider the grid generation area (and variation) is. Proposals for a cross-Europe and Africa renewables grid have been mooted and would be worthwhile if political realities allowed long-term thinking and international cooperation. Don’t hold your breath on that one.

    I’ve spooled this off with very little research, and very little knowledge in the field, so I expect anyone who knows much about these issues will knock chunks out of it, but I’d be very interested to get feedback.

  • troovus 7:44 pm on April 8, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Tory tax-dodging; what they’ll do next 

    Distract, incite and inflame

    When the Tories regroup from their current Eton mess, they’ll seek to draw attention away from their own venal activities by doing what comes naturally to them; they’ll try to turn working class people against one another. They’ll stir up racism and xenophobia, resentment against public sector workers, hatred of the poor, disabled and people on benefits. They’ll point their fingers and say why should X get something that Y hasn’t got? With support from the right-wing media it has sadly been a successful tactic in the past. biscuit

    When bankers crashed the world economy with their reckless greed and were bailed out with public money, the Tories blamed the public sector and squeezed public services and workers dry while bankers continued to pay themselves billions in wages and bonuses. War, refugees, terrorism will all be used to try to bring the worst instincts out in people and to distract people from the anti-working class war, slash and burn policies, corruption and incompetence of the government.

    The mainstream media will obediently go along with this agenda as it has always done. We must counter this vehemently. Tory lies, manipulation, distraction must fail; solidarity must prevail. (Hey, that rhymes!)

  • troovus 4:48 pm on March 24, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Robin Wales, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Housing Crisis 

    It’s not just the Tories; New Labour have been gentrifying for decades and continue to this day



    Why is Newham Council so keen on luxury housing developments and so happy to sell-off council homes or leave them empty?

    The current housing crisis in Newham

    There’s no denying that there is a serious lack of adequate secure housing in Newham that is affordable to the people in Newham who have housing needs. There are more than 15,000 people on its housing waiting list, the 5th highest in London1 and the council is regularly offering temporary housing to people it has an obligation to help outside of the borough2, away from their jobs, their children’s schools, friends and family, because of its shortage of affordable homes.

    In addition to Newham’s homeless, many of those in private rented accommodation are also in desperate need for a decent alternative. Newham has 43% private renters3, the second highest in London, many paying high rents for…

    View original post 1,291 more words

  • troovus 2:45 pm on March 24, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    The Doomsday Book 

    Incisive commentary by @ash_housing. Impossible for decent people not to be angry about this cosy cabal cashing-in on the housing crisis.



    Just as the sentence of that strict and terrible final account cannot be evaded by any skilful subterfuge, so when this book is appealed to its sentence cannot be quashed or set aside with impunity. That is why we have called the book the Doomsday Book, because its decisions, like those of the Final Judgement, are unalterable.

    – Richard FitzNeal, Dialogue Concerning the Exchequer (c. 1179)

    The London Housing Commission

    On Monday, 7 March, the London Housing Commission held a launch for their Final Report to Government on solutions to London’s housing crisis. The Commission, whose chair, Lord Kerslake, is also the chair of Peabody, was set up by the Institute of Public Policy Research, a think-tank that last March published a report on the crisis titled City Villages: More homes, better communities. Josh Goodman, the Director of IPPR, chaired the launch, which was hosted by Savills, the estate…

    View original post 2,014 more words

  • troovus 1:59 pm on March 24, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Housing, housing crisis   

    The new class divide – owners and renters 

    The £100 billion per year class-war theft

    With the meteoric rise in house prices in the past few decades, the equity boost for the better off has been colossal. And this increased wealth gap between the richer and poorer (owners and renters) is not a one-off windfall; it locks millions of renters out of home ownership and with the deliberate collapse of social housing (by New Labor and Tory governments) means they are stuck in private rented accommodation, continually feeding the wealth and housing gap, paying extortionate and entrapping rents to the owners.

    Although much of the increased equity can be seen seen as artificial, the product of policy-driven bubbles, and resolvable (with time and will) shortages, owners’ wealth, particularly those who own more than one property is real, and exists at the expense of everybody else.

    But it is the increase in private rent sucked into the pockets of private landlords that is the biggest factor in housing inequity. There are over five million more private-renting households than in 1995, and a corresponding reduction in owner-occupiers and social renters. It is not entirely a zero-sum game, but meaningfully tackling the housing crisis will not be possible without cancelling the £50 to £100 billion per year extra rental income flowing from renters to owners that has grown during the last few decades.

    Furthermore, this renter to owner wealth pump is maintained and extended with the buying up of and control of the housing that becomes available by those who can afford it; those who already own property. This means even if there are substantial increases in new-builds, affordable, decent, secure housing for renters will not automatically follow.

    The housing crisis has been called that for so long that it has become normalised. Lip service is paid to it by politicians of all stripes, but with sticking plasters, tokens or downright lies (e.g. The Housing Bill), it’s been business as usual for successive governments. Whether it’s because they are after votes from happy owners, celebratory headlines from the property-owning newspaper writers, or simply feathering their own nests (most MPs are owners, many are landlords), policies have continued to support increasing house prices and rental profits.

    So don’t believe a politician who says the housing crisis can be solved by nudging up affordable housing ratio targets, or building a few tens of thousands of units here and there. The private landlords’ heyday needs to end. Second homes need to be taxed heavily and rents capped at a genuinely affordable level. £100 billion per year has to be taken from their pockets. Where are the politicians who will speak these inconvenient truths?

  • troovus 6:45 pm on March 9, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Sadiq Khan – unanswered questions on Homes for Londoners manifesto 

    Sadiq Khan has launched his “manifesto for all Londoners” today (09/03/2016), which sets out his promises (or his promises to try…) for office if he is elected as London Mayor in May.

    He says “London’s housing crisis is far and away London’s biggest issue” causing real misery to millions of Londoners, and damaging London’s competitiveness.

    Some standout commitments in the manifesto on Housing (“Homes for Londoners”) are:

    1. 50,000 new homes built annually in London and to give first dibs to Londoners on new homes
    2. 50% of new homes “genuinely affordable to rent or buy”
    3. Homes for London Living Rent – a new type of home for people struggling to rent privately, where rents are based on one-third of average local wages
    4. A Homes for Londoners team at “the heart of City Hall” comprising councils, housing associations, developers, home-builders, investors, businesses & residents’ organisations to achieve 1. and 2.
    5. Fight for the Mayor and London councils to have a greater say in strengthening renters’ rights over tenancy lengths, rent rises, and the quality of accommodation
    6. A not-for-profit lettings agency for good landlords and landlord licensing schemes

    Although some of these commitments are welcome, Homes for Londoners doesn’t read as a radical manifesto to address the huge inequality and housing injustice that has been built over the last 35 years. Furthermore, launching the manifesto he said that ”an entire generation of Londoners have been failed by the Tories’ [housing policies]”, which is undoubtedly partially true, but it skims over the 14 years of Labour government which continued with the same Thatcherite housing policies and worsened and entrenched the housing crisis. Without addressing the failure of Labour governments and Labour councils who have actively colluded in creating the abysmal situation we are in, it is hard to fully believe his sincerity.

    And promises are just words of course until and unless radical changes are made to the way housing is administered in London, both existing and the new-builds processes. Boris Johnson has made similar promises on new homes and percentage of affordable homes, only to fall short (e.g. his promise to end homelessness only for rough sleeping to double).

    In particular, there are some key questions and concerns raised by his promises:

    • “First dibs to Londoners on new homes”
      This is worryingly close to pandering to xenophobia – housing policy should address housing need not set groups of people against one another
    • “Greater transparency around viability assessments”
      Does Sadiq intend to force publication of viability assessments if developers fail to deliver the target affordability ratio (as Greenwich has)?
    • Homes for London Living Rent – a new type of home for people struggling to rent privately, where rents are based on one-third of average local wages
      Rent at 1/3 of local average wages could mean £3k per month rent in some London areas. Averages are not often good indications of typical. And even if they are, by definition, half (or much more than half if using mean rather than median) of people will be earning much less, pushing these ‘living rent’ homes out of their reach.
    • Homes for Londoners team
      These organisations are the very same ones that have been profiteering and gentrifying for years. Some pretty strong coercion will be needed to make them help housing work for people not profits
    • Fight for the Mayor and London councils to have a greater say in strengthening renters’ rights over tenancy lengths, rent rises, and the quality of accommodation
      Fight for a greater say is pretty vague. There is no specific mention of rent caps (as David Lammy said was necessary when seeking the Labour London Mayor candidacy)
    • Building on brownfield public land
      council estates have been increasingly labelled ‘brownfield’ sites; we need reassurance that existing council and housing association stock will not be picked off for more of the same gentrifying schemes.
    • Mayor’s planning powers to their fullest extent
      We’ve heard that before, but time after time, developers get their way
    • Using public land creatively to generate future income
      this has generally meant gentrification and loss of social housing units in the past
    • Exercise ‘use it or lose it’ powers to make sure developers who have planning permission build homes and do not land-bank
      under what powers will this be done?
    • Work with housing associations to keep their rents down, and help councils to protect tenants unable to afford rents up to market rates under ‘pay-to-stay’ rules if they go ahead.
      Will the GLA fund the difference to enable HAs and LAs to not pass these costs onto tenants?
    • Require that estate regeneration only takes place where there is resident support, based on full and transparent consultation, and that demolition is only permitted where it does not result in a loss of social housing, or where other all options have been exhausted with full rights to return for displaced tenants and a fair deal for leaseholders
      Details on this will be key. Councils, housing associations and developers can be very slippery. They’ll always say ‘other options have been exhausted, we had no choice’. Right to return meaning to where exactly if units are demolished?
    • Co-ordinate councils’ efforts to find stable private rented housing for those in need who are not able to move into social housing, instead of desperate boroughs being forced to outbid each other for homes from landlords
      The right to remain in their local area of fundamental importance. Some councils (sadly including Labour councils) are happy to force homeless people out of their borough.

    Failed past promises by Tory and Labour regimes suggest we need detailed specifics as to how he intends to achieve these goals. Time will tell of course, but housing professionals and campaigners must continue to scrutinise and take direct action to force action and oppose the exploitative and gentrifying practices that are rife in London. There will certainly be no shortage of rich, powerful landlords and developers lobbying City Hall for their profiteering ends.


    • boleyndev100 8:06 pm on March 9, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Excellent analysis and detailed scrutinising of each key component of S Khan’s “housing manifesto” if elected.


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