from Solidarity 3/9 25th June 2002
An on-going debate, sparked by the recent local election successes by the IWCA (Independent Working Class Association) whom some accused of giving support to localist vigilantism.
Below a selection of letters recieved on the subject.
Further contributions to this debate are welcome-
write to us at:
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As an officer of Sowerby Millennium Action Group, my local tenants' association, I face issues of anti-social behaviour as real, not theoretical, problems. Sometimes, the only immediate way of protecting the community may be eviction. But dumping anti-social elements on somebody else is no long term solution. We have to look at the causes.
Much crime is the work of bored kids with nothing to do and no place to go. Much of it is drug and alcohol based. Often drug abusers and those with mental health problems are placed in communities without adequate support and supervision.
There need to be adequate facilities for kids where they can do what they want and play a role in organising activities. Maybe empty buildings could be occupied.
For those with drug, alcohol and behavioural problems there needs to be support from community psychiatric nurses, substance abuse and social workers. There need to be community centres and cafes where people can relax and have fun without getting pissed.
We need to overcome isolation and alienation by building the friendships and mutual aid which make communities livable.
Socialists need to be an integral part of their communities. Get active in your local tenants' or residents' association, combat the bigots and wannabe cops by building solidarity between all members of the community, raise the issues and socialist solutions at meetings and in newsletters. Get to know your neighbours, get
The SA and IWCA
We welcome your discussion on anti-social behaviour. The reprinted article from the IWCA's Hackney Independent contains very little that
any serious socialist would disagree with. The problem is what they don't say rather than the way they work. Unfortunately, apart from Janine Booth's contributions, the discussion doesn't go very far.
The IWCA councillor in Oxford, Stuart Craft, comes from a syndicalist background, and until recently wouldn't have had anything to do with Red Action. Oxford Socialist Alliance is attempting to ascertain their true colours. When I worked for Oxford Unemployed Workers' and Claimants' Union, Stuart Craft worked with us on various campaigns, e.g., housing issues and employment rights (not to mention anti-fascist action). Somewhere along the line he's consciously suppressed his (version of) socialism, apparently believing that it's sufficient to "act upon the concerns of the people in [his] constituency".
Unlike the SWP, we can't ignore the IWCA and hope they'll go away. In our opinion, they're still on the left and they're not a single-issue organisation. To misquote Councillor Craft, they have opinions on nothing and answers to everything. We have to address anti-social behaviour but we must also explain why it arises.
Andy Gibbons, Oxfordshire Socialist Alliance
A woman's right to feel safe
I believe that a lot of crime is a gender issue.
Women have less access to cars than men. They have to go out in yob-filled streets rather than sail past them inside a metal box. Hence, crime is a particular concern of women. Do not be misled by the fact that men are more often attacked than women. This is partly a result of women imposing a curfew on themselves - if they went out more, they would be more at risk. This self-curfew is no real solution to street safety, and I shouldn't wonder if women supported the IWCA in hopes of having freedom of movement again.