From 'Hackney Solidarity' April 2005 issue, for Aspland & Marcon estates
by Janine Booth
The future of our estates still hangs in the balance, as the Council continues to attack us, and we as a community – through the Tenants’ & Residents’ Association – do our best to stick up for ourselves and our rights.
One thing we can be sure of – the Council does not have residents’ interests at heart, and the ‘consultation’ process is a sham. We’ve had meeting after meeting, jargon upon jargon, one broken promise after another.
But it boils down to one thing – we want our estates to be a decent place to live, they see it as a site that can make money. We believe in people, they believe in profit.
Like it or not, this issue is political. The labour movement fought hard for public housing, and after the depression and poverty of the 1930s, won the idea that people must never again be left to live in slums or on the streets.
Councils built homes. Marcon Court was built in the 1950s, Aspland estate followed in the 1970s.
But since Thatcherism, the political consensus has changed. Now all the main parties – ‘New Labour’ included – believe that private is good, public is bad.
Hackney Council has abandoned local communities and is staggeringly incompetent.
Even incompetence is political! It comes from having a political leadership that is not rooted in local communities, not accountable to the local labour movement, and whose members are more concerned with advancing their careers and claiming their expenses than in serving the people who elected them.
It’s About Class
If you’ve got plenty of money, you can buy an expensive private apartment. (You’ll have plenty to choose from, as they are springing up everywhere.) But a working-class community like ours is treated as trash to be swept aside to make way for the developers.
The Council’s plan for our future is guided not by the welfare of residents, but by our proximity to Hackney Downs station, commuter route to the City, and the high value of the land our estate is built on.
Isn’t this notion of ‘class’ out-of-date? Sadly not – class politics are happening to us, right here and right now.
But aren’t most people middle-class now? No. Some working-class people might have higher incomes than others, some are owner-occupiers, others tenants. But the difference between us is tiny compared to the gulf that separates us from the corporate fat cats.
Not one of us on this estate could afford to buy one of the private homes in the Academy Apartments – or the expensive flats that the Council wants to build on the ground where we live.
It’s The Capitalist System
That’s nothing particularly against the people who do live in expensive flats. Our beef is with the system that allows some people to live in luxury while others live in modern-day slums.
Capitalism organises all production to make profit. Whether it is making goods or providing housing, what gets done is not decided on the basis of who needs what, but on the basis of what can make money for a private company.
You can’t make much profit from selling to people who don’t have much to start with (like us), so the developers build luxury apartments for rich City traders.
The ‘market’ drives out social provision – like Council housing – to make way for profitable (ie. expensive) private housing. So the Disability Services building was replaced by Junction 67. A site of Hackney College was replaced by the Academy apartments. Even the Pembury Tavern has been converted into private flats. And what is next in line from the station? Marcon Court.
If the problem’s in the system – we need to change the system!
Do It Ourselves
The answer to this situation?
The working class needs to get organised and fight back! We need to inject our labour movement with some fighting spirit.
Just by getting organised on this estate, we have been able to improve our facilities and environment, and to stand up to the Council. Imagine what we could do as part of a united wider movement.
Not only could we support each other and fight off these attacks, we could also force our interests onto the political agenda.
If you would like printed copies of 'Hackney Solidarity', or would like to distribute it, write for it, or give it out on your street or estate, please e-mail Janine Booth.