Posts Tagged ‘Rents’

Weak and Wobbly Theresa May’s Contradictory and Crap Housing Policy

May 15, 2017

The leak last Thursday of the Labour party manifesto, with its promise to nationalise the railways and parts of the energy network, clearly has rattled the Tory party. Mike over at Vox Political remarked that leak was probably intended to discredit these policies, but instead they have proved massively popular.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/11/labours-manifesto-approved-unanimously-by-nec-and-shadow-cabinet-after-leaked-version-wins-huge-public-support/

I’m not surprised. The Tory party, of course, started shrieking that this would drag us all back to the 1970s – actually not a bad thing, as Mike has also pointed out, considering that the gulf between rich and poor was at its lowest during that decade. The Torygraph also went berserk, and plastered all over the front page of its Friday edition a headline claiming that Labour MPs were ‘disowning’ it. I don’t know how true this was. It could be the Blairites trying their best to undermine their own party again, in order to shore up virtuous neoliberalism. Or it could be just more rumour and scaremongering put out, as usual, by the rag and its owners, the weirdo Barclay twins. The Telegraph has been in the forefront of the newspapers attacking Corbyn since he was elected to the Labour leadership. So many of its stories are just scaremongering or, at best, the fevered imaginings of a frightened capitalist class, that you can’t really believe anything the newspaper actually writes about the Labour party or its leader. Ken Surin, in an article for Counterpunch, quoted statistics by media analysts that said that only 11 per cent of reports about the party presented the facts accurately.

But the fact that the railways do need to be renationalised was ironically shown again that day, as a train I wanted to catch was delayed by 15 minutes. Because a train had broken down. The British taxpayer now pays far more subsidies to the private rail companies for a worse train service than in the 1970s. So once again, we’re back to showing that rather than being a decade of uniform disaster and imminent social collapse, it was better in some ways than the present.

So May has decided to unveil a few radical policies of her own. In order to counter Labour’s promise to build a million new homes, half of which will be social housing, in the next five years, May has announced that her government will boost the number of social housing being built, and included a special right to buy clause. Which sounds good, until you realise that they’re not going to release any more money for it.

Without that extra money, the promise is meaningless.
It’s more Tory lies.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/14/theresa-may-has-actually-announced-a-policy-and-its-rubbish/

The Tory party has absolutely no intention of building any more social housing. Mike has put up in his article a table of the Tories’ abysmal record on housing. These include a 43 per cent increase in homelessness, a 166 per cent jump in the number of people sleeping rough, private rents have gone up by over £1,700 since 2010, and the cost of owning a home for first-time buyers has risen by £65,000. But this won’t worry the Tory party, as 1/3 of them are private landlords. And I distinctly remember Johnny Void posting a number of articles about they sought to profit by the dearth of housing in London.

And this is quite apart from the fact that the Tory press, such as the Daily Mail, is aimed very much at the kind of people, who buy to rent, and endlessly applauds high house prices even though they make homes unaffordable to an increasing number of people in 21st century England. Of course they see such prices as a good thing, as it means even greater profits for them.

So they won’t want to undermine the housing bubble they’ve created, and cause prices to fall by building any more.

But they can’t be seen to be doing that, with Corbyn and Labour hot on this issue.

So they’ve concocted this rubbish, self-contradictory policy, hoping that people will be deceived by the meaningless promise. They hope people will remember the first part, and forget that without any more money, it won’t happen.

Don’t let them fool you.
Vote Labour for a decent housing solution on June 8th.

Baroness Meacher on Austerity and Suicide

June 1, 2016

This is a short extract from a much longer interview on RT’s Going Underground, in which Baroness Meacher, a crossbench peer and former social worker, discusses her work organising the House of Lord’s blocks against the government’s attempts to remove £4.4 billion worth of tax credits from the working poor.

In this piece she talks about how she believes that the suicide rate will rise, specifically mentioning the poverty caused by rent rises. More people are being dragged to court for their inability to pay the rent. They are then convicted, and so have further court costs and fees added to their debts. Many of those so tried and convicted are disabled. The result, she predicts, will be that sadly more people will die by their own hand.

This is appalling, but I have no doubt that she’s correct, and this will happen unless this vile government is stopped. 590 people have already died in poverty due to the government stopping their disability benefit, thanks to the ‘welfare to work’ tests. Many of these, if you read the stats and biographies produced by Stilloaks and other disability rights bloggers and activists, were by their own hand. According to psychiatrists and psychologists, 290,000 people suffering from anxiety and depression have seen their mental state become worse.

This alone is a savage indictment of the lawless, vindictive, punitive and cruel attitude of Dave Cameron to the poorest in our society.

Ken Livingstone on Perestroika and Industrial Democracy

May 31, 2016

This morning I put up a piece about how Mikhail Gorbachev, the very last president of the Soviet Union, attempted to regenerate Soviet Communism by introducing industrial democracy and strengthening trade unions as part of Perestroika. Ken Livingstone devotes an entire chapter of his book, Livingstone’s Labour, on Perestroika, including a few paragraphs on worker’s control. He writes

So far the reformers around Gorbachev such as Aganbegyan have stressed that as the economy is modernised the workers must be protected from cuts in their standard of living. that is why he emphasises the strengthening of social provision such as housing, health and education. He has also spelt out the intention to keep rents low and to ensure that when price reform comes there must be compensation to protect living standards. He argues that there must be increased investment in new technology but makes the following innovative condition:

The distinctive feature of this reform is industrial democracy moving towards self-management … this will involved [workers] in determining the enterprise plan, the allocation of resources and the election of managers. It is a revolutionary programme. There will be much opposition, especially from management… This can only be overcome because the … driving force is political openness and democratisation.

It is not only academic economists who talk like this. I was struck by the enthusiasm and pleasure with which Vadim Zagladin, the Head of the International Department of the Central Committee, described how a Siberian shoe factory, which had been facing closure, had been taken over by the workers. The products of the factory were notorious for falling apart within days of purchase but the Central Committee had agreed to give the workers a last chance to improve their shoes before closure. Once the workers took control their first act was to sack the incompetent managers. They then turned the business into a dramatic success within two years. Now the factory is expanding and their shoes are in demand all over the USSR. Even more innovative is the workers’ proposal to issue ‘shares’ in factory-not to investors, but to their customers who would then be in a position to exercise real consumer power. (Pp. 205-6).

Livingstone also explains that the Perestroika movement was divided into two camps, with a right-wing that favoured something like Thatcherism, and a left, which included Gorby himself, that wanted to protect the workers as much as possible. He stated

In the first place, the perestroika movement is split into two quite distinct camps (it is the failure to understand this which has led so many We3stern observers to talk so inaccurately about the reintroduction of capitalism). there are those like Nikolai Shmelev and the technocrats Lisichkin and Popov whose arguments are similar to those of Thatcher that the economy can be reformed by the creation of a poll of unemployment which will act as a spur to increase productivity. They argue that Soviet society must be led by an elite and that the welfare state is a ‘survival of feudalism’.

The other faction inside the perestroika movement is that of the democratisers. Typified by the economists Aganbegyan and Zaslavskaya, this faction believes that the economy can only be modernised by democratising Soviet society from the grass roots upwards. Most important of all, they see the way to improve the economic performance of the USSR is by introducing democratic rights at work so that the workers elect their managers. At every stage Gorbachev has thrown his weight behind the democratisers and against the elitists. As he wrote in his book Perestroika (1987)’There was opinion…that we ought to give up planned economy and sanction unemployment. We cannot permit this… since we aim to strengthen socialism, not replace it with a different system … Furthermore, a work collective must have the right to elect its manager.’ (P. 204).

Livingstone was aware how radical Gorbachev’s reforms were, and that there were many who wished them to fail so that they could introduce unemployment:

The excitement with which progressive Central Committee members like Zagladin recount each successful experiment in workers democracy is an indication of just how much is riding on the hopes of the reformers that democracy from below will be the key to the modernisation of the Soviet economy. If they fail the conservatives will be waiting in the wings to try the ‘spur’ of unemployment.(p. 206).

By ‘Conservatives’, Livingstone means the traditional managerial class of party functionaries and civil servants.

This passage is interesting, as it shows how well-informed Red Ken was about the Soviet Union and perestroika. He was well aware, for example, that the restructuring of the Soviet economy would result in 16 million jobs being lost, and acknowledged that this would present a serious problem. In the event, Gorbachev’s radical proposal to transform Soviet industry into co-operatives was abandoned, and they were transformed through the voucher system into straightforward capitalist enterprises. The result was chaos and the complete meltdown of the country’s economy under Boris Yeltsin, a drunk, corrupt incompetent, who was useful as a stooge to the Neo-Cons and Neo-Libs then in the White House and Downing Street.

This also explains one of the quotes the Scum attributed to Red Ken in their campaign against Labour in the 1987 general election. The rag produced a page of photos of various Labour MPs and activists, with a radical quote from each underneath the photo to scare people. Under Diane Abbott they placed the words, ‘All White people are racist’. With Red Ken they placed a line about how he wasn’t in favour of the army, but a corps of soldiers to defend the factories. Looking back now, it seems quite unlikely that those quotes were even true, especially Ken’s, except perhaps at a time in his early career when he, like many left-wingers, was far more radical. But his interest in perestroika, and the reintroduction of industrial democracy, also showed how much of a threat he was to Thatcher and her programme of grinding the workers down any way she could.

Vox Political on the Basic Income Guarantee

May 21, 2016

Also on Thursday Mike put up another fascinating piece about the growing support for the Basic Income Guarantee. A non-party thinktank, Reform Scotland, has recommended replacing the current system of in-work benefits with a guaranteed basic income, in other words, a citizen wage. The report Mike quotes states that it would combat wage-slavery, by releasing employees from having to work for their living. Instead,

employers would find it difficult to exploit workers, and would be pushed to offer decent wages, good terms and employment conditions in order to attract workers. People would have greater freedom to pursue meaningful, suitable and appropriate employment rather than having to take any job to avoid poverty and destitution.

De-commodifying labor by decoupling work from income liberates people from the “tyranny of wage slavery” and leaves a space for innovation, creativitity and rebalances power relationships between wealthy, profit-motivated employers and employees.”

Mike in his comment on the piece states that if this was carried through, it could destroy 40 years of Tory employment policies. These are, after all, about getting the maximum amount of work from a cowed and impoverished workforce.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/05/19/the-basic-income-guarantee-and-why-it-would-destroy-40-years-of-conservative-policy/

Something like it has already been done in a town in Canada. Even Sarah Palin when she was governor of Alaska did something very similar. She used the profits from the rights the oil industry had to pay to the Alaskan state to give a portion of them to Alaskan voters.

In fact, this is merely a modern form of a very, very old idea. The Utopian quasi-Socialist, Thomas Spence, in the early 19th century recommended breaking Britain up into a federation of autonomous parishes. These parishes would own the land around them, the rents from which would be used to give each man, woman and child a basic income. If you like, a citizen wage.

A similar idea was advocated in the 1920s by Major C.H. Douglas and his Social Credit Movement. This was before the Keynsian revolution supposedly made his ideas obsolete. Douglas noted that plenty of goods were available; it was just that the workers were unable to afford them. He therefore recommended that the government should issue a system of voucher so that people could purchase the items they needed.

A friend of mine with a background in economics also told me that there has been support for similar ideas for a citizen wage by the Social Democrats in Germany and elsewhere on the continent. Part of the argument here is that although relatively few people are employed in the manufacturing sector, nevertheless it is still extremely important to the economy. In order to stimulate consumption, and thus production, people should be given the means to purchase more consumer goods. And so the unemployed and working people should be given greater benefits, so they can buy the articles on which the economy depends.

You can imagine the screaming from the Tories and the Daily Heil from here, if this ever was proposed down here in England. There would be more bluster and ranting about the ‘squeezed’ middle classes, and punishing hard-working people in order to subsidize the lifestyle of welfare scroungers and chavs. Which doesn’t mean it should be done by any means. In fact, our economy and social welfare as an industrial and civilised nation may depend on it.

Michael Sullivan on the Poverty Caused by the Thatcher’s Sale of Council Housing

May 15, 2016

Yesterday I put up Nye Bevan’s speech to the House of Commons during Atlee’s 1945 Labour government to show the contrast between that government’s determination to provide quality council housing for everybody, and the present situation of rising homelessness and an acute housing shortage. It was in response to an article on Mike’s blog, Vox Political, reporting that the number of evictions has doubled. In it, Mike showed how Thatcher’s dream of a home-owning democracy has finally collapsed, leaving only debt and the threat of destitution.

Michael Sullivan also describes the negative effects of Thatcher’s policy of selling off the council houses in his book, The development of the British Welfare State (Hemel Hempstead: Prentice Hall/Harvester Wheatsheaf 1996).

But there were losers as well as winners. The effect of the policy was that the best houses were the ones most likely to be purchased by their tenants and the poorest stock was most likely to be left in council ownership. As a result of the policy the condition of the council stock therefore declined. Council house sales also meant financial loss for councils. Some councils found themselves repaying 60-7ear Treasury loans on properties they no longer owned. More than this, and as a means of ensuring that the revenue from council house sales did not go back into building council houses, the government also restricted the use to which receipts could be put. The government took increasingly tight control over council housing, the fixing of rent levels in the public sector, the determination of levels of subsidy, and the use of capital receipts from council house sales. As we have seen above, council house purchasers tended to be middle aged skilled workers. Elderly people, the young, single parents and people on low incomes were excluded from the bonanza. First, it was more difficult for them to attract mortgages. Second, many of their dwellings were regarded by them as unsuitable for their long term needs. They too might be regarded as losers…

The Housing Act (1988)

If the sale of council houses appears bold and radical, then more radicalism was to come in the third term. Mrs Thatcher wanted the withdrawal of the state from housing ‘just as far and as fast as possible’ (Thatcher, 1993, p. 600). Her Housing Minister, William Waldegrave, looked forward, in 1987, to the removal of the state as a big landlord. The same principles that drove the opt-out option in relation to schools also held sway in housing. The government applied similar tools for the job as well. For the Housing Act (1988) allowed tenants to opt out of local authority housing by choosing to transfer their tenancy to any number of new, approved private landlords. Under the Act’s provision landlords would be allowed to bid for property and for the worst, run-down estates, the government introduced Housing Action Trusts (HATs) which would take over the properties and improve them before passing them over to the private sector. Though introduced by the buccaneering free-marketer, Nicholas Ridley, the policy-so radical in intent – failed to lift off the ground. It proved, said this Secretary of State for the Environment, ‘most unpopular and it didn’t achieve its objectives” (Ridley, 1991, p. 89). For reasons that seem more to do with distrust of Mrs Thatcher than with self-interest, tenants of even the most ghastly estates failed to vote for the improvement monies tied to transfer of tenancy. For the most part, they opted to stay with the local authority.

Or maybe such tenants were displaying clear, shrewd common-sense. A change of landlord could have serious consequences. First, the change would not protect rent levels because the Act abolished tenants’ entitlement to an adjudication of ‘fair rent’. Second, this deregulation also involved a loss of secure tenancy. Thus tenants who could not afford to pay an increase in rent could more easily be evicted. Furthermore, the ‘right to buy’ legislation applied to local authorities and to housing associations, but not to the private sector. The tenants of homes transferred to private landlords would lose the right to become owner occupiers. Added to these factors, housing benefit was not available for rental costs on houses which became parts of privately managed estates.

In view of the disadvantages I have just enunciated, many tenants felt that they would be ill-advised to leave council tenure for the unknown perils of the private sector landlord. It can come as no surprise to learn that many tenants’ groups fought hard to resist the privatisation of their homes. Some groups feared that the legislation would deliver them into the hands of Rachman-like landlords and such fears were not wholly without foundation or precedent. The deregulation of rents in the 1957 Rent Act had led to exploitation in rent increases and other practices which clearly contributed to the defeat of the Tory government in the 1964 general election. (pp. 220-221).

The present rise in homeless is a direct result of Thatcher’s sale of the council houses, and the same destructive policies are being carried on today by Cameron and his fellow social parasites.

Naz Shah, the Anti-Semitism Allegations, and ‘Apartheid Israel’

May 3, 2016

Mike’s put up another worthwhile post over at Vox Political, pointing out that the graphic that got Naz Shah into trouble with accusations of anti-Semitism, was not in fact anything of the sort. It came from a global civil rights site, Redress, and reblogged by Norman Finkelstein. Redress posted it up as a joke, satirising Israeli attempts to have the Palestinians displaced to the other Arab states. Mike records his email conversation with the prof, who pointed out that while people in America are crazy when it comes to Israel, they haven’t lost their sense of humour. He also points out that Bernie Sanders, one of the candidates for the Democratic nomination for the presidential election, is Jewish and had enormous support amongst Arab-Muslims in the Land of the Free. He also wondered what had happened to us in Britain and why we were allowing Labour hacks and the Israel lobby to persecute her, a Muslim Labour MP.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/05/03/this-revelation-could-throw-the-whole-anti-semitism-row-into-reverse/

It’s a good point. And I wonder to what extent the ‘British sense of humour’ is a myth, when politics in Britain is becoming increasingly angry, and when so much British history is full of anger and violence. The creation of the British Empire, and the use of extreme force to maintain it, such as against the Mao-Mao in Kenya, is a case in point.

Now I have the impression that Naz Shah posted the graphic as part of a piece on ‘Apartheid Israel’, which included a quotation about the treatment of Blacks in America from that well-known apologist for racial supremacy, Dr Martin Luther King. Now on this, Madam Shah has a point. Life is made very difficult for the Palestinians in Israel through a system of pass laws and physical barriers that simply don’t exist for Jewish Israelis. William Dalrymple describes this system of discrimination in his book, In Xanadu: A Quest (London: Flamingo 1990). This is a travel book about how he attempted to travel from Israel to China and thence Mongolia, following the route used by the great 13th century Venetian explorer, Marco Polo during a summer holiday while at Oxford. In it, he describes a conversation he had drinking tea with an Arab tailor in Acre, who told him about the difficulties he faced as an Arab in Israel.

As we left the Khan al-Afranj we were invited into the shop of an Arab terzi (tailor). There we drank cay and talked about the problems of the Arabs in Acre; then as now, better integrated than most places. Ibn Jubayr remarked on this in the twelfth century while Hamoudi, who exhibited all the vices of the West in one body, is evidence of it today. The terzi was a tall man, unshaven, shambolic and friendly. But when I asked him about his relations with the Jews he was surprisingly eloquent.

‘We live in peace in Acre,’ he said. ‘He the Jew and the Arab are friends. On Saturday nights the Jews come here, play cards, smoke and drink coffee. The people want peace. Only the government does not.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘We live here under an undeclared apartheid. It is just like South Africa. For the Jews there is democracy. They have freedom of speech, they can vote for whichever government they like, can go where they like and talk to whom they like. For us it is different. We are here on sufferance. We are called into police stations, if we are heard talking about politics. We are never sure we will get justice in court: if we have a plea against a Jew, then probably we will not. We are not allowed to join the army in case we turn sides. Because of this we cannot get any good jobs; for these you need security clearance. Most of us end up washing dishes or working as manual labourers; if you are luck you can become a garbage collector.’

He laughed and sent a boy off to go and get some more tea.

‘You see this shop? It belonged to my father before 1948, yet now I have to pay rent to the town council for it. If I was a Jew I would be given it, free. The taxes for us are very high. Many of the young – they are very angry. If this was their government they would not mind. But they do not want to pay the tax which will buy the tank which will kill their brother Arabs. It also means we cannot compete with the Jewish shopkeepers. They do not pay rents for their property so they can sell everything cheaper than us. The Israeli government does nothing for our people.’

‘What do you think will happen?’ asked Laura.

‘How do I know? Some Arabs say: this is Palestine we must kick the Jews out. Also there are many Jews who call us dogs, animals. They say: we must clear the land of the Arabs. Both are wrong. We are both human. We both need to live. We must live together.’

The boy turned and handed round the cups. It was mint tea. When he was ready the terzi continued:

‘Every morning I think that there could be peace. When I open the shop up in the morning Jews will drink coffee with me. Sometimes if I have a problem with my telephone, my Jewish friend will say: use mine. Many of them are such lovely people. If only we could live in peace with them and there were no fighting, no killing.’ (pp. 24-5).

The comparison with apartheid South Africa and the segregated US south is particularly close, as in the 1970s Israel became allied with White South Africa. They also collaborated with the US in sending military aid to the South American Fascist states and their death squads.

I also understand that Madam Shah has the support of her local synagogue. Generally speaking, people, regardless of their racial or religious origins, don’t usually give their support to their bitter enemies. Also, when she retweeted the graphic was therefore making a perfectly reasonable point about Israeli policy towards the Palestinians. She should not be falsely accused of anti-Semitism simply because of her views on this issue.

Vox Political: Over 100,000 Children Homeless this Christmas

November 3, 2015

This is another story from Vox Poltical about the terrible social consequences of Cameron’s policies. According to the homelessness charity, Shelter, 100,000 children will be homeless this Christmas. This will be the third year running Mike’s covered a rise in the homelessness stats. Here’s how his article on this begins

This is the sharp edge of ‘caring Conservatism’.

2015 will be the third year running that Vox Political has run an article on the number of children who will be homeless at Christmas – and, for the third year running, the total has increased.

In 2013 it was 87,000 – 7,000 more than predicted by the charity Shelter. In 2014, the total had increased to 96,000. This year, the charity expects more than 100,000 children to be homeless.

Here’s what Shelter has to say about it:

“You may not see them on the streets, but they’re still homeless. Because they don’t have homes, they’re living in places like hostels and B&Bs.

“A child’s Christmas should be exciting – eating too much, playing games with family… Wondering if they’ll see the presents they wished for under the tree.

“But 100,000 children might not even have room for a tree – let alone space to sit around a table for Christmas dinner. Plus, their temporary accommodation might be hundreds of miles away from family and friends.

“Can you imagine spending Christmas homeless, away from what you know? These children won’t have to – it’s reality.

“100,000 is a hard number to get your head around – it’s the equivalent of four in every school in Britain.

Mike then goes on to say, what Shelter doesn’t – that this is due to the government’s welfare and economic policies – cutting benefits, boosting house and rent prices while cutting wages. His article also has a link to Shelter’s website, which collecting to help the homeless.

The article’s at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/11/03/another-victory-for-tory-social-policy-100000-children-will-be-homeless-this-christmas/ Go and read it, and be appalled.

This should be another major issue, just as it should have been last year, and the year before. But it isn’t. And it probably won’t be, either, unless there is a concerted campaign to keep this issue in the public consciousness. The Tories and local authorities are doing their best to clear the homeless off our streets, so we don’t see them. And, as the saying goes, ‘out of sight, out of mind’. With the homeless invisible, it’ll be possible to forget all about the issue, and get taken in by the lies that it somehow doesn’t exist.

It exists, and it’s growing.

Protest in Bristol Later this Month against the Privatisation of the NHS

April 10, 2015

Yesterday I put up a piece about protest being organised for Saturday in Bristol outside the main office of the estate agents CJ Hole in Southville. This is to protest against a letter Hole sent to the landlords in Bristol advising them to increase their profits by raising the rents. Bristol, like London, has a homelessness problem and a lack of affordable housing. This is just sheer greed, and the exploitation of human misery.

The internet petitioning group 38 Degrees is also organisation a day of action in Bristol for the 25th April. They will be at the main entrance of the branch of ASDA at East Street in Bedminster, under the arcade from 11 am for an hour or two collecting signatures and talking to people about contacting their MPs to stop the further destruction of the NHS under the Tories.

Protests Against Estate Agent CJ Hole in Bristol This Saturday

April 9, 2015

This Saturday, the 11th April, there’s due to be a demonstration by the tenants’ rights group, ACORN, and members of the on-line petitioning group, 38 Degrees, outside the Southville branch of the Bristol estate agent, CJ Hole. The demonstration’s organiser, Nathan Williams, organised a petition on 38 degrees against the estate agent after it sent letters to local landlords asking them if they were receiving enough rent and advising them they could raise them even further.

He explained in the petition that

An estate agent in Bristol called CJ Hole has been sending out letters to its landlord clients asking “Are you getting enough rent?” and “How do you get more rent?”

The letter they are sending to landlords explains that “with rents increasing every week in Bristol, it is highly likely your property is due a rent increase.” It goes on to say that “the demand from tenants is far exceeding the number of available properties and we have never seen such a buoyant rental market.”

It doesn’t once mention the rights of tenants.

The letter shows how some estate agents and landlords are seeking to cynically profit from the housing crisis in Bristol at a time when inflation has declined to 0.3% and deflation is predicted. I think there is no justification for increasing rents at a time when prices are actually going down. In addition, real average earnings have fallen by 8% since 2008.

Such predatory rental practices are an attack on low income people and threaten the most basic of rights – the security of a home to live in.

Bristol’s housing supply has been described by an official report as “in crisis.” In 2013 just 60 affordable homes were built across Bristol.

According to Williams, the petition has so far been signed by 11,400 + people, and the figure is still rising. The boss of five of the CJ Hole branches in Bristol has also denounced the letter. The estate agent is trying to combat this negative publicity by hiring a PR firm.

Mr Williams further explains

We must make sure this petition is just the start of a campaign to stop bad estate agent practice and advance fairer tenants’ rights. The stories signatories told of extortionate rent increases, huge fees, withheld deposits and poor accommodation were all too common. So please get involved this Saturday, check out ACORN, question your MP candidates about their plans for tenants’ rights, vote, and help fight for a fairer future.

The purpose of the demonstration is to force the estate agent to sign the Ethical Lettings Charter. This requires landlords and letting agents to commit to providing accommodation which positively supports the lives of tenants, with an accreditation system reflecting the level of commitment made. In fairness, a number of landlords have already signed up to the charter. More information is available at https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/acornbristol/pages/62/attachments/original/1425338034/Bristol_Ethical_Lettings_Charter_Final_-_Email_Version.pdf?1425338034

The demonstration is due to begin at 11.00 am.

Further information on rent campaigns or ACORN is available from Nathan Williams at nathan@newcommunciations.co.uk and Nick Ballard at nick.ballard@acorncommunities.org.uk.

Further information on ACORN is at http://www.acorncommunities.org.uk/.

Updates on this and other future campaigns will be tweeted on Action On Rent and ACORN @Action_On_Rent and @ACORN_tweets.

I’m unable to go to these demonstrations, but I wish them every success. There’s a real problem with housing in Bristol and house prices in some parts of the city are comparable to London. They’re so high that local people are unable to afford them.

About four or five years ago now, the archaeology department at Bristol Uni organised a dig on one of the traffic islands used by homeless people in Bristol. This innovative exploration of a pressing issue was organised jointly by Paul Schofield, a leading British archaeologist, and a former archaeological student at the university. She was annoyed at the way Bristol’s working class environment was being closed down and destroyed in order to develop luxury housing for the rich.

With rents and mortgages so high in the city, it is wicked that CJ Hole should be advising their landlord clients to raise their rents even further.

The French Revolutionary Sansculottes, Their Attitudes, Ideology and Continuing Relevance

April 22, 2014

French Revolution Book

I have found this description of the Sansculottes, the radical Parisian republicans, in D.G. Wright, Revolution and Terror in France 1789-1795 (London: Longman 1974). They weren’t working class, but a mixture of people from across the working and middle classes, including wage-earners and prosperous businessmen. The majority of them were tradesmen, shopkeepers, craftsmen, small masters, compagnons and journeymen. Their membership reflected the structure of Parisian industry, which largely consisted of small workshops employing four and fourteen workers. Despite containing many members of the middle class, the Sansculottes believed strongly in manual work and direct democracy.

The ideal sans culotte, depicted in popular prints, wore his hair long, smoked a pipe and dressed simply: cotton trousers (rather than the knee-breeches, culottes, of the aristocracy and bourgeoisie), a short jacket and the bonnet rouge (the Phrygian cap of the freed slave in ancient times). Powdered wigs, scent, knee-breeches, buckled shoes, flowered waistcoats, bows and lorgnettes were dismissed as foppish and frivolous trappings of privilege, with overtones of sexual deviancy. Equally dismissed were the manners and deferent behaviour of the ancient regime: the good sans culotte took his hat off to nobody, used the familiar ‘tu’ rather than ‘vous’ and ‘citoyen’ rather than ‘monsieur’, and swore in the colourful Parisian slang of the Pere Duchesne. He tended to judge people by their appearance: those who wore fancy clothes, spoke in ‘posh’ tones, looked haughty, or failed to offer the fraternal kiss of liberty. Those who seemed to despise the honest working man were in trouble. A music dealer was arrested as a suspect for observing, at a sectional meeting, ‘It was disgusting to see a cobbler acting as president, particularly a cobbler who was badly dressed’.

‘Aristocrat’ and ‘moderate’ became interchangeable terms for those who opposed in any way the outlook and aspirations of the sans culottes or appeared to look down on them or ridicule them; they were also applied to those who seemed indifferent and lacking in the open enthusiasm of the good revolutionary. ‘Aristocrat’ could include those who refused to buy biens nationaux or to cultivate land or sell it at a fair price, or failed to find employment for labourers and journeymen, or refused to subscribe generously to patriotic loans, or to those dealt in gold rather than republican assignats or speculated on the Bourse or in joint stock companies. As the revolutionary crisis deepened in 1793, ‘aristocrat’ increasingly came to mean bourgeois property owner; in May an orator in the Section du Mail declared: ‘Aristocrats are the rich wealthy merchants, monopolists, middlemen, bankers, trading clerks, quibbling lawyers and citizens who own anything.’ Wealth always raised sans culotte suspicion, unless offset by outstanding political virtue. Hoarders and monopolists were seen as hand-in-glove with large merchants, bankers and economic liberals in a plot to starve the people and crush the Revolution; for sans culottes were ultra sensitive to the problem of food supply and the price of bread, while they lived in constant fear of plots and betrayal. Hunger, as well as democratic politics and puritanical moral views, was a cement holding the disparate sans culotte groups together. Hence pillage could be justified as ‘egalitarian’ and ‘revolutionary’ in that it fed the people and struck at the machinations of hoarders and speculators, the visible vanguard of counter-revolution. Sans culottes always tended to advocated immediate and violent political solutions to economic problems and, with brutal simplicity, assumed that spilling blood would provide bread.

Despite the fact that many sans culottes were small property owners, there existed a deep-rooted egalitarianism. They believed in the ‘right to live’ (‘droit a l’existence’) and in ‘the equality of the benefits of society (l’egalite des jouissances). A family should have enough to live on in modest comfort, especially sufficient bread of good quality flour. No rich man should have the power of life and death over his fellow men by his ability to monopolise food and other basic necessities. thus food prices and distribution should be controlled by law, while the government should take stern action against hoarders and speculators. Some of the more radical sans culotte committees demanded taxation of the rich, limitation of rents, restriction of the activities of large financiers, government-assisted workshops and allowances for widows, orphans and disabled soldiers. (pp. 52-4).

‘He was a fervent believer in direct democracy, a concept which stemmed ultimately from Rousseau and the Social Contract and filtered down into the sections through the revolutionary press, broadsheets and speeches, revolutionary songs and Jacobin Club pamphlets and propaganda. Authority could not be delegated, for the true basis of government was the people, sitting permanently in their evening sectional meetings, where they discussed laws and decrees. Deputies should be delegates rather than representatives and be constantly and immediately answerable to societies populaires. The latter had the right to scrutinise the laws of the Assembly, administer justice and the police, and help to run the war effort. Thus the sans culottes saw themselves and the ‘nation’ as synonymous. (pp. 54-5).

We don’t need the murderous bloodthirstiness of the sans culottes, some of whom took their children to public executions as part of their political education, and, as time wore on, became increasingly nationalistic and chauvinistic, to the point where they insisted on Parisian French as they only indicator of political reliability, and were hostile and suspicious of other languages spoken in France, such as the Breton Celtic tongue, and even other French dialects. And I don’t share their radical atheism and hatred of Christianity and Roman Catholicism. However, we do need a revival of other parts of their attitude and values: the radical egalitarianism, which despises and revolted against any attempt to sneer at someone because of their occupation as a worker or manual tradesman. Owen Jones in Chavs points to the way Kenneth Clarke once heckled John Prescott with the cry of ‘Here, barman’, because Prescott had once been a ship’s steward. And this government is indeed that of ‘Aristocrats … wealthy merchants, monopolists, middlemen, bankers, trading clerks, quibbling lawyers’ and the owners of vast property and industry. And monopolists, bankers and economic liberals are pursuing policies that penalise and push into grinding poverty the poorest and weakest sections of the society for their own profit.

Instead of a government by them, which benefits the rich alone, we desperately need instead a government of real egalitarians, that is not afraid to pursue policies that include the ‘taxation of the rich, limitation of rents, restriction of the activities of large financiers, government-assisted workshops and allowances for widows, orphans and disabled soldiers’ and more. Regardless of one’s attitude to religion, it’s about time we returned and revived their radical egalitarianism against a radically unequal, illiberal and thoroughly oppressive regime.

cameron-toff

David Cameron: He personifies the Sansculotte statement ‘Aristocrats are the rich wealthy merchants, monopolists, middlemen, bankers, trading clerks, quibbling lawyers and citizens who own anything.’