Report: Fight the Housing Crisis – a Socialist Programme For Decent Homes For All

By Michael Morgan, Coventry Socialist Party

On Tuesday, Coventry Socialist Party held a public meeting over zoom on the issue of housing. This was in commemoration to the 9th anniversary of the passing of Rob Windsor, a former socialist councillor in the city who amongst many other hard-fought campaigns also campaigned against the privatisation of Coventry’s council housing which has proved to be such a disaster for the city. 

We were joined by Suzanne Muna, formerly the secretary of a Unite housing workers branch (and still on the committee), communications officer for SHAC (a network of tenants, residents, and workers in housing associations and cooperatives) and formerly a member of Unite the unions executive also.

She described how the privatisation of former council homes, as well as the role of housing associations in the lack of comfortable, genuinely affordable accommodation in the city.  She also raised the issue of homelessness – pointing to the massive amounts of empty homes across the UK which go empty whilst accruing value for landlords who let them go empty. 

The best way to solve these issues of empty houses and a lack of affordable accommodation is for affordable council housing to be made on a mass scale again. 

With the relaunch of TUSC (Trade Union Socialist Coalition) the Socialist Party will work with trade unionists and community activists, such as those in tenants’ associations, to put housing at the forefront of our programme in the May elections. After the second world war housing was built on a mass scale to the needs of the community, and in Liverpool in the 1980s the Militant-led Labour city council built housing in a similar fashion. Not only were houses built, but community centres and halls to ensure communities could grow around new housing developments. 

The discussion following from Suzanne’s talk was also important. With attendees talking about personal experiences of low quality and unaffordable housing. New developments in Coventry south were also discussed— where 1300 homes will be made – as attendees criticised the lack of affordable housing which will be mad available in the development. 

Coventry Socialist Party will soon be posting an article on homelessness following this meeting, and will take the issues forward into the May elections through TUSC. 

Socialist Policies Could Mean Decent Housing For All

Tuesday 26th January 7:30pm (contact us for zoom link) with Suzanne Muna

Click here for the Facebook event

As millions face a housing crisis hear how a socialist housing policy could solve the problem.

To celebrate and pay tribute to the memory of one of our leading members, Rob Windsor, we have organised a special meeting on this topic that was a prime motivator for Rob.

Since his passing 9 years ago, the problems that he and Coventry Socialist Party fought so tenaciously have only become worse as the ‘market’ proves increasingly unable to provide a basic human right – that of a decent, secure home.  

We have invited another prominent housing campaigner to speak to a meeting on 26 January

Suzanne Muna was formerly a member of Unite the union’s executive, is secretary of Unite Housing Workers branch and communications officer for SHAC (a network of tenants, residents, and workers in housing associations and cooperatives)

9 Years Since The Passing Of Rob Windsor

January 2021 marks the 9th anniversary of the passing of former leader of the great Anti Poll Tax struggle and Coventry City Socialist councillor, Rob Windsor.

Rob’s passing was a tremendous loss to the Socialist Party. He had been an inspiring spokesperson and organiser for our Party, a man who had literally helped thousands and was loved by his active colleagues and comrades.

He was a national leader of the Anti-Poll Tax campaign that brought down Thatcher, he was an extremely hard working and effective councillor, but he was also our leader of the campaign in Coventry to stop the privatisation of Coventry’s council housing – a policy of the Labour council that has only worsened the housing problem in our city.

Read our tribute to Rob from 2015 here: Rob Windsor – a fighter for socialism

As he himself would have been first to say, it is not our job to mourn but to organise. Organise to fight for housing and to change the system that provides for the needs of working people so poorly.

We hope to do that in this meeting and we hope you will join us.

Disgrace of over 4 million children in poverty!

Low pay, no way! photo Paul Mattsson

Article by Jane Nellist, Socialist Party Member and Coventry NEU [Personal Capacity]

Austerity policies from successive governments have pushed an increasing number of  families into poverty.  Over 4 million children live in poverty in the UK and that number is rapidly rising.  That is over 30% of all children in a country that is one of the wealthiest in the world!

The Tory cuts to welfare benefits and the underfunded Universal Credit scheme has left families in crisis- whilst the rich continue to be insulated from austerity.

Children from black and minority ethnic groups are more likely to be in poverty:   45% are now in poverty, which makes the Black Lives Matter campaigns even more important.

Disgracefully, two thirds of children living in poverty have at least one parent in work, many working long hours with very low pay.  Rising living costs, low wages and cuts to benefits are creating a perfect storm in which more children are falling into the poverty trap.

But it’s not just the lack of money that impacts on  poorer families. Services that families would turn to for support, are no longer there.  The huge cuts to Local Authorities funding, down 49%, with an unwillingness of councils to mount campaigns and use their reserves, hits the poorest families hard.  Children’s centres,  youth clubs, libraries and other support services are either cut to the bone or have disappeared. The safety net the working class had fought for has huge holes or has been taken away all together.

Barnsley Unison lobby of council cabinet 29.5.19, photo A Tice

Free school meals and  breakfast clubs, whilst not enough, have helped to ensure that children get a balanced meal during the day at school but ‘holiday’ hunger takes it toll on families.  The absolute catastrophe of the government’s voucher system during Covid-19 saw more and more families turn to food banks to feed their families.

The decision by the Tories to discontinue the  free school meals vouchers during the summer holidays has enraged families was spectacularly overturned following the letter from  Marcus Rashford, Manchester United and England footballer.  He wrote passionately, highlighting his own experiences. He wrote, “The system was not built for families like mine to succeed, regardless of how hard my mum worked.” This system does not work for millions of people which is why we fight so hard to change it!

Housing and childcare are two of the costs that take the biggest toll on families’ budgets.  But it’s not just finding a roof over your head, it’s the quality of housing that has the biggest impact. Energy costs for poorer families are high due the reliance on pre-paid cards. Families should not have to make choices between heating or eating!

Too many disadvantaged families are living in cramped conditions, especially in cities with no outdoor space, sometimes in just one room. It’s a nightmare at any time, but during the ‘lockdown’ it’s even worse. The lack of good quality council housing is a scandal – with private landlords making a fortune!

With schools still closed to most pupils, and a reliance on home schooling, much of it ‘on-line’, a national free Broadband scheme and free laptops would ensure young people could access the tools to help their learning. Yet again, the government’s promises have failed, and educational inequalities will increase enormously.

Thousands more families are living on the edge of poverty. One unexpected setback,  like redundancy or an illness or even cuts to hours- could push them into the poverty trap. The furlough scheme has helped in the short term to alleviate some of the risk, but as the government seek to pull back from this, we will see a huge rise in the number of families facing catastrophe.

The storms that were already  gathering because of a worldwide economic crisis, and made worse by the pandemic, will mean even more misery for millions, unless a mass movement of the working class rise up.  Capitalism is designed to serve the bosses and keep the rich enveloped in their wealth.  Our job as socialists, is to turn the world upside down and fight for the 99% and ensure that every family and every child has all their needs met through a democratic planned socialist system.

Help fight for a socialist society to end poverty for good – be one of the hundreds of people who has registered to join us this month!

 

 

1 in 4 West Midlands rental properties “unfit for habitation”

1 in 4 West Midlands rental properties “unfit for habitation”

An article from the 10th of February in the Coventry Observer reported that over a quarter of private rented homes in the West Midlands are unfit for human habitation. The figure for social housing from each local authority in the West Midlands came to 12 percent. These findings are based on the government’s English Housing Survey’s report for 2016/17.

These figures add weight to calls for tenants to have further powers to defend themselves from rogue landlords. The government has announced its support for the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill 2017-19, but this bill is still a long way from becoming law. Also, considering the wealth gained from being a private landlord, whose interests are represented by the Tories, this bill may never actually see the light of day.

The Socialist Party believes that everyone has the right to high quality, safe housing. Though we support the efforts behind the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill, tenants need safe and suitable housing now! This is why we support tenants to collectively organise and campaign for their demands against dodgy landlords including, when necessary, rent strikes and/or non-payment of service charges.

If you live in either privately rented accommodation or social housing and are interested in setting up a tenants association to campaign for better housing or would like more information please fill in the form below.

Organising for safe homes in Coventry

Organising for safe homes in Coventry

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On Tuesday 1st August, Coventry Socialist Party held a public meeting in Hillfields about a new campaign for housing safety in Coventry.

Attendees included a number of local residents from tower blocks from a number of different areas of Coventry, all keen not just to highlight their own concerns and experiences but also to get involved and take action in organising a campaign on housing safety – an issue which has really come to the forefront in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy, which has left at least 80 people dead.

There was a very determined tone to the meeting – it was pointed out that what happened at Grenfell was a symptom of a capitalist system that puts profit before people, and holds working class people in complete contempt.

Local residents raised such issues as fire alarms being removed from tower blocks and housing provider Whitefriars charging tenants for repairs – up to £600 in some cases!

One of the main proposals of the meeting – to get local residents organised in tenants’ groups – was well received, with plans now underway to have tenants of three different tower blocks organise door-knocking and petitioning of other residents in their own flats.

The demands mentioned discussed include the fitting of sprinklers in all tower blocks – a recommendation consistently made by coroners following three different tower block fires nationally since 2005. As also mentioned in the meeting, the vital importance of a fully-functioning sprinkler system was starkly shown by the difference between the fire in Grenfell Tower and in a hotel in Dubai – a very similar structure but for a sprinkler system – in 2016. In the latter, nobody was killed.

It was clear that pressure must also be put on local landlords to fully enforce the highest safety standards across all housing in Coventry – private or social – and pressure should be put on local councillors to help tenants organise and fight for our rights. This is far from an impossible demand – Birmingham City Council, owning the majority of tower blocks in the West Midlands, will be carrying out the installation of sprinklers in all tower blocks across the city!

As we have made clear in a previous article, “We cannot afford a system which treats our lives with such contempt, and gives them so little value in comparison to those whose interests it was created solely to represent”. We have to link these issues to the overall demand to bring all housing back under public ownership. This is also linked to our demands to change society along socialist lines: to bring all infrastructure and the economy into the democratic control of working class people. For a society run for people, not profit!

Are you a tower block resident and want to get involved? Fill in the form below!

“22 tower blocks in Coventry don’t have sprinklers” – a Coventry tower block resident speaks out after the Grenfell fire

“22 tower blocks in Coventry don’t have sprinklers” – a Coventry tower block resident speaks out after the Grenfell fire

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We have recieved the below article from a resident of a tower block in Coventry following the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in London. Please read and share this important article.

The disaster at Grenfell Tower in London, where a fire ripped through the 24-storey tower block early last Wednesday morning leaving a death toll which now stands at 79 and is expected to rise, is a damning indictment of the greed and profit-driven capitalist system.

It has long been clear that working class lives have never been held in anything but contempt by the capitalists and their representatives, and now – not for the first time – they have blood on their hands. The exact cause of the fire is not yet known. But the use of flammable cladding to plaster the outside of the building is believed to have been a major factor in turning the entire tower block into a deadly inferno. This is the same cladding that is banned for use on buildings above 40 feet in the USA, and is classed as a ‘flammable’ material in Germany, despite conforming to UK regulations.

What is even worse is the fact that the fire-resistant version of the cladding would have cost developers only £5,000 extra to use – that is, £2 more per square metre than the flammable cladding they did use.

Residents of the tower wrote in November 2016 that “only a catastrophic event …  an incident that results in serious loss of life … a serious fire in a tower block or similar high density residential property” would lead to changes being implemented by their landlord. They were ignored. They have now been proven right, in tragic circumstances.

The disaster has sparked huge anger amongst many working class people, leading to major demonstrations and protests which saw Kensington Town Hall stormed by large numbers of people, and Theresa May having to be bundled safely into a car away from angry demonstrators amid cries of “Murderer! Murderer!”

This has left the government in complete disarray – with May refusing to meet residents because of “security concerns”, and even having to admit that “support on the ground for families who needed help or basic informatiom in the initial hours after this appalling disaster was not good enough.” This stands in stark contrast to the way Jeremy Corbyn actually met with the residents, and who is demanding that Theresa May promise a full, independent and meaningful public enquiry into the disaster. This contrast is not lost on residents and the friends and relatives of those affected – as shown by the scenes of the angry questioning of Tory MP Andrea Leadsom when she visited people as to why the Prime Minister and other senior Tories had not visited them, whilst Jeremy Corbyn did.

The Grenfell tragedy has been one long in the making. Gavin Barwell, Theresa May’s newly-appointed Chief of Staff, who was the Housing Minister before the election, actually delayed a review into fire safety in high-rise apartments. It is also worth remembering that back in 2012, The Independent reported then-Prime Minister David Cameron’s intention to “kill off safety culture”, declaring that “we need to realise, collectively, that we cannot eliminate risk and that some accidents are inevitable”. This abhorrent contempt and lack of value for working class lives shows itself starkly with the promise from Theresa May of a £5million emergency fund for victims – the rough value of a single terraced house in Kensington, one of the richest boroughs in the country!

It has also been reported that the flammable cladding was used to help improve the view for those living in the nearby luxury houses.  We have said that they have blood on their hands – this was an act of corporate murder, and the shocking lack of health and safety standards has worried many people across the country, concerned at just how safe their own homes are.

Here in Coventry, WM Housing (which owns Whitefriars) has revealed that just two of their 24 tower blocks have a sprinkler system installed! Living in a Whitefriars-run tower block myself I noticed they quickly put up some fire safety notices inside the ground floor entrance a couple of days after the Grenfell fire. They also put a leaflet through every letterbox which confirmed our tower block did have a sprinkler installed – but in the immediate vicinity there are a total of 3 tower blocks which they also maintain. As WM Housing have said only 2 tower blocks across Coventry have a sprinkler, it begs the question as to why only one or two tower blocks out of three in the same area may have one!

The failure to have properly sorted out even these simple and surely basic standards up until now does not fill me with confidence. When I moved into the flat there weren’t even any smoke alarms installed!

Coventry Council has confirmed that it will be carrying out safety inspections in tower blocks over 6 storeys tall. However, they have exempted Whitefriars-run blocks from the inspections because they “have already provided assurances to the council that their buildings are up to the relevant fire safety standards”. Assurances are not good enough – all blocks should be inspected, along with other public buildings, to ensure they meet safety standards. Landlords in the private rented sector should also be forced to ensure their properties are safe and fit for human habitation.

We cannot afford a system which treats our lives with such contempt, and gives them so little value in comparison to those whose interests it was created solely to represent. We must have a break with this system – the capitalist system, driven purely by profit and greed, a system which looks after the interests of big business and the 1%. We must fight for socialism – to change society and run it in the interests of working class people, under whose democratic control the economy and industry would be planned. Anything less will eventually leave us with a repeat of the Grenfell tragedy.

Coventry Socialist Party calls for:

Justice for Grenfell – get the property developers and Kensington Council in the dock.

Reverse fire service cuts – fund our emergency services properly. End the pay freeze.

Inspections and a full review of safety procedures across housing, council buildings, schools, colleges and universities in Coventry. All tower blocks and schools should have sprinkler systems installed.

Campaign for all housing, private and social, to meet safety standards. No cutting corners for profit.

Organise for action, rent strikes and walkouts if our safety can’t be guaranteed – no safety means no work, no rent and no school!

Do you agree? Get in touch!

Record number of evictions in Coventry

Record number of evictions in Coventry

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Anti-bedroom tax campaigners prevent a tenant from being evicted

Figures released by the Ministry of Justice have shown a record number of tenants were evicted in Coventry last year. 288 homes were repossessed in the city, a 14% rise from 2014 – and the Citizens Advice Bureau has reported a 100% rise in enquiries about homelessness.

Sophie Parks, communications and marketing manager for Coventry CAB, was quoted in the Coventry Telegraph saying “The cost of living and low wages are factors but undoubtedly it is welfare reforms that are the predominant cause [of the rise in evictions].”

The MOJ figures only cover private tenancies, but last year Coventry Against the Bedroom Tax campaigners prevented two evictions from social housing properties which were caused by the bedroom tax and other benefit cuts. Sadly more evictions are to be expected with benefit cuts continuing to bite.

Coventry has become a paradise for landlords, with low regulation and plenty of students to exploit with higher rents – regardless of the consequences for communities throughout the city. The council should introduce compulsory registration for all landlords, and a cap on rents – but perhaps it’s not surprising that they haven’t done this, as at least eight Labour councillors including council leader Ann Lucas are believed to be landlords!

Coventry Socialist Party calls for:

  • No evictions here! An end to all evictions caused by benefit cuts and the bedroom tax. Join Coventry Against the Bedroom Tax‘s Anti Eviction Network!
  • Build council homes! For thousands of new council homes in Coventry.
  • End landlordism! Compulsory registration for all landlords in the city, to stop dodgy landlords ripping us off.
  • Cap rents not benefits! For a cap on rents to stop landlords milking tenants and raking in housing benefit with extortionate rents.

 

Coventry Socialists stop #bedroomtax eviction

Coventry Socialists stop #bedroomtax eviction

No evictions here!

No evictions here!

“Most people know the Bedroom Tax is a bad thing, and all parties except the Tories are committed to repealing it. But unlike the rest the Socialist Party has always made it clear we would do whatever it takes to defend people suffering its effects. Two years ago we set up Coventry Against The Bedroom Tax. We held public meetings with 200 in attendance, lobbied, protested and publicised, gave advice to many, went to tribunals and court hearings. We helped people get thousands of pounds via appeals and Discretionary Payments. We expected eviction attempts would be reached a year or more back, but Housing Associations like Whitefriars have been slow to take that step, not wanting to look like the villains of the piece.

Suddently this changed when Charterhouse resident Archie Millar phoned last week to say he was to be evicted at 10.00 on Monday. Archie has lived on St Margaret Road since 1976, becoming the tenant when his mother passed away nine years ago. He used to work for Parcelforce but is now unemployed, getting £72 JSA plus his rent via Housing Benefit. The Bedroom Tax means a £25 shortfall in that, which he’s expected to meet out of his JSA leaving him with just £47 a week to pay his bills and live on. Clearly that’s impossible and despite making some payments Archie’s £1700 in arrears. He tried everything to come to terms with Whitefriars. They wouldn’t let him move to a smaller place because he’s in arrears (talk about Catch-22!) and blocked him taking in a lodger even though that was endorsed at a court hearing. Eviction would leave Archie homeless. He tried Welfare Rights advice but all they could offer was the phone number for the Salvation Army and the RSPCA for his dog.

We couldn’t let that happen. Our resources are fully committed to the TUSC election campaign, but we got to work on helping Archie. Dave Nellist approached Whitefriars with a detailed proposal but to no avail, and we organised a protest and media coverage over the course of a weekend. We contacted scores of Party members and other volunteers and about 30 people assembled outside Archie’s house in time to confront the Whitefriars representative, bailiffs, locksmith,  and eventually two vanloads of police who took position scattered along the other side of the road.

The protesters included trade unionists, students and local residents. Some neighbours turned out because they knew Archie, others just because they know what’s right. Archie commented ‘I never knew there were so many good people around’. We packed into the front garden and on the pavement, Archie was in his house with the door firmly locked and a burly trade unionist outside! The protest was deliberately kept peaceful and disciplined to avoid the police intervening. But the atmosphere was determined and excited, with placards, the TUSC banner, laughter and chatter. The media turned up and were very helpful, filming, photographing and interviewing throughout.

Sarah Smith, a Coventry Against the Bedroom Tax organiser and TUSC candidate in Woodlands, pointed out that CABT called for Whitefriars and other social landlords to implement a non-eviction policy for bedroom tax arrears two years ago! She said “Labour claim they’re against the bedroom tax – if that’s the case, why haven’t the three Coventry Labour councillors on the board of Whitefriars stood up and opposed Archie’s eviction, and any others?”

Three TUSC candidates (Sarah Smith, Nicky Downes and Lee Cooper) join the protest

Three TUSC candidates (Sarah Smith, Nicky Downes and Lee Cooper) join the protest

The forces on the other side of the road were obviously a lot less cheerful, realising they were not going to get Archie out without a struggle and the world’s worst publicity. The stand-off continued for an hour. During that time Dave Nellist negotiated with Whitefriars, whose bosses were clearly finding themselves in an unfamiliar and awkward position, under the glare of the media spotlight, anxious to find a way out without appearing to back down too much. Finally they called the eviction off and the bailiffs’ van sped away past the protestors, to a chorus of cheers and jeers. We got Archie out, thanked everyone and ended the successful protest, proud of showing what solidarity and people power can do.

What next? Well Whitefriars are suspending their action until June now, while a long-term solution is found. This should have happened before, but Archie would have been out on the street without our action. We expect something acceptable will be found, negotiating with Whitefriars and the Council, especially in the context of the Bedroom Tax’s forthcoming abolition. But if not, we’ll be back. Media coverage since Monday has been very complete, with reports from the Coventry Telegraph, Coventry Observer, BBC Coventry and Warwick radio, Free Radio and BBC Midlands Today. The latter posted a video of the protest on Facebook which has had almost 300,000 views! They commented that this shows the action caught people’s interest and they are keen to do a follow-up to tell viewers the final outcome.

Personally I am proud of how Coventry Socialist Party responded to this sudden threat. It shows how committed and organised we are, even at short notice and when our attention was focussed in another direction. I think the successful outcome came from us being able to organise lively direct action, effective media relations, knowledge of the issue, negotiating skills and an established reputation in the local area. We use those strengths battling away all the time but it’s great when you do win! No-one who participated will forget this for a long time.”

John Boadle, Coventry Against the Bedroom Tax

You can watch some video coverage of the protest here. An interview with Archie and John is below.

Do you want to help stop future evictions or support TUSC candidates? Fill in the form below and get involved!

Coventry Socialist Students continues to grow

Coventry Socialist Students continues to grow

Socialist Students stall at Cov Uni Refreshers

Socialist Students stall at Cov Uni Refreshers

Coventry Socialist Students have further built our profile at Coventry University following a successful week of campaigning and activity.

We began the week with a public meeting on the Charlie Hebdo massacre, which around 15 students came to. We discussed the attacks and how socialists should respond to terrorism and Islamophobia. In addition we made plans to build our presence on campus, especially our flagship Housing Campaign.

On Tuesday our four Student Councillors attended the SU council meeting, and all four were nominated to various committees within the SU. We will use those platforms to stick up for ordinary students, and of course to build Coventry Socialist Students (CSS). Crucially, Kristian Sucilla O’Sullivan, Sam Kempster and Mohammed Wurie were all nominated for the Housing Committee, giving us a great opportunity to keep fighting for decent housing and against dodgy landlords and letting agencies.

Sam said ”Coventry Socialist Students are the foundation and support beams of the housing campaign and that’s never going to change, however it’s a really positive step that the campaign has been taken on by the SU and that the steering committee is comprised of both CSS councillors and SU Sabbatical Officers”.

A number of our members attended an open meeting of the lecturers union (UCU) on Wednesday, along with the National Chair of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition Dave Nellist, to continue forming links between staff and students at the university. The meeting was held by the Coventry UCU branch to bring together lecturers and workers from across the faculties under one roof to point out and discuss some of the serious problems going on behind the academic scenes.

Kristian speaking to UCU meeting on behalf of Coventry Socialist Students

Kristian speaking to UCU meeting on behalf of Coventry Socialist Students

Kristian spoke to the meeting to bring solidarity from CSS: “Students and lectures alike are being exploited in a variety of ways, from students facing overpriced sub-standard accommodation to lecturers being forced into working overtime by taking on extra admin workloads. We want to work with the UCU to bring together both these exploited groups in united struggle and point towards the real problem – the bosses upstairs.”

Rob Windsor – a fighter for socialism

Rob Windsor – a fighter for socialism

Rob Windsor - a fighter for socialism

Rob Windsor

This week marks 3 years since we lost Rob Windsor to a serious illness. Rob, who passed away on 14th January, 2012, was a tireless fighter and campaigner for socialism and a former councillor in St Michaels ward for the Socialist Party. He played a major role in the anti-poll tax movement – a campaign which played a major role in the downfall of Margaret Thatcher. He was also a great friend and inspiration to many people and his legacy lives on in those who were inspired by Rob to fight against the capitalist system and for a socialist future. To read a full obituary of Rob, please click here

To mark 3 years since his passing, we are reproducing this article written by Rob in March, 2004. At the time Rob was a sitting councillor with Dave Nellist and Karen McKay. In his work as a Socialist public representative he worked tirelessly for his constituents and working class people across the city and helped people get organised. He was a regular on any picket line and unlike any of the current crop of Labour or Tory councillors never voted for a single cut – quite a contrast to those Labour councillors today who shrug their shoulders and say ‘nothing can be done’ about these savage attacks on ordinary people.

The article was carried in The Socialist, the weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party. In the article Rob explains how he became a socialist, and why he joined the Militant, the forerunner of the Socialist Party. If you agree with Rob, we urge you to fill in the form at the end of the article and join us in the fight for socialism.

Campaigning To Change Society

By Rob Windsor

I was always “Socialist minded” from my late teens. I took part in CND marches. I had worked with the homeless in London aged 19 so had seen the results of capitalism at the sharp end. I used to get mad every time I saw Maggie Thatcher on the telly but then kick myself for doing nothing!

The biggest push towards joining a party was when I saw the contrast between policing at a CND mass trespass at the Trident base in Scotland, then under construction, and that used at the Wapping dispute over the sacking of 5,000 printers.

The former was low key, the latter the most brutal I had ever seen. I remember a horse charge and saw this mounted police officer peel an old guy off some railings with a long riot shield. Then a “snatch squad” of about six with short truncheons beat him to within an inch of his life.

It was then that I realised that a class war was going on and the lengths that the privileged would go to defend their interests. I became a Militant supporter (the forerunner of the Socialist Party) in 1987 after the successful campaign to get Dave Nellist, then a Labour MP, re-elected to Parliament.

Militant

Of all the groups on the Left, Militant was the most serious and disciplined. When something was fully discussed and decided, it got done. Within two years, I was playing a leading role in building the anti-poll tax campaign that beat Thatcher and her tax.

I am now one of three Socialist Party councillors in Coventry. Whilst there are only three of us we strive to show an alternative way of organising society in everything we do.

We have played a full part in the mass anti-war movement and set up a special council meeting to discuss the war, one of the few councils in Western Europe to do so.

A lot of our work involves fighting for people who the anti-war movement hasn’t touched – but the cost of the war certainly has! Every day we battle for funding for areas where local people are told that they can’t have even a few thousand quid for improvements – yet the £6.5 billion cost of war is made to seem like small change!

Fighting for people

We have fought housing privatisation and the break up of working class communities so that developers can profit from land deals. We got the council to oppose top-up fees. We saved council jobs, and through our determination to oppose at all costs, forced the council to put an extra £1 million into adult social services.

We work on individual issues and community campaigns every day of the week. Even one of Blair’s favourite think-tanks recognised us as good local representatives.

But we are not like this because we are nice individuals or specially gifted.

It is because we are members of a party with firm ideas about transforming society so that working people own and control the wealth created; a party that doesn’t allow its representatives to have lavish lifestyles way above those that we represent. We’re there to improve the lives of working people – not our bank balances.

The Socialist Party doesn’t stop at just complaining about capitalist society but strives every day to change it. In trades unions, in local areas, in mass campaigns like the anti-war movement, amongst the workers and youth. It is well worth joining.