Towns and cities

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R Totale's picture
R Totale
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Dec 14 2019 16:51
Towns and cities

So, obviously the Labour Party's problems aren't necessarily ours, there's no direct correlation between working-class self-organisation and support for Labour and so on, but still... looking at the election results, the town/city divide is pretty glaring, whether it's Sheffield vs Don Valley/Rother Valley, Manchester vs Bolton, Leeds/Bradford vs Shipley and Keighley, Birmingham vs Dudley and so on. Regardless of whether Labour has anything much to offer in these areas, I guess the question is, how much do we? Like, there are definitely very good and positive direct action class struggle organising things happening in some places, and I appreciate this bit of signposting, but it feels to me like when we're listing them it's often a bit like "there's this thing in London, and then this thing in London, and this other thing in London, as well as this thing in London, and then this national network [thing that has branches in London, Bristol, Brighton and Manchester]". Would be interested to hear other people's thoughts, and even more interested to hear if people can give examples of good positive organising happening in towns. Also, I've been thinking for quite a while that I should really read Hinterland by Phil Neel, but now I'm thinking that I should really, really definitely get around to reading Hinterland by Phil Neel.

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Dec 17 2019 13:30

I'm glad you brought this point up and mentioned the whole town/city divide.
Personally I will be organising at work more (duh!) but also getting stuck into community led projects (e.g soup kitchens, food banks, etc), renters unions (like ACORN) among others.
My trouble is that there is a lack of groups in Sheffield like ACG and even the IWW branch here appears to be inactive sad

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Dec 18 2019 05:57
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IWW branch here appears to be inactive

Its not, its just its online publicity platforms that have lapsed and their isn't a public campaign recently. This is an issue a lot of small groups have in the social media age, its difficult to keep the dozen or so accounts constantly updated so it gives the appearance of a ghost town. Sometimes its accurate but other times there's a lot of stuff going on.

I agree the presence and representation in towns is rather dire outside of large cities. I live in one in a region that still has a large industrial presence but aside from a couple of groups that collapsed in Hull years ago the only presence is the Labour party and a smattering of SPEW and isolated individuals.

In brighter news I see Loughborough's Anarchism research group is still active though that's attached to a University. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4QeCwBZwOE

The only other example of organising happening in towns was the old NSSN but that was built out of the shop stewards networks from the more entrenched branches of the TUC and SPEW effectively broke it up.

Spikymike
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Dec 24 2019 11:26

Maybe there are some common problems faced, or not, by both the reformist Labour supporting left and we pro-revolutionary anti-parliamentary communists around all this. Thought this might add to the discussion here but there is more that we could criticise given some very different conclusions:
https://freedomnews.org.uk/the-lefts-generation-crisis-how-can-we-grow-w...

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Dec 24 2019 16:28

Interesting piece, that - I don't know how far the "generation gap" mentioned would always tend to be a bit of a thing in terms of people with young kids always being under-represented compared to either those with no kids or those whose children are fully grown up, but it's useful to think about alongside the UVW/IWGB/CAIWU, and I think also Deliveroo, struggles being mostly driven by migrant workers where the generational factors at play are very different. Which I suppose leads to some less-than-comforting answers about the possibilities for those particular models to generalise...

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Dec 29 2019 20:38

meh i think goegraphy plays second fiddle to age, If an area has an average age of 39 plus and if 20/25% of the population is over 65 then it's currently likely that the conservatives win. They have achieved this through an odd cross class alliance of demographic backlash against migrants (many of whom of course can't vote), anti-metropoloitanism, wealthier in relative terms homeownwers and a lingering general thatcherite anti-socialism.

It's just the electoral logic of an aging population at present
http://blogs.bath.ac.uk/iprblog/2019/05/21/the-rise-of-the-grey-vote/

I would imagine an aging population probably has similar stufling effects on anti=parliamentary radicalism, would be very hard to ascertain though

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Dec 30 2019 12:47

Yeah, the Freedom article linked above is interesting on that.

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Dec 30 2019 23:09
R Totale wrote:
Yeah, the Freedom article linked above is interesting on that.

yeah, i think it's the key issue personally, i mean the percentage of population over 65 in the uk as a whole is rising and is predicted to reach 20% in the next few years and probably higher by 2040, and most of the areas discussed have reached that threshold already and will be climbing towards 25/30%.

in some ways this affect is exaggerated in electoralism as among 25-35 uear olds for instance only 85% of the population can vote (largely due to issues of nationality/citizenship/residency) whereas for over 65's the figure is close on to 95%. The electoral logic of that in favour of the tories and anti-immigrant politics in general atm is pretty depressing.

while the picture is not quite as bleak in some respects for anti-parliamentaty politics said demographics are doubtless going to have a very heavy and negative effect as the article alludes to

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fingers malone
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Dec 31 2019 11:24

Why are the older people more reactionary? I can think of specific circumstances of a generation that were able to make a lot of money from homeownership, and accepted all the cuts in the safety net, council housing etc, for a chance for them personally to be rich, but a lot of people in ex-industrial towns wouldn't have benefited that much from that would they? It only works if there was a rapid rise in the value of your property?

Mike Harman
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Dec 31 2019 13:04

A lot of the 'ex-industrial towns' as well as market towns and other places of similar size, then the larger towns or small cities that also return Tory MPs, have a lot of new build commuter housing built around them. If you look at local election maps you'll see lib dem and Labour party councillors representing the actual town bit, then Tories the outer suburbs and villages.

This one is pretty striking:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2019_Colchester_Borough_Council_election#/...

Obviously I don't think voting Labour or Lib Dem means anything, but I do think voting Tory does iyswim.

Also the people who live in those towns aren't static, someone who's 65 living in a village or new suburb may have moved there from a relatively well off suburb elsewhere for their retirement, not lived there their whole life. People born there in the 80's and 90's will be moving out to cities.

Mike Harman
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Dec 31 2019 13:05
fingers malone wrote:
Why are the older people more reactionary? I can think of specific circumstances of a generation that were able to make a lot of money from homeownership, and accepted all the cuts in the safety net, council housing etc, for a chance for them personally to be rich, but a lot of people in ex-industrial towns wouldn't have benefited that much from that would they? It only works if there was a rapid rise in the value of your property?

Wouldn't simply owning property outright do this? Like if you took advantage of right to buy in the '80s, paid your mortgage off in the '90s, haven't paid rent or mortgage since?

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Dec 31 2019 13:14

Thanks

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Dec 31 2019 13:19
Mike Harman wrote:
fingers malone wrote:
Why are the older people more reactionary? I can think of specific circumstances of a generation that were able to make a lot of money from homeownership, and accepted all the cuts in the safety net, council housing etc, for a chance for them personally to be rich, but a lot of people in ex-industrial towns wouldn't have benefited that much from that would they? It only works if there was a rapid rise in the value of your property?

Wouldn't simply owning property outright do this? Like if you took advantage of right to buy in the '80s, paid your mortgage off in the '90s, haven't paid rent or mortgage since?

Yes that's reasonable, do you think home ownership is one of the big factors?

I mean, I think it is, but partly because it's reassuring for me to think that, as some of the other things discussed in this context are very disturbing for me.

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Dec 31 2019 13:40
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Obviously I don't think voting Labour or Lib Dem means anything, but I do think voting Tory does iyswim.

Mike, I think you’ve got a typo there but not withstanding that, could you explain what you mean by this statement? I think I know, and I think I have a comment to make on your meaning, but I want to make sure first. Thanks.

Mike Harman
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Dec 31 2019 14:21
fingers malone wrote:
Yes that's reasonable, do you think home ownership is one of the big factors?

I mean, I think it is, but partly because it's reassuring for me to think that, as some of the other things discussed in this context are very disturbing for me.

I don't know how much of a factor it is in people being reactionary, but I do think it completely skews discussions of 'class' especially in terms of Labour electoral triangulation.

Someone who outright owns their own home, has no other debt, and lives off a pension, can count as 'low income'. A two income household could have a nominal income 2-3 times as much as a pensioner, but most of that is going on rent or a high mortgage, possibly childcare on top, travelcards and rail passes to get to work etc. etc.

Also I'm sure there are buy-to-let landlords being counted as 'working class', because before they bought investment properties and retired on that income they were factory foremen or plumbers or similar.

And it's not just a sociological mis-identification, this feeds into a constant barrage of politican and media shit about towns vs. cities, metropolitan elites etc. etc. dragging people who might be on the edge of some reactionary positions into more explicit support for them. So people like John Harris, Blue Labour, Stephen Kinnock ventriloquise 'working class' voters to project their own nationalist politics (everywhere from the Guardian to the Mirror to the Mail to election leaflets). This in turn is bound to feed into more anti-immigration sentiment generally.

Mike Harman
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Dec 31 2019 14:54
Noah Fence wrote:
Quote:
Obviously I don't think voting Labour or Lib Dem means anything, but I do think voting Tory does iyswim.

Mike, I think you’ve got a typo there but not withstanding that, could you explain what you mean by this statement? I think I know, and I think I have a comment to make on your meaning, but I want to make sure first. Thanks.

I think voting Tory is an explicit vote for reaction, whether it's for lower taxes or more racism or both. The reasons people vote for Labour or the Lib Dems (or the Greens, SNP etc.) are more varied and often bad in lots of different ways but it's not the same explicit embrace of reaction.

Also no typo, iyswim is 'if you see what I mean' unless you mean something else.

Spikymike
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Dec 31 2019 15:34

Tend to agree with MH about voting Tory but a factor in younger people being more inclined to vote Labour, especially this time round with Corbyn leading, can be put down in part to short term historical memory compared with older people who have experienced the Labour Party's past anti-working class practice and general failure to deliver on all it's promises, so perhaps more inclined to vote for other parties or not vote at all this time round.

Mike Harman
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Dec 31 2019 15:44
Spikymike wrote:
Tend to agree with MH about voting Tory but a factor in younger people being more inclined to vote Labour, especially this time round with Corbyn leading, can be put down in part to short term historical memory compared with older people who have experienced the Labour Party's past anti-working class practice and general failure to deliver on all it's promises, so perhaps more inclined to vote for other parties or not vote at all this time round.

Yes, also I think a lot of younger (under 30? I guess that's the cut off point for 2008 voting age more or less) Labour Party activists massively underestimated this.

Like just because you have 'the most left wing Labour leader' ever and a 'manifesto of hope' (Novara nearly made my physically retch with that one) doesn't mean people actually believe much of it will be put into practice. Partly due to New Labour's previous (and also the Lib Dem tuition fees stuff which is also barely in the political memory of a 23 year old now, they would have been 12 when Clegg went into coalition with the Tories), but also because pretty much everyone expected the 'best' case to be a hung parliament where none of those policies would get implemented anyway.

Also a lot of things about the last 2-3 elections have really been grating, but one of the most damaging things for me was the Labour left massively over-promising what Labour policy was, like fucking estate agents. The four day week that wasn't a four day week, the 'anti-imperialist' foreign policy that meant staying in NATO, renewing Trident, massive defense industry contracts to keep Len McCluskey happy, 'zero carbon' military etc. Which the Tories would then use as attack lines (the NHS 4 day week stuff), and then you have someone like McDonnell coming out to say 'oh no it's not a 4 day week really'). So in a way this insistence that Corbyn was really different this time (even though there obviously was a clear difference between the Tories and Labour compared to 20 years ago) may have compounded an existing lack of trust due to complete mis-selling of mild social democracy as radical. Some of this was grifters lying in order to add a radical sheen to their social democrat career prospects, some of it was people actually believing then repeating the hype.

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Dec 31 2019 17:09
fingers malone wrote:
Why are the older people more reactionary? I can think of specific circumstances of a generation that were able to make a lot of money from homeownership, and accepted all the cuts in the safety net, council housing etc, for a chance for them personally to be rich, but a lot of people in ex-industrial towns wouldn't have benefited that much from that would they? It only works if there was a rapid rise in the value of your property?

I mean, it's a bit mechanical, but I have seen the class disparity of life expectancy put forward as a partial explanation, like obviously not all old people are posh but if you're born into a well-off family then the chances of you living to see 80 or 90 are much better than if you're born into a working-class family in Glasgow or Blackpool or wherever. Don't think that's all of it but could be a part. I dunno if specific historical circumstances like the AIDS epidemic might also play a role in that?

Spikymike wrote:
Tend to agree with MH about voting Tory but a factor in younger people being more inclined to vote Labour, especially this time round with Corbyn leading, can be put down in part to short term historical memory compared with older people who have experienced the Labour Party's past anti-working class practice and general failure to deliver on all it's promises, so perhaps more inclined to vote for other parties or not vote at all this time round.

And I know I always bring up Labour councils here, but once again: people in a lot of the country don't need to think back to the 2000s to remember Labour in power, because in a lot of places it's still Labour councils cutting wages and closing our nurseries, libraries, fire stations, etc. I haven't seen this brought up in post-electoral analysis anywhere, and obviously it's very local so not really a national explanation, but I do wonder how much bright young Corbynist fave Laura Pidcock losing her seat in Durham might have been partly a well-deserved piece of payback from Durham's working class to Labour after the TAs dispute.

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Dec 31 2019 17:16

I think the life expectancy difference is really important. Labour councils- yes, in a lot of safe seats councils were treated like fiefdoms.and there is an arrogant dismissal of people who need help.

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Dec 31 2019 21:31
Mike Harman wrote:
I think voting Tory is an explicit vote for reaction, whether it's for lower taxes or more racism or both. The reasons people vote for Labour or the Lib Dems (or the Greens, SNP etc.) are more varied and often bad in lots of different ways but it's not the same explicit embrace of reaction.

Agree 100%, it's like unions. Joining a normal one can mean anything, joining a "non-political" one means you are a scab. Reminds me I should probably sign up with SUD, only reason I haven't is because they are pretty active and I am not sure I would be able to keep up!
Towns and cities is an interesting one. I think it is worth remembering the Labour 'fiefdoms', Labour hasn't helped these communities, so at some point hatred of the Tories is going to wane a little . Although, as said above, anyone voting for Johnson is basically kneeling down to be a better urinal for the posh boy.

Mike Harman
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Dec 31 2019 23:01
Jef Costello wrote:
Labour hasn't helped these communities, so at some point hatred of the Tories is going to wane a little . Although, as said above, anyone voting for Johnson is basically kneeling down to be a better urinal for the posh boy.

This is another thing that gets me. Obviously where there has been a switch from Labour to Tory, more people voted Tory than Labour whereas previously it was the other way around, this is clear. But how many people actually voted Labour in year x then voted Tory in year y? I think this is massively over-exaggerated - both by the media and by Labour politicians.

Person X doesn't vote in 2017 (or even lives somewhere else), votes Tory in 2019.

Person Y votes Labour in 2017, doesn't vote in 2019 (or moves somewhere else).

Both of these seem a lot more likely than someone switching from Labour to Tory within two years, but all the focus is on the switchers - because again this serves quite a specific reactionary conclusion.

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Jan 1 2020 14:22
fingers malone wrote:
Why are the older people more reactionary? I can think of specific circumstances of a generation that were able to make a lot of money from homeownership, and accepted all the cuts in the safety net, council housing etc, for a chance for them personally to be rich, but a lot of people in ex-industrial towns wouldn't have benefited that much from that would they? It only works if there was a rapid rise in the value of your property?

Like others have alluded to theres life expectancy.as backing a general trend though this was always true so wouldn;t quite account for the change imo. If you go back and look at say 2010 election then 65 plus voters gave the tories a 14 point poll lead, now its 36 points.If you go back further it sort of fluctuates but never anything close to the lead they have now. I don;t know if life expectancy between social classes has widened that much in last 20/30 years??,

For my money it's a mix of factors, like MH said it's gotta be home ownership first as about 70% of oer 65's own their own home and this sort of skews class interests and how we measure social class/income etc like others have said.
Then you have a demographic backlash against changing population due to migration, this is undoubtedy winning over older people in large numbers sadly.
You also have the success of anti-state socialism, individualism and thatcherite ideas in the eyes of that generation. Whether thats those on the wealthier end of the spectrum who did well out of the property boom or those less well off but who still did alright from right to buy, hence the over 65 tory vote has a cross class feel to it..

Spikymike
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Jan 1 2020 16:31

I suppose many of us oldies do get more conservative (with a small c) as a result of general wear and tear in the struggle (quite apart from being better off in some cases) - I mean just look at the number of old anarchists and other past radicals who ended up voting for or even joining the Labour Party!!

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Jan 1 2020 17:10

for effect

Mike Harman
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Jan 9 2020 11:35

No time to read the whole thing yet, but a new one looking at stuff like home ownership and suburbanisation.

https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/oureconomy/what-does-class-mean-21st-ce...