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(en) Britain, Anarchist Solidarity Federation* Newspaper Catalyst #22 Winter 2009 - Page 3 - Rise of school occupations + CUTS + Prescription heroin ‘cuts crime’

Date Tue, 20 Apr 2010 11:06:15 +0300

Rise of school occupations ---- To the dismay of head-teachers everywhere, this year has seen a marked rise in parent militancy in response to closures and handovers to private companies. --- The agenda of handing community schools to private interests means less accountability, selection procedures, job insecurity, and a focus on grades to the detriment of education and care. Facing closures, academies and foundation schools, people up and down the UK have resisted with grass-roots campaigns and, in several cases, occupation. ---- The first occupations occurred in Glasgow where twenty-two schools are threatened with closure, as part of a council plan to plug a £6 million overspend. Wyndford, St Gregory’s, Our Lady of the Assumption and Victoria primary were occupied in April and Wyndford was subsequently reoccupied in
June. Soon after, Lewisham Bridge primary
school in London was occupied by parents
after the council voted to demolish the site
and hand the school over to the medieval
Leathersellers livery company as an academy
In early May parents at Charlotte Turner,
a primary in Greenwich, took the building
to fight a planned closure. In all cases
there had been a ‘consultation’ resulting in
overwhelming majorities opposed to the
changes and in all cases these were ignored.
With official lines of negotiation an obvious
sham, direct action became the only weapon
left to the parents.
Of the occupations, only Lewisham
Bridge has achieved some of its goals; the
children will be returning to the school
in November, the building remains and it
is still not an academy school. Although
this was nominally achieved by an English
Heritage listing, the force of the campaign
and the media attention it got undoubtedly
played a big part. Even without victories
(Wyndford and Charlotte Turner have been
closed), the occupations have brought self-
confidence to participants and bolstered
campaigns frustrated by officialdom. There
is a new willingness to take action for our
schools and every occupation is an example
to the next.
With coming cuts in education and the
onwards march towards privatisation, we
should expect more campaigns and more
occupations. Both main parties plan to attack
education after the next election. Labour’s Ed
Balls’ claims of savings in education can only
be achieved by merging schools and making
them ever bigger. The Tories intend to take
more schools out of local authority control
and into unaccountable companies.
With a pay freeze on the way, education
workers will be involved in their own
struggles. If the school campaigners and
workers can act together we could see more
victories in this academic year.
The workers will be able to draw
confidence from the support of parents, so
long as parents are actually able to speak to
staff, something that the unions have tried
to block in some cases. However, the student
occupation at SOAS in support of detained
and deported cleaners demonstrated the
solidarity links that can be made, as did the
vociferous student support at Tower Hamlets
College (see pages 4-5).

Against this backdrop, the BBC’s
economics editor writes that “the crucial
difference between Labour and Tories is
not so much the scale of spending cuts - but
the timing.” The Liberal Democrats say no
public services should be “ring-fenced” from
The political consensus is clear: drastic
cuts are on the way, with talk of spending
being slashed by at least 10% over the next
three years.
Reportedly the favoured model is Sweden,
where major cuts were made following a
budget crisis in the 1990s. According to the
BBC “even though it was a Social Democrat
wielding the axe, it was Sweden’s over-
arching welfare state which received most
of the cuts.”
With an election looming all the politicians
will deny it, but there’s no doubt they intend
to make the working class pay for the crisis.
The last years of the ‘economic boom’ saw
numerous workers’ struggles against sub-
inflation pay offers and deteriorating terms
and conditions, which came following years
of real-terms decline.
Then when the recession hit, workers were
urged to tighten their belts for the good of
the economy, as unemployment rocketed,
pay was slashed and home repossessions
reached record levels. Now there is talk of
economic recovery, politicians of all stripes
are already planning how best to make
workers pay.
This underlines a simple fact absent from
most mainstream commentary: it is not
the health of the economy that determines
workers’ living standards, but our ability to
collectively impose our needs on the bosses.
Without this collective power, economic
growth is simply accumulated by the bosses
as profit, and economic crises have their
costs passed on to weak and disorganised
By contrast, when workers take collective
direct action, they are able to improve
their conditions regardless of whether the
economy is in boom or bust.
Sections of the ruling class are alert
enough to fear this; it’s up to us to make
their fears into reality.

Prescription heroin ‘cuts crime’

When it comes to drugs, the state’s policy
has traditionally been hard-line; blanket
prohibition and the criminalisation of users.
However a recent government-backed
study has cast doubt on the wisdom of this
approach, by showing that prescribing
heroin to addicts both drastically cut the use
of street drugs and markedly reduced crime.
Drug-related crime is a major problem
in working class communities, with former
colliery areas in south Wales and the north
of England having some of the highest rates
of heroin addiction. Research suggests that
between half and two thirds of all crime is
oin‘cuts crime’
drug related. The Randomised Injecting
Opioid Treatment Trial (RIOTT) reported
over a two-thirds reduction in crimes
committed by the participants.
Professor Strang, who led the RIOTT
programme, said that the aim of the trial was
to determine whether prescribing heroin or
similar substitutes could help turn addicts’
lives around and prevent the cycle of crime
and imprisonment. “The surprising finding
– which is good for the individuals and good
for society as well – is that you can,” he said.
Will the evidence influence policy? Or
will the upcoming election see another
futile contest between politicians to appear
the most hard-line on those already at the
bottom of capitalist society? While the
government has indicated it will “roll out” a
supervised prescription program, concerns
have already been raised about the £15,000
per person annual cost. However, compared
to the £25,000 per person annual cost of
imprisonment that seems like a bargain
– even in the crude cost-benefit terms of
government ministers. That’s before even
taking into account the broader social costs
of widespread heroin addiction.
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