Haringey Solidarity Group (HSG) is a libertarian/anarchist group in north London that believes in local organising across communities, workplaces and neighbourhoods in order to replace the current system that supports profit and power with decision-making by local communities that serves the real needs of people. The practical functioning of the group revolves around a monthly meeting and paper mail out, but activities extend well beyond that. HSG is also deeply involved in the Radical London network that seeks to establish local radical groups in every borough in London and ultimately across the country. This network helps establish new groups, provides support for current activities and helps establish a link between different local activism in London.
Part of the way HSG supports libertarian action on a day-to-day basis is to organise around specific needs in the community and try to collectivise the grievances that people have with the current system. We therefore have a Housing Action Group (with plans to re-establish a Claimants’ Group too) which operates partly as a campaign working group of HSG, as well as a semi-autonomous support group for people who want to take action around their own housing issues. Originally, it was set up to look at the idea of fighting house repossessions, by using a method of “direct action casework” developed by London Coalition Against Poverty. However, it was difficult to get hold of people who were facing repossession at a time when they wanted to take action. This campaign is still on the back burner, and may re-emerge depending on developments in the way the economic crisis unfolds.
Other issues taken up by the group include fighting “gatekeeping”, where homeless people are dissuaded by the council from accessing housing services and are pushed into the private sector instead. We begin by writing a letter, demanding a response from the council, and if they fail to resolve the issue, we have taken our demands in the form of protests inside the council offices. This side of what we do enforces our entitlements and exploits the grey areas, but we also campaign on wider issues. Most recently, we have been trying to build a local campaign around the changes that are being proposed to social housing – charging rents at 80% of market level and scrapping security of tenure – plus cuts to housing benefits and other welfare benefits. There are about 43,000 housing benefit and/or council tax benefit claimants in Haringey, plus 13,000 incapacity benefit claimants. Both these groups are going to be facing cuts to the amounts they receive – that’s a lot of people with the power to disrupt the system.
HSG has also been active in recent local anti-cuts activity and were instrumental in setting up the Haringey Alliance for Public Services (HAPS), which is a wide grouping of residents associations, trade unionists, service users’ groups and local community associations as well as political campaigning groups, founded to fight the cuts where we live. The initial meeting came out of discussions around a successful event previously organised by HSG – Haringey Independence Day – that brought together all the local groups in Haringey to share ideas, contacts and ways of organising. As part of the alliance, HSG has produced propaganda and taken part in demonstrations, as well as helping to organise a strategy day looking at how to fight cuts locally. We now need to maintain this local organising and build towards direct action across industries and communities, making links between workers’ and service users’ and ultimately making the cuts unworkable.
Alongside recent action around cuts, we produce a quarterly newsletter, written by members of the group that gives a libertarian perspective on local developments and provides ideas for action. We distribute this throughout the borough, door-to-door and on street stalls. Haringey Independent Cinema, a monthly screening of thought-provoking films, with a pub discussion afterwards, also came out of an idea from HSG, though it began and continues to run with people outside of HSG as well as those inside the group. HSG is beginning to run its activities out of a new office – a converted loft space in a local housing co-op. We hold meetings there and keep equipment, including a colour photocopier which can be used by local groups at cost price.
HSG came out of the local anti-Poll Tax campaign over twenty years ago, and continues to believe in the strength of local organising to spread libertarian ideas and build a mass anarchist movement. In the battles that are on the horizon, we believe in the importance of being rooted in your community, to build relations with peers and neighbours and to avoid being isolated while continuing to advocate strongly for our politics through practical example and collective action.
Article originally appeared in Freedom #7206
Freedom newspaper can be purchased directly from our shop or available at any good radical bookshop/social centre.
84b Whitechapel High Street
London E1 7QX
Alternatively take out a yearly subscription and have the paper delivered to you.