As it becomes more obvious by the day that we, the ordinary people, are going to have to fight if we want to even hold on to what standard of living we have, let alone try to improve it, the use of solidarity and direct action will be the most potent tool we have. In this we can learn from the past, it has all been done before, we have been in this struggle for centuries. Sometimes it might look like it is a done deal and we have lost, but as this short piece from the recent past shows, we can always win, if the determination, solidarity and the will to take direct action is carried through. We must learn the lessons of the past, this is going to be a long and bitter struggle.
From Castlemilk, a housing scheme in Glasgow, from the past, a show of determined direct action wins the day, as told by one who was involved:
I tell it all as if it was a day but it was actually maybe 6 months or a year of struggle.
Campaign in Castlemilk, A group of tenants had been told that the Council are going to build a car park in their back greens. The back greens being the area in which they hung out their washing and where the kids played in safety. The people in the area were all against it and they had actually got a petition together, taken it up to the Labour club, and handed it into the Labour Club and low and behold the Labour Club lost the petition they said later, or they claimed they lost it. And therefore the peoples’ thing could not be taken any further. So by luck one of the tenants bumped into one of us and he told us about the situation.The work was about to begin in the back greens. They had knocked down a couple of the gable ends to allow bull dozers to get through into the backs. And they were going to start digging up the drying greens and the kids play areas to build this car park.
And basically the people says to us ‘do you think there’s anything we can do about this. Nobody in the area wants this. Everybody is absolutely against the idea. We have petitioned the Labour Party through the Labour Club – they lost the petition that we handed in – and can it be stopped? ’.
The list of materials described above, along with many others, can be found in the John Cooper Collection listed in the Spirit of Revolt site. We hope in the near future, to have them displayed in the collection as images, along with many others.I gave the answer that I always give people that ask me that question and I answered ‘How determined are you?’ And they said they were absolutely determined about it so I asked them to get a couple of the families together, we went up and saw them, and we talked to them. We being a group of local community activists in Castlemilk, myself and a couple of the others were anarchists, some of the others had no political affiliation, there might have been one or two people in the Labour party, or some kinda left wing groups or whatever but generally I would describe the whole feeling of the thing as kinda anarchistic.We went up and seen the people. We suggested to them that they get another petition together – no because there any value in getting a petition - but jist to give us an opportunity to go back round everybody again , talk to them on their doorstep, and ask them if they were still prepared to do something about it. We did that the next day , it was only a quad , a really small area, everybody agreed that they were against it. So we went up to the Labour Club, we said that we had another petition, but we weren’t giving it them in or whatever, and we wanted something done about it. We asked to see somebody – they refused to let us see anybody, so we went back down the road and we made our plans for the next day.
The next day the bulldozers came and we decided just to block the whole entrance to the back greens, refused to allow the bulldozers through. And I went up and I spoke to the guy that was driving the bulldozer and explained the situation to him and as usual when you speak to other working class people they generally see the point, I will have to phone my gaffer, well that’s exactly what we want you to do, and he phoned his gaffer and he phoned his gaffer and he phoned his gaffer and before too long we had all the relevant people down at the site and that ultimately they sent for the council. When the councillors arrived ( I don’t know if it was that day) but some point in the thing, the councillors arrived in a limo, and so it went from a situation where the councillors refused to see the people but because of the direct action that we took they had to eventually come to us to see us in person. And within a very short space of time they saw that we weren’t going to allow them to build a car park in the back green and they had to cancel the whole thing.
So it was an outright victory for the people.
S. R.; and these are publicity photos?
This is a wee exhibition that the tenants done at the time. After the victory we done these sheets and people put in their comments and pictures, newspaper cuttings, explaining how we halted the car park and we actually used these in other struggles by putting these up and we explained to people that this is how you can take things on and win the situation.
List of the materialSheets that you can put up on walls hand made posters.A wee folder of all the newspaper coverage at the timePeople writing poems about itPictures taken at the time by Charlie Fisher non resident photographer (who helped with the community newspaper Castlemilk Today)Dept of housing official papersMinutes of the council meetingsMP letters from Westminster Teddy TaylorAnd letters from Glasgow District councilCopy of petition 2 not handed in because previous one lost.
Initially the people went to the Labour Councillors which is the obvious way to deal with the situation. They went to them, handed in a petition to the Labour Club who basically ignored them and said they lost the petition so the Labour Councillors basically refused to take up their issue for them and they were quite happy to allow it to go ahead. And because they were able to come to us the people that lived there, we advised them on how to deal with the situation and we were there with them and we managed to stop it completely and the backs were all reinstated.
Some of the people in the campaign for the most were delighted at the victory, it was something that they thought they could not achieve in view of the fact that they had already started the work so not only did they stop the thing but they actually retrieved the thing from the ashes so to speak. I think a lot of people felt a great sense of empowerment, and certainly some were involved in other campaigns after that.
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