As Wednesday is the UN World Day of Social Justice, we decided to ask Chas Berry to give us a Medway perspective..
Politicians across the globe will no doubt mark the UN Day of Social Justice with much hand-wringing and plenty of weasel words about the yawning gap between the world’s rich and poor. Few, if any, will identify the real reasons for this disparity and even fewer will say what is necessary to change it.
Looking round the Medway towns, the evidence of growing inequality is stark. While gleaming new ‘developments’ spring up at riverside locations, social housing tenants are ignored and pushed aside. Small wonder that residents at Kingswear Gardens in Strood talk about ‘social cleansing’ when they are shown plans to build bright new waterside apartments on top of where their homes once stood. Spare a thought, also, for the 26 people evicted in the last twelve months by a single lettings agent in Gillingham for the simple reason they went into rent arrears following the introduction of Universal Credit.
When we are told that the age of austerity is over, the impression is often given of a necessary evil, endured equally across the community to allow our economic masters to balance the books. The truth is that austerity was a deliberate policy of managed poverty, to pass responsibility for the capitalist crisis of 2008 on to those who can least afford it.
Because, of course, there is plenty of wealth in the Medway towns and more money than ever before is flowing our way. In my own neck of the woods, £86 million will be spent improving a roundabout so that 12,000 new homes can be built on the Hoo peninsula. The tired old Pentagon Shopping Centre in Chatham, we hear, will also be getting a multi-million pound face-lift, “rejoice!”.
As Robert Tressell’s character Frank Owen in his book The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists observed, the problem is not the lack of money in the economy but what he called ‘the money trick’ that deprived his fellow workers of their fair share of the wealth they had created.
Owen never lived to see socialism, he despaired at his work colleagues who he regarded has philanthropists for allowing the inequity to continue. I am, however heartened by the school students who have just taken strike action over climate change. This generation will surely claim the inheritance that is rightfully theirs.
Chas Berry is Medway organiser of the Socialist Party. He is also Branch Secretary of the probation workers union (Napo) in Kent, Surrey and Sussex, and Treasurer of Medway Trades Council. Chas has stood twice for the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) in Medway and once in KCC elections in Gravesend. He is an outspoken opponent of austerity and has led campaigns against homelessness, social exclusion and cuts to local services.