Category Archives: crisis

Empty

We are aware that Richard Poulson has circulated a memo to staff at SOAS attempting to excuse the emptiness of 53 Gordon Square over the last few weeks. This is not surprising, as the management team have some embarrassing facts sitting side-by-side in their armoury.

Over a dozen bailiffs smashed their way into the building on the 22nd December under protestations of an urgent need to work on its fabric. This urgency, it is clear, gave management carte blanche to blithely lie to our faces during negotiations, and also apparently superseded the express desire of the students’ union, trade unionists and academics that SOAS management seek a negotiated exit. The building has been boarded up, empty and entirely disused since the eviction, with all sham urgency evaporating as soon as it proved no longer
useful.

Poulson’s solicitous concern for the building seems oddly misplaced. It is he, not we, who contracted bailiffs to use sledgehammers and electric saws to smash holes in the roof, break glass and batter through doors. Is it possible he thought these would have no adverse effect on the building’s fabric? It is also Poulson and the senior management team who lied to us throughout negotiations, while simultaneously contracting out the eviction to bailiffs, at extensive cost and substantial risk to those inside.

There has been no work done at 53 Gordon Square over the past month. The time we could have used to further organise and enrich ourselves and our communtiy, and to disassemble the forces in and around Bloomsbury inching us all needlessly towards oblivion, was violently taken from us. SOAS is entirely aware of the propaganda war in which it is engaged, and to which we have no right of reply beyond this blog. We cannot send all-staff emails to refute the erroneous implication that we stripped the building for its metal.

Though we do not greet Poulson’s bizarre assertions, we are glad he is aware of the work of Charles Holden, who restored the building. Holden, also the architect of Senate House and most of the buildings enclosing Torrington Square, described himself as an ‘anarchist communist’, and, in line with his politics, refused the knighthood to be granted in recognition of his work. He doubtless spins in his grave as the University blazons the names of dictators and despots above its doors, rushes to ruthlessly commercialise its every aspect, and shamelessly sells its students downriver. Charles Henry Holden is not on your side.

MEETING TONIGHT

MARX, THE MACHINES, THE SERVICE INDUSTRIES: a collective inquiry
Friday 16 Dec, 7 – 9 p.m
A two hour meeting to discuss the much mystified concept of “the service industry”. Politicians are always announcing that “services” are now essential to our economy. But what are services? The standard conceptual obfuscations of bourgeois occupational analysis makes it difficult to refine this question without resorting to inane discussion of incomes. This public inquiry will attempt a different approach. Firstly we’ll attempt to decompose the category of “services” into its class components. Once that process is begun, we’ll initiate a discussion about exploitation. As manufacturing flees abroad to cheaper labour, or remains in place but alters its technical composition, how does service industry employment profit from the labour which is freed up? To what extent can competition in the stagnation-sectors of the service industries lead to the same patterns of increasing structural unemployment? Or are labour-intensive services resistant to significant technical restructuring? What future for domestic exploitation?

Our response to SOAS management’s eviction threat

Dear SOAS management,

We write to express our disappointment that you have begun legal proceedings against us. We are aware that such proceedings can result in the use of violence against students; this is a situation we are very keen to avoid.

In addition to the SOAS students involved in the occupation from its beginning, many SOAS undergraduates, post-graduates and academics have flowed through our doors in the last three weeks. Most have been extremely supportive of (and many have been involved in) the activities here. The accessibility of this previously disused building, on lease from the University of London, has also been welcomed by students, lecturers and trade unionists from universities across the capital.

While you have claimed that you will suffer financial damages from our continued use of the building, this should be weighed against the political damages you may suffer in consequence of an eviction. This is a concern that has been raised in our discussions with affected SOAS post-graduate students, with whom our meetings and discussions have continued in a warm, friendly spirit.

We wish to continue our activities in the building for a time, not forgoing the peaceful, non-violent manner that – as you note in your application for an injunction – has characterised the Social Centre so far. To this end, we would like to negotiate a mutually agreeable time for our departure from the building. Our suggested date is January 10th 2012, at the beginning of the new SOAS term. This time would provide us with a few weeks in which to continue the necessary political work in which we are engaged with residents and employees in and around Bloomsbury.

We would appreciate a response before the court date on Thursday morning, as we believe that this kind of negotiation can save time and expenses for both of us.

Yours faithfully,

BSC

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If you would like to sign a statement in support of the Social Centre, please email bloomsburysocialcentre@gmail.com