Peter Sedgwick

[Tenants/Old friends]

(18 November 1972)

From Socialist Worker, 18 November 1972, p.11.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

TENANTS’ ASSOCIATION meeting on an estate in a Northern town.

The opposition to the rent rises is only now beginning to swell around here. A partial rent strike (withholding just the increase) has just begun among a scattered minority of tenants across the various council estates, and none of the organisers, or for that matter of the withholders, can be sure where it is going to lead.

Seated around the comfy chairs of a large pub saloon, we are aware of our hesitation as well as the outrage. Perhaps this is to be a campaign to keep people together for the next fight around the rent rise next year?

But we can’t be sure even of the uncertainty – the whole thing might snowball, especially if the council tries evictions.

Two things are striking about the meeting: first the large number of experienced trade unionists who have been attracted to this association and the tasks of organising street by street: this, in contrast to many tenants’ gatherings, is a roomful of politically tough older male workers.

The International Socialists (whose activists have been principally responsible for starting tenants’ work on this estate) would never have got to know any of these stewards if it had relied on ‘industrial contacts’ and the lists of names from official trade-union publications. We had to organise in the working-class community to find a way through to the factories.

The other oddness (perhaps it isn’t so odd) is to see how very respected the IS-man is who has been doing most of the spadework.

There is this obvious non-tenant, non-working class type, an energetic dropout in early twenties, delivering reports on the situation, consignments of leaflets, and bursts of marxist political analysis.

Everybody accepts his place there and what he is doing

The IS bloke is stood five pints by public subscription and the latest issue of this paper is bought by most present. Some of us can remember the days when we stood outside meetings.

I REMEMBER a good student friend called Geoff Owen who, when I was in the Communist Party at college, used to take Party literature, provide us with the occasional spot cash for political ends, and hob-nob sympathetically with its poor old militant Stalinists. He was a really good radical guy, solider than almost anybody in that stuffy Right rampart.

We discussed with him whether he should join the CP: but as he was a keen amateur tennis-player in international tournaments, and he needed that US visa, he declined. (He may of course have been too polite to give us other reasons, but we never found out what they were.)

Anyway I see from the college record that he recently became the Personnel Director of British Leyland International. See what happens when you lost touch with somebody.

Peter Sedgwick


Last updated on 5.12.2004