A Marxist on Nacton Beach

August 28, 2008 at 6:25 pm (Andrew Coates, history, labour party, Marxism)

The Orwell Estuary, Nacton Shore. A place to stand in the sunshine, look, and think. To put aside all thought of Jenna Deltrich, Harry’s Place and UCU. Or the hyperlink to claims that the “ubiquitous “conspiracy theory” – ZOG (Zionist Occupation Government) – actually be closer to a conspiracy fact?” Or those who make excuses for self-proclaimed pro-Palestinian activists who dwell on such ‘alternative’ ideas, http://leninology.blogspot.com/ .A countryside haven. Victorians wrote doggerel about nymphs and fauns cavorting here. Freston Folly faces. http://www.freston.net/tower/guidebooks.html The residence, to one poetaster, of a Suffolk Leander pining for Hero on the other bank.

Upstream beyond the Orwell Bridge, and marinas that stud every inlet, the New Ipswich is visible http://www.regattaquay.co.uk/regattaquay.html. It’s a startling growth of blocks of flats, restaurants, the Dance East centre, and University Campus Suffolk – complete with eco peat-bog roof (well, grass covered). These are built on long-gone warehouse and industrial sites such as the last operating quayside flour mill, Cranfield’s. The commercial Port is now downstream, only the redundant Custom House remains of the maritime trading past. To the Ipswich Evening Star (27.8.08) these developments are a “symbol of hope.” Long-gone engineering works, Ransomes and Rapiers, and Ransomes Sims and Jeffries, a justified source of local pride, have made way for the usual array of high-price apartments, penthouses and cultural venues that rise in every corner of the country,.

Behind the Waterfront lies an area that was up to mid-20th century a slum rookery, known as the Potteries (kilns date back to Anglo-Saxon times). In the 1840s the Chartist John Cook ran here an Infidel Repository in Upper Orwell Street. He sold radical and militant secular literature. Ipswich was visited in the late 19th century by socialists such as William Morris, and had branches of the small socialist organisations of the time (Socialist League and Social Democratic Federation). An active Trades Council was a focus for a working class left. The Potteries district elected the first Labour councillor in the town. The quarter still has many pockets of poverty. It is very multiethnic. Portuguese, Poles and Balts are amongst the newest arrivals. The Ward, much larger, now is represented by Liberal Councillors, in municipal coalition with the Conservatives, the Liberal-Tory Junta. No guesses who they stand for in a contest between Quayside apartment owners and the Potteries poor.

The dramatic fall in house prices (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/3155582.stm) may mean construction ebbs on Ipswich Waterfront. Will it be caught in a broader receding tide? Nearly every town and city has similar projects. Property magnates, builders and councils have raucously trumpeted them. Now, less loudly, many development plans are facing disarray. Despite Ipswich media boosts the same is clearly happening here: selling prices are cut, flat rents reduced, commercial letting unfilled. Nationwide it looks as if the present schemes hover on the brink. Like the 1960s building boom, which began as the acme of modernity, and ended with cracked concrete and urine smelling underpasses. Is the crisis an opportunity for socialists to think about alternative urbanisation? A future beyond these private schemes that gate communities and marginalise the working class and poor. Something worthy of those Ipswich Chartists who fought for workers’ rights and democracy.


  1. Andrew Coates said,

    Just to note that regarding Lenin’s offensive against Harry’s Place (see above), Andy Newman has mounted a brave counter attack criticising anti-Semitism on the left. (following his post of Phil’s defence of Harry’s Place). I hope that whatever the comrades think of Andy (I am warming to him btw), and I know it’s not all that much in some cases, he has really stuck his head above the parapet on this one. He’s really shown some principled guts.

    Come to his support, all and sundry!

  2. modernityblog said,

    yes, Newman has.

    It is an up hill struggle and it was rather predictable that he’d be attacked from all sides

    he’s article on Duke is one of his best, not how I would have written it, but he’s arguing solidly against Duke’s racism and explaining slowly how to see it

    it just shows how far the Left have declined that such things need explaining, and people haven’t got the message

  3. KB Player said,

    I admire the guy’s patience with those frothy-lipped head bangers that are turning up shouting “scab” at him.

    He would, of course, castigate the terms “frothy-lipped head bangers” as an improper way to describe other human beings.

  4. KB Player said,

    And re your post – don’t know if you’ve been watching Andrew Marr’s Britain from Above: The Industrial Landscape (available on BBC2 Iplayer) about how an area can change from factories and shipping (production) to shopping centres (consumerism) .

  5. Dr Paul said,

    Can Andrew C explain the growth of urban East Anglia? I first knew the area back in the mid-1960s, and it struck me as a place that time had forgotten. But over the next 20 years, I noticed a decided increase in housing being built on fields, and when I revisited the place a couple of years back, the rate of urbanisation was quite a shock.

    Some of this more recent increase would be because of commuting into London, and some of the earlier increase was because of new economic developments, particularly North Sea Oil or Felixstowe docks. But the former would only occur near to places with a good railway service to London, and much of East Anglia is bereft of any railway service. And the latter would be relatively small and localised.

    So what is happening economically and socially in East Anglia?

  6. Andrew Coates said,

    It’s part of the general overflow from London now , illustrated in the very interesting Marr programmes KBPLayer referred to. Ipswich has a (in theory) very good electrified railway service to London (one every half hour) which takes, (again in theory), just over an hour to arrive at Liverpool Street. The Waterfront is not far from the station (there was at one time rail track right up to and on the quay).

    On Friday I visited Woodbridge (the next estuary up from the Orwell, the Deban, (Sutton Hoo is near it) by train at about 9.12 and the train (fairly full) on both journeys was a direct link, London to Lowestoft, which surprised me (there used to be a twice daily link to London from there only early in the morning and one at night, and even that was cancelled for a period.

    Apart from that the growth of housing is quite remarkable, Ipswich is practically joined to Woodbridge now via Martelsham (BT’s HQ).

    As I mentioned it’s all very standarised, and looks ready to weather very badly. You can see identifical flats and other developments near by the railway all the way to London (Colchester, Chelmsford, Stratford etc) .KB’s point is more than right but what’s funny (at least to me) is how seriously places, well, local politicians. community ‘leaders’ and businessmen – usual riff-raff – take it all, blasting out local patriotism full throttle. Being a natural sneerer I can see plenty of faults. The najor one is obvious now: if the eocnomy slows down all these scheme in mid-development are at risk of coming unstuck. The last time they tried to do something similar by Ipswich town centre it left a legacy of LIfe on Mars concrete gimcrack buildings and stinking subway passages (a kinda mini Bull Ring).

    That got blamed on the Council. This is private-led.

  7. KB Player said,

    I cycle a lot among the ruins of industrial Britain – along canal paths, railway routes that have now been tarmacked – and you see what the Victorians left – beautiful viaducts and aqueducts, factories and warehouses (converted now of course) – and it makes me wonder what ruins we will leave other than our grand motorways, as Andrew Marr’s programme pointed out.

    The cities have changed shape. I live in a city whose wealth is based on banking and insurance and theire headquarters have migrated from the centre to the business parks at the edge of the city – people who have worked at the Royal Bank of Scotland main buildings out at Gogarburn tell me it’s like a village unto itself, with gyms etc.

    These places are quite well served by public transport but are still often commuted to by car.

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