Featured in Issue X – December 2020
Resisting evictions, rent strikes and squatting are all means of improving our lives in the present, building solidarity and exposing the injustice of the class divide. But these struggles can only bring partial and temporary victories until they escalate to the point of overturning the root cause: capitalism. Problems we face around housing are not simply due to callous landlords but are a product of an economic system based on private property and competition.
Currently houses are not resources distributed according to need, but property owned by people with the wealth to buy them. Those who cannot afford to buy a house must give much of their wage to a landlord. As well as being inherently exploitative, this hierarchy gives the landlord the power to impose arbitrary rules, increase rent, apply charges, get away with bullying and neglect, and ultimately evict the tenant from what has become their home. Those who cannot afford to pay rent will find themselves homeless, despite many houses remaining empty, an asset in someone’s portfolio.
In a free and equal society, houses would be built for living in, not for profit. They should be built to last – both functional and beautiful. The way we live could be transformed entirely, building collective housing that is eco-friendly, provides shared utilities, and includes spaces for communal meals and mutual child care, all under the direct democratic control of residents. But variety and choice must also be assured: many people value the privacy and seclusion of their own homes. We would not wish to find ourselves living in the state-administered concrete blocks of a Stalinist nightmare any more than the dilapidated and insecure housing we survive in today.
So how can we achieve this? We must stop paying rents and mortgages, seize empty flats and hotels for redistribution and come together to self-manage and defend our own communities. Workers must also seize their workplaces and together we must abolish the state once and for all. Having a space of our own that cannot be taken away, in which we answer to no one, that we can curate to reflect our personality and support our individual needs, that we can keep to ourselves or share with others as we please, is something worth fighting for.