The housing crisis in Ireland - 8 points on the big picture

Date:

The WSM has been having a 'big picture' discussion around the housing crisis from which the following points emerged. We are publishing them ahead of the December 1st demonstration in Dublon (14.00 Parnell square).

1. We built our cities and the houses of our cities. They are ours, not to slave in, but to master and to own*.

2. The contemporary crisis of capitalism has made markedly visible the relationship between finance capital and property speculation, between the concentrated money-power of bankers and speculators and the shaping of the built environment in our towns and cities.

This relationship has had all manner of disastrous consequences for the working class (inflated rents or mortgages, lower living standards, ghettoisation and suburbanisation etc.) and for the environment (distorted flood plains, abandoned buildings, the prioritisation of car commuting over public transport etc.). Today, it seems that one of the real challenges for the working class is to change that relationship, to claim a ‘right to the city’ for its inhabitants.

3. Ireland’s ruling class are thieves who well deserve our scorn and derision. But if our communities want to take control of our city we must organise together. We do not expect those who inhabit Leinster House to solve our housing problems. Politicians typically rule out state intervention in the property market to build social housing or to curb the cost of renting. They call this ‘restoring confidence to the market’. We call this ‘destroying the fabric of society’.

4. Neoliberalism – or the free market faith - is a programme for destroying collective structures which may impede the pure market logic. This faith in the free market is powerful not only among those who live off it - such as financiers, the owners and managers of large corporations and property portfolios or REITS - but also among those, such as high-level government officials and politicians, who derive their justification for existing from it. The consequences for housing has been profound. In the 1970s, social housing in Ireland made up 33% of all new houses; today, it has dropped to under 5%. And as bad and all as it is to be homeless, how much worse is it to be homeless and a Traveller in this country? Or to be homeless and an addict? Or to be homeless with dependents? Or to be homeless and a migrant?

6. Capital wants us to discipline us. It wants us to look at homeless people and think ‘What an awful situation; I must work harder to prevent it happening to me’ (working harder, for us, always means making more money for someone else). Or Capital wants us to think of asylum seekers and say ‘We have our own people to be concerned about’ (but we know that asylum seekers are ‘our people’ and that, given the opportunity, asylum seekers would work in and make our communities better places to live). Or Capital wants us not to think about these people at all. It says, ‘This is unfortunate, but necessary. We will have growth tomorrow and then we will fix these problems’. But we know this is untrue. It was untrue yesterday, untrue today, and will be untrue tomorrow. In all cases, Capital (with the help of the State and its servants) is preventing people from living in homes with dignity. We see that we have more in common with homeless people than we have with the class of people who profited in the boom and who are still profiting in the bust – whether big developers or private landlords or government politicians. We refuse to bow to the free market faith in our society. We believe that housing is a human need that we can create for all.

7. We see all the empty buildings in the city - the dereliction created by those who hold the free market faith. We support squatting as a form of direct action to provide shelter for homeless families.

8. We support those housing action groups that are busy forming, talking to one another, and acting across Dublin and across Ireland.

Our struggles overflow and our communities grow stronger. We expect no change from above. We look to one another and our own initiative. We have a world to win together. Dignity and decent housing for all! And, in the midst of suffering and resistance, when we talk of a social logic of fairness, and of looking after our own, we do not forget the five adults and five children who died in a fire on a halting site in Carrickmines. We do not forget those who take their own lives in Direct Provision. We do not forget those who die on the streets. We do not forget their relatives, their families and friends. And we do not forgive those who would put the value of their property ahead of the dignity of the living and the dead.
 


* For the curious, the 1st point above is homage to the 4th stanza of the IWW anthem Solidarity Forever

All the world that's owned by idle drones is ours and ours alone
We have laid the wide foundations, built it skyward stone by stone
It is ours, not to slave in, but to master and to own
While the union makes us strong

 

 

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