Housing, Land and Human Rights
Land and Human Rights
Capitalism commodifies land, housing, and public space. It draws arbitrary lines between the housed and the unhoused. It requires a criminalized underclass to use as scapegoats for its failures. As socialists, we believe in the public’s collective right to the city and the democratic control of land, housing, and public space. We believe cities should be remade by and for the people who live in them, not built according to the dictates of businesses, corporations, and capital.
The United States faces a housing crisis caused by colonization, segregation, and capitalism. That crisis requires that we stand in opposition to real estate and land developers. It requires us to work toward the goals of the decommodification of housing. Capitalist housing markets cannot, and will never, meet the basic right of people to shelter. Housing development should be racially and income integrated, environmentally friendly, permanently affordable, and off of the private market.
To achieve those goals, we need a mass movement of working-class tenants, houseless people, and homeowners organized at the many points of exploitation. That movement must also confront the racist police state which serves as the enforcement arm of housing exploitation. So, integral to the housing struggle is the defunding of police; the decriminalization of homelessness; and the redistribution of resources to social housing projects, systems of care, and mutual community security.
To these ends Lexington DSA will work in coalition with other groups to organize tenants; mobilize to prevent mass evictions and foreclosures and support the homeless. We will support efforts for strong rent control and efforts for social housing which promotes health, racial, environmental, and gender justice.
As a socialist political group, we must engage in a conscious strategy of base-building. Base-building requires first identifying the “base.” That means talking to neighbors and co-workers, engaging with people on the streets, and reaching out to groups concerned about housing, police accountability, systemic racism, and a myriad of other issues. We know from the start that the overwhelming majority of people in society are not members of and do not even identify with a particular party, union, or issue. They are “unorganized,” and it is our job to organize them.
That means that we must know where people are situated in the mosaic of the capitalist system. Finding that out requires political-economic research and a deliberate effort to build relationships wherever we can. Learning the facts and talking to people are the first rules. Then make the necessary assessments from what you have learned. Decide how to bring together working-class forces into an organization, instead of just seeking out temporary alliances on the most current issues and outrages. Figure out what battles are winnable. Determine which organizing efforts will result in growing working-class militancy. In other words, which organizing efforts will build the base of a sustainable working-class organization?
The arenas for base-building are many. In Lexington and the rest of Kentucky housing and tenants’ rights is one site for intervention by socialist organizers which seems to hold promise and are within our present organizational capabilities.
Base-building is hard work. It takes time and patience. It starts with a small, committed group of people with clear points of unity who come together and dedicate themselves to the work of socialist base building. Lexington DSA has those groups. What is more important here is an ability to follow through on the long-term work of base building.
As an organization, we have the knowledge, experience, and capacity to analyze and select a small number of base-building projects toward which we can dedicate our time and limited resources. Assessing capacity is important. What can we do? What can we win? Small victories are important. Through aggressive and militant outreach, material support, social events, and mutual aid we can effectively organize what, in the beginning, may be a small base within a much larger constituency.
Over time those base-building projects can become more ambitious. Through a consistent base-building approach we can expand and strengthen our base and begin to build a real political base for socialism in Lexington and Kentucky.
In the end, base-building is the organizing strategy that holds the promise of uniting working people from very diverse situations into a shared political vision. It is the means to reinvigorate working class politics and find a common political consciousness that unites workers against a common enemy.
We must create a rigorous critique of capitalism and investigate the obstacles which confront socialist organizing. The Lexington DSA must provide members with a political education program that emphasizes the free exchange of ideas and addresses both theoretical and strategic questions. Political education related to the housing question is vital to our organizing strategy.
Political education involves events that highlight important strategic and theoretical debates which will encourage critical thinking and discussion. Essential to that task is the continuation of introductory and public Socialist Night Schools. In addition, an educational program exclusively for DSA members which goes beyond the introductory ideas and concepts presented in Night Schools should be initiated. Also, consideration should be given to presentations by non-DSA members who work and organize in collaboration with relevant coalitions.
In addition to theoretical and historical perspectives, training. Three programs designed to give members the tools required for effective organizers should be part of an organizing and training program. Having a diverse group of well-prepared and confident organizers is essential to fighting capitalist injustices. New members have differing levels of experience. It is our job to make organizing skills as accessible as possible.
Authored by Gary Potter
Edited by Shane Morris