What kind of movement do we need?
Many assume that the model of the Right2Water campaign, claimed by the National Homeless and Housing Coalition, provides a template for the battle around housing. The claim of the coalition is suspect. The main force behind the coalition, The Services Industrial Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU) was a minor force in Right2Water, mainly because its leader, Jack OíConnor, always supported water charging. SIPTU now argue that a broad movement could maximize support and apply the greatest pressure on the government. That view has led to controversy, with activists arguing that SIPTUís support for a Labour party presence in the campaign compromises the new campaign, as Labour in government helped cause the housing crisis.
The role of SIPTU shows that, while the union leaders may be the last line of defence for the workers, they are also far too willing to sign off on deals that leave workers at a disadvantage. Recent actions by teachers in the US and university lecturers in Britain show that toleration for the quiet deal is evaporating and that when it does workers can successfully push back.
With hindsight there were
many weaknesses in the Right2Water movement. Its aims were unclear and
no real democratic structures were built. The union leadership looked to
a deal with government, with all the risks associated with laying down
your weapons before the battle was won.
Can we do better with housing? Above all we need clear radical aims that will meet the needs of Irish workers.
From that point of view the call for a housing emergency is too broad. It ignores the continuing observance of Troika rules that hold public spending in narrow confines, ignores the bankersí debt we will pay for decades, avoids criticism of the utter reliance of the government on market mechanisms and is blind to the open collaboration between government and vulture capital that is a major driver of homelessness.
We support the Campaign for Public Housing in its call for a mass programme of social housing. Given the governments support for landlordism and its role as an agent of the Troika, we need to go beyond lobbying the authorities to a policy of civil disobedience and direct action. The way to decide a strategy is to unite all the different groups of activists in a single campaign that presents a radical programme meeting the needs of the workers rather than the financiers and build a democratic campaign where we can discuss differences and unite around a common strategy.
However one further step is needed. We need a party of the working class that, in the struggle between profit and workers needs, always unhesitatingly stands with the workers.
A working class government would in all cases put people before property rights. A working class party, a united movement, would apply the Apollo House strategy of seizing public property, paid for by the workers, to meet housing needs.