Raise the roof or reclaim the city?
Are we fighting the housing war with obsolete weapons?
There is one simple rule in the history of warfare. Don’t fight this war with weapons of the last war.
Yet that’s exactly what we’re doing. We are blindly following the experience of the water charges campaign and of the recent referenda in the belief that this will lead to victory on the housing front.
So we have lot of different groups and campaigns loosely associated, a broad and diverse set of demands and a strategy of lobbying government to change direction. Contrary to the claims of the National Homelessness and Housing Coalition, the attempt to apply this strategy through the “Raise the Roof” demonstration in advance of the budget was not successful. It is widely understood that despite all the smoke and mirrors the government’s pro-landlord policy will do nothing to solve the crisis. In fact, by advancing the call for affordable housing, we face the danger of leaving the door open for the Fine Gael plan of mass privatisation of public land and a feeding frenzy of vulture funds and local landlord’s consortia which will continue to drive up rents and house prices.
Today’s struggle requires above all clarity of objectives. That means a demand for mass public housing, a ban on evictions and affordable rents set at a sensible fraction of the sort of wage rates experienced by the majority of the population. It means a single national structure organised democratically that fights as a single campaign. It means recognising that a strategy of government lobbying cannot lead to success without being accompanied by strategy of local direct action and occupation of vacant property. Housing provision is a catastrophe. It is the central catastrophe of many crises facing Irish workers. The theft of public property exampled by the handover of the new maternity hospital, collapse of public services, mass privatisation, a squeeze on wages and pensions, all against the background of Brexit are an indication that for the working class austerity has not ended. We urgently need to work together to build the weapons that will give us success in the coming struggles. That means ongoing mass mobilisation.
That means setting forward the need for a working class party.