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Proletarian issue 31 (August 2009)
Building Britain’s future? Decent homes for all!
Gordon Brown has launched a new government policy document aimed at mercilessly exploiting the working classes and further cutting welfare provisions to pay for the capitalists’ crisis. The document, entitled Building Britain’s Future, is loaded with measures that aim to heap onto the backs of the workers the burden of the economic crisis. And, to garner support for these thoroughly reactionary measures, Brown has once again resorted to British jingoism and outright racism.

The prime minister’s promise of “British homes for British families” is yet another attempt to divide the working class and turn its attention away from the failings of capitalism and towards the various groups of economic migrants who have come to Britain in the last 10 years, in particular, often to be used as a source of cheap labour. Just as his promise of “British jobs for British workers” was aimed at placing the blame for the lack of jobs on foreign workers, rather than where it belongs, so, too, is his promise of British homes squarely aimed at placing the blame for the housing crisis on immigrants and ‘foreigners’.

Since 1980, more than 1.7m council houses have been sold off. Alongside this, a precipitous drop in new build has led to ever-dwindling stocks of available social housing. In 1979, councils in Britain built 21,386 new houses; in 2006, they built just 277.

Since Labour came to power in 1997, council waiting lists have increased from 1 million to 1.6 million households. Forced into the unsubsidised private sector to rent their homes, tenants can expect no mercy from their landlords if they are unable, because of their low wages, to afford the high rents demanded.

The rent collector of Dickens’ harrowing 19th-century tales has returned to haunt the poor and over-burdened families of 21st century Britain; families who have been forced through a lack of investment in social housing to rely upon what can be found in the private sector.

What we demand

What the working class demands, therefore, must be what it would provide for itself were it to take state power:

•    Everybody must have the right to a council house near their place of work at an affordable rent.

•    There must be an end to waiting lists.

•    There must be an end to the systematic failure to maintain council houses and estates in a decent condition.

•    Council properties that have been sold to private landlords, even if ‘non profit-making’, must be taken back into public ownership, since otherwise it will be impossible to implement these demands.

•    Further sales should immediately cease and the money made by councils from previous sales should be spent on building new council houses.

Notwithstanding the economic crisis, the rich are not living in squalor and are not homeless. We see no reason why the working class, whose labour is capable of producing everything that all of us need, should be relegated to squalor and homelessness either.


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