By ERWIN FREED
In the early morning of Jan. 14 in Oakland, angry men with guns and tanks approached the home of a group of women and children trying to get some sleep for their next day of work and school. The mothers are part of a housing justice group, Moms 4 Housing, which declares that housing is a human right and acts that way.
In November, Dominique Walker, a founding member of Moms 4 Housing, occupied the vacant house at 2928 Magnolia Street. Two days later, real estate speculators Wedgewood Properties bought the deed and attempted to evict Walker and the growing group of homeless families living in the home.
Moms 4 Housing filed a counterclaim to the property, arguing that housing is a human right. On their website, they point out that there are “four times as many empty homes in Oakland as there are people without homes.” M4H has found a large amount of community support, with regular rallies to defend their right to secure housing.
The Democratic leadership in Oakland has exposed itself once again by their inability to protect even the very popular cause of housing for homeless mothers. While Mayor Libby Schaaf voiced support for the mothers, she did nothing to stop their eviction, which included at least four arrests.
The housing crisis in the United States has only deepened since the great recession. While the economy has largely recovered for the biggest capitalists, eviction notices are served about every four minutes. As sociologists and political economists like Matthew Desmond and “Capital Cities” author Sam Stein have shown, “Incomes have remained flat for many Americans over the last two decades, but housing costs have soared.”
Precarious housing and precarious labor mean life for working people in the United States is a perpetual state of anxiety and dread. The “real estate state” is attempting to stop community responses to the problem through police force. Simply Google “homeless encampment” and the search will be filled with stories of programs to “clear” and “stop” the communities that have emerged in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Seattle, and all around the country.
Tent cities are not the answer. The United States is somewhat unique in that its “slums” are almost completely without public resources. As a quick example, in Syria before the civil war, most informal housing had state-provided plumbing and electricity. A couple of extra amenities for people forced to live on the street is not a solution either.
What is needed is for working people to take up the demand in their unions and movement organizations for public ownership and workers’ control of all housing and land development. Only in this way will there be a path forward to not only rationally use the current housing stock that exists to house the homeless but also to change the entire design of our cities and towns to be ecologically sound.
The eviction of Dominique Walker and the other Moms 4 Housing members shows that the capitalist state will not be capable of even minimal housing justice. Working people need to achieve that by their own power.
Socialist Resurgence stands in solidarity with all of the evictees and demands that all charges be dropped against Misty Cross, Tolani King, and Jesse Turner.