Housing is a Right

October 6, 2007

Millions of Americans have been forced into foreclosure or delinquency on their home mortgages. According to RealtyTrac, an online marketplace for foreclosure properties, there were 1.2 million foreclosure filings nationally in 2006 alone, and 1,197,412 new filings so far in 2007. While millions have lost their homes, still more live in fear of losing them at any time.

As the depth and extent of the housing crisis develops, more and more workers face increasing economic hardship: as their house payments go up, as they watch their life savings diminish along with the value of their home, as public services are reduced in hard-hit communities with a decreased tax base, as construction and other workers are laid-off, etc. And of course, those that are evicted from their homes are in danger of falling into the ranks of the already millions of homeless in the country.

What is the way out of the crisis?

The few actions taken so far by the capitalists and their political representatives take up only the question of shifting the burden away from the big financiers and bankers, while millions of working families are left increasingly unable to make ends meet.

Although speculation, financial chicanery, as well as outright corruption, fraud, etc. work—in the final analysis—to compound the crisis, the root of the problem lies in the anarchy inherent in the capitalist mode of production. Monopoly capitalism brings to the bursting point the basic contradiction inherent in capitalism—the contradiction between the social character of the productive forces and the capitalist relations based on private ownership of these productive forces.

In the U.S. the real character of the productive forces (i.e. the labor-power of the workers and the tools of society—including the factories, transportation and communication systems, construction tools and materials, etc.) is social and historical—today’s modern factories and other means of production are the product of generations of labor and are set in motion only through the combined, cooperative efforts of millions of workers. But these social productive forces are owned privately and set in motion not to increase the well-being of the majority of people, but only to maximize profits for the private capitalist owners. The decisions of a handful of capitalists determine the economic life of millions. Thus the whole of society is subordinated to the private interests—the drive for wealth and profit—of the financial and industrial oligarchy.

The contradiction between the social character of the productive forces and private capitalist ownership has led to the general and permanent crisis of the capitalist mode of production. The vast social, productive forces have the potential of creating abundance for all. But capitalist private ownership necessarily limits and fetters this development. The productive potential of society is thwarted by the very fact that the capitalists, in order to maximize profits, try to keep workers’ wages at a minimum. The result is that the markets always remain too small to absorb all that the workers can produce.

The capitalists, their financial advisors, and their political representatives cannot solve the problem because they are the problem. Today, there are houses sitting empty (and the productive capacity to build as many more as necessary) while the workers cannot afford to buy the homes already built and millions are being forced out of their homes. What could more thoroughly condemn the capitalist system than the fact that it cannot solve the crisis—that it cannot even meet the basic need and right of all the people to housing?

The only way out for the working class and the broad masses of the people is through struggle. The workers must come out as a class for themselves and wage an independent political struggle to force the rich to bear the burden of the crisis. We must demand that a portion of the social product be set aside to guarantee all the economic rights of the people, including the elemental right to housing.