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El Pueblo Unido — Movement Develops Around Housing

Dave Ransom  |  Issue: February | March 2016

Nothing so clearly demonstrates the failure of modern capitalism as its inability to keep a roof over people’s heads. And there is no reason to expect the “free market” to solve the problem — which, after all, it is creating.

“If I don’t raise my rents,” one landlord asserted recently, “I leave money on the table.” And real-estate developers are saying there’s no way they can build housing for normal people and make a profit.

Two successive popes have emphasized that any economic system is for meeting people’s needs. If this one doesn’t do so, we should probably try another — “share and share alike” wouldn’t be a bad alternative.

That would take a grassroots political movement — el pueblo, unido. And el pueblo, today, is the whole working class, whether working or not.

Just such a movement is developing around housing. There, black, white, and Latino find themselves shoulder to shoulder. Together they face corporate landlords who are pushing up rents and evicting people so they can rent to the new wealthy.

This shoulder-to-shoulder movement is both an opportunity and a challenge for Latinos — and Anglos — in the U.S.

It’s an opportunity because only by uniting will the ethnically diverse working class survive. It’s a challenge because there are real cultural differences between those diverse ethnic groups, of which Latinos are one.

In California cities like Richmond and Alameda, these shoulder-to-shoulder movements are already face to face with the big landlords in a struggle over who controls — not just housing — but the city.

In cities like Seattle, Portland, and Los Angeles, where “progressive” politicians have declared housing emergencies, el pueblo will have to be ready to act if they don’t come through.

What’s needed is pretty clear — house the homeless (including those sleeping in their cars), stop the rent hikes and evictions, and provide affordable housing for the couch-surfers and doubled-up families crammed into tiny apartments.

As a practical matter, if corporate developers can’t provide el pueblo with housing, we should do it ourselves — build it, own it, and rent it out, publicly. But that, too, takes political power.

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