Today we reproduce an article that appeared in Fightback written by An Spréach Spokesperson Joe Conlon. For more information on Fighback please visit their website here: http://www.ireland.marxist.com/
The pain and horror of capitalist austerity is most clearly expressed in the crisis of homelessness. Here Joe Conlon explains how the struggle has been taken up by An Spreach. The words an Gaeilge An Spreach translate as the name of Lenin’s paper Iskra (The Spark). Under the conditions in the State today it is no surprise that active people will organise to combat this barbarism.
Since the start of the recession the homelessness and housing issue has got worse, since the start of the recession in 2007 the homeless and housing issue has turned into a crisis. There are over 90,000 people waiting for accommodation on the government social housing list. There are over 5,000 people homeless; and that includes families as well as individuals. There is an estimate of 150 people sleeping rough on the streets of Dublin’s city centre every night. But yet there are tens of thousands of empty flats, apartments and houses all over the country.
Since the economic crisis has started many workers have lost their jobs, and a lot of workers that are still in employment have had wage cuts forced upon them. Some of these workers weren’t on high wages to begin with.
Rents have increased in the cities, rents have gone up by 4 to 11 percent, and since 2009 rental accommodation has declined. Workers that are on a low wage are being pushed to the extreme to pay either rent or pay off mortgages they took out during the boom. Some of these people are pushed into poverty so they can pay back their loan or their rent. And some are being pushed into homelessness.
The government has cut investment into creating social housing while austerity is forced on the people. Some people are being left to the mercy of landlords. The vast majority of landlords in Dublin do not accept rent allowance. Some landlords might do this so they get paid cash in hand and so it’s easier to hide revenue from the taxman and so the landlord can maximize profit. But other landlords may not accept rent allowance for discrimination reasons. The landlord may fear that the person they rent property to maybe a “hood”, “junkie”, single mother or some person they deem as riff raff that could wreck or destroy their property. Or whatever the reason may be that a landlord won’t accept rent allowance, it puts up a barrier for either people struggling on social welfare or homeless people to be able to find somewhere to rent. This barrier of not accepting rent allowance puts up a barrier especially for homeless people trying to enter the rental sector. This traps people in homeless emergency accommodation. And as rent prices get higher this is preventing some people from being able to afford rent as the social welfare will not cover the rising price and this is also creating more homeless people.
During the economic boom the government invested in regenerating social housing in parts of the state. Many flat complexes and homes that had residents living in them moved to other social housing homes to await their new home to be built. The homes were boarded up and demolished, and new blocks of flats, apartments and houses were built in their place. The residents were able to move back to their areas where they grew up in and raised their families in.
But in some cases where homes were demolished no new accommodation was built and in some cases homes were boarded up and the residents moved to other parts of their county, the homes were not demolished and no new homes were built. These homes now lie empty and unoccupied; the residents are left in limbo not knowing when their new home will be built and so not knowing when they can move back to their community and in the area where some families lived for generations.
The government instead of putting funding into regeneration projects and creating more social housing are instead putting money into bailing out the banks and bailing out the corrupt criminal ruling class that have created a debt in the billions of Euros. The people are being forced by extortionist methods by the government to pay for this debt. Massive budget cuts have been implemented. Tax has been put on everything from homes to water. These cuts and taxes together are adding to social problems including poverty, mental health issues, social exclusion, and drug/alcohol problems. With these social problems comes, crime, addiction problems, homelessness, high amounts of suicide, etc, etc.
Why should people have to suffer while the criminal class get off? Maybe the influx of homeless people over the last few years can be blamed on the economic crisis. But in reality the homeless and housing crisis as well as the economic crisis can be blamed on capitalism. All these crisis and problems are created by the inherent contradictions in capitalism.
The Fight Back
An Spreach Housing Action Committee (An Spreach is gaeilge, meaning the spark) was formed in the last few months; the committee is based in Dublin. The committees membership is made up of housing activists from a diverse background of different political groups and tendencies, there are socialist, anarchists and republicans involved.
The activists came together to form the committee because they were sick and tired of the inaction and lack of progress made by local elected representatives in the communities around Dublin. The majority of these elected representatives are just opportunist and careerist politicians not really wanting to represent and fight for the people.
An Spreach has used methods of direct action to try highlighting the homeless and housing crisis. Recently the Department of Social Protection erected anti homeless device on its premises to keep homeless people from sleeping on the buildings door way. An Spreach members removed the anti homeless device. Also recently an Spreach liberated an unused flat in the Tom Kelly flat complex Charlemount Street in Dublin’s south inner city. On June 29th, 8 housing activists were arrested inside the flat. The flat was in the process of being painted and cleaned up to house a single mother and her child. All 8 activists were charged with section 11 of the trespassing act.
The movement is in its infancy but its continuing to grow and there is increasing support for the movement’s tactics and methods. The corrupt politicians and corrupt community representatives have been given their chance and they have failed the people. It’s time for a new way to combat the housing and homeless crisis, An Spreach Housing Action Committee is trying to create this new way.