The New Era in the North?

While Martin McGuinness was flying off to ‘sell’ the North to American investors with promises of low corporation tax, we are in the midst of wee bit of class war with classroom assistants and posties taking action to defend their interests against ‘the new era’ of the bosses. In the meantime, water charges are still coming through the backdoor by being added to our council rates despite the politicians’ promises made at the last election.

Obviously lobbying government isn’t going to get us anywhere; mass non-payment is the only possible tactic if we want to defeat their plans. House prices continue to soar and slum landlords and private developers continue to ransack and plunder our communities under the spin of ‘social regeneration’.

Over the last couple of months residents in the Village area of South Belfast have taken a bit of direct action including threatening blockades in order to force the Government to deliver on election time promises to improve housing.

Local residents in South Belfast, specifically in Andytown, are also fighting back forcing the Carvill Group (supported by the Department of Social Development) to pull out of their ‘yuppie’ development plans on the former site of Andytown Barracks. The ‘Stop the Sell-Off’ campaign is open to anyone who agrees with opposition to the sell-off of public lands for private development and demands a new, inclusive and binding public consultation. Their activities have included petitioning, protests, surveys of local opinion on what the site should be used for and a ‘reclaim the site’ day which espoused everything the private developers are against.

As we enter into the ‘New Era’ we will see plenty more of these ‘yuppie’ development plans and privatisation schemes called ‘Private Finance Initiatives’ and ‘Public Private Partnerships’ designed to rip us off while lining the pockets of property barons. We must take inspiration from these housing struggles as it’s our job to organize where we live and work to expose these ugly sites; at the end of the day political parties are part of the problem rather than the solution and petitions won’t do the trick most of the time.

As anarchists, we’d like to see all housing become social housing, collectively owned and maintained by communities, so that individuals and families can have homes to live in without spending half their working week to pay for rent to landlords, service charges to PFI companies or mortgages to the banks. This means defending what's left of social and low-cost housing in the short term, and trying to build up networks of tenants' and residents' groups that can take control away from private companies, landlords, and the state in the long term.

When people talk about communal ownership of property, they often think that anarchists want to steal someone's nice house away from them and fill it with dirty squatters. That's not the case, we think everyone should be able to live in a decent level of comfort, but no- one should be able to live off the labour of others. Communal ownership of housing would allow for people to take control over their own homes, existing owner-occupiers would be able to keep their houses without paying out tens of thousands to banks, and the only people who'd lose out would be the capitalists and landlords shafting everyone else at the moment, but even they'd have somewhere to live!

This article is from Workers Solidarity 100 Nov/Dec 2007

PDF of Workers Solidarity 100