The Housing Shortage

In a recent letter to The Guardian (17th January 1975) one of the supposed guardians of working-class living standards, Bob Bean, Labour MP for Rochester and Chatham wrote, probably in all innocence, that “Given the right economic atmosphere the construction industry as it now stands has not the capacity to meet the nation’s demands.”

Bob Bean should look at the housing performance of the three political parties who have striven for opportunities to manipulate the status-quo over the past ten generations of working class history. That history reveals that while there is any kind of “economic atmosphere the workers can whistle for their houses! The construction industry is a shambles because capitalism’s need to make a profit out of our most fundamental needs. Only eight years ago Bean’s own party said, in an election manifesto: “We intend to achieve a target of 500,000 houses per annum by 1969/70”. Promises, promises. With all deference to the plight of the homeless, it has to be said that there is no shortage of housing. The shortage is the old one; shortage of money. The “housing problem” is concentrated exclusively upon the working class who do all the useful work in our society—including those who build the houses.

Homelessness is a degrading, dehumanizing situation that would not arise in a sane society. It is also totally unnecessary in the sense that if the workers decided, once and for all, to put an end to the system that gives birth to such iniquities, it could be done quickly and finally.

There is no good reason why sufficient homes should not be built. The “catch 22” in capitalism is that if a million homes were built they could not be sold. We know they could be built. The materials exist, the only thing the homeless are short of is many million bits of mass-produced paper. Why should we let capitalists’ confetti stand between us and the houses we need? Our need is now, not another fifteen generations on.

Capitalism’s performance can only be described as pathetic. The current edition of Housing and Construction Statistics states that it takes almost twenty-one months to complete a dwelling for local authorities and over fourteen months to completion in the private sector—truly the summit of 150 years of capitalist achievement and progress!

As more belt-tightening, work-sharing and unemployment loom larger on the working-class horizon it is a matter of the greatest urgency that we work together to get rid of the whole sordid business and start building a society with all our needs, housing, food, clothing, education, health services and transport, freely available.

The Socialist Party exists as a focal point for those who reject the blinkered existence that their early lives and training were designed to make them accept. If you agree with our Object and Declaration of Principles, come and join the struggle. We will be glad of your help.

Nigel Best

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