the youth are in the streets!
I get quite annoyed when calls for class consciousness are labelled ‘the politics of envy’. It assumes a desire amongst us to emulate the lifestyles of the wealthy, our politics merely a manifestation of bitterness over our failure to do so. It misses the point that we are not motivated by such base instincts.
Rather, the envy belongs to those whose quest for more wealth knows no bounds. They resent social housing as a vestige of the society they have not yet managed to plunder in there endless search to accumulate profits. They watch over our communities like vultures, looking for any ‘spaces’ they can cream off as a ‘surplus.’
The architects of the Bedroom Tax have declared such space within council accommodation as ‘surplus’ to society’s needs. Yet in reality, these include: the space for children for whom you does not have full time custody, your children on holiday from university, grandchildren; the need of a separate room from your disabled partner who is in your care. It could equal the space to have a bigger family in the future, or act as a buffer zone against change in your circumstances.
The hearts of ordinary working folk would be unlikely to bleed for the vulture were he so naked in his intentions. It is therefore necessary for others to share in his envy. Thus, we are led think of these spaces as a result of our own dispossession, rather than the possibility of spaces open to us all. This is how the attacks on the welfare state are justified: society cannot afford these spaces anymore; they are bleeding you of your hard earned money.
The Bedroom Tax, or indeed the Welfare Reform Act as a whole, will not end scarcity of these spaces, it will make it worse. The stubbornness of those refusing to move, emboldened by grassroots campaigning groups like Hands Off Our Homes Leeds (HOOH), is the last defence against the space embodied in council housing being closed off for good, and handed over to the vulture landlords, who will milk from it whatever they can. What this will mean in practice is a bigger benefits bill, with private landlords the main benefactor, rather than the money going back into the council pot.
Leeds City Council seems happy to abandon its duty to provide for the community. Due to pressure from HOOH, they made concessions. But they haven’t yet backed down from their position that they will evict people. This will cost more money, and if enough people refuse to move, will become money they don’t have. They are reliant on people feeling intimidated enough to move without an eviction.
When those hit by the Bedroom Tax come together and organise, the policy can be made unworkable, and this has been central to the HOOH strategy. But we also need a huge display of solidarity across the community. The 1,000 strong crowd at the demo which HOOH organised on 20 April gives us hope yet we might get it. It is, after all, in the interests of the whole working class to defend council housing, and the spaces with in our community the welfare state provides. We should look to them, not with envy, but as somewhere we might need to take refuge one day ourselves.
By Simon C, LUU Revsoc