This is a Solidarity pamphlet by Tom Woolley on housing and rents in Scotland
Housing is a serious problem for working class people. They have no need to to become 'concerned' about the housing problem like the middle class Shelter groupies. Working class people are immediately involved. This pamphlet attempts to look at housing; as it affects working people as a whole, rather than a particular isolated group such as 'the homeless'. It looks particularly at the threat to living standards posed by recent rent increases. It also attempts to map out the activities of tenants to combat rent increases and bad housing conditions, how much they have achieved,
and what they should perhaps do in the future.
People are at the mercy of the housing situation. As individuals there is little they can do about it. If there aren't enough houses, then there are bound to be homeless. If you live in a slum, chances are you will he told to go and live in a particular council house (or given a limited choice) with little concern about where you work or what you need. Because people are so dependent on what is a very rigid structure, the local authority has tremendous power over the everyday lives of ordinary people. It means that the local authority can implement huge rent increases. Those who can't pay are simply put out in the street. If the local authority cannot, or will not, deal with your slum street, then you go on living in it, however disgusting or insanitary. Ever since the Highland Clearances in the 18th Century, ordinary Scottish folk have been pushed around according to the whims of property owners and their servants the politicians. In housing the situation has hardly altered in over 200 years.
Fortunately, today, the struggle of tenants and ordinary people is on the increase. The purpose of this pamphlet is to add weight to their campaigns and show how resistance to increased rents, for instance, is holly just.
Because it is a short pamphlet many topics have only been touched on. Housing finance, architecture and planning, social problems etc. etc. It is fair comment on the system, however, that these individual topics are often erected to an importance greater than the people they are supposed to serve. Countless experts pour out writings on their own pet solutions to individual aspects of the 'housing problem', but none start ,with putting ordinary people and their needs first, to make the system work for them. Quite the reverse happens in fact. The housing system is erected and tenants must be made to cough up, even to the ludicrous extent where local authorities have thousands of empty houses simply because people can't afford to pay for them.
Most experts make the implicit assumption that working people only deserve what the authorities and the 'elected' representatives decide they should get. This pamphlet says that ordinary people come first and housing must be provided for their needs. It rejects the view that people must be fitted to housing as Shelter accepts when it tries to persuade people to move to the other end of the country where some crazy authority has provided more houses than it needs. The houses should be brought to where the need exists.
Tenants are not immoral, workshy, irresponsible , three car owning, bingo friends, living off the tax-payer, as the daily papers would have us believe. In objecting to rent increases they are not sopping money going to build more houses for the homeless; rather, they are trying to stop more money going to the financiers, the money-lenders, in short the capitalists.
They know that rent increases will only worsen the problem of homelessness by forcing more and more people out of council houses because of their inability to pay. Tenants are now faced with defending the whole concept of cheap housing, and decent housing as a right for all. Tenants' associations are the only organisations who are able to take up the issues of housing in a massive way. Thus this pamphlet is aimed at those people involved with activating tenants' organisations all over the country. People who are 'concerned' about housing should see their role as one of supporting the tenants' movement. It is hoped that people who live in council houses, who live in privately rented flats, workers in industry, and anyone else, recognise the urgency and importance or organising NOW to safeguard the right of everyone to a decent house.
The historical context
Probably one of the worst things about Scotland is its housing. Visitors to Glasgow are appalled at the incredible deriliction which cannot be hidden from view in any part of the city. In many ways the vast ghetto housing estates, Easterhouse, Castemilk, Drumchapel, Craigmillar, Pilton etc. are no improvement on the old slums. They only replace the physical problems of survival with social problems of vandalism, isolation, loneliness and despair.
Much of these conditions can be traced back to historical causes. Scotland's housing;,as is its culture, politics and history, is quite distinctive from the English situation. The distinctive form of 19th Century working class housing, the 4 storey tenement with its one and two roomed flats were thrown up in huge numbers to accommodate the rising industrial working class. However, the housing provision was far from adequate. While Glasgow's populaction rose by 33,031 between 1831 and 1841, the total number of houses rose by only 33, 031 between 1831 an 1841. Engels in his book 'The Conditions of the Working Classes in England' quotes a description of the conditions in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
“I have seen wretchedness in some of its worst phases both here and upon the continent but until I visited the Wynds of Glasgow I did not believe that so much crime, misery and disease could exist in any civilized country. In the lower lodging houses 10, 12, sometimes 20 persons of both sexes, all ages and various degrees of nakedness, sleep in indiscriminately huddled together upon the floor. These dwellings are usually so damp, filthy and ruinous, that no-one could wish to keep his horse in one of them”.
I have not made this quotation to say 'look what big improvements have been made' but to point out that the buildings which Engels saw are still with us. These slums were built exclusively for profit. Landowners, small investors, builders, factors, all tack their cut, and to maximise their profits the maximum densities were achieved, hence the acres of tightly packed 4 storey tenements. Today25% of all Scotland's houses are these very same tenements. According to the Cullingworth report, 16% of all Scotland's houses, containing 273,000 families should be demolished immediately.
One of the reasons for these bad conditions persisting is that legislation has always been half-hearted. The ruthless measures that were required to provide decent housing would have challenged the right of the wealthier members of the community to exploit the working class and make an easy living through property. Thus it was only through public health that reforms began. It was soon realised that the endemics which have ravaged the slums could be spread to the posh areas, and thus in 1846 the Nuisances Removal and Contagious Diseases Act was implemented. What tended to happen was that the 'nuisances' were removed, and the people simply moved on somewhere else and the slums persisted. The building of new houses are still left to private enterprise.
Any moves towards municipal housing were strongly resisted by organisations such as the Liberty and Property Defence League which saw state provision as the root of moral degradation. By 1913 there were only 3,484 houses that had been provided by local authorities, and most of these were in Glasgow.
Council Housing and Home Ownership
Today the situation has changed. While a quarter of our houses are tenements, 47% of the total stock are owned by local authorities. Since 1919 Glasgow Corporation has built l41,000 houses, nearly half the present housing stock of the city, and it is increasing all the time. Thus, responsibility for housing has shifted from speculators to local authorities.
It is interesting to note, however, that while over half of Scotland's houses are rented from some kind of public authority, council houses are still regarded as second rate. Middle class dominance has been maintained by the assertion that is somehow 'morally' better to buy a house. Sometimes practically, it is better to buy a house, but the fact is that the vast majority of people (90%) cannot possibly afford to buy one. The vast majority of people have no alternative but to accept a house from the council, or go on remaining in a privately rented or owned slum. 'Shelter'! might assert that housing is a human right, but its patronising middle class bias asserts that “Buying your own home is almost certainly the best answer for you”. It goes on to devote most of its pamphlet 'A home of your own in Scotland' to buying a house, citing examples such as 'Michael and Ann': Micael is earning £20 a week and £5 overtime, Ann £14 as Secretary. To buy a £5,800 house they have saved £475 and Ann's parents give them £200 ….. during their engagement …. so much for Shelter#s advice to the homeless.
Because of the dependence of most people on the local authority for a decent house, this has concentrated tremendous power in the hands of councillors. The inhuman way in which tenants are treated seems to be irrespective of party. Rather than giving a service, local authorities treat tenants as though 'they are lucky to to have houses'. Painting the door the wrong colour could bring the factor's department down on the tenants like a ton of bricks. In some arenas councillors still have a personal say in how houses are allocated. House letting arrangements and other regulations are shrouded in secrecy. In Edinburgh, if applicants refuse the first house they are offered, they are made to wait six months before they can try again. But of course they aren't told this. Once, as part of a deputation, we confronted Edinburgh's house letting officer about the case of a tenant to whom this this had happened. We asked if the applicant had been given a copy of the regulations. … “Oh no” came the answer “we don't give one to every Tom, Dick, or Harry who comes in here.”
Most Scottish authorities are years behind in housing management techniques. Tenants have to trudge from department to department with the simplest of enquiries. Applicants for houses are treated like dirt and kept waiting in dismal waiting rooms. Many local authorities still collect rents door to door, so that the rent collector can have a snoop round the house to see that no damage is being done. Tenants are submitted to ridiculous rules. My rent card tells me that I cannot hand out washing on a Sunday!
Council tenants are treated as second rate citizens in this so-called 'property owning democracy'. Lord Dalkieth said in Parliament that “nothing does more to undermine the whole sense of moral fibre of an individual as an independent and enterprising being than living in a subsidised council house”. Papers like the Sunday Post love to churn our stories of council tenants who spend their money on booze and bingo. Go out and leave their children, and the vandalise the estates. It is seen as immoral for people 'not to provide housing for themselves - whatever that means.
Most disturbing is the myth of the wealthy council tenants who are supposed to be bleeding the tax-payer. In fact 50% of all tenants have an income of under £20 a week; 25% have an income of less than £15 a week. Despite this poverty of the majority of council tenants, only 8.5% of Scottish tenants receive any kind of rent rebate. Yet the carefully built myth of the rich tenant has been one of these bases for the recent Tory proposals. By saying that they are trying to make the rich tenants pay constant unfair attacks on tenants are becoming the order of the day. “LEGALISED TENANT BASHING'”, the Liverpool tenants call it. Its time tenants really began to fight back.
One myth which must be exposed is the idea that tenants are being subsidised. The average subsidy for council house is £20; the average subsidy in terms of tax relief for an owner-occupier with a mortgage is £36. Far more is given away by the government in tax relief on mortgages than I given away by the Government in tax relief on mortgages than is given away to subsidise tenants. £195 million goes on tax relief of mortgages, £125 million on council house subsidies each year. “Even on a per capita basis, the average mortgage paying owner-occupier received more than the average council tenant.”
Despite the terrible situation in most housing estates, the lack of maintenance (only £15 average per house was spent on maintenance in Glasgow last year .... and we'd like to which houses?), the lack of amenities, the high bus fares for the lousy bus services, the poor standard of environment etc. etc., rents are going up every year. Why are they going up? Why, when you pay more do you get nothing extra for it?
The average weekly rent in a Scottish Council house is 24/1. This sounds low and has given rise to much propaganda about low rents in Scotland. The papers have been full of the stories of Saltcoats where some people are paying under 10/- a week for their houses. But of course housing is not cheap. A tenant paying 25/- for his rent may be paying more than that, say 30/- per week in rates. He is paying more like £3 a week for his house. And why shouldn't rents be low? When a man is exploited at work and only brings home a small proportions of what he produces, why shouldn't he get subsidised housing? Cheap housing is something which people have a right to.
Another myth is that housing is cheaper in Scotland than in England, and that Scottish rents should be brought in line with English. But Scots earn less than English. The national average income is £31.4.0., the average Scottish income is £29.2.0. The national average weekly expenditure is £25.13.0., the Scottish average weekly expenditure is £24.8.0, this life is more expensive for the Scots. Though they pay less for their housing the margin isn't that great. In Scotland the cost of housing is £2.6.0. a week. In North Wets England it is £2.15.0. a week.
The right of working people to low rents, if it was ever accepted, is now being rapidly eroded by the Tories who would like to see us all up to our eyes in debt to the building societies. By now most tenants will know that rents have been going up, and will go up at least 7/6 per week per year. This is not a Tory innovation, the Labour Government gave the go-ahead for this kind of increase, and it may even be increased more now.
The Tories have made out that they are introducing a radical new system."'The aim of the revolutionary policy is to shift the cost of council housing from public funds to the tenants over a period of years. The new council house rents - to be called 'true rents' in Scotland and
'fair rents' in England – wil1 be designed eventually to balance the books in the housing revenue account.”
So there we have it. The Tories are attempting to put the whole burden onto the tenants, not just of housing, but of the cost of money and of council incompetence. What is particularly interesting is that this 'revolutionary' new policy is based almost completely on a report called 'Rent Rebates for Council Tenants'. This report, published recently was commissioned by the Labour Government, and its proposals might easily have been accepted by Labour. The Tories have just taken them over. The report is one of the worst pieces of anti-working class propaganda I have seen for a long time. It accepts without question that rents have to go up ... as costs and incomes rise, it is necessary to raise the levels of standard rents. Their main concern was to see how this could be done, causing as little trouble for the local authorities as possible. They say that many tenants are being subsidised too much and that the balance between rents and rates is unfair. Their proposals are carefully designed to split the poorer tenants from the better off, perhaps any opposition. The report says:- “
“tenants with higher incomes must be prepared to pay rents, in line or more in line, WITH WHAT THEY CAN AFFORD and that tenants with lower incomes must have their rents suitably graded in accordance with their ability pay”.
They are implying that the poor are subsidising the better off. This tactic must be resisted . All council tenants are subsidisng the wealthy owner-occupiers and control of finance. There should not be such peop16 as tenants with lower incomes. There should be not be such people as tenants with lower incomes. There should be a basic minimum wage. What is most disturbing is that it is now up to the authorities to decide what you can afford to pay. The next step will be people queuing up at the city chambers for their regulation supplies of food for the week. No-one will have any control of the money in their rocket. If you earn more or your wife goes out work, the extra money will be immediately added to your rent. Those people with lower incomes (nearly 50% of council tenants) will in future have to apply for rebates if they want any money for food and clothing. Those people who have the hardest lives, the old age pensioners, the large families, the sick and disabled, will be put through demoralising tests, filling in complicated forms, having their private financial circumstances pried into. They will be kept as much in the dark as possible about how the system of rebates works. Like unemployment and supplementary benefits arrangements, things will be arranged to subject the applicant to the maximum humiliation.
The Tories say that their proposals will be fairer to the poor tenants. Don't be fooled by this. Great hardship has already been caused by rents. Only 8.5% of tenants receive rebates, yet at least 25% at least must be eligible. In Glasgow last year there were thousands of court actions against tenants who couldn't keep up payments. 1,100 tenants absconded and £60,000 is missing in unrecoverable rent. To take another example, in Midlothian 1,400 tenants owe over £12,000 in unpaid rent. Social work departments are able to make up rent arrears in cases of real hardship, but some authorities are now insisting on evicting families who are a couple of weeks in arrears, even though taking the children into care will cost the taxpayer thousands of pounds. Look in any local paper at the advertisements for warrant sales, often taking up several columns, nearly all in council houses where tenants couldn't keep up with the increased cost of living.
The reason for all these tricks (which add up to one thing …. less money in tenants' pockets) is that financially the housing system is in a mess. They are under pressure from the Government to cut down on expenditure and loans. They are under pressure from building contractors who want to make bigger profits; they are under pressure from property speculators who want to and are
able to make vast sums of money from selling land; the only people who are not putting any pressure on the council are the tenants, and so they are the ones who get it in the neck, And they sit there and accept it.
The excuse for increases in rent charges is that the Authority needs money to build more houses. Often it seems to be assumed that responsibility for the people living in slums should be borne by council tenants alone. Tenants are even paying for slum clearance where land will be handed over to commercial developers, or 1eft empty. Tenants are also paying for ridiculously high interest charges. 80% of the revenue of most councils goes to payoff loan interest charges. These interest charges, while set by the government, are a result of the worlds of high finance which are quite outside the control of ordinary people. When you pay 7/6 increase in rent, 6/6 of it is going to the money-lenders, the big insurance companies, banks , even big trade unions lend money that
goes to pay land owners and builders.
Why is interest such a big problem?
Take a house which cost £5,000 to build. Normally money for this would be borrowed over a 60 year period, although shorter periods are often required for councils seriously in debt. At an interest rate of 5% …. a low figure these days … the total cost of the house would be £15,900.
A true rent for the £5,000 would be only 32/- per week, but tenants are being asked to pay off the full £15,900 …. over £5 per week. The Tories' version of true rents means that the tenant must accept completely the extortionate rates remanded by the organisations which 1end money. Glasgow's last rent increases raised £1½ million, but £1 million was immediately swallowed up in increases in interest charges.
Someone living in a substandard 1930's council house will probably have paid in rent, twice the cost of his house, yet he is being asked to pay more and more and more.
Not only are interest rates high, so are cost of land, building etc.
Thus your increased rents aren't going to build more houses, but to increase the profits of builders, property owners and financiers. To take one example I have to hand – Melville, Dundas and Whitson, a Glasgow construction group increased profits in 1969 from £294,000 to £307,000. A house costing £5,000 to costs the builder £3,000 to build. The building industry, despite this, is in a shambles with small and medium sized firms going bankrupt. Worst of all, 21% of Britain's 600,000 unemployed are building workers. What could be crazier than a system which cannot keep pace with its housing needs, yet keeps 120,000 building workers idle?
People who benefit from increased rents are property speculators like Harry Hyams, who owns Centre Point, the vast office block has been purposely kept empty for three years in London. His company, which is also tied up with developments in Scotland, is worth over £100 million.
In Edinburgh, Sir James Miller, a former Lord Provost and also Lord Mayor of London, was criticised at an arbitration tribunal in Edinburgh in June 1969 for seeking £131,500 from the Corporation for a site which cost him £20,000. This is the sort of corruption which goes on behind the scenes in all local authorities, and tenants are forced to pay for it.
What are tenants getting for their money?
If we look at official publications we will see much self praise about greatly improved standards of council house building. The Parker Morris standard was introduced some time ago and hailed as a minimum, but, of course, it has become a maximum. Organisations like the aptly named S.L.A.S.H. (Scot., L.A. special housing) group. Their book of standard plans has been described as third rate - “Bathing the children may be a nightmare in some of the badly planned bathrooms, 10 feet by 4 feet 8 inches wide. Some of the plans look more like conversions than an answer to the housing problem for the next sixty years”.
Council housing estates are vast drab collections of monotonous terraces or point blocks. Usually located miles from the city centre, or rising out of the" featureless rubble of the old tenements, they are distinguished only by the high rates of attempted suicide, mental illness, social problems, loneliness, vandalism and poverty. The new towns are not much better. Favoured with better industry, their tenants are wealthier, but no happier. Living in places like Cumbernauld, stuck on top of the bleakest, wettest hill in Central Scotland, is not the utopia the planners dreamt of.
Particularly deprived are the older estates with no amenities, few shops, poor bus services, inadequate schools, decaying landscape and appearance. A recent Government report - 'Council House Communities - A Policy for Progress' admitted that “many of the inter-war and immediate
post-war schemes FAIL TO MEET EVEN THE VERY MODEST DEMANDS OF PRESENT DAY TENANTS:”
If tenants worked out how much they paid in rent and rates, inflated prices and bus fares, and how much they actually get back in facilities and amenities they would be appalled.
In any housing estate you need only stop the first person on the street to be told of the many inadequacies of the area. Bad street lighting and vandalism, no shops - hence expensive bus journeys into the centre of town, poor schools with staff shortages, no clinics or nurseries, no youth clubs and community centres with decent facilities. The houses crumbling, often with only one electric power point. A tenant at a recent meeting in Pollok described how their 36 year old houses are “completely un-modern”, how “All the rooms are uninhabitable in winter, except the living room and a bedroom because of condensation.”
The supreme example of housing incompetence, with disastrous human consequences, is that of the housing at Red Road. Describing this in full requires a pamphlet of its own. The Red Road flats are the highest in Europe, 8 blocks of 26 and 31 stories; they subject the tenants to some of the worst living conditions in the world. Originally costed at £5.4 millions, for 1,356 houses, they end up costing nearly £9 millions.
An enquiry into this scandal brought to light all sorts of amazing facts. The consultant architects, for instance, decided to use a stee1 frame with light cladding which was largely experimental, without even consulting a structural engineer. One block took 58 weeks to build instead of an anticipated and so on. One of the worst aspects of Red Road is that 48% of the flats are 2 apt., fit only for old people, so hundreds of old people have been confined in a tower where it is sometimes necessary to wait 20 minutes for a lift.
The construction of new houses leaves much to be desired. The Balgray Hill scheme, for instance, was described by Harold Wilson as the best housing scheme in Europe. Housewives who have to wring the water out of their curtains will tell you otherwise.
New housing in Cumbernauld which won a Saltire Society Award for for good design looks quite different to the tenants. “Mother of two, Mrs Joyce Stokes, was angry when she heard that the block of flats in which she lives was included in an award” says the Daily Record. “The houses are built on marshy land and I'm sure they are sinking. The walls and ceilings are coming apart and the gaps' have been strapped with wood. The kitchenette door doesn't even fit its frame. Her neighbour has a1so complained about her house. “Water comes through my ceiling and runs down the wall and through the floor and into the living room below.”
“One of the worst aspects of the whole system is the way people are moved about like meaningless statistics by the redevelopment machine. The Planning Departments march across towns and countryside, building huge roads, knocking down houses, destroying communities and dumping people in sterile ghettoes on the outskirts, miles from their old jobs and friends, with expensive, inadequate bus services.
Places like Glasgow have pretended to humanise this process with 'participation' where meetings are held to tell people of the plans. This process was recently described by Sean Darner, an urban sociologist, on the radio as a public relations' trick, purely designed to facilitate the planning process. Planners always seem to put the interests of big business and huge motorways before people; they ride roughshod over established communities without a second thought. Cities like Glasgow are being transformed into terrifying science fiction nightmares of bare inhuman concrete wastelands
Slum clearance is for most residents of old property, the only hope of getting a new house. Now, however, much older property will not be cleared but rehabilitated. Landlords will be subsidised and given loans to put in a toilet and some hot water, and more important, permission to
increase rents. The recent Housing Scotland act 1969 defined a new standard below which houses must be demolished or improved. Houses without baths do not fall below this tolerable standard. It seems that the Labour Government didn't feel people need a bath.
One particularly important area of the tenants' struggle will be to be one jump ahead of the Corporation in recognising 'Housing Treatment Areas', informing the residents what might happen, and seeing that all get a fair deal.
The history of the tenants struggle
The rest of the pamphlet is concerned with how the tenants' fight can be waged. Tenants have fought many battles before. Someone needs to write a history of tenants struggles in Scotland, as much of the information is hidden away in archives. One of the most famous rent strikes was the one which occurred during the First World War, in Glasgow.
In 1915 factors started making enormous increases in rents, taking advantage of the war-time situation. A big campaign was mounted to resist this. Meetings were held all over the city in back courts. Tenants would be attracted by bells and trumpets and drums. A womens' housing council set up. Some streets had a notice in every window “WE ARE NOT PAYING INCREASED RENT” .
The factors couldn't collect the rents. Th y were driven off by armies of women, who would take off the rent collectors' trousers and put him on a tram back into Glasgow. But the property owners found a new tool .... they sued the tenants who were withholding rent in the Small Debts Court. They didn't reckon with the enormous strength of the women's Housing Council and its alliance with the Clyde Workers' Committee.
On the day of the first trial a huge demonstration took place around the Sheriff Court. At least 10,000 took part. A deputation confronted the Sheriff in the Court House. The first spokesman said:-
“My Lord, I stand here as one of the deputation from Dalmuir shipbuilding yard, where over 8,000 workers are employed. When these men became aware of the fact that 13 tenants had been notified to appear here before you today at this court for refusing to pay an increase on their rent, they were on the point of stopping work to attend here but they were advised to stay at their work and send a deputation. .... The men are working under protest and in the event of your deciding against the tenants they are determined to stop work .... You know my Lord that the interests of the country are at stake, and it is your duty to assist the Government and the people of this country. The country cannot do without these 8,000 workers, but the country can do without the factors.”
The Sheriff, as legend goes, was in fear for his life and rang up Lloyd George, the Prime Minister, who told him that a rent restriction Act - the first ever - would be rushed through immediately. The Sheriff dismissed the case against the tenants.
A further battle took place in 1920/21. The Rent Restriction Act passed during the war was soon replaced and rent increases started again. However, a High Court decision ruled that before rents could be increased landlords must serve an eviction notice. Tenants' Associations in Clydebank used this decision to refuse to pay increases, or even their rents at all. There were many attempts at evictions, but such was the strength and the solidarity of the tenants, with pickets and barricades, that few were successful. Attempts to spread the rent strike to Glasgow were not so effective, however. The unemployed movement, right through the 20s and 30s opposed evictions and reinstated tenants with the kind of dedication and solidarity which is required today if rent increases are to be opposed.
Jumping a few years, there was a big rents battle against Scottish Special Housing round about 1963. This campaign was only partially successful as ultimately it relied on fighting test cases in court. In Glasgow the tenants were lucky. The Sheriff ruled that as the houses were sub standard then the rents could not be increased. But in places like Edinburgh, the courts more typically supported the power structure, and rents went up.
Tenants and politics
I hope that it is clear from this pamphlet that the author holds no brief for any of the established parties, Labour, Tory, Liberal, SNP, or Communist. These organisations see their primary role as one of getting people into parliament. They will make all sorts of promises about subjects like housing, but the two who have actually been in power seemed to have been remarkably similar policies. Labour has failed miserably in the housing field. While house building increased between 1963 and 67, it has steadily fallen since then. Under Labour, Britain spent only 4.8% of its national product on housing, as opposed to figures like6.1% in Italy, 5.6% in Germany and 5.3% in Sweden. Many European countries also seem able to hold down interest rates for housing loans. Labour got near its target of 500,000 houses per year. The present slum clearance rate is such that it would take 40 years to clear all the houses UNFIT BY TODAY'S STANDARDS. It was a Labour Government which brought in the tolerable standard which doesn't include a bath.
Under Labour the poor got poorer, and the go-ahead was given for rents to rise by 7/6d per week each year. Over 600,000 were unemployed, the worst situation for years. Just remind people of these facts when they say that the best way to SOLVE the housing problem is to replace the Tories by Labour. Labour did make one improvement through the Rent Act, to get rid of Rachmanism …. but the Rents Tribunal have put UP rents in 2/3 of all cases. Harassment and eviction has not been properly dealt with. Pleas for compulsory registration of private rented property have been ignored. Many factors' organisations have always found ways round the Rent Act altogether.
The Rent Act was totally inadequate and never really challenged the right of property owners to exploit the housing shortage. Of course under the Tories the situation will hardly improve. Rents will go up all round. The landlords will be subsidised - as part of a plan to help poor landlords
who are 'subsidising richer tenants'.
At a local level many people have now realised that it makes little difference which party is in power. Rents still go up. The disillusionment with modern politics has substantially contributed to the rise in importance of community organisations which try to represent people on nonparty lines. This way the community can be more united, and as a result, more effective. People feel less willing to leave matters in the hands of their 'elected representatives' .... the politicians.
One 'gentleman' who will serve as a good example of why we should no longer put our trust in politicians, whatever their colour, is Councillor William Gray, Deputy leader of the Labour group on Glasgow City Council. He carries out a Jekyll and Hyde role by being in a party which says it is opposed to the Tory rent increases in Glasgow, yet at the same time is Chairman of the Scottish Special Housing Association. In this role he has succeeded in raising the rents of their many thousands of houses to the highest in Scotland. An S.S.H.A. tenant pays on average 10/3 a week more than an ordinary council tenant. Mr. Gray recently bragged that he had saved the Treasury £1 million last year ... How? .. By bleeding the tenants.
The fact is that the political parties accept that rents must go up. When you vote in May, you only vote for which party will put them up, not whether they will go up or not. Fortunately many tenants are realising this, and though old allegiances die hard, tenants won't let councillors or candidates ue their meetings as electioneering platforms. Many councillors may go so far as saying they will support the rent strike, but only as individuals - no party will support one, especially when in power,
whether S.N.P. or Labour.
The help of those in political parties must not be refused where it is not aimed at directing the tenants' movement. Many councillors help dealing with complaints and tenants' problems, but tenants' associations have found it best to avoid party political affiliations. Similarly it is best to be wary of national organisations of tenants' associations, which while calling themselves 'non-party', seem to have a lot of connections with the Communist Parrty or Labour Party. Tenants' Associations function most effectively as autonomous pressure groups, with their policies determined by their members.
Many tenants' associations describe themselves as 'non-political'. They usually mean that they are non-party, but the, term can lead to confusion. Many people seem to feel that tenants should concern themselves with issues immediately facing council tenants to the exclusion of all other issues in the housing field. This surely is a mistaken attitude. In a system where housing problems are interlinked, people need to unite rather than fight separate struggles.
The London tenants' campaign was split recently by the unwillingness or some tenants to support squatters occupying empty council property. While squatting has been given a bad name in the Tory press, this is no reason for tenants to refuse to support people less fortunate than they. Tenants' associations must also be prepared to face up to other social problems. Their brand of local 'politics' has far more significance than the often meaningless squabbling of the council chamber.
Many will accuse tenants of being selfish in fighting rents increases; they will say, 'what about the homeless?'. But the tenants' battle is the front line in defence of the homeless. More homeless are being created by high rents than in any other way. A trickle of people back to the slums because they can't afford the rents is rapidly becoming a flood. Tenants' associations are the only mass organisations of the working people which can take up the cudgels on housing and other related
The Growth of Tenants Groups
Some tenants' associations have existed for many years, in places like Ayrshire and Glasgow. Many more have sprung up recently in places like Edinburgh and Aberdeen with no tradition of such groups. Tenants as far apart as Plasterfield in Stornoway, and Dumfries have organised against rent increases. The author has spent some time travelling round the country visiting such groups and is writing a detailed pamphlet about their activities. Glasgow has thirty to forty tenants' associations. Some have their own premises, some are new. In areas like Pollok, several tenants' associations have got together to form a regional committee to act against the rent increases. In Glasgow there is a Glasgow Council of Tenants' Associations, a non-party body which has played a big part in
representing tenants' interests. It is now starting to build up a big campaign against rent increases and may start a tenants' newspaper.
Tenants' associations have emerged in Edinburgh, especially in Leith, like at Inchkeith Court where repairs needed for years have been miraculously carried out within 6 months' of the tenants' association being formed. Community groups in Edinburgh are soon to launch a newspaper called STAMPEDE.
Tenants' associations have been formed in Aberdeen supported by the Aberdeen Arts and Community Workshop. They have been particularly effective in improving social problems, with street parties, youth associations, playgrounds, as well as the usual tenants' activities.
Not all tenants' associations are encouraging, however. One whose A.G.M. I attended in Mosspark, Glasgow, didn't discuss rents at all. This was its only meeting in the year, matters being left in the hands of a very 'business-like' committee who contented themselves with warning tenants not to let their dogs foul the footpaths. It is unfortunate that Glasgow's policy has resulted in some council houses forming 'better areas' where tenants have become superficially conservative to preserve their little island of treelined privilege. It isn't surprising the Mosspark T.A. was described to me by the Housing Manager's Dept. as the best organised T.A as far as they were concerned.
One danger which faces the tenants' movement is that of co-option people deflecting tenants from the real struggle.
Social workers, for instance, constantly looking for justification for their dubious profession, alleviating the ills of society, without changing them, have begun to move into the community organisation field. There are people called 'community development officers', who feel they are more in touch with people than the distant local authority, but who are always on the side of the authorities who pay their salary. Community organisations set up by middle class social workers are always very un-militant. Organisations like the Association of London Housing Estates, while doing a great deal to get people to help themselves do not seem to see the need for a united fight against rent increases also. This new race of community workers could do a lot of harm importing their ideals and smothering working class militancy.
“What is the use of psycho-analysis to man who cannot pay his rent? If a woman is not putting her head in the gas oven only because the gas is cut off, what is the first thing to do? To alleviate her despair, or to restore the gas so that rooms can be warmed and meals cooked and clothes washed in hot water and the children cart stop crying ...”
Even Glasgow's Tory Corporation have seen the need to attempt to dissipate some of the tenants grievances by holding 'consultative committee', meetings where delegates from tenants associations (and rightwing 'ratepayers' associations') meet members of the property management committee. While these meetings do have some use, tenants' leaders should beware of tying themselves up with endless delegations and fruitless meetings. Meetings will be far more effective if backed up by massive demonstrations. Negotiation rather than consultation would then be the order of the day.
A third warning against outside influences is about people like myself, who feel that conventional politics can solve few of the present problems of society and prefer to aid community organisations. Our help must only be in terms of advice, research, technological knowledge etc. Too many people are importing ideologies into community work, even substituting themselves for tenants by setting themselves up as secretaries or chairmen of associations in areas which they do not belong to. This is quite wrong, tenants' associations must run their own affairs and not be directed by outsiders, however well-meaning. Similarly, once the tenants' campaign builds up, as it inevitably will do, all sorts of political groups will try to influence the movement. I have every conference that working people have the good sense to keep their movement in their control, accepting help only where it is offered with sincerity.
What can be done?
Right, so tenants have a battle on their hands, no-one else is going to fight it for them. It is no longer possible to rely on the political parties. What are the sorts of action that tenants' associations can take to counter rents increases, to increase the interest of the tenants, and ultimately to gain a victory? The points discussed below are not my persona1 panaceas but points which come up repeatedly at tenants' meetings.
1. Appeals to the trade unions for support.
It is an apparently crazy situation where trade unions, busily negotiating increases for their members, sit back and let these increases be taken away by local authorities in the form of increased rents. No worker would stand for his employer deducting 10/- a week from his wage packet, but this is what the local authority is doing. Much hot air was expended at the S.T.U.C. conference in Oban this year about housing, but little concrete has been done. The S.T.U.C. demanded government action, conference of local authorities, nationalisation of the building industry (govt. action again), and the abolition of S.E.T. to help the building industry. Not a thing about solidarity with tenants' struggles, calling on members to organise tenants' associations. The trade unions appear not to be aware of the struggle outside the usual governmental channels. They forget the importance of grass roots activity in the same y that they increasingly tend to attack unofficial strikes and agree productivity deals. While the trade unions ought to support a rents battle, tenants must meanwhile make contacts at a local level. Many trade unionists are tenants, shop. stewards' committees exist near housing estates; all these people can be approached.
Liaison with workers on the shop floor will be essential in ensuring any victory against rents increases just as it was in 1915 with the Clyde Workers' Committee and the Women's Housing Council.
2. Rent Strikes.
I don't propose to discuss whether Rents Strikes should or should not be considered. The issue is not whether they should be used, but when and how they should be used. In industry a worker depends on his right to withhold his labour; similarly, the rent strike is the only weapon that tenants ultimately possess, and those who are opposed to rent strikes without qualification are not really on the tenants side.
This is not to say that we should all rush into immediately withholding our rents. Far from it. A rent strike is a tool to be used with immense care, with a great deal of organisation and preparation.
There have been successful rent strikes in the past. In 1938/39 rent Strikes in the East End of London were successful in getting repairs carried out. In Birmingham in 1939/40 14,438 voted for a rent strike in ballot. Most recently in London, 10,000 families withheld their rent.
It must be stressed that although tenants have won one or two freak test cases in the past when striking tenants have been taken to court, the legal method cannot be relied upon. Radical and working class movements have been defeated in the courts time and time again, so easily can the system of justice in this country become a tool of the authorities. EVICTIONS CAN ONLY BE PREVENTED BY TENANT SOLIDARITY, not by some middle class barrister arguing archaic precedents in the law courts.
3. Rallies and demonstrations
Much of what has been said about strikes applies to demonstrations. Nothing is worst than a handful of people picketing the City Chambers in the rain when the Press were told that hundreds would turn out. It is essential to use imagination. Evening demonstrations can be much better for getting people along. A demonstration needs build-up meetings beforehand, carefully planned to build up enthusiasm nearer to the time of the demonstration. It is no use relying on people to hear about it through the Press and TV. Thousands of leaflets must be prepared. e
One recent sad spectacle was a demonstration on November 26th, organised by the Exchange Ward Labour Party. Being geared to suit the convenience of the Council, this took place on a Thursday at noon – not surprisingly many tenants could not turn out. About 60 took part from the Labour Party, Springburn Tenants Association, and Tom McMillan M.P. who 'said' he had come specially all the way from London.
The leaders of the delegation went into the city chambers hoping to speak to the Council. The Council refused to see the delegation thanks to Baillie Gemmill, so the puny deputation dutifully went away leaving the 'Daily Record 'to say “the march ended in failure”. Let us have no more demonstrations relying on the discretion of the councillors. We need mass demonstrations at a time to suit workers, not councillors, and never take 'no' for an answer, even to the point of occupying the council chamber if necessary.
New ideas should be tried like token sit-ins in the district offices of the housing management department, if such things exist in your area. Demonstrations to the big posh houses and golf courses of the Tory (and Labour) Councillors who aren't prepared to meet tenants, and so on. The most important thing is to plan a campaign, not just sporadic outbursts, but a series of actions over a period of time to build up support and draw peoples attention to tenants' problems, not just over rents but bad housing conditions. Getting Baillie Gemmill stuck in a lift in a Glasgow block of flats could achieve far more than a hundred polito deputations. The Councillors have to realise that tenants are a force to fear.
4. Tenants' Candidates for the local council.
This idea is disliked by those who still feel that they can look to the established political parties for support. Many more tenants, however, have realised that it doesn't matter whether it is Labour, Tory or S.N.P., they all want to put rents up. Many staunch supporters of the Labour Party all their lives have got up at tenants' meetings and expressed their disillusionment. Tenants' councillors can only be a small aspect of building a tenants' movement. If a tenants' association was able to get a councillor elected he would be able to achieve very little. A whole council of tenants' representatives could do little to change the system as they would still have to borrow money at the high interest rates. They would still have to borrow money at the high interest rates. They would still have to appease powerful financial and industrial interests. A tenants' councillor must be seen simply as a person who can get access to information usually unavailable to ordinary tenants. It would mean that councils would not be able to hide information from ordinary people any longer because a tenants' councillor would be directly responsible to those people, free from party machinery, which put them there.
SANTA have started to fight local elections in Bootle. First of all they had a no-vote campaign. The Tories were pleased about this as they thought that Labour would be pushed out. In fact the Tory candidate hardly got any votes at all and the poll was reduced to 25%. Now they were putting up their own candidate who is coming a close second to the Labour man.
5. Liaison with other forms of housing struggle
This is especially important today. Council tenants must ally themselves with the tenants of private and slum property. They must be prepared to help the homeless (in a direct way, not through charity) and people hard on their luck in hostels. Housing in any community acts as a mechanism, where all the different parts act together. It is by dividing people into owner-occupiers', private renters, council tenants, the homeless etc. that the power forces can rule so effectively. Tenants' associations exist in slum areas, are fighting factors, as well as on council estates. People in slums should not feel that council tenants have forgotten their condition. Council tenants can tell their comrades in a 'single-end' with a hole in the roof, that living in a multi in Castlemilk isn't necessarily an all round improvement.
Community newspapers are essential as a way of communicating between groups. The mass media do not attempt to aid working class struggles. Where they do support individual grievances, they don't analyse situation or help tenants organise. All over the country 'alternative' papers have sprung up mainly connected with tenants and community groups: - 'STAVELY NOW'; 'MOSS SIDE PEOPLES PAPER'; 'MERSEY PEOPLE', 'CARDIFF PEOPLES PAPER', 'STOKE NEWINGTON PEOPLES PAPER', 'BIG FLAME', 'THE MOLE', 'PEOPLES NEWS', 'FREE CITIZEN', 'LEEDS LOCAL', 'STAMPEDE', 'OTHER PAPER', etc etc etc.
For anyone interested in seeing these papers contact us at the address at the back. A newssheet was printed in Edinburgh to stimulate tenants' in interest in fighting rent increases; plenty of copies are still available of this paper at no charge, and it provides a reasonable example of how to run a tenants' paper. Today there are off-set printing machines run by people sympathetic to working class uses, and this has made it possible for any tenants' group to have their own paper, without even needing advertising to finance it.
Liaison between various groups in Scotland has been maintained over a period of time by the Scottish Council of Tenants, but communication has to be improved considerably. In other areas of the country, e.g. North West England, tenants' have formed a regional committee. In London the United Tenants' Action committee is being reformed. All these developments are vitally important. It is important, however, that tenants' associations remain autonomous, under local control, and not directed on a national basis.
6. A Tenants' Charter.
Glasgow tenants are at present working on a charter. While such a document will not magically prevent rent increases, it is necessary to succinctly state the tenants' case. 'The London tenants'. charter included the following:-
“We believe that housing is a social need and necessity, and should be treated as such. Council rents are too high because of excessive interest charges and rising land prices. The Government must deal with these fundamental problems. Until they stay solving these we have no intention of paying a penny more.
1. NOT A PENNY ON THE RENTS. Rents to be frozen (at some date in the past to be determined by tenants) at a fixed level.
2. Security of tenure for Council tenants as for private tenants. (at present tenants have no rights to protect them against eviction) .
3. Council to be legally and financially responsible to the tenants for all repairs and decorations. Tenants have the right to withhold rent against such time as the Council fail to carry these out.
4. Representation, subject to recall by the tenants, on the Council's Housing Committee.
5. No further sale of Council properties. (An idea, incidentally, so preposterous as to be considered not worth discussing here.)”
Are Tenants Apathetic?
It is, of course, up tenants themselves to determine the nature of their campaign. One unhappy barrier seems to be the apathy of many tenants, who despite hardship do not seem prepared to do anything to fight rent increases.
Of course, part of the problem is that people have to work so hard to earn enough to live on that they don't have time to consider action. Tired from overtime and housework, it's not easy to get up from in front of the television. But the day is coming when it won't be possible to afford the T.V. Payments, and then tenants will have to come out and fight.
It has been said that many men do not realise how much rent is being paid. They leave the financial affairs in the hands of the wife who has to make less go further each week. The answer, as was expressed by Mike McGurgan, President of S.A.N.T.A. in 'Big Flame' was:- “Don't let the missus do all the battling” - in an appeal to trade unionists to actively take part in the tenants' struggle.
Much of the problem lies in organisation, however. The organisers of meetings and demonstrations suffer great disappointments when tenants fail to turn out, or it seems impossible to raise interest in an issue. It is all too easy to dismiss tenants as apathetic, when often the fault lies with the organisers being out of touch. It is too easy for those who have devoted much of their lives to the building of a tenants' movement to become caught up in a struggle from meeting to meeting, deputation to deputation, when they should really be trying to build up a mass movement of tenants. While it seems important to be putting the tenants' case to the councillors who pull the strings of power, they usually take no notice. They will only listen when a deputation is backed with thousands of tenants in the square outside. If the leaders of a tenants' movement get separated from the mass of ordinary people, then they will lose their support.
People today are disillusioned rather than apathetic. They have lost confidence in the promises of politicians, whatever their party. They feel that whatever they do will have little effect. They seem to accept rent increases as they accept the fact that the world goes round. But periodically everyone gets enraged. Over the last month or so, hundreds of tenants. have turned out to meetings. Community Associations have been springing up in areas of bad housing. People are keen to do something. One important step is to keep people informed. Regular news-sheets at a local level; committees reporting regularly to general meetings of tenants who can object if they think things are going the wrong way; a tenants' newspaper covering an area like Glasgow, informing people exactly what is happening to counteract the effect of the biased reports in Tory controlled
Another way to dispel apathy is to get something done. It is too easy to moan about lack of bus services in an area for years, to get up petitions, protest to councillors, write letters etc. In Bootle the tenants got a licence to run their own bus service and they have the only bus service in the country whose fares have not gone up in two years. Apathy should be no problem. Providing people are able to be closely involved and feel that the tenants' association belongs to them, then they will support any kind of militant action. Places like Glasgow could be transformed into a hornets' nest of activity. When people see that the tenants' association is achieving something, and is not just a talking shop, they will be much more enthusiastic about joining. Tenants can also be put off if the tenants' association gets a certain image - perhaps it may be all women, or appear to be older people, or they may think they are a bunch of 'reds'. It is important to involve a cross-section of the community, including teenagers.
THE HEIGHT STARVATION SONG
I'm a skyscrapaer wean, I live on the 19th flair,
But I'm no gain' oot tae play any mair,
'Cos since we move tae Castlemilk I'm wastin' away,
For I'm gettin' wan meal, less every day.
Oh ye canny fling pieces oot a 20 storey flat,
760 hungry weans'll testify tae that.
If it's butter, cheese or jeely, if the breid be plain or pan
The odds 3gainst it reachin' earth are 99 tae wan.
On the first day ma maw flung doo a dad of Hovis broon.
It came skittin oot the windae and went up instead o' doone
Noo every twenty hours it comes bak intae sight,
'Cos ma piece went intae orbit and became a satellite.
On the 2nd day ma maw flung me oot a piece again,
It went and hit the pilot of a fast low-flying plane.
He scraped it off his goggles, shoutin' through the intercom,
"The Clydeside reds have got me wi' a breid and jeely bomb"
On the 3rd day she thought that she wid try another throw.
The Salvation Army band was playin' doon below;
Onward Christian Soldiers was the piece they should have played,
But the oompah man was playin' a piece on marmalade.
Now we've wrote away tae Oxfam tae try tae get some aid,
And a' the kids in Castlemilk have formed a piece brigade.
We're gonny march tae George's Square, demandin' civil rights,
Like nae mair buildin' buildin's ower piece flingin' height.
In conclusion it is necessary to stress the dangers confronting the tenants' movement . Whilst many tenants realise the only answer to rents increases is a militant struggle, the leadership they receive may be in adequate. Many tenants will reject the leadership of established political parties but, as has been pointed out above, many may try to lead or deflect the campaign under the slogan of 'no politics'.
In the past tenants' associations have rarely survived in a strong and effective form for long enough to win a really important battle. Unlike in the factory where solidarity springs easily from people working:together in one place, the isolation which has been forced on people by our inhuman housing estates tends to destroy community identity and solidarity and the ability of people to work together. Cities have become places designed consciously or unconsciously to defend the authorities from the threat within. People, split up and isolated in bleak housing estates miles from each other with poor bus services etc., find it much harder to organise than the authorities with plenty of telephones and all the resources of modern technological society at their disposal. All the modern institutions of our society are brought into action against the working class family, to persuade them they are happy, to deceive by control of TV and Press, to manipulate through social work, to neatly package away through architecture and planning, to keep away from decision-making by the politicians. It requires tremendous strength of purpose to battle these apparently 'legitimate' forces in society.
Because of this 'total' nature of the struggle many tenants' leaders will lose their nerve. They will look for a way out from the main struggle, in an effort to divert things into 'legitimate' channels, such as political party work or the law courts. Such a tendency defeated the recent London tenants' campaign, and a leaflet produced by the ad hoc committee for a new United Tenants' Action Committee (D.T.A.C.) is printed here in full, as it explains succinctly what went wrong. Tenants must realise that there is no easy way out. Those who really want to stop rent increases must understand the difficult battle that lies ahead and not be diverted into futile activities.
U.T.A.C. leaders have deserted the tenants.
The old U.T.A.C. has decided to suspend itself until January despite the fact that G.L.C. rents increase in March next year. This is a betrayal of the tenants and we must not stand for it. We demand a new U.T.A.C. now.
The bitter disappointment felt by tenants after the U.T.A.C. lost its case against the rents in the High Court is no reason for us to face the new rent increase with apathy. The U.T.A.C. should have known better than to take the G.L.C. to Court, because tenants cannot win the rent fight in the courts of Landlords, financiers and Capitalists. Some of the U.T.A.C. leaders who have deserted the ship now, urged the tenants to give up the fight when Cutler threatened eviction. They told us that “legality is the only way out”. Coming as they did representing the Labour Party and the Communist Party, they hid behind the fake slogan of 'No Politics' and at all times sought to impose THEIR politics.
The pity is that we listened. Their 'No Politics' really meant 'Trust the Law', 'No Violence' and 'Vote Labour' even when the 'legally elected' Cutler was preparing to use the law to vioently evict tenants!
A Great Struggle
A great struggle was fought by the tenants, but we lost. The U.T.A.C. was prepared to protect tenants facing eviction but never really carried out the policy. It is quite clear why we lost. We were pushed from our path by the Party which always tries to kill the tenants' will – the Labour Party.
Shall we fight again?
The rents' are going up in March. Will we fight? We will fight but the U.T.A.C. must be re-established first. The old leaders are gone. The old mistakes of the U. T.A. C. which could have. been avoided, will not be repeated. This time we will stick to the policy.
Total Rent Strike
To the Labour Party and the faint hearts of the N.A.T.R - we will not let you get away with your fraud next time. Do you support the only effective weapon in the tenants' hands - Do you support a total rent Strike? If not - keep out of the struggle, we do not need your lies and dirty tricks.
We have learnt a great lesson. With this knowledge we can win. Let us not turn our backs on action because we lost.
REMEMBER THE 1969 INCREASE WAC CANCELLED BECAUSE OF THE MILITANT PRESSURE ON GREENWOOD.
Get those committees working again!
The fight against the March 1971 increase is beginning!
Published by the Ad-Hoc Committee to form New-TAC, 27 Paget Rd, N16.
If this pamphlet is to achieve anything it is to show tenants that they can rely only on themselves in a struggle against rent increases. False leaders, wasted efforts in courts, politicians, futile delegations and press statements without action, can demoralise and disillusion tenants. Only through a struggle controlled by tenants at the grass roots involving mass action will anything be achieved. The answer is to build up your tenants associations, or form one in your area, based on militant, democratic and solid foundations. Don't delegate responsibility to other interests – only the combined action of tenants in a massive campaign will bring about real change. Rents don't need to rise. Houses, at a decent standard, can be provided for all .... if people are prepared to fight.
NOT A PENNY ON THE RENTS is clearly the immediate slogan, but is this the ultimate end of the tenants' struggle? It should not be. The whole concept of 'council' housing must be challenged and reformed. Housing should be under the control of local people and the workers who build the houses, not distant financial interests, property speculators, building profiteers or politicians, but ordinary people. This brings in the whole complex question of how housing provision evolved the way it did, a problem only touched on in this pamphlet. What must be realised is that 'partial solutions' such as helping the 'homeless' as proposed by Shelter, or handing some of the better estates over to co-operative housing associations as was proposed by a recent pamphlet by the Co-operative Party, are not sufficient. Tenants must realise that challenging the system of interest rates which hamstring the whole housing problem means challenging the present nature of capitalist society. Tenants cannot do this alone, nor can they do it with their 'present weak organisations. What
must be worked for in the end, however, is a now concept of housing, the abolition of the tenants-landlord relationship (whether the landlord is private or local or government authority) and its replacement with the concept of Community Control, where decent housing (and I mean really decent) is provided for all.
Tenants' organisations, however long-standing some may be, are novices in the working class movement. They are neglected by many active militants in the trade union movement; they have nothing like the power or financial strength of the trade union movement. But it is essential for people to organise around where they live. To fight for better conditions, not just in their work-place, but where they sleep and play and relax, and where many housewives spend all their lives. Tenants' associations may not be complacent, but they must be more ambitious and stop being the poor cousins of the working class movement, and we must all give them our support.