Abolish rent!

Julian Francis Park

Published in Issue 1.2 // Updates

Keywords: decommodification, strategy, abolish, rent, tenants

Abstract:

‘Homes for all’ is, rightly, the prevailing strategic slogan in the USA tenants’ movement. As a tactical slogan, however, it is time that ‘abolish rent’ replaces ‘decommodify housing’. While ‘decommodify housing’ importantly points to the social problems of rental housing’s status as commodity, full decommodification is a complex process requiring transformation not only of the selling and renting of housing for money but also the processes of housing production and management. This complexity makes decommodification as a tactic an obscure process and consequently an ineffective slogan for agitating tenants because of its distance from their everyday struggles. ‘Abolish rent’ instead points toward generalizing direct action tactics already essential in the struggles of housed and unhoused tenants, tactics like rent strikes and squatting. To generalize rent abolition necessarily includes fully decommodifying housing, but in connecting immediate tactics to long term strategy, I contend that ‘abolish rent’ is a more effective slogan.

Julian Francis Park is a tenants’ partisan, poet, and educator in Oakland, CA. Further writing on tenants’ struggles can be found in Commune Magazine and in the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project’s Counterpoints: A Bay Area Atlas (forthcoming).

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