Tag Archives: Economic Crisis

Resist Evictions and Foreclosures

How to Stop Eviction — End Eviction

            COVID-19 has created the ideal medium for a summer of continuous protest.

Political protest demonstrations used to be weekend affairs in which angry leftists shouted at empty government offices before shuffling home Sunday afternoon to gear up for the workweek. With one out of four workers having filed for unemployment and many more working from home, tens of millions of Americans have free time to march in the streets. Sporting events, movie theaters, retail stores and even houses of worship are closed due to the coronavirus lockdown.

The usual distractions of a leap year are absent; the summer Olympics are canceled and presidential campaigning is so close to nonexistent as to be irrelevant. Politics is no longer about the politicians. Politics is in the street, where there’s nothing to do but gather, chant and dodge teargas cannisters.

            The vacuum created by the lockdown and the impotence of a political class that no longer pretends to lead during a staggering medico-economic crisis has been filled by Black Lives Matter following the murder of George Floyd. BLM has won important symbolic victories like the toppling of Confederate statues and a renewed push to remove the Stars and Bars from the Mississippi state flag. As the movement against police brutality and institutional racism continues, look for more substantive systemic reforms in policing.

            What comes next? The eviction and foreclosure resistance movement.

Thanks to Congress’ reluctance to pass another big stimulus package, protests in general will continue into the foreseeable future. But they won’t all be against evil cops. A looming eviction and foreclosure crisis could broaden the struggle from one centered around racial grievances into a class-based fight for economic justice.

            Courts are about to get flooded by eviction hearings. 30% of Americans missed their June housing payment. Supplemental $600-per-week unemployment checks expire July 31st.

“I think we will enter into a severe renter crisis and very quickly,” Columbia Law professor Emily Benfer, a housing expert who tracks eviction policies, told The New York Times May 30th. Without government action, she warned, “we will have an avalanche of evictions across the country.”

            There is no sign that the government will lift a finger to help people who lost their jobs and will soon face homelessness. Even Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, the most progressive members of the U.S. Senate, refuse to consider a rent or mortgage payment holiday. They support a tepid “moratorium,” not a rent freeze. Under a moratorium back rent would pile up and all come due at once later on. Millions of people would be kicked outside this winter during a possible “second wave” of COVID-19. That’s the best scenario. Odds are, there won’t even be a moratorium. Congress will do little to nothing to help struggling tenants and homeowners.

            Millions of homeowners and renters displaced from their homes during the 2008-09 subprime mortgage meltdown received zero assistance from the government. There were no protests worth mentioning. This time will be different.

            First, there’s safety in numbers. The scale of this eviction crisis is much bigger. Three times more people have lost their jobs than during the Great Recession, during a much shorter period of time. Members of an eviction resistance movement can help one another block county sheriffs from kicking them out. Among those who are still working, the tenuous nature of the labor market has everyone in there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I mode. We are in this together.

            Second, this economic cataclysm wasn’t some act of God. People were ordered to shelter in place by the government. That’s why they lost their jobs, not a seemingly random stock market fluctuation. Targets of eviction and foreclosure won’t internalize any shame. They know they haven’t done anything wrong. They social distanced as asked; why should they sleep on the streets now because public health officials required them to go without income?

            Third, Black Lives Matter has demonstrated the efficacy of street protests and of grassroots solidarity. Cops are currently about as popular as an STD. How enthusiastically will police respond to a landlord’s request to fight their way through an angry crowd to throw a family onto the street? It depends on the municipality. Things will quickly turn ugly.

            Finally, memories of how the big banks squandered their Bush-Obama bailouts on exorbitant CEO salaries and renovating luxurious executive washrooms are still fresh. Even on the right, it will be tough to garner political support for banks trying to remove homeowners whose only crime was following stay-at-home orders.

            There is a long but now largely forgotten history of tenant resistance movements in this country, mostly led by the communist Left. Each 1st of the month between now and this fall brings us closer to a new radical struggle between people who ask nothing more than to keep a roof over their heads and a system that prioritizes the right to own and control property over the most basic of human needs.

            That movement will bring us closer to revolution.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.

The Anti-American Manifesto

A revolutionary manifesto for an America heading toward economic and political collapse. While others mourn the damage to the postmodern American capitalist system created by the recent global economic collapse, I see an opportunity. As millions of people lose their jobs and their homes as the economy collapses, they and millions more are opening their minds to the possibility of creating a radically different form of government and economic infrastructure.

But there are dangers. As in Russia in 1991, criminals and right-wing extremists are best prepared to fill the power vacuum from a collapsing United States. The best way to stop them, I argue here, is not collapse—but revolution. Not by other people, but by us. Not in the future, but now. While it’s still possible.

The Anti-American Manifesto was widely discussed among progressives and leftists and remains a basis of discussion for people seeking to create the space to discuss politics outside of electoral irrelevance — a revolutionary movement.

I admire Rall. He is prolific writer of good sentences. He is a prolific drawer of bitterly ironic cartoons. He is a serious reporter. He is honest about his own failings and wandering ideology. And he has dusted off the r-word at exactly the right moment in American history. He wants a revolution. And I agree with him. A revolution is exactly what the United States needs. The amount of cultural/economic/political change needed to save the world in the brief time we have left is unimaginable without a revolution. You can argue that the ruling class is evil, you can argue that the ruling class is incompetent, you can argue that the ruling class is both. But it has never been more clear that the ruling class is impervious to reform through established channels and the rest of us can look forward to incalculable suffering unless we get rid of it. “Revolution doesn’t happen within the system,” Rall says. “Revolution is the act of destroying the system.” Yup. —TruthOut

You have to give points for audacity to begin a book advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government. In his new book The Anti-American Manifesto, political cartoonist and columnist Ted Rall does just that. Perhaps most dangerously, he makes revolution sound like the only reasonable thing to do. Like the child who proclaimed the emperor had no clothes, Rall’s book has the effect of rendering self-evident what is hardly ever mentioned in public, though we all privately know it to be true: this system is broken beyond repair. —Socialist Worker

Political Manifesto, 2010
Seven Stories Press Trade Paperback, 5″x7″, 286 pp., $15.95

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