Wednesday, October 4, 2017

"Penny Tenement" (1960)

From the January 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is the same old story! Despite the promises of one party after another, the housing problem is still with us. Frederick Engels was writing about it more than eighty years ago. In fact it is a problem about as old as Capitalism itself.

From the front page of The Guardian (23/11/59) we learn of a tenement in Edinburgh, which collapsed recently, injuring a two-year-old baby girl and her mother. Apparently the building had been known as the “penny tenement ” because its original owner attempted to sell it for one penny on being ordered to carry out repairs considered necessary for public safety. The place had been condemned twenty years ago as unfit for habitation.

The local Labour Party kicked up a fuss about the matter, of course, conveniently forgetting the dismal failure of the Labour Government to deal with such places during their six years of power. Yet, if we remember correctly, they were more extravagant than any other party in their 1945 election promises.

In another Scottish city, Labour-controlled Glasgow, the city architect had to admit a few months ago that . . .  there is housing which . . .  includes some of the worst buildings in Western Europe” (The Guardian, 9/2/59). Apparently, in the past six years or so, they have built 30.000 houses and flats in Glasgow and in that period, their “waiting list” has grown from 100,000 lo 126.000 persons.

Do not let us underestimate this problem of Capitalism. In England last year, there were over a million houses totally unfit for habitation, whilst others were falling into decay at the rate of 100.000 per year. But great though the problem is, Capitalism won’t solve it— only the removal of Capitalism will do that. Unlike the “Penny Tenement,” however, this crazy set-up will not just collapse. It will have to be demolished.
Eddie Critchfield

No comments: