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You are here: The Platypus Affiliated Society/Engels at 200: The Housing Question revisited; Tenants' organising in the 2020s

Engels at 200: The Housing Question revisited; Tenants' organising in the 2020s

On 28 November 2020 Platypus Manchester hosted two moderated panel discussion commemorating the date of Friedrich Engels' 200th birthday. Primarily Manchester-based speakers reflected on 200 years of struggle for good housing, and the present moment of housing politics. The discussions included separate sessions of audience Q&A.



Facebook event:

4-6pm: The Housing Question Revisited

- Dr Stuart Hodkinson (Critical Urban Geography - University of Leeds)

- Lucy Nichols (Counterfire; 9K4WHAT?)

- Sam Holden (Architecture - University of Manchester)

7-9pm: Tenants’ Organising in the 2020s

- Isaac Rose (Greater Manchester Housing Action)

- Dr Quintin Bradley (Planning and Housing - Leeds Beckett University)

- Imogen Woods (Prometheus Journal)

4-6pm GMT: The Housing Question revisited

Friedrich Engels’ ‘The Condition of the Working Class in England’ documented the impoverished condition of urban housing and of working-class life in Manchester in 1844, a moment of rapid industrialisation and urbanisation. Following these observations and many more, Engels in 1872 wrote ‘The Housing Question’, a polemic directed at both anarchists and liberal social reformism. In the critique of social reformist urban planning approaches to working class housing, Engels understood the slum clearance schemes of his time as simply a geographical displacement of the problem of capitalism.

Like the 1840s, recent decades have seen economic recession, political turmoil and huge increases in the value of land and rent. It also appears that there is a return to the tenure split of the 19th Century, when private renting was the dominant form of tenure.

The critique of housing and urbanisation expresses contradictions inherent to capitalism. On the occasion of Engels’ 200th birthday, we ask:

  • What do lessons of the past hold for present-day struggles for good housing?
  • What would Engels think of the situation of housing and urbanisation in 2020?
  • What does the housing question mean for the Left today?

7-9pm GMT: Tenants’ organising in the 2020s

In recent years, housing has again returned to become a focus for organising, and several new efforts at organising tenants have emerged on the Left. This comes at a moment of failure for Corbynism and neo-social-democratic politics. It appears that this may be a transitional moment for the Left, implicating a shift in political strategy away from a policy orientation, and towards community organising. Furthermore, the pandemic response has foregrounded the importance of adequate housing and has heightened attempts to build solidarity at the grassroots level.

At this moment of resurgent tenants’ organising, this panel discussion asks:

  • How does organising tenants’ unions relate to renewing revolutionary politics and the task of overcoming capitalism?