Why Should Expropriation Be a Utopian Dream?

Speech at the Right2TheCity Rally, Tempelhofer Feld, 29 May 2021


It somehow feels like a utopian vision when you wish for everyone in this city to have a roof over their head. But why should it be?

So many speakers today have already talked about how housing is a fundamental human right. How migrants are disproportionately affected by rising rents and are consequently pushed out of their communities, out of their homes, out of the housing market completely. And how the capitalists use every opportunity they get to make more and more money, lining their pockets with an ever higher proportion of our wages.

We, as DIE LINKE Berlin’s international working group stand behind the demands of the Right to the City For All group, many of us are also part of it, and we support the entire DWE campaign to make this city a better place for everyone to live in.

Because how absurd is it that something that’s a necessity has been turned into a commodity? And how absurd is it that we, as a society, have not only turned being a landlord into a job but also one that’s immensely profitable?

How absurd is it that it is a daily concern for many of us that someone who owns the flat or building we live in might one day decide that they want us to leave, and once they do, we know they will do everything in their power to kick us out?

And we can only be thankful that we are not living under occupation, like those across Palestine, who are being forcibly dragged out of their homes by the police and the army, or whose homes were destroyed in the last attack on Gaza. With us this is not as direct, or obvious, or genocidal. Although it’s part of the same capitalist system that oppresses us all across the world.

I’ve experienced many frankly ridiculous situations related to the Wohnungsmarkt while living in this city. Among other things which show that you, as a newcomer, as a migrant, are always on the back foot, always having to compromise on something, accept conditions which are not ideal and never feel a sense of stability.

I’m far from being the only one, or even one that can claim to be especially marginalised. This is just reality. And what I know is that this shouldn’t be something that I am constantly thinking about — no one should. And it shouldn’t be something that pushes me to act selfishly, individualistically, against my politics, because I’m scared that otherwise I’ll end up moving from place to place again every few months. It’s exhausting.

This campaign has given me hope that we can live and be with solidarity with one another again when it comes to the housing market. I have been inspired by the cross section of people involved in collecting signatures and being actively in the many possible ways.

We, DIE LINKE Berlin’s international working group are a group active within a party for which most of us cannot vote in elections. Therefore we stand strongly behind the demand for full voting rights for all those living in this city, and many of us have been involved with the group. Because how can we expect migrant-friendly policies to be made if migrants are not allowed to have their say?

We believe that all those who live in the city should have a say in what happens in it. Should have an equal right to be here, and equal access to what the city has to offer. The fact that this isn’t the case even in a city where almost a quarter of its population doesn’t have citizenship is laughable. And this is on top of those with citizenship who get discriminated against for other reasons when it comes to housing.

So we believe in the right to the city for all, and fully stand behind the group’s demands. But first — enteignen!

Pictures from the Right2TheCity Rally, 29 May 2021 by Noemi Argerich, Phil Butland, Jaime Martinez Porro and Jorge A. Trujillo