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Albert Goldman

Chicago Workers: Vote Socialist! Vote Labor!

The Housing Problem Can Be Solved!

(3 March 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 9, 3 March 1947, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Speech of Albert Goldman delivered over Radio Station WJJD, Sunday, February 16, at 1:45 p.m.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

The urgent need for housing has finally penetrated places where sit men of wealth, power and influence. Before a meeting of the State Street Council, Mr. Randall H. Cooper, executive secretary of the Council, informed the men of State Street that:

“The blighted areas must be rebuilt. Housing must be provided both as a source of revenue to the city and as a source of business for State Street and the Loop.”

To convince you how grateful we should feel toward the State Street business men, I shall cite a few figures in connection with the housing crisis in Chicago. A year ago there were 32,500 ex-servicemen and their families in this city, without a place to live; one-half of the 480,000 ex-servicemen are living doubled up with relatives. After 20,000 persons applied for apartments in the Ida B. Wells public housing project which has 1,600 dwelling units, the manager stopped accepting any more applications.

Infant Mortality High in Slums

Chicago has 15,000 acres of blighted and near-blighted areas. A Study has indicated that in these slum areas the general mortality rate is 6 per cent above the city’s average; the infant mortality rate is 25 per cent above the city average and juvenile delinquency is 8 per cent above the city average.

Eleven people were burned to death recently as a direct result of over-crowded conditions in slum areas.

Does the honorable executive secretary of the State Street business men mention any of the above compelling reasons for his interest in housing? Not at all. He is concerned only for the profits of those who own the stores and real estate on State Street and in the Loop.

In reality the remark of the representative of State Street clearly explains why there will be and there can be no real solution to the housing problems under the capitalist system. The State Street business men, like all other business meh, are interested in profits and there are no profits to be made in building decent homes and apartments for a rental that a worker can afford to pay. Only under socialism will the housing problem be solved for. the great masses because under socialism the profit motive will be eliminated and things will be produced for the use of the people.

Majority Do Not Have Decent Housing

It should be understood by everybody that the housing problem is not something that has come into existence recently, with the return of the servicemen to civilian life. The majority of the working people of this country – and surely of all other countries – have never had a decent place in which to live.

Even when good apartments were available for what might now be called a reasonable rental, a large proportion of the workers had to live under miserable conditions. In 1940 almost half of all American families had an income of less than $1,500 a year. On such an income it was impossible to get a decent apartment, even in 1940. The main reason for the widespread recognition of the housing problem at the present time is the fact that even people in higher income brackets are suffering from the housing shortage.

If there were no capitalists interested in profits, if the government were interested in the welfare of the people, there would be no housing shortage. This country was not subjected to bombings, as was England or Germany. There has been no flood or other natural catastrophe.

During the war the government needed warships costing tens of millions of dollars; it needed huge bombers and all kinds of armaments. This tremendously wealthy country found no difficulty in producing them.

The war is over. Millions of people are in great need of a place to live. We have the materials, the skilled and unskilled labor and the technical force necessary to build homes just as we had them during the war for the production of armaments. But we do not produce houses! Why?

Because the government was willing to spend any amount of money necessary to produce weapons; because the capitalists were willing to permit the government to tell them what, where and when to produce, in order to defeat their rival capitalists in the fascist countries. Of course the big business men made huge profits out of the war and this was a factor that reconciled them to the temporary liquidation of free enterprise.

Now that the war is over the capitalists want their profits but they do not want the government to interfere in their business. And the government is not interested in producing for peace and for the welfare of the masses.

The last two wars, the depression of the Thirties and the present housing crisis prove conclusively that the capitalist system has reached a stage where it can produce only for war, for destruction and death. It is unable to produce, during peace, for the welfare of the people. That is in effect what the executive secretary of the State Street business men told us when he said that he is interested in housing in order to make profits for State Street and the Loop.

Kind of Housing We Need

Both Kennelly, the Democratic candidate for mayor, and Root, the Republican candidate, insist that housing is basically a matter for private enterprise. President Truman, the head of the Democratic Party, has turned the job of solving the housing problem over to private industry. This means that new buildings and homes will be erected but that the great majority of the workers will derive no benefit from such a solution. Most workers cannot afford to pay the rent that private owners will ask for new apartments. By far the most profitable housing is that built to rent at high monthly rentals. It is this type of housing that will be built.

The only housing that would be of value to those in the lower income brackets is government subsidized housing where a. four-room apartment could be rented for about $30 a month. This is the kind of housing we of the Workers Party are for. Just as the government built warships and bombers, so must it build apartment buildings and homes and charge a rental which a worker earning an average wage can afford to pay.

If anyone asks where the money is to come from, my answer is: If the government could raise hundreds of billions of dollars for war, it can and should raise all the money necessary to build homes and apartments for the people. In my last talk I told you we socialists consider the welfare of the people to be above the interests of property. We would not hesitate to raise money by taxing the wealthy people in order to build homes for the workers.

What Can Be Done in Chicago

Can a mayor of Chicago solve the housing problem of its inhabitants? I do not claim that. I insist, however, that he can agitate effectively for a state and national solution. He can also, with the aid of the City Council, allocate part of the city funds for erecting apartment buildings for the neediest and most desperate cases.

At a public hearing held by the Finance Committee of the City Council, I suggested that in this emergency the sum of ten to fifteen million dollars should be used for construction of housing. I know that this is a drop in the bucket but it will be of some aid until the state and federal governments come to the city’s rescue. The Republican candidate for mayor is especially loud in his demands for economy. I am also for economy, provided that the money saved should be used for housing. My Republican opponent and also Mr. Kennelly want to reduce taxes for the wealthy. I am not interested in that; I am interested in building homes for the workers who need them.

In the late 1920s the city of Vienna, Austria, under a socialist municipal regime, built blocks of houses for the workers of that city. Beautiful apartments were rented at reasonable prices. Chicago is a much wealthier city and certainly could do at least what Vienna did. But it will not be done by Root the Republican or Kennelly the Democrat.

Organize to Stop Rent Boost!

Right how there is grave danger that the landlords will be allowed to raise rents. A combination of Republicans and Democrats is very likely to pass legislation permitting a substantial raise in rents. The real estate operators and landlords have exerted all their influence on Congress and the members of Congress are about to yield to their pressure, unless a counter-pressure of the great masses is organized.

The party I represent strongly urges the organization of tenants’ committees to defend the interests of the tenants. The fact that Congress may pass a law permitting a raise in rent does not mean that the landlords get that raise automatically. A great deal depends upon an effective organization of tenants. We should have a state law and a city ordinance barring any increase in rent. I challenge Mr. Root and Mr. Kennelly to state their position on this question.

The reactionary laws which require more than 88,000 signatures in order for me to be on the ballot make it impossible for me to get on the official ballot. We shall, however, continue with our campaign! We ask everybody who wants to vote for socialism to write in the name of our party – the Workers Party – and my name as your choice for mayor.

Since its inception our party has favored the creation of a Labor Party – a party organized by the trade unions with a program representing the interests of labor and the general public. One of the most progressive local unions in Chicago – the Revere Copper Local of the United Auto Workers, CIO, has put up candidates for alderman in three wards. Our party has no organizational ties with these candidates and we can assume responsibility only for our own members. But we urge you to vote for them if you live in their wards. Voting for them indicates approval of the idea of a Labor Party. Vote for Frank Wesolowski, candidate for alderman in the 32nd Ward; vote for Charles Chiakultis, candidate in the 35th Ward; vote for S. Salvatore Mazza, candidate in the 36th Ward.

We also urge you to support Homes Lewis in the 3rd Ward. He is a member of the Socialist Workers Party. We are opposed to defending Stalinist Russia; the Socialist Workers Party favors defending it. There are other differences between us. Nevertheless Homer Lewis is a socialist and we support him.

For further information and for literature write to our headquarters, 1501 West Madison Street.

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