Note from LeftEast editors: This article originally appeared in Romanian in The Political Art Gazette and we publish it as part of the collaboration in the ELMO – Eastern European Left Media Outlet network.
On March 8th, 2022, responding to the invitation of Meduza Kolektiv and Rhythms of Resistance Cluj, the radical housing justice movement Social Housing NOW! (Căși Sociale ACUM!) contributed and participated in the feminist 8th March flashmob (called: “Violence has many nuances – we want solidary resistance”) in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. The housing movement brought the following banner: “We want social housing, not militarization”.
The content of the banner is also marked by the hashtag #strikethewar, by which we joined the transnational action of the E.A.S.T. (Essential Autonomous Struggles Transnational) network.
Perhaps some will say, today it is not the right moment to talk about such small things as “social housing” while thousands of people are dying and millions are being displaced, or while capitalism and imperialism continue their disaster politics.
To repeat, because I noticed, too, how in the Romanian public space in the last two weeks the aggressive stigmatization of those who spoke differently than the dominant discourse about the war, I affirm once again:
➡ the fact that we are talking about the wider context of how people are sacrificed by imperialist wars everywhere,
➡ the fact that we are talking about all the political and economic and military actors who are responsible for the current bloodshed,
➡ the fact that we are trying to understand why this war became possible right now and here,
➡ the fact that we remember the suffering of many people in Romania, also in peacetime, due to the material and housing deprivations induced by capital, but also due to the criminal negligence and racism of the state,
➡ the fact that we are talking about the world order of global capitalism that caused so many wars even after the end of the Second World War,
➡ the fact that we are talking about the beneficiaries of this armed conflict,
➡ the fact that we are against militarization as a state politics,
obviously, this does not mean we do not care about the bloodshed in this war.
The demand “We want social housing, not militarization” is an appeal that focuses on a lot of considerations. Here are just a few:
1) The current crisis of capitalism, a post-neoliberal, post-pandemic, and energy crisis that erupted in the war in Ukraine is the context in which the housing crisis was deepening, too (high housing prices, production of housing for profit, forced evictions, and displacements, overcrowded homes, homelessness, housing in a toxic environment, etc.).
2) The housing crisis understood by its manifestations mentioned above is a syndrome of capitalism that turns everything and all aspects of human life (including housing) into a source of profit and sacrifices the needs and lives of people on the altar of capital accumulation, similar to the arms industry and trade.
3) The housing crisis understood by its manifestations mentioned above makes victims and can cause many people’s death.
4) Those who are responsible for the housing crisis through its manifestations mentioned above operate under the same laws as the profiteers of the arms industry or big pharma, and this is the law of capital accumulation at any cost.
5) The proxy war in Ukraine, in which great imperialist powers clashed on the territory of another state, created the conditions of possibility for the states of the world, including the EU member states, to dedicate themselves to militarization in the next few years. This is not only to strengthen their military ability to attack or defend themself but also because, in the induced economic (energy, fuel, food, etc.) crisis, the war industry will continue to be an economic sector assuring profit. And it is possible that the real estate business, too, will continue to be a good “shelter” for the money invested for profit, as it continued to be during the pandemic. Such decisions of the states continue and strengthen their old subordination to the interests of capital.
6) The state policy of militarization means less public investment in public services in all areas (housing, health, school education). This means the end of the weak endeavors to increase them as a response to the challenges of the pandemic, even before they have been set in motion.
7) In Romania, a country very underdeveloped in terms of social infrastructure, redirecting public money into militarization will result in even more victims of poverty, and even greater economic inequalities. More people will die than before without reaching old age, and social fascism directed against the population, which becomes a surplus population because it is not useful for capital, will be strengthened.
8) The state politics of militarization that means not only investments in armaments, but also investments into the communication surveillance industry, will result in increased control over the peaceful population, both materially/ physically and in a symbolic sense, as a control of the critical thinking and acting against militarized capitalism.
9) Arguments rooted in anti-communism, perfected in the last 30 years in Romania and directed against the demands of the labor force for wage increases, the construction of public housing, or for ensuring universal access to healthcare, will be combined with arguments stigmatizing them as anachronistic claims or even worse, as demands that might cause criminalized popular uprisings or as attacks on “national security”.
10) Against the background of the recognition that housing politics is an essential component of capitalism, the claim “We want social housing, not militarization” has the potential to contribute in our immediate future to a political self-organizing capable to identify solutions for the multiple crises of our societies beyond capitalism.
Enikő Vincze is a Professor at the Babeș-Bolyai University of Cluj-Napoca, Romania, and housing justice activist in the local movement Căși sociale ACUM!/ Social housing NOW!, and the national network of several activist groups from Romania, Bloc for Housing.