In 1840 the anarchist Pierre Joseph Proudhon, wrote a book called ‘What is Property?’ in which he said ‘Property is theft’, a phrase that has intrigued and inspired many political thinkers, radicals and activists.
Property takes many forms and types: The unifying form of property is one of the most basic and essential of all human rights; the need for shelter. We all seek a roof over our heads and a safe place to sleep and rest. The unfunny truth is that for the greater part of human evolution, this wasn’t a problem; people lived in familial and communal groups in which support and resources were abundant.
Things started to go bad in the early growth of capitalism, when property ownership became a pivotal tool in the exploitation of the new ‘working class’. Only the very wealthy owned property, which greedy new industrialists rack-rented to their workers, but only as long as they were able to work. Once they couldn’t, they were cast off into the gutter like rubbish.
It’s shocking and outrageous that the realities of life haven’t changed that much isn’t it? The great postwar dream of the ‘welfare state’ with homes and healthcare for all is just that, a dream, being sucked dry by the wealthy elite. Most younger people can’t afford the deposit on a home, so are forced to rent, lining the pockets of fat-cat landlords. Even for people who can get a mortgage, it’s the bankers that really own the building, not them. Meanwhile, large numbers of buildings big enough to house several families languish empty in our cities as plaything investments of the super rich.
I’m angry and appalled by the ever growing numbers of hungry and homeless faces I see on the streets of Birmingham. I think community is more important than property. No one owns the world, it’s a gift we all share. I’m reaching out and working together with like-minded people, we’re fighting back and organising for a better future - You can too.