In the wake of an economic depression, pandemic-related shutdowns, and rent strikes, landlords all over the country are cracking down on tenants to secure their profits and repress any attempts at organizing. Whether they do this openly or subtly, their aim is to suit themselves and bring harm to workers. Their tactics are easily readable, though, and their crimes against the people give organized tenants all the tools they need to fight back. United Neighborhood Defense Movement recognizes that militant organizing and eviction defense is the main way tenants can fight back against landlord oppression and retaliation across the country.
Landlords repress tenants because their goal is to rake in profit for themselves, and they lash out at anything that stands in their way. Profit can only be made by exploitation, and exploitation can only be enforced by repression. Landlords just own property and don’t work for their money; they must justify taking it straight from the pockets of workers. Putting us in life-or-death situations through exposure to homelessness, locking us into domestic abuse situations, and dangling our own stability just out of reach are nothing to them. Those actions just serve their principle motive: preserving their ability to profit off us.
Landlords often rely on blatant means of repression to exploit tenants. Capitalism is their cover. Constantly living under its influence moves society and individuals to accept high levels of exploitation as a given part of daily life. Landlords work together with capitalism to gain this acceptance through PR. They deflect from real criticisms, keep their anti-people goals under wraps, and repress all efforts at organization. When tenants bust up their disguise and call them out for hiding from us, they resort to scare tactics. One particularly slimy example is Kelsey Patterson in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania. Her and her crew vandalized a rent strike organizer’s car in retaliation for nonpayment. Property managers in Austin’s Riverside neighborhood sent a bogus eviction notice to a tenant for organizing against the horrible conditions on the property. A favorite tactic of landlords everywhere is to call on security or the police to harass tenants and activists, forcing them to leave or even arresting them at the slightest provocation. We cannot be shaken by these threats. Intimidating us out of organizing with our neighbors is the last thing the landlords have keeping them from being crushed by the organized force of the working class.
Landlords also use indirect methods so that their mistreatment of tenants flies under the radar. One of their favorite tactics is chalking up repression to bureaucracy. If they can’t evict us for nonpayment, they will try to evict us by combing for lease violations. They’ll use “routine inspections” to barge into tenants’ apartments and make excuses for eviction. They’ll run tenants through circles of red tape to get repairs done, fail to make the repairs, and blame it on them afterwards. They also rely on local programs like Austin’s “Rent 2.0,” a lottery system that directly pays property owners backrent, to pressure desperate tenants to scab on the strike. They underestimate our resolve whenever they fall back on these petty tactics.
Whether they pretend they’re on our side or attack tenants’ efforts to rise up, their approaches to the conflict serve to maintain their exploitation of tenants, and when these greedy parasites decide that the usual exploitation isn’t enough, they’ll find political means to displace workers for even more profit. Property management’s chronic neglect of their properties throughout working-class communities allows them to justify gentrification as a force that “benefits the community,” when in reality they are responsible for the awful living conditions in our communities. They work hand-in-hand with city council and politicians – sometimes up to the federal level – to catch financial breaks for themselves and continue exploiting tenants they hope to eventually displace for even further profit. The politicians also work towards these means, as city officials aren’t legally excluded from participating in the real estate market. While Austin’s city council acknowledged the public outcry against the Domain on Riverside project, a massive project that would displace thousands of workers in the area, they granted the rezoning application needed for the development anyway. Even when city governments postpone eviction proceedings, they still refuse to forgive rent, back rent, and utilities for tenants. Politicians and landlords alike seek to oppress working-class community and profit off of them.
We can’t make peace with either of these ruling class enemies. That’s why our greatest allies are each other. It’s important to organize in spite of the oppression – none of their exploitation can be shaken without direct exposure and confrontation of it, so we must keep fighting. We analyze their strategies and tactics and inform our own to combat them. In New Orleans, organized tenants recognized that their landlord needed to go to the court physically to file an eviction, so they physically blocked him from doing so. Over 100 tenants and organizers in Milwaukee marched straight through the Mayor’s neighborhood and right to his house – they knew he spent more time at home during COVID, so they took the fight there. In LA, tenants have already successfully defended against multiple eviction attempts and have kept people in their homes. To be successful takes adaptability and LA is a shining example. And in Pittsburgh organizers and tenants have fought their landlord so effectively through outreach and demonstrations that her mask has irreparably slipped, permanently revealing her as an enemy of the people.
All around the country, landlords are continuing to realize they have nowhere to hide when organized people combat them. They cannot escape the rent strike, defense against evictions, exposure of their exploitive ways, and the justified wrath of the people. We’ve done endless work to bring others into the fight through training, demonstrations, events and study to continue combatting the common enemies of the working class. We know that in the housing struggle, our principle enemies are landlords, property managers, cops, and the city. Every time we fight, we analyze our mistakes and adapt to the next situation. We get better. Enemies of the people have limited tools and adaptability, and time is running out for them to meet our needs. Their attempts to stop us are in vain. To take their repression in stride and to allow it to fan the flames of the struggle shows how weak the landlords are in the face of organized tenants.
Countless apartment complexes around the country have already confronted management and landlords with lists of demands and plan to continue to develop an organization in order to enforce them. We’re not only on the advance. We’re already here.
ORGANIZE YOUR NEIGHBORS AND FIGHT BACK AGAINST LANDLORD REPRESSION!
Donate to support the tenant in Austin facing eviction due to political repression here: https://gogetfunding.com/support-tenant-and-activist-arrested-for-fighting-back-against-slum-conditions/?fbclid=IwAR2iDkmVX1gp6uSN683aex3y3MkZwcwdhn12UavPnwEOgMyqvjuO2C9i-8E