United Neighborhood Defense Movement(UNDM) is a national organization fighting for working class tenants across a variety of housing struggles with chapters across the country. We formed in 2020 from multiple organizations deeply involved in the housing struggle and united on a common line—that capitalism is the root of the housing crisis and it must be resisted to be able to resist poor housing conditions and displacement.
Below are some of the ideas which guide our work. This is not complete, but are a general view of what informs the strategy and tactics we take in the struggle to defend the neighborhoods and homes of workers, to fight for better conditions and against our displacement. If you agree with these ideas, we hope you will consider joining our work, supporting us, or even starting a chapter in your city.
We must organize struggle to defend our neighborhoods, for better living conditions and against our displacement. Communities that are able to defend themselves are more prepared to further the struggle for the overall transformation of society into one that serves the people, not the parasitic and wealthy.
The root of the housing issues that afflict the working class is the capitalist system in its most decadent and decaying form. Private property and finance capital are the foundation of this system, and cannot be resolved without abolishing private property, that is the property which exists to bleed profits from the work of others.
Capitalism will never provide what the working class needs, because it depends on the exploitation of the working class and the disruption of their lives through substandard and unstable housing conditions. Capitalism restricts the working class to the areas that its backward production requires, creating neighborhoods stricken by poverty, crime, and lack of infrastructure.
We are against conciliation and collaboration with the ruling class, we are against anything that leads to capitulating to their interests against our own. There can be no peace between the classes, this principle forms the foundation of our approach.
Under the rule of capitalists, we are told to accept whatever crumbs are offered to us, and not to fight fiercely for what we know we deserve in the interests of false ‘dialogue’ or peace.
The ruling class will always try and sanitize its image, to make itself look like benevolent rulers, with the public interest at heart, we must organize our struggle to help everyone see through this, by tirelessly pointing out the profit motive. We understand that the fight is to prevent the ruling class from exploiting our struggles opportunistically to improve their public relations, so we approach all concessions from this perspective, while understanding that all battles will be a process of advance and retreat. Concessions are part of advance and retreat and must be evaluated on what preserves the forces of the people, and weakens the forces of the enemy.
Our campaigns are chosen based on concrete goals, such as the fight for better housing conditions by forcing landlords to fix things, as well as taking matters into our own hands, bypassing landlords to fix things directly, to oppose eviction and displacement, and to the gentrification of working class neighborhoods. We do not seek unprincipled negotiations with landlords, politicians, or developers – we will determine when a struggle is concluded, not them. Additionally, even when and if we negotiate with representatives of the ruling class, we will not collaborate with them or consider them friends simply because a struggle concludes. Collaboration means to aid the ruling class in appearing as our friends. We adhere to the basic fact that we cannot negotiate what has not been confirmed in the struggle.
This is done through promoting and ensuring that the people get organized in the fight for justice so that they can administer things more and more themselves. This means training and preparing the community to rely on itself and the struggle to meet its needs, restricting reliance on the very system that keeps them without. The people must refuse to be purchased against their own longterm interests. We must highlight the role of the organizations which prop up and rehabilitate the image of the state, and never forget this in the interests of short-term gains. This means exposing the role of “philanthropy” and “charity” throughout all of our struggles. We oppose the conservative notion of “stop fighting, let’s talk” by insisting on the principle that negotiations are only reached through pressuring and persistence. We understand that every conquest we make can be reversed if the fighting relents.
UNDM will not campaign for or endorse any political candidate, at any level. Politicians, whether in office or running for it, are clear allies of the ruling class. Even those with some sympathies for the people are choosing to take an official title with the capitalist state, and we can not allow our organization to be an aid in their promotion, which is nothing more than their individual career to serve the ruling class. We do not seek changes by propping up those who seek to integrate into the enemy camp for their career interests.
We know that whatever they say is only towards their goal of getting elected or to remain in office, and will mean little. What acts they do carry out in office, even ones that can help people short term, are only in the interest of maintaining the system as it is, not to transform it. Politicians will at best seek surrender through unbalanced compromise between those who have nothing, and those who own everything.
The working class are those who make the world function yet do not currently decide how it is run, because they don’t own the factories, banks, transportation systems, land, etc… What is called ‘ownership’ for the working class is a mere illusion, not only because the majority of us rent where we live in our society, but what little ‘ownership’ we have access to, such as owning a home, is entirely subject to the whims of capital, and can be stripped away at any point, as the 2008 recession showed.
Our goal is not home ownership for all, but power for the working class to decide how we live and where we live, collectively as a class and society. Housing should be collectively owned, managed, and built for the most benefit to those who live within them. Housing is a people’s right, and should not be cause for private profiteering.
Historical systems built on the racist ideas employed by the capitalists have created disproportionate effects on communities of Black people, Chicanos, and working class immigrants, making them the most targeted for sub-standard housing, ghettoization and gentrification in major US cities. Continuing racism, in the form of police brutality, is used to keep the most exploited of all workers in line and obedient. It further serves to divide the class and pit worker against worker along racial lines, distracting the people from seeing who is really profiteering from their misery.
Gentrification also means the mockery of cultures and communities by invading newcomers and businesses. These are tactics to push displacement and demean the working class and oppressed groups, and will be resisted forcefully. The cultural battle is one front of the housing struggles, and the cultural needs of the people must not be left to those who will weaken and divide the class.
The long term organizing and struggles that UNDM takes on in our homes and neighborhoods prepares the people for the difficult road ahead, that is the struggle to develop and maintain a society which serves the majority of people against those who are intent to prey upon them. Neighborhood defense means preserving and conquering our neighborhoods so that the people themselves can administer their own affairs and those who derive a profit are excluded.
This cannot be accomplished on a single platform, so we remain open minded about working with all those who genuinely struggle for a new society. Our goal is the establishment of a broad and diverse organization in every neighborhood where honest working people are struggling, our organization’s membership should always seek to reflect the people on the local levels where it operates.
Our focus is placed immediately on the people who struggle the hardest and have the most to gain. This does not mean that we neglect our friends in the struggle, fixtures of the community and even the small businesses that cater to the needs of the people and have an interest in their well-being must be defended. With these principles we will develop the most broad and far reaching national organization that will unite all the separated neighborhoods together across the whole US into one force. We are united neighborhoods who have come together to form a solid defense movement, we have lived our lives under unrelenting attack and it is time to fight back!