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Prop 98 can provoke a city-wide rent strike in San Francisco, and elsewhere.

Submitted by News Desk on Fri, 05/09/2008 - 11:43am

Housing activists have absolutely no plan to effectively confront the passage of Proposition 98, which will abolish rent control statewide.

The first thing I heard about Prop 98, the election scheme to gut rent control in California, was an editorial by Ted Gullicksen the main person of the San Francisco Tenants Union, in the SF Bay Guardian, a wretched corporate liberal rag here in SF. Gullicksen summoned up the spectre of literally hundreds of thousands of tenants sheepishly up and moving out of San Francisco if this measure passes, all leaving town quietly at the same time.

Noticibly absent from the perspective of the main person of the San Francisco Tenants Union was the notion of everyone who stands to be adversely affected by Prop 98 going on a huge city-wide rent strike at the same time.

Friends who have been involved in quote-unquote direct action housing struggles have always slung this dual strategy line at people like me, people who are against any participation in electoral politics. The line goes, well, we fight for small measures like rent control by getting people out to vote for it, and then we also organize tenants, and help working people get themselves organized in a context of the permanent market-generated housing crisis, too. What seems to be more often the case is that so much time and efforts gets absorbed by fighting to get rent control measures passed, and then trying to keep them from being overturned or from dying the death of a thousand cuts that the housing activists in question have no time and energy left for the direct action element of their dual strategy. And this involvement in an unending loss of ground doesn't result in any upswing in the learning curve of of self-styled housing activists; they remain beholden to the system in general and to the Nancy Pelosi branch of its political class in particular. Ted Gulliksen's assumption in his Bay Guardian opinion piece was that in the face of the downfall of rent control we should all just move out of our homes, and that we will have absolutely no choice -- and no other options are available to us.

Actually, the capitalist class themselves wouldn't want some kind of mass exodus of a quarter million-plus tenants from SF, since it would result in economic turmoil for them on many levels; skilled workers having to leave town would disrupt numerous businesses, and probably all major ones, the retail sectors would take a huge hit since there would suddenly be a lot fewer people with money to spend in the face of across the board massive rent hikes, ect.

Now we face a situation where all the work-within-the-system stuff will go completely and utterly down the tubes if this Prop 98 measure passes, and there will be nothing to lose by throwing caution to the wind and trying an all-out, go-for-broke approach -- but the housing activist folks have been so psychologically and functionally domesticated by their endlessly losing involvement in electoral politics, and in other attendant aspects of channeling all efforts around renters/tenants needs into petitioning the powers that be, that any notion of mass direct resistance has been completely scrubbed from their consciousness.

Aside from the fact that electoral politics was effectively annexed by the advertising industry many decades ago, I think the election hustle acts in an organic and "natural" manner to keep any kind of working people's counter-power around what we need from coming into being. The way the psychology of voting works is to imbue the voter with the idea that if you think you have a voice, and you refrain from using it, or you play the game fairly and the side you vote for loses then you have to go along with whatever results from it, no matter how much damage this does to you.

This is examined a little more in this poster titled 'VOTING CHANGES NOTHING:'