Taking Possession of Vacant Housing and Protecting the Environment from Profits: The Need to Consider Both Process and Product or Result

A person on Facebook posted the following relating to the problem of accessible housing:

Isabella Gamk shared a post.

Thought the group would like this
May be an image of car and road

Isabella Gamk
“Housing Shortage”? This is not that old of a building and could be fixed up. This building has been shuttered to make room for a condo. There are many such buildings in Toronto. In Canada there 1.3 million empty homes in Canada, many just sitting vacant waiting to be turned into condos. They never talk about this when they say they need to build more homes.

Fred Harris

But to turn them into homes–would it not require an attack on the principle of the sanctity of private property on a massive scale? And would not that require an organized mass struggle? And why stop there? What of the means of production used to construct houses? Why not convert them into common property of all?
well we are on a planet with finite resources. Perhaps we should leave some of those resources for future generations and civilizations.
Fred Harris

Which resources? The cranes, drills used to construct the houses? These are supposed to be left untouched–in the name of “future generations?” If we leave these means of production to employers–we in fact leave a process that constantly strips the natural world of what future generations will need. Employers who own drills, cranes, etc. purchase or rent them with the goal of obtaining more money–profit. But profit at the end of the process is just–money–and not more money. So they need to reinvest again–and again–and again.
To end the rape of the earth, it is necessary to end the rule of the class of employers.
Unless you have an alternative diagnosis of the problem of the rape of the earth and how to stop it. I am all ears.

Now, I am hardly objecting to the goal of trying to take over vacant homes in order to address the serious problem of a lack of adequate housing in Canada and elsewhere. If a movement to seriously aim for that goal were ignited and grew, it could form the point of departure for pointing to solutions that go beyond a society dominated by a class of employers.

To find out more about Ms. Gamk, I looked on the Net. I did listen to an interview with her, dated September 28, 2019 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TFZOhVXcmf4&list=LL).

Ms. Gamk is the founder of POOF–Protecting ODSP OW Funding. ODSP is the Ontario Disability Support Program and OW is Ontario Works (social assistance). She has had a number of health issues in her life, including cocaine addiction, HIV and glaucoma, among other issues.

She receives ODSP, but she points out that ODSP covers $497 for rent and welfare will cover $390. She argues that these need to be doubled–immediately–and then within six months it needs to brought up to average market rent. She argues that even if you double the amount from ODSP, it is $994, but a bachelor suite rents out now between $1100 and $1500; this means that those who receive ODSP would still have to dip into money destined for basic needs was $662 prior to last fall’s 1.5 percent increase–it increased to $672. This is inadequate to survive. Many are now relying on food banks and community meals to eat. Even the NDP, which stated that it would increase rent allowances by 27 percent over three years, would be insufficient, leading to homelessness. Ninety-five percent of the people on the streets receive ODSP or OW.

To double the rates, people would freak because they would be afraid that it would be necessary to raise taxes substantially. But they could tax the corporations and stop giving them incentives, etc. to them.

She also argues that many on the streets want to have a job, but they are stuck because of their homeless circumstances. Furthermore, although there are a number of vacant units for the Toronto Community Housing Corporation, which provides subsidized housing; many of these units are inhabitable due to the large repair bill that TCHC has–without sufficient funding to provide such repairs. She had to wait 20 years to gain access to a unit with TCHC, but even then repairs are often shoddy because of a lack of money and there are often cockroaches and bed bugs. But the homeless will still have to wait 10 to 20 years to gain access to TCHC units. This is wrong.

TCHC, or Toronto Housing, is charging $139 for rent for those who receive ODSP or OW. Why is not John Tory, the mayor of Toronto, increasing the rent to $390 (as allowed for those who receive OW, which is funded by the province) in order for Toronto Housing to receive increased funds to repair the buildings and units? The argument that it is $139 for low-income workers is invalid. The minimum wage, now being $14 an hour works out to $1,750 for a four-week month. That person making $1,750 can surely afford $390 for rent.

She has organized protest rallies, created. distributed and emailed flyers for the rallies. She joined ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now); their logo is on her flyers. She had already been a member of OCAP–the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty). OCAP in particular did not support POOF; they never put POOF’s events on their pages; they never helped distribute flyers; they didn’t help with anything.

OCAP pulled out in part because she opposed affordable, subsidized housing based on the level of income because she believes such housing keeps people in poverty; she also opposes shelters for the same reason; furthermore, she opposes homeless people having the right to live in stairwells whereas OCAP believes they should have the right to do so. ACORN and POOF are fighting to clean up the buildings; OCAP does not care about the buildings or the tenants in the building; they care only about the homeless–but only to the extent that they want to keep them in shelters. POOF, on the other hand, is demanding more money for ODSP and OW recipients.

Another reason why OCAP opposes POOF is because Isabella does not consider sex work to be a job like any other job. If you do it because you want to, then that is fine. However, if you do it because you are in poverty and need to do it in order to obtain money, then it is not right.

Once you are in such a system, it is difficult to move anywhere else except within the system–which leads to the perpetuation of poverty. Furthermore, it is difficult to move within the system even if you have problems with neighbours–whether due to noise or harassment. In addition, if you want to move outside of Toronto Housing, with the inadequate level of rent money that ODSP and OW recipients receive, they cannot afford to move anywhere else except within the Toronto Housing system.

Her solution would be to scrap Toronto Housing and bring ODSP and OW rates for rent to average market rent, and low-income families should receive a rent-subsidy cheque so they could afford average-market rents.  Furthermore, if Toronto Housing is still to exist, land owned by that organization should be used exclusively, she implies, for Toronto Housing units rather than to build condo units as is happening now.

The interviewer, Michael Masurkevitch, implied that we could fund such a system by taking away some of the income of CEOs and distributing it to the lower-income people and homeless in order to achieve a balance.

Ms. Gamk argued that this is true since she implied that the use of high-end or very expensive cars in public these days (which was not the case in earlier times) provides evidence of the availability of money and hence the possibility of taxing the rich to a greater extent.

Given the more recent advocacy for taking over vacant homes on Facebook–as the quotes at the beginning indicate–it would seem that Ms. Gamk now advocates more radical measures in order to address the issue of the lack of housing in Toronto and in Canada. However, it is unclear whether she advocates taking over the vacant homes with compensation or without compensation. I should have asked her that in order to clarify the situation.

However, there are a number of points that can be made.

  1. Focusing on the seizure of existing housing stock (a social product of various workers) without considering the processes that produce such housing stock is one-sided. They are two sides of the same coin. The initiator of the above Facebook post, Isabella Gamk, may not have thought about this before, but when I pointed it out, she shifted her attention (in effect ignoring the connection between process and product) to the issue of finite resources on Earth.
  2. However, when I pointed out that the kind of society in which we live necessarily involves a tendency towards the infinite exhaustion of resources, Ms. Gamk did not respond. Now, this lack of response can be interpreted in various ways. Perhaps she would reconsider her position–and respond later. However, there is no such response from her despite three days having passed. Or she considers my response incomprehensible. If so, she should have asked for clarification–which she did not. Or she chose to simply ignore my response and ignore the need to connect up the fact of limited resources on this planet and the tendential infinite process characterized by an economy–which contradicts the finite nature of the world on which and through which we live.Given the fact that Ms. Gamk did not respond, I choose to interpret her silence as an indication of her failure to connect up the result of diminishing resources on this planet with this tendential process (which I have briefly indicated on my blog on the page The Money Circuit of Capital; I also tend to believe that she probably fails to link up the  result of homes being empty and not being used despite a lack of adequate housing here in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, with the process of producing those homes.

Her reference to treating sex work as a job as being okay if the person wants to do it but not okay if they are in poverty and have to do it in order to obtain money to live fails to address using the same logic to all jobs that involve working for an employer. She probably means by poverty a certain level of income; the use of this category to determine whether a person lives in poverty or not is shared by the social-democratic or social-reformist left. The use of level of income as the prime factor in defining what constitutes poverty certainly has its place in terms of level of consumption and the quality of life outside work; I too have had a lack of money to the extent that I had to apply for and receive social assistance temporarily. I also remember trying to find enough pennies in the apartment (when they existed) in order to be able to go to McDonalds to buy the relatively cheap coffee and muffin combination.

Nonetheless, Ms. Gamk obviously accepts the market standard since she advocates such a standard for ODSP and OW recipients receiving the market rate. Of course, advocating increased rates for such recipients is legitimate, but we should question the adequacy of such a standard. We should also question whether people who work for an employer do so out of their own free will or whether they do so out of need to obtain money–even if their wage or salary is considered by some as relatively high. If we question that, then we can redefine what poverty means–a definition that is broader than the definition of poverty according to level of income. I quoted such a definition in another post (“Capitalism needs economic coercion for its job market to function” (Ontario Coalition Against Poverty: OCAP)). From Geoffrey Kay, The Economic Theory of the Working Class. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1979, pages 2-3:

The absolute poverty of the working class is visibly present in the conditions of work where everything the worker touches belongs to another. The means of production he uses, that is, the machines, buildings, materials, etc. all belong to the employer, who also owns the output. The only thing the worker owns is his capacity to work, and his economic welfare depends upon his being able to sell this at the best possible price. In the course of this [the twentieth) century, particularly during the period of the post-war boom, this price measured in terms of the commodities it can purchase, the real wage, has risen to unprecedented heights, at least in the advanced industrial countries of the west.

As a result of this and the maintenance of full or near full employment backed up by social welfare, the working class has enjoyed greater prosperity and security than at any time in history. In these circumstances it appears strange to talk of absolute poverty, and the old socialist claim that the working class has nothing to lose but its chains seems and archaic relic of the past when the working class did indeed live in dire poverty. Yet the fact remains that the working class today has no greater economic autonomy than its forbears a hundred years ago.

Consider the situation of a contemporary worker who loses his job. This has happened to several million workers in the industrialized world since the long boom faltered in 1973 not counting the other millions of young people who have never found jobs at all. Many of the workers who have recently suffered unemployment for the first time, earned wages that allowed them to enjoy all the trappings of ‘affluency’—decent housing, cars, television, refrigerators and so on. But the loss of the job puts the standard of living immediately in jeopardy, particularly if unemployment lasts for anything more than a few weeks. In the unlikely event of a working class family having a large private income, its initial response to unemployment is to cut back spending on marginal items, and attempt to maintain its lifestyle intact in the hope that new work will be found shortly. As the period of unemployment lengthens, it begins to eat into savings, but this does not hold out much hope.

Working class savings are notoriously low, and often take the form of insurance policies that can only be cashed in at a considerable loss. If the family decides to sell of its consumer durables, apart from reducing its standard of living immediately, it will invariably make further losses as second-hand prices are always far below prices for new articles. Moreover, many working class purchases are financial by hire purchase where the interest element makes the actual price higher than the market price, and the family that sells off relatively new times bought in this way often finds that, far from releasing cash, it lands itself in further debt. Working class affluence is entirely dependent upon wages: remove these—i.e., unemployment—and the absolute poverty of its social situation shows through very quickly. In the nineteenth century unemployment meant immediate destitution; the modern worker is clearly much better off than his forbears—for him and his family poverty is a few weeks, maybe even a few months away.

As Marx also wrote, in relation to prostitution not in its usual, particularized, sense but in a general sense (from Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy (Rough Draft), page 153–a draft written between 1857 and 1858, which forms the basis for the writing of Capital, volume one of which was published in 1867)

(The exchangeability of all products, activities and relations with a third, objective entity [money] which can be re-exchanged for everything without distinction – that is, the development of exchange values (and of money relations) is identical with universal venality, corruption. Universal prostitution appears as a necessary phase in the development of the social character of personal talents, capacities, abilities, activities. More politely expressed : the universal relation of utility and use. The equation of the incompatible, as Shakespeare nicely defined money.

I invite Ms. Gamk and any others to broaden their definition of poverty to include most workers who need to work for an employer in order to obtain the money they need to live (some workers, such as managers, may be excluded since their function is to exploit and oppress workers–even if they too need to work for an employer).

The major problem with Ms. Gamk’s approach has to do with focusing on issues of distribution of already produced commodities rather than their production. For once I agree with Sam Gindin (although this should be center-stage and the focus for criticism of all social-democratic or reformist organizations). He writes ( https://socialistproject.ca/2022/04/inflation-reframing-the-narrative/):

But we need to be sober about an inevitable ceiling on redistributive policies. If we don’t also address the democratization of production – if we don’t also redistribute economic power, capital’s control over production and investment will leave it with the capacity to undermine or sabotage alternative priorities and redistribution goals.

We can put controls on house prices, but developers can refrain from building more houses or build the kinds of housing society needs. We can put controls on gas prices, but this won’t address the issue of a planned phase-out of the oil industry and investment in renewables. We can set drug prices, but the drug companies will still decide which kinds of illnesses they should focus on to maximize their profits. And we can’t control the price of food or adequately subsidize food as needed without a radical rethinking of food production.

As the struggle over distribution comes up against such impasses and causes new crises, the crucial lesson to internalize is not to retreat from our goals. It is to organize to go further.

However, Mr. Gindin then elaborates a little by what he means by “going further”:

and pose public ownership and planning in key sectors – not just for ideological reasons but also as a practical matter of self-defence and meeting critical social needs.

If he means by “public ownership” the mere nationalization of industries without a thorough restructuring, then my earlier criticism of “public ownership” also applies to his proposal (see, for example, my criticism in  A Critical Look at The Socialist Project’s Pamphlet on Green Jobs Oshawa).

Public ownership hardly is identical to democratic control of the workplace by workers, citizens, immigrants and migrant workers.

I will leave the issue there.

Of course, part of the problem may be the way in which I responded to her post. If others have suggestions about how I can improve my communication skills, feel free to comment. I am always open to improvement in my communication skills. Or perhaps my logic is faulty. If so, please provide counterarguments.

12 thoughts on “Taking Possession of Vacant Housing and Protecting the Environment from Profits: The Need to Consider Both Process and Product or Result

  1. My name is Isabella Gamk and I just saw this article. Unfortunately I never even saw some of your comments on that thread and that is why I didn’t respond. I have been really busy on social media and the constant problems I have on Facebook and Messenger have disrupted the norm and I have been in Facebook jail many times and locked out of my accounts many times due to my activism. Perhaps an in person interview or some other kind would be better than jumping to conclusions about why I never got back to you. I am running for Mayor of Toronto this year.

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    1. If I have jumped to conclusions, then please correct me. I raised a number of objections to Ms. Gamk’s response to my question, and she has not responded to my concerns. What is her position with respect to what I already wrote, specifically:

      1. “Focusing on the seizure of existing housing stock (a social product of various workers) without considering the processes that produce such housing stock is one-sided. They are two sides of the same coin. The initiator of the above Facebook post, Isabelle Gank, may not have thought about this before, but when I pointed it out, she shifted her attention (in effect ignoring the connection between process and product) to the issue of finite resources on Earth.”

      “2. However, when I pointed out that the kind of society in which we live necessarily involves a tendency towards the infinite exhaustion of resources, Ms. Gamk did not respond. Now, this lack of response can be interpreted in various ways. Perhaps she would reconsider her position–and respond later. However, there is no such response from her despite three days having passed. Or she considers my response incomprehensible. If so, she should have asked for clarification–which she did not. Or she chose to simply ignore my response and ignore the need to connect up the fact of limited resources on this planet and the tendential infinite process characterized by an economy–which contradicts the finite nature of the world on which and through which we live.Given the fact that Ms. Gamk did not respond, I choose to interpret her silence as an indication of her failure to connect up the result of diminishing resources on this planet with this tendential process (which I have briefly indicated on my blog on the page The Money Circuit of Capital; I also tend to believe that she probably fails to link up the  result of homes being empty and not being used despite a lack of adequate housing here in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, with the process of producing those homes.

      Her reference to treating sex work as a job as being okay if the person wants to do it but not okay if they are in poverty and have to do it in order to obtain money to live fails to address using the same logic to all jobs that involve working for an employer. She probably means by poverty a certain level of income; the use of this category to determine whether a person lives in poverty or not is shared by the social-democratic or social-reformist left. The use of level of income as the prime factor in defining what constitutes poverty certainly has its place in terms of level of consumption and the quality of life outside work; I too have had a lack of money to the extent that I had to apply for and receive social assistance temporarily. I also remember trying to find enough pennies in the apartment (when they existed) in order to be able to go to McDonalds to buy the relatively cheap coffee and muffin combination.

      Nonetheless, Ms. Gamk obviously accepts the market standard since she advocates such a standard for ODSP and OW recipients receiving the market rate. Of course, advocating increased rates for such recipients is legitimate, but we should question the adequacy of such a standard. We should also question whether people who work for an employer do so out of their own free will or whether they do so out of need to obtain money–even if their wage or salary is considered by some as relatively high. If we question that, then we can redefine what poverty means–a definition that is broader than the definition of poverty according to level of income. I quoted such a definition in another post (“Capitalism needs economic coercion for its job market to function” (Ontario Coalition Against Poverty: OCAP)). From Geoffrey Kay, The Economic Theory of the Working Class. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1979, pages 2-3:

      ‘The absolute poverty of the working class is visibly present in the conditions of work where everything the worker touches belongs to another. The means of production he uses, that is, the machines, buildings, materials, etc. all belong to the employer, who also owns the output. The only thing the worker owns is his capacity to work, and his economic welfare depends upon his being able to sell this at the best possible price. In the course of this [the twentieth) century, particularly during the period of the post-war boom, this price measured in terms of the commodities it can purchase, the real wage, has risen to unprecedented heights, at least in the advanced industrial countries of the west.

      As a result of this and the maintenance of full or near full employment backed up by social welfare, the working class has enjoyed greater prosperity and security than at any time in history. In these circumstances it appears strange to talk of absolute poverty, and the old socialist claim that the working class has nothing to lose but its chains seems and archaic relic of the past when the working class did indeed live in dire poverty. Yet the fact remains that the working class today has no greater economic autonomy than its forbears a hundred years ago.

      Consider the situation of a contemporary worker who loses his job. This has happened to several million workers in the industrialized world since the long boom faltered in 1973 not counting the other millions of young people who have never found jobs at all. Many of the workers who have recently suffered unemployment for the first time, earned wages that allowed them to enjoy all the trappings of ‘affluency’—decent housing, cars, television, refrigerators and so on. But the loss of the job puts the standard of living immediately in jeopardy, particularly if unemployment lasts for anything more than a few weeks. In the unlikely event of a working class family having a large private income, its initial response to unemployment is to cut back spending on marginal items, and attempt to maintain its lifestyle intact in the hope that new work will be found shortly. As the period of unemployment lengthens, it begins to eat into savings, but this does not hold out much hope.

      Working class savings are notoriously low, and often take the form of insurance policies that can only be cashed in at a considerable loss. If the family decides to sell of its consumer durables, apart from reducing its standard of living immediately, it will invariably make further losses as second-hand prices are always far below prices for new articles. Moreover, many working class purchases are financial by hire purchase where the interest element makes the actual price higher than the market price, and the family that sells off relatively new times bought in this way often finds that, far from releasing cash, it lands itself in further debt. Working class affluence is entirely dependent upon wages: remove these—i.e., unemployment—and the absolute poverty of its social situation shows through very quickly. In the nineteenth century unemployment meant immediate destitution; the modern worker is clearly much better off than his forbears—for him and his family poverty is a few weeks, maybe even a few months away.’

      As Marx also wrote, in relation to prostitution not in its usual, particularized, sense but in a general sense (from Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy (Rough Draft), page 153–a draft written between 1857 and 1858, which forms the basis for the writing of Capital, volume one of which was published in 1867):

      ‘(The exchangeability of all products, activities and relations with a third, objective entity [money] which can be re-exchanged for everything without distinction – that is, the development of exchange values (and of money relations) is identical with universal venality, corruption. Universal prostitution appears as a necessary phase in the development of the social character of personal talents, capacities, abilities, activities. More politely expressed : the universal relation of utility and use. The equation of the incompatible, as Shakespeare nicely defined money.’

      I invite Ms. Gamk and any others to broaden their definition of poverty to include most workers who need to work for an employer in order to obtain the money they need to live (some workers, such as managers, may be excluded since their function is to exploit and oppress workers–even if they too need to work for an employer).

      The major problem with Ms. Gamk’s approach has to do with focusing on issues of distribution of already produced commodities rather than their production. For once I agree with Sam Gindin (although this should be center-stage and the focus for criticism of all social-democratic or reformist organizations). He writes ( https://socialistproject.ca/2022/04/inflation-reframing-the-narrative/):

      ‘But we need to be sober about an inevitable ceiling on redistributive policies. If we don’t also address the democratization of production – if we don’t also redistribute economic power, capital’s control over production and investment will leave it with the capacity to undermine or sabotage alternative priorities and redistribution goals.

      We can put controls on house prices, but developers can refrain from building more houses or build the kinds of housing society needs. We can put controls on gas prices, but this won’t address the issue of a planned phase-out of the oil industry and investment in renewables. We can set drug prices, but the drug companies will still decide which kinds of illnesses they should focus on to maximize their profits. And we can’t control the price of food or adequately subsidize food as needed without a radical rethinking of food production.

      As the struggle over distribution comes up against such impasses and causes new crises, the crucial lesson to internalize is not to retreat from our goals. It is to organize to go further.’

      Like

      1. I am not sure what you are doing or where you are going with this article. Please spell my name correctly. Seizing vacant property is called expropriation. If a building is sitting vacant for a long time, say 7 – 10 yrs, without any improvements being made they could possibly be seized by the city and whoever is holding the property could get paid market value for an undeveloped property so the city could build average market rent units on the site/sites.
        House flippers/investors are driving up property values and average market rent by including extra high profits in the sale price. Perhaps new investment property owners shouldn’t be allowed to sell for 10 yrs and must have actual tenants within a year and a half to two yrs?
        Building units or buildings as investments where no one lives in them is truly a waste of resources and should not be built without a written agreement with the city that they will be occupied full time after being built. If you have any other questions feel free to ask.

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      2. Ms. Gamk has not addressed the issues I raised in my previous reply.

        The issue of expropriating unused housing is linked to the construction industry and the purpose of the construction industry since housing in a capitalist society is produced by workers subject to the power of construction employers. The construction workers, along with millions (indeed billions throughout the world) have already been expropriated by having the conditions for their work expropriated by employers (employers would not exist if workers controlled the conditions of producing their own lives).

        So, the issue is: Why does Ms. Gamk stop at the expropriation of already produced housing and ignore the issue of the corresponding need to expropriate the property of the construction employers? In other words, why stop at the expropriation of owners of housing? In a capitalist society in general, workers are hired by employers, and workers produce commodities which they do not own. What does Ms. Gamk have to say about this form of expropriation? What does she say should be done about it? Why refer to “whowever is holding the property could get paid market value” when the general structure of property relations is such that the initial owner of newly produced housing is–the employer?

        What does she say about construction employers using, exploiting and oppressing construction workers in order to own the resulting housing?

        Why does Ms. Gamk not link expropriation of already produced housing with the process of producing housing?

        Furthermore, since the issue is wider than just the expropriation of already produced housing, proposals for the expropriation of already produced housing would not only meet resistance from capitalist construction employers but also from the whole class of employers. To oppose such a force, it would be necessary to engage in organizing workers, citizens, immigrants and migrants to create a counterforce. Has Ms. Gamk proposed this?

        This does not mean that I would not support the expropriation of unused housing–but the issues are much wider than she has presented them. It is ultimately a class issue, and the underestimation of the extent to which employers would resist such a proposal is hardly in the interests of the working class.

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      3. Realistically if construction workers didn’t exist hardly anything would get built, most land owners could not build anything with out hired help. What would you do to hold employers more accountable? Should construction workers get a share of the profits from the sale of properties they help build upon completion of the sale on top of their wages or should there be no wages and their only income be a share of the profit?
        I think the poverty-line, going by the Canadian Federal Government’s CERB program, is about $2300.00 a month per person and could be why people complained that the CERB amount of $2000.00 a month wasn’t enough.
        Municipal Average Market Rent amounts should be established and updated quarterly by the Federal Government to keep programs up to date, including provincial programs.
        Ultimately I believe the Canadian Federal Government needs to invoke the Emergency Act Measures and build on their own, without contractors being middlepeople to skim off needed cash, 20,000 40 storey Average Market Rent Rental Apartment Buildings across Canada and Guarantee Constitutionally Average Market Rent moneys to Canadians and put an end to the housing schemes that in 50 years has created more Homelessness than ever.

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      4. The issue is hardly one of ‘holding employers more accountable.” The issue is the existence of a class of employers. Why do employers exist? Do we need them anymore? I am hardly proposing that “construction workers get a share of the profit.” And why is that wages exist in the first place? Ms. Gamk does not question the legitimacy of the employer-employee relatipon but seems to assume the continued need for such a relaton.

        Could not workers, citizens, immirgants and migrants jointly own and control not only the means to produce housing, but also the means to produce cars, buses, airplanes, beer, clothing, vegetables, fruit, and so forth?

        Ms. Gamk refers to the Federal Government addressing the housing issue. Why would we look to the federal government as it presently exists to resolve the issue? Does not the federal government protect the property of employers? Is not the federal government (and here I am not talking about Trudueau’s liberal government but any political party that administers the federal government) part of the problem and not the solution? Is not the federal government itself an employer? Do “its” workers democratically control their own lives?

        For an alternative view of what needs to be done, see the series of posts on Socialism (with the subtitle What It May Look Like).

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      5. As far as everyone taking care of business for themselves and managing things it would probably wouldn’t work because it’s really hard to get people to cooperate to accomplish common goals. This is due to government oppression and short term attention spans from watching Television for years and now made even shorter by TikTok. Getting people to think for themselves and to take care of themselves and others in need without government safety nets would take a couple generations and couldn’t or wouldn’t happen overnight. Health, safety, education and sanitation would also deteriorate. Infrastructure would crumble.
        I do know about Social Murder and that people were forced to go to work in towns and cities or starve to death after they were kicked off of the public land they were living on in order to survive.
        I think if people are left to their own devices a Lord of the Flies scenario may play out and fiefdom and gangs would create havoc. Look how Haitians attacked each other with machetes for food after 3 days without power after that devastating earthquake in Haiti some yrs ago. Inbreeding, superstition, rumors, false information or disinformation would slowly deteriorate social activities and norms. Vigilantism, revenge killings, blood feuds and witch hunts would frighten people needlessly or senseless.
        I think religion is part of the problem and teaches that their must be a hierarchy of sorts and it misleads people and perpetuates hatred, killing and poverty in that it normalizes all three subconsciously and basically teaches they are acceptable because they existed over 2000 years ago. Sort of like our fake “Throne Speech”, politicians are just ordinary people doing business and certainly not royalty.
        When you ask about the “legitimacy”, of construction company owners and or their workers my guess is it is legitimate at the moment until a better system comes into being because it keeps workers employed building for people or corporations the owner or manager of the construction company has and the workers don’t have to rely on themselves to hunt for and find jobs to keep their income coming in. Construction workers on their own would use up all their own contacts in a matter of time and then they would be out of work.
        At the moment we have to work with what’s available when it comes to building apartment buildings and hope the system changes down the road. Without a company foreman and paymaster who would make sure construction workers show up to work for crucial cement pour on an apartment building or other job where time is crucial?
        Urban sprawl is certainly not the answer as it wastes land which will probably be needed as the world changes with global warming. Toronto makes it’s own climate and now is in drought according to the news today. Does it not take more materials to build 500 individual homes than it would take to build a single 500 unit apartment building?
        I think possibly to get to that utopian world, you would like to see, we would need a true one world governing council with 255 council members randomly drawn by computer for one 5 yr term. Every year cycle out 51 council members and bring in 51 new randomly drawn by computer council members that could learn in the first 3 yrs and help lead in the last 2 yrs. Getting world leaders to give up their power and borders would be the hard part.

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      6. “As far as everyone taking care of business for themselves and managing things it would probably wouldn’t work because it’s really hard to get people to cooperate to accomplish common goals. This is due to government oppression and short term attention spans from watching Television for years and now made even shorter by TikTok. Getting people to think for themselves and to take care of themselves and others in need without government safety nets would take a couple generations and couldn’t or wouldn’t happen overnight. Health, safety, education and sanitation would also deteriorate. Infrastructure would crumble.”

        1. I did not write that everyone would take “cae of business for themselves.” I referred to a series of posts on socialism and how it may work–but Ms. Gamk did not obviously bother to refer to them. I refer to various levels of organizations at the municipal, regional, national and international levels democratically making decisions concerning our collective lives. There would not be some sort of atomistic decision-making taking place, that is to say, ” taking care of business for themselves” independently of others.

        Why did Ms. Gamk not refer to some of my posts on the possible nature of socialism?

        Ms. Gamk also contradicts herself. She claims that “it would probably wouldn’t work because it’s really hard to get people to cooperate to accomplish common goals. Is not expropriating vacant houses achieved by many people working together towards that common goal?

        “This is due to government oppression and short term attention spans from watching Television for years and now made even shorter by TikTok.”

        Government oppression certainly exists; but what is sauce for the goose is not saucse for the gander. Is not government oppression, that is to say, defense of the interests of the property rights of employers, something that would prevent governmental expropriation of the property of owners of vacant houses? Why would Ms. Gamk affirm that government could do that in the case of vacant houses but not affirm it in the case of the owners of the condtions which produce those houses?

        As for the “short-term attention spans from watching televiion for years and now made even shorter by TikTok”–such a view expresses contempt for the intellectual capacity of workers, does it not?

        “Getting people to think for themselves and to take care of themselves and others in need without government safety nets would take a couple of generations.”

        Does this, again, not express contempt for the intellectual capacities of ordinary people. It is a very paternalistic attitude. Of course, Ms. Gamk excludes herself from lacking the capacity for engaging in meaningful discussion. She evidently considers herself superior to the run-of-the-mill person. I suspect that many social democrats or social reformers have similar attitudes towards regular workers.

        “would take a couple of generations and couldn’t or wouldn’t happen ovrernight.” Hardly any meaningful change would not take many years, if not generational change. Would Ms. Gamk’s proposal to expropriate vacant houses occur in a few days? Weeks? Would it not be necessary to draw up criteria for expropriation? How long would that take? Would it not take substantial time to implement the agreed upon criteria?

        Merely because something takes many years is hardly a justification for not doing it.

        I will continue to reply to Ms. Gamk’s comments tomorrow, when and if I have time.

        “Health, safety, education and sanitation would also deteriorate. Infrastructure would crumble.”

        So, Ms. Gamk is arguing that the reason why workers should not try to control their own lives is because there might be an alleged deterioration in “health, safety, education and sanitation” as well as infrastructure? This “argument” is no argument at all but mere assertion. Health deteriorated in the face of Covid, did it not? And what were the conditions for a pandemic? As I wrote in one post:

        “Given the emergency situation, certainly the identification of such immediate problems and proposed solutions to such problems is warranted. They are necessary and urgent. We need, as the post does, guidelines about what needs to be done immediately to address the inadequate responses by the Doug Ford government to the crisis in health care in the context of the pandemic.

        However, this short-term could at least have been linked to both the specification of the longer-term problems that led to the pandemic and to longer-term goals that address the problem of overcoming economic, political and social structures that treat human beings as expendable costs in the production and exchange of commodities or as costs in long-term home care.

        Some of the longer-term conditions for the emergence of Covid-19 are outlined by Mike Davis in his work (2020) The Monster Enters: COVID-19, Avian Flu and the Plagues of Capitalism:

        ‘But this time around there was little mystery about the identity of the microbe—SARS-CoV-2 was sequenced almost overnight in January—or the steps necessary to fight it. Since the discovery of the HIV virus in 1983 and the recognition that it had jumped from apes to humans, science has been on high alert against the appearance of deadly new diseases with pandemic potential that have crossed over from wild fauna. This new age of plagues, like previous pandemic epochs, is directly the result of economic globalization. … Today, as was the case when I wrote Monster fifteen years ago, multinational capital has been the driver of disease evolution through the burning or logging out of tropical forests, the proliferation of factory farming, the explosive growth of slums and concomitantly of “informal employment,” and the failure of the pharmaceutical industry to find profit in mass producing lifeline antivirals, new-generation antibiotics, and universal vaccines.

        Forest destruction, whether by multinationals or desperate subsistence farmers, eliminates the barrier between human populations and the reclusive wild viruses endemic to birds, bats, and mammals. Factory farms and giant feedlots act as huge incubators of novel viruses while appalling sanitary conditions in slums produce populations that are both densely packed and immune compromised. The inability of global capitalism to create jobs in the so-called “developing world” means that a billion or more subsistence workers (the “informal proletariat”) lack an employer link to healthcare or the income to purchase treatment from the private sector, leaving them dependent upon collapsing public hospitals systems, if they even exist. Permanent bio-protection against new plagues, accordingly, would require more than vaccines. It would need the suppression of these
        “structures of disease emergence” through revolutionary reforms in agriculture and urban living that no large capitalist or state-capitalist country would ever willingly undertake.

        Does the Ontario Health Coalition look at not only the immediate threat and its solutions but also the wider social context? The indirect criticism of neoliberal cuts in health care are implied: “The crisis in staffing capacity in long-term care must be addressed without any further delay.” The longer-term problems associated with the kind of society that is dominated by a class of employers is shuffled off into outer space, where it will be addressed who knows when or how.

        Surely, the issue of health and safety in a society dominated by a class of employers should be a center-point for discussion and what can be done about it. Short-term problems and appropriate measures to be taken do indeed need to be discussed, but this pandemic is no longer something a few weeks or months old. We are now in 2021. Why are not the longer-term problems associated with an economic, political and social structure that has not only fostered conditions for the emergence of deadly viruses and their spread not discussed? Why are there not deep discussions about possible solutions to this large-scale problem?

        The Ontario Health Coalition, in its article, instead of providing such a discussion and a vision of how we can prevent this situation from ever happening again, mainly focuses on immediate problems. These are indeed necessary–but they are hardly sufficient.

        As for safety, I have pointed out often enough on my blog that workers’ safety takes second place to the pursuit of surplus value (profit). At least 1,000 workers in Canada die a year at work (and this is only the official estimate–the numbers, as I have shown, are much higher). Add to that the approximately 600,000 injuries and diseases at work. Add to that the health of citizens, immigrants and migrants outside work (I myself have been diagnosed with bladder cancer, rectal cancer and metastatic liver cancer).

        As for education, surely education in Canada has deteriorated even more than when I was in school. Grades are emphasized more than learnng, with high-school graduation more important than real learning (as I have outlined in a couple of posts). Universities now hire more contract faculty than tenured faculty.

        Furthermore, Ms. Gamk does not even inquire into the extent to which educational institutions really educate. Educational research, as I noted in one of my posts, merely researches on the basis of the existing school system. It does not question whether such institutionns are deficient in terms of educating students.

        For example, why is there such a focus on grades (called summative assessment in educational circles) rather than on formative assessment (feedback to improve learning)? Why do grades exist at all? What funciton do they serve except to control students, on the one hand, and distribute students throughout the educational system on the other (and, eventually, distribution of workers in the workforce)? The educational system is, thus, indireclty connected to the market for workers–and their exploitation and oppression.

        As for sanitation and infrastructure, since I have not studies these areas, I will refrain from making any comment.

        In sum, Ms. Gank’s objections about health, safety and education have no foundation.

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      7. Because I am not obligated to read everything some stranger wants me to read. I also don’t have to continue to defend my responses to feed your narrative/agenda so I won’t.
        Have a great night.

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      8. Of course, Ms. Gamk is not obligated to reply.

        The fact is, Ms. Gamk cannot defend her responses because her responses are not well thought out. Her focus is on symptoms and not causes. It is like an incompetent doctor I had in Winnipeg. I told him that I had blood in my urine. Without doing any inquiry, he suggested that I had a bladder infection. He also dissuaded me from having a cystoscopy (where a doctor places a thin insturment with a camera through the urethra in order to look at the bladder), or a CT scan (due to budget cuts in health care, if i remember correctly). A year or two later–I was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2009 and informed that the probability of dying was 60% in the next five years (which obviously did not occur because of the competency of my urologist, Dr. Bard).

        To focus on vacant houses while others go homeless or where rents are increasing to sky-high levels is to deal with symptoms and not causes.

        Such is the nature of the social-democratic or social-reformist left in Toronto and Canada.

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      9. All you have done is attack me for having my own opinion. If this is what passes for journalism these days it’s pretty pathetic. I have read many many articles and if I choose to skip your subtle passive aggressive demands to read more articles on the same subject so be it. Did any of these people or organizations you want to quote actually end poverty or homelessness? NO!!! They didn’t! So reading their stuff and wasting my time would be just that, wasting my time. I have 62 years lived experience and don’t need you to shape my views, society has already done that. I am not reading anymore of your drivel as you are basically trolling. You verge on insulting me and I have had enough if it. If you want to bullshit attack me some more go right ahead, I’m used to it from fighting for the disabled and poor on the streets and on social media platforms.

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      10. Expressing one’s political opinion, not just an opinion. When one expresses a political opinion, one can expect to be criticized–that is the nature of politics.

        I did not criticize Ms. Gamk personally. In fact, on a personal level, when Ms. Gamk’s efforts to organize protests against the pathetic amount of money that ODSP ((Ontario Disability Support Program) and other social welfare schemes did not succeed, and she felt rather down because of it, I praised her when she tried to point out how the police operate (as I wrote, it is necessary to understand how the police operate)

        I definitely disagree with anyone who divorces products or consequences (such as a lack of housing) with processes related to them (such as the construction industry). I have criticized others on my blog for the same reason (such as Herman Rosenfeld, who argued that we should somehow transform the police rather than abolish it); he did not provide any understanding of the process by which the police came to oppress us in the first place.

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