What happened to social solidarity (1)?

This is an article in the Guardian about how hard it is for people claiming Housing Benefit to get a private rental property.

The premise is correct. It is hard. The Guardian writer equates this to racial discrimination. This, however, is a false analogy. Racial discrimination is of a completely different order of seriousness. Assuming you believe that black people are no more unreliable than white people then to discriminate against a black person is pure racism. To discriminate against someone receiving social security to pay the rent may well be a rational decision. Apart from a greater likelihood of having a disruptive tenant (a perception for sure; but quite possibly true) there are other purely practical matters e.g. the rent will depend on the local authority who may pay late or change their rules at any time. It is characteristic of the shallow level of contemporary journalism to see such analogies made.

It is illuminating to read the reader comments section on this article. Neither in the article itself, nor in the comments section, (as far as this author has read), does anyone consider the actual relationship of landlord and tenant. The Guardian has picked a ‘top comment’. This comes from someone who may be supposed to be understood as a ‘socially responsible’ private landlord. In fact the notion of the ‘ethical buy to let landlord’ is often promoted by the Guardian. Ah. Liberals.

Charging people market rates to have a shelter over their head. Throwing them out if and when the labour market has temporarily dispensed with their services. This is the market over social solidarity. Taking advantage of your ownership of or access to private capital to make a profit out of a basic human need from someone who does not own capital is as exploitative as it gets. Private rental is not compatible with a society founded on solidarity. This is why the private rental market was made illegal in the Socialist USSR.

It seems that liberal ideology is so entrenched that even ‘left-wing’ criticisms of problems in the private rental market can go no further than wishing that more private landlords were socially responsible. This is sugar coating greed and exploitation.

Where is the left? (Ah. Dreaming of borrowing more money to spend on hugely inefficient public services supplied at huge profit margins by parasitic private companies. But that, of course, is another story).


The above should be corrected. Most of the Guardian comments are of the order of suggesting tweaks to the existing system. This one stands out as an exception, from commentator ‘pearlygrey’:

The private rental sector does not exist to meet housing need for the many.

It exists to enrich landlords and promote accumulation of wealth (including vast transfers of public money) for the few. We need to build public housing and stop encouraging this mass, legalised theft.

A voice crying in the wilderness of course. There is no organised political movement in the UK which is founded on socialist ideas. The liberal ‘left’ limits itself to moaning about the effects of the individualistic, capitalist system it so fervently believes in. A system which embodies selfishness as its core principle can’t be made ‘nice’ with a few regulatory tweaks.



Author: justinwyllie

EFL Teacher and Photographer