For Public Housing, Green Space and Livable Cities!

21-08-2016 – Concrete jungles, unaffordable housing, expensive public transport, the privatisation and commercialisation of more and more public space, traffic congestion – all this has unfortunately become the norm for Brisbane for some years now. The imposing “West Village” development in West End is scarcely different. Seven 15 storey high-density luxury apartments are proposed by development corporations with no other agenda other than to pocket themselves millions of dollars, and damn the consequences, for they do not live anywhere near the monstrosity built.

Local State Member of Parliament, the Australian Labor Party’s ALP Jackie Trad, has, after objections, initiated the process of “calling in” the West Village development.[1] But this does not at all mean that the project will be stopped – it could be merely a mechanism by which an ALP politician can claim that they have carried out “public consultation”. The ALP, along with the Liberal National Party (LNP) are bought and paid operatives for the system which creates unsustainable development in the first place. In fact, the entire parliamentary system, from the local council right up to the Federal Government, is not a system of “representation”, but a system of suppressing the right of working people to make political decisions.

The parliamentary apparatus is the sham political arm of the capitalist system – the system of private production for private profit. At the same time, privately organised production uses the social labour of the working class to amass all the monetary gain, returning only enough to working people the means to reproduce themselves – or not even that. This system has been in recession for years in Australia, with no current signs of any kind of recovery. Capital seeks an ever greater return on its rate of profit, and thus will undertake projects which glean the highest rate of return – irrespective of what working people and the communities in which they live actually need. Affordable public housing, cheap or free public housing, green space and public parks and amenities – capital pockets no profit from building or maintaining such needs for working people.

Developments such as West Village are an example of the contradiction between private property and social property. As long as the Absoe Furniture site remains private property, the capitalist system will allow, and is set up to enable, the private owners to do as they see fit – short of a huge intervention by working people. Private property in land underpins capitalism. Opposing this system is social property owned in common – socialism. The struggle for rational social planning, for green space, for public housing and public amenities, therefore, is ultimately a struggle against private property. Such a struggle ultimately can only successfully be waged as a working class struggle. A “community” campaign, due to the fact that it appeals to all “locals” regardless of class, just won’t cut it.

Historically, where the working class has waged such a successful struggle which has resulted in victory, working people have reaped the benefits. While in Australia we have governments of all stripes which have privatised public housing, in the People’s Republic of China, their government has embarked on an immense public housing program. By the end of 2014, the Chinese government had supplied 40 million families with low-rent public housing.[2] Housing in China is seen as a responsibility of the government. Or take the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK – referred to by the Western media as “North Korea”). Its capital Pyongyang has a whopping 58 square metres of green space per person[3], and is known for its 10 metre wide footpaths. Compare this to Brisbane, with a maximum of 4 square centimetres of green space per person.[4]

The crucial difference is that, with all its imperfections, socialism rules in China and the DPRK, whereas capitalism remains unchallenged in Australia. Local struggles, such as the one against the rapacious property developers, backed by the Brisbane City Council, seeking to bury West End under an avalanche of luxury units, are important way before the struggle advances to the stage of posing questions of the entire system. The efforts of all those struggling to make Brisbane a livable city are welcome. Yet even here class differences will become apparent. Residents and working people will have a totally different conception of “livable” compared to Councillors, developers, real estate agents and even small shopkeepers. They all see dollars in their pockets, whereas as working residents desire a pleasant and amenable place to reside for themselves and their families. In fact, the struggle for livable cities is inseparable from the struggle for decent working conditions, a lower cost of living, decent public transport and basic public services. With the right strategy, a win in one area can mean a win in others. Down with “West Village”! 

Workers League

PO Box 66 Nundah QLD 4012


[1]’s-west-village-development-20160727-gqelwv.html (14-08-16)

[2] (15-08-16)

[3] Willoughby, R., 2014, North Korea – The Bradt Travel Guide.

[4] (15-08-16)

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