It is important to not just fight the symptoms of injustice, but to offer positive social alternatives that address the root causes. So, it is paramount to discuss what we want the future of housing to be and the role that the tenants unions we are creating will play in that.
Part of our understanding of the housing crisis is that it is largely due to the lack of real democracy in Chicago and certainly the lack of people's power (see principle 7 in our principles). Therefore, a pillar of our solution and vision is the creation of real democratic institutions controlled by the grassroots. This means an elevation of envisioning ordinary people as rightfully being the center of democracy, not the degrading dehumanization of people into mere constituents or lobbyists.
We imagine housing transformed in harmony with our principles. And though many other details of housing justice shall vary, the fundamentals will not—all power to the people's newly created bodies of self-determination: the local communes and worker-run cooperatives. (A worker-run cooperative is a "business" where the workers run every aspect of it without bosses or owners.)
From Tenants Unions to Autonomous Local Communes
We cannot have tenants unions be tenants unions forever—if they were to fight landlords forever, they would become accessories to landlord exploitation, continuously propping up the illegitimate and unjust system of rents and mortgages.
We need the tenants unions to address the problem at the root source: getting rid of the landlord system by the tenants unions themselves becoming a new and necessary organ of people's power—autonomous local communes—within the framework of a neighborhood federation of local communes and worker-run cooperatives.
So we affirmatively say that the tenants union must be the seed of a necessary unit of self-determination: the autonomous local commune.
Functions of the Local Autonomous Commune
These former tenants unions, now autonomous local communes shall
-be the highest authoritative body in their jurisdiction;
-take the place of management in managing the housing in their jurisdiction;
-provide housing for all on terms that the residents assert and enforce themselves; and
-carry out the social administration of society with other local communes and worker-run cooperatives, coordinating through the neighborhood federation.
(Local communes will also form by other means. Not all will have a past history as a tenants union.)
The Neighborhood Federation of Communes and Cooperatives
We can transform power relationships in Chicago, and the tenants communes are a key to this process.
In place of systems of representatives and bureaucracies whom we have to beg for years for the smallest benefit to happen in our favor—while countless other problems intensify— we propose systems of direct democracy rooted in our workplaces and homes, that connect through a neighborhood federation to carry out broader social coordination and problem solving.
For Hyde Park, we proclaim the Hyde Park Federation of Communes and Cooperatives (see diagram). The federation can and must form a dual power to the current system of privilege and inequality that exclude the people and their grassroots assemblies from being the source of all creation, all laws, all justice, and all defense and conflict-resolution.
We are the first neighborhood to proclaim the federation of communes and cooperatives as a necessity and goal. Our hope is that others will also embrace real democracy with similar democratic institutions as an indispensable goal.
When bodies connect to one another to carry out broader issues, central bodies often become necessary, such as central assemblies, central councils, central committees, etc.
These central bodies can destroy the autonomy and freedom of the bodies that have given birth to them, something we do not advocate and will not condone. Or they can enhance their autonomy and freedom through liberatory forms of organization.
Just as we want the tenants council to be subordinate to the tenants assembly, we also want the communes and cooperatives to retain all the power with the neighborhood federation we envision.
As such, our vision is of liberatory organizational relationships as opposed to the oppressive ones we see today.
We want the communes and cooperatives to be the source of all decision-making. They must create and ratify all entities, rules, laws, regulations, and activities that they partake in or that affect their communities.
This is the opposite of what exists today, where central bodies—city council, state legislatures, internal hierarchies in unions, etc.—force their communities to obey entities to laws that they did not create, that they have never consented to and never would consent to.
We imagine these new dynamics of grassroots control being extendable across broader geographies, which we will discuss as the movement for self-determination grows in Chicago.
And so we say, "Long live our communes! Long live our cooperatives! Long live our Neighborhood Federation!"