During the depression of the 1930s as many as 35 percent of workers were unemployed. They had no unemployment insurance and quickly fell behind in their rent. But much of the time they didn’t get thrown out of their homes because large numbers of people stood up together against the police to block evictions.
With advanced warning of an eviction, hundreds of residents would gather to block the deputies from putting the furniture out on street. If they couldn’t stop an eviction then neighbors and friends would help put the furniture back in the home after the cops had gone.
Across the country there were thousands of anti-eviction demonstrations. In New York City alone, four years into the depression over 77,000 evictions were blocked. Protests were sufficiently widespread that governments were forced to stop evictions all together for long periods of time and to set up funds to help the unemployed pay their rent.
These victories were possible because large numbers of people were fought back against a system that oppressed and impoverished them. Working people built organizations they controlled and could depend on. In the 1930s unemployed councils not only mobilized to stop evictions, they organized citywide demonstrations against the politicians and the banks. Socialists and other radicals took the lead in building these organizations.
The housing crisis today is not getting better for most working people and for many it is getting worse. If we are going to begin to turn the situation around we will have to again organize fights like those of the 30s.