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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Trotskyites Come Out in Support of Real Estate Speculators and Polluters

The predatory and fascistic nature of capitalists and their bought and paid for right-wing politicians is widely known but often overlooked is the petit fait that some groups on the Left agree with them on a number of issues. A good case in point was the World Socialists' analysis of the United States Supreme Court's June 23rd ruling in Kelo v City of New London.

In their June 27th article entitled "Supreme Court Upholds Government Land Grabs for Developers" (available at www.wsws.org), John Andrews and Barry Grey follow the modus operandi of the corrupt capitalist media by relating only one side of the story. Admittedly, government's abuse of its power of eminent domain has resulted in the outright theft of untold numbers of residences and small businesses which once belonged to the poor and the working class; this, along with immigration and outsourcing, is one of the main reasons tens of millions of Americans sleep in either the street or in shelters every night. Of course, the pro-immigration Trotskyites would never agree with that.

Nonetheless, the battle over eminent domain is largely an internecine one being fought out amongst predatory capitalists. This is evident by the huge chunks of real estate which are owned by banks and real estate companies (including Real Estate Investment Trusts or REITs). Furthermore, these bloodsuckers have acquired the majority of their holdings through such patently immoral practices as foreclosures, illegal evictions, fire sales, and by preying upon the vulnerable (farmers, the elderly, and the poor). Once acquired, they then hold on to these properties, often derelict, for as long as decades until they are able to find someone willing to pay their exorbitant asking prices. This in turn prompts other capitalists, for ever on the lookout for cheap land, to buy up and destroy arable farmland, wetlands, and woodlands, thus destroying the environment and killing off the animals.

Real estate speculators are not individuals who should be defended. Resources not essential to the preservation of either the environment or the animals, should be distributed to those who need and can make use of them, not hoarded by capitalists. Moreover, as Ambrose Bierce so astutely noted in his Devil's Dictionary, the notion of private property carried to its logical conclusion leads inevitably to genocide because once everything is owned there will no longer by any living space left for future generations. The petit fait that archconservative jurists Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas dissented should have sounded some alarm bells at the Fourth International. So, too, should have the libertarian Institute for Justice's representation of plaintiff Susette Kelo.

In the wake of the Court's decision, the House of Representatives voted 231 to 189 on June 30th to deny HUD, Transportation, and Treasury Department funds to any city or state profit-making venture where eminent domain is used to coerce landowners into parting with their properties. A similar measure has been introduced in the Senate by a bipartisan coalition of Democrats and Republicans.

In an article for the July 2nd edition of Counterpunch, Moshe Adler, who teaches urban planning at Columbia, argues that state and local authorities should be stripped of their powers of taxation and eminent domain in favor of the federal government. While this proposal might alleviate what he calls fiscal fragmentation, local jurisdictions have always had control over zoning, taxation, and eminent domain and they certainly are not going to voluntarily relinquish these prerogatives. Not only does the United States have a federal system of government but more importantly there is not any reason to believe that Washington could do a better job in these areas than local authorities. Take for instance Congress's notorious mismanagement of the District of Columbia and, in particular, the Republicans' attempts to repeal local gun control laws. Adler's piece, "Corporate Giveaways That Destroy Communities, But Don't Create Jobs. The New London Case," is available at www.counterpunch.com.

In order to arrive at an enlightened policy regarding eminent domain it is necessary to look not only at the type of seizures involved but also at the status of the landowners as well. A property owner living in a residence or operating a business three-hundred-sixty-five days a year (no part-time chicanery allowed!) should be entitled by law to a significantly higher degree of protection from the abuses of eminent domain than real estate speculators. First of all, their property should be subject to seizure only if the "taking" involves a public purpose, such as highway or school construction, etc. In such cases, just compensation should be defined as the cost it would take to replace the property seized instead of fair market value. As far as real estate speculators are concerned, since they are merely absentee landowners hoarding property for capitalistic purposes their property should be fair game for government seizure for either a public or a profit-making scheme. In such cases, just compensation should be limited to the fair market value of the property seized. Those who object to emiment domain should be aware that local authorities have other tools, such as hefty tax increases and fines for not keeping derelict properties up to code, at their disposal in order to entice real estate hoarders into either selling or developing their properties.

Finally, although the Trotskyites have never voiced much concern for either the environment or the animals, their effusive praise for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was nevertheless surprising. Through its sulfur-dioxide-spewing coal-fired generators the TVA had denuded the once pristine Great Smokies and killed countless nearby residents and animals. All of this is in addition to all the people who have to contend on a daily basis with the ravages of asthma and bronchitis.