The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Detroit Land Grab

Jan 21, 2013

According to a new “Strategic Framework Plan” commissioned by the mayor, Detroit has two problems: too much vacant land and too few people.

Yes, there is vacant land in the city of Detroit–but the problem is that the city and some of the biggest banks and corporations drove people out of the city.

In the 1990s, the city cleared hundreds of acres of land for three casinos, two sports stadiums and a hockey arena (yet to be built)–taking people’s homes and apartments. Even before that, in the 1950s, the city destroyed Black Bottom, Paradise Valley and Hastings Street, ripping out the very heart of the black community for an expressway to the suburbs. In the 1980s, it did the same thing to Hamtramck’s Polish community, giving people’s land as a gift to General Motors.

Over the last two decades, the city itself vacated land and buildings–closing down public housing, neighborhood centers, offices, clinics and schools.

The city school board and later the “emergency financial manager” not only closed neighborhood schools, they and the state of Michigan starved the remaining schools of needed funding.

Companies like GM, Chrysler, and American Axle closed plants and offices–leaving them vacant and decrepit. Jobs were moved out of the city, often to far-off suburbs, where no buses went. Today, there is only one job in the city of Detroit for every four adult residents.

During the sub-prime mortgage scam, the banks laid the groundwork for taking the homes of nearly 100,000 people in a few short years. Whole neighborhoods began to resemble bombed-out cities. Speculators moved in to grab up vacant houses, and did nothing to keep them up.

Of course, people left the city.

And, as more people left, the city stopped repairing street lights and roads in many neighborhoods. It stopped mowing grass or removing dead trees from closed parks and city-owned vacant land. Large trash removal was almost eliminated. The city practically stopped picking up stray dogs, allowing packs of wild dogs to roam some areas.

The amazing thing is not that so many people left the city, it’s that so many stayed. Detroit is their city, and they won’t be pushed out!