Fred Engels The Housing Question.pdf


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1887 Preface to the Second German Edition
The following work is a reprint of three articles which I wrote in 1872
for the Leipzig Volksstaat. Just at that time, the blessing of the French
milliards was pouring over Germany: public debts were paid off, fortresses and barracks built, stocks of weapons and war material renewed;
the available capital no less than the volume of money in circulation was
suddenly enormously increased, and all this just at a time when Germany was entering the world arena not only a “united empire”, but also
as a great industrial country. These milliards gave the new large-scale
industry a powerful impetus, and above all they were responsible for the
short period of prosperity, so rich in illusions, which followed on the war,
and for the great crash which came immediately afterwards in 1873-74,
through which Germany proved itself to be an industrial country capable
of competing on the world market.
The period in which an old civilized country makes such a transition from
manufacture and small-scale production to large-scale industry, a transition which is, moreover, accelerated by such favorable circumstance, is
also predominantly the period of “housing shortage”. On the one hand,
masses of rural workers are suddenly drawn into the big towns, which
develop into industrial centres; on the other hand, the building plan
of these old towns does not any longer conform with the conditinos of
the new large-scale industry and the corresponding traffice; streets are
widened and new ones cut through, and railways run through the centre
of the town. At the very time when masses of workers are streaming into
the towns, workers’ dwellings are pulled down on a large scale. Hence
the sudden housing shortage for the workers and for the small traders
and small businesses which depend for their custom on the workers. In
the towns which grew up from the very beginning as industrial centres,
this housing shortage is as good as unknown -- for instance, Manchester,
Leeds, Bradford, Barmen-Elberfeld. On the other hand, in London, Paris,
Berlin, Vienna, the shortage took on acute forms at the time, for the most
part, continued to exist in a chronic form.
It was, therefore, just this acute housing shortage, this symptom of the
industrial revolution taking place in Germany, which filled the press of
the day with contributions on the “housing question”, and gave rise to
all sorts of social quackery. A series of such articles even found their way
into the Volkssaat. The anonymous author, who revealed himself later
on as Dr. A. Mulberger of Wurttemburg, considered the opportunity a
favorable one for enlightening the German workers, by means of this
question, on the miraculous effects of Proudhon’s social panacea. When
I expressed my astonishment to the editors at the acceptance of these
peculiar articles, I was called upon to answer them, and this I did. (See