… we must create a city that, given the choice between a massive for-profit urban farm and housing for families who have lost their homes, chooses the families.
Even if followed to its utopian letter, the DFCSF plan will result in the land of Detroit, whether individually or publicly held, ending up in a much smaller, wealthier, predominantly white, group of hands. We don’t have to rely on theory. The boosters of the plan have already given us a couple of dry runs of their ideas, and from this we can see how they might operate.In the clearest example, the first 15,000 of Hantz Farm’s trees were planted by more than 1,000 volunteers in a single day. In one of the most depressed cities in the United States, more than 1,000 people provided free labor to plant the crop of a for-profit lumber farm with the cover of creating green space, a state of affairs that makes the Whole Foodsprison labor scandal seem like a confounding example of corporate selflessness.
Vacancy and the creation of density are urban dilemmas throughout the United States. In a world of rising inequality, the DFCSF sees a solution to both: don’t turn the land over to those who would live on it, but those who would turn a profit from it. This exacerbates the problem that caused the last crisis by funneling more of the world’s resources to a small ruling class. The plan seeks to create a modern plantation system for the American city, one that could be easily exported to any municipality also facing high levels of vacancy.Luckily, Detroit residents are already seeing many ways of fighting back against this tendency. For example, Detroit Eviction Defense has successfully kept numerous people from losing their homes, using everything from the courtroom to physically occupying a foreclosed property. The Detroit Water Coalition has brought attention to the water shut-offs that would intensify as land is scheduled to be vacated and assembled. This has led the United Nations to declare the state of affairs in Detroit a human rights emergency, and renewed interest in the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization’s call for the city’s water bills to be limited to 2 percent of the households’ income. While these actions are crucial to challenging the DFCSF and building community support, they do not imagine a new city in its entirety. For all its faults, the DFCSF does just that. Socialists must envision an alternative, a city that would make land and all other city resources free and public.