More than one billion people – about a third of the urban population – live in slums in the big cities, especially in the semi-colonial world. These slums are home to many of the working poor, who constitute in the so-called developing countries up to ¾ of the workforce outside of agriculture - in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia more than 80%.
Most of the slum dwellers have no permanent job, but are unemployed, informal employed workers or self-employed. Therefore, they are mostly part of the lower strata of the working class, semi-proletarian elements, who are also involved in urban agriculture, self-employed or belong to the lumpenproletariat. The extremely precarious position at the work place increases the importance of their particular living and housing conditions. These are the reason why we can speak of the urban poor as a specific layer.
They lack mostly stable homes, good drainage, clean drinking water and waste services. Moreover, they have to deal with the everyday brutality of the police thugs, gangsters or the local Mafia speculators.
In the slums the struggle for socialist liberation must put a priority on the self-organisation of residents. To resist the daily terror of the authorities, the police and the Mafia, organising into local action committees as a first step towards councils and the formation of armed self-defence units is essential. Central to this is also to establish a close alliance with militant trade unions and organisations of migrants, women and youth. The Arab revolution – but also the revolution in Iran in 1979 – has shown that the urban poor can play an important role in the revolution, particularly in order to push back the conservative-retarding influence of the labour bureaucracy and the thin layer of the labour aristocracy. Revolutionary forces must be at the forefront here to prevent that any populist forces assume the leadership of the urban poor.
The perspective of the struggle must particularly focus on a public employment programme under control of the workers' movement and the organisations of slum dwellers. With such a programme on the one hand unemployment could be fought and on the other hand, the basis could be created for the massive construction of high-quality houses, the building of infrastructure, the supply of clean water etc.
* For a public employment programme under the control of representatives of slum dwellers and the workers' movement - paid for by the capitalists profits! For a large-scale state investment programme for the development of housing, energy, sanitation and waste management, hospitals and schools, roads and public transport!
* For the formation of local committees of action and self-defence units of the slum dwellers!