Plenty of people still remember the slums of Gorbals, Cowcaddens and other inner-city areas of Glasgow.
Each floor of a four-storey tenement would be endlessly subdivided, with five, six or seven front doors.
Repairs would be minimal, sanitation rudimentary and the stench sometimes overpowering.
These houses were owned by private landlords. Subdivision increased income and limited the impact of rent control.
Most of these slums were demolished between the 1950s and 1970s. They were replaced by brand-new council houses, fulfilling the Beveridge pledge to end the squalor of pre-war Britain.
Rents were directly subsidised. Homelessness, while present, was massively reduced.
Today the private landlords are back. In 1991 they controlled about 10,000 of Glasgow's properties. Now they own over 35,000. And houses are being subdivided.
The reasons are not hard to find. Glasgow's council houses were either sold off or demolished and those remaining made over to Housing Associations.
The direct rent subsidy was ended long ago and rents pushed higher and higher as a proportion of wages.
Increasingly only those on housing benefit could afford to live in "social housing."
And now the coalition government is cutting housing benefit.
Last April they drastically increased the contribution demanded of non-dependents and offspring aged over 18 and still living at home - forcing many to leave.
This April coming we have the cynical sequel.
Tenants "under-occupying" face massive cuts in housing benefit. One unoccupied bedroom will mean a 14 per cent cut. Two, 25 per cent.
Tenants are being told they either have to find the difference - up to £80 a month for those with two spare bedrooms - or move to a smaller house.
The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations estimates that there are up to 95,000 such tenants.
Such "downsizing" might be reasonable if there were plenty of empty smaller houses in the socially rented sector.
But there are hardly any - and the government knows it.
It and its predecessors are the ones who stopped the money for building new socially rented homes.
The implications of this for tenants were brought home at a packed public meeting in Govan recently.
One middle-aged woman told her story. Her children had left home and her husband was dead. She was employed part-time on a minimal wage and depended on housing benefit.
She had phoned up her "social" landlord, the biggest in Glasgow. What would happen if she could not pay the full rent?
The answer came back - she would be evicted. From the house where she had lived all her life and the garden she loved.
And she would probably lose not only her house but her friends and her community. The likely option would be a room in the private rented sector somewhere else in the city.
The Govan meeting was remarkable in two ways.
The first was its unity. The independence issue has made Scottish politics increasingly tribal.
Yet the local Govan MSP, Johann Lamont, leader of the Labour Party, sat beside Humza Yousaf, the SNP Glasgow list MSP and Scottish Minister for External Relations, and jointly discussed ways in which the Scottish Parliament could intervene.
Their unity reflected growing revulsion and anger on the ground. Also present on the platform were representatives of the small local community-based housing associations whose very existence is threatened by the cuts. At least one has now pledged that no tenant will be evicted for "bedroom tax" arrears.
The meeting was remarkable in a second sense as well. This was the return of a practical radicalism, the conviction that some kind of action was possible.
Dave Moxham, deputy general secretary of the Scottish Trade Union Congress, reminded the meeting that it was Govan in 1915 that led the first great rent strike against profiteering landlords - ultimately forcing the government to introduce rent controls.
And he also reminded the meeting, as did a local Labour councillor, that the Scottish Parliament has legislative power over housing - even if it did not control housing benefit.
It could impose rent controls on private landlords just as in 1915 and change the whole dynamic of the housing market.
Govan Law Centre solicitor Mike Dailly took this practical radicalism a step further. Housing law could be amended to make evictions for bedroom tax arrears illegal - and substitute other forms of debt recovery. He has since drafted the required amendment.
By chance, the meeting was held in the Mary Barbour room of Govan's Pearce Institute. Mary Barbour was the Govan housewife and socialist who led the 1915 rent strike and later became Glasgow's first woman Labour councillor.
In 1915 it was the unity between tenants and trade unionists that forced the government to act and also created the beginnings of a new positive sense of working-class identity and power.
Rent regulation was not socialist revolution.
But it bred a whole new confidence. Today also there are the makings of such an advance if the necessary organisation and pressure can be created - and on this Scotland can lead a fightback for the rest of Britain. Scotland possesses a parliament with at least some of the necessary powers.
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